Martha Stewart gets a fat lip, Stieg Larsson's successor, and a Seattle superhero discovers he's human

A sad goodbye
Thousands of mourners, including a sea of uniformed officers from across North America, paid their final respects to Sgt. Ryan Russell, a Toronto cop killed in the line of duty. Packed into a downtown convention centre, the huge crowd stood in silence as the sergeant’s widow, Christine, and their two-year-old son, Nolan, were escorted into the funeral. David Onley, Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, echoed Barack Obama’s words after the Tucson massacre: “There is evil in the world and terrible things happen that defy human understanding.” In a nearby jail cell, Richard Kachkar—a homeless man who allegedly ran Russell over with a stolen snowplow—is charged with first-degree murder.

There goes the neighbour
At what point do cultural “beliefs” cross the line into superstition? Or worse, plain old bigotry? Janet Fan and about 60 of her mostly Asian neighbours in a condo building may be about to find out, as they are loudly opposing the construction of a 15-bed hospice next door to their posh, 18-floor highrise at the University of British Columbia. Their grounds? “It’s a cultural taboo to us and we cannot be close to so many dying people,” says Fan, who organized a rally against the facility this week. “It’s like you open your door and step into a graveyard.” Fan went on to voice concern about the other key issue: the $1 million or so each owner had sunk into his unit, telling the Province newspaper: “We put our life savings into this.” And really, what’s the importance of a life next to that?

A real bitch, that
A French bulldog named Francesca fulfilled a secret fantasy of the design-challenged last week by giving her mistress, Martha Stewart, a fat lip. But all credit to the lifestyle queen for wryly documenting the experience on her blog with words and photos. She said she’d bent down to whisper goodbye to her prize pooch when the animal jumped in fright, smacking Stewart in the mug with the force of a “boxing glove.” The 69-year-old Stewart needed stitches, but was lucid enough to slag the decor at the Westchester, N.Y., hospital where she went for treatment. “The ceiling border in the little patient room could use some updating,” she blogged.

Hit the no-fair way
North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Il, has reputedly scored a mind-boggling 38 under par on one of the rogue country’s few 18-hole golf courses, but it seems doubtful that participants in the first-ever North Korean Amateur Golf Open at Pyongyang Golf complex will be treated to a repeat performance. The proposed tournament is scheduled for April, and being marketed specifically to foreigners—perhaps a strategy to inject hard currency into the politically and economically isolated country. Participants must make their way to China, then travel by train to the Hermit Kingdom, where they will be given a three-day tour. They would be wise, however, to keep the holes-in-one at a minimum, so as not to show up their gracious host.

Who does she think she…oh yeah
It seems Queen Elizabeth II is a royal pain as she critiques the wedding plans drafted by grandson Prince William and Kate Middleton, a source tells the Huffington Post. For instance, Kate’s arrival at Westminster Abbey by car instead of carriage— simply not done! Nor does a wedding breakfast buffet at Buckingham Palace find favour. The Queen wants a sit-down affair. Most of the upset, the source says, is because the couple didn’t consult granny, who has success staging weddings, if limited luck with the marriages.

On thin ice
Could Sid “the Kid” Crosby be throwing a tantrum? The Globe and Mail claims the Pittsburgh Penguins star, currently sitting out with a concussion, intends to stay away from the NHL’s Jan. 30 All-Star Game because he’s angry over the league’s unwillingness to discipline the two players, Dave Steckel and Victor Hedman, whose hits contributed to his injury. But Crosby himself denied the report Tuesday, saying he still hopes to recover in time to play. “That’s not even close” to accurate, he told reporters.

Caped crusaders among us
Seattle-area vigilante Phoenix Jones recently discovered you can dress like a superhero, but your nose will still get broken in a fight. Yes, Seattle has a grown man wandering the streets in a black-and-gold costume, fighting villainy with Thorn, Catastrophe and the Green Reaper, among others. They call themselves the Rain City Superheroes, and they take themselves seriously. “Everyone on my team either has a military background or a mixed martial arts background,” Jones—whose real name is, naturally, a secret—told the Daily Mail. But some crafty evildoer cracked his schnozz as the rubber-clad hero tried to bust up a fight.

Tunis is burning
Tunisia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled the country he ruled for 23 years after weeks of violent protests aimed at toppling his authoritarian regime. The unrest began in December, after a fruit vendor protested the confiscation of his cart by police by setting himself on fire. The man, an unemployed college graduate, later died. Protesters took to the streets and railed against rising food costs and unemployment in the North African country, then zeroed in on the ills of Ben Ali’s strong-arm regime, now replaced by an interim coalition government. The surprise ouster sent shock waves through the Arab world, raising concerns about Tunisia’s brand of upheaval spilling over.

Oh, Ricky, you weren’t so fine
Apparently organizers of the Golden Globes forgot what happens when you hire Ricky Gervais to host your show. The smarmy, petulant Brit was murderous at the A-list schmoozefest, sharply dividing U.S. and British critics over whether he went too far. Charlie Sheen, Tim Allen, closeted Scientologists: Gervais skewered all with aplomb. The backlash has included a call from Judd Apatow for jokes that are “better than Ricky Gervais’s”—he said he’ll use the best when he hosts the Producers Guild Awards. But it being Hollywood, those in the audience wishing to show their displeasure could do so in style: at a pre-Globe gifting event, “momtrepeneur” Tara Ramos, of Richmond, B.C., distributed her Morning Chicness Bags, a line of high-end barf bags.

Nothing to say here, folks
For the record: the fact Arianna Huffington was escorted off a flight after she failed to extinguish her BlackBerry is not news. So claim higher-ups at The Huffington Post, the lefty blog doyenne’s Internet news site. In a leaked internal memo, HuffPo senior editors offered strict instructions to their minions “not to allow any comments about the airline incident involving AH this weekend. It is off-topic on any article.” This after authorities questioned Huffington at LaGuardia because her incessant thumbing caused a fellow passenger to complain. No word on whether Arianna’s thin skin or overprotective staff was responsible for making it a non-event.

When you cash in on a star
Toronto businessman Jamie Salter proved it’s never too late to cash in on Hollywood celebrity. His company has purchased Marilyn Monroe’s name and image nearly 50 years after her death. Along with a partner firm, it plans to use the starlet’s likeness to sell everything from makeup to a possible reality TV show. Squeezing money out of dead stars is big business, worth US$2.3 billion by some estimates. But it requires a deft touch. It’s one thing to slap reggae legend Bob Marley’s name on a pair of cool headphones (Marley’s name was acquired by Salter and a previous employer), but fans were understandably upset in 1997 when Fred Astaire was made to cut a rug with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner during a Super Bowl ad.

End of story
Fans of Stieg Larsson’s wildly successful Millennium trilogy may be able to get their hands on a fourth book, even though Larsson died seven years ago. His long-time partner, Eva Gabrielsson, cut out of Larsson’s estate under Swedish law because the two never married, says in a soon-to-be released memoir that the two often wrote together, and that she can finish a manuscript he was in the midst of writing when he died of a heart attack (all three of his current crime novels, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, were published posthumously). But as with every good thriller, there’s a twist. She will only do it if his family hands over the rights to Larsson’s work, ending an ugly dispute that erupted in the wake of his 2004 death.

He did say he’d be back
Hollywood villains and high-brows be warned: after seven years as California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning his return to the big screen. The Governator has his eye on three scripts, and is particularly drawn to the story of an ageing German soldier who refuses SS orders to execute young POWs near the end of the Second World War. “He gets them to safety at the risk of his life,” Schwarzenegger told the Austrian magazine Krone. “It has all kinds of adventure.” No doubt the satisfying ending attracts Schwarzenegger. Though the 63-year-old enjoyed popular support throughout his gubernatorial stint, he leaves the ship of state much as he found it—broke and beset by political gridlock.

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