Newsmakers: Rihanna, the Windsor-Colbert feud, Fieri gets into a food fight

And DiCaprio's birthday-party bickerers


Eggs on her face

Alberta’s scandal over kickbacks of public funds to the governing Progressive Conservative party developed a new wrinkle after a CBC News access-to-information request uncovered documents pointing to Lynn Redford, sister of Premier Alison Redford. As a government-relations adviser to the Calgary Health Region, Lynn held a barbecue for MLAs at CHR’s expense, and was compensated for tickets to a 2005 PC constituency fundraiser for then-premier Ralph Klein. And in her current job as a vice-president at Alberta Health Services, she approved a controversial expense claim by AHS president Chris Eagle, who had attended a 2011 “premier’s dinner” fundraiser. The request also revealed that in 2008, Lynn Redford expensed the $37.29 cost of a breakfast with her sister, tastefully referred to on the claim form only as “MLA, Calgary Elbow.”

Snaky on a plane

Journalists travelling on Rihanna’s private 777 tour jet (seven concerts in seven cities in seven days) may not get the outrageous stories they were hoping for, because according to one journalist’s inflight video, “We are the story.” Britain’s Independent reports that the sleep-deprived media has yet to get more than a glimpse of the singer—who sold the tour as a chance to “party” with fans and press alike. So the press has taken to partying on its own, indulging in complimentary champagne, chanting Rihanna’s nickname—Riri—and, occasionally, streaking: an Australian reporter was captured on video running naked through the airplane’s aisles, as desperate reporters called out, “I need a headline,” and, “Just one quote!”

Birthday bashing

Leonardo DiCaprio thought he was going to have a nice birthday party, and instead wound up presiding over a fight between Robert De Niro and Jay-Z. According to the New York Post, De Niro snapped at Jay-Z for not returning his calls about recording a song for his film festival. Witnesses said De Niro called the rapper “rude” and “disrespectful,” and not even an intervention by Beyoncé could improve his mood. Martin Scorsese, who was there, must have wondered why this is one humiliating situation he never thought of putting De Niro through in one of his films.

The best goal ever

Swedish soccer captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being heralded as a hero after scoring what was widely described as one of the best goals of all time during a match against England last week. In the game’s last 15 minutes, the forward, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, used an overhead bicycle kick to redirect a headed clearance by English keeper Joe Hart. What made it all the more spectacular was that the ball was about two metres in the air and nearly 25 m away from the goal. It marked Ibrahimovic’s fourth goal of the game, in Sweden’s 4-2 win against England. Steven Gerrard, the English captain, congratulated Ibrahimovic, telling him it was the best goal he had ever seen. “Sometimes you have to hold your hands up to a special individual performance,” he said later. “And that was a world-class performance from a world-class player.”

A new face for a new city

When Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay was forced out of office amid a massive corruption scandal in November, council scrambled to find an interim leader willing to captain the city’s rapidly sinking government. Their unlikely choice in a secret-ballot vote: Michael Applebaum. After losing the leadership nomination within the Union Montréal party last week—they deemed his French language skills insufficient—he ran as an independent. In a surprise upset, he became Montreal’s first Jewish mayor, and its first anglophone mayor in almost a century. Whether he can rise above the rancour of city hall and start solving the city’s many problems, his win has already proven what many thought was impossible—that Montreal can get beyond the politics of nationalism and language and embrace its modern, multicultural identity.

Oh, to be in Windsor in December

Stephen Colbert and Windsor, Ont., just can’t seem to quit each other. Five years ago, the American funnyman labelled Windsor the “worst place in the world,” prompting an outcry from residents who take late-night humour a tad too seriously. Then, in his recent book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, Colbert called the southwestern Ontario city the “earth’s rectum.” Notwithstanding the obvious questions this raises (what does that make neighbouring Detroit?), and the suggestion from Windsor MP Brian Masse that Colbert is “off his medication,” most of Windsor’s leaders have wisely opted to soak up the publicity of playing Colbert’s straight men: on Friday, they invited him to ride in their Santa Claus parade.

Food for the 53 per cent

Chefs don’t like it when you criticize their food, but no one likes it less than Guy Fieri, the restaurateur who has gotten into an open war with New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells. After Wells penned a zinger of a review of the Food Network star’s new Times Square restaurant (noting one of the drinks tastes “like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde”), Fieri struck back by calling the critic an elitist with a sinister “agenda,” and of discriminating against him because he’s “not a New Yorker.” Fieri has been credited with leading a red-state revolution against snobby East Coast critics, and he’s not alone in bringing a political edge to greasy food: Florida restaurant owner John Metz said he’ll add a “surcharge for Obamacare” to prices at his Denny’s restaurants, and the owner of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, suggested he might have to cut workers’ hours to avoid offering them health insurance.

When you’re a Jet

True believers may still think Tim Tebow has God on his side, but teammates of the embattled quarterback appear to be losing faith. More than a dozen members of the New York Jets contacted by a newspaper last week panned Tebow’s performances in games and practices, saying he simply doesn’t live up to the hype. “He’s terrible,” said one starting player with the 3-6 Jets. Last year, before being traded from the Denver Broncos, Tebow touched off a fan mania with a series of come-from-behind victories that led some to suggest he enjoyed divine assistance. But 2012 has been a hard landing for the 25 year old, who remains second fiddle to starter Mark Sanchez.

A work in progress

Burmese President Thein Sein may be an ex-military strongman, but he knows how to jump on a bandwagon. When Barack Obama visited the country this week, becoming the first sitting U.S. President to do so, Thein Sein borrowed his guest’s 2012 campaign slogan. “I want to use the exact word used by President Obama,” Thein Sein said. “We will continue to move forward.” That got a big reaction from the audience (a better one than Obama received from some in the U.S., who criticized his use of “Myanmar,” the name given to the country by the former military dictatorship, rather than the generally preferred “Burma”). Obama also met fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the struggle against military rule. Suu Kyi, now a legislator, thanked him for supporting the reform process. In her presence, the President called the country “Burma.”

Justice—143 years later

The B.C. government didn’t exist when two members of the Hesquiaht First Nation were convicted of murder under dubious circumstances and hanged in 1869. But last week, provincial Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ida Chong travelled to Port Alberni for a reconciliation feast to express “sincere regret” for the actions of the colonial government. Faulty translation may have played a role in convicting the men, Katkinna and John Anietsachist, of killing a captain and his wife when their vessel crashed. Villagers said the couple died in the wreck. Oral history has kept the story alive, said Victor Amos, a relative of one of the men. Now, he said, “Anietsachist can rest in peace.”

Kick it forward

In ghettos, in war zones, in refugee camps, the gift of a soccer ball makes a world of difference, but regular balls shred and deflate in the rock and rubble of makeshift pitches. Enter Tim Jahnigen, an entrepreneur and lyricist, and his buddy Sting. Jahnigen has created a near-indestructible ball made of a material similar to that of Crocs sandals. Sting bankrolled the project and dubbed it the One World Futbol. For every ball purchased for $40, a second is shipped to those in need. “Kids need to experience the healing joy of play, sport and soccer,” Jahnigen says, “no matter how challenging their life circumstances.”

Putting on that game face

Barack Obama struck the pose made famous this summer by U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney, who won silver—not gold—at the Olympics. “I pretty much do that face at least once a day,” the President told Maroney, who “like, freaked out” when Obama asked for a re-enactment during an Oval Office visit last week.

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