Newsmakers of the week

Danielle Smith’s offal tweet, Fidel Castro reappears (it seems), and Roberto Luongo a Leaf?

Let them eat steak

The Alberta Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith took a grilling this week when she suggested this week that recalled meat from Alberta’s XL food plant be fed to “the hungry.” Millions of kilograms of recalled XL meat is being destroyed due to an E. coli outbreak. “What a waste,” Smith tweeted. “We all know thorough cooking kills E. coli,” she added, endorsing another tweet suggesting that the meat instead be fed to those in need. When her comments sparked outrage, Smith was forced to backtrack: she did not mean that poor people should eat tainted meat, but if the meat could actually be salvaged, even she would buy it. Twitter had little sympathy—some suggested she feed it to members of Wildrose instead.

Trading places?

As the NHL lockout drags on into its second month, all hockey fans are hurting. But there might be some good news for the longest-suffering among them—the members of “Leafs Nation.” Reports surfaced last week that Toronto and the Vancouver Canucks have worked out a deal that will see mercurial goalie Roberto Luongo and his massive contract land in Hogtown when play finally resumes. Both sides deny that any agreement has been finalized (technically they can’t make a trade during the labour dispute), but there’s plenty of smoke. And at the very least it gives Leafs fans something else to obsess over: whether they’re getting the guy who backstopped Team Canada to gold in 2010, or the one who couldn’t stop a beach ball last season.

TV is so déclassé

“Stop this bourgeois priggishness!” cried Conrad Black, baron of Crossharbour and scourge of the bourgeoisie. The man who brought on Black’s outburst was BBC host Jeremy Paxman, who sat down with him for a TV interview. After Paxman called him a “criminal,” Black angrily dismissed his fraud conviction and prison sentence as a product of the U.S. justice system—“The whole system is a fraudulent, fascistic conveyor belt”—and commended himself for not “smashing your face in.” During the same round of interviews, Black appeared with Sky News host Adam Boulton, derided his questions and asked at one point, “What’s your name again?” Black has no time to learn the names of bourgeois prigs.

With friends like this

After being deemed too intoxicated to travel on an Air Canada flight last week, NDP MP Romeo Saganash announced he was taking a temporary leave. “I need help to overcome a medical problem, a dependence on alcohol, like far too many other Canadians,” Saganash explained in a written statement, while apologizing for his on-board behaviour. The northern Quebec MP, who ran for the NDP leadership earlier this year, said he was “not looking at excuses, but I know that profound scars were left on me because of my time in residential school. The death of my friend and mentor, Jack Layton, also greatly affected me. Like him, I needed a crutch.”

So long, Tex

Big Tex, the iconic 52-foot talking statue that watched over the State Fair of Texas for 60 years, is no more. The gigantic metal cowboy, who looked like a cross between Will Rogers and Howdy Doody, caught fire in the middle of the latest fair and, thanks to his denim cowboy vest and jeans, instantly burned to the ground, leaving nothing except a scary-looking frame where his smiling visage used to be. No humans were injured in the fire, not even the voice actor in charge of saying, “Howdy, folks!” in Big Tex’s booming voice. The loss was devastating to Texans, who consider Tex the ultimate symbol of the fair and enjoyed his occasional appearances on the Fox cartoon King of the Hill. Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, immediately vowed that Tex would be rebuilt, and a future fair would unveil a Big Tex who will be “bigger and better for the 21st century.” And maybe a little less flammable.

An A-list ‘I do’

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are bringing back conspicuous consumption. While other stars are trying hard to act like regular people, Biel and Timberlake were wed at an Italian resort last weekend after a week-long celebration featuring fireworks, live entertainment (including a song by the groom) and of course, tons of security guards keeping the riff-raff out. The total cost was estimated at US$6 million—twice the tab for the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. But don’t expect the pair to be throwbacks to the old days of Hollywood glamour: leaked photos showed them and their guests, including comedian Andy Samberg and music producer Timbaland, doing mundane things like bike riding and playing ball on the beach. It seems $6 million buys less than it used to.

This apple falls very far from tree

The grandson of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s deceased dictator, supports a unified Korea, the teen told former UN under-secretary-general Elisabeth Rehn in an interview that aired on Finnish TV last week. Kim Han Sol, 17, who attends an international school in Bosnia and Herzegovina, says he moved to Macau as a boy and never met his grandfather—even though he wanted to. “That was actually one thing that I wanted to do before he passed away. I was really curious.” Nor has he ever met his uncle, current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. His father, Kim Jong Il’s other son, Kim Jong Nam, was once the presumed heir, but fell out of favour after trying to enter Japan illegally to visit Tokyo Disney. Kim’s friendships with South Koreans made him realize “how similar we are. Same language, same culture. It’s just political issues that divide the nation in half.”

One season and he’s out

TV actors with a lot of flops get a reputation for being “show killers,” but none have managed the feat of Canadian actor Tyler Labine: having a show prematurely cancelled on every U.S. broadcast network. NBC announced last week that it was cancelling the new comedy Animal Practice, co-starring Labine and a monkey. It followed the shaggy-haired Ontarian’s one-season failures on CBS (Mad Love), ABC (Invasion), Fox (Sons of Tucson) and the WB network (the aptly named Dead Last). His biggest successes were the Vancouver-made Reaper, which lasted two seasons on the CW network, and the Canadian teen show Breaker High, which lasted a whopping 44 episodes.

That’s younger women for you

Even at 82, Heinz Munz wasn’t too old to be taken in by the lure of a foreign siren. Munz, a B.C. retiree, claims a Russian woman, Polina Telyuk, 72, married him only to gain permanent resident status in this country—and left him the day she did. He says he’s being forced to repay $25,000 in welfare payments Telyuk collected after she left. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the CBC that in the future, marriages like this will not qualify people for instant residency “if they are just scamming the system.” As for Munz, he’ll always have his memories: “Laughing and talking in Russian,” he recalled, “she left by taxi.”

Not dead yet

Fidel Castro made a rare appearance at a Havana hotel this week, quashing rumours that the former Cuban leader is on his deathbed, or already dead. Castro met with his long-time supporter, former Venezuelan vice-president Elías Jaua, who said that the 86-year-old “is very well, very lucid.” His absence from the public eye and failure to release a statement about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s recent re-election had fuelled rumours of an illness. Not so—if an article Castro wrote for the state-run news site Cubadebate can be believed. He is in great shape, he wrote, and can’t “even remember what a headache is.”

Moving on up

Earlier this year he restaged his bar mitzvah for a music video, and now Drake is celebrating another coming of age moment: “97% on my final exam. 88% in the course. One of the greatest feelings in my entire life,” he tweeted last week. “As of tonight I have graduated high school!” The Canadian rapper dropped out of high school a decade ago to film Degrassi: The Next Generation. Drake told Toronto’s Now magazine in August he had one credit left to receive his diploma. Now, in announcing his graduation, he gave a shout out to his teacher, Kim Janzen of Vaughan Road Academy, for “spending the last five months working tirelessly with me.”

Not much of a swing

There’s speculation online that Tagg Romney apologized to Barack Obama in that brief tête-à-tête after the third and final presidential debate. Speaking to a North Carolina radio station after his father was bested in the second debate, Romney was asked what it was like to see the U.S. President call his dad a liar. “You want to rush down to the stage and take a swing at him,” he said with a laugh. “But you know you can’t do that because, well, first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because that’s the nature of the process.” Josh Romney, another of Mitt Romney’s sons, later appeared on The View and downplayed Tagg’s ability to throw a punch. “That brother has slugged me a couple times,” Josh joked. “I assure you President Obama has nothing to worry about.”

Sealed with a kiss

Prince Guillaume may be the future grand duke of Luxembourg but when he married Stéphanie de Lannoy on Saturday, all the attention was on his bride. Dressed in an Elie Saab gown, she wore her mother’s engagement ring as a tribute to her parent, who died suddenly of a stroke two months earlier.