Newsmakers: Jan. 12-19, 2012

Facebook goes priggish, Letterman creeps up on Johnny and a Dutch Monarch fights back


Graig Abel/Getty Images

When in Rome

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands slapped down her country’s growing anti-Muslim movement last week, after the hard-liners inexplicably slammed her for wearing a head scarf while visiting a Mideast mosque. The normally reserved 72-year-old monarch had tied the red cloth over her customary black hat before entering the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman—prompting members of Geert Wilders’s far-right Party for Freedom to complain that she’d donned a symbol of female oppression. When visiting a foreign country, her majesty responded tartly, “you adjust out of respect for religion.” Much, she might have added, as Dutch hard-liners expect newcomers to respect European secularism.

Baby, it’s Coldin here

Give Ontario naturist Brian Coldin some credit: he drove naked through the drive-through of a Tim Hortons in Bracebridge, Ont., in order to challenge Canada’s laws against public nudity. But Coldin lost, and a nod must now go to Justice Jon-Jo Douglas of the Ontario Superior Court who, apart from boasting one of the best names in Canadian judicial circles, has a certain way with words. “Not only must those who live in glass homes not throw stones,” he told Coldin from the bench, “they must buy curtains.”

Justice delayed

It is easier to kill a vampire, evidently, than to deport a suspected war criminal from Canada. Léon Mugesera was about to be sent back to Rwanda after nearly 20 years of immigration proceedings, which spared him from answering charges over his role in inciting the 1994 genocide. But the 59-year-old got an 11th-hour reprieve. Shortly before he fled to Canada in 1992, Mugesera delivered a virulently anti-Tutsi speech that is believed to have spurred Hutu-backed militia to launch attacks that claimed the lives of 800,000 people. He settled in Quebec City, and Ottawa has gotten assurances Mugesera won’t be tortured if he’s returned to Rwanda. But a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled last week he must stay put until a UN committee determines he’ll be safe.

The whole truth, and nothing but

Enduring Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant was bad enough for James Mee, the Los Angeles County deputy who pulled over the star actor in 2006. But Mee, who is Jewish, alleges senior officers treated him as a troublemaker after the incident on the Pacific Coast Highway, ordering him to redact parts of his report on the screed and overlooking him for promotions. Last week, Mee won the right to sue his superiors, facing them with a stark choice. They can settle out of court, or they can have their attitudes placed under the same media microscope Gibson’s were.

No love lost

Big, mean defencemen aren’t supposed to be popular, but Dion Phaneuf seemed caught off guard last week when told he’d been voted the most overrated player in a poll of fellow NHLers. The slight may be due to the Toronto Maple Leaf captain’s bloated $6.5-million annual salary. Or it might be rooted in envy: Phaneuf is having a good season, after all, with 28 points over 44 games, and he’s clearly won over the people who matter—the fans and his boss. Toronto GM Brian Burke invited any player who voted in the poll to come discuss the matter with Phaneuf this weekend—at the all-star game in Ottawa.


The owner of the Ambassador Bridge—the most heavily used link between Canada and the United States—landed behind bars last week at the ripe age of 84. Matty Moroun and his right-hand man, Dan Stamper, were jailed for refusing to complete ramps from the bridge, which runs between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, and nearby expressways. The holdup stems from a long-running dispute between Maroun’s Detroit International Bridge Company (yes, it’s possible to buy a bridge) and the Michigan Department of Transportation, both of which had agreed to build parts of the project. The company, however, constructed a ramp that carries traffic past its lucrative duty-free stores and fuel pumps, which the state said was not part of the plan. Moroun, a billionaire, spent about 30 hours in Wayne County jail before his lawyers got him out, pending an appeal.

Please pixelate

Canadian women might be allowed to breastfeed in public, but a glimpse of areola is evidently too much for Facebook. The social networking site took down a photo showing Vancouver mom Emma Kwasnica feeding her daughter Chloe, and suspended the 33-year-old’s account for three days. The online giant claimed the snap ran afoul of its policies on “obscenity, nudity and sexually explicit content”—even though Kwasnica was fully dressed in the picture, save the exposed breast. “Facebook is trying to find that balance with respecting everyone’s values,” a company spokeswoman explained. Odd, because Facebook just finished apologizing to a North Carolina woman who confronted them over the same issue. Says Kwasnica: “So American women are allowed to post breastfeeding photos, and Canadian women aren’t?”

Curtain call

David Letterman idolized Johnny Carson, and it appears he’ll get the chance to surpass the Tonight Show host as history’s longest-running late-night talk man. Letterman is reportedly close to a two-year contract extension with CBS, and if he remains on the air past the end of 2012, he’ll scoop Johnny’s 30-season record. Great news for Dave, but it does invite a question: what will CBS do when its gap-toothed funnyman hangs ’em up for good?

Scout’s honour

A rebellious Girl Scout from California is advocating a boycott of Girl Scout cookies in the U.S. because the organization has admitted a transgendered child to a troop in Colorado. “Girl Scouts describes itself as an all-girl experience,” the 14-year-old known only as Taylor said in a YouTube video. “With that label, families trust that the girls will be in an environment that is not only nurturing and sensitive to girls’ needs, but also safe for girls.” Taylor didn’t elaborate on her safety concerns, and her video has since been taken down. Yet her cookie boycott goes on, backed by a group calling itself Honest Girl Scouts, which claims the organization has been hijacked by pro-abortion and gay rights advocates.

Straight to the point

Anti-gay protesters who showed up to the Golden Globe Awards probably expected a rejoinder from the makers of Modern Family, a show that features a long-time gay couple. But the response from Julie Bowen, the glamorous 41-year-old who plays Claire Dunphy on the show, was a rhetorical shot to the heart. Gesturing to her openly homosexual co-star,? Jesse Tyler Ferguson, she said: “I come from a long line of straight, white Republicans who don’t like people like this. But even they like this show. In country clubs all across America, the doors are cracking open.” The minds of Hollywood’s foreign critics, of course, swung ajar long ago. This year they voted Modern Family the best comedy on television.

What lies beneath

Tina Maze, a Slovenian alpine skier, mocked uptight race officials over the weekend by flashing her sports bra on the podium following a World Cup super-G event in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Scrawled on the undergarment: “Not your business.” Maze was upset because authorities had demanded she turn over a set of long underwear she wears beneath her racing suit, so they could determine whether the garment gave her an unfair aerodynamic advantage. The officials were acting on a tip from Maze’s Swiss competitors, but the skivvies passed muster. And Maze got the last laugh by finishing third and seizing the chance to reveal her brassiere-born missive. “Girls just want to have fun,” she shrugged afterwards. “I like to have fun also.”

Southern hospitality

Turns out there is such a thing as a get-out-of-jail-free card. And you could get one last week in, of all places, Mississippi. On his last day in office, Gov. Haley Barbour issued an astounding 193 criminal pardons—many to convicts who had done odd jobs around the governor’s mansion while in custody. Five of the lucky recipients were murderers. Not surprisingly, the Republican governor has been taking heat from victims’ families, and from state Democrats, who are demanding oversight in the pardon process. Barbour’s predecessor, after all, served up only one pardon, to a man who had been convicted of marijuana possession.

Parental advisory

They say fatherhood changes a man, and none more so than the rapper Jay-Z, who has pledged to drop the word “bitch” from his rap lyrics after his wife, Beyoncé Knowles, gave birth to a girl. “Now with my daughter in this world I curse those that give [the label],” Jay-Z wrote in a poem to his baby, Blue Ivy. No word on how he plans to replace the offending lyric, though.

Sins of the father

Laura Kaeppeler won Miss America this week by taking up the cause of children with incarcerated parents, saying the experience “doesn’t have to define you.” The 23-year-old from Kenosha, Wisc., knew of what she spoke: in the mid 2000s, her father Jeff spent 18 months behind bars for mail fraud.

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