Bieber says he's retiring, and Snowden has an 'alternative Christmas message'

This week's top newsmakers

Condolences: Mourners greet each other as they arrive at a Montreal funeral home to pay their respects to reputed Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto. (Graham Hughes/C)

Shinzo Abe

A year into his tenure as prime minister of Japan, Abe went to visit a memorial for the country’s war dead last week. Harmless, right? Wrong. The victims commemorated at the memorial, known as the Yasukuni Shrine, include 14 men convicted of war crimes after the Second World War. Abe’s decision to visit the shrine in his official capacity was seen as a hostile act by a number of countries, including the United States, which chided Abe for trying to “exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbours.”

Justin Bieber

Is Canada’s pop sensation retiring and taking his adorable hair with him? The Stratford, Ont., native said so in no uncertain terms last month, tweeting: “My fellow Beliebers, I’m officially retiring.” Surely this can’t be just another PR stunt to promote his new concert movie? Few seemed to believe Bieber’s tweet, including his manager, Scooter Braun, who said the star was only “kidding,” and his supposed retirement simply refers to a break from performing that he plans to take in 2014.

Edward Snowden

Still in exile in Russia after he exposed America’s NSA spying scandal, Snowden was not about to let Christmas go by without reminding the world of the true meaning of the season: the government, like Santa Claus, is spying on us all the time. In an “alternative Christmas message” broadcast in the U.K. as a contrast to the Queen’s annual Christmas address, Snowden told viewers that author George Orwell’s predictions of a Big Brother-ruled future have come true, and that any child born this Christmas “will grow up with no privacy at all.” Not that Jesus had much privacy, what with all the animals around that manger, but you see what he’s getting at.

Justin Semenoff

These next few years may be the Saskatoon resident’s last on planet Earth—if he wins a coveted spot on the Mars One Mission, a privately funded program that plans to send 24 astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars starting in the year 2023. The Canadian Forces Army combat engineer made it through the second stage of the selection process this week; he and 1,058 other applicants were picked from a list of 200,000 to advance to the next stage of challenges, which will include “rigorous simulations with a focus on testing the physical and emotional capabilities” of the candidates. The mission’s goal is to one day form a colony on the red planet.

Nikki Haley

Things are different in the South. While governors of other U.S. states may be wishy-washy about gun control, the Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, tweeted that she was happy to have received a Beretta Px4 Storm gun for Christmas, and that she must have been good in 2013 because “Santa gave me” the pistol. You can bet not a creature will be stirring when Haley’s around.

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