A real underdog Baseball story, Elizabeth May searches for a riding, and Brad Pitt: joint artist

Newsmakers of the week

Hastings All-StarsLeague of their own
The Hastings All-Stars swept five games and outscored their opponents 82-15 to win the Canadian Little League Championships in Val-d’Or, Que., on Saturday. The score, however, belies the backstory of this gritty team from blue-collar East Vancouver. The 11 boys and a girl (Katie Reyes, who homered in the final game) share one overbooked ball diamond with 22 teams. Money is so tight, some players’ fees were covered by KidSport, which helps low-income athletes. Now they’re off to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Their first game will be broadcast on ESPN on Aug. 22.

Elizabeth May-be
Green party Leader Elizabeth May is testing the waters, and patience, of party members as she searches the country for a winnable riding. She previously ran unsuccessfully in 2006 in the London North Centre by-election. Then, it was a suicide mission against Tory Peter MacKay in Central Nova. And now, determined to get into the Commons, she has chosen the riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. At least that’s what she implied last week, when she told local media it was “definitely tempting” to run there. The more likely spot is the left-coast riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. Local media report she is house hunting in Sidney, B.C. “My heart is here,” she said of the seaside community, “but I just want to make sure.”

Usain BoltBolt’s the name. Bolt’s the game.
How fast is Usain Bolt? In the time it takes to read these two sentences, the Jamaican sprinter ran 100 m at the Berlin World Championships Sunday. His 9.58-second romp chopped an astonishing 0.11 seconds off his own world record, set a year ago at the Beijing Olympics. This time there was no showboating, just an awesome display of fluid grace and pure speed. On Tuesday, Bolt also easily advanced in the 200-m event. The finals were to be run Thursday. Many sports experts had predicted it would be decades before a human reached the speed Bolt clocked in Berlin. For instance, American Jim Hines ran 9.95 at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. It took 28 years, and a series of incremental improvements, before Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan Bailey pared 0.11 seconds off Hines’ time. Back in 1930, the world record was held by Canadian Percy Williams. His time, 10.3 seconds, now wouldn’t even qualify him for a world-class race. As for the next leap forward in human performance? Perhaps as soon as Bolt’s next race.

DeLay dances back from career death
Reality TV is to reality what the undead are to death. This may explain why so many celebs suffering career rigor mortis spring to second life on prime-time TV. The latest and most unlikely example is Tom DeLay, the former Republican House majority leader. The 62-year-old Texan will appear on the new season of Dancing With the Stars along with such luminaries as Donny Osmond (whose sister Marie famously fainted on a previous season) and ex-NFL star Michael Irvin. DeLay should keep the show in line: he was known as “the Hammer” for his methods of enforcing party discipline. Still, he’ll be dancing under a cloud. He was forced from the House in 2006 after he was charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws. The case has yet to go to trial. Dancing in front of a jury? Should be good practice.

Sgt.GanderRemembering Sgt.Gander, dog of war
Frightened Japanese soldiers called him the “black devil.” But to members of the Royal Rifles of Canada fighting in Hong Kong, “Sgt.” Gander, their giant Newfoundland dog, was their guardian angel. Their mascot was not only a loyal companion, he was a fierce fighter, repelling advancing Japanese soldiers on several occasions as they invaded Hong Kong in December 1941. In his last heroic act, Gander grabbed a grenade in his jaws, and was carrying it away from wounded Canadians and back toward the enemy lines when it exploded. Last weekend some of the surviving Hong Kong veterans unveiled a granite monument in Ottawa. It carries the names of some 1,975 Canadian men and women who served there, and one remarkable dog.

RCMP in New Brunswick say a woman’s fantastic tale of being forced to drive 14 hours to Toronto while a mysterious tattooed hijacker held her at gunpoint is a hoax. Marcia Simmons, 44, of Noonan, N.B., went missing from her home on Aug. 8, and resurfaced the next day in Ontario. She told police that a man had jumped into her car at a local campground, and kept her hostage behind the wheel, ultimately setting her free three hours after they arrived in the Big Smoke. Although she provided investigators with a highly detailed description—right down to the brand of clothes the assailant was wearing, and the distinctive stars tattooed on his neck—some things never rang true. “I don’t know any man who can spend 17 hours without a pee,” RCMP Sgt. David Vautour, told reporters. It’s still unclear why Simmons made up the tale, but she may face mischief charges.

Prince William and Kate MiddletonA royal wedding ‘understanding’
A royal wedding would be a nice diversion for recession-weary Brits. They may get their wish, though not soon, if the latest rumours surrounding Prince William and Kate Middleton are more accurate than the 10,000 previous rumours. News of the World reports that the two, together for almost eight years now, have reached an “understanding.” The paper defines the understanding as leading toward marriage, but falling short of an actual engagement. Both are 27 and the potential bride is amassing nicknames from “Waitie Katie” to “Kate Middle-aged.” Timing is everything. The prince is heavily booked through 2010 with royal tours to South Africa and Australia and his training as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. Most expect the deed to be done before 2012 so as not to interfere with London’s Summer Olympic Games, and grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee of her reign. The betting is on 2011, but don’t order the roses just yet.

The wrath of Khan
Shah Rukh Khan is one of India’s most famous men, but apparently that doesn’t cut him any slack with U.S. border agents. The 43-year-old Bollywood heartthrob was detained and questioned for two hours when he arrived at Newark Airport earlier this month, on his way to an Indian Independence Day parade in Chicago. Initially, he complained about the aggressive interrogation in a text message to reporters. “I was really hassled, perhaps because of my name being Khan.” And his detention has provoked outrage back home. But Khan later said the agents were just doing their job—although he plans to limit future travel to the U.S. Coincidentally—or not—his next film is about an innocent Muslim man detained by U.S. authorities in the wake of 9/11. The timing has led some to suggest Khan’s complaints were a publicity stunt, something he denies. “I don’t want to sound pompous but Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t need publicity stunts to be in the public eye,” he says.

Bob DylanTangled up in blue
A red-faced Long Branch, N.J., police rookie is living down her run-in with folk/rock legend and all-around-eccentric Bob Dylan. She responded after neighbours reported a suspicious man standing in the rain, peering into an empty house. The shabbily dressed 68-year-old said he was out for a walk. He had no ID and the name and face meant nothing to officer Kristie Buble. When the old gent said he was headlining that night at a concert with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, well, it was time for a ride in the cruiser. Tour staff at Dylan’s hotel sorted out the mess. Now comes speculation that Dylan was seeking out the nearby boy­hood home of Bruce Spring­steen. He has explored the roots of other influential rock stars, including arriving unannounced at the former Winnipeg home of Neil Young.

Céline DionCéline’s titanic news
Canadian songstress Céline Dion is with child. The 41-year-old and her 67-year-old husband, René Angélil, reportedly conceived with the help of a team of New York fertility specialists. The high-powered pair already have an eight-year-old son, René-Charles, but Angélil’s recent battle with cancer had put the idea of additional offspring in doubt. Regardless, the new prince or princess should be well-provided for. Forbes recently ranked Dion No. 3 on its list of top-earning women in Hollywood, and last year’s world tour earned her an impressive US$235 million. Time to break out the maternity wear. Or in Q-tip-thin Céline’s case, size two.

The dirt on Andrews
ESPN’s college football sidelines reporter Erin Andrews became an unwitting Internet sensation when a wacko used a hidden pinhole camera to film her naked in a hotel room. Now she’s gotten dirty in front of the camera on her own terms. A photo spread in GQ magazine has the Atlanta-based Andrews dressed in football garb, slathered in mud and surrounded by a dressing room full of equally grubby players. Try as she might, she doesn’t look like one of the guys.

Brad PittAnother celebrity puff piece
It seems Brad Pitt had a past relationship that made his eyes “glaze over.” No, it wasn’t with Jennifer Aniston; it was with the demon weed. Last Friday Pitt had a sit-down with HBO’s Real Time host Bill Maher, ostensibly to flog his latest movie Inglourious Basterds. Things veered off topic as Maher recalled a New Year’s Eve party where he witnessed Pitt rolling “the most perfect” joint he had ever seen. “I’m an artist,” Pitt replied. But now, with six kids and partner Angelina Jolie to contend with, Pitt has put such things behind him, he said. Pot left him bored and isolated. “I was turning into a damn doughnut.” Mmm, doughnuts.