Newsmakers this week

Adrian Dix exits, Jane Lynch honours Cory Monteith and there's a horse on that roof

Stephen Downey

Maybe B.C. didn’t like the menu

The B.C. New Democrats’ dark night of the soul continues. Leader Adrian Dix, taking responsibility for the surprise May election loss to the B.C. Liberals under Christy Clark, said last week he’ll step down as soon as the party chooses a new leader. Next time, NDP strategist Brian Topp said, in a post-mortem leaked to the Vancouver Sun, the party must run “a more aggressive, bloody-minded campaign.” It should also have roasted Clark, the Liberal’s “greatest liability,” and the way Dix was attacked, the analysis said. The memo focuses largely on the surface aspects of the campaign. Topp and the party brain trust seem convinced, though voters clearly weren’t, that the NDP’s “vast smorgasbords of policy” played no part in its defeat.

One dim bulb

Right-wing loudmouth Glenn Beck has issued a memo to his minions warning he’ll fire any of his employees who use energy- saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. “I’m dead serious,” Beck told his TV audience. “I fire the person that starts to purchase fluorescent light bulbs, unless that is the only light bulb for a very specific reason, and I want to be CC’d on what that reason is.” He then upped the climate-of-fear warning: “If anyone does anything in this company because of global warming, they’re fired.”

Emmy-night mourning

Jane Lynch shed her prickly persona as a high school coach on Glee to give a moving tribute at the Emmy Awards to her late co-star Cory Monteith. But in true Sue Sylvester fashion, she didn’t shy from the reality of the 31-year-old’s overdose death in Vancouver. She called him “a beautiful soul. He was not perfect, which many of us here tonight can relate to. His death is a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction. Tonight we remember Cory for all that he was, and mourn the loss of all he could have been.”

Oh, hay can you see?

As a young colt, Must Win has already proven to be head and shoulders above his contemporaries. Archie Downey of Hampton, N.B., was so shocked to see Must Win standing proudly on the garage roof of the family farm, he emailed a photo to his brother and sister-in-law Stephen and Pat Downey, who are raising the colt among a herd of racehorses. Pat said the couple, who were away from the farm at the time, first suspected the picture was a prank. “You would never get a horse to do something like that,” she told CTV. But it happened; there’s even a hole on the roof where the colt put a hoof through. It’s assumed he jumped about a metre onto the roof from a knoll at the back of the garage. He was coaxed down the same way. “I think he was just bored,” says Stephen.

Soft-hearted soft-serve

Joey Prusak of Hopkins, Minn., is clearly employee-of-the-month material. The 19-year-old was serving a blind customer at a Dairy Queen, when the man dropped a $20 bill. A woman in line pocketed the money and swore at Prusak when he refused to serve her unless she returned the bill. He politely asked her to leave and then gave the man $20 from his own wallet. Another customer emailed an account of the incident to the owner, who posted it online. The note found its way to the attention of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whose holding company owns Dairy Queen. Buffett congratulated Prusak and invited him to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting in May 2014.

Back to the U.S.S.R.

An open letter by a jailed member of the punk group Pussy Riot hearkens to the ugly days of the Soviet Gulags. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova details her hard life in prison No. 14 in the Russian region of Mordovia. She began a hunger strike on Sept. 23 to protest conditions, which include working from 7:30 a.m. until after midnight sewing police uniforms. “In the best-case scenario, we get four hours of sleep per night,” writes Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year sentence for hooliganism for her part in a performance in Moscow’s largest cathedral, where the group called on the Virgin Mary to “kick out” President Vladimir Putin. She described a veiled death threat from a prison official, and wrote that women are beaten and inmates are forced outdoors in the winter.

Bieber, don’t read this

Megaselling author James Patterson has pledged at least $1 million to aid struggling independent bookstores. Patterson, who has sold more than 280 million books, is concerned that small shops are vanishing. He’s also worried about the level of literacy among this generation of schoolchildren. He points to the impact of dubious role models such as singer Justin Bieber, who said last year he’s “really not into stuff” like reading and writing. “Give me a break, Justin,” Patterson told the Salon website. “Wake the hell up. For most kids, who aren’t as lucky as you are, if they can’t read, it’s going to be a big problem.”

We swear it’s true

Requiring new citizens to take an oath to “be faithful and bear true allegiance” to Queen Elizabeth II is constitutional, even if it does trample on freedom of speech, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan has ruled. Morgan dismissed an application by three permanent residents who oppose swearing the oath. Retired Irish-born journalist Michael McAteer said his father was persecuted for supporting Irish independence. Jamaican-born Simone Topey said, as a Rastafarian, the oath offends her beliefs because the Queen is considered the head of Babylon. Dror Bar-Natan, an Israeli, said the oath is a “repulsive” act of privilege. Morgan said the oath doesn’t limit their right to advocate for the monarchy’s abolition. “The nation was born in debate, rather than revolution.”

Eraser not included

David Rees, a former political cartoonist, reinvented himself as a professional pencil sharpener. Working from New York’s Humber River Valley, Rees “practises the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening.” Sharpened pencils mailed to Canada run $40 each, pencil included. They’re shipped with a “certificate of sharpening.” For $70, Canadians get a pencil and his book: How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening. He told the Boing Boing website he’s considering retirement when he hits 2,000 pencils: “You do anything long enough for money, it just starts to become a job.”

A final plea

Just days before he died from a brain-stem tumour, the doctor who shepherded Toronto through the 2003 SARS crisis sat in front of a video camera and pleaded for Canada to rethink its laws on assisted suicide. “I wish they could live in my body for 24 hours, and I think they would change that opinion,” Dr. Donald Low said in a clip posted to YouTube this week. “I’m just frustrated not to be able to have control of my own life.” Low died Sept. 18, eight days after making the video.

Rev. King’s northern dream

Rev. Bernice King, the daughter of the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., offered advice and hope to survivors of Canada’s Aboriginal residential-school system last week in Vancouver. King, a Baptist minister, spoke to a crowd of 10,000 on Sunday as a march through the city ended a week of hearings by the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “Believe it or not, you have made a tremendous step towards progress here in Canada,” said King, who was five years old when her father was assassinated in 1968. The hearings in which survivors shared their experiences “allowed individuals to cleanse and clear their conscience, their hearts, of the pain and the suffering and the residue that has come from years of abuse.” True progress takes generations, as the civil rights experience in the U.S. shows, she said.

And he shall be called Messiah

A Tennessee couple can name their eight-month-old son Messiah Deshawn McCullough after a judge overturned a previous ruling on constitutional grounds of separation of church and state. At an earlier hearing, child support magistrate Lu Ann Ballew forbade the use of Messiah, calling it a title reserved for one person “and that one person is Jesus Christ.” Mother Jaleesa Martin called the initial ruling “ridiculous,” adding, “I didn’t think a judge could make me change my baby’s name because of her religious beliefs.” She said she simply likes the way the name sounds with those of her other two sons, Micah and Maison.

This gravy train runs underground

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s oft-repeated chant of “Subways, subways, subways” finally made it to the ears of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This week, the federal government committed to help finance a much-debated subway extension to Scarborough, to the tune of $660 million. “Great cities build subways,” said Ford, who, with one handshake, nearly erased memories of his alleged crack video.