Newsmakers: Mar. 9-15, 2012

Via gives Jann Arden the boot, Sarko veers right, and Peyton Manning bids Indianapolis a fond farewell

by Anne Kingston and Nancy Macdonald

Newsmakers

Dave Chidley/CP

So insensitive

Jann Arden tweeted up a storm this week, after she and her dog Midi “got booted off of via rail,” she wrote. After hurriedly renting a town car, the acerbic singer hightailed it to Ottawa, making it in time to perform at the National Arts Centre. “You apparently can’t have little quiet dogs in bags who are sound asleep,” she said of the incident. “S–tballs.” She told the company to “eat my bra” and claimed she and the “morky,” a part Maltese, part Yorkshire terrier, were dropped off “in the middle of nowhere.” Oshawa, Ont., is hardly the hinterlands, and dogs are clearly barred from the train, but Via Rail apologized nonetheless.

Hip hip hurrah!

A former winner of the Dutch version of Next Top Model prevailed in her lawsuit against Elite Model Management for firing her because her 36-inch hips exceeded the agency’s girth regulations by two centimetres. An Amsterdam court ruled that Gatineau, Que., native Ananda Marchildon, who holds Dutch-Canadian citizenship, was entitled to the prize she won in 2008: a three-year modelling contract worth more than $98,000. Marchildon, now 25 and living in the Netherlands, says the agency changed its hip maximum to 35 inches after she won—and that she was fired after only $13,000 worth of work. After the ruling, which awarded her $85,000, Marchildon said she’s been overwhelmed by “fantastic support,” and joked: “I’m starting to feel much better every day about my butt.” Not that she gets to show it off: she’s now working as a carpenter.

Bipartisan brawler

Scandal-prone British MP Eric Joyce escaped jail time after pleading guilty to drunken assault of four politicians in a House of Commons bar last month. Magistrates ordered the 51-year-old former army major to pay $6,900 in fines, stay out of bars for three months and submit to a weekend curfew. The MP of 11 years is no stranger to controversy: he was convicted of drunk driving two years ago, is infamous for his high expense claims and shortly after his recent arrest was found to have had an inappropriate friendship with a teenage girl. The court heard that the Labourite told police: “You can’t touch me, I’m an MP,” a line he’ll still be able to use as an Independent. Joyce has announced his intention to quit politics—but not until the next election in 2015.

Beyoncé’s ‘bold’ move

Putting a new spin on the overhyped “nip slip,” Beyoncé Knowles stoked controversy—and won kudos—after being spotted breastfeeding her seven-week-old daughter, Blue Ivy, in a café during lunch with her husband, Jay-Z. Parenting bloggers applauded the diva’s lactation leadership; thegrio.com even expressed hope the entertainer would inspire more breast-feeding among African-American women. Meanwhile, north of the border, Alberta’s Brazeau County councillor Pat Monteith rang the bell in protest over the practice when she publicly griped about fellow councillor Kara Westerlund nursing her newborn, even after Westerlund had been given the green light by council to do so. “Our new council chambers [have] been turned into a nursery,” Monteith complained in a column for the local Breton Booster newspaper. “I am finding it disruptive and distracting.”

Sins of the mother

The mother of Tori Stafford, the eight-year-old Woodstock, Ont., girl brutally murdered in 2009, became a target of blame herself as defence lawyers grilled her last week during the trial of Michael Rafferty, who faces charges of first-degree murder, sexual assault and kidnapping. Tara McDonald, a former OxyContin addict who has been drug-free for six months, calmly answered a slew of accusations: why her daughter was allowed to take the five-minute walk from school alone, why it took hours for her to report Tori missing, and how her drug addiction brought her into the orbit of Rafferty’s ex-girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic, who has been convicted of first-degree murder in the girl’s death.

Britain’s ‘white widow’

The British widow of one of the 2005 London Underground suicide bombers, a woman who insisted she “totally abhorred” her husband’s deadly actions, is being hunted by Kenyan police for suspected involvement in a terror plan to blow up luxury hotels and shopping centres in the African nation. Samantha Lewthwaite, a 28-year-old mother of three, converted to Islam as a teenager and later married future terrorist Jermaine Lindsay. When last seen, the so-called “white widow” was crossing the Tanzanian border with her children using a forged passport, raising the question of whether police or book agents angling for a blockbuster will find her first.

No thanks, we prefer debt

Given B.C.’s ballooning deficit and striking teachers, one might have thought Victoria would jump at the $40 million Telus offered for the naming rights to BC Place. Instead, Christy Clark’s Liberal government said no. “We decided the name was more important to retain,” said B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell, who didn’t provide any polling or evidence suggesting British Columbians give a flying hoot over the downtown dome’s name. Admitting Telus had already spent millions on new signage, CEO Darren Entwistle called the decision “regrettable” and “deeply disappointing.”

Karma

Oh, the delicious irony. The lead plaintiff in a class action suit challenging ObamaCare filed for bankrupcty last week, citing $4,500 in unpaid medical bills. Mary Brown, a 56-year-old Floridian, was so passionate about halting the health care overhaul she decided to sue, a case the Supreme Court is set to hear this month. “She doesn’t have insurance. She doesn’t want to pay for it. And she doesn’t want the government to tell her she has to have it,” Karen Harned, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said recently. If she’d had to have the insurance, of course, she might have escaped the bailiff’s clutch.

Just one good idea

Inventing the 21st-century girdle has made Sara Blakely the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire—and won her the cover of Forbes’ annual “billionaires” issue. The 41-year-old mastermind behind shape-smoothing Spanx prevailed over skeptics to build the private company into a $1-billion behemoth selling 200 products in 40 countries to both women and men. A former fax machine saleswomen, Blakely began selling the elasticized shapewear in 2000—and received an epic boost when Oprah Winfrey named the line one of her “favourite things” in 2007.

No. 18’s teary goodbye

Proving as graceful in retreat as on offence, star quarterback Peyton Manning delivered a poignant public farewell to the Indianapolis Colts, his team of 14 years, after owner Jim Irsay sent him packing rather than pay a US$28-million bonus due this week. The 35-year-old, who hasn’t played since 2010 due to a neck injury, sat next to Irsay as he praised the team he helped transform from an afterthought to 2007 Super Bowl champions: “Nobody loves their job more than I do,” said the four-time MVP, voice shaking, and tears in his eyes. “There is no other team I wanted to play for.” Manning has a long list of suitors, and is expected to choose between Arizona, Denver and Miami this week.

Rights fight

A youth leadership award, marred by polarization over abortion rights, ended in a harmonious tie as abortion access advocate Kandace Hagen shared the honour with Fredericton’s Tara Brinston, who campaigned to improve the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. The Active-8 competition grew acrimonious when anti-abortion advocates rallied behind Brinston, who ran head-to-head with Hagen, a Charlottetown native who founded the P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization to lobby for access to legal abortion in the only province where legal abortions are not performed. (P.E.I. pays for them to be performed on the mainland.) Event organizers called a draw, bringing the contest to a very Canadian end.

Mom-madam

In her first interview since her sensational arrest for “promoting prostitution” as the madam of a high-end Manhattan brothel, self-described “hockey mom” Anna Gristina says she refused to snitch on her clients during a five-hour police interrogation. The 44-year-old real-estate developer who lived in suburban New York with her husband and four kids, has been held in jail since her arrest. “I’d bite my tongue off before I’d tell them anything,” Gristina told the New York Post, which also ran photos of her less-than-elite Upper East Side headquarters—a $600 per month, rent-stabilized one-bedroom filled with cheap candles, the Christina Aguilera album Stripped and canned soup.

Sarko and the foreigners

Nicholas Sarkozy, fighting for his political life in France’s upcoming presidential elections, is vowing to cut immigration in half, and launch an aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration—the only way, he says, to avoid the “implosion of Europe.”




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