Son of a Terminator, Big Brother is driving you and Just another self-hating Canadian

This week’s Newsmakers

It’s coal in your stocking, bucko
Santa shook like a bowl full of Jell-O at the Southlake Mall in suburban Atlanta, but not in a good way. Police in Morrow, Ga., say 45-year-old William C. Caldwell III dressed as an elf and waited an hour in line to have his picture taken with St. Nick. When he reached the man in red, Caldwell, looking very elfin at five feet tall and 108 lb., said he was packing dynamite in his bags. Santa called security. The mall was evacuated but no explosives were found. The naughty elf faces a variety of charges and the prospect of Christmas behind bars.

The other shoe drops
Two Iraqi journalists are now one shoe short of a pair. Muntazer al-Zaidi, who famously chucked a shoe at former U.S. president George W. Bush, has himself become a target of flying footwear. Zaidi was speaking at a news conference in Paris when an exiled Iraqi journalist, arguing in favour of U.S. policy, hurled a shoe at Zaidi. Zaidi’s outraged brother attempted to rough up the fleeing journalist, who wasn’t immediately identified. And Zaidi later complained, “He stole my technique.”

Son of a Terminator
If the rumours are true, Tallulah Willis, 15, is dating Patrick Schwarzenegger, 16. Doesn’t that have the makings of the ultimate teen-romance action flick? Willis shares her time with daddy Bruce Willis, and with mom Demi Moore and her hubby Ashton Kutcher. And Schwarzenegger’s dad, Arnold, is the governator of California. The New York Post says the pair started dating at Halloween. A rep for Bruce Willis denies it, but dads are always the last to know.

Booze: the drinking man’s defence
The outcome of two alcohol-related tragedies raised public ire in B.C. this week. More than a year after he struck and killed 21-year-old motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson while driving home from a party, RCMP Cpl. Benjamin “Monty” Robinson has escaped with a charge of obstruction of justice. How? Robinson identified himself at the accident scene, then took his children home. He said he had a couple of drinks before returning. As a result, the Crown found it lacked evidence for a more serious charge of impaired driving causing death. Robinson is one of the four Mounties involved in the Tasering death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. In an unrelated case, a driver who killed two women and injured seven by plowing his truck into a sushi restaurant in Maple Ridge last year goes free Jan. 15, after three months in a mental health facility. Brian Irving was found not criminally responsible because of delirium caused by alcohol withdrawal. A review board ruled he no longer poses a risk.

Big Brother is driving you
A bit of braggadocio from Victoria police Chief Jamie Graham has raised questions about Olympic security tactics. Graham was speaking at the recent Vancouver International Security Conference when he referred to the hundreds of protesters who snarled traffic in the B.C. capital and disrupted the start of the Olympic torch run on Oct. 31. Graham told the crowd many of the protesters came from the Lower Mainland on the ferry in a rented bus, “and there was [an undercover] cop driving.” The comments, reported by Vancouver’s 24 Hours newspaper, played into the hands of critics who claim the Olympics are turning B.C. into a police state. “These officers can play spy games and make jokes about it, but we are serious about civil liberties and social justice,” said Zoe Blunt, a protest organizer.

Since he’s practically doing the job already
The most frustrating job in Russia must be that of President Dmitry Medvedev. While he has the title, much of the clout and prestige rests with his dynamic predecessor, Vladimir Putin. Putin was president from 2000 to 2008, but constitutional limits prevented a third consecutive term. Instead, Putin endorsed Medvedev, who won the election and appointed Putin as prime minister. Now Putin is suggesting he may seek the presidency in the 2012 elections. “There is plenty of time,” he said. And no rush to decide; he already has the profile and the power.

What would Alex P. Keaton say?
Actress Meredith Baxter had three marriages and five children before she had a “later-in-life recognition” that she was a lesbian. The 62-year-old told the Today Show her past life wasn’t living a lie. “This has only been in the past seven years.” Baxter starred in the hit 1980s TV series Family Ties. She played Elyse Keaton, loving mom to uptight conservative son Alex, played by Michael J. Fox. She says her children and friends have supported her, as did actor Michael Gross, who played her TV hubby. “She’s one of my favourite people in the world,” said Gross, “and I’m just thrilled that it’s no longer a secret.” Baxter lives with Nancy Locke, a building contractor.

Guilty, guilty, guilty
Amanda Knox burst into tears after an Italian jury found the 22-year-old Seattle exchange student guilty of murdering her British roommate, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. The verdict ended an 11-month trial that captivated the international media. The wholesome-looking Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were variously portrayed as innocent victims or crazed murderers. Kercher was killed for refusing to participate in a drug-fuelled sex game with the couple and another assailant, prosecutors said. All three are appealing their guilty verdicts.

Just another self-hating Canadian?
Not that we’re bragging, but a recent Newsmakers headline (“Colbert? Sounds French-Canadian, non?”) turned out to be spot on. It seems Stephen Colbert, the all-American satirical right-wing pundit, has Canadian relatives: a great, great-grandfather and a great, great-grandmother, says Karen Peterson of the website Colbert, who frequently says mean, hurtful things about Canadians on his show The Colbert Report, has been quiet about his family’s shameful past. He has said he’ll head north in February as a sponsor of the American Olympic speed skating team. He has accepted the lighthearted offer from Richmond, B.C., to be the “ombudsman” of the Olympic oval there. “I have no idea what an ombudsman is, but as long as it requires no effort from me, I proudly accept,” he told viewers.

Guess KISS wouldn’t fare so well then
Three staples of Western television—makeup, “abnormal” music and unruly children—are now banned on Iran’s state television, under an edict by broadcasting head Ezzatollah Zarghami. Female broadcasters will be taken off the air if they wear makeup, which Zarghami considers illegal. There will be a “lowering and refining of music,” he told managers, and there “should be no insulting of family elders by children.” Perhaps it’s no surprise Iran’s makeup-wearing urban middle class is tuning into Western-backed, Farsi-language satellite channels.

Now, that’s handy
Pierpaolo Petruzziello lost his left forearm in a car crash, but for one remarkable month he said it felt as if it had grown back. The 26-year-old Italian was the first person to use a robotic hand controlled by thought. “It felt almost the same as a real hand,” he told a news conference in Rome. The device was temporarily connected by electrodes; the robotics must be miniaturized before a hand can be permanently attached. Still, the medical team was pleased with the range of motion. “Some of the gestures cannot be disclosed because they were quite vulgar,” joked neurosurgeon Paolo Maria Rossini. A French-Italian team performed the first transplant of a human hand in 1998. It had to be removed after 23 months but subsequent attempts have been successful.

Garth’s perfect vehicle
Disgraced Livent theatre impresario Garth Drabinsky is back in business, working on a Canadian tour of Finian’s Rainbow as well as revivals of two of his past hits, the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman and Barrymore. The latter would open in Toronto in 2011 (by which time Drabinsky could be behind bars) before moving to London’s West End, with Christopher Plummer reprising his role. Drabinsky is free while appealing a seven-year sentence for fraud in the collapse of his theatre empire. In that context Barrymore is an apt choice. The one-man show is a darkly comic tale of the attempted comeback by John Barrymore, the brilliant stage actor laid low by alcohol and a chaotic love life. Drabinsky’s vice, the court decided, was creative accounting.

Lock your doors this Christmas; you just never know if Tareq and Michaele Salahi will crash the festivities. After the reality show wannabes famously barged into a White House state dinner, it emerged they’d arrived uninvited in September at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation awards dinner, too. And Michaele snuck into an alumni performance of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders to shake her pom poms and stumble through the routine. (There’s no evidence she was ever on the squad.) Court documents also show they owe US$13,000 in liquor they ordered for a celebrity polo match.

Ringing in the Olympic season
Canadian winter athletes don’t yet Own the Podium, as their elite funding program is called, but they made a big down payment on the World Cup circuit last weekend. Speed skater Denny Morrison scored two bronzes, and a silver in the team pursuit. It was bronze medals for the luge duo (and brothers) Chris and Mike Moffatt, and for Lyndon Rush and his bobsled crew of Chris Le Bihan, Dan Humphries and Lascelles Brown. Skier Emily Brydon won a silver and bronze in two downhill events. Canada’s women speed skaters dominated. Kristina Groves took gold in the 1,500-m race, as did Christine Nesbitt in the 1,000-m. Nesbitt also earned bronze in the 1,500-m. The two combined with Brittany Schussler for gold, and a world record, in the team pursuit. After, the three were fitted for world record rings, but it’s the Olympic rings that remain their focus.