Newsmakers: Mar. 22-Mar. 29, 2012 -

Newsmakers: Mar. 22-Mar. 29, 2012

Jessica Simpson gets overly candid, Ricky Martin grabs the spotlight, and Rob Anderson wants a parking spot



Redemption sought

For Brian Miller, redemption will require a lot more than a stint on TV. The former contestant on Redemption Inc., a CBC reality series in which ex-convicts compete in business-related challenges, has been charged after a series of break-ins and an attempted car theft in Stittsville, Ont. His arrest followed a one-night crime spree in the Ottawa suburb, culminating in the theft of a vehicle belonging to DJ Race, a personality on a top-40 radio station in Ottawa. Race gave chase in her husband’s car, forcing the thief to stop and take off on foot, by which time police were on the scene. Miller, 27, had been first runner-up on Redemption Inc.’s inaugural season, and was described by host Kevin O’Leary as “one of the best salesmen I’ve seen.”

Too much information?

Jessica Simpson, who is expected to give birth to a girl this spring, told Jimmy Kimmel on his late-night show she is carrying so much amniotic fluid that when her water breaks it will be like “a fire hydrant.” Never short on colourful descriptions, Simpson also said she feels like a bowling ball is resting on her “hoo-ha.” Not everyone has found Simpson’s ebullient candour charming or refreshing. An Arizona grocery store has propped a piece of cardboard against the latest cover of Elle, which features Simpson in a tight red dress.

A prayer for Trayvon

“If I had a son,” said Barack Obama, “he’d look like Trayvon.” Hours after the U.S. President issued his powerful response to the killing of black teen Trayvon Martin, the Miami Heat injected themselves into the national conversation with a powerful statement of their own. The basketball team donned hoodies in support of Martin, who’d been wearing one when he was killed by a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer. George Zimmerman admits he shot Martin, but claims it was in self-defence. He says the 17-year-old—who was unarmed—attacked him. But recordings of a 911 call Zimmerman made before the shooting cast doubt on that story. What’s more, Zimmerman’s own history—he called 911 more than 40 times in the month before the attack and appears to have been obsessed by young black men—has left many incredulous. Local police have neither arrested nor charged Zimmerman, and Florida’s permissive self-defence laws may make any conviction unlikely. Pressure for action, however, hit a boil last week.

Jostling for a prime spot

Alberta’s Wildrose party wants the premier’s chair. Its members have made no secret of that goal. But party MLA Rob Anderson may settle for a lesser prize: the premier’s parking spot. Anderson got into a squabble with a legislative sheriff recently after he parked his SUV in a stall reserved for the premier. According to an incident report released by the province, the sheriff didn’t recognize Anderson at first. But when she asked for his ID, he became incensed. He “replied in a very angry, hostile tone, ‘No, you need to know who I am,’” the report says, according to the Edmonton Journal. After tossing his badge at the sheriff, Anderson had more strong words, saying: “I will be talking to your supervisor about you and your job here.” For his part, Anderson says he didn’t know the spot was reserved. Besides, he might have added, with an election imminent, the spot may not be the premier’s for long anyway.

Flip-floppin’ Mitt

Say what you want about Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, but at least he has no trouble changing his mind. The former Massachusetts governor has been a pro-choice centrist and a pro-life hardliner. He was for a health care mandate, then against one. Now he thinks a health care mandate might just crush the entire United States. But moderates worried by Romney’s current incarnation on the far right need not worry too much. If recent comments by a top aide are any sign, we’re in for a different Mitt once the primaries are done. “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN last week. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.” For Romney, already dogged by charges of flip-flopping, the comments seemed to confirm the Republicans’ worst fear: That Romney may not be the ideologue he seems.

My, my Kazakhstan

Organizers of a recent ski festival in Kazakhstan caused an uproar when they mistakenly played Ricky Martin’s 1999 hit single La Vida Loca instead of the country’s rather dour national anthem. The mix-up went viral. Then, just weeks later, Kazakh athlete Maria Dmitrenko endured a rendition of a spoof anthem from the 2006 film Borat, which features a buffoon Kazakh as the main character, as she stood on the podium at the Arab Shooting Championships in Kuwait. The Borat lyrics include the line: Kazakhstan’s prostitutes cleanest in the region, of course, except Turkmenistan’s. Kazakhstan received an apology from the organizers, who had downloaded anthems from the Internet and also managed to play a wrong anthem for Serbia.

Lucky to be alive

Five teens survived two nights stranded on Vancouver Island after their truck ran out of gas. “We had no blankets, no nothing,” says Jessica Atkinson, one of the rescued teens. They had no cellphone reception either, so one of the young men eventually hiked 14 km to call his father for help. Then a snowstorm swept the area, and made efforts to reach them on a remote logging road difficult. Eventually they were found by search teams using snowmobiles. Two women were found face-down in the snow, “sleeping,” after attempting to hike to safety. They were treated for hypothermia and foot injuries.

Bush-league fugitive

Nearly seven years after he escaped into the bush, Malcolm Naden, Australia’s most wanted fugitive, was arrested last week in rural New South Wales. A police dog snagged the former abattoir worker after cameras caught him defrosting meat in a backwoods cabin. Naden is believed to have killed two people and sexually abused two others. But he was on the run for so long, he became almost a folk hero to some. After his arrest, the heavily bearded scofflaw seemed actually grateful. “Thank God it’s over. I’ve had enough,” he said, according to the local press. As police loaded him into a van, he added: “This beats walking.”

Rock on!

How do you choose inductees for a “hall of fame” when all the candidates are rock stars? That’s the implied question behind Slash’s remarks on the eve of Guns N’ Roses’ induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The legendary guitarist said it was “hard to feel victorious” given that other bands, including Canada’s Rush, have been overlooked. But his reservations aren’t enough to keep him away. “I’ll be there,” he confirmed when asked about the Apr. 14 ceremony. “We’ll just sort of take it as it comes.”

Where is Amelia?

Hillary Clinton is helping researchers in their latest efforts to find Amelia Earhart, 75 years since her mysterious disappearance while attempting to fly around the world. The secretary of state has endorsed an expedition this summer by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which will scour the Pacific Ocean near the island of Kiribati for the wreckage. Clinton said Earhart “embodied the spirit of an America coming of age.”

Long live the king

The king of Tonga is dead. King George Tupou V passed away in hospital at the age of 63. An official period of mourning was declared, and many buildings in the capital of Nufu’alofa have been adorned with black and purple. During the state funeral, 150 people will carry his body on an elaborate platform from the palace to royal tombs. Grand in life and, after all, in death.

So not sorry

Usually, when you say you’re sorry, that signals you will try not to commit the same wrong again. But that doesn’t appear to be the case for Ivan Barker. The Brit, 21, was forced to apologize to another man as part of a restorative justice program after he stole his laptop. At the urging of police, the victim—who uses a wheelchair—let Barker into his home to hear him out. Instead, the criminal grabbed the victim’s new laptop and fled. At least Barker pleaded guilty, and has now been jailed for 16 weeks.

Go-go granny

Mary Allen Hardison rang in her 101st birthday by paragliding. The great-great grandmother from Ogden, Utah, who took flight last Sept. 1, has now made it into the Guinness World Records for that historic feat. Her message? “Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you have to sit on your duff all day.”

Caught with the microphone on

An open microphone caught Barack Obama asking outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for “space” on missile defence—a touchy issue. “After my election,” the U.S. President explained, “I have more flexibility.” “I understand,” said Medvedev. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

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