Newsmakers: May. 24-31, 2012

The Unabomber checks in, Ahawinigan rejoices and Tony Blair admits he needed his pal Rupert


Colin Perkel/CP

Tornado aisle

Newlyweds Caleb and Candra Pence showed a lot of nerve, proceeding with their outdoor nuptials near Harper, Kan., as a menacing twister touched down just a few kilometres away.

You can ask now

Weeks after President Barack Obama said he supports same-sex marriage, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Colin Powell followed suit. In an interview with CNN, Powell said he had “no problem” with gay people getting married, citing gay couples he knows who live in partnerships that “are as stable a family as my family is, and they raise children.” But Powell’s candour makes it easy to forget it was he who in 1993 recommended Congress approve the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy preventing openly gay people from serving in the military. The policy was repealed by the Obama administration last year.

A breath of fresh air

Ottawa resident Hélène Campbell fulfilled her wish of dancing with TV star Ellen DeGeneres—via Skype. “You look fantastic,” DeGeneres said. Campbell, recovering from a double-lung transplant in Toronto, appeared on the May 25 broadcast and played clips of her dancing to prove she’s feeling better. The first time Hélène and Ellen had met, also remotely, was earlier this year when the 21-year-old was fighting for her life and advocating for organ donation. Her dream of seeing Ellen in person is yet to be fulfilled, but she’s been promised a trip with her mother to California for another appearance on the show as soon as she’s fit to travel.

The new Iron Lady

Gina Rinehart’s growing list of enemies doesn’t seem to be slowing her down. In the last few months, the Australian mining magnate—reputed to be the world’s richest woman—has incurred the wrath of union bosses with a plan to import more than 1,700 foreign temporary workers to Australia to staff a new iron mine. She’s also been waging a court battle with three of her children over a multi-billion-dollar family trust. Last week, Rinehart waded into the media business, upping her stake in Australia’s largest newspaper chain, Fairfax Media, to 13 per cent, demanding a seat on the company’s board and publicly calling out the company’s current chairman, Roger Corbett. The move promises to stir more opposition to Rinehart, but if it’s true that money talks, you can bet we’ll hear more from the outspoken 58-year-old in the future: her fortune has been pegged at US$30 billion.


Marysthell Polanco, an Italian party girl testifying as a witness in Silvio Berlusconi’s prostitution trial, said that she used to dress up as famous people to entertain the former Italian prime minister at his wild parties—and one of them was Barack Obama (another was Ilda Boccassini, one of the prosecutors of the trial). When Obama was elected, Berlusconi hailed him as a “young, handsome and suntanned” leader. But the 28-year-old Polanco said that the purpose of her Obama costume was just “to make him laugh.”

Salt in the wound

After he had finally finished a murderous rampage that killed 77 people, accused Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik demanded police give him a Band-Aid. Officers testifying in Breivik’s trial said the 33-year-old was so insistent that he stem the blood loss from a small cut on his index finger that he threatened to stop co-operating with investigators until they dressed it. “I said: ‘You’ll get no Band-Aid from me,” police investigator Haavard Gaasbakk told the court. “Look around: dead and wounded people are lying everywhere.” Breivik later posed as a bodybuilder, investigators testified, as police took his booking photo. Breivik has spent the past 10 weeks in court fighting for the right to be declared sane so he can be sent to a prison, rather than a psychiatric facility.

A late but welcome gift

Wherever his hockey career might lead him, Anton Zlobin can be sure of one thing: he’ll never have to buy a drink in Shawinigan, Que. At 17:51 of overtime, with the score tied 1-1, the lanky Russian forward pounded a shot past London Knights goaltender Michael Houser, giving the host Shawinigan Cataractes their first-ever Memorial Cup, the top prize in Canadian junior hockey. The goal ended 42 years of frustration for the only franchise still intact from the creation of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1969. The 2012 “Cats’” entered the national championship as decided underdogs, reaching the tournament only because host teams get a bye. That Zlobin scored on a perfect pass from Michael Bournival—the Cataractes captain and a Shawinigan homeboy—made the victory even sweeter.

Unwelcome visitors

Police in Toronto have nabbed one of America’s Most Wanted, an alleged Albanian mobster who had been on the run since 2009. Kujitim “Timmy” Lika, a former gymnast, fled New Jersey, where police had linked him to a major heroin deal. And in the past, they say, he was involved in crimes ranging from murders to smuggling prostitutes. One of his colleagues, Myfit “Mike” Dika, was arrested in Toronto back in January 2010, after the pair were profiled on the crime-hunting TV show. Maybe the province should update its old tourism jingle: a place to stand, a place to grow, a place to hide, On-ta-ri-o.

Carry on, Paolo

Even for the Pope, apparently, it’s hard to get good help. Paolo Gabriele, the 46-year-old butler to Benedict XVI, was arrested last week on suspicion of leaking sensitive documents to journalists, deepening a scandal that has linked Vatican officials to organized crime, as well as the 1983 disappearance of a 15-year-old girl, Emanuela Orlandi. Gabriele was being held this week at a Vatican detention facility, and has agreed to co-operate with an internal investigation into the leaks. Despite the attack on his professional discretion, he remained “very serene and calm,” according to his lawyer, Carlo Fusco. Good to know at least some habits of his honourable trade die hard.

To rule in Rupert’s land

Figuring it best to concede the obvious, former British prime minister Tony Blair admitted that his government enjoyed a too-cozy relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire because he needed the support of Britain’s 10 million tabloid readers to maintain power. “Part of this,” said Blair, “was me using them as a conduit to that vote.” Blair, whose Labour Party held office between 1997 and 2007, was frank during his much-anticipated appearance before the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking and corrupt practices in the U.K. media. But he didn’t exactly don sackcloth. When asked about becoming godfather to Murdoch’s daughter Grace, Blair snapped: “I would never have become a godfather of his children on the basis of my relationship in office. After I left, I got to know him and his family.”

Say, whatever happened to Ted?

Members of Harvard’s class of 1962 caught up with an old schoolmate last week, as the man known as the Unabomber provided an update to the university’s alumni guide. Ted Kaczynski, 70, listed his occupation as “prisoner” and under awards, noted “eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.” Kaczynski graduated from Harvard with a math degree, but is imprisoned in Florence, Colo., for killing three people and injuring 23 in a mail-bombing plot aimed to fight the rise of modern technology. Harvard’s alumni association apologized for publishing the references to his sentences. But they said all graduates who provide information are included in the guide.

Not-so-happy days

Toni Morrison is good and sick of all the 1950s nostalgia coming from liberals and conservatives alike. Speaking to Jian Ghomeshi on CBC’s Q, she said she’s puzzled by the notion that the ’50s was “the golden age of the United States,” and says that her new novel, Home, will remind people of the racism and war in the decade when she was a student: “It was violent. There was a lot of slaughter of black people during the ’50s.” It seems the ’50s will never go away, either for people who loved or hated them.

Devil in a PVC dress

Hard to believe that anything might shock the sensibilities of Lady Gaga, given the surreal, sexually charged nature of her performances. But the 26-year-old singer seemed genuinely stunned after Muslim groups in Indonesia demonized her, forcing the cancellation of her concert in Jakarta. The Islamist group FPI declared Lady Gaga a “devil’s messenger” who wears only a “bra and panties,” and a “Mother Monster, the destroyer of morals.” The group threatened violence if the event went ahead, prompting police to pull the event. Gaga lashed back via Twitter, but allowed that she was as “devastated” as the 50,000 fans who bought tickets to the show.