Newsmakers: Sept. 29-Oct.6

Kobe Bryant says arrivederci to the NBA, South Africa spoils Desmond Tutu’s birthday, and the banana tosser is charged


Graham/NBA/Getty Images

Knox walks

Amanda Knox was whisked home to Seattle shortly after an Italian court overturned the 24-year-old’s conviction in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox’s boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also freed; a third defendant, Rudy Guede, remains in jail. Once home, Knox, who was offered complimentary champagne on board her British Airways flight, will reportedly enjoy a 21st birthday party she never had. Her sister Deanna is also planning a more low-key outing: “We’re going to go down to Lincoln Park, which is right by our house,” she told ABC News. “We’re going to sit in the middle of the park and paint.”

Buddhist grounded

All Archbishop Desmond Tutu wanted for his 80th birthday was a visit from the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, South Africa’s prolonged hedging over whether or not to grant His Holiness the necessary visa forced Tutu to cancel his party this week. It is widely suspected the South African leadership is reluctant to do anything that might complicate its strengthening ties with China, to which it exports $5.5 billion in mineral resources annually, and which views the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan government-in-exile as a separatist movement. “You are disgraceful. You are behaving in a way that is totally at variance with the things for which we stood,” said Tutu, rapping the African National Congress government, which received global support in its fight to end apartheid. “I really can’t believe it. I mean, the Dalai Lama!”

X marks the spot

Two Canadian premiers were re-elected with solid majorities this week. P.E.I.’s Robert Ghiz—son of Joe, who served two terms as the province’s premier from 1986 to 1993—won a second term in office. But he lost two cabinet ministers, including Allan Campbell; the innovation minister oversaw the province’s immigration program, which was marred by allegations of bribery. Greg Selinger, meanwhile, gave the NDP their fourth straight majority in Manitoba.

Who brings a banana to the rink?

Police in London, Ont., charged 26-year-old Chris Moorhouse with “engaging in a prohibited activity” last week, after he tossed a banana onto the ice during an NHL exhibition game. The flying fruit came as the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds, an African Canadian, was skating in on goal during a shootout. Moorhouse’s lawyer says he was “unaware of the racial overtones of his actions.” But even his own grandmother is appalled. “Who would do a thing like that?,” she asked London’s AM980 News.

Queen for a day

Freddie Mercury died in 1991, but he lives on in Marc Martel. The former Montrealer, a Bible college grad, who now fronts Downhere, a U.S.-based Christian rock group, shot to Internet fame for his spot-on impersonation of the late glam rocker. His eerily perfect video cover of Somebody to Love has racked up hundreds of thousands of hits in just a few weeks. Submitted as an audition for a Queen tribute band being formed by the group’s drummer, Roger Taylor, it hits all the right notes—right down to the cheesy moustache Martel grew for the video.

Communist party seeks capitalist token

China’s most successful capitalist appears set to become one of its most powerful Communists. With a net worth estimated at $9.3 billion, Liang Wengen, founder of Sany Group, China’s largest producer of heavy machinery, has reportedly been tapped to join China’s powerful Central Committee. The Communist party body oversees all major decisions in China, and Liang, China’s richest man, would be the first private businessman to join its ranks—a move likely meant to reassure China’s embattled private sector.

No angling exceptionalism

Two years ago, Eugene Langan, a Saskatchewan-born Metis man living in Manitoba, was busted for fishing without a licence at Lake of the Prairies, Sask. In fighting the charge, Langan argued that, per the Constitution, he had a right to fish for food. But delving deep into the historical record, Yorkton provincial court Judge Ross Green ruled that, since no Aboriginal community had existed in the area prior to European control, Langan was guilty as charged.

Even Gisele makes mistakes

Gisele Bündchen, a working mother of one who is tapped to become the world’s first billionaire supermodel, hardly seems the poster girl for sexism. But Brazil’s most famous export has appalled her homeland with a new lingerie campaign. In the ads, the 31-year-old confesses to her better half in the “right way”—while wearing racy underwear—that she crashed his car, maxed out his credit cards and invited her mom to stay. Government officials are calling for the “sexist” and “stereotyped” ads to be axed.

Kobe goes home

L.A. Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant appears to have jumped at the chance to follow in his dad’s footsteps, and recoup some of the $25 million he stands to lose if the NBA lockout cancels the coming season. Italy’s Virtus Bologna last week reached a verbal agreement to pay Bryant $3 million for 10 games, starting on Oct. 9. When Kobe was six, his dad, former Philadelphia 76ers power forward Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, moved the family to Italy after his NBA career ended. “It’s a second home for him,” said the elder Bryant, who now coaches the WNBA’s L.A. franchise. “He still has a lot of good friends there.”


After a rare break from Twitter, during which he made news for staying in a US$16,000-per-night New York hotel suite to attend the United Nations General Assembly, Rwandan President Paul Kagame returned to the messaging service with a flourish last week. In a series of posts, the prolific tweeter revelled in the British phone-hacking scandal and mocked those Western nations that hypocritically lecture Africa about issues such as women’s rights and democracy. “I have read about and listened directly to people giving us lessons/instructions on what to do”—something, he wrote, “they don’t practise themselves.” Expect more angry tweeting from the president’s office now that a French court has ruled that Agathe Habyarimana will not be extradited to Rwanda. Rwandan prosecutors want Habyarimana, the widow of the late Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, in connection with the genocide that killed 800,000 in 1994.

Not out of the woods yet

Dominique Strauss-Kahn avoided prosecution on charges that he raped a Manhattan hotel maid, but the former head of the International Monetary Fund still has a long way to go before he can clear his name. Last week, he met with French police who questioned him about a French author’s claims that the 62-year-old attacked her like a “rutting chimpanzee” in 2003. Tristane Banon, 32, the alleged victim, was present during the 2½-hour meeting—as is permitted under French law. “I thought he would excuse himself,” Banon later told France’s TF1. “He didn’t even look at me. He kept repeating it’s imaginary.”

Hiding in plain sight

After 41 years on the run, convicted murderer, escapee and hijacker George Wright was arrested in Portugal last week. The former Black Panther militant, who busted out of a New Jersey jail in 1970 and went on to help commandeer a flight to Algeria, had been living quietly in a seaside village with his wife and two kids. It was a fingerprint for a government ID card that finally tripped him up. Although it seems he could have been caught decades ago. In the 1980s, Wright did contract work for the U.S. Embassy in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, where he socialized with embassy officials, and lived openly under his given name. “No one imagined him being a murderer,” John Blacken, the former U.S. envoy to Guinea-Bissau, told the Associated Press. “Of course we didn’t know him that well. He seemed like an ordinary person—not radical at all.”

Another strike for the drone strategy

Al-Qaeda appears to have yet another opening in management. U.S. authorities are reporting that American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike against his mountain hideout in Yemen. Tagged “Terrorist No. 1,” the 40-year-old is said to have had a direct hand in several major plots, including the Christmas 2009 attempt to blow up a jet with a bomb hidden in a man’s underwear. His fiery speeches are also popular on the Web and said to be a major recruiting tool for the group. Another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, the publisher of the terrorist group’s in-house magazine Inspire, is also said to have died in the attack.

Too brazen for Belfast?

It’s a rare fellow who would complain about a sexy songstress undressing on the doorstep. But Alan Graham, a Northern Ireland farmer, worries about appearances. Rihanna was forced to flee his pasture after the 61-year-old interrupted filming of a promo for We Found Love to tell her to cover up.

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