Newsmakers: Dec. 1-7, 2011

Nicolas Cage auctions a toy, Robert Mugabe threatens to sue, and the great one’s girl goes viral


BDG/Rex Features

Superman comes to the rescue

The first comic book to break the $2-million mark was sold last week. The near-mint condition Action Comics No. 1—the first with Superman—sold for $2.16 million, and had most recently belonged to Nicolas Cage. The actor-cum-comics connoisseur paid $150,000 for the comic in 1997, but later had it stolen; it was returned last year. Cage, who has been struggling with a $6.2-million IRS bill for back taxes, has been liquidating his real estate assets, often swallowing significant losses. His affection for the man of steel is no secret: he named his son Kal-El, Superman’s birth name.

Beggin’ for B.C.

Premier Christy Clark made a trip to Parliament Hill, begging for relief on the $1.6 billion the B.C. government now owes the feds. B.C.’s decision to repeal its new harmonized sales tax has put the premier, who faces an election in 18 months—and is legally bound to balance the budget—in a tough spot. Clark pitched the Prime Minister on a scheme to give the province “credit for time served”—the 2½ years the HST will have been in place in B.C. (the hated tax is set to be dismantled in March 2013). Good luck with that, premier.

She was lost, but now she’s found

Joe Chisholm never gave up his search for his daughter, Sigourney. She went missing in 1993 when her mother, Patricia O’Byrne, allegedly kidnapped her. Eighteen years later, Chisholm’s pursuit is over. O’Byrne, who’s hired famed criminal lawyer Ed Greenspan to defend her, is facing charges of parental abduction, after her arrest in Victoria last week, where she and her daughter were living under assumed names. Over the years, Chisholm pined for his lost daughter in a series of videos he posted to YouTube. “If you find me before I find you, which is fine by me,” he said in one, “you’ll have a lot of questions.” Indeed.

Does LEGO come in grey?

The Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum and the U.S. Capitol are some of the most famous buildings in the world. But last week, Montreal’s Habitat 67 was beating them all in an online vote, run by LEGO, over which “architectural wonder” should become its next model. Habitat 67 was designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie 44 years ago. Safdie, who had four major openings this fall, has been featured in an exhibition at Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada—another of his designs.

Literary dust-up

A literary feud is brewing between writer Pankaj Mishra and Harvard University historian Niall Ferguson, who’s threatening to sue over Mishra’s nasty review of his latest book, Civilization. Mishra, in the London Review of Books, accused Ferguson of penning “white people’s histories,” among other complaints, which had Ferguson blasting back in a letter to the editor, calling the review “a crude attempt at character assassination,” and accused Mishra of implying racism. “If he won’t apologize for calling me racist, I will persecute him until he does,” Ferguson huffed to the Guardian.

Axe falls behind the bench

It was a bloody week for NHL coaches. Erstwhile Washington Capitals skipper Bruce Boudreau was canned after months of friction between him and the team’s underperforming superstar Alex Ovechkin. The ever-canny Caps coach, however, signed a deal with the Anaheim Ducks three days later. Other coaches weren’t so quick to find employment—including Randy Carlyle, whom Boudreau replaced. As well, the lowly Carolina Hurricanes fired former Leafs coach Paul Maurice to make way for former Habs assistant coach Kirk Muller.

DSK opens up

A new biography claims to reveal the untold side of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s story in the New York sex scandal that led to his arrest. DSK Affairs: The Second Inquiry, by French journalist Michel Taubmann, portrays the former IMF chief as the victim in his May encounter with Nafissatou Diallo. The Sofitel hotel maid, according to Taubmann, looked “openly at his [Strauss-Kahn’s] genitals”—essentially, making a proposition with her eyes, he claims. Strauss-Kahn says he had an “uninhibited sex life,” but had done nothing illegal. “I could have been in a position to be president,” he tells Taubmann. “Now, I’m no longer in that position—that’s all.”

Rickshaw racket

Alexei Kochetov, a University of Toronto linguistics professor, was recently in India doing research. While on the streets of Mysore with his wife and two children, he attempted to hire a rickshaw driver to take his young family home. He approached a driver named Manjunath, who allegedly refused to drive Kochetov’s family—then demanded 80 rupees. When Kochetov refused, Manjunath berated him using “very foul language, frightening the children.” Kochetov wanted to get even, so he posted a complaint on the local police agency’s Facebook page. Surprisingly, police took the time to track down Manjunath—in a city of nearly one million people—and fine him 800 rupees. Anything, it seems, for a Canadian tourist.

Halting hate

U.S. white supremacist David Duke was arrested outside Cologne last week after German police determined the former Ku Klux Klan leader was ineligible to stay due to a travel ban. The arrest, ahead of a scheduled neo-Nazi event, comes as Germany continues to deal with the fallout from revelations of a decade-long neo-Nazi killing spree in the country. The 61-year-old, who in recent years has been promoting his racist views primarily in Eastern Europe and former Soviet bloc countries, vows to fight the arrest.

No love from Down Under

When most people head on vacation, the last thing they want to do is work. Not Kim Kardashian. The reality TV star and recent divorcée went to Australia on a tourist visa, where she promptly began hawking her new handbag line. That prompted the Department of Immigration in Canberra to place Kardashian on an immigration watch list. After all, it’s the third time the 31-year-old has made the “mistake,” having hawked beer and her TV show while on tourist visas in past. At least she’s consistent.

All grown up

Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey legend Wayne, was skating on thin ice when she posted racy photos of herself on Twitter. When daddy found out, the 23-year-old’s account was shut down abruptly with a telling tweet: “Having a nice sit down dinner with my dad about social media.” Since then, the aspiring model and actress has returned from her week-long hiatus—this time, with a wholesome photo, and a coy message: “Hi everyone I’m back! But shhh don’t tell my dad.”

Heroes, or thieves?

Two women wearing “official-looking” animal welfare uniforms were arrested by Surrey RCMP last week after allegedly dognapping a bulldog named Samson from his home. Janet Olson, 58, the founder and director of A Better Life Dog Rescue—and an Air Canada pilot—and co-director Louise Reid, 59, were charged with break and enter, and theft under $5,000. Police are investigating whether the women are behind a series of dognappings in the Lower Mainland in which suspects dressed in uniforms labelled “animal welfare” walked off with pets. Samson has been returned, unharmed, to his owners.

It ain’t easy being a dictator

Cheeky South Africa-based roast chicken shop, Nando’s, has bowed to political pressure and pulled its ad depicting Robert Mugabe cavorting around his estate with a group of murderous ex-dictators. The ad featured a morose Mugabe daydreaming of water fights with Moammar Gadhafi, making sand angels with Saddam Hussein, and karaokeing with Mao Zedong to the tune of Those Were The Days. Apparently the Zimbabwean was not amused: citing “political reaction,” Nando’s pulled the ads.

Language police

Quebec media maven Guy A. Lepage is ready to boycott the National Bank of Canada because of what he sees as the institution’s slack standards when it comes to Quebec’s official language. The bank, long a source of pride and made-in-Quebec business acumen, came under fire when a newspaper noted that one of its executives couldn’t speak French. Lepage’s threatened boycott comes on the heels of revelations that a senior executive with Quebec’s pension fund manager Caisse de dépot also employed a unilingual English executive. A Lepage-inspired boycott could spell trouble for the bank; Tout le monde en parle, the show he hosts, has over a million weekly viewers.

Embracing engagement

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, standing with Hillary Clinton outside the home where she was imprisoned for 15 years, spoke of a “new future” for Burma after tentative new reforms. Democracy is the goal, she said. “We hope to get there as soon as possible with the help of our friends.”

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