This week: Newsmakers

Paul Haggis disses Scientology, Arianna Huffington gets a gigantic new job, and the Drugstore Cowboy walks into the sunset

Another blow for multiculti

In the West, multiculturalism has long been viewed as a noble ideal. So why are European leaders suddenly trying to distance themselves from the concept? Echoing sentiments made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British PM David Cameron said last week Britain’s blind faith in multiculturalism had led to a “weakening of our collective identity,” and may have helped to fuel homegrown Islamic extremism. “We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values,” he said. Reaction was swift. Critics charged him with spreading far-right propaganda while others conceded multiculturalism has its flaws, and may not be an end in itself. Either way, it would appear the debate is only beginning.


FAME Pictures/Keystone Press;

What a tangled Web she’ll weave

Arianna Huffington has been anointed the queen of online content after AOL paid US$315 million for the Huffington Post, one of the Web’s most prominent news sites. The deal will put her in charge of an expanding universe of AOL blogs and other sites including TechCrunch, Engadget, and MapQuest. It’s all part of a plan by chief executive Tim Armstrong to transform a company that was built on providing Americans with dial-up Internet connections and email accounts. Huffington has her work cut out for her. Few media companies have yet to figure out how to operate profitably on the Web. And it’s not the first time AOL has stepped into the content game. Its failed $US350-billion mega-merger with Time-Warner a decade ago is now considered one of the tech boom’s biggest missteps.

A monsters’ ball

Halle Berry and Nahla

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images;

Actress Halle Berry’s breakup with Canadian model Gabriel Aubry didn’t start out as daily tabloid fodder. But, unfortunately for their 2½-year-old daughter Nahla, now at the centre of a bitter custody battle, that’s exactly where it’s ended up. The war of words heated up this week when People published a statement by a Berry representative that called Aubry an unfit father, and said Berry was pulling out of a movie to focus on the custody dispute. Aubry’s people fought back, telling Access Hollywood he was “disappointed in Halle’s decision to falsely malign him publicly and for her own purposes.” Add in allegations of racist rants and inappropriate videotapes and emails, and it all sounds like a familiar Hollywood script.


Virginia Mayo/AP

Man with one less mystery?

A British judge has been given the unenviable task of sorting out the infamous life of Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder appeared before a court to challenge an extradition request to Sweden, where he faces rape charges. His lawyers argued extradition would end with him in the U.S., where he could be imprisoned or worse for his role in releasing thousands of classified government documents. Meanwhile, his supporters are questioning the motivations behind a recent New York Times Magazine article that described him as “alert but dishevelled, like a bag lady walking in off the street.”

Maxime speaks, Tories shiver

Maxime Bernier, the Conservative MP from Quebec and former cabinet minister, has firmly established himself as Canada’s maverick pol. Since resigning over former girlfriend Julie Couillard’s links to the Hells Angels, he has challenged the government’s policy on everything from a national securities regulator to funding for sports arenas. This week, he dragged the touchy issue of Quebec’s language laws into the mix, telling a radio interviewer he didn’t think the government should be in the culture business, and sparking a furor. It was a bold statement for a Quebec politician, particularly one whose party has just 11 seats in the province.

Riches to rags, and back to riches

Prince Albert of Saxony lives in a rental, and his two sisters are housed in “depressing circumstances” in Munich—hardly a lifestyle befitting the descendants of Augustus the Strong, the 17th-century Saxon king. But their luck is about to turn. Faced with the prospect of stripping its museums of priceless porcelain treasures, the German state of Saxony agreed last week to pay more than $6.7 million to the family, in compensation for more than 300 figurines and other ceramics seized by the Communists after 1945. Before fleeing the Soviets, the Wettin family had hidden many objets d’art behind a secret wall in a cellar of Moritzburg castle, but the valuables were soon discovered and confiscated. Still to be decided: the value of books, paintings and other items seized.

Haggis 2, Scientology uh-oh

London, Ont.-born screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who won Oscars for his work on Million Dollar Baby and Crash, this week ramped up his war against the Church of Scientology, which he walked away from in 2009 over its “hidden anti-gay sentiment.” Haggis is the subject of an expansive New Yorker profile that delivers all kinds of Scientology-related dish—including a story about well-known Scientologist John Travolta using his church’s teachings to heal an injured Marlon Brando at a dinner party. But beyond the oddball gossip, the article suggests the church is controlling and relentlessly hunts down apostates, allegations it says have prompted an ongoing FBI human trafficking investigation.


Virginia Mayo/AP

A scandal of epic proportions

As incriminating goes, the texts found on several sumo wrestlers’ phones last week couldn’t get much worse. “Would you let me win at the next tournament? If not, I want the 200,000 back,” said one, from high-ranking amateur Kiyoseumi to Kasuganishiki. “Who do I owe a win now?” said another. Allegations of match-fixing and payoffs to yakuza members have sent Japan’s venerable sport into a tailspin. More than 60 wrestlers have copped to illegal sports betting, with three arrested. And a Japanese firm has pulled an ad starring champion Hakuho, who isn’t even implicated. “We wanted to emphasize the robustness of our ‘big frame’ wooden pillars,” Sumitomo Forestry Co. said. They will instead use actors dressed as those paragons of virtue: American football players.


Roger Allen/North Downs Picture Agency;

Baby Vicky’s incredible journey

She’s better travelled than most one-year-olds, having strayed some 4,000 miles east from her native Newfoundland—”all of it in the wrong direction,” says the Seal Rescue Centre in Germany, where she ended up. The lonely hooded seal is now the focus of a fundraising effort. Flying her home would run $16,000, but Vicky is homesick, and, according to the centre, “perhaps the most bad-tempered seal we have ever had!”

A cowboy’s last ride

James Fogle, whose novel Drugstore Cowboy chronicled the tribulations of a gang of addicts who rob drugstores to feed their habits, is back in jail and facing what could amount to a life sentence for holding up a Redmond, Wash., pharmacy with a BB gun. Made into a critically acclaimed film in 1989 by the director Gus Van Sant, Drugstore Cowboy mixed equal parts grit and pathos, but the 74-year-old’s life since has been characterized more by bathos: in 2004, he cut a hole into the roof of a Seattle-area pharmacy and climbed down by rope. Police later found him asleep on the floor with bags full of drugs.

So a Mexican approaches the bar…

A Mexican jewellery design student in London, Iris de la Torre, is threatening a claim against Top Gear after her countrymen were branded “lazy, feckless and flatulent” on the hit BBC car show. It could be a test case for a new law that bans racial harassment by anyone providing a “service to the public.” The BBC shrugged off the comments, saying, “Our comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics… [and] the French being arrogant and the Germans being over-organized.” And Jeremy Clarkson and co-hosts haven’t changed their style. This week, Top Gear did a whole segment on the vehicle-theft tendencies of Albanians. Perhaps the idea of paying $1.6 million in damages to De la Torre will persuade them.


Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Against all odds

Two holes in one, in a nine-hole round of golf? It happens, but the odds are 67 million to one—a number that came up for an amateur, Adam Smith, at Stonehaven Golf Club on Scotland’s rugged North Sea coast. Smith aced the 163-yard starting hole—then, on the seventh, sank another one-swing hole at 132 yards. Things might well have gone even better, but Smith could reportedly only play nine holes due to conflicting plans (which likely included getting out of those seaside Scottish winds in February).

Where angels fear to tread

Many might wonder if those connected to Fool’s Gold, the almost universally panned 2008 rom com starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, might prefer to disown it (presumably, they’d keep the $300 million the ?lm grossed worldwide). Not Lou Boudreau, the Chester, N.S., novelist who claims Warner Bros. stole his book Fandango’s Gold as the basis for the film. He has filed a copyright infringement suit in Halifax—a 38-page document in which he lays out the similarities between his book and the film in a series of tables. He has 60 days to follow up by serving the studio in California.

Old is gold

Audiences at New York Fashion Week will be treated to an unusual sight next week: catwalks dotted with a who’s who of models from yesteryear—including Carol Alt, 51, and Carmen Dell’Orefice, who is 79—an age we weren’t sure existed in the style world. Golden girls are something of a trend, with Elle Macpherson and 53-year-old Inès de la Fressange modelling for Louis Vuitton and Chanel. But Adrienne Vittadini takes the prize for her show featuring the near-octogenarian model.

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