A breath of fresh Canadian air
The usual right vs. left political jabber of American talk TV was punctuated this week by a few clear-eyed statements courtesy of Canada’s first female prime minister. On Real Time With Bill Maher, former Progressive Conservative leader Kim Campbell called Republican Jack Kingston‘s views on global warming “absolute rubbish,” pointing out to the Georgia congressman that scientists didn’t set out looking for a non-existent problem just to torture right-leaning politicians. When the conversation shifted toward the evolution vs. creation debate, Campbell asked if Kingston was concerned about the alarming rise of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in hospitals. He squirmed. “That’s evolution,” she said to applause. Does 132 days as PM preclude Campbell from a future in politics?
In addition to writing great novels, Vladimir Nabokov was a self-taught expert on the evolutionary biology of butterflies—though, like any amateur, the Lolita author faced skepticism from the scientific establishment. Now one of his most audacious theories has been proven right. A paper published by the Royal Society has endorsed Nabokov’s hypothesis that butterflies are not indigenous to North America, but rather arrived in a series of “waves” from Asia. The new research was made possible by gene-sequencing technology Nabokov never had. Said Naomi Pierce, a Harvard expert who co-authored the study: “It’s really quite a marvel.”
Single White Premier seeks less idiotic press
With three female premiers and a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, Australian voters seem fairly accustomed to the idea of women in politics. The media? Not so much. The country’s biggest national newspaper, the Australian, ran a front-page story about Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings‘s first day in office that zeroed in on her comments (in response to a reporter’s question) about the challenges of snaring a husband when you’re a busy politician. The headline read: “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr. Right.” Critics shook their heads. “Why on Earth was this suddenly relevant the day Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier?” asked one Sydney Morning Herald columnist, noting Giddings was previously an unmarried treasurer and an unmarried attorney general. “It was not as if she had landed from Mars.”
South Africans exhaled and international media stood down last week after Nelson Mandela left hospital, having fought back an acute respiratory ailment. The 92-year-old icon had been admitted on Jan. 26, and the country ground to a near-halt: Mandela’s passing promises an outpouring of grief, celebration and reflection like few others in recent history. But this is a man who defines resilience, and sure enough, after two days, officials reported he was recovering nicely, and even teasing his wife and the nurses hovering over him. “Madiba is well,” said South Africa’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, using Mandela’s clan name.
Four families and a fortune
The Canadian kids of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho appeared poised last week to scoop up the bulk of his $3.1-billion empire. But the apparent attempt by Daisy, Maisy, Pansy, Josie and Lawrence Ho to have their dad transfer holdings to them has been bogged down in an old-style succession battle. The five were born to Ho’s second wife, who moved to Canada in the 1980s. But Ho has 12 other children from four marriages, some of whom (surprise!) claim a share of his fortune. A lawyer for Ho said the ailing 89-year-old was not aware of what he signed, while Ho’s TV appearance to smooth things over only deepened family differences.
Some experience an asset
As a politician, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has knocked on his share of doors. But in a soon-to-be-aired reality TV episode, he will also be seen cruising the back lanes of his constituents, picking up their trash. The rakish mayor put in two 10- to 12-hour shifts as a garbage collector and as a member of the city’s recycling pickup crew as part of CBC’s series Make the Politician Work. Other pols who will appear on the show are federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, who will put in shifts at a hospital ER, and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who will be at a military camp. It’s not necessarily a recipe for votes. Robertson told a local newspaper that, while operating a truck’s front-loader, he nearly crushed a parked car with a steel bin.
Balls of steel
A little-known martial art is said to be causing a sensation in China after a Shaolin monk appeared on a popular variety show and allowed guests to kick him hard in the groin. Yong Hsueh, who responded to the blows by smiling and bowing, is a practitioner of what is loosely being translated as “steel crotch kung fu,” a discipline with a fabulous pedigree. “Steel crotch [kung fu] is an ancient art,” Yong Hsueh is quoted as saying. “It’s a practice to strengthen and protect the male genital organs so there is less chance they are injured or incapacitated in battle.”
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