Buffet buys a railroad, Rupert Murdoch's problem with Google, and the beauty queen's sex tape - Macleans.ca

Buffet buys a railroad, Rupert Murdoch’s problem with Google, and the beauty queen’s sex tape

Newsmakers of the week


BTOBT—oh no, you don’t

Randy Bachman and Fred Turner, the songwriters behind Bachman Turner Overdrive, are being dragged into court by Bachman’s brother Robbie, the group’s drummer, and guitarist Blair Thornton, over claims that Randy and Turner continue to use the BTO name despite earlier agreements that they wouldn’t. Randy left the band in 1977, Turner a few years later. The plaintiffs continued to tour as BTO until 2004. Now, though, Bachman and Turner are reuniting for the first time in 18 years for a series of European dates, and a 2010 show in their native Winnipeg. It isn’t the first time the brothers Bachman have feuded: in 2003, the Randy-less band refused to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame because of conflicts with Randy. To settle this dispute, Bachman and Turner will likely tour under their own names, sans Overdrive.

Now, that hurts

He is best known as the man who repeatedly Tasered an unarmed Polish immigrant and provided contradictory testimony in the ensuing inquiry, but RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington is angry that the CBC has besmirched his good name. Millington, who used his Taser weapon five times against Robert Dziekanski in a 2007 altercation at Vancouver’s airport, filed a libel suit against the CBC; he was apparently put off by reports that aired in the weeks after Dziekanski died. Millington has admitted that his statements of why, when and how many times he Tasered Dziekanski are at odds with a video shot by a witness. Still, he’s charging that the CBC reports caused “serious embarrassment and distress” and “seriously injured . . . his reputation and profession.”

Trevor GreeneBack from the brink

On a peaceful mission in an Afghan village, Capt. Trevor Greene was sitting in a patch of shade with a circle of elders, his helmet off, when a teenager snuck up behind him and buried an axe into his head, splitting his skull and his brain almost in half. Greene, who has since been in intense physiotherapy, can now talk, and stand with assistance; he is engaged, to Debbie Lepore, and writing a book. More than three years after the devastating injury, he was among 46 soldiers to receive the first-ever Sacrifice Medals, presented by Governor General Michaëlle Jean at Rideau Hall. Created to recognize soldiers who were wounded or killed in Canada’s mission to Afghanistan, the Sacrifice Medal is a silver circle, with an engraving of Queen Elizabeth on one side and a representation of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial on the other. It “means my hard work and suffering is recognized,” said Greene.

Warren BuffettBuying the gravy train

The future, it seems, is on the rails. Warren Buffett plunked down a cool US$26 billion for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, America’s second largest rail company. The so-called “Sage of Omaha,” whose Berkshire Hathaway holdings took the biggest beating in its history last year (net profit was down 96 per cent), is betting a fair chunk of his farm on the idea that America’s taste for consumption is once again rising. It’s a characteristically canny move: railways, the most environmentally friendly way to move goods over land, have been showered with stimulus money as of late, and Buffett believes there is room to grow the long-overlooked industry. Still, the risk is in the numbers: Buffett’s own multi-billion-dollar exposure, and America’s double-digit unemployment rate, which is sure to affect consumer spending.

Carrie PrejeanRated G for gotcha

Former California beauty queen and vocal family-values advocate Carrie Prejean announced last week she has dropped her libel suit against Miss USA organizers after the inevitable emergence of a sex tape. Prejean, who became an overnight hero to America’s right after she opposed same-sex marriage during the pageant earlier this year, subsequently filed several civil suits against her handlers at Miss California USA; they filed a countersuit for profits of Prejean’s forthcoming book, Still Standing, and repayment for their investment in her breast implants. But then Prejean was apparently confronted with the erotic recording, which she’d made several years ago. She called it “the biggest mistake of my life,” and said the tape was for her then-boyfriend’s consumption. She’s already been dropped from one prominent conservative event.

Hu ShuliComforting the afflicted, afflicting the Communists

Since its launch in 1998, the Beijing-based business magazine Caijing has exposed corporate fraud, the 2003 SARS cover-up, and the poor construction of schools that crumbled in last year’s earthquake. Such fearless reporting in a country known for a tightly controlled press made Caijing both influential and lucrative, and catapulted its pioneering editor, Hu Shuli, 56, into celebrity. It also riled Communist party bosses. Now Hu has left the magazine over its owners’ efforts to curb her team’s reporting (the last straw came when she sent reporters to cover western China’s ethnic unrest in July without government permission). The recent friction had already prompted dozens of reporters to resign—journalists who may well follow Hu to her next venture, a new muckraking enterprise.

Gilles TaillonBut he had the dead tyrant vote

The ADQ, Quebec’s rightist party, continued its descent into obscurity this week, with its leader, Gilles Taillon, resigning after all of three weeks on the job amid a flurry of defections from the party. Taillon couldn’t overcome the news that one of two deciding votes in his leadership bid was cast by Omar Bongo, the pint-sized late president of Gabon. (The other was Taillon’s own.) A local comedian had orchestrated the stunt to expose the holes in the party’s voting process. He may have helped sink the ship in the bargain. Taillon is going down swinging: he said there were “troubling” irregularities in the party’s funding in 2003, a matter he plans to turn over to the police.

It’s one way to get out of the doghouse

Relatives of Ademir Jorge Goncalves gathered last week for the Brazilian bricklayer’s funeral after his family had identified him as the badly burned and disfigured victim of a car crash. In fact, Goncalves had spent that night drinking sugarcane liquor with friends at a truck stop, and didn’t find out about his funeral until it was already happening. When he did, he rushed there, surprising mourners by wandering in mid-procession. “It was a relief” to see the “walking dead,” a police spokesperson said. No doubt Goncalves’s family agreed.

Rupert MurdochGoogle this

Enough with the freebies, says Rupert Murdoch. The Australian-born media overlord, whose News Corporation owns 34 prominent newspaper and wire properties around the world, says he plans on removing News Corp.-owned stories from Google, accusing the omnipresent search-engine-cum-news aggregator of “kleptomania.” Chief among Murdoch’s beefs: Google’s practice of listing News Corp. stories on its own news pages, which makes Google, in his view, a “parasite.” Murdoch’s threatened Google brush-off is part of News Corp.’s grand plan to erect pay walls around the rest of its properties—the Wall Street Journal has always been subscription-based—and to “encourage” us all to pay for what we read.

A government cheque they can’t cash

Rana Shaukat Ali and his wife, Ruksana, lost their five sons on Feb. 19, 2007, when terrorists blew up the “Friendship Express” train that runs between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani couple was awarded compensation of 400,000 rupees for each of the boys by Indian railway authorities. Problem is, they’re having trouble collecting. The cheque is written in rupees, but the Indian currency is not recognized by Pakistani financial institutions. The couple tried to circumvent that obstacle by travelling to India and opening a bank account there, only to learn that Pakistani citizens are barred from having accounts in India. So much for “friendship.”

Shane Bauer and Sarah ShourdNo walk in the park

Go hiking, become pawns in a game of nuclear brinkmanship between two powerful enemies. Such is the case of Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, three Americans captured by Iran while hiking in the border region between Iran and Iraq. The trio claim they are victims of an ill-marked border; Iran says they are U.S. spies subverting Iranian security, and charged them accordingly after holding them for four months. Regardless of their intentions, the three are now caught up in a lengthy and increasingly belligerent political tussle between the two countries—one that has little to do with high altitudes and fresh air.

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