G20 fashion, Castro’s eleven children, and the Booby Ball

Newsmakers of the week

Dalai LamaDalai Lama: a ray of Vancouver Sunshine
The Dalai Lama, the peace-loving Buddhist monk and champion of an autonomous Tibet, began a busy week in Canada by serving as “guest editor” of the Saturday edition of the Vancouver Sun. The result was a very earnest paper filled with love, compassion and understanding—the usual murder, mayhem and politics sent to the back of the bus. Even the sports section opened with a story on the value of breathing and positive mantras. Football and the Vancouver Canucks were relegated to the inside pages, not being very Zen. On Sunday, the Nobel Peace Prize winner hosted the opening of a sold-out Vancouver Peace Summit, sharing the stage with leading spiritual thinkers, and fellow Nobel laureates. A bad back kept retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu from a session on achieving personal peace. In his stead, he sent his daughter Mpho Tutu, a mother and Episcopalian priest. Avoiding tantrum-throwing two-year-olds, she joked, is one step toward harmony. Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean sent greetings by video although she had been scheduled to appear in person. A spokesperson denied her absence was to appease Chinese leaders, who see the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. He made no references to China, perhaps wishing to avoid controversy. The news media focuses too much on bad news, he said after a day of editing the Sun.

Fidel CastroPutting the Fidel in infidelity
Revolution isn’t Fidel Castro’s only passion, says American author Ann Louise Bardach, who tabulates his conquests of Cuban women in her forthcoming book, Without Fidel. She calculates Castro populated Cuba with 10 and possibly 11 children by at least seven women. He had a son with his first wife, Myrta Diaz-Balart, in 1949, and five boys with Dalia Soto del Valle, a long-time companion he is believed to have secretly married in 1980. There were many lovers, but 1955 was a banner year, after the 29-year-old rebel leader was released from prison after a failed uprising. He celebrated his freedom to such an extent that three women bore his children the next year.

Marc EmeryThe long goodbye
Marc Emery, the self-proclaimed Prince of Pot, turned himself in to the B.C. Supreme Court and into jail on Monday to await extradition to the U.S. to serve a five-year prison term for selling marijuana seeds to American customers. He didn’t go quietly. First there was a 30-city Canadian farewell tour, then a courthouse news conference, where he castigated the Canadian government for allowing U.S. police to arrest him when his Vancouver-based business had operated with impunity for a decade. During that time Emery paid some $600,000 in income taxes as a “marijuana seed vendor,” and he says he spent $4 million in profits on pot-legalization initiatives. With his wife, Jodie, sobbing in the gallery, Emery, typically, had the last word. “Plant the seeds of freedom,” he yelled as he was led away. “Overgrow the government.”

Roman PolanskiSex crimes
Europe was movie director Roman Polanski’s playground for more than 30 years, since he fled the U.S. to avoid serving a sentence after pleading guilty to having drugged sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. Most countries, including Switzerland where he has a home, turned a blind eye to an outstanding U.S. arrest warrant—until last weekend. He was scooped up by Swiss authorities while en route to the Zurich Film Festival. His lawyers say he will fight extradition to the U.S. Why Swiss authorities acted now has led to speculation the government hopes to appease the U.S., which is trying to identify tax evaders sheltered by Swiss banking laws. The ugly past of one of Polanski’s former friends was also stirred up last week when actress Mackenzie Phillips alleged she and her late father, John Phillips of the 1960s pop group the Mamas & the Papas, had a 10-year incestuous relationship. The allegations have split her family, with some calling the allegations a fabrication. Jessica Woods, the daughter of the late Denny Doherty, a Canadian-born singer and Phillips’s bandmate, said the allegations were true. “My dad told me the awful truth,” Woods said in an email to the Oprah show, which first broadcast the claims. “He was horrified at what John had done and knew all of it.”

Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica ParkerRun for it, Mr. Big
It wouldn’t be a Sex and the City movie without rumours of a juicy cat fight. Sources tell Britain’s Star magazine that actresses Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker dislike each other so much that they refuse to talk to each other on the New York City set, except, presumably, when the cameras are rolling. “While the cast is all smiles on the outside, the level of dislike is unbelievable,” Star reports. One hopes the discord doesn’t escalate to shoe throwing. The show’s limitless arsenal of Manolo Blahniks are lethal in the wrong hands. If the heels don’t kill you, the price will. Speaking of Manolo Blahnik, he recently said, a bit ungratefully, he rues the day his shoes got a starring role in the fashion-obsessed series. He said, “Those stupid satin shoes” that Parker wore in the first movie “saved our company” during a recessionary year. That said, “I have never wanted to be a celebrity designer.” Hey, if the shoe fits.

Carla Bruni Sarkozy & Michelle ObamaG is for glamour
The first ladies of the U.S. and France turned heads in their own way at the G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh. For Michelle Obama, it was the daunting prospect of finding just the right gift for the leaders’ spouses. She chose porcelain tea sets inspired by a design that Abraham Lincoln and his wife once sipped from, as well as a vase filled with honey produced by the hive of patriotic bees she’s tasked with pollinating the recessionary White House garden. Meanwhile, France’s first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy deplaned in Pittsburgh wearing a big-buttoned jacket and dress set that looked remarkably similar to the style favoured by Jackie Kennedy. Fashion mavens note Bruni, a former model, frequently channels the stylish Kennedy in her clothing choices. A less demure side of Bruni was on display recently at the Art Photo Expo in New York City: a series of nude photos of her originally commissioned for Harper’s Bazaar Italy. It’s noteworthy that hardly an eyebrow was raised. Compare that to the uproar when the U.S. first lady walked off Air Force One this summer wearing a casual pair of shorts.

Hijacking the law
Had a Pakistani court carried out the sentence imposed on Parminder Singh Saini for the violent 1984 hijacking of an Air India plane and 265 passengers, he would have been hanged. Instead, he served 10 years, and came to Canada in 1994 under a false name and a fake passport. Now, the Law Society of Upper Canada must decide if he can practise law in Toronto. Saini, who faces a Canadian deportation order and is listed as a national threat, told a tribunal he was rehabilitated and deserved a second chance. He was 21 when asked by “leaders within his religious community” to take part in the hijacking to “alert the world” to India’s repression of Sikhs. The hijacker fired several shots, one hitting the flight engineer, while he and others diverted the plane to Pakistan. He said Pakistan has since issued him a pardon, testament to “a person’s good character.”

Aliya-Jasmine SovaniBut it’s for a good cause, honest
A Canadian public service video to promote the Booby Ball, an annual fundraiser for ReThink Breast Cancer, has become a viral Internet hit. The short features a close-up poolside walk starring MTV Canada host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani wearing a barely there white bikini. The spot has jiggled a few sensibilities and drawn some criticism for sexualizing the disease. It has also created international attention for the Oct. 2 event. Sovani, who wrote and helped produce the spot, makes no apologies for the uproar. “It was written by women for women to save women,” she says.

Ho’s crash landing
Vancouver billionaire David Ho had it all: money, influence and respect. He is a former member of the Vancouver Police Board, he donated hundreds of thousands to political campaigns at every level, and founded Harmony Airways, installing former B.C. finance minister Gary Collins as CEO in 2004. Ho closed the money-losing airline in 2007. And on Monday, after three years of inexplicable behaviour, Ho hit bottom, charged with unlawful confinement in his mansion last December of a woman he met online, as well as gun and drug offences. The Province newspaper reported Ho had two prior run-ins with police where drugs or drug paraphernalia were present and he was in the company of prostitutes from the city’s Downtown Eastside. “I am addicted to helping them,” Ho told a Province editor, of the women. “It’s worse when it rains,” he is quoted as saying. “That’s when I get into the car and go looking for them.” Ho was released from custody after paying $100,000 cash bail.

Silver-tongued devil
Juan Carlos Guzman-Betancourt had an identity for every occasion and a story for every scam, until the international con man ran out of luck on the Quebec-Vermont border. The 33-year-old Colombian traded on his looks, charm and ability to morph into identities as diverse as a priest and a Bahraini billionaire. His usual method was to stake out a luxury hotel, assume a guest’s identity, gain entry to their room and then tell hotel staff he’d forgotten the combination to the room safe. He is suspected of cleaning out safes in some of Europe’s best hotels. He was convicted in Britain in 2004 but talked his way out of prison by claiming a dental appointment. He’s been wanted by police in Canada, Colombia, the U.S., Japan and Mexico, among other countries. He was nabbed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while waiting for a taxi at a gas station. He claimed he accidently crossed the border after his car broke down. At the time he was carrying a Spanish passport under yet another assumed name.