Newsmakers: July 28-August 4

Sheila Copps stages a comeback, Glenn Beck hits a new low, and Britain’s Royal Rebel says ’I do’
Alex Ballingall, Cigdem Iltan and Richard Warnica
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rex Features ( 1214138h ) Iron Maiden - Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden in concert, O2, Dublin, Ireland - 30 Jul 2010
Rex Features/CP

‘I’ll take “What the heck?” for $200, Alex’

As host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek has all the answers. But when it comes to late-night feats of bravery, his performance falls a bit short. The 71-year-old was in San Francisco last week to host the National Geographic World Championship when a burglar crept into his room and nabbed some cash and a family heirloom. He gave chase, but after a few steps his Achilles tendon snapped and he crumpled (the burglar was later nabbed by security in the hotel lobby). After hobbling onstage on crutches later that day, Trebek recounted the incident in Jeopardy! style: “The answer is, at 2:30 yesterday morning, chasing a burglar down the hall at my San Francisco hotel until my Achilles tendon ruptured and I fell in an ignominious heap to the carpeting.”

An Iron Maiden gets his wings

Just a year after discount airline Iceland Express discontinued its short-lived route from Winnipeg to Reykjavik due to spewing ash from the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, the weekly flight is back. But this time, it rocks: Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, will be piloting some of those flights. Not only will the 52-year-old rocker—also a licensed commercial pilot—be flying the planes, he’ll fly one of the band’s planes from their 2010 tour, still painted in Iron Maiden’s colours. “I never intended to become a professional pilot,” Dickinson explained to the National Post, “but as I became more curious about aircraft, and, well, not being John Travolta, I realized that the only way I was ever going to fly a jet was if I got a job!”

That’s one expensive Big Mac

Even as his people starve, Kim Jong Il continues to spend millions taking care of Pyongyang’s elite. The regime, the Korea Times reported last week, brought in US$10 million in cigarettes and high-end booze, including Hennessy cognac and Japanese beer, last year. They’ve also been getting McDonald’s burgers and fries—delivered from China by helicopter. The World Food Programme, meanwhile, estimates that six million North Koreans are in dire need of food aid, and one in three North Korean children is stunted from malnutrition. Suffice to say none of the airlifted Big Macs are headed to those who could actually use them.

The mayor’s very bad year

Surrey, B.C., mayor Dianne Watts, one of the province’s most influential politicians, broke her back last week after being thrown from a horse while vacationing near Kamloops. Although she broke two vertebrae, she was not paralyzed, her spokesperson, Laura Ballance, revealed. Watts, who cracked several ribs in a serious car crash last spring, is expected to recover fully, and run for a third term this fall. “The mayor is extremely strong,” said Ballance. “She will face this like she faces everything—with determination.”

Toronto’s Finger-Gate

In their quest to rid Toronto’s municipal balance sheet of “gravy,” Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug, a city councillor, have raised the ire of many—chief among them, Margaret Atwood. After the novelist convinced thousands of Torontonians to sign a petition denouncing the proposed closure of some Toronto libraries, Doug told her to “get elected or pipe down,” and said he wouldn’t recognize her if she passed him on the street. Later that day, a Toronto motorist and her six-year-old daughter caught the mayor—hard to miss with his ROB FORD vanity plates, after all—driving and talking on a cellphone. After the pair gave Mayor Ford the thumbs down for breaking the law, Ottilie Mason claims he gave them the finger. While the mayor doesn’t deny he was talking and driving, which carries a minimum $155 fine in Ontario, whether he flipped the bird remains less clear. It was a “misunderstanding,” he said.

The incredible journey

A trike and determination were all that 69-year-old Cecil MacDonald needed to cross Canada and reunite with his sisters. MacDonald, who weighs half what his packed, 250-lb. three-wheeler does, cycled from his home in Clearwater, B.C., to Halifax just to visit his sisters, who he hadn’t seen in more than 30 years. “I thought maybe I’d get home before I died, or before they died,” he told the CBC, after completing the four-month, 5,800-km trek. His sisters, reduced to tears at the reunion, said they didn’t quite know how to feel. “Ask me again in a week’s time when I’m ready to kick him out because he’s driven me crazy,” Katherine Dorman added, with a chuckle.

The most expensive fender-bender of all time?

A driver in Monaco set off an accident involving luxury cars worth $1 million last week after dinging her Bentley off a Mercedes, a Ferrari, a Porsche and an Aston Martin. The luxury car pileup happened at the Place du Casino in Monte Carlo. “You probably couldn’t find a worse place in the world to crash your car,” Ruud Poot, the editor of a European car website, told the Daily Mail. To add to her humiliation, the driver, who has not been identified, was stuck inside her boxed-in convertible, and gawking tourists snapped photos of her as she waited for police.

Sheila puts out a feelah’

After seven years on the sidelines, former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps may be returning to the game. The long-time Hamilton MP told reporters she’s testing the waters for a possible run for the Liberal party presidency. “What I want to do first is make sure I’ve touched all my bases—I’ve called everybody,” she told the Toronto Star. The last time Copps ran for a leadership position she came second. That’s the good news. The bad news: there were only two candidates. Copps lost the Liberal leadership to Paul Martin by a vote of 3,242 to 211.

Sorry, boss, Metallica’s in town

A 42-year-old dishwasher has convinced the Swedish government his obsession with heavy metal music is a disability requiring state benefits. Roger Tullgren, who attended more than 300 heavy metal shows last year, says his addiction has prevented him from keeping a job and forced him onto welfare. An occupational psychologist determined the heavily tattooed metalhead—who got hooked on metal after his brother brought home a Black Sabbath record—“feels compelled to show his heavy metal style,” which “puts him in a difficult situation on the labour market,” according to the Local, a Swedish website. He’ll also be allowed to listen to his music at his part-time job—unless there are customers—and take time off whenever he wants to go to concerts.

The little printing house that could

Sarah MacLachlan, the publisher of Toronto’s House of Anansi Press, has pulled off a rare coup. When the longlist for the Booker Prize was announced last week, three Anansi writers—including Canadians Patrick deWitt and Alison Pick—were among the final 12. Mac­Lachlan, who took the reins in 2010, has shaken up the tiny Canadian house, and the trio of Booker nods is a significant honour for Anansi.

Pay it forward

The generosity of a teen basketball star will allow some of his classmates to take their studies into overtime. Allan Guei, a power forward at Los Angeles’s Compton High School, recently took home a $40,000 scholarship by winning a free-throw competition. But after learning he’d also won a full scholarship to California State University, Northridge, the 18-year-old, whose parents immigrated from the Ivory Coast, chose to give the money to his runners-up at the impoverished high school instead. “I’ve already been blessed so much,” he said. “I felt they needed it more than me.”

Bicyclists give tanks

While the mayor of Canada’s biggest city has declared an end to the war on the car, his Lithuanian counterpart is busy crushing cars with a tank. Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas grew so sick of cars parking illegally in bike lanes, he commandeered a tank and crushed an illegally parked Mercedes this week—signalling a new, zero-tolerance approach.

Glenn Beck’s new low

The tragedy in Norway drew messages of sympathy and condolence from around the world. But they also provoked some startling insensitivity. Erik Hellsborn, an MP for the anti-Muslim Swedish Democrats, blamed the bombing and mass shooting on “mass immigration” and “Islamisation.” Days later, Morrissey, former front man for the Smiths, said the attacks were “nothing” compared to the slaughter of animals for fast-food. Glenn Beck also jumped in, likening the political gathering of young Norwegians on Utoya Island to “Hitler youth.” “Who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing,” he said. No, Glenn, but likening dead children to Nazis sure is.

A different kind of royal

Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth, married Mike Tindall, the captain of England’s rugby team, in a private ceremony last weekend. The 30-year-old—who reminds anyone who dares differ she is “not a princess” and once pierced her tongue—wore an off-the-rack dress, and will keep her name.