This Week: Newsmakers

Madonna’s newest epiphany, Stephen Harper’s women problem, and signs of sanity from Jan Brewer


Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Harper: Monarchy is a man’s job

Queen Elizabeth II only came to the throne because she had no brothers, and Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first son will leapfrog any older sisters to become king, thanks to a 300-year-old act. Now Britain’s deputy PM, Nick Clegg, wants to reform the law. The move requires the agreement of Commonwealth countries directly affected. New Zealand’s PM, John Key, supports the change. Not Stephen Harper: “The successor to the throne is a man,” he said this week. “The next successor to the throne is a man. I don’t think Canadians want to open a debate on the monarchy…at this time.” It’s the same unerring instinct that’s characterized the treatment of female Tory cabinet ministers—think Lisa Raitt, Helena Guergis—and which observers say has limited Harper’s appeal among female voters. Good man, Mr. Harper, good man.

A rapidly Freying narrative

Bestselling Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson is facing buckets of bad press following a 60 Minutes report that questioned his work with his charity, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), for schools in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan. It alleged some schools don’t exist, or haven’t received support from CAI, and that Mortenson uses the charity as a “private ATM machine.” Then there are allegations Mortenson was never kidnapped by the Taliban in Waziristan, as he wrote. Mansur Khan Mahsud told The Daily Beast he played host to Mortenson in Waziristan and was shocked to get a call from Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer (a former Mortenson supporter) telling him the author had described the experience as a kidnapping. Mortenson’s publisher is investigating.

Radio Free Canada

In January, one of Canada’s oldest and most prominent lefty radio stations, Toronto’s CKLN, was taken off the air by the CRTC. A most unlikely defender is riding to its rescue. Right-wing lightning rod Ezra Levant, who debuted The Source—a show that promises to stand up to nanny-state bullying—on the newly launched Sun News this week, is defending the Ryerson University campus station. “What is government doing shutting down radio stations? That’s Hugo Chávez style,” Levant told Maclean’s. The CRTC’s reasons, however, seem more pedestrian in nature: poor quality, paperwork problems and a lack of involvement by students.

For the love of God

Madonna sang Like a Prayer, then worshipped at the feet of Ashtanga yogi Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois and, for the past 15 years, her Kabbalah teachers. Now she’s taken up with Opus Dei, the Catholic sect made famous in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. According to the Mirror tabloid, she’s been cozying up to priests from the centre’s London headquarters. In other news, Madonna’s 2011 counterpart, Lady Gaga, is trying a different approach with her single Judas, sung from Mary Magdalene’s point of view and out just in time for Easter. “Is this the only way to jet up her performance?” asked Catholic League president Bill Donohue.

Et tu, Finland?

Finland, surely among Europe’s most enlightened, pro-eurozone nations, has shocked the continent’s political class by voting True Finn—in a big way. The right-wing nationalist party “rewrote electoral history” Sunday, said Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily, in an editorial. Under Timo Soini, it went from having just five seats to becoming the country’s third biggest party, with 39 MPs and 19 per cent of the vote. And while Soini subscribes to the standard anti-Islam claptrap common to the European right, it’s his stance on the euro and continental “squanderers” that really has Europe—which is hammering out a bailout package for Portugal—worried. “We have been too soft on Europe,” Soini said Monday. Finland must not “pay for the mistakes of others.”

New hope on the left—and right

Privately, B.C. Premier Christy Clark was gunning for Adrian Dix, who won the provincial NDP leadership vote Sunday. Dix, once chief of staff to former premier Glen Clark, is said to be cut from the same cloth as his old boss: a union-backed class warrior, hostile to business. In Liberal eyes, that makes Dix beatable. But Liberals will soon be fending off attacks from another direction. In March, Conservative MP John Cummins dropped out of federal politics to carry the torch for the provincial Tories—until now, an electoral non-entity in B.C. He’ll target disaffected Liberals angered by the party’s moves to the left.

Winning isn’t everything

Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones revealed she struggles with bipolar disorder; she was admitted to Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut for treatment earlier this month. Dealing with the cancer of her husband, Michael Douglas, reportedly exacerbated her own illness. “I don’t just bring myself down. I bring everyone around me down,” she said. “It’s like a dark cloud, ‘Uh oh, here we go,’ and I have to snap out of it.” Mental health groups hailed her honesty. In more ambiguous news on the bipolar celebrity block, Charlie Sheen, in Toronto for his “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour, rallied fans for a bipolar awareness walk. Some 200 showed up to support the “bi-winning” star.

Go Canucks!

Well, it’s official: B.C. is Canucks-crazy. If the “Big Lou-ongo” sandwich at Big Lou’s Butcher shop on Vancouver’s east side—a meatball-and-garlic-drenched sellout named for goalie Roberto Luongo—isn’t your thing, you can take a spin in the “Canuckmobile.” The tricked-out van, embossed with the ’Nucks logo and team colours, is the creation of five childhood friends; on game days, they hit Vancouver’s streets, honking and waving. But no one has taken their love as far as Kelowna’s Lockhart family, who painted their house to resemble a Canucks jersey. The house will stay as is, Madison Lockhart told the Vancouver Sun—as long as the Canucks bring home the Cup.

Off with their hair

An International Criminal Court judge had an unusual request last week: she asked lawyers to shed their wigs next time they appear before her. A handful of lawyers showed up for a preliminary hearing dealing with the violence of Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections in the white horsehair wigs standard in Britain. “This is not the dress code of this institution,” Justice Ekaterina Trendafilova warned lawyers at the end of the hearing. “In this quite warm weather maybe it will be more convenient to be without wigs,” she added with a smile.

Not the Goodluck they need

Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election to Nigeria’s presidency may be a win for democracy—it’s the first credible election since 1999. But it also means four more years of rule by the People’s Democratic Party, which has held power for 12 years; more bias and corruption in the courts; and more poverty. Although Nigeria pumps more oil than any other country in Africa, the number of Nigerians living in poverty has increased, from 49 to 77 per cent, since 1990. A free and fair election is a start. But more will have to change before Nigeria wins.

Signs of intelligent life?

Many U.S. Tea Partiers are asking, will the real Jan Brewer please stand up? The Arizona Republican governor, known as an anti-immigrant crusader and champion of gun rights, has vetoed two controversial conservative pieces of legislation. One— a “birther bill” aimed at Barack Obama—would require presidential candidates in her state to prove their Americanness with a long-form birth certificate or two other records, such as a circumcision certificate. The other would allow firearms on campuses. Of the birther bill, she told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, it’s a “distraction” and “doesn’t help Arizona.”

Good for the blog

Marc Emery’s application to serve his five-year jail term in Canada has been denied. What’s more, the Canadian pot activist is being transferred from a minimum- to a medium-security prison in Mississippi. Although a U.S. judge recommended that transfer, and a boatload of Canadian politicos, including former Vancouver mayors Larry Campbell and Sam Sullivan, signed a letter urging its approval, U.S. prison officials ruled no. “It seems to be a personal thing they have against Marc,” says his wife, Jodi. Emery’s lawyer believes his client’s popular blog, which is critical of prison conditions, miffed authorities, and influenced the decision.

A new sin for the Church

The wages of sin may well be death, but first comes the credit card debt—at least for Father Joe LeClair, a widely loved Ottawa priest who confessed on Sunday to a gambling habit and crushing credit card bills. “Some months ago I had to face up to the fact that my gambling was not just a harmless, stress-releasing activity,” he told the Blessed Sacrament Parish. The admission prompted a standing ovation. Earlier, newspaper reports revealed LeClair faced credit card bills of more than $490,000 over 2009 and 2010. He also received more than $137,000 in cash advances at Gatineau’s Casino du Lac-Leamy. LeClair reportedly earns $24,400 a year, not including income earned as an officiant. The archbishop has begun an audit of his church. “He’s a good man, but he’s only human,” one parishioner told a reporter.

And introducing…

The royal twins were born Jan. 8, but according to Danish tradition, Crown Prince Frederik and Australian-born wife Mary kept the names of their children secret until last week’s christening. Then, in front of 300 invited guests, and a very excited big sister Isabella, the parents introduced Vincent and Josephine.

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