Newsmakers of the week

John McCain’s mom talks back, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy criticizes the pope, and Woody Allen sues American Apparel

Roberta's flackRoberta’s flack

Senator John McCain’s mother, the feisty Roberta McCain, 97, won’t tolerate bullies on her team. Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last Wednesday, she dismissed Republican pundit Rush Limbaugh as a glorified “entertainer.” “What he represents of the Republican party has nothing to do with my side of it,” she said. “I don’t know what the man means, I don’t know what he’s talking about.” Limbaugh was one of her son’s harshest critics during the 2008 presidential election. More recently, Limbaugh suggested that her granddaughter, Meghan McCain, who sees herself as the fresh new face of the GOP, should take a hike.

B.C. may get its Citizen of the Year back

Twenty years ago, Frank Hertel, 72, a charismatic Victoria businessman who pledged to turn Vancouver Island into a high-tech mecca, fled Canada to avoid tax evasion charges. On May 9, Interpol arrested him at Heathrow Airport in London, where he is now in jail, awaiting an extradition hearing. In 1984, Hertel founded a company called International Electronics Corp., which specialized in oil and thermal power, with the help of a federal program allowing for scientific tax credits. The Victoria Chamber of Commerce named him “Citizen of the Year,” but in 1985, Revenue Canada reported that he owed $30 million in back taxes and began seizing assets. In 1986, after being slapped with tax evasion charges, he fled Victoria for Venezuela, where he is said to have lived for a time in a large house in Caracas. “He knew everybody in Venezuela,” his former lawyer George Jones told the Victoria Times Colonist. “It was remarkable.” His bail was set at $900,000.

Guests: call firstGuests: call first

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, leader of the Burmese pro-democracy party NLD, is on trial for breaching the conditions of her house arrest after she allowed a strange American man to stay in her home for two days. John Yettaw, a 53-year-old Vietnam war veteran, allegedly swam up to her home—uninvited and for unknown reasons—using homemade flippers. Suu Kyi alleges she told Yettaw to leave, but that he refused, saying that he was exhausted. Suu Kyi has been detained for most of the last two decades, and was due to be released after serving a six-year sentence on May 27. Critics say Burma’s military government is using these charges as an opportunity to silence Suu Kyi for another three to five years. Members of her legal defence team met with her this week at the Rangoon prison where she is being held. She told them: “Don’t worry about me. I will face whatever happens.” Her chief lawyer, Kyi Win, however, blames Yettaw for the whole mess, calling him “a fool.”

Bruni’s secular lifeBruni’s secular life

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is now on record as the only first lady of France—a predominantly Catholic nation—to have ever criticized the Pope. Speaking with the French women’s magazine Femme Actuelle, Bruni-Sarkozy called Pope Benedict XVI’s refusal to support the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa “damaging.” “I was born Catholic, I was baptized, but in my life I feel profoundly secular,” she says. Last week, as though offering up an Exhibit A, a Paris auction house announced its intention to auction off a nude drawing of Bruni-Sarkozy as part of a collection called “Pin-up.” Also featured in the collection are photos of the burlesque star Dita von Teese, dressed as a nurse and as a dominatrix.

J.D. SalingerOld man Caulfield

J.D. Salinger, the notoriously reclusive American fiction writer, swore off publishing new works decades ago. For a Swedish-American writer named John David California, however, Salinger’s silence is an open invitation. California’s debut novel, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, is an unauthorized sequel to Salinger’s classic coming-of-age story Catcher in the Rye. In 60 Years Later, Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, now 76 and known as “Mr. C,” flees a nursing home (it was a prep school in the original) to search, once again, for answers to life’s great questions in the streets of New York. “He’s still Holden Caulfield and has a particular view on things,” California, 33, told the Guardian. “He can be tired, and he’s disappointed in the goddamn world. He’s older and wiser in a sense, but in another sense he doesn’t have all the answers.” California dedicated his book to Salinger. “Maybe he will get upset,” he admits. Critics argue that the prospect of this book is so horrific, it can only be a hoax.

Polish priest writes with imagination

Poland’s book publishing scene has a surprising new star: a Polish Catholic priest who has written a hit book dubbed the “Catholic Kama Sutra.” Father Ksawery Knotz’s book, Sex As You Don’t Know It: For Married Couples Who Love God, has sold all 5,000 copies printed within its first weeks. Father Knotz says he wrote the book to explain that sex in marriage should not be dull and repetitive but “saucy, surprising and fantasy-packed.” “Every act—a type of caress, a sexual position with the goal of arousal is permitted and pleases God,” he writes. He has assured inquiring minds that he has no first-hand experience of what he writes.

Remembering TiananmenRemembering Tiananmen

Twenty years after China’s Tiananmen Square massacre, the memoirs of the country’s former premier and general secretary—a supporter of Western-style democratic reform—are finally being published. Zhao Ziyang, a leader of the Communist party at the time of the 1989 tragedy, was silenced and placed under house arrest after the Tiananmen protests until his death in 2005. The book, called Prisoner of State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, published in Chinese and English, is said to be based on secret tapes recorded during his confinement. In the book, he denounces the killing of protesters as a “tragedy.” He writes: “On the night of 3 June, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted.” Guiding the publication of the book was Zhao’s former secretary, Bao Tong, who told the BBC, “if China’s legal bodies want to find someone responsible, they ought to come after me.”

She May, May not

Green party Leader Elizabeth May, currently on a book tour to promote her seventh offering, Losing Confidence, told local reporters in Orillia, Ont., that where the environment is concerned, Canadians are losing a lot more than confidence. Compared to the U.S., she says, Canada’s current policies are a disaster of intergalactic proportions. “It’s sort of like Darth Vader versus Luke Skywalker,” she told the Orillia Packet & Times, “with Barack Obama playing Luke Skywalker and Stephen Harper playing Darth Vader, in terms of environmental issues.” In recent weeks, May has also been busy contemplating where to run in the next federal election (she lost in her home riding of Central Nova in 2008 to Defence Minister Peter MacKay). One possibility, her party confirmed, is the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in Ontario. The riding’s Conservative MP Larry Miller says he would “welcome the competition,” but that, as a general rule, he is not fond of “parachute” candidates: “I mean, if she can’t win in her own riding, why disrupt things in another.”

Leading the subjectLeading the subject

On Thursday, the New Jersey police department phoned actress Brooke Shields to inform her that her mother, Teri Shields, 75, had allegedly been checked out of a local care facility by two reporters for the National Enquirer claiming to be her friends. Shields told People, “My mother has been diagnosed with dementia. For her safety, she has temporarily been in a senior living facility, a very difficult decision for me.” The reporters allegedly drove Shields’ mother around the city, “looking for a tabloid story.” “As anyone knows who has a parent who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s,” the actress said, “it is one of the most difficult experiences you can go through. The idea that the National Enquirer took advantage of her state is reprehensible and disgusting.” In its staff’s defence, the Enquirer responded in a statement that one reporter in question had known Teri Shields for 10 years, that Shields had asked the reporter to take her for lunch, and that permission was granted by the facility. No arrests have been made, but police are investigating.

American Apparel outfits Woody AllenAmerican Apparel outfits Woody Allen

Woody Allen, 73, won a US$5-million settlement from American Apparel after its controversial Canadian CEO Dov Charney opted to use an image of Allen dressed as a Hasidic Jew from 1977’s Annie Hall on its billboards in 2007 without permission. In its legal defence, American Apparel had reportedly planned to use the more sordid elements of Allen’s personal history to show that the director has no moral credibility—including the scandalous circumstances of his early relationship with his wife Soon-Yi Previn, then the 22-year-old adopted daughter of his former wife, Mia Farrow. “Testimony revealed that American Apparel believed that fear of publicity would keep me from ever taking action,” Allen told reporters outside the Manhattan court. Charney insisted the campaign had been about free speech. He tried to hug Allen’s lawyer, Michael Zweig, outside the courthouse, but Zweig fended him off. “I was just saluting my opponent,” Charney later explained.

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