Newsmakers: July 8 – July 14, 2011

Anthony Galea pleads guilty, Bieber fever starts to wane, and a lost dog finally makes it home

The incredible journey

Photo by Charles William Pelletier

The incredible journey

One lucky Montreal family finally got their dog back last week after an amazing, year-long adventure that took the pup 4,500 km across the country. Pollux, a black Lab cross who escaped from her east-end Montreal home last June, turned up in Kamloops, B.C., where, last week, the SPCA found a microchip implant registered to her vet. No one is sure how exactly Pollux travelled so far, but her owner, Isabelle Robitaille, thinks she might have jumped on a train to avoid the rain, since she’s scared of water. Robitaille let her kids, who cried themselves to sleep when she disappeared, stay up way past bedtime to welcome their beloved pooch home at the airport, where she was greeted with squeals. “For them, it’s a second Christmas,” Robitaille told the Montreal Gazette. “My son spent 45 minutes just petting her. He was so happy.”

A long road to another struggle

Just two nights after tossing the ball that led to the accidental death of firefighter Shannon Stone, Texas Rangers left-fielder Josh Hamilton hit a game-winning, two-run homer against the Oakland A’s. Hamilton, who was said to be “very distraught” after the tragedy, rounded the bases with his head down only to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as the home crowd hollered in support. After the game, Hamilton told reporters that his thoughts were with Stone’s family. The 39-year-old firefighter was at a Rangers game with his six-year-old son when Hamilton threw him a foul ball. The toss was short, and Stone fell to his death after leaning over the railing to catch it. This isn’t the first time Hamilton has faced adversity. Struggles with heroin and alcohol almost cost the all-star his career. What helps him get through it all? He’s a born-again Christian, and after Stone’s death, Hamilton stayed up all night talking with his wife, Katie.

A fitting tribute?

Admittedly, the rusting, run-down gazebo in downtown Montreal isn’t much to look at. So it’s no surprise the decision to rename the spray-painted, hobo hangout in honour of Mordecai Richler has drawn fire, both inside the city and out. Montreal, which announced the plan on the 10th anniversary of the death of the literary giant this week, intends to refurbish the dilapidated structure. And Florence, his widow, believes he would have been “delighted” by it—graffiti and all. It is “critical,” she explained this week, at a ceremony at City Hall, “and that was his nature.” Once refurbished, she added, “it will be splendid. I’m very pleased.”

No Bieber fever?

“Who knew 12-­year-olds didn’t buy magazines?” a Vanity Fair rep opined after the publication’s lipstick-smeared Justin Bieber cover tanked on newsstands. The issue, the magazine admitted this week, is one of its three worst sellers since 1992. It did as bad, in fact, as Will Smith’s 1999 Wild Wild West cover. Smith was pictured atop a black stallion promoting the film.

Will the capo go?

This, even for Silvio Berlusconi, proved too much. Italy’s billionaire prime minister mused publicly about retirement last week, after being forced to withdraw a proposed law aimed at saving his media company hundreds of millions of euros in legal penalties. Already under fire for his alleged “bunga bunga” sex parties, Berlusconi sparked outrage when he was caught slipping the provision into an otherwise austere budget bill. Coalition partners and even cabinet members told the Italian press they had no idea the law, which would have pushed back a bribery judgment against Berlusconi’s company by years or even decades, was coming. Berlusconi, who eventually withdrew the proposal, announced he would not seek re-election in 2013. More worrying for the country, however, is the future of its finance minister. Giulio Tremonti, who is widely credited with keeping Italy afloat during the euro debt crisis, has few allies inside government, and could soon be on the outs. With Italy’s public debt inching toward 120 per cent of GDP, the loss of the steady-handed fiscal whiz would be serious indeed.

Putin in minor key

As the old saying goes, it’s hard out there for a classical musician—especially, it seems, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Mikhail Arkadyev was, until recently, the conductor of Vladivostok’s Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Last week, however, he was unexpectedly informed his annual contract would not be renewed, due, he believes, to comments he made about Prime Minister Putin’s new political movement. The All-Russian People’s Front has been signing up members at a suspicious clip since Putin founded it earlier this year. But when the conductors’ union joined the burgeoning group without consulting its members, Arkadyev spoke out, calling the movement “odious and baneful” in an open letter. Soon after, he was out of a job.

Hello Toronto, bye-bye Tora Bora

Former CBC News chief Tony Burman has swapped the Qatari desert for Canadian soil after three years at the helm of Al Jazeera English. “I’ve been away for three years, including more than two years far, far away in the desert of the Gulf,” Burman told the Toronto Star. “I just thought it was time to return.” Burman’s return comes during a high point for the Doha-based network: AJE doubled its ratings and earned global attention for its unmatched coverage of the Egyptian uprisings. Burman will take on the role of the Velma Rogers Graham Research Chair at Ryerson University, where he’s set to teach a course on journalism and politics.

Good dog, bad cop

Vancouver Island RCMP is investigating one of its own: an off-duty Mountie who went fishing for three hours while his police dog panted furiously in a boiling hot SUV. The 10-month-old German shepherd was locked inside the vehicle at a B.C. marina last week, as outside temperatures hit 30° C. Marina staff called 911 when they saw the dog yelping in distress; onlookers covered the car with a tarp and sprayed it with cold water. “Police dogs are not exempt from dying in the heat,” said the SPCA’s Cory Bond, dismissing an officer’s claim that the dog was not at risk because it is trained to work in hot conditions. “They don’t have special powers that make them withstand succumbing to that heat.”

Danica trades up?

Of the 26 racers at the Toronto Honda Indy last week, none drew more hype and attention than Danica Patrick, the first woman ever to win an Indy race. But it may have been her last hoorah in the Big Smoke. Patrick, who makes an estimated $12 million per year, is expected to switch to the NASCAR circuit next year. Still, the Toronto Indy wasn’t all about her: Dan Aykroyd made headlines for having a little race of his own. The actor and comedian of Ghostbusters fame, who was serving as the Toronto Indy grand marshal, was pulled over for speeding on his way to the race.

The doctor is out

Would-be cheaters, heed these tales of woe: Canadian sports doctor Anthony Galea pleaded guilty this week to bringing performance-enhancing drugs into the U.S. to treat his athletes. The 52-year-old father of seven may face up to a year and a half in prison, and could be fined $250,000. Former Atlanta public schools superintendent Beverly Hall, meanwhile, apologized for her role in a much-publicized schools scandal. Teachers and educational officials were caught doctoring standardized test scores to give the illusion that the school district’s students were getting smarter. Hall, who won the 2009 Superintendent of the Year Award, has stepped down. Doctor and teachers, who can you trust?

Saleh speaks

A barely recognizable Ali Abdullah Saleh ignored doctor’s warnings last week, and made his first TV appearance since being injured in a bomb blast. Yemen’s president, who was hurt during anti-regime protests last month, spoke from a Saudi hospital, his face darkened from burns, his hands in bandages. “We will face challenge with challenge,” said the 69-year-old, though he did not mention plans to return home. Despite deadly protests raging across the country, Saleh is refusing to give up power, which he’s held for 33 years.

Too loud a solitude

For the past 11 years, Paul Harman has lived peacefully and alone in his South London council flat. But a new neighbour’s complaints about his humming—a side effect of his autism, the volume of which doctors say he can’t hear himself—may result in the eviction of the shy 40-year-old. Harman’s father Richard told Britain’s Sun that Paul is usually quiet, barring the occasional sitcom utterance (“Lovely jubbly” is a favourite). Apparently the flat’s council recorded one of Harman’s humming bouts on tape from the apartment below, to determine its volume, but refuse to share their findings. Harman, whose case will be heard next week, has yet to respond himself.

A picture of bravery

Amid warnings from Burma’s military junta that she curb her political activities, Aung San Suu Kyi left Rangoon this week, for the first time since her release. The last time the pro-democracy dissident left the city, in 2003, she was detained and kept under house arrest for seven years.

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