By Claire Ward - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 0 Comments
Sending medicine with Coca-Cola
In 1988, U.K.-born development worker Simon Berry, his wife, Jane, and their three children were stationed in northeast Zambia—a highly remote rural area where one in five children died before the age of five. “I was bouncing around in a Land Rover in this very remote place, yet wherever I went, it seemed I could get a Coca-Cola,” Berry explains. “I thought, if you can get Coca-Cola to these places, why can’t you do the same with basic medicines?” Today, the Berrys run their own organization, ColaLife, which aims to use Coca-Cola’s wide-reaching supply chain to distribute basic medical supplies to remote regions in Africa. The supplies, encased in wedge-shaped “AidPods,” fit snugly into the spaces between the bottles in the crates—five wedges per crate. Coke has recently sanctioned a pilot program in Zambia with local stakeholders; the Berrys are currently seeking funding and have their sights on the Bill & Melinda Gates and Clinton foundations.
While ColaLife has garnered support, some feel sending aid via Coke is like dealing with the devil. “There seems to be a potentially huge payoff [for Coca-Cola] in terms of PR and attitudes to Coke in rural areas,” warns Jonathan Crush, professor of development studies at Queen’s University. Berry’s view is more pragmatic. “In order for a partnership like this to work, there has to be something in it for all,” he says. “The 20 per cent child mortality has remained basically unchanged for decades. We need to try something a bit more innovative.” Berry stresses that ColaLife wants to take its time to establish a sustainable process—not a one-off—and hopes to launch in June.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Skeletons in Princess Victoria’s closet, Dick Cheney meets his match, and LeBron James goes home
Helena Bonham Carter, fashion plate
Her corsets, crinoline and frizzy hair have made her a constant on “worst dressed” lists over the years, so when the British actor, who counts Marie Antoinette as her style icon and claims a “f–k it attitude” to red-carpet dressing, heard she’d made Vanity Fair’s “best dressed” list, even she burst into laughter.
When nature’s in your path . . .
Vancouver’s organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, may have cast their professional lot with the environment—their cereal company, Nature’s Path, aspires to “advance the cause of people and planet along the path of sustainability.” But this week they came under fire for razing 25 trees from their lawn in tony Point Grey: a violation of the city’s famously strict tree-protection bylaw, and a major no-no in Lotusland. Their sins made headline news in Vancouver, which bars homeowners from removing trees from their property, prompting the pair to apologize profusely and repeatedly, even writing a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insisting that they be heavily fined.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 4:11 PM - 17 Comments
The Globe reports that, according to a memo released by Wikileaks, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner pressed the matter of Omar Khadr with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a meeting in February 2009.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 12:31 PM - 90 Comments
Michael Ignatieff adds his contribution to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Plus, the birth of forensic science, Portia de Rossi’s eating disorders and a New Yorker writer’s new novel
Few sound bites from the 2008 U.S. presidential race received the sort of scrutiny given Hillary Clinton’s voice cracking with emotion as she explained why she was running: “I just don’t want to see us fall backwards,” she said. “I see what’s happening and we have to reverse it.” What she was alluding to is writ large in Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rebecca Traister’s trenchant, entertaining analysis of the historic campaign. “It cried,” one commentator sneered at Clinton’s rare show of vulnerability, ignoring the fact tears weren’t shed. Traister, who covered the election for Salon.com, sees the landmark moment reflecting the campaign’s bizarro reversal of traditional gender roles: Clinton downplayed her “femaleness” and focused on policy, while the Oprah-endorsed Barack Obama scored points exploiting the touchy-feely language of women’s magazines.
Such astute observations elevate what could have been a history lesson to must-read cultural criticism. Traister, an Edwards-turned- Obama-turned-Clinton supporter, argues, not always convincingly, that an election filled with identity politics was good for women: “What was once called the women’s liberation movement found thrilling new life.”
Overt sexism directed at Clinton (the “F–k Hillary, God Knows She Needs It” signs, the $19.95 Hillary “nutcracker”) galvanized women, Traister points out. As did Michelle Obama’s transformation from an outspoken, reluctant political wife to a smiling, unthreatening “Stepford-ized” first lady. More, though, a campaign focused on identity politics revealed the diversity of female opinion, reflected in the generational divide in feminist support for Clinton and a new vibrant younger feminist wave. This detonated the myth of a “feminist monolith,” or as Traister drolly puts it, “some accredited synod that takes away your disposable razor and issues you a gift card for two free abortions.”
Traister is at her most compelling musing over her conflicted feelings about how Clinton’s run paved the way for Sarah Palin. And how, in turn, Palin’s “retro” femininity then gave way to “Mama Grizzlies” harnessing gender as a new force in the GOP. If you want to know how they did it, this is the book to read.
- ANNE KINGSTON
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 1, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
K’naan is the Teflon man, Hillary Clinton’s hair makes waves, and Elmo opens up about that Katy Perry fiasco
A big week for Hillary’s hair
“Oh Hillary, that hairstyle just doesn’t cut it,” carped the U.K.’s Daily Mail, bemoaning U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “lanky locks.” “Hillary Clinton wears hair clip to the UN: ‘Do or don’t?” asked the Huffington Post. Hill’s hair, object of fascination throughout Bill’s presidency, had the fashion police on high alert at the UN. Meanwhile, its owner quietly intensified U.S. efforts in the fledgling Mideast peace process.
Not so big in Iran, then
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stirs trouble abroad, it’s a safe bet he faces problems back home. This week, the Iranian president was in full diversionary mode, suggesting the U.S. played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then mocking Western media for spotlighting cases like that of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery. (Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger, also faces the death sentence for creating online forums Tehran considered a political threat; a similar campaign is building in his favour.) The uproar over Ashtiani, complained Ahmadinejad, is far greater than that over the plight of Teresa Lewis, a borderline mentally challenged woman executed in Virginia on Thursday. His remarks didn’t stop U.S. media from looking past the bluster to the real story: growing divisions among Iran’s conservatives over the election 15 months ago that gave Ahmadinejad his second term. No wonder he wants to change the channel.
C’aan the man do no wrong?
What does K’naan have to do to be criticized? After organizers of a Vancouver-area charity concert fell short of his $40,000 fee, the Somali-Canadian musician refused to take the stage, leaving fans and the charity in the lurch; Simon Fraser University, where the benefit was being held, reportedly offered to pay the difference, to no avail. Yet event organizers, including charity chief Clement Apaak, fell on their swords, accepting full blame, and offering refunds. The Teflon star’s cred is unblemished by even a summer spent touring for Coke, to whom he sold his hit, Wavin’ Flag, for its World Cup marketing campaign, the corporate giant’s biggest ever.
A homer odyssey
If you hadn’t heard the name Jose Bautista before this fall, don’t feel bad. The Toronto Blue Jays slugger had hit fewer home runs in his three previous seasons combined than he has in 2010, and there was nothing to presage the power surge that this week lifted him into the company of legends like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Having surpassed the Jays’ team record of 47 dingers, Bautista cracked his 51st and 52nd over the weekend, giving rise to inevitable questions about the source of his unaccustomed power. Bautista swatted aside queries like so many hanging curve balls. “I understand because of the [sport’s] history,” he said when asked if he’d used performance-enhancing drugs. “But those days are gone.”
The devil is in the details
With his bald head, sinister black Van Dyke beard and dark sunken eyes, it’s hard to forget that Scott Robb, who’s running for Edmonton’s city council, is a practising Satanist. Still, religious issues aren’t a big part of the message for the founder of the Darkside Collective. Rather, the 31-year-old security guard’s platform focuses on opposing a plan to shutter Edmonton’s City Centre Airport, and proposes to run downtown light-rail transit lines underground. Robb eschews political donations and is spending his own money—$400 so far—on his campaign. Which would mean his name isn’t the only eerie similarity he bears to Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford.
Elmo loves Katy Perry—but not inappropriately. “We had a good time,” the Sesame Street puppet told Good Morning America. Elmo’s talk-show appearance was meant to help defuse reaction to his onscreen play date with the pop singer, whose low-cut, cleavage-revealing costume irked parents and led the show to cut the segment. “We’ll have another play date,” Elmo told host George Stephanopoulos, who until recently hosted ABC’s Sunday political show This Week, where he interviewed powerful world leaders. In other news Perry- and puppet-related, the pop queen will appear in a special live-action episode of The Simpsons this Christmas. “In the wake of Elmo’s terrible betrayal, the Simpsons puppets wish to announce they stand felt-shoulder-to-shoulder with Katy Perry,” said Simpsons executive producer Al Jean.
How many women does it take to make a cabinet?
With the election of Simonetta Sommaruga to the Swiss cabinet, the conservative country crossed an unlikely threshold: with Sommaruga, a Social Democrat, as transport minister, Switzerland, which until 1971 barred women from voting, now has a majority-female cabinet—three men, four women—what Social Democrat chair Christian Levrat called an “essential, decisive step.”
A real guitar hero
Vancouver’s Don Alder entered the sixth annual Guitar Superstar competition on a whim—the top 10 finalists, he’d heard, get a nod in Guitar Player magazine, the enthusiast’s bible. Not only did the 54-year-old win, he earned the night’s only standing ovation. Judges deemed his performance “flawless” and “transcendental,” with one adding: “The world needs to hear you.” Alder took up the guitar at the urging of Rick Hansen, a childhood friend (they were together when Hansen was injured after being thrown from the back of a pickup). They were out fishing eight years ago when Hansen said, “Why don’t you get back to your music?” Alder told the Vancouver Sun. “He told me failure is not trying—ever since it’s taken me down this amazing journey.”
Do as he draws, not as he does
What began as a campaign against plagiarism ended as a lesson in irony. Taiwan’s “Protect Copyright” contest launched last year, soliciting entries for a poster campaign. Judges were particularly fond of Wu Chih-wei’s dramatic entry, “Work—Shattered,” featuring a plunging paper plane, words trailing its wings like smoke. The entry earned him a medal and a cash prize, and his poster went up all over Taiwan. Only problem: he’d ripped off Dutch artist Dennis Sibeijn. Wu was stripped of his prize and faced up to three years in jail, but Sibeijn declined to press charges. He would like an apology, though.
Aafia got her gun
Aafia Siddiqui is a 38-year-old Pakistani neuroscientist with degrees from MIT and Brandeis University. Arrested in Afghanistan in 2008, she was found to carry bomb-making recipes and a list of American tourist attractions. When U.S. officials visited her for questioning in jail, Siddiqui grabbed a discarded rifle and began shooting, saying in exquisite English: “I want to kill Americans.” The FBI called her a terrorist. Yet during her trial Siddiqui’s lawyer argued she’s mentally ill. Siddiqui disagreed. So did the judge, who gave her 86 years in prison. That led to riotous protests in Pakistan, where PM Yousaf Raza Gilani called her a “daughter of the nation.”
He hasn’t got a wife to spare
Maybe Ndumiso Mamba figured a man with 14 wives would take a philosophical view of infidelity. But Mamba lost his job as justice minister of Swaziland this week after he was found under a hotel room bed with his king’s 12th wife. Rumours of an affair between Mamba and Nothando Dube, a former Miss Teen Swaziland, had run rampant in the royal court for weeks. Dube reportedly disguised herself as a soldier to sneak out for their trysts, but officials loyal to King Mswati III cottoned on and set up a sting operation to catch the pair. Some predicted Mamba would be allowed to flee. But a long prison term seems more likely. “Mamba knows too much,” said one expert. “If he flees into exile with the royal secrets, that would be a major problem.”
Too mad for Mad Men?
He’s still a contender for Hollywood’s greatest train wreck, but things are looking up for Mel Gibson. News that he’s in danger of losing his house—and his church—to unpaid construction bills didn’t stop Jodie Foster from rising to his defence. “When you love a friend, you don’t abandon them,” she said. Her vote of confidence came as details of Gibson’s ugly split with wife Oksana Grigorieva trickled out: he was apparently willing to cough up $1 million for tapes of his foul-mouthed tirades. But some were buzzing about a comeback. Last week’s hot rumour from Liz Smith had him signing on for a role in the hit series Mad Men, though she retracted after producers demurred.
Catch and release
Captains of Chinese fishing trawlers don’t often trigger diplomatic crises. But that’s what 41-year-old Zhan Qixiong did when, on Sept. 8, while poking around islands claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo, he allegedly rammed Japanese coast guard cutters—twice. Arrested and jailed in Okinawa, he sparked the most serious standoff between China and Japan in recent memory, a dispute closely watched by a world concerned about a rising China. The incident sparked nationalist fervour in both countries, with some in Japan complaining after Qixiong was released on Saturday. Japanese PM Naoto Kan maintained that Tokyo would issue no apologies.
Buck stops here
Last week, Linda Buck, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist who studies how the brain processes odour, retracted two journal articles because they don’t pass the smell test. That makes three times Buck has disavowed papers co-authored with her one-time post-doc Zhihua Zou (who conducted the experiments), because she couldn’t duplicate the findings. Zou, who has reportedly returned to his native China, agreed to the first retraction, but not to last week’s.
By Kate Fillion - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 2 Comments
Plus, the Clintons’ survival, and the marital toll of a lost election
A professor of history at McGill and a visiting scholar affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, Gil Troy is the author of several books on the U.S. presidency, including an examination of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as first lady and Mr. and Mrs. President, a study of presidential marriages in the modern era. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 6:19 PM - 47 Comments
We have no doubt been sliding for some time, but when we got to Guergis we should have realized we had taken a wrong turn, crossed some threshold. Now here we are, stuck in this place with this fake lake and a phoney merger and a theoretical coalition. The threats are only ever exaggerated, the questions are facetious, the crises are manufactured. There is flailing and wailing, faux outrage and bad acting, adult human beings reduced to live-action press releases or made to demonstrate like the characters of professional wrestling. Hearsay leads the news. Bad jokes carry the day. Everyone claims patriotism. Everyone is accused of treason. All seemingly see intellectual dishonesty as the path to power. Few looking on seem to find anything here to believe in.
And so here today was a spectacle for this era, the Foreign Affairs Minister rising in the House of Commons to explain at length the government’s choice of wallpaper. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Bill comes due, A wrinkle in time, and A foul most foul
The Bill comes due
For US$5 you can spend a day in New York with Bill Clinton. The former president is raffling himself off in a bid to clear “a few vestiges of debt” left over from his wife Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid. The vestige is US$771,000 in unpaid bills. The innovative idea has drawn much interest and, it being the Clintons, much rebuke. Critics point to another big number: US$109 million, the estimated amount the two have earned since leaving the White House.
A wrinkle in time
Portuguese film director Manoel de Oliveira, a hale 101-year-old, cut a dashing figure at the Cannes Film Festival last week as he plugged his latest work, The Strange Case of Angelica, about a young Jewish photographer. De Oliveira made his first film in 1931, and has grown more productive as he ages. He’s set a high standard for 74-year-old Woody Allen, at the festival to promote You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Allen laments it’s “frustrating” he’s too old to get the girl in his movies, in this case Naomi Watts. Still, he’d happily work at 101, if he’s fit, he said. “My relationship with death remains the same. I’m strongly against it.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:20 PM - 44 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister’s empty chair did not seem likely to answer, but Michael Ignatieff went ahead anyway and wondered whether Mr. Harper might commit to restoring the funding of 11 women’s groups whose cuts came a day after a Conservative senator profanely advised an audience of aggrieved advocates to mind their p’s and q’s.
John Baird stood in Mr. Harper’s place to claim both facts and platitudes. ”Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear,” he said, “this government is giving a record amount of funding to support women’s groups. We do have one big criteria, we want less talk and more action.”
The House was left to judge the applicability of this. Mr. Ignatieff was not satisfied and rose again to expand on his exposition.
“Mr. Speaker, when women’s groups speak out, they get their funding cut,” he reviewed. “When public servants like Richard Colvin testify, they get smeared. When independent watchdogs try to do their job, they get fired. When Parliament asks tough questions, the Conservatives shut the Parliament down. When will the Conservative Party and the government stop intimidating their critics and start listening to them?”
There was much whining and yapping from the government side. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 6:43 PM - 63 Comments
The Scene. “Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Prime Minister,” Bob Rae said quite matter-of-factly. And this being Question Period, the Speaker allowed him to proceed.
“What was supposed to be the Canadian signature initiative on maternal health has been described as completely inadequate by the two major allies, that could get to a microphone, both the United States and the United Kingdom,” Mr. Rae continued. “I wonder if the Prime Minister can explain how such a major diplomatic setback could be occurring in the build up to the G8 which Canada is hosting.”
The Prime Minister stood to put Mr. Rae at ease.
“On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, the initiative on maternal a child health is supported throughout the G8. Of course G8 countries will have different priorities in terms of the specific things they fund. Particularly on the issue of abortion a number of G8 countries have a different position,” Mr. Harper said, without actually saying what his government’s position is.
“Whether it comes to our role in Afghanistan, our sovereignty over our Arctic or ultimately our foreign aid priorities,” Mr. Harper declared, “it is Canada and Canadians who will make Canadian decisions.”
Happy Conservatives leapt to their feet to applaud their leader’s coming-of-age. Indeed, the Prime Minister has surely matured greatly in the seven years since he felt Canada should stand with the Brits and Americans and go charging into war. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 10:41 PM - 60 Comments
On her way out of town, Hillary Clinton makes clear what she’s talking about when she talks about maternal health.
Well, I’m not going to speak for what Canada decides, but I will say that I’ve worked in this area for many years. And if we’re talking about maternal health, you cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion.
Obviously, the extraordinary rate of maternal deaths that still occur in our world in countries where women do not have access to family planning remains a great tragedy. I’ve also been very involved in promoting family planning and contraception as a way to prevent abortion. If you are concerned about abortion, then women should have access to family planning.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband apparently concurs.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 6:31 PM - 7 Comments
The Scene. As lovely as it is to be visited, it is always, at least for the conscientious host, a cause of some anxiety. Is the house clean enough? Is the fridge well-stocked? Are the guests sufficiently comfortable and entertained? Will they approve of our choice of wallpaper? And what, heavens, will they think of our approach to Arctic sovereignty and the war in Afghanistan?
“Mr. Speaker, last week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told the House that there would be no request from the Americans to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, but yesterday, Hillary Clinton came to town and blew the government’s cover,” Michael Ignatieff offered with his opportunity.
The Conservative side groaned.
“It is perfectly obvious the request had either been made or was just about to be made,” he continued. “It is perfectly obvious the government knew the request had either been made or was coming. The question is simple. Why did the Conservatives mislead Canadians last week?”
Whatever was perfectly obvious to the Liberal leader was apparently quite confusing to the Prime Minister. “Mr. Speaker,” he sighed, “I really do not know what the leader of the opposition is talking about.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 10:42 AM - 4 Comments
At least since the Defence Minister and Prime Minister’s press secretary mused last October about some amount of soldiers remaining in Afghanistan, the government has been fairly steadfast in its stance that no soldiers will remain in Afghanistan after 2011.
Asked about the matter, a few days after his press secretary’s comments, the Prime Minister promised a “civilian, development, humanitarian mission.” In January, he said “we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy.” Last week, in regards to the military mission, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said “in 2011, we will no longer be there.”
By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 7 Comments
Tensions rise over the massive U.S. military presence in Japan
It’s tradition to celebrate 50 years of marriage with gold. But in January, the golden anniversary of the U.S.-Japan military nuptials—the landmark 1960 Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security that united the two nations in holy (armed) matrimony—was celebrated not with precious metals or affectionate toasts, but with mounting tension and a growing unease about the future of the U.S.-Japan security alliance.
It’s all come to a head in Okinawa, a southern Japanese prefecture made up of dozens of tiny islands. Ever since the area fell to the Allies in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, the U.S. military has used the islands as a stronghold in the Pacific. Today, about half of the almost 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan are concentrated here, in an area that represents just one per cent of Japan’s land mass. It is also here that the pugnacious new Japanese PM is making his ﬁrst stand: threatening, with broad Japanese support behind him, to boot the Americans off the island.
Calls for the U.S. to reduce its military footprint in Japan have been building. In 2006, the U.S. answered those calls head-on: signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deal with Tokyo that would relocate some 8,000 troops to Guam by 2014 and move the bustling Futenma air base to a less populated part of Okinawa. For a while, the situation calmed. But last September, Japan held a general election—and the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled the country for 54 of the last 55 years, lost. Now, Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, who ran in part on a platform of distancing Japan from the U.S., is at the helm. And while his wife steals headlines with bizarre claims that her “soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus,” Hatoyama has been working more quietly to erode Japan’s relationship with the U.S.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 26, 2010 at 4:42 PM - 3 Comments
Katie Stevens seems like an unrivalled front-runner, but she’s not particularly “relevant”
Could Hillary Clinton win American Idol? This is not an entirely facetious question.
As Idol debuted its Top 24 this week, the women’s half of the competition breaks down like a Democratic presidential primary: one obvious and seemingly inevitable front-runner (think Hillary), several intriguing prospects who could be brilliant or disastrous (Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Bill Clinton, Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas or Barack Obama) and a few unremarkable candidates who will soon be forgotten (Dick Gephardt).
The last group is not particularly worth dwelling upon. Two—Janell and Ashley—were eliminated in the competition’s first viewer vote. The rest (Lacey, Michelle Paige and Didi) will probably be gone in short order.
The middle group is both the most interesting, albeit least likely to succeed. Of this year’s 12 final girls, at least five qualify here. Lilly is a punky former busker with platinum blond bangs who sang a relatively obscure Beatles song (Fixing a Hole) this week. Katelyn is this season’s temptress, all big eyes and curly hair, who performed the Beatles’ Oh! Darling this week, while wearing a black leather skirt and bright red lipstick. Siobhan is a glass-blowing apprentice from Cape Cod who sang Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game in an surprisingly deep voice. Crystal is a dreadlocked mum with one of those chin piercings who sang an Alanis Morrisette song while playing guitar and harmonica.
Most intriguing is Haeley Vaughn, a 16-year-old, black, female country singer and guitarist with a way of singing that can only be described as odd-sounding. She turned I Want To Hold Your Hand into something almost reggae. Kara said she was “very pure,” Ellen said she shone, Simon said she was “a complete and utter mess.” Ellen countered that if she was a mess, she was a “hot mess.” It is difficult to express just how wildly divergent the possibilities are here. Haeley could be one of the most intriguing and unique performers in Idol history. She could end up being responsible for one of most excruciating performances in the history of American television. She could be Bill Clinton, she might be Howard Dean.
The clear and unquestionable favourite is Katie Stevens, a savvy 17-year-old who swaggered her way through a Michael Buble song this week. She is pretty and cute and blessed of a big voice. She has an endearing story: her quest for stardom set up as a race against the time and memory of her ailing grandmother. She seems somehow descended from the most successful Idols: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks, pleasingly and unostentatiously talented and attractive.
If a woman is to win this year’s Idol—Simon Cowell is on record as saying this year’s winner is most likely to be female—it should be Katie Stevens. And maybe that’s a problem.
It is, for one thing, harder to impress when you’re expected to be great. Katie was more or less fine this week, but she was scolded for seeming too contrived and not acting her age. For another, it is harder to be motivated if unchallenged. The unrivalled front-runner tempts doom (see Al Gore or John Kerry).
Cowell has said he wants to find the next Taylor Swift, someone “relevant.” That, right now, isn’t Katie Stevens. And that’s why Idol might need Haeley Vaughn.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
The epic Bill Clinton-Ken Starr battle created fault lines in U.S. life that still reverberate
The impeachment trial of U.S. President Bill Clinton 11 years ago now seems an oh-so-last-century drama in ways more profound than the merely chronological. Before 9/11, before the financial meltdown of 2008—and the new set of American obsessions they spawned—politics in an at-peace and prosperous U.S. turned on a crisis that unfolded as political theatre. Slow moving, long running, and—for most Americans—pain-in-the-frontal-lobes-inducing, the epic battle between Clinton and his nemesis, independent counsel Ken Starr, had something to appall everyone. Key components ran the gamut from the incomprehensible (the murky Whitewater land deal), to the tragic (the suicide of White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster) to the tawdry (the semen-stained blue dress) to the farcical (the chief executive’s alleged genital peculiarity) to the bewilderingly existential: in the end, it all depended, as Clinton once desperately tried to explain, on “what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
But however ancient the story now appears, The Death of American Virtue, law professor Ken Gormley’s massive reconstruction of events, demonstrates how the impeachment saga created crucial fault lines in U.S. life that still reverberate, notably the venomously personal tone of American politics. Three separate freight trains had to smash into one another to propel Clinton to trial: Whitewater, the private lawsuit filed by Paula Jones alleging sexual harassment by Clinton when he was still Arkansas governor (it was Jones who swore his penis was “crooked”), and the president’s dalliance with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. As Gormley sets out, in almost mind-numbing detail, it required a barely credible series of coincidences and poor ad hoc decisions on both sides to permit those trains to collide.
Starr’s investigation of Whitewater was petering out by 1997, at least in terms of pinning something on a Clinton (Bill or Hillary), and he announced in February that he was stepping down. But Starr’s own staff rose in revolt, and what Hillary Clinton later called “the vast right-wing conspiracy” swung into action, as conservatives in the media lambasted the prosecutor for cowardice and lack of moral fibre. Starr retracted his resignation, and set his investigation on a new track, into a search for women who had had affairs with Clinton. Clinton and his supporters viewed the new tack as a politically motivated witch hunt into his private life, while Starr defended it as an attempt to leave no stone unturned.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 25, 2010 at 11:01 AM - 48 Comments
The Globe considers the day’s optics.
Today is the day Stephen Harper’s decision to shut down Parliament should have come back to haunt him, as opposition parties gather in Ottawa to draw attention to what would have been a back-to-work Monday for MPs. Instead, the eyes of the world will be drawn to Montreal, where global dignitaries including Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner are gathering as guests of Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon, to plan the rebuilding of earthquake-ravaged Haiti…
“It has allowed the Prime Minister to remind [Canadians] of how strong a leader he is, how decisive he can be when it comes to doing something,” Conservative strategist Goldy Hyder said, adding that “Quebeckers particularly like decisive leadership … even if they disagree with it.
“From that old Chinese proverb, which I use with the greatest of respect, crises can be opportunities as well,” he said.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, August 17, 2009 at 4:00 PM - 6 Comments
She hasn’t lost her edge—turns out she’s being a team player
In some ways, Hillary Rodham Clinton hasn’t changed. When the U.S. secretary of state gears up for her major diplomatic forays, she does it the same way she prepared to run for the Senate seat from New York, and for her presidential bid: with a listening tour. The former senator who used to nod earnestly and have her aides take copious notes at county fairs as farmers in upstate New York waxed on about the complexities of the local apple trade, prefaced her 11-day trip across Africa this month with a similar bout of listening. Shortly before leaving, she brought together some 15 Africa specialists from in and out of Washington to a ceremonial room on the eighth floor of the State Department headquarters. “It was extremely well organized, a very pleasant dinner in which she did most of the listening and had a number of questions,” recalled attendee Princeton Lyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa under presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Lyman said he was surprised by how little Clinton interrupted. “She did not moderate the meeting and that allowed her to be a real listener. She seemed to want to hear what people thought,” he told Maclean’s. “Interestingly, she is not flashy. She is very organized and substantive.”
But that lack of flash has been a big change for a woman who only recently stood on the brink of a historic presidential nomination, and whose every move made news. The focused, nose-to-the-grindstone approach she has brought to the job after the centre-stage political rivalry with Barack Obama caught many observers off guard. Those looking for good political theatre were almost disappointed by the absence of a clash-of-titans power struggle, complete with gender politics, psychodrama and embittered aides leaking stories of backstabbing-on-high. To some, it could only mean one thing: Clinton had been muzzled. No less a student of power and celebrity than former New Yorker editor Tina Brown kicked off rounds of chatter in July, when Clinton was absent from Obama’s meetings at the Kremlin (she cancelled several trips due to a broken elbow) and seemed to be sidelined by a clutch of special presidential envoys assigned to top hot-spots like South Asia and the Middle East. “It’s time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burka,” wrote Brown, in a critique that apparently got under Clinton’s skin. “I broke my elbow, not my larynx,” was Clinton’s tart retort to reporters who asked whether she was lacking a voice in the administration’s foreign policy. “I have been deeply involved in the shaping and implementation of our foreign policy,” she said, defensively. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed the discussion as “silly Washington games.” Continue…
By John Parisella - Friday, July 31, 2009 at 3:55 PM - 28 Comments
Aside from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, the respective campaigns of Hillary Clinton…
Aside from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, the respective campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin remain the highlights of the last political season. Clinton got 18 million votes in the Democratic primaries and nearly became the nominee. Palin came out of nowhere to energize a lackluster McCain bid, and, for a couple weeks in September at least, helped him take a lead in the polls. Since then, she has easily become the most sought after personality in the GOP.
Last Sunday, both Clinton and Palin were in the news, albeit for different reasons, and made it clear why both fascinate the media and the American public. The Secretary of State was on Meet The Press doing a one-hour interview. Meanwhile, Palin was delivering her farewell address to the people of Alaska. Events dealing with health care reform and yesterday’s ‘Beer Summit’ limited the interventions of the two politicians to one-day news stories. I might add regrettably because both these political figures will continue to play a vital role in the public life of the United States. Continue…
By John Parisella - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 5:50 PM - 29 Comments
When Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama last June, she said…
When Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama last June, she said her campaign was responsible for 18 million cracks in the ceiling—one for every vote she obtained in the primaries. Sarah Palin would later make reference to Clinton’s concession speech when she was selected by John McCain to be his nominee, seemingly viewing herself as Clinton’s successor. Since the November election, Governor Palin has often been mentioned as a contender for the GOP nomination in 2012 and her constant presence in the media has only served to fuel that speculation.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 5:20 PM - 3 Comments
When Barack Obama was choosing his cabinet, some pundits referenced Lincoln’s “team of rivals”…
When Barack Obama was choosing his cabinet, some pundits referenced Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in commenting his choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and his decision to keep Defense Secretary Bob Gates, a Republican. When he selected Tim Geithner, Steven Chu and Eric Holder, others said that, just like JFK, Obama was selecting the “best and the brightest.” After close to six months in office, it is more accurate to say that Obama carefully chose the consummate team players. By this, I am referring to Hillary Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden. Together, they make Obama look stronger.
Outside of Obama, Hillary Clinton has been the star of this administration. And it is not because she is dominating the news cycle—she has, in fact, been low key. Rather, it is because she has been focused, determined and effective. She also seems to be enjoying her new role and that only reinforces the notion of the team player. After years of being the team player in husband Bill Clinton’s political career, she is now performing a similar service for Barack Obama.
By Lianne George - Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Bill Clinton’s prize role, Bo Obama’s first book, Elisha Cuthbert’s Jack Bauer moves
Friends of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have devised a number of creative solutions to help her pay off the remaining US$2.3 million she owes in campaign debts. Her former campaign manager James Carville sent out an email to supporters asking them to contribute $5 in exchange for an opportunity to win great prizes, including tickets to the American Idol finale or a day in New York with Bill Clinton. Later, during the taping of an online radio show sponsored by Go Daddy—a Web-hosting company known for its racy commercials—Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons told Carville he would contribute US$1 million to help Clinton if the secretary of state would appear as a “Go Daddy Girl” in one of his ads. “Look, I’d be all for it, but I wouldn’t write the check just yet,” Carville replied, noting that lawyers in the State Department tend to “piss on every fire.”
Thirty-two years after Vladimir Nabokov’s death, the Lolita author’s final novel, locked in a Swiss bank vault since 1977, will see the light of day. The Original of Laura was written on a series of 138 index cards. Nabokov had instructed that the incomplete work be destroyed upon his death. His son Dmitri, who’d kept it for all these years, opted to sell the rights to Penguin Classics for an undisclosed six-figure sum. “It was quite emotional for Dmitri because it was a big decision to publish, which took him decades,” Alexis Kirschbaum, editor at Penguin Classics, told the BBC. The novel, due this fall, is the story of a man obsessed with his promiscuous wife. “[It’s] not necessarily extremely polished,” she said, “but you can still see kernels of genius in everything he wrote.”
By Paul Wells - Monday, March 30, 2009 at 7:53 PM - 20 Comments
Hillary Clinton declares that most of the money the U.S. has spent on aid to Afghanistan over the past seven years was wasted. They’re starting all over again.
It’s worth noting that new governments sometimes do this sort of thing, to persuade everyone — including themselves — that they’re not the old government. It would not be unheard-of if Clinton and the Obama administration ended up reintroducing large chunks of their predecessors’ aid framework under catchy new names. Still, this is one of those moments when Canadian authorities can wait for the Americans to ask for us to fill a new role, or move quickly into the current policy vacuum and tailor a new role for Canadian aid. Policy makers or policy takers. It’ll be interesting to see which way Canada goes.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 1:22 PM - 25 Comments
Rob Silver considers the curious case of Karen Stintz.
I can find hundreds of examples of female politicians from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin and now Karen Stintz being described as “shrill.” Can you find a single example of a male politician being called shrill? First commenter to post an example gets an autographed Tim Powers sweater vest (in baby blue, needless to say).
A Globe commenter claims to have found one example in Germany.
In general, the male equivalent of shrill might be blustery. Or buffoonish. I would wonder if the difference is merely a matter of what octave the nonsense is delivered in.