The Bill comes due, A wrinkle in time, and A foul most foul

The Bill comes due
For US$5 you can spend a day in New York with Bill Clinton. The former president is raffling himself off in a bid to clear “a few vestiges of debt” left over from his wife Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid. The vestige is US$771,000 in unpaid bills. The innovative idea has drawn much interest and, it being the Clintons, much rebuke. Critics point to another big number: US$109 million, the estimated amount the two have earned since leaving the White House.

A wrinkle in time
Portuguese film director Manoel de Oliveira, a hale 101-year-old, cut a dashing figure at the Cannes Film Festival last week as he plugged his latest work, The Strange Case of Angelica, about a young Jewish photographer. De Oliveira made his first film in 1931, and has grown more productive as he ages. He’s set a high standard for 74-year-old Woody Allen, at the festival to promote You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Allen laments it’s “frustrating” he’s too old to get the girl in his movies, in this case Naomi Watts. Still, he’d happily work at 101, if he’s fit, he said. “My relationship with death remains the same. I’m strongly against it.”

A foul most foul
The World Cup match between Germany and Ghana in Johannesburg on June 23 could get ugly. Michael Ballack, the captain of the German national soccer team and a star midfielder for Chelsea, suffered a serious ankle injury in a match Saturday, after he was fouled by Kevin-Prince Boateng of Portsmouth. Boateng will play for Ghana in the World Cup, and some are sensing a conspiracy. “It looked intentional,” said Ballack, who will miss the World Cup. Boateng, who was born in Germany but whose father is Ghanian, is now Public Enemy No. 1 in German sports pages. Bild called the hit a “nasty revenge foul.”

Target: cougars
The all-knowing Google search engine apparently has a hang-up with the idea of older women on the hunt for younger men. Claudia Opdenkelder, the 39-year-old founder and president of the Toronto-based online dating service, accuses Google of a double standard. She says it censors the placement of ads for the service. The ads contain no sexual content but are deemed unsafe for family audiences—unlike sites like, catering to men trolling for younger women. “It’s age and gender discrimination,” Opdenkelder told the New York Times. “Some of the men sites, they are borderline prostitution, and Google has no problem having them advertise.”

Robin gets his Irish up
Russell Crowe doesn’t play well with others, so it’s wise he had long-time buddies cast in the role of his Merry Men in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Among them were two Canadians: actor Kevin Durand plays Little John and Alan Doyle, the rollicking front man for Newfoundland’s Celtic rock group Great Big Sea, plays the equally raucous minstrel Allan A’Dayle. “Maybe I was born to play this part,” said Doyle of the similarity in their names. Nor was his acting debut a stretch. “Music, mead and oily wenches,” said Doyle. “What else do you want?” As for Crowe, he bailed on a BBC interviewer who said his Robin sounded Irish. “You’ve got dead ears, mate,” said Crowe, a naturalized Australian, born in New Zealand.

The dumbest catch
Before Joshua Tell Warner headed to sea to fish crab in 2007, he hit a Washington Mutual Bank in Eugene, Ore. It was one of three Oregon banks he robbed while “strung out” on OxyContin. He then set sail on a boat featured in the Deadliest Catch, the Discovery Channel’s crab fishing reality series. Bad idea. Viewers spotted Warner as the robber. He was sentenced last week to 9½ years. Meantime, Matthew Sch­neider, a production assistant on the show, faces unrelated drug charges, allegedly after delivering cocaine to an undercover officer in Alaska and bragging he could deliver plenty more.

Bats in the belfry
A behavioural scientist’s decision to show a female colleague a peer-reviewed research paper on the sex lives of the fruit bat landed him on academic probation at the University College Cork in Ireland. Professor Dylan Evans told the London Times that he showed the paper, “Fellatio by fruit bats prolongs copulation time,” as part of a discussion on the evolutionary origins of human and animal behaviour. The woman accused him of sexual harassment, adding he’d previously complimented her appearance and kissed her on both cheeks. University president Michael Murphy placed Evans on two years of “monitoring and appraisal.” Fellow scientists, including Harvard’s Steven Pinker and philosopher Daniel Dennett, said the punishment offends academic freedom. The Canadian-born Pinker called it “absurd and shameful.”

Net worth uncertain
The New Jersey Nets are the worst team in the NBA. They lost 70 basketball games last year, and won 12. They’ve also had a string of discouraged owners, but the latest, Russian billionaire Mik­hail Prokhorov, has the kind of deep pockets that gives despairing fans hope. “To the fans, whether in New Jersey, Brooklyn or Moscow, I will do everything I can to give you a winning team,” said Prokhorov, who paid US$200 million for 80 per cent of the team. He’s the first owner from outside North America, and, with an estimated worth of US$13.4 billion, probably the richest. Certainly, says the six-foot-seven Prokhorov: “I’ll be the first NBA owner who can dunk.”

Does this make me look fat enough?
Healthy, the magazine for the U.K.-based Holland & Barrett natural products chain, promotes “health and well-being” through fitness, better nutrition and, apparently, a heavy hand on the computer. April’s cover shows Polish model Kamilla Wladyka looking gorgeously robust. In reality, admitted editor Jane Druker, she arrived for the shoot all skin and bones. “She looked beautiful in the face, but really thin and unwell.” Druker told fashion insiders that editors packed as much as 20 kg on Wladyka through computer retouching—a practice becoming as common as digitally subtracting pounds, the Telegraph reported this week. “That girl probably should have been sent home from the shoot,” says Eleni Renton, director of Leni’s Model Management. “They retouched her to make her look healthier. It’s false.”

Abracadabra— he’s a grad
When Jordan Goldklang graduated with his bachelor of magic degree last week from Indiana University, he wore the usual academic robe and the less traditional top hat. Where else would you hide the rabbit? Actually, “the Great Jordini” said the pursuit of magic goes beyond mere tricks and illusions. At least that’s how he convinced professors to let him design the world’s first degree program in magic. His courses included cognitive psychology, performance study, voice, speech, and the history of magic. His grad project was “a huge magic show.” He extracted $10 from audience members, not by magic but by good business sense.

So Miss U.S.A. has a past
Lebanese-born Rima Fakih (Miss Michigan U.S.A.) was crowned Miss U.S.A. on Sunday, an immigrant success story that added a sweet touch to the pageant. She aced the bikini event and opined on issues of the day, supporting both Arizona’s immigration law and health insurance paying for birth control. Judges didn’t ask her thoughts on pole dancing. Oops! Seems she won a Detroit radio station’s Stripper 101 contest in 2007. Photos show her grinding away in shorts and a T-shirt. Video also surfaced of Throbbing Justice, a raunchy short film starring a fully clothed Fakih as a police woman. The pageant is investigating to see if another shoe, or whatever, drops.

The sun won’t come out to-morrow
“Little Orphan Annie” ends her 85-year run as a newspaper comic strip June 14. Fewer than 20 papers are still running the strip, which was a huge hit when it launched during the Depression. “Annie is definitely not dying,” said Steve Tippie, vice-president of licensing for Chicago’s Tribune Media Services. The plucky orphan may resurface in comic books or graphic novels, he said. Then there’s Annie, the oddly upbeat musical. In the strip, Annie endured privation, the (temporary) death of Daddy Warbucks and shifting political alliances. The Depression-era Annie, said Jay Maeder, who co-produced the strip’s final years, was “a terrifying pilgrimage through a loony, dark, paranoid and quite particularly American nightmare.”

That could be you
Montreal race car driver J.C. Cote was running on financial fumes as he approached the upcoming season of the Canadian Touring Car Championship season. “Racing is usually either a young man’s or a rich man’s sport,” said Cote. “At 38, I am neither.” He hit on the idea of augmenting his few large sponsors with a financial appeal on Facebook: for $5 he’ll plaster a sponsor’s picture on his car. So far, more than 50 people have bought face time, some for considerably more than $5. “We get to reach the little guy with a passion for racing, or for seeing his picture whiz by at 230 km/h,” said Cote.

Talk to the fist
A couple in their 20s strolling through an amusement park in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Mubarraz caught the attention of the national religious police, always vigilant for illegal unmarried socializing. The man collapsed when questioned by the member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. But the woman responded with her fists, sending the vice cop to hospital with bruises to his face and body, the Saudi media reported Monday. Expect more resistance from women, said Wajiha Al-Huwaidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist. “People are fed up with these religious police and now they have to pay the price for the humiliation they put people through for years and years.”

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