Newsmakers: June 28 – July 5, 2012

Anderson Cooper comes out, Bev Oda steps down, and Tomkat call it a day

Newsmakers

Giovanni Rufino/NBC NewsWire

Out in the open

It was more of an unspoken truth than a secret that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is gay. Nor is it a surprise that, when he came out last week, it was with eloquence and grace. “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud,” he wrote in an email to his friend Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast. He justified his past silence by saying he values privacy, and because the information might have put him and others at risk in war zones. The decision to speak out now is because too many are still bullied for their sexual orientation, and to dispel the notion that he is “ashamed” of being gay. “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”

Up in smoke

Bev Oda, the oft-embattled minister of international co-operation who stared down opposition demands for her resignation over fudged documents, announced her departure this week. The 68-year-old MP from the Ontario riding of Durham wrote of “the opportunity to witness the hardships of the world’s most vulnerable peoples.” Yet she’s best-known for booking herself into one of London’s priciest hotels, for hiring a luxury car and driver at $1,000 a day, and for vetoing grants to aid agencies not in line with Tory ideology.

Paging Céline

After every big win, the women of Canada’s Olympic soccer team burst into song. Their locker-room anthem is Céline Dion’s version of The Power of Love. “We’re horrible singers. Horrible!” says the ever-ebullient goalie Karina LeBlanc. “It’s a joyful moment, a moment we’re proud of each other.” What the team wants, before facing Japan in its first Olympic match, is a turbo-boost of Dion love. “Our dream is to have Céline send us a note. If she can even say ‘good luck’ to us,” LeBlanc told Maclean’s, offering her email address: kk@karinaleblanc.com. She wants the chanteuse to know “her music, for us, is a moment of happiness.”

An epic handshake

One never knows what Queen Elizabeth II thinks, but ex-Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness is right to assume their private talk and public handshake at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre was “a difficult meeting” for the monarch. McGuinness was a senior member of the paramilitary group that assassinated Louis Mountbatten, a cousin of the Queen. The IRA is now disbanded, McGuinness is Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, and the Queen spent two days there—all unthinkable during the Troubles. As the Belfast Telegraph said, the Lyric “has staged many a fine performance, but nothing to compare with the fine choreography and epic resonance” of that meeting.

Marriage: Impossible

The occasionally improbable but always fascinating marriage of actors Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise has jumped the couch, so to speak. Holmes filed for divorce last week, and sought sole custody of their child, six year-old Suri. “Tom is very saddened,” attorney Bert Fields told Reuters. There were rumours the marriage, which once had Cruise dancing on Oprah Winfrey’s TV couch, was in trouble. In February 2011, the Daily Mail said Holmes “looked glum-faced and distant as the family stepped out for Thai food in Vancouver.”

Kitty caught

Italian mobsters do love their nicknames. So when accused Mafia godmother Raffaella D’Alterio was arrested with 65 other suspects, Italian media trumpeted the capture of “a miciona”—“the big female kitten.” The 46-year-old blond has serious claws. She took control of the Pianese-D’Alterio clan, and its drug trafficking, counterfeiting and waste disposal business, after her husband Nicola Pianese (a.k.a. “o mussutto”—“the big-lipped one”) was murdered six years ago. Prosecutors say she’s every bit as ruthless.

Crazy either way

Confessed mass murderer Anders Breivik ended his 10-week trial for the slaughter last June of 77 people with a demand the court find him sane and set him free. He didn’t help his cause with a rambling closing statement that included complaints about the TV shows Sex and the City and the Eurovision Song Contest. If found insane, he’ll spend the rest of his life in a specially built psychiatric ward inside Oslo’s Ila prison, which would include a living room, bedroom, bathroom, gym and, possibly, hired friends to avoid total isolation, the prison warden told the Verdens Gang newspaper. Judgment day is Aug. 24.

Never forgets a face

His colleagues on Birmingham, England’s Safer Travel team call 34-year-old Andy Pope “Memory Man.” The community support officer’s uncanny recall of faces from police wanted lists has helped nab 130 thieves, sex offenders and violent crooks as he patrols the city’s transport network. “I don’t think I’ve got any special gift, just a knack for remembering faces,” he told the Birmingham Mail. He scans police systems before his shift and has another look at lunch. Pope will get the police staff member of the year award on July 11—which may cut him slack on the home front. “My wife and friends will tell you I’m still more than capable of forgetting birthdays or anniversaries.”

Kozying up in Quebec

While police rifled through his Paris residence this week, recently defeated former French president Nicolas Sarkozy vacationed at a Canadian summer home owned by the wealthy and discreet Desmarais family. Sarkozy, who is being investigated for illegal financing of his 2007 campaign, reportedly met Paul Desmarais in ’95, when Sarkozy’s career was slumping. The pair walked the forests and grounds of Sagard, the Desmarais palatial spread in Quebec’s Charlevoix region. “You must get yourself together, you’ll get there, we must build a strategy for you,” Sarkozy remembers Desmarais saying to him. “If today I am president,” Sarkozy said in 2008, “it’s in part due to Paul Desmarais.”

Devilish mystery solved

Rest easy, Angelenos. For weeks, the joy the L.A. Kings felt at winning their first Stanley Cup on June 11 was tempered because the puck that sealed the deal had vanished. They suspected a Devil, New Jersey forward Patrik Elias, who was captured on camera scooping up the sacred rubber after the game. Elias protested his innocence, saying he recalled picking it up, but not what he did with it. But after returning from vacation, he rummaged through his equipment bag and found the disk. It’s on its way home. No big loss, says Elias: “Why would I want to keep a losing Stanley Cup puck?”

Boarderline insanity

The view from the helmet cam of 28-year-old longboarder Mischo Erban’s 129.94-km/h speed record as he flew down a Quebec mountainside on teeny wheels, a few centimetres above the asphalt, is terrifying. The run down Les Éboulements (“the landslide”) earned the Vernon, B.C., boarder a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Erban says he likes the technical challenge. His mother and girlfriend, not so much: “They worry about me a lot and want me to find a ‘real job’ so I can support a family.”

The last hurdle

The busiest Canadian at the London Olympics is likely to be 30-year-old athlete and mom Jessica Zelinka. Not only has she qualified for the heptathlon—a multi-day event involving seven gruelling track and field sports—she’ll also run the 100-m hurdles. She qualified for the extra event during the Olympic trials in Calgary this week, finishing first against a top field of hurdle specialists one day after setting a Canadian record in the heptathlon. In an upset, two veteran hurdlers didn’t make the team: Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, the only Canadian to win a track medal at the Beijing Olympics, and Perdita Felicien, a former world champion, but one unable to shake an Olympic curse. Felicien fell in Athens. An injury kept her out of Beijing. “I don’t define myself by Olympic medals or Olympic moments,” she said of her remarkable career.

Egypt’s delicate balance

Newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi needs all the allies he can find if he is to turn around the country’s faltering economy, and prove his Muslim Brotherhood party is a source of moderation and stability. He did himself few favours with his call for the release of Egyptian-born terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, jailed in the U.S. in 1995 for plotting to bomb key landmarks in New York City. Morsi called it his “duty” to free Egyptian detainees.

Splendour on the grass

Pippa Middleton, sister of Catherine, duchess of Cambridge, sat in the royal box with brother James last week to watch U.S. star Serena Williams breeze past Hungary’s Melinda Czink at Wimbledon. Pippa is an avid tennis player and member of the exclusive Queen’s Tennis Club.




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