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Elmo goes to the White House, while BlackBerry sours on Thorsten Heins

Newsmakers this week


 

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

The winner is…apathy

Denis Coderre, a long-time Liberal MP, is the new mayor of Montreal in what voters must hope is third-time lucky for the scandal-weary city. Coderre, a high-profile populist who served in cabinet under Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, was elected with 32 per cent of the vote and a pledge to clean up city hall. The past two mayors resigned in controversy, the most recent, Michael Applebaum, was arrested in June on fraud-related charges. Allegations of kickbacks and bid-rigging have eroded public confidence in the office, though Coderre insists “this is not a crisis.” Yet, 43 per cent of 1.1 million eligible voters cast a ballot in Sunday’s elections, meaning his mandate came from just 13 per cent (about 150,000) of eligible voters.

Tale of the twisty tabloid tryst

It’s a letter so intimate the defunct British tabloid News of the World would have bent the law to get it. And in a roundabout way that’s what happened. Prosecutors in the first major trial of the U.K. newspaper phone-hacking scandal revealed an affair from 1998 to 2004 by two of the eight accused: former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her then-deputy, Andy Coulson. Both were top aides of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Coulson would become communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron. “I love you, care about you, worry about you,” Brooks wrote when Coulson tried to break off the affair. The jury also heard of a hacked phone message from Prince Harry to his private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, asking for help on an essay. Harry, then at Sandhurst military school, wanted “please, please, please” any sources he might have on the 1980 siege of the Iranian Embassy in London.

Political puppets

The denizens of Sesame Street have been allies with the Obamas ever since Mitt Romney sought to cut PBS’s funding during the 2012 election, spurring Big Bird to join Barack Obama on the campaign trail. Now the Muppets are re-teaming with the first family, with characters Elmo and Rosita joining Michelle Obama to announce that the Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association will launch a two-year plan to promote fruit and vegetable consumption to schoolchildren. “Just imagine what will happen when we take our kids to the grocery store, and they see Elmo and Rosita and the other Sesame Street Muppets they love up and down the produce aisle,” Michelle said. “Imagine what it will be like to have our kids begging us to buy them fruits and vegetables instead of cookies, candy and chips.”

Waiter, this date is unappetizing

Erin Wotherspoon, an aspiring Toronto actress, has champagne tastes and minimal resources. To satisfy her hunger for the finer things in life, the 23-year-old hit upon a plan that would net her both free meals and publicity: she joined a heap of online dating sites to entice men to buy her dinner, blogging about her exploits all the way. “Men should feel honoured by this open invitation to date me,” Wotherspoon told the Daily Mail, one of the many news sources worldwide to heap scorn on her scheme. “If I did meet Mr. Right, I’d probably be receptive to him,” she told a Toronto radio station. Not surprisingly, there haven’t been any second dates.

Black and blue all over

Shareholders of BlackBerry, the one-time giant of the smartphone world, took a double hit of dubious news this week. A planned $4.7-billion sale of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company to Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest shareholder, was abandoned Monday, the same day it was announced that Thorsten Heins was gone as CEO after failing during his 23-month tenure to improve the bottom line with a new operating system and devices. He won’t leave empty-handed: his severance is estimated to be as much as $22 million. The interim CEO, and new executive chairman, is John Chen, a tech industry veteran and turnaround specialist who’ll lead company efforts to raise $1 billion from investors.

All is not lost

An experienced Quebec outdoorsman was days from death when he was rescued after three months in the bush of northwestern Quebec. Marco Lavoie started a two-month canoe trip in July. It’s believed in mid-August a bear attacked his camp, eating his food and destroying his gear, Sgt. Ronald McInnis said. His loved ones, who assumed Lavoie had extended his vacation, called in police Oct. 21. A helicopter search found him last week. “He wasn’t even able to drink water when we offered him some,” McInnis said. “He will gradually learn to drink and then eat again.”

Fast, but hardly furious

Ed Bolian, a 27-year-old Lamborghini dealer and Sunday school teacher from Atlanta, claims he and two crew members set a driving speed record from New York to Los Angeles. Elapsed time: 28 hours, 50 minutes. That shatters the Google Maps estimate of 42 hours and trashes the past record—31 hours, four minutes—set in 2006 by Alex Roy. Bolian equipped a 2004 Mercedes CL55 AMG with auxiliary fuel tanks and shared driving with two others. They averaged 158 km/h, including 46 minutes of stop time, and hit a top speed of 254 km/h. On his blog, Bolian cautioned others not to replicate his feat. “This type of activity could have resulted in our death, imprisonment or led to a litany of other consequences.”

A different sort of music piracy

British naval officers have a new ally in the fight against Somali pirates: Britney Spears. The pop star’s hits are being blasted at approaching pirates by members of the Royal Navy. “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most,” Rachel Owens, a merchant naval officer, told Metro U.K. “These guys can’t stand Western music or culture, making Britney’s hits perfect.” Spears is currently preparing for her eighth albumn. No word on whether she plans to tour the Horn of Africa.

Don’t mess with Texas

Stafford, Tex., police officer Ann Carrizales was making a nighttime traffic stop when a passenger in the vehicle shot her twice, once in the chest (she was wearing a ballistic vest) and once in the face. As the car sped away, Carrizales got to her cruiser, told the dispatcher: “Shots fired, shots fired, I’m hit,” then started a high-speed pursuit. “I’ve been shot in the face and I know I’ve taken one in the vest,” she said, while calmly tracking the gunman’s vehicle until it was corralled by her and fellow officers. Carrizales will now take some family time, she says, to “enjoy the beauty of life that I’ve been blessed to have more of.”

Short stories, longer legacy

Edmonton author Lynn Coady bested four of Canada’s literary darlings on Tuesday to win the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize. “I don’t like to cry in public,” said Coady, who won for her short-story collection Hellgoing. “So this is very odd for me.”


 

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