Those guys in green, Olympic outtakes and Baaaaad to the bone

Those guys in green
It was Denis Lemieux, the crazed goalie in the old-school hockey movie Slap Shot, who described the penalty box experience best: “Two minutes by yourself. You feel shame, you know. And then you go free.” In Vancouver’s GM Place, the cost of an infraction against the Canucks also includes the unwanted antic companionship of Sully and Force, two spandex-clad Green Men. The two anonymous local college students dance, play-fight and otherwise annoy the opposition from their seats behind the penalty box. “You’ve got to get in their heads,” says Sully. Their antics aren’t sanctioned by the team, the greenies stress. Their tickets are donated by a local roofing company.

Olympic outtakes
John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, eased toward unemployment Friday by offering a sold-out crowd at the local board of trade an inside look at the Games. He told of a panicked phone call from David Atkins, the Australian producer of the opening ceremonies. Rick Hansen was to climb a steep ramp in his wheelchair to deliver the torch to those lighting the cauldron. Atkins got in a chair for a trial run and failed miserably. “I’m incredibly fit,” he said. “Rick Hansen will never get up that ramp.” Furlong replied: “I’m not phoning Rick Hansen to say he can’t do anything.” Hansen went to B.C. Place at 2 a.m. for a secret trial run. “Up he went the first go,” Furlong says of the man who rolled 40,000 km around the world for spinal cord research. Expect that anecdote to make the book Furlong wants to write before he starts job hunting in earnest.

Baaaaad to the bone
It was a prison warden’s nightmare (and a headline writer’s dream): two escaped Argentinian convicts evaded capture in Buenos Aires province by dressing as sheep. Maximiliano Pereyra and Ariel Diaz have remained on the lamb (sorry) by wearing stolen sheep hides, heads and all. Locals reported sighting them working stealthily through fields of grazing sheep. A police spokesman told England’s Sun it is “almost impossible” to pick out the two from thousands of sheep. But the source added, “They can’t pull the wool over our eyes forever.”

One step forward, two back
In 1946, Viola Desmond, a 32-year-old black beautician, was dragged out of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, N.S., and jailed for sitting in the whites-only section. Last week, Nova Scotia issued a free pardon, 45 years after Desmond’s death. It was her younger sister Wanda Robson who took up her cause, asking the New Glasgow council to acknowledge the shameful act. “I’m numb with joy,” said 83-year-old Robson during the ceremony. Sadly, elsewhere in Nova Scotia, two brothers face hate crime charges after a burning cross was planted in February on the lawn of the Poplar Grove home of Michelle Lyon and her black fiancé, Shayne Howe. Last Saturday Lyon’s car was torched. They plan to move.

In other words, quit yer blubbering
Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, leader of the Japanese whaling fleet, has returned to Tokyo harbour “furious” with Canadian Paul Watson, captain and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He said he returned with just 507 whales, barely half the quota allotted—allegedly—for “scientific research.” Watson’s group spent months off Antarctica disrupting the fleet’s hunt. Watson estimates they cost the whalers $75 million. “That’s good for us because the only language they understand is economics,” he told the Canwest News Service.

Finally, a right-wing network for the U.S.!
For those who find Fox News too pinko, along comes RightNetwork. “There’s wrong and there’s Right,” says investor and actor Kelsey Grammer in a promotional spot for the network, which launches this summer. Adds fellow investor Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers: “We’re creating a welcome place for millions and millions of Americans who’ve been looking for an entertainment network and media channel that reflects their point of view.” The network will have a mix of public affairs and conservative sitcoms. A crew is already embedded with the Tea Partiers, who face new challenges. Last week the group had to boot Orly Taitz, queen of the “Birther” movement, from a tax rally. Her unfounded claims that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. were making even Tea Partiers queasy.

His other car is a baby Bimmer
Last week Newsmakers featured Episcopal Priest Barbie. May she pray for Paul Hutton of Clacton-on-Sea, England, a fallen member of the flock. The 40-year-old father of four has been customizing a kid-sized electric Barbie car. After downing a few drinks, he decided to drive it to see a pal who lives 450 m away. The sight of the six-foot Hutton, knees tucked to his chin, drew police attention. A chase ensued, with the Barbie-mobile hitting its top speed of six kilometres per hour. Hutton failed a breath test and was slapped with a three-year driving ban. The idea was “daft” but was it criminal, he wonders.

No prorogue for him
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday signed a landmark law that strips away many of his presidential powers. The amendments, aimed at strengthening parliamentary democracy after years of iron-fisted military rule, repeal the president’s right to make some appointments, to dismiss an elected premier—and to dissolve parliament. The constitutional amendment passed both houses of parliament last week. “This is a historic day,” said Zardari. As his law minister, Babar Awan, put it: “For the first time in the history of this country, a democratically elected president has voluntarily given up his power back to the parliament.”

Quake cause, er, uncovered
Tehran is vulnerable to an earthquake and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants many residents to leave the overcrowded city. However Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior Iranian cleric, has another solution: women must cover themselves. “Many women who do not dress modestly?.?.?.?lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society,” he said, “which increases earthquakes.” “How to avoid being buried in rubble?” he asked during a prayer sermon. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt your lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

Not the brightest bulb
Neon, a fluffy German lifestyle magazine, has apologized to American singer Beyoncé for an interview filled with fabricated quotes, including her fictitious discussion of a prenuptial agreement with husband Jay-Z. Editors also admit “doubt exists” about other interviews journalist Ingo Mocek conducted, with guitarist Slash, singer Christina Aguilera and rappers Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z. Mocek has been fired but the stain on Neon’s reputation remains. As it is, Der Spiegel opined on its website that Neon is “about as essential for the enlightenment of the Western world as, say, probiotic yogourt.”

Free speech and suntans for all!
Once the volcanic ash cloud clears, expect the skies to be filled with Europeans exercising their latest human right: taxpayer-funded vacations. “Travelling for tourism today is a right,” Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, told a recent ministers’ conference in Madrid. Tajani, appointed to the post by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, sees subsidized travel being extended to seniors, young people and those with “difficult social, financial or personal” problems. The plan, which begins with a pilot program in 2013, is being pitched as “a formidable indicator of our quality of life.”

An abortion law by any name
Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge, chair of the parliamentary pro-life caucus, has dropped a bombshell in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lap. The Winnipeg backbencher tabled a private member’s bill last week to make it illegal to “coerce” a woman to have an abortion. Opposition critics say Bruinooge is reopening the abortion issue through the back door. The PMO says the Tories won’t support the bill. Bruinooge insists this isn’t an abortion debate. “But it does make it a crime to threaten or intimidate a woman into an abortion.” Critics note threatening is already against the law, so the bill’s value is, well, debatable.

No ash down here
British tycoon, adventurer and media hound Sir Richard Branson showed off his latest toy, an underwater plane, to viewers of the Oprah Winfrey show last week. The Virgin Atlantic Airlines founder gave viewers a tour of Necker, his 30-hectare Caribbean island, part of the British Virgin Islands, naturally. He was especially proud of the Necker Nymph, an open-cockpit, three-person winged submarine. The battery-powered vehicle requires scuba gear. “It’s like an airplane that flies underwater,” he said, “a little fighter plane.” Necker also functions as an exclusive resort. A week starts at US$19,500 per couple. Or rent the island for US$22,500 a day, batteries included.

Now we can love her for her mind, too
Raquel Welch, the actress and legendary sex symbol, wants you to know she wrote every word of her bestseller Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. Rest assured it’s not an analysis of America’s left-right political divide. It’s part advice book and part biography about the challenges of starting her career as a single mother of two. She burst onto the screen, almost literally, in a doeskin bikini in the 1967 caveman epic One Million Years B.C. “Can you picture the girl in the poster with a baby in one arm and pushing a stroller with the other?” she writes. “Kind of destroys the fantasy, doesn’t it?” Welch, 69, credits yoga and abstinence from salt, sugar and caffeine with helping her age gracefully. It seems to work.

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