Newsmakers: Oct. 21-27, 2011

Barack Obama disapproves of the Kardashians, Justin Trudeau opens up, and Warren Buffett makes a cartoon


Author Naomi Wolf is arrested in New York at an Occupy Wall Street protest.

Imagine the headlines

“Imagine there’s no pizza / I couldn’t if I tried / Eating only tacos / Or Kentucky Fried.” So begins Herman Cain’s John Lennon-inspired ode to pizza, the foodstuff that made him rich. Cain, a former president and CEO of Godfather’s, a U.S. pizza chain, is now running for the Republican presidential nomination. Unfortunately, there are signs that, like the song—a video of which went viral last week—the Cain campaign may be a bit of a joke. Despite surprisingly high poll numbers, Cain continues to spout policies about as serious as a singing CEO. At a recent campaign event in Tennessee, he called for an electrified barbed-wire fence on the Mexican border. (He later said he was joking.) He also continues to cling to his 9/9/9 tax plan, which could bankrupt the U.S. government if implemented. Imagine Herman Cain as president? We couldn’t if we tried.

28 seconds changed everything

Penguin Canada announced that it will publish 28 Seconds, a book by former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant about the 2009 incident that resulted in the death of bike courier Darcy Sheppard. Sheppard, who had a record of aggressive confrontations with motorists, confronted Bryant on his 11th wedding anniversary, and clung to his BMW while the ex-AG tried to speed away. Bryant, now a lawyer with Norton Rose, has since split from his wife, Gowlings entertainment lawyer Susan Abramovitch. The tell-all, according to Penguin, will also examine his “personal challenges” and “his own battle with some of the very demons shared by Sheppard.”

From Hogwarts to Oxford

Emma Watson, who portrayed Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, was spotted starting a new term at Worcester College, Oxford, where she is spending a year on an exchange from her U.S. college, Brown University. Watson is to return next year as a senior to Brown, where she is rumoured to have suffered taunting by Ivy League brats. British tabloids expressed surprise at seeing Watson, who has modelled for Lancôme and Burberry, “dressed down” for classes in a parka and jeans.

I’d rather rot in jail

Patrizia Reggiani has been in an Italian jail since 1998, when she was found guilty of hiring a pizzeria owner to murder her husband, multi-millionaire fashion heir Maurizio Gucci. Given the lavishness of her former life—$15,000 a month went to orchids alone—it might be safe to assume she would jump at the chance to spend time outside the big house. But when presented with the opportunity for day release, the 63-year-old popularly known as Italy’s “black widow” refused. She couldn’t bear the thought of having to work a menial job—a condition of her release. “I’ve never worked a day in my life and I’m certainly not going to start now,” she told a Milan courtroom. Instead, she’ll stick out the rest of her 26-year sentence in the cell she shares with potted plants and a pet ferret.

Dark side of the swap

The day after freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit returned home, the first wave of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for the Hamas-held prisoner returned to their families. One of them was Wafa al-Bis, who had been in jail since 2005 when, at 21, she botched a suicide bombing at an Israeli checkpoint. Speaking from her bedroom in northern Gaza, Bis told Britain’s Telegraph she would like to “be a suicide bomber three times over” to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces.

The secret to staying young?

An anonymous American actress is suing the Internet Movie Database for $1 million, claiming it unscrupulously obtained her real age (“approaching 40”) and listed it on the popular Amazon-owned website. “Jane Doe,” who is described in court documents only as a thespian of Asian descent, claims that knowledge of her true birthdate has made it “nearly impossible to get work.” Doe believes the company found her age after she signed up for the site’s premium service using her credit card. As the Hollywood press hunts out the true identity of “Jane,” Amazon is refusing comment.

Warren Buffett takes Toontown

The world’s third-richest human, Warren Buffett, is cementing his folk-hero status by entering the world of cartoons. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO is set to star in The Secret Millionaires’ Club, an animated Web series that teaches the basics of financial literacy. His involvement is extensive: “the Oracle of Omaha” records his character’s dialogue at a studio in his home state, and reviews all scripts. Buffett told the New York Times he is not trying to turn a generation of children into mini-capitalists—he just wants to encourage common sense about money in an America that seems to have abandoned it. “It’s too late when you get to be 40 or 50,” he says, “to start learning the right habits.”

Migraine for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is, for now, shrugging off international pressure over the imprisonment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko, a leading figure in 2004’s “Orange Revolution,” was convicted of abusing the office of the prime minister, which she once held. The court, which Tymoshenko supporters accuse of being under the president’s thumb, found she had transgressed by signing a 2009 natural-gas deal with Russia, and sentenced her to seven years in jail. Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered Yanukovych a rare public rebuke: “I am deeply concerned by recent developments,” he warned in a letter last week. The European Union, meanwhile, “postponed” preliminary talks with Yanukovych on potential Ukrainian EU membership.

The revisionist

If Canadian history were a teen novel, Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney would be on Team Montcalm. At a recent event, according to the CBC, the Conservative MP told a group of schoolchildren he “was leaning a little bit for the French” in the battle of the Plains of Abraham; the British victory over French commander Louis-Joseph Montcalm helped set the stage for the modern Canadian state. The outcome of the battle remains sensitive in certain circles in Quebec.

Fortunate sons

There are few gains more ill-gotten than those of a dictator’s son. This is doubly true in the case of Gamal and Alaa Mubarak. The Mubarak boys, sons of deposed president Hosni, managed to squirrel away $340 million during their father’s long autocratic rule, an Egyptian justice official annouced this week. All three Mubaraks are currently on trial for abuse and corruption. In the meantime, Swiss officials have frozen $450 million in family assets stored in their banks.

Why Justin won’t run

Childhood, for many, was a simpler time, an age when you could close your eyes and drift off to an imaginary place. For Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre, the former prime minister, that other life was in Riverdale, with his comic-book pals Archie, Jughead and Moose. Trudeau announced recently he would not seek his father’s old job as leader of the Liberal party. As it is, he barely sees his kids, he told a group of students at Wilfrid Laurier University. Trudeau speaks from experience. “Was it an ordinary childhood?” he wrote recently in an online essay. “Of course not. I used to fantasize about living in Riverdale with Archie and just leading a ‘normal’ life.”

Yes, you can, Sasha and Malia

In his nearly three years as president, Barack Obama has not exactly earned a reputation for uncompromising leadership. But on one issue, at least, the President has taken a stand. No, it’s not the debt ceiling; it’s the Kardashians. First lady Michelle Obama told reporters this week her husband would rather their daughters not watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, a reality show that tracks the L.A. socialites. “Barack doesn’t like that,” she told the iVillage website. Luckily for Sasha and Malia, their father is a man who can bend. While the girls have strict limits on how much television they can watch, the Kardashians have not been explicitly banned: “I’m more concerned with how they take it in,” said Michelle. “‘What did you learn when you watched that?’ And if they’re learning the right lessons, like, ‘That was crazy,’ ” she explained, then mom and dad are okay with the show.

One person’s trash . . .

In the late ’60s, John Lennon was pacing the kitchen of his Surrey mansion. In his hand, wrapped in some paper, he held a tooth. The pop music legend decided to give it to his longtime housekeeper, Dot Jarlett, whom he called “Aunty Dot,” knowing her daughter was a big fan. Now, the decades-old tooth of Liverpool’s most famous son may become the most bizarre piece of Beatles memorabilia ever to hit the auction block. Lennon’s tooth—reportedly discoloured and containing an obvious cavity—will be sold at a Stockport auction house on Nov. 5, and is expected to fetch at least $16,000.

Feminist icon takes on the man

Naomi Wolf, author of feminist must-read The Beauty Myth, was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City last week. She was cuffed after leading protesters down a sidewalk cops claimed was off-limits. She called police tactics “Stalinist.”

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.