Newsmakers: Sept. 15-22

A murderess goes to school, Toronto city hall smells a rat and Michaele Salahi’s husband stops believin’
Alex Ballingall, Jonathon Gatehouse, Cathy Gulli, Nicholas Köhler, Chris Sorensen, and Patricia Treble
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29: Guitar player Neal Schon of the band Journey performs at the 2011 Today Summer Concert series at Rockefeller Plaza on July 29, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Siren car swan song

The last of America’s most popular police car, the Ford Crown Victoria, rolled off an assembly line in St. Thomas, Ont., last week. The Ford plant closure, first announced in 2009 at the nadir of North America’s manufacturing doldrums, puts 1,100 people out of work in the rust-belt town, best known as the place where Jumbo, the P.T. Barnum circus elephant, died after being hit by a train in 1885. Big and blocky, the Crown Vic had long been popular with police departments and cab companies for its durability and roominess. Still, it got just 10 km a litre and had sold poorly—yet another dead jumbo in St. Thomas.

A scrumbag

It was just six weeks ago that Mike Tindall married Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter. But the honeymoon is definitely over for the muscular captain of England’s Rugby World Cup squad. While out celebrating a tournament-opening victory over Argentina this week, Tindall and his teammates got tipsy and scrummed several young ladies in the bar. Good clean fun, until the papers back home got hold of the photos of Tindall canoodling with a “mystery blond.” We are not amused.

Tough assignment

Shortly before U.S. Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor for rushing into an Afghan “killing zone” to rescue 36 troops in 2009, the 23-year-old and his family met privately with President Barack Obama. They weren’t alone. João Silva, a New York Times photographer whose legs were blown off by a land mine last October in Afghanistan, was invited by Meyer and Obama to capture the meeting. Silva found the assignment—his first outside the confines of military hospitals where he is undergoing extensive rehabilitation—difficult on prosthetic legs. Though the photographs were deemed “strong” by his paper, Silva said, “I wasn’t getting the shots. I was missing the shots.”

Billionaire boys’ club

RIM’s fall from tech-industry grace has hit a symbolic milestone for Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, co-CEOs of the Waterloo, Ont.-based company, who have lost their status as billionaires. Both Balsillie and Lazaridis own five per cent of the company shares, a chunk that was worth an estimated US$1.9 billion in February. Now their shares are worth about US$640 million, according to Bloomberg estimates. This month, Jaguar Financial even advised RIM to sell itself off. With Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android-based phones chipping away at RIM’s former glory, maybe BlackBerrys just aren’t as sexy anymore.

Wilderness tipoff

Kristoffer Clausen became a folk hero in his native Norway when he spent a year living off the harsh land with just a rifle, fishing rod and a dog for companionship. A book recounting his adventures, which began in 2009, became a bestseller and spawned a TV series and even a sponsorship deal. However, a local newspaper recently revealed the story was just too good to be true. It turns out that he’d supplemented his spartan live-off-the-land lifestyle by shopping in malls, living in a Swedish cottage for a month and even renting a car. “I’m sorry for doing it,” he finally confessed. “I’ve been an idiot.”

Don’t stop believing

If the myth persists that housewives lead boring lives, look to Michaele Salahi for proof of the contrary. The star of the (cancelled) Real Housewives of D.C. was reported missing by her bankrupt wine merchant husband Tareq after she disappeared last week. Six hours later, the rakish blond turned up in Tennessee—where she was romancing Neal Schon, guitarist of the ’80s band Journey, who described their relationship as “intimate and passionate.” This attention-grabbing charade should come as no shock: Salahi and her husband crashed a White House dinner in 2009, claiming they were invited, and she once fibbed about working as a Washington Redskins cheerleader. Why lie when your real life is this unbelievable?

Alberta’s great race

Gary Mar had a good week. The prospective leader of Alberta’s indefatigable Progressive Conservative government handily won the first round of voting in the party’s leadership race, winning 41 per cent of the tally at a convention in Calgary. Just a few days later, Mar gained requisite right-wing “cred” when two fellow leadership candidates—Ted Morton and Rick Orman—emerged from his campaign bus to give him their endorsement. The upstart Wildrose party has threatened to dig into the PCs’ right flank with rhetoric that echoes that of the Tea Party. So it’s little wonder that Mar was all smiles as he and his two big-name supporters spoke of his fiscal conservatism and economic level-headedness. After all, if Mar wins, he’ll immediately become Alberta’s newest PC premier: perennial top dog in the province.

Rehab? No, no, no.

Canada’s youngest multiple killer, who went by the online handle Runaway Devil, has resurfaced as a freshman at a Calgary university. The girl, who can’t be named by law, was just 12 when she convinced her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Allan Steinke, to kill her mother, father and eight-year-old brother inside their Medicine Hat, Alta., home back in 2006. Her 10-year sentence, part of which was spent at an Edmonton psychiatric hospital, will be completed one year after she is scheduled to graduate in 2015. But the girl’s lawyer now says her rehabilitation plan has been derailed after the Calgary Herald revealed details about her studies. A sentencing review has been postponed.

Oh Jackie

Jacqueline Kennedy was just 34 and four months a widow when she submitted to a recorded interview with Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a historian and one-time aide to her husband, president John F. Kennedy. The chat is part of an oral history of Camelot released last week that reveals a woman of sharp judgment. Indira Gandhi, later India’s PM, was “pushy” and “bitter.” French president Charles de Gaulle was an “egomaniac.” Martin Luther King Jr., meanwhile, was “a phony” who carried on extramarital affairs. She reserves her harshest criticism for former Canadian PM John Diefenbaker, whom she met during a visit with her husband in May 1961 and calls “painful.” During a lunch, the Dief “insisted on telling all these Churchill stories . . . calling him old Winston or ‘the old boy’ or something.” Boring.

Raccoon love

It took two brothers, Bill and Eric MacDonald, whose lives both revolve around the same street in Stratford, P.E.I., a whole week to realize that each of them had adopted orphaned baby raccoons one day this past summer. Bill, 69, found his outside BJ’s International Truck Centre, the family business, and took him in, buying kitten milk and a small bottle. He and his wife, Joan, named him Rambo because, Bill says, “he destroys everything,” including eating two keys off Joan’s laptop. One day, Eric, 72, who lives across the street, visited Bill’s office and spotted Rambo. “He thought it was his ’coon,” Bill says. Eric had adopted Rambo’s brother the same day and called him Rascal. But Bill and Eric must soon release the animals. Rambo already weighs 10 lb. “After they get a year old they get to be ferocious,” says Bill.

Wives on the bus

When world leaders and dignitaries gather, there is plenty of pomp to the affair: red carpets are rolled out, flags are raised, armoured cars convoy. Unless, perhaps, the politician is a woman. Last week, during a gathering of Pacific nation leaders, Julia Gillard, the prime minister of Australia, was kicked off the “leaders’ bus” and redirected to the bus for political wives. Gillard’s aide corrected them, and the PM took her hard-earned seat.

Rat castle

Toronto City Hall has long had problems with mice and squirrels—never, you might be surprised to learn, with rats. But last week, a big bruiser of a rodent found its way into budget chief Mike Del Grande’s office, and later bit a city worker sent to remove it. The interloper was just one episode in a whole panoply of goings-on at City Hall, where Mayor Rob Fordhe of “gravy train” famehas been attempting to push through budget cuts. Quipped left-leaning Coun. Adam Vaughan of the animal: “It was looking for gravy, it didn’t find any so it ate a city worker.” The rat was put down. Even dead, he is likely more popular than the mayor, whose approval ratings have tanked.

Golf’s next great?

Teen golf prodigy Alexis Thompson became the youngest ever LPGA Tour winner last week, stunning the golfing world. The 16-year-old—who, at 12, became the youngest woman to qualify for the U.S. Open—called the win the “best feeling ever.”