Friends of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have devised a number of creative solutions to help her pay off the remaining US$2.3 million she owes in campaign debts. Her former campaign manager James Carville sent out an email to supporters asking them to contribute $5 in exchange for an opportunity to win great prizes, including tickets to the American Idol finale or a day in New York with Bill Clinton. Later, during the taping of an online radio show sponsored by Go Daddy—a Web-hosting company known for its racy commercials—Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons told Carville he would contribute US$1 million to help Clinton if the secretary of state would appear as a “Go Daddy Girl” in one of his ads. “Look, I’d be all for it, but I wouldn’t write the check just yet,” Carville replied, noting that lawyers in the State Department tend to “piss on every fire.”
Thirty-two years after Vladimir Nabokov’s death, the Lolita author’s final novel, locked in a Swiss bank vault since 1977, will see the light of day. The Original of Laura was written on a series of 138 index cards. Nabokov had instructed that the incomplete work be destroyed upon his death. His son Dmitri, who’d kept it for all these years, opted to sell the rights to Penguin Classics for an undisclosed six-figure sum. “It was quite emotional for Dmitri because it was a big decision to publish, which took him decades,” Alexis Kirschbaum, editor at Penguin Classics, told the BBC. The novel, due this fall, is the story of a man obsessed with his promiscuous wife. “[It’s] not necessarily extremely polished,” she said, “but you can still see kernels of genius in everything he wrote.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hired “the new odd couple of the PR world” when he retained Ari Fleischer and Michael McCurry to boost Canada’s image in the U.S., according to Washington Post columnist Al Kamen. Fleischer and McCurry, former spokesmen for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton respectively, have been retained to secure plum interviews and positive press coverage for Harper. Not everyone is impressed: Kamen says the high-profile move is proof that “Canadians are chronically worried that the U.S. media don’t pay any attention to them.”
Germany’s aquatic Billy Elliot
Niklas Stoepel, a 17-year-old high-schooler, is the only competitive male synchronized swimmer in all of Germany. Along with his female teammates, Stoepel has won national competitions, but his applications to compete for Germany on an international level have been rejected by FINA, the international governing body of swimming. There is a lot of gender discrimination in the sport, Stoepel said, even on a national level—he has, on occasion, been made fun of by his peers for his sequined bathing suits and shaved legs. “Many of the judges are more strict in their scoring of me than they are with my female competitors,” he told Germany’s Spiegel Online. “It’s not fair. But I haven’t given up my dream of one day competing in an international championship.”
The price of fame
Indian police are investigating allegations that Rafiq Quereshi of Mumbai tried to “sell” his daughter, Rubina Ali, 9, one of the child stars of Slumdog Millionaire, in an illegal adoption scheme for $360,000. The British tabloid News of the World printed the accusation after it sent a reporter to pose as a potential buyer from a wealthy family in Dubai. “We live in one room, seven of us sleep on the floor,” Quereshi allegedly told the reporter. “I have to consider what is best for me, my family and for Rubina’s future.” He had allegedly originally asked for $90,000, but in a later meeting, his brother allegedly justified the new price, saying, “The child is special now. This is not an ordinary child. This is an Oscar child.” Quereshi denies the allegations. British producers of the film, who have been criticized for unfair remuneration of the child actors, say attempts were made to ensure a better life for them by paying their school tuition and putting money in a trust for them until they turn 18, on the condition that they remain in school. “We thought that the parents would be incentivized by long-term benefits to their children,” producer Christian Colson recently told the London Times. “We were wrong.”
Even though a Minnesota court panel determined that comedian-turned-Democratic politician Al Franken won the state’s U.S. Senate seat recount last week, Franken’s opponent, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, has vowed to appeal the decision—and until all legal challenges are exhausted, Minnesota’s governor will not certify a winner. “I am honoured and humbled by this close victory,” said Franken, who won the recount by 312 votes, “and I’m looking forward to getting to work as soon as possible.” Observers say Coleman’s challenge could drag out the process until the end of the summer. One frustrated citizen accosted Coleman outside his home last Tuesday and tried to pelt him with eggs, telling him “I [expletive] can’t stand what you represent.” Coleman told local media, “I kind of ducked. A George Bush move . . . I ran after him but I didn’t get him.” The assailant fled on his bike.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. At a press conference at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the emperor was asked how he worded his wedding proposal all those years ago. “I would not say that it was anything as simple as a one-line proposal,” he said. “During our many telephone conversations, I told her that in order for me to carry out my duties as crown prince, I really needed someone who could understand the meaning and the significance of those duties and would support me.” He added, “if there is something that I would like to present to the empress on the occasion of our 50th wedding anniversary, it would, this time, be a citation of appreciation and gratitude.” The empress responded by offering her husband a “citation of appreciation and gratitude” in kind.
Jack Bauer instincts
Rigorous training for her role as Kim Bauer, a second-generation terrorism fighter on the hit TV series 24, may have saved Elisha Cuthbert’s life recently in New York City. “I went for dinner and I’m walking to the subway and I get hit by a car,” said the 26-year-old Canadian actress. “I have this sort of Kim Bauer reaction. I thought, I can either try to outrun it; I can freeze like a deer in the headlights and break both my knees; or I can jump onto the vehicle and propel myself into the entire intersection, so I did the last one and landed with my purse intact.” Three witnesses chased down the car and detained the driver until police arrived. “I had a nice bruise on my buttocks,” she said. “It makes you realize, life can end very quickly.”
How you say, jealous
If the “short-lived Franco-American honeymoon” wasn’t already over, it is now, according to the London Times, thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s loose lips. Last Thursday, Sarkozy reportedly told a group of French MPs that Barack Obama was overrated, indecisive, and lacking in experience. “He is not always up to standard on decision-making and efficiency,” he reportedly said. On climate change, Sarkozy is quoted as saying that Obama was not pulling his weight: “I told him, ‘I don’t think that you have quite understood what we are doing on carbon dioxide.’ ” The president went on to pooh-pooh the excitement surrounding Obama’s upcoming visit to Normandy for the D-Day anniversary in June, joking, “I am going to ask him to walk on the channel, and he’ll do it.”
At a pro-life event in Evansville, Ind., Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin admitted to a crowd of 3,000 that “for a fleeting moment” she considered aborting her youngest child Trig when she learned early on in her pregnancy that he would be born with Down syndrome. She said she worried that she was too old to cope, and that she might be unable to love the child. She also confessed to thinking that if she went through with an abortion, no one would ever have to know. “It was a time I asked myself, was I going to walk the walk?” Months later, when Trig was born, she said, “I felt a love I had never felt before.” Fans said her confession only made them respect her more. Former San Diego Padre scout Bill McKeon called her “the Joan of Arc of the 21st century.”
Bo steals the show
After only a few short weeks in office, Bo, the Obama family’s Portuguese water dog, is already starring in children’s books. In Bo, America’s Commander in Leash by Naren Aryal, out this week, Bo steals the President’s letter opener and has a run-in with bees in the first lady’s organic vegetable garden. According to Aryal, a book about a mischievous Obama White House puppy had been written and ready to go for months—the publisher was only waiting for Bo’s identity to be revealed. Bo also makes a cameo in an upcoming title called First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Best Friends, along with his predecessor Barney Bush, a Scottish terrier, whom Karl Rove once described as “a lump.”
Betty Coumbias, a healthy elderly Vancouver woman who is seeking the right to die alongside her ailing husband, George, may get her wish thanks to a controversial Swiss organization. Ludwig Minelli, the director of Dignitas, an assisted-suicide group, is seeking permission from Swiss courts to let the couple die. “She told us, here in my living room, ‘If my husband goes with Dignitas, I would go at the same time with him,’ ” Minelli told the BBC. In Canada, expert opinion is divided between those who believe the couple has every right to choose and those who believe Dignitas is abetting a suicide pact. In an email from Dignitas to the couple, obtained by the National Post, Minelli wrote that he would take their case all the way to the Swiss federal court if necessary.