Newsmakers: Oct. 27-Nov. 3, 2011

Justin Bieber reconsiders the Batmobile, Teemu Selanne redefines 41 and Michel Martelly rebuilds an army


FAME Pictures/Keystone

From boy toy to guru for peace

As a male model, Cameron Alborzian was best known for playing Madonna’s shirtless squeeze in the video for Express Yourself. But the 44-year-old has found a new calling: bringing peace to Afghanistan through yoga. Yogi Cameron, as he now likes to be called, recently travelled to Kabul to teach Taliban prisoners how to meditate away their violent tendencies. Coalition and Afghan officials have been skeptical but sympathetic to the efforts. After all, it’s not like anything else is working.

To the Biebermobile, Batman?

At 17, Justin Bieber is still finding himself. Superstar pop singer? Check. Superhero car driver? He’s trying that too. The teen phenom from Stratford, Ont., was prowling the streets of L.A. in his Cadillac last week when he apparently cut off an LAPD cop cruiser—which earned him a warning. But the Caddy, a high-performance, matte-finish, black CTS-V, is, it turns out, a revamped Batmobile—complete with rearward-opening doors, Bat logos front and rear and the word “Batmobile” embossed on the trunk. Bieber also boasts his own logo—JB—which is carved into the car.

Banning BOO

Two Calgary elementary schools are dealing with some scary media attention after staff rethought the annual Halloween party, barring kids from wearing costumes featuring masks, weapons or “gruesome” makeup. A letter sent home to parents asked for “caring” disguises instead this year, lest the little ones be frightened. Richard Peter, a spokesman for Calgary’s board of education, says the rethink shows diversity and flexibility within the school system. But surely there must be a compromise solution. How about letting kids dress up like Zombie Barney the Dinosaur, or Conan the Librarian?

The fuddle-duddle mayor

Canadian politicians have long had to grit their teeth, grin and bear Marg Delahunty’s unfunny on-camera ambushes. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have hit upon a new way to deal with Mary Walsh, the This Hour Has 22 Minutes alum who plays the character: dial 911. Cornered on his driveway by Walsh, Ford made a show of retreating into his home and re-emerging with his cell. “Get a bit of guts,” Walsh shouted. At first, pundits said Ford actually came out looking better for the encounter. But he may have gilded the lily—“maybe I shouldn’t have used the F-word,” he later said.

Middle age—Selanne style

At 41, Teemu Selanne is fresh off one of his best NHL seasons in years—he racked up 31 goals and 49 assists for Anaheim last season. Barely a month into the new season, the Finnish Flash is positioning himself among the league’s all-time greats. He passed Mats Sundin’s 1,349 career points last week, giving him the NHL’s 26th-highest point count. He’s expected to skate past Guy Lafleur’s 1,353 next week, and crack the top 20 by spring. Hockey is regarded as one of the most gruelling, physically demanding sports, and the ageless Finn is redefining the game past 40.

Soldiering on

Haiti’s military hasn’t existed since 1995, when then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide abolished it over its rotten human rights record. The move left Haiti one of the few nations in the world without a national army. But President Michel Martelly, who is attempting to resurrect Haiti from the rubble of last year’s devastating earthquake and must deal with high unemployment and rampaging crime rates, is looking to bring the military back—this time as a civil defence force. He’s set to plow $95 million into the new institution, which would launch with 3,500 soldiers.

Methuselah’s secret

Hitherto known for its famed big-money spaceflight competition, the X Prize Foundation last week announced a new, US$10-million purse—this time for researchers who sequence the complete genomes of 100 centenarians. It’s very hard to live to 105 “without some genetic advantages,” as one competitor, Dr. Thomas Perls, puts it. The Archon Genomics X Prize competition is aimed at uncovering just what those advantages may be.

For love or money?

A mere 72 days after marrying basketball star Kris Humphries, reality TV princess Kim Kardashian has rethought her marriage—she filed for divorce. Wedding watchers estimated the ceremony, in which Kim donned three different Vera Wang dresses, cost a whopping $6 million. Still, she racked in a reported $17.9 million by selling the media rights to the festivities. For a marriage that lasted mere weeks, “that comes to a nifty $10,358.80 per hour,” tweeted New York Times investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr. It seems possible that no marriage has ever been so profitable.

Trade rumours

The Toronto Blue Jays have “amended” team policy and will no longer allow employees to talk to other clubs about jobs that might be considered “lateral moves.” Reworking the policy, says GM Alex Anthopoulos, frees up staff from dealing with rumours in the media. More importantly, it means manager John Farrell—the rumoured front-runner for the skipper’s job in Boston—won’t be allowed to speak to the Red Sox about the manager’s vacancy. But would a move to Boston, which has made the playoffs six of the past nine years and won two World Series, really be lateral?

The one race he lost

Per-Gunnar Andersson may want to rethink his career: the two-time world rally race-car champion wasn’t fast enough to drive his pregnant wife to hospital this week, pulling his BMW off the highway so she could deliver on the shoulder. Given baby Alvin’s start to life, he may have a future as a race-car driver, the proud papa told Sweden’s Expressen: “He seems to have it in his genes.”

Real-life Slumdog Millionaire

Sushil Kumar studied for months before appearing on his country’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The 26-year-old, who earns $100 a month and doesn’t own a TV—his in-laws narrated the show over the phone so he could prep for it—rewrote his life story, walking away with $1 million last week.

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