Newsmakers: Nov. 10-17, 2011

Paterno loses a trophy, Perry blows his candidacy and the Flyers and Bolts stop playing altogether


Susan Walsh/AP

Nix that name

Joe Paterno’s long fall from grace continues, after the legendary former Penn State football coach had his name scrubbed from the trophy awarded to the winner of the Big Ten conference championship. It was the latest blow to Paterno, described as the “winningest” coach in major college football, after he was fired for not doing enough to stop former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky from allegedly molesting eight young boys over a 15-year period. The scandal shook the university to its foundations, leaving students rioting in the streets and raising difficult questions about the undue influence of college athletics on American education.

The other Kirk

Buffalo Bills linebacker Kirk Morrison wanted the @kirkmorrison Twitter handle. But University of Regina business student Kirk Morrison had gotten to the social networking site first. If you know the Coase Theorem of economics, you know what happened next: the property flowed to the highest-value user. Linebacker Morrison, 29, flew student Morrison, 20, to the team’s Oct. 30 home game against the Redskins, in Toronto. The Canadian Morrison got VIP treatment in exchange for surrendering the username, receiving sideline passes and tailgating with Bills great Jim Kelly. Football Morrison tweeted that he had “great times” meeting his “brother from another mother.” The tweeter now known as @kirkmorrison91 agreed, but is scrambling to catch up on “neglected homework.”

The CanLit split

The final reckoning is in for Patrick deWitt and Esi Edugyan, the two CanLit newcomers whose second novels each received an unprecedented four short-list nominations for major literary awards: the Man Booker, Writers’ Trust, Scotiabank Giller and Governor General’s prizes. With the announcement of the GG winners on Nov. 15, all four prizes have now named their winners. While neither author won the Booker, open to the entire English-language writing world outside the U.S., deWitt and Edugyan swept Canada’s three major prizes. DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers won two—the Writers’ Trust and the Governor General’s, each worth $25,000—while Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues equalled it financially with the Scotiabank Giller, Canada’s most lucrative ($50,000) fiction award.

Old fight, new battleground

Mariela Castro Espín received a rough ride after making her Twitter debut. Castro, daughter of Cuban leader Raúl and a leading gay rights advocate, was greeted with catcalls from dissidents; blogger Yoani Sanchez asked, “When will we Cubans be able to come out of other closets?” and boasted that on Twitter, “nobody can shut me up, deny me permission to travel or impede entrance.” Castro, head of Cuba’s National Sex Education Centre, stuck to the Communist script, calling critics “despicable parasites,” and asking if “they were ordered by their employers to answer in unison.” Cuba, though slowly liberalizing under Raúl Castro, has a ways to go yet.

Two rights make a wrong

Self-described “Racialized Ethical Vegan” Sinem Ketenci is dragging Ryerson University to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario after being “traumatized” by what she calls an “academic kiss of death.” Ketenci, a student in the master of social work program, believes animal rights are a suitable subject for social work research. The school disagreed, warning Ketenci that she “must select a topic that is clearly related to social work practice and/or policy.” Ketenci’s application to the tribunal contends that veganism is a protected “creed” analogous to a religion. Ryerson has not filed a written defence, but its discrimination officer insisted in emails to Ketenci that “There is no positive obligation on the school to expand course work to allow for the inclusion of all creed- or faith-based discussions.”

Going the extra mile

The Aussie branch of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Ltd., has given New Guinean journalist Simon Eroro its “Scoop of the Year” prize. And boy, did he earn it. Specifically, by agreeing to be circumcised with sharpened bamboo sticks. The primitive surgery was insisted upon by Aboriginal rebels fighting Indonesian rule in West Papua, who told Eroro he had to be “cleansed” before they would talk. Eroro writes for the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, the most prominent newspaper in the Pacific islands. His story about cross-border rebel movements, which took three years to report, led to a crackdown on separatist camps in the West Papuan forest.

Deep freeze in Florida

The Philadelphia Flyers staged a unique protest in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, reacting to the Bolts’ crowding of the neutral zone by refusing to advance the puck beyond their own faceoff circle. At various points early in the game both teams remained bizarrely frozen for long stretches as the Lightning stubbornly refused to forecheck, Philly defencemen refused to pass or skate and the Tampa crowd booed. The referees stopped play for faceoffs in Philadelphia’s end, but couldn’t penalize the Flyers: after all, they’d broken no specific rule. Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger said the spectacle was absurd—“Would you pay money to watch that?”—and blamed the Lightning, who eventually won, 3-2, for using the neutral-zone trap. NHL executives said a new rule to cover the situation was likely.

Too fat to fail

Maybe he ate the money? Khulubuse Zuma, nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma, refused to testify at a hearing into the bankruptcy of mining firm Pamodzi Gold. Young Zuma pleaded obesity, saying his weight had left his heart unable to tolerate questioning. He had earlier delayed the hearing by invoking his right to a Zulu-language translator, even though he speaks English well. The younger Zuma was head of a mining company that held Pamodzi assets for two years while trying to raise money for an acquisition; the fundraising failed, but when the mines were returned to the bankruptcy trustee they had been stripped clean. Among Zuma’s partners is Zondwa Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, who also pleaded ill health and refused to testify.

Love it or hate it

Glee audiences everywhere are reacting to what the Daily Beast has coined the “Gay Sex Letdown.” It turns out the hugely anticipated sexual encounter between two male characters—played by Chris Colfer and Darren Criss—wasn’t as steamy as some had hoped, though the two did roll around in bed together. Despite the disappointment, however, gay rights activists and LGBT publications are celebrating the encounter as groundbreaking for gay teens.

Grounding madam Gloria

Hours after the Philippines’ Supreme Court lifted her travel ban, authorities blocked former president Gloria Arroyo from boarding a plane in Manila. The government fears that if she leaves she may never come back, and they want to try her for corruption and election fraud, although she hasn’t been formally charged. At the airport, Arroyo, 64, emerged from an ambulance wearing a metal neck brace, before being placed in a wheelchair. She was reportedly travelling to Spain to receive medical treatment for a bone disease. Her lawyer called the government’s defiance of the Supreme Court order “inhuman” and “cruel.” President Benigno Aquino’s office dismissed Arroyo’s airport appearance as “high drama,” charging that she’s merely trying to win public sympathy.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s enormous gaffe during a televised GOP debate last week has made many people question whether he could handle the presidential nomination, let alone the presidency itself. Perry’s brain freeze occurred when the debate moderator asked him which federal agencies he would scrap. This was his answer: “I would do away with Education, the [pause] Commerce and, let’s see . . . I can’t . . . The third one I can’t . . . Sorry. Oops.” Suffice it to say, he couldn’t remember that last one—a mistake he relived in a spoof on David Letterman’s show the next night, presenting a “Top 10 list of excuses” for forgetting lists of three. Number one? “I just learned Justin Bieber is my father.”

A little sympathy goes a long way

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is planning a “cancer summit” for South American leaders who, like himself, have been treated for the deadly disease. He plans to invite Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Paraguay’s President Fernando Lugo. With next year’s presidential election looming, Chávez no doubt noticed that his cancer battle has struck a chord with Venezuela’s legions of poor, who are well acquainted with personal adversity. A recent poll showed his popularity soaring since June, when he had a malignant tumour removed.

With a little help from my friends

Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei gave tax authorities $1.3 million this week—to fight accusations of tax evasion, which he says are politically motivated. More than 20,000 people contributed, some stuffing cash in envelopes wrapped around fruit, which they tossed into the artist’s yard in Beijing.