It takes a village to raise an idiot
Jacques Rogge and the rest of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee have relented and will allow the Australian International Olympic Committee to fly its iconic “boxing kangaroo” flag from a balcony of the Vancouver Olympic Village. The flag was ordered removed because the IOC bans unauthorized commercial symbols, and the cartoon ’roo is trademarked, albeit only to the Australian Olympic Committee. The dispute fired up Aussies everywhere. Deputy PM Julia Gillard called it a “scandal.” Vancouver radio phone-in callers raged at the IOC’s bully tactics. IOC spokesman Mark Adams called the issue “a storm in a teacup.” Meantime, athletes are streaming to the Oz sector of the village for a photo with the giant ’roo.
He did it for the kids
It was death in the afternoon for any bull that Jairo Miguel Sànchez Alonso faced Saturday at an arena in southwest Spain. The 16-year-old killed six bulls without mussing his sparkly white suit of lights. He returned to Spain after several years apprenticing in Mexico, where there is no minimum age for fighters. He almost died there in 2007 when a bull gored him. Alonso holds no grudges. “I feel quite bad when the bull has been good and you see the expression on his face, the innocence,” he says. “He has given you his bravery.” The event, while bloody, had a softer side. It was a fundraiser for children with autism.
Bad times for burkas
French Prime Minister François Fillon announced this week he’ll deny citizenship to a Moroccan national who forces his French-born wife to wear a burka. “If this man does not want to change his attitude, he has no place in our country,” he said. Meantime, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a law banning full burkas is gaining steam. He has declared the full veil and body covering “not welcome” in France, and inconsistent with the country’s values. It’s certainly not welcome in Paris post offices. Two burka-clad robbers walked into a post office in the Paris suburb of Athis Mons, an area with a large immigrant Muslim population. They pulled out handguns and stole the equivalent of $6,000.
Blades of glory
Germany’s Katarina Witt and Canada’s Elizabeth Manley met on the ice in Vancouver Sunday, 22 years after the Teutonic bombshell and Canada’s sweetheart squared off in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics. Witt won gold but Manley, under enormous home-country pressure, pulled off the skate of her life to finish second. Both women are doing television colour commentary in Vancouver, but they took a turn on the Robson Square ice rink with young members of the Coquitlam Skating Club. “We’re not here for a rematch,” joked Manley, 44. “Not at our age, I’m 20—plus tax.” Replied a razor-sharp Witt: “Oh, my God! How much are taxes here?”
Tea time in Tennessee
Cranky country singer and musical comedian Ray Stevens’s flagging career was ready for a death panel. Then the 71-year-old singer of such novelty hits as Ahab the A-rab and Gitarzan wrote We the People, a lighthearted attack on President Barack Obama’s health care initiative. The video, which shows Stevens strumming a bathroom plunger and singing, “You vote Obamacare, we’re gonna vote you outta there,” is a YouTube hit and an unofficial anthem of the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Stevens sang at the group’s convention in Nashville on the weekend, where Sarah Palin raised eyebrows with her $100,000 fee for giving the keynote speech. “That’s a lot of damned tea,” grumbled one delegate.
Do as I say, not as I…ahh-choo!
As deputy health minister for the Czech Republic, Michael Vit has the job of deciding whether to impose mandatory swine flu vaccinations on “all people indispensable for the functioning of the country.” The day after receiving the assignment, Vit came down with H1N1 himself. “I have muscle problems, a headache, simply all symptoms of the flu,” he said. The deputy health minister admitted he had yet to receive the vaccination. “As you see, I’m a living example.”
‘Funeral’ for friends, and strangers
Canadian orchestral rockers Arcade Fire made it to the Super Bowl last weekend, when the group’s stirring anthem Wake Up, from their hit CD Funeral, was used in a series of NFL promo ads. While the group is protective of licensing its music, they had their reasons in this case. They turned over the fat licensing fee to Partners in Health, an agency with deep roots in Haiti. Band member Régine Chassagne’s family came from the island. She expressed her grief in an article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper: “I am mourning people I know. People I don’t know. People who are still trapped under rubble and won’t be rescued in time.”
Broom versus stick
Icy, obsessed with winning and not above the occasional cheap shot. Yes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and hockey are a match made in heaven. Hockey is “deeply reflective of the character of the nation,” he explained in a pre-Olympic interview with Sports Illustrated. Harper, who has studied the origins of the sport, said it contributes to “a uniquely Canadian sense of belonging in a community across the country.” Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff waxes poetic about a different sport: curling. Naturally, he identifies with the skip. “It’s the leadership and the precision, and the quiet,” he told the Globe and Mail. Apparently he’s not the sort of skip who shouts unseemly commands like, “Hurry, hurry hard.”
Very, very teed off
A Kelowna, B.C., entrepreneur is cashing in on Tiger Woods’s extramarital mayhem. Mike Caldwell has produced the Mistress Collection, a boxed set of 12 golf balls, each bearing a portrait of one of Woods’s mistresses. “He likes to play a round with them…and now you can, too!” notes his website, tailofthetiger.com. Caldwell says he sold 1,500 sets at US$54.90 in the first six days. Less than impressed is Joslyn James, an adult film star and alleged Woods mistress. She called a news conference to denounce the balls as hurtful and in bad taste. “It bothered me to think that someone would be standing with a dangerous club in their hands hitting a ball with my photo on it,” she said. She then showed her sensitive side by releasing 100 tawdry text messages she said she received from Woods.
You don’t want a visit by Oscar
Oscar the cat has a near infallible ability to detect which of the patients in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, R.I., is next to die, says Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician. When Oscar curls up with a patient, staff know to phone the next of kin. “It’s like he’s on a vigil,” says Dosa. Such insight would come as no surprise to cat owners, who are themselves terribly smart. Certainly smarter than dog owners, according to a study by Dr. Jane Murray at the University of Bristol. Winston Churchill was a cat lover. Paris Hilton loves dogs. Want more proof? Cat owners (if anyone really owns a cat) are 1.36 times more likely than dog owners to hold a university degree. They’re also 100 per cent less likely to have to follow behind their pet and scoop droppings off the sidewalk.
Gay but not cheerful
The headline in the Seattle Weekly says it all: “Gay, mentally challenged biracial male cheerleader claims discrimination.” All that high school student Benjamin Grundy wants is to shake his pom-poms like the girls on the squad at Garfield-Palouse High School in tiny Palouse, Wash. Instead, the cheer coach suggested he’d make a great mascot. He was eventually given a cheerleader’s top but denied the rest of the uniform, pom-poms, and the right to join the dance routine. “I was reduced to standing there and moving my arms,” he says. The school board denies discrimination, but Benjamin’s mother, Suzanne Grundy, is pressing the case with the ACLU and her congressman. “The combination of a biracial, mentally challenged gay male may be too much for them,” she told the local TV station.
L’état c’est moi
Quebec’s Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne has revived a tradition that ended 44 years ago—awarding medals, in gold, silver and bronze, and bearing his coat of arms, to those making contributions to their communities. The practice of awarding such medals ended in 1966 after Quebec nationalists condemned the symbolic tie with the monarchy. Duchesne has no such qualms: he also invoked royal privilege to avoid testifying before a national assembly committee on how he spends some $1 million annually in taxpayer money. His refusal to testify was condemned by all sides of the legislature.
Disharmony in the house of Wang
It was Hong Kong feng shui master Tony Chan’s skills in arranging buildings to create a positive life force that drew Chan to the eccentric, pigtailed property magnate Nina Wang. He began a 15-year affair with Wang, 23 years his senior. Now, he’s accused of arranging her $4-billion fortune in a manner auspicious to himself. When she died at 69 in 2007, he claimed to be her sole heir. Her family contested the will, and he’s charged with forgery.
She also has a Ph.D. in thankless tasks
Leila Ghannam, a former Palestinian intelligence officer, is the first woman governor of Ramallah, the unofficial capital of the West Bank. Her challenge is to quash a resurgence by hard-liners in Hamas. “My intelligence experience, like my degree in psychology, helps me carry out my job,” she says.