Speculation over which of his three wives newly elected South African President Jacob Zuma, 67, would bring to his inauguration ceremony was finally put to rest on Saturday when he turned up to the the $10.5-million affair with only his senior wife, Sizakele Khumalo, by his side. Polygamy is still common practice in rural KwaZulu Natal, where Zuma comes from. In fact, South African political analyst Protas Madlala told the BBC that Zuma will very likely bring all three wives on official foreign visits: “It may be to avoid antagonizing some of them he takes them all to state occasions,” he said. “Or he may rotate among them, like the nightly visits.”
Are you there, FBI?
Judy Blume, known for her angst-ridden teen novels like Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret and Forever, inadvertently placed herself at the center of a vicious online right-to-life battle last week. On Wednesday, in honour of Mother’s Day, Blume sent out an email to solicit donations for Planned Parenthood, an organization that offers birth control options and, in some clinics, abortion services and morning-after pills to the public. “No organization that I know of supports motherhood and all that it means more than Planned Parenthood,” she wrote. But the email was obtained by members of pro-life groups who quickly made Blume an object of scorn. Steven Ertelt, editor of the the anti-abortion site Lifenews.com, urged readers to speak out, and soon Blume was inundated with hate mail, even getting death threats. “Letting people know that a children’s author is stumping for donations for a business that kills children is part of our mission,” Ertelt told the Daily Beast. Determined to use the scuffle as an opportunity to rally Planned Parenthood’s own troops, president Cecile Richards sent out an email urging people to support Blume by donating: “Nothing—nothing—would make Judy happier.”
Kiefer Sutherland, a.k.a. 24’s Jack Bauer, was charged last week with misdemeanour assault after he allegedly head-butted Proenza Schouler designer Jack McCollough, breaking his nose in three places, at an after-party for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Ball. Sutherland allegedly attacked McCollough after he bumped into actress Brooke Shields and failed to apologize, but the designer said the assault was “vicious, violent and unprovoked.” Also victimized by the incident was Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who presides over the annual ball and was reportedly livid to see it upstaged.
Help me, Wanda
Holding court at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, comedian Wanda Sykes voiced her humble opinion that, back in January, when Rush Limbaugh said he hopes the Obama administration fails, it was no different from saying he wants America to fail. “To me that’s treason,” she told the audience. “He’s not saying anything different from what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to listen to this, sir, because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on OxyContin, he missed his flight.” As the crowd squirmed—some scandalized, some delighted—the President laughed nervously behind her. “Too much?” she asked. “But you’re laughing inside.”
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Israel on Monday with a stated intent to heal old wounds and honour the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis in the Second World War. Israeli President Shimon Peres, 86, speaking from his official residence in Jerusalem, proclaimed that “ties of reconciliation and understanding are now being woven between the Holy See and the Jewish people.” He added: “Our door is open to similar efforts with the Muslim world.” Peres also presented the Pope with an unusual gift. Known to be a nanotechnology enthusiast, Peres commissioned local scientists to shrink a copy of the Old Testament to fit onto a pin-sized silicon chip. This so-called “nano Bible” can only be read with the help of a 10,000x magnifying glass, which the Pope, who is 82, will very likely need.
Derek Walcott, the 79-year-old West Indian writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992, withdrew his candidacy for Oxford’s professor of poetry after he was targeted by a systematic smear campaign. According to the Cherwell, Oxford’s student newspaper, authors, academics and journalists internationally have received anonymous letters alluding to Walcott’s history of sexual harassment. The accusations refer to incidents while Walcott held professorial posts at Boston and Harvard universities. Between 50 and 100 anonymous envelopes were sent to female fellows and female heads of colleges and departments in Oxford. These contained photocopied pages from The Lecherous Professor, a book that examines incidents of sexual harassment on college campuses, including one involving Walcott. Professor Hermione Lee, a campaigner for Walcott, was disgusted by the campaign and dismissive of its claims, although she did not deny them: “You might ask yourself as a student body whether you wanted Byron or Shelley as a professor of poetry, neither of whom had personal lives free from criticism.”
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