You wouldn’t want to cross either one
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin burnished his credentials as a man of action last week, while also asserting some Arctic sovereignty. He helped scientists track endangered polar bears in Franz Josef Land, an Arctic archipelago. With cameras rolling, he attached a tracking collar to a tranquilized bear. “Be well,” he said, shaking its paw. “The paw is heavy,” said Putin, one force of nature saluting another. “This is a master of the Arctic, you can feel that straight away.”
That’s how it’s done in Wawota, Sask.
Washington Capitals fans Mary Ann Wangemann and her 14-year-old daughter Lorraine were driving home from the Caps’ game-seven loss to the Montreal Canadiens when their tire was flattened by a pothole. An SUV pulled over as they stood by the side of the road in their team colours. To their amazement, out hopped Brooks Laich, the Alberta-born, Saskatchewan-raised Caps centre. He peeled off his suit jacket and spent 40 minutes, on one of the worst nights of his life, installing a spare tire for two strangers. Mary Ann asked Laich, 26, how to repay the favour. “I’m sure you’ll do something nice for someone in the future,” he said.
Andy, Andy, we got us a crime wave!
There’s three reasons why Mayberry, the idyllic, fictional setting of The Andy Griffith Show, was so law-abiding, hapless deputy Barney Fife once explained. “There’s Andy, and there’s me, and [patting his gun] baby makes three.” Things have changed since the 1960s. Mount Airy, N.C., the birthplace of actor Andy Griffith and the inspiration for Mayberry, had a real-life wallet-snatching last week. The victim: 83-year-old Betty Lou Lynn, the actress who played Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou. In a double irony, she’d moved there to escape the crime of Los Angeles. A suspect is under arrest.
No place for media in the bedrooms of the nation
Sex scandals aren’t the forte of the French press, but last week Paris Match broke the don’t-ask-don’t-tell convention with the revelations of an 18-year-old “escort.” Zahia Dehar told the magazine she had paid sex with stars of France’s national soccer team, including Karim Benzema, Sidney Govou and the very married winger Franck Ribéry. More shocking, she said her clients didn’t know she was under the legal age of 18 at the time. The allegations have shaken the team as it prepares for the World Cup in South Africa next month—and unsettled French journalists. “It is not our way of thinking,” Claude Soula, media editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, wrote of the scandal. “Sex? Yes, we are French. But only in the bedroom please.”
A state of fear
Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants is getting blowback, and not just from the White House. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he won’t enforce the bill, which he called “racist,” “disgusting,” and “unnecessary.” Columbian singing sensation Shakira shimmied over to Phoenix to share her thoughts with that city’s mayor. “It is unjust and it’s inhuman and it violates the civil and human rights of the Latino community,” she said. She noted she was vulnerable herself since she wasn’t carrying a driver’s licence to prove her identity: “I’m pretty much undocumented.”
Also found: embers from burning bush
The “discovery” on Mount Ararat of the wooden remnants of Noah’s Ark doesn’t hold water, an archaeologist says. Randall Price, director of the Center for Judaic Studies at the conservative Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., was part of the Chinese-led team that found ancient beams on the Turkish mountainside. They purportedly proved the Old Testament story that Noah built a giant boat to escape the flood of a wrathful God. Price now thinks local Kurds hauled the wood up to the mountain in an elaborate hoax. People can believe what they want, he said. “My problem is that, in the end, proper analysis may show this is a hoax and negatively reflect how gullible Christians can be.”
Blood is thicker than vodka
Joan Kennedy, the mother of Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy, won’t comment on reports her much-rehabbed son fell off the wagon. But Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, said Patrick downed six shots of vodka at a Washington bar, hours after giving a talk about his fight against substance abuse. Joan told the Boston Herald the death of her ex-husband Sen. Ted Kennedy hit his son Patrick and all family members hard. Patrick is reported to have told a fellow barfly that Barack Obama is “the best President ever.” What about your uncle, the man asked, referring to the late president John F. Kennedy. “Oh, yeah! Good one,” a genial Patrick conceded.
I’m from Ottawa, I’m here to help
Time was, sending a Trudeau into Alberta was a Liberal suicide mission. But last weekend, Montreal MP Justin Trudeau, son of the man who imposed the hated National Energy Program, was in Lethbridge to address a conference aimed at boosting the party’s dismal western fortunes. He emerged wearing neither tar nor feathers. It helps that Trudeau, a less combative figure than his late father, Pierre, gave cautious support for Alberta’s oil sands. More environmental study is needed, he said, but he called the project “a source of wealth and prosperity for the entire country.” He urged Alberta to invest some of the proceeds in alternate energy research. But, hey, just a suggestion.
Kill people, not seals
Matt Smyth, a software engineer from St. John’s, Nfld., accuses Apple of a strange double standard after its App Store rejected his video game, which lets players club seals on their iPhones. Smyth wrote on his blog that iSealClub shows no blood and players lose points for killing pups. He said Apple stocks many hunting games, another allows the torture and killing of pygmies, and players of Grand Theft Auto “run people over, shoot and kill people (including cops) in cold blood.” “I certainly don’t consider it dumb,” he said of his game. “Paying $2 for bottled water is dumb.”
Barack Obama, U.S. President and court jester, mopped the floor with Jay Leno Saturday at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The President out-funnied Leno’s stand-up routine, and he needled Leno for reclaiming The Tonight Show from Conan O’Brien. “I’m glad to see the only person whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight. Nice to see you, Jay,” Obama deadpanned. He added he was grateful to speak first: “We’ve all seen what happens when somebody takes the time slot after Leno’s.” Obama had help sharpening his barbs. The Daily Beast reports Kevin Bleyer, a writer on the The Daily Show, produced much of his material.
Smells like teen spirit
A 14-year-old student who habitually disrupted science teacher Peter Harvey’s class got more than a failing grade when the teacher in Mansfield, England, snapped after one too many outbursts. Harvey beat the student with a three-kilogram dumbbell while shouting, “Die, die, die.” The student suffered a fractured skull, but last week a judge found Harvey not guilty of attempted murder or causing “grievous bodily harm.” The trial heard students had baited the 50-year-old teacher, who was just back from stress leave. Harvey spent nine months in jail before trial because he felt he didn’t deserve bail. He wants a new job in a helping profession, one not involving children.
Charlie Brown goes home
Ten years after the death of their creator Charles Schulz, products featuring Charlie Brown and the gang generate $2 billion in annual retail sales. Last week, E. W. Scripps, which first marketed the strip in 1950, sold the licensing rights to the 60-year-old brand—as well as to Dilbert and other comic properties—for US$175 million. The licences generate $75 million a year—enough to keep Snoopy in dog food. The buyer is merchandising giant Iconix, owner of such brands as Joe Boxer, but a 20 per cent share reverts to members of the Schulz family. Charles tried for years to buy the rights to his creation, his wife, Jean, said. “I think he’s smiling today.”
Life with W
Don’t expect any state secrets in Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken From the Heart. The former first lady is fiercely protective of hubby George W. Bush’s legacy, but she does let a few things slip. She said he was a “bore” when he drank. She hints at a frosty relationship with his mother, Barbara Bush. “What I came to see ultimately as our bond was that we both loved George,” she writes. “Beyond that, we had little contact.” And she writes of a car accident she caused at 17 when she ran a stop sign, killing classmate Mike Douglas. She still regrets not attending his funeral or reaching out to his parents. She’d prayed Douglas would live. “I lost my faith that November,” she said, “lost it for many, many years.”
Out of the closet and into the fire
The much-buzzed-about mystery celeb who was coming out in this week’s issue of People turned out to be country music star Chely Wright. “There had never, ever been a country music artist who had acknowledged his or her homosexuality,” she said. This may be news to k.d. lang. In any case, if you aren’t a star, coming out can carry a high price. Ceara Sturgis, a lesbian at Wesson Attendance Center, a high school in Wesson, Miss., had her photo and name dropped from the yearbook’s portraits of the graduating class. School officials said her tuxedo didn’t conform to the dress code for girls. Her mother, Veronica Rodriguez, called it blatant discrimination. Sturgis did appear in group photos of the soccer team and the National Honor Society, where she’d be hard to erase.