Newsmakers this week

Pope Francis loves company, Vladimir Putin's divorce and John Malkovich the hero


Presidential Press Service/Reuters

And, hey, infallible room service

A candid Pope Francis told a group of visiting children that he rejected living in the lavish papal apartments in favour of staying in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican’s only guesthouse, for his “psychiatric” health. He said he prefers simpler surroundings and he doesn’t like to be alone, the Telegraph reports. “I need to live among people and if I lived on my own, perhaps a little isolated, it wouldn’t do me good.” The former archbishop of Buenos Aires was asked by one child if he’d wanted his new vocation. “Anyone who wants to be pope doesn’t care much for themselves,” he replied. “God doesn’t bless them. I didn’t want to be pope.”

Divorce, Russian style

As divorce announcements go, it was all very civilized. After attending a ballet performance together last week, Vladimir Putin and his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila, stopped by the waiting cameras to chat about the dancing, and let slip they have separated. The pair have rarely been seen together in public in recent years, and speculation about the Russian president’s extracurricular activities is almost a national pastime. The early favourite to become the next Mrs. Putin is Alina Kabayeva, a gold-medal winner in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2004 Olympics, who is now a parliamentary deputy for the United Russia Party. At 30, she’s exactly half the age of the former KGB-head-turned-strongman.

This is rich

Attention entertainment royalty: the Internet doesn’t take kindly to your online begging. Zosia Mamet and her sister Clara, both actresses and the offspring of famed playwright David Mamet, found out the hard way this week when their effort to crowdsource $32,000 for a music video flopped (they raised a little over $2,000). The format has had recent, notable successes: Gawker was able to raise $200,000 for a video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford allegedly smoking crack; L.A. actor Kristen Bell raised $2 million for a film project. No such luck for the Mamet girls. Perhaps it was the reason the band offered for making a video—“Basically an excuse to spend more time together,” according to Zosia, star of Girls. Or the admission that the song was written in an hour, or irritation that either could have dipped into proceeds from their lucrative TV careers (Clara acts in ABC’s The Neighbors). In the end, their tales of woe and hardship—“like being taken out of the town your family lives in or the demanding schedules that prevent attendance at family functions”—fell on deaf ears.

Real life hero

He may not be known for playing good guys on the screen, but on the streets of Toronto, John Malkovich is nothing but. The two-time Academy Award nominee came to the rescue of Ohio retiree Jim Walpole in Toronto last week, after Walpole badly hurt himself. Jim and his wife, Marilyn, were visiting Toronto after taking a cross-Canada train trip; Jim tripped on a curb and cut his throat on a piece of scaffolding. “The way he was spurting, I thought it was the carotid [artery] or the jugular [vein],” said Marilyn, a retired nurse. She called for help. Enter Malkovich. The actor whipped off his scarf, stopping the blood flow, until an ambulance arrived. Jim says he didn’t have an opportunity to thank him after the incident. “I asked him what his name was and he said it was John.” The 77-year-old said he didn’t recognize Malkovich, who was acting in a Toronto play, and wasn’t really sure if he’s ever seen him in any films. But Marilyn says that’s going to change: “I’m going to watch all of them that I can.”

Taxing times Belgium is reining in its royals, who have caused outrage for trying to exploit tax loopholes. Under a new system, approved by government this week, all royals except the king will pay taxes for the first time, and see their allowances cut. The $1.2 million annually awarded to Prince Philippe, the heir to the throne, will be reduced to a salary of $240,000, though he can now claim staff and expenses on top of that. And Queen Fabiola, widow of the previous king, will see her annual allowance cut to $600,000 from $1.7 million. The changes stem from anger earlier this year when Fabiola attempted to avoid paying steep inheritance taxes by setting up a trust to shield her estate.

Let it bleed

Poor Alexis De Lancer. The Radio-Canada anchor was signing off a live newscast when he had a very inconvenient nosebleed. He handled it relatively well, barely flinching as blood pooled over his lip, but took to Twitter afterwards to ask politely not to have the incident uploaded onto YouTube. Bad move: two days later, the 15-second clip ended up on Gawker. To be sure, it wasn’t the only nosebleed at Radio-Canada this week. The public broadcaster was forced to walk back plans to rebrand itself “Ici,” after outrage that the Canadian-funded enterprise was attempting to erase “Canada” from its name. It will instead go by Ici Radio-Canada Télé.

Send in the soap

“Ill-bred.” “Bulls–t.” “Castrated.” “Demagogue.” Schoolyard taunts? Beer-league potty mouthing? Nope. These words and more where exchanged between elected officials during a particularly salty day at Quebec’s national assembly. Members of all three parties blurted out barbs over the direction of the economy and the continuing corruption allegations swirling around the province. “There are limits to how much bulls–t you can feed Quebecers,” said former Liberal finance minister Raymond Bachand to his successor Nicolas Marceau. The name-calling got so intense that the assembly speaker adjourned parliamentary work for the day, after which he presumably went for a well-deserved shower.

Princely sums

Apparently Alwaleed bin Talal doesn’t like to be undersold. The Saudi prince is suing Forbes for libel after the magazine said he was worth $20 billion. Bin Talal claims the figure shorted him by nearly $10 billion. The Forbes data “seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions,” said a statement from bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company. Forbes might have reason to worry. Regardless of who is right, the prince certainly has deep pockets.

Barnyard politics

“A city in the country” is the official slogan of Abbotsford, B.C. But that’s no excuse for playing in the muck. Last week, Mayor Bruce Banman was forced to make a public apology after a local activist revealed city staff had spread chicken manure on a vacant downtown lot to deter a group of homeless men from camping there. “We are deeply apologetic for any hurt this may have caused. I personally feel incredibly bad,” said the mayor, calling the incident “a stain on the city.” City manager George Murray has taken responsibility for the decision and has also apologized. It’s not the first time a B.C. municipality has tried such stinky tactics—there was an identical scheme in Surrey in 2009—but this time the outrage was national. Nice to see, given that the bar for bringing your city into disrepute is set awfully high in Canada these days.

No pic-a-nic basket here either

A bear in Maple Ridge, B.C., has clearly watched too many episodes of Yogi Bear. Not only does it have a hunger for human goodies, but it walks upright and has a thing for vehicles. The bear is now a viral YouTube star after Rebecca Moore looked out her window to see it rooting through her van after opening the sliding door. It then moved to her husband’s four-door pickup. After rummaging in the front seat, it backed out, stood on its hind legs and used its left paw to open the rear truck door with practised ease—one of four recent bear-vehicle break-ins in the area. “It was just too amazing not to take a video,” Moore told the CBC. Fortunately for the family, there was no food in the truck—or an ignition key.

Not done yet

Serena Williams defeated Russia’s Maria Sharapova to win the French Open women’s singles tennis title in Paris this week. It was Serena’s 16th Grand Slam title; sports commentators are wondering whether she’ll retire as the greatest U.S. athlete of all time.