McCain v. Bush, Canada’s old torch, and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s stimulus plan

Newsmakers of the week

Michael BryantIn a Toronto minute
Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant was charged on Tuesday with criminal negligence causing death after an altercation he was involved in Monday night ended in tragedy. Bryant had allegedly been driving his black convertible Saab in Toronto’s swanky Yorkville neighbourhood around 9:45 p.m. when he collided with a cyclist, 34-year-old Darcy Allen Sheppard, and an argument ensued. Witnesses told police that at one point the cyclist hung onto the driver’s side of the car while the driver swerved into the oncoming lane, sped up, and drove up onto the curb in an effort to shake the cyclist off. Eventually, the cyclist let go after hitting a mailbox. He fell off the car in front of Sephora, the cosmetics emporium, with severe head trauma, and died later that night. Leaving the police department on Tuesday afternoon, Bryant tearfully made a brief public statement: “I want to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Sheppard,” he said.

Apparently, not even the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve is safe from identity theft. Last week, officials revealed that Ben Bernanke and his wife, Anna, were victims of identity theft last year when Anna’s purse was stolen from a Starbucks in Washington. “Our family was but one of 500 separate instances traced to one crime ring,” Bernanke said. In fact, identity theft has become so rampant that it even happens right under the government’s nose. In Miami, a former government “hacker hunter” stands accused of committing the largest cases of identity theft in U.S. history. Albert Gonzales, 28, is alleged to have stolen more than 170 million credit card and debit card numbers. First arrested for hacking in 2003, Gonzales managed to avoid punishment by agreeing to become a Secret Service informant. For the past five years, he has allegedly divided his time between hacking into the systems of Fortune 500 companies and stealing information, and helping the feds bust other hackers. Gonzales is currently negotiating a plea bargain. “My client is extremely remorseful as to what has happened,” his lawyer told the Associated Press.

Jenna HagerBush and McCain— the next generation
NBC’s Today show has a new special correspondent—Jenna Hager, née Bush, the 27-year-old daughter of former U.S. president George W. Bush. According to Hager, a schoolteacher who now lives with her husband in Baltimore, being a TV personality “wasn’t something I’d always dreamed to do, but I think one of the most important things in life is to be open-minded and to be open-minded to change.” Her reports, which will appear monthly, will not cover politics. “I hope to focus on what I’m passionate about because I think I’d do the best job on them—education, urban education, women and children’s issues and literacy,” she said. Also set to appear on network television this fall is Meghan McCain, the extroverted daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain. On Sept. 9, McCain will co-host The View for three days, one of several women tapped to sub-in for Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who will be out on maternity leave. McCain first made an impression on the show last March, when she invited conservative media pundit Laura Ingraham, who had called her plus-sized, to “kiss my fat ass!”

Private matters
Brian Bowman, a Winnipeg-based privacy lawyer, is seeking to unveil the anonymous writer behind an opinionated blog about Ottawa city politics—Zeromeans­zero—on behalf of a client who, notably, prefers to remain anonymous. Bowman told CFRA radio that the blog published “false and damaging” stories about his client, including accusing the client of having “done things when [he or she] were not in the province at the time.” He wants the courts to force Google to reveal the author’s name, like the American courts did recently in a case waged by Canadian model Liskula Cohen over a blog called Skanks in NYC, which she said had defamed her. But Canadian courts tend to be more strict on privacy matters. Ottawa city councillor Peter Hume told the Ottawa Citizen that he and most of his colleagues are occasionally zinged by the blog. His feeling is that the blogger should be handled like a parent might advise a 10-year-old to deal with the school bully. “Maybe if we all ignore it, it would go away,” he said.

Abdul Qadeer KhanRoaming rights
Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan—revered in his country for pioneering Pakistan’s atomic bomb—was granted freedom of movement on Friday after spending five years under house arrest for selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Khan confessed to the crime on television after the U.S. presented then-president Pervez Musharraf with evidence that Khan was wrapped up in a “nuclear black market.” In the past year, however, Khan has withdrawn his confession, saying that Musharraf had promised to protect him in exchange for his taking the fall. “It is excellent and heartwarming and very gratifying,” Khan told reporters of the decision. “I think the people who have been involved in playing mischief with me will get the message and allow me to live a peaceful, private life as a citizen.”

Laura DekkerSail, interrupted
Last Friday, a panel of three Dutch judges nixed 13-year-old Laura Dekker’s plan, with her father’s permission, to become the youngest person to ever sail around the world solo. Laura, who sails a 26-foot yacht dubbed “Guppy,” had intended to cast off this week. Instead, the judges placed the girl under temporary state care. “This case is about whether the government . . . can restrict the broad freedom parents have in bringing up and caring for their children,” said Judge M. Oostendorp. The court will make its final ruling on Oct. 26. The delay will also buy Laura some time to consider whether she’s really up to a two-year solo journey. The current titleholder, 17-year-old Mike Perham of the U.K., told the Associated Press, “it’s whether she’s got the physical strength, the mental strength and the technical ability. You know, can she strip an engine blindfolded? You know, can she build boats, is she an electrician, is she a mechanic as well? Because you can’t just be a sailor to do a trip like this.”

Mary Kate and Ashley OlsenClothes calls
According to the New York Times, former child stars Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, 23, have successfully transformed themselves into couture fashion designers, seemingly overnight, with their recently launched label, The Row. Sales are around US$10 million. “I don’t think anybody really cares that it’s Mary Kate and Ashley’s collection,” one fashion director said. “They’re buying it because they like it.” On the other hand, British animal rights activist Heather Mills, 41, the ex-wife of Beatle Paul McCartney, is not faring as well in her attempt to give her former stepdaughter, designer Stella McCartney, a little competition. Last week, Mills unveiled her new fashion collection called Be@one, made entirely of recycled pieces, at a star-studded charity event in Hollywood. “Society throws away over a million tonnes of clothing and textiles into rubbish bins annually,” she said. “Many of these items could be resold or remade into something new and exciting.” Unfortunately, for fashion critics, this wasn’t it. The U.K.’s Daily Mail was horrified by the collection’s “clown pants,” and “figure-frumping black knee-length jumpsuit.” The Guardian issued a warning: may cause “ocular bleeding.”

Arnold Schwar zeneggerCalifornia, for a steal
California Gov. Arnold Schwar­zenegger has found a novel way to raise funds for the cash-strapped state: the Great California Garage Sale. Six thousand items—including used cars, computers, belt buckles and ceramics—will be auctioned off on Craigslist and eBay, with proceeds going to offsetting the state’s US$26-billion deficit. Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has autographed the sun visors of some of the cars for sale, said the garage sale is a “win-win for the state and for shoppers. Together we are eliminating waste and providing great deals in a tough economy.”

Robbie AresnaultHow to tell when it’s time for a new torch
Robbie Arsenault, an 11-year-old boy from P.E.I., was selected recently to be among the runners carrying the official Canada Games torch from Tignish to Alberton. But the thrill of a lifetime turned into a disaster when the wind came along and blew hot wax from the torch into the boy’s face and he had to be rushed to hospital to be treated for burns. Robbie was not the only runner who reported torch-related burns. “Something should be done about that torch,” Robbie’s father, Mike Arsenault, told CBC News. “I don’t know if he’ll be scarred for life, but it’s clearing up good now. But we thought we should mention it in case somebody else done it and it happened again. Somebody got it in the eye, it wouldn’t be very nice.” Nicole Phillips, a representative for the Games, said the organization had been using the same torch since 1967, and that it is “really looking at passing on strong recommendations” that someone, somewhere examine the safety of torch. Robbie was given a new Canada Games T-shirt to replace his first one, which was covered in wax.

Twitter memorials
Celebrity denizens of the Twitterverse had plenty to say about the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy last week. Among those who weighed in with solemn tweets were “gossip gang-star” Perez Hilton, R & B crooner John Legend and American Idol winner David Cook. Hip-hop mogul Diddy delivered a mournful shout-out: “We gonna miss you uncle Teddy! RIP!!!” As did ’90s rapper MC Hammer: “I will always remember him with Love, Respect and Kindness, a Man of great conviction and compassion. SALUTE.” And of course, Twitter habitué Demi Moore: “My heart goes out to the Kennedy-Shriver family.” Puerto Rican heartthrob Ricky Martin proffered a tweet in Spanish: “R.I.P. Edward Kennedy que escanse en paz.”