Newsmakers of the week

Berlusconi lands in the doghouse again, Barbie gets inked, Steven Page is off the hook

Barenaked justiceBarenaked justice

For six months, former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page passed random drug tests, underwent therapy, and generally kept his nose clean—as per the conditions laid out for him by New York Judge Thomas Miller following Page’s arrest last summer for drug possession. At a hearing last Friday, Judge Miller dismissed all charges against Page, as well as those against his girlfriend Christine Benedicto, and her roommate Stephanie Ford. “I talked to Steven 20 minutes ago, and he’s elated,” Page’s loquatious attorney Mark J. Mahoney told the Buffalo News. A drug conviction would not have boded well for the musician’s new solo career, he said—he would have been banned from entering the United States for years. When asked how his client has been occupying himself, Mahoney volunteered, “He’s been writing songs, working on a book, and scouting out the possibility of performing in some kind of Broadway show.”

Nanny diaries

Two Toronto-area caregivers are alleging that Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla, 35, and her family hired them illegally and mistreated them, seizing their passports, and forcing them to shine shoes, wash cars, and clean a cousin’s apartment and Dhalla’s brother Neil’s chiropractic clinics. According to Magdalene Gordo, 31, and Richelyn Tongson, 37, who spoke to the Toronto Star, Dhalla hired them to care for her mother Tavinder Dhalla in early 2008. But instead of doing caregiving work, they say they spent 12 to 16 hours a day, five days a week, doing manual labour for $250 a week. “Her mother had me out shovelling snow at midnight,” Gordo said. “She wanted a slave, not a caregiver.” They also claim their passports were taken from them and that their work permits, as per Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, were not in order. Dhalla, who is the Liberal critic for youth and multiculturalism, denies the allegations and says she is “shocked and appalled.” “Anyone who has ever worked in our home has been treated with a lot of love, with a lot of care and compassion,” she told the Star, “and money has never, ever been withheld from anyone.”

Nobody is sorryNobody is sorry

Animosity between Italy’s billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his fiery wife of almost 20 years, Veronica Lario, continues to escalate. On Monday, Berlusconi told the press that divorce is unavoidable unless Lario apologizes to him for her recent spate of media comments. The trouble began after reports emerged in the Italian press that Berlusconi planned to field a number of beautiful women, dubbed by media as the “show girl” candidates, in the upcoming European parliamentary elections. In an email to the Italian news agency Ansa, Lario lashed out, calling his selections “shameless rubbish,” designed solely to “entertain the emperor.” On Sunday, Lario confirmed that she wanted a divorce. She said, “my children and I are victims and not accomplices in this situation. We must endure it and it causes us to suffer.” Berlusconi expressed his anger that his wife had allowed media reports to get her riled up. But he also added, in his defence, “we’re talking about three talented girls out of 72 candidates. And what’s wrong if they are also cute?” Ultimately, only one of the “show girl” candidates, a former Miss Italy, was selected for the final list. As for the marriage, the Prime Minister says he doesn’t know if he is willing to patch it up. “Veronica will have to publicly apologize to me,” he said. “And I don’t know if that will be enough.”

Fallen star

Ayman Udas, a burgeoning pop star in Pakistan who sang in her native Pashto, was shot and killed in the city of Peshawar last week, allegedly by her two brothers who condemned her for performing on television, deemed a sinful act for a woman. The incident was interpreted as a warning signal to artists in Peshawar, a city increasingly dominated by Islamic fundamentalists. Many of Udas’s fellow performers have already receieved death threats from fundamentalist groups. Udas was a divorced mother of two who remarried only 10 days before she was killed. Her brothers, ashamed of her growing celebrity, allegedly broke into her home while her husband was out, and shot her three times in the chest. Neither has been detained. Among Udas’s hits was a song called “I died but still live among the living, because I live on in the dreams of my lover.”

Silly TwitSilly Twit

Last week, Sion Simon, 40, a junior British MP from Birmingham Erdington, earned the scorn of his peers after he cracked a joke on his Twitter page implying that Susan Boyle, the matronly break-out star of Britain’s Got Talent, was somehow responsible for the swine flu outbreak. In his post, he wrote: “I’m not saying Susan Boyle caused swine flu. I’m just saying that nobody had swine flu, she sang on TV, people got swine flu.” Simon’s fellow MPs were disgusted by his insensitivity, not only to Boyle, but to the growing number being affected by the H1N1 virus. On Monday, Britain’s Health Protection Agency confirmed nine new cases of swine flu, five of whom were children, raising the national total to 27. Simon later removed the comment and posted an apology. The minister is gaining a reputation for tin-eared attempts at humour. In 2006, Simon was rebuked by both official parties for a spoof video he made about Britain’s Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, in which he, posing as Cameron, offered viewers a chance to sleep with his wife.

Royal trespassingRoyal trespassing

One is not supposed to set foot on the Queen Elizabeth II’s lawn at Windsor Castle, let alone use the royal grounds for acts of lewd exhibitionism. But last week, two tourists were arrested for doing just that. In full view of hotels, bars and restaurants, the couple, said to be in their early 30s, stripped off their clothes near the castle’s Garter Tower and had sex for about a quarter of an hour before being arrested for public indecency. Still, even if the Queen had been in residence at the time, which is not known, she may have had more pressing concerns. Her granddaughter, the adventurous Princess Eugenie, 19, was robbed in Cambodia while on her gap-year holiday. Eugenie and two of her friends were out exploring Phnom Penh when two thieves approached them, snatched her friend’s purse and ran. Unbeknownst to the robbers, two officers from Scotland Yard’s elite protection squad were on-hand to chase down and “rugby tackle” the thief with the purse. As they wrestled, the other thief began pelting the officers with rocks. The officers managed to whisk the princess to safety. Some observers say the incident justifies the use of around-the-clock protection for Eugenie and her sister Beatrice, 20, at a cost of $450,000 per year. Even though the princess is paying her own way on her six-week romp—flying economy and staying in cheap, beachfront hostels with friends—the trip budget for her security team, which travels business class and stays in more comfortable hotels, is said to be $90,000.

Barbie, Ink

Call it a mid-life crisis, or an experiment in getting her groove back, but to celebrate her 50th, Barbie is getting inked up. Mattel has launched a new doll range called Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie, featuring a tattoo “gun” and dozens of body art stickers—flowers, hearts, stars, and butterflies—to be placed anywhere on her body. One tattoo designed to span her lower back is even emblazoned with the name of her long-time boy toy, “Ken.” Of course, irked parental groups see this latest attempt to make Barbie edgier as irresponsible. Ed Mayo, the chief executive of Consumer Focus, says parents will now have to field requests from children who want tattoos on their own bodies. One disapproving mother of three, Colleen Pope, 35, told London’s Daily Mail, “Barbie should be at the high end of fashion, not the chav end. Whatever will they bring out next? Drug-addicted Barbie? Alcoholic Barbie?”

Name callingName calling

British MP George Galloway, an outspoken anti-war activist, has not forgotten the cool reception he received at the Canadian border earlier this year. Back in March, Galloway was scheduled to make several public appearances in Canada as part of a speaking tour, but was barred from the country under a section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which denies entry to those who provide material support for terrorist groups. Three weeks earlier, Galloway had delivered humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip following Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas. In addition to bringing an ambulance, wheelchairs, and food and medicine, he gave $45,000 to the elected Hamas government, though he says he does not support Hamas. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney declined to use his ministerial powers to intervene on Galloway’s behalf at the border. Kenney recently told Maclean’s of the incident, “The issue was not about what he might do or say in Canada, it’s what he did in making financial contributions to an organization that uses money to buy explosives and strap them to teenagers and send them into school buses and discos.” Galloway said last week that he is filing libel suits against Kenney and the heads of the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith of Canada. “I welcome robust criticism,” he said in a statement issued Friday, “but the comments made about me crossed the line. They are not only untrue, they are outrageous.

As seen on YouTube

When the wife of Marc Stephens, an engineer from Cornwall, U.K., went into labour in the night, he called the midwife, as they’d rehearsed. But the midwife was tied up and advised them to call an ambulance. Soon, it became apparent to Stephens that there was no time to waste: his wife was having contractions every five minutes and the baby was coming, midwife or no midwife. And so he did what any modern man would do—he searched YouTube for instructional videos on delivering babies. “I Googled how to deliver a baby, watched a few videos and basically swotted up,” Stephens told the BBC. Their baby, Gabriel—5 lb., 5 oz.—was born soon after, the picture of health. Stephens credits his training in the Royal Navy for helping him stay calm.