By macleans.ca - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
U.S. President Barack Obama joked at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner that he…
U.S. President Barack Obama joked at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner that he had “99 problems” and rapper Jay-Z , who had recently taken a controversial trip to Cuba with superstar wife Beyoncé Knowles , was one.
Now it looks like the Obamas might well become a problem for Jay-Z, if first lady Michelle Obama’s remarks at Bowie State University in Maryland are any indication.
At a commencement ceremony, she told graduates of the historically black university to “be an example of excellence to the next generation” instead of “fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”
That’s career advice that might ruffle the feathers of Jay-Z, a high-school dropout who hosted a $40,000-a-head fundraiser for the president during his last campaign.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Perhaps the elusive Mrs. O should pull a Hillary, and run herself
When Lexie Croft, a Wyoming mother, had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to video chat with the first lady of the United States this week, her complaint was corn dogs. The deep-fried hot dogs on a stick were being offered for lunch at her child’s public school, where, she said, “meal options include nachos with cheese sauce!”
Michelle Obama offered more than sympathy: she had a plan. Call her husband’s Department of Agriculture, which had just come out with new nutritional standards for public schools, she instructed. “They have people on staff” to help schools fix their menus. She encouraged the mother to “work with” like-minded parents and teachers if “your school lunches are not improving.”
This is what Obama does when she’s not donning couture gowns: her “Let’s Move!” campaign goes after the corn dogs, couch potatoes and the one-third of American kids who are overweight or obese. She does so with the carefully calibrated ferocity she brought to helping her husband get elected: just enough to be effective, but not so much that she’d look pushy, or worse, angry.
By Lejla Sarcevic - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 10:12 PM - 0 Comments
If the Democrats win the state, it will be the result of community organization run on a state-side scale
In the increasingly narrow battlefield of American national politics, where voters in solidly red or blue states may never see a presidential contender, North Carolina is one of the swing-state prizes of the 2012 election.
Political gamesmanship has been rife: a couple of weeks ago it was widely reported that the Romney campaign had pulled staffers out of North Carolina, in order to redirect them to other swing states—most likely, Ohio. That turned out to mean approximately one campaign staffer. Next, Democratic strategist Paul Begala said quietly—except nothing is quiet in the age of YouTube, Twitter and Buzzfeed—that Obama HQ had conceded North Carolina. Pundits and pollsters were colouring the state pink. Relax, pack your bags everyone, there’s nothing more to see here, it’s time to head to Ohio.
Meanwhile, the Democrats were staffing 54 field offices and the Republicans 23, in an effort to capture 15 crucial electoral votes in a state Obama won by a mere 14,000 votes in 2008.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 5:50 PM - 0 Comments
The president’s post-convention jump in the polls has the Republicans flummoxed
The U.S. conventions did what months of campaigning couldn’t: change the dynamics of the race. President Barack Obama got a much-needed bump in the polls, while Mitt Romney is now the official underdog, and nervous Republicans are calling for everything from the firing of his advisers to an economic road show.
And in a race that, for months, had been a dead heat, polls now show Obama emerging with as much as a six-point boost from the televised spectacle. His wife, Michelle, the popular first lady, gave a passionate speech laden with veiled slams at the Republican presidential nominee (“When you walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you”). And former president Bill Clinton summoned his Rhodes Scholar-meets-hillbilly charm to make the case that Romney’s economic plans don’t pass basic country boy arithmetic (“I came from a place where people still thought two and two was four”). Obama’s speech underwhelmed, both in its run-of-the-mill delivery and its failure to lay out a substantive policy agenda matching the enormity of the fiscal challenges facing the U.S. (“Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers within 10 years”). But, apparently, it was enough.
It’s not that Republicans didn’t try. Romney’s wife, Ann, gave a personal pledge about her exceptionally successful husband (“This. Man. Will. Not. Fail”). The former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, inspired with a speech that linked broad policy themes to her rise from a childhood in segregated Alabama with rhetoric worthy of Obama in 2008 (“America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable”). Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech sent fact-checkers into overdrive, but also delivered a stinging line on high youth unemployment (“College graduates should not have to live out their twenties in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters”). But Romney’s economic-themed speech (“This President cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office”) was overshadowed by a surreal opening act in which actor Clint Eastwood rambled at an imaginary Obama in an empty chair (“What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that. I can’t tell him to do that to himself]”). All the stage-managed ethnic diversity and heart-rending testimonials by Mormon parishioners whose lives were touched by Romney’s good works were eclipsed by the image of an angry, old white guy.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Anne Kingston on Michelle Obama, the ‘mom-off’ and the role of women outside of motherhood
Michelle Obama strode onto the Democratic convention stage last week, every detail locked down with the precision of a space shuttle launch. Overhead, Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours underlined her commitment to her husband’s re-election—in contrast to the soul music icon’s more tentatively titled Isn’t She Lovely?, played before her convention keynote in 2008. Anyone familiar with fashion semiotics could see her glamorous, sleeveless pink silk jacquard dress was a sartorial counterpunch to the conservative “Nancy Reagan red” shirtwaist Ann Romney wore to address the Republican national convention: Obama custom ordered hers from rising African-American designer Tracy Reese; Romney’s came from old-guard society designer Oscar de la Renta. The outfit exuded a fiscal subtext as well: Reese’s creation, rushed into production, will sell for under $500; the de la Renta retails for $1,990. And Ph.D. theses could be written on the Obama’s choice of pink, down to her shoes, quickly identified as $245 “Everly” pumps in “rhubarb” from J. Crew: it’s feminine, fun, unthreatening—but a colour also associated with gay rights. Her signature bare arms showcased her physical strength, as well as her disciplined pre-dawn workouts.
So it came as a surprise that Michelle Obama’s impassioned “I love my husband even more than I did four years ago” endorsement would trigger critical blowback from many of the very women who championed her. The reason? The first lady had muted her elite credentials to enter—some say win—a “mom-off” with Ann Romney, whose encomium to “moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right,” was blasted by Democrats for being out of touch with the fact that American men now do approximately 40 per cent of the housework and child-rearing duties.
Similar vestiges of a Mad Men time warp were evident in Obama’s presentation. The warm-up video focused exclusively on her accomplishments as a mother. No reference was made to her impressive CV: degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law School and big jobs that made her the primary breadwinner and saw her with challenges like most working mothers. She was then introduced by Elaine Byre, a mother of five, four in the armed forces, who highlighted her own maternal bona fides: “I’m not a political person, but I’m a mom,” Byre told the crowd.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 6:46 AM - 0 Comments
Unless you’re a Kennedy, humble beginnings are the only beginnings at the Democratic National Convention.
It’s official: The theme of the Democratic National Convention is don’t open a Swiss bank account. Sure there was lots of talk about women, Hispanic women, and the occasional nod to same-sex marriage (did anyone else not know that Kal Penn was gay?), but the more salient theme—from the Nancy Pelosi inspired all-female conga line, to keynote speaker Julian Castro’s moving address about his grandmother—was the virtue of the ordinary. Unless you’re a Kennedy, humble beginnings are the only beginnings at the Democratic National Convention.
If you think that all of the “grandma-came-here-with-nothing-and-worked-at-a-steel mill” stories are contrived, you’re probably right. “The Republicans are really good at narrative,” said one Democrat insider, who prefers not to be named. “We’re only just beginning to pick up on how important that narrative is.”
Enter Michelle Obama: Queen of Humble Beginnings. The First Lady looked great and spoke beautifully about her husband’s prized possession: a coffee table he found in the dumpster. Apparently, said Ms. Obama, his car was a piece of junk and his shoes were a half-size too small.
In other words, if Ann Romney’s problems are real, Michelle Obama’s are realer.
The Democrats’ use of narrative so far–(the narrative that the American dream is possible only through government programs, subsidies and general sense of togetherness) was so theatrical it was almost Republican. But Michelle gave a great speech, whether she “pulled herself up by the bootstraps” or not.
Some notable quotes:
‘‘And believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.”
“That’s why Barack has fought so hard to increase student aid and keep interest rates down, because he wants every young person to fulfill their promise and be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.’’
‘‘For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the differences you make in people’s lives.’’
“And I didn’t think that it was possible, but let me tell you today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met.’’
By Leah McLaren - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:51 AM - 0 Comments
Girlfriends, lovers, working moms, and dads: the very modern marriages of Europe’s leaders
Leave it to a French woman to sex up the first wives club at the G8 Summit.
Over the weekend, Valérie Trierweiler, 47, a twice-divorced broadcaster, journalist and common-law partner to France’s newly elected Socialist president, François Hollande, strode onto the world political stage in peek-a-boo platform heels and a form-fitting black wrap dress that all but dared Fox News to accuse her of living in sin—not that she’d have given a toss if they had. Participating in a tour of the White House led by Michelle Obama and attended by the first wives of Canada, Japan and Italy, Trierweiler looked as glamorously at home in the spotlight as her predecessor, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. But unlike that lapsed critic of bourgeois convention, Trierweiler does not seem to be in any rush to marry her powerful political partner (as Bruni rather hurriedly did before becoming France’s first lady in 2008).
True to Gallic form, the situation is complicated: Hollande’s former wife and the mother of his children, Ségolène Royal, is still a high-ranking Socialist figure. When she was party leader in 2007, Hollande campaigned as her husband, though it later emerged their relationship had broken down romantically some years earlier. This time around, Royal returned the favour by supporting her ex’s candidacy and maintaining amiable public relations in spite of their separation. However, the conservative French press is reporting private friction. According to the tabloid L’Express, Royal “remains the object of profound and irrational jealousy” for Trierweiler.
By Erica Alini - Friday, May 25, 2012 at 3:04 PM - 0 Comments
Girlfriends, lovers, and working moms and dads
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
Laureen Harper fosters kittens and Patrick Brazeau’s hair is growing
The Harper most likely to yell ‘Mine’
Stephen Harper’s son Ben is now six foot three and has become a skilled competitive volleyball player. The 16-year-old plays for the Ottawa Fusion Volleyball Club, where the online team profile lists his positions as middle and outside. Ben Harper used to play hockey (with NDP MP Paul Dewar’s son) but has given up the sport his father has written a book about to focus more on volleyball. He’ll be playing in the Canadian championships in Toronto, along with the children of two other famous Canadians, Rick Hansen and Colm Feore. Laureen Harper says so far two Canadian universities have expressed interest in her son joining their volleyball teams. Ben is only in Grade 10. The PM’s wife quipped that this is now the first year she had Maclean’s annual University Rankings issue on hand in light of the college attention.
The undercover life of a political wife
It is difficult to imagine Michelle Obama shopping undetected at Target. But a recent shopping trip by Laureen Harper illustrates the difference between the two nations and their first ladies. Mrs. Harper was recently in Wal-Mart buying large amounts of cat food. She often fosters kittens from the Ottawa Humane Society, so always keeps a hefty supply of special kitten food packed with additional nutrients. The Wal-Mart staff had no clue she was the Prime Minister’s wife; as often occurs with customers buying in bulk at the megastore, she was asked to show her receipt upon exiting. All was in order and she headed back to 24 Sussex with her cat food.
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 10:50 AM - 0 Comments
Loving or hating the first lady may be a political litmus test
There are two Michelle Obamas, depending on what media you consume. The first version of the U.S. first lady is in the inspiring books with titles like Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, and the upcoming What Would Michelle Do?. The other Michelle Obama is the one Rush Limbaugh calls “Michelle, My Butt,” the one National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson proclaimed “had become increasingly angry since her undergraduate days.” Laura Bush was mostly ignored, even by her husband’s foes, but loving or hating Michelle Obama may be turning into a political litmus test.
The first Michelle is popular in fashion magazines, which celebrate her style choices and emphasis on healthy eating. “Michelle Obama understands that style is much more than an aesthetic choice or political tool,” wrote Kate Beatts, a former Harper’s Bazaar editor, in Everyday Icon. “It is the expression of one’s life, one’s way of being.” The entertainment industry has embraced her, too. The sitcom iCarly featured her in an episode earlier this year, the first time a ﬁrst lady had been so immortalized since Nancy Reagan showed up on Diff’rent Strokes.
But if you turn to Fox News or talk radio, Mrs. Obama’s emphasis on personal style comes off looking sinister. In particular, her anti-obesity campaign is seen as an excuse for a government power grab. Rebecca Hagelin, who writes the column “How to Save Your Family” for the Washington Times, wrote that Mrs. Obama “has assumed the air of ‘government knows best’ rather than empowering parents to make informed decisions about what’s best for their families.” Michelle Malkin, a columnist and Fox contributor, claimed the initiative is meant to enrich labour unions involved in serving healthy lunches: “The biggest beneficiaries of her efforts,” Malkin wrote, “have been her husband’s deep-pocketed pals at the Service Employees International Union.”
By Rosemary Counter - Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 12:08 PM - 0 Comments
The first lady teaches young girls that they can make their own fairy tales
If you ever meet the Queen, there is protocol to follow: subjects must call her “Your Majesty” on first reference and “ma’am” after, and a bow or curtsy is not a bad idea. Most important is the “no-touch” rule: let the Queen extend her hand to you, and shake without squeezing or lingering. Do not touch the Queen’s shoulder, kiss her cheeks, or hug her.
Unless you’re Michelle Obama. In this case, crack a joke and go in for the embrace.
“Michelle hugs everybody, that’s her spirit,” says Newsweek writer Allison Samuels. The first time she met the first lady was backstage at an awards ceremony in Atlanta, when security guards tried to stop Samuels’s mother from approaching Obama, who intervened. “She said, ‘Don’t make mama leave, she’s gotta stay!’ Then Michelle gave her a big hug. My mother still talks about that moment.”
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
The retail giant is keen to show its softer side
As the world’s biggest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is no stranger to public scrutiny. And with sales slumping in its key U.S. market, the company has been keen to burnish its image on a wide range of social issues. Case in point: executives last week revealed they were going to double the amount of money Wal-Mart spends with women-owned businesses in the United States to about US$5 billion annually, by 2016. The changes come just as the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a big sex-discrimination lawsuit against the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, although suits from individual women could still be forthcoming. Wal-Mart has similarly worked with U.S. first lady Michelle Obama to try to promote healthier lifestyles among Americans by stocking more nutritious foods. Such efforts are no doubt made with Wal-Mart’s bottom line firmly in mind. But with annual sales greater than the GDP of 174 countries, there’s no question the rest of us benefit too.
By Cynthia Reynolds - Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
The new foreign minister is young, female and stylish—cause for celebration and controversy
The appointment of Pakistan’s new foreign minister is dividing opinion across the conservative nation. Hina Rabbani Khar is the first woman to ever hold the position in that country and, at 34, she’s also the youngest. While some argue her selection is a sign of hope for a new, more moderate direction for the hardline nation, others see the appointment of the wealthy businesswoman—and a member of a powerful Punjabi family—as business as usual. Some also consider her vastly inexperienced. Khar, who’s held mostly junior portfolios, slipped into government after a 2002 ruling required politicians to have a college degree; she ran for office after the rule disqualiﬁed her veteran politician father. Pakistan’s archrival India, meanwhile, is offering its own take on Khar: for the moment, it appears to have settled on style icon.
During her first official visit to Delhi last month, part of the new efforts to revive relations between the long-time foes, the press had little to say about Khar’s political skills. Instead, the media gushed over her black Hermès Birkin bag, Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, and classic strand of pearls, comparing her to Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni, even Kate Middleton. One columnist referred to her as Pakistan’s “weapon of mass distraction.” It’s not the first time the press has seized upon her image; pictures of her in trendy slim-fitting jeans have raised eyebrows throughout Pakistan, prompting traditionalists to question whether the co-owner of Polo Lounge, a trendy restaurant on downtown Lahore’s polo grounds, is out of touch with the conservative—and poor—country. Regardless, she now helms one of the most volatile relationships in world politics.
By Nancy MacDonald, Cigdem Iltan, Emma Teitel, Alex Ballingall and Richard Foot - Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 10:50 AM - 1 Comment
Hugo Chávez looks to Castro for care, J-Lo and Marc Anthony call it quits, and Shaq gets a new job
He speeds for good deeds
When you imagine the record-holder for the fastest bicycle trip across Canada, you’re probably not picturing somebody’s grandpa. But as of this week, the title belongs to Winnipeg’s Arvid Loewen, proud grandfather of three. The 54-year-old, who has raised more than $1.5 million for Kenyan orphans by cycling, pedalled close to 500 km per day. After 13 days, six hours and 13 minutes, Loewen rolled into downtown Halifax, beating the previous record by more than three hours. In other speeding news this week, David Weber’s attempt to save his unborn baby was rewarded with a huge ticket and a licence suspension. The 32-year-old was driving in rural Manitoba with his wife Genevieve when she went into labour. Complications during her first birth meant natural labour could endanger future babies. Panicked, David hit speeds of up to 170 km/h to get to a hospital. But the RCMP pulled him over twice, earning him $1,000 in ﬁnes. “What would have happened if something happened to my wife, or my baby?” David told the Winnipeg Free Press. “It’s like there’s no compassion anymore.” Baby Anabela was born healthy via emergency C-section.
Shaq to work
It was a good week for retired athletes embroiled in controversy. Shaquille O’Neal was absolved of involvement in a titillating story about a group of gangsters who allegedly kidnapped, pistol-whipped and robbed a man claiming to be in possession of a Shaq sex tape. Court officials deemed the big man wasn’t involved in the incident. Shaq also inked a multi-year deal with broadcaster TNT. He’ll join Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnston on the network’s Inside the NBA program. Then there’s former baseball star Roger Clemens. After being charged with lying to Congress about steroid use, the former Yankee had his trial thrown out after the prosecution submitted evidence that violated a pretrial agreement. Judge Reggie Watson said afterwards a “first-year law student” wouldn’t have made the same mistake. Talk about dodging a knock-down pitch.
By Leah McLaren - Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
When it comes to fashion, the duchess is already a kingmaker in her own right: whatever she wears turns to gold
When Prince William and Kate step off the Canadian Forces jet in Ottawa this week, the global fashion industry will be watching. Their laser-like scrutiny will not stem from any interest in relations between the royal family and its Commonwealth subjects, but from a far more practical concern: what is she wearing? And how can we capitalize on it?
Welcome to the incredible brand power of Kate: a young woman who can set a global trend on a whim, and a future queen who, in the world of fashion, is already an established kingmaker in her own right.
The industry-bending nature of Kate’s appeal has grown exponentially since plans for the royal nuptials were announced last fall. Back then, all eyes were on the ring, a priceless diamond-encircled sapphire, which once belonged to the late Princess Di. But while Kate flashed her new rock for the cameras, designers and retailers were rushing to knock off her outfit—a royal blue wrap dress by the then-little-known label Issa. The discount fashion retailer Peacocks produced a $22 copy, as did the grocery chain Tesco, which were reported to have sold out of their version in a matter of hours. The ring itself was replicated in every form, from gumball-machine plastic to a $50 “Princess” cocktail ring by Martine Wester.
By Ken MacQueen, Nicholas Kohler, Jason Kirby and Nancy MacDonald - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 9:05 AM - 0 Comments
Michelle Obama visits Soweto, the world’s richest divorcée goes broke, and tennis’s grunting gals get called out
Hollywood’s high rollers
His day job is playing such film roles as Spiderman and Nick Carraway, in the upcoming Great Gatsby adaptation. But incredible as it may seem, Tobey Maguire’s hobby—high-stakes poker—may be even more lucrative than the silver screen. Maguire’s winnings, which could amount to as much as $30 to $40 million over three years, came to light in a lawsuit filed against the 35-year-old actor by a group of investors attempting to recoup money lost to Brad Ruderman, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for operating a $5.2-million Ponzi scheme. Ruderman lost much of the money playing Texas Hold ’em, including over $300,000 to Maguire, in an exclusive poker ring that drew players like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Now, Ruderman’s investors want some of that cash. DiCaprio, Affleck and Damon aren’t being sued, though. “Matt never won,” a whistle-blower said.
One for the lads
As contingencies go, this one was a doozy. David Hart, a 23-year-old Royal Marine killed by a bomb blast in Afghanistan last year, earmarked $160,000 from his life insurance policy for an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas for his best friends and their girlfriends—32 people in all. “In a letter, David said he had had a great life and had no regrets about anything,” one friend told a reporter. “He said, ‘Go and have a good time and spend all this money.’ ” He left a second portion to his family, and the rest to charity. Hart, who died a day short of his 24th birthday, had always dreamed of a Vegas weekend. When his pals return to England they will continue training for a 275-km bike ride to raise money for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust.
Stick with a bike
The 911 call to police in Caseville, Mich., went something like this: “Believe it or not, I just passed about a five-, six-year-old flying down the road with a red Pontiac Sunbird.” Actually, Chief Jamie Learman discovered that the driver, who stood on the floorboard of his stepfather’s car to see over the steering wheel, was a pyjama-clad seven-year-old. He hit speeds of 80 kph during a 32-km drive across Huron County, north of Detroit. Police gingerly boxed him in, stopping him without incident. “He was crying, and just kept saying he wanted to go to his dad’s,” Learman said. “That was pretty much it: he just wanted to go to his dad’s.”
Quit that racquet!
There are tasks where a grunt or two are justified. Piano moving or childbirth come to mind. But tennis? It’s all a bit much, says Ian Richie, head of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. “Whether you are watching it on TV or here, people don’t particularly like it,” he told Britain’s Telegraph, with precisely the sort of understatement he’d like to see on Wimbledon’s grass courts. Jimmy Connors was a pioneering grunter back in the 1970s. Women then took it up with great enthusiasm. Maria Sharapova was recorded at 105 decibels in 2009—as loud as a car horn from three feet. Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito and Serena Williams have also employed the tactic as a weapon of mass distraction. Richie has made his concerns known, but certain fans find the sound effects appealing. Former Wimbledon Champ Michael Stich accuses the women of trying to “sell sex.”
Think a weakness for sexy social networking, à la Anthony Weiner, is a purely American failing? Turns out the language of <3 knows no borders. Xie Zhiqiang, a health bureau official in the Chinese city of Liyang, set up an account with Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, early this year believing it was a private chat tool. “Please marry me if there is a second life, so that we can live in romance until we are 100 years old,” he wrote to a married woman on the site before the pair were able to follow through on a planned tryst. Xie learned of the mistake after a reporter called about the exchange. “How can you view our messages on Weibo? It is impossible, isn’t it?” He has since been suspended from his job.
For more than a half-decade, she has been the face of Canadian women’s soccer—though perhaps never more so than now. Christine Sinclair wrote herself into the country’s sports lore for refusing to leave the field after her nose was broken in the opening game of the women’s World Cup at Berlin’s Olympiastadion. “You can’t play on,” Canada’s team doctor, Pietro Braina told her, trying to corral her onto the bench. But the Canadian captain turned, teary-eyed to Italian-born coach Carolina Morace who shrugged, palms up, and nodded to the field. Sinclair, of course, went on to score Canada’s lone goal, on a beautifully executed free kick in the dying minutes of the gutsy 2-1 loss—the first goal the two-time defending champion Germans have allowed since 2003. Sinclair, after having her nose resculpted by a German doctor, took to Twitter to opine on the new appendage: “amazing,” she wrote—joking, of course.
How to lose a billion dollars
It takes a lot to go from “the wealthiest divorcée in history” to bust in two decades—a lot of waste, that is. Patricia Kluge landed a $1-billion settlement when she split from media mogul John Kluge in 1990, only to blow the lot on parties for royalty, a 120-hectare estate in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains and a private winery. Kluge and her third husband, William Moses, have racked up $46 million in debt and ﬁled for bankruptcy last week. Her antiques, and her personal jewellery collection have already been auctioned off, and the Kluge winery was sold at auction—to none other than Donald Trump, her old friend, for $6.2 million. But Kluge isn’t the only one exiting the billionaire club. Research in Motion’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis lost their status after a sharp drop in RIM’s share price cut their personal net worth to around $800 million each, down from $1.8 billion in March.
The Doc returns
After 12 years on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays before he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, star pitcher Roy Halladay is set, this week, to make his long-awaited return to the mound at Rogers Centre, where he earned both a reputation and a nickname. The two-time Cy Young winner, Toronto’s first pick at the ’95 draft, was set to pitch against the Jays last year, but security concerns around the G20 summit forced the series to be shifted to Philadelphia instead. “Doc,” as he’s known around the league, was calm before the game: “I feel like it’s any other start.”
Tears of joy
“Alec! Now we can get married!” Steve Martin tweeted to his Oscar co-host, after New York legalized gay marriage in the state. “Ok,” Alec Baldwin responded, “but if you play that efﬁng banjo after eleven o’clock…” Lady Gaga, meanwhile, was a bit more emotional: “I can’t stop crying,” said the staunch gay-rights activist. “We did it kids. The revolution is ours to fight.”
Life out of office
It was a good week for Gordon Campbell, who is off to London as Canada’s high commissioner to the U.K.; the plum posting comes with a chauffeur, a chef and an official residence in swank Mayfair. In London, the former B.C. premier, who always resisted the temptation to bash the feds, will further hone his diplomatic skills among royals and the global elite. Gilles Duceppe, an Ottawa basher par excellence, had a big week too, granting his first televised interview since the Bloc’s stunning collapse in the last federal election. Unless Quebecers choose sovereignty, they’ll be “eating gumbo” in 50 years, he told Radio-Canada. He went on to hint at a return to politics, likely at the helm of the PQ, which appears to be imploding, a mere two months after the Bloc. He may well return to helm a sovereignist party, but the better question may be whether anyone will still be interested in the idea.
No medal for the penguin?
Dozer, a three-year-old goldendoodle from Fulton, Md., now merits his own runner’s page on the Maryland Half Marathon website, after escaping his masters Sunday and running the race. He crossed the finish line at the 2:12:24 mark, limping and exhausted, and received a medal from organizers after they discovered he was running solo. Truth is, Dozer probably slipped into the run several miles into the event. Far more impressive is the emperor penguin who swam an astonishing 4,000 km from Antarctica to New Zealand. Happy Feet, as he was nicknamed, was operated on at the Wellington Zoo to remove the stick and pebbles he’d eaten on Peka Peka beach. A committee has been struck to decide whether he should be returned home.
Building ships, and political futures
After a week in Ottawa spent championing the province’s bid for part of an estimated $35 billion in federal shipbuilding contracts, B.C. premier Christy Clark returned home to announce a major investment in a new marine trade training facility on Vancouver Island, sweetening the pot. If successful, the contract, which could create thousands of new jobs and raise millions in spinoffs, could also help Clark in a possible fall election, which could come as early as September.
Returning the warm embrace
Michelle Obama was hailed as a queen in her first solo trip to Africa this week. There, the U.S. First Lady spoke passionately to students, danced with African youth, met with Nelson Mandela and even squeezed in a dinner with her gal-pal Oprah Winfrey, a queen in her own right.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 4:03 PM - 16 Comments
First Lady announces creation of MyPlate, replacing decades-old food pyramid
In response to rising rates of childhood obesity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that the food pyramid nutritional diagram will be replaced by a simple plate. The idea is that the pyramid was too complex and that a plate diagram will be easier to understand. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama made the announcement, asking: “when it comes to eating, what’s more simple than a plate?” Called MyPlate, half the diagram – which represents the portions of a recommended daily diet – is taken up by fruits and vegetables. The other two quarters of the plate consist of grains and protein, while a small circle symbolizing dairy products sits next to it like a glass of milk. The U.S.D.A. has already spent $2 million creating and promoting MyPlate. Some critics are saying the money could be better spent elsewhere.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 9:57 AM - 1 Comment
The fatheads who resent the war on fat, plus Quebec announces a new anti-corruption unit
Fatheads resent war on fat
The latest conservative smear campaign against the White House circles around Michelle Obama’s waistline. According to radio host Rush Limbaugh, the first lady could stand to lose a few, particularly since being seen munching on braised short ribs while on vacation in Colorado. Limbaugh, who is no Adonis, suggested Mrs. O is a hypocrite for not following her own dieting advice. “Our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue,” he said. Sarah Palin has ridiculed Obama’s anti-obesity efforts, too, arguing she has no business in America’s kitchens. Meanwhile, Andrew Breitbart’s website ran a cartoon depicting a double-chinned first lady hoarding hamburgers while mouthing pro-health slogans.
The simple life of an Amish schemer
Unlike fraudster Bernie Madoff, Monroe L. Beachy lived a simple life among his fellow Amish in the quaint village of Sugarcreek, Ohio. But the Securities and Exchange Commission alleges Monroe, 77, ran a Ponzi-style scheme for 24 years, costing his largely Amish clients millions. It began to unravel after Beachy declared bankruptcy last June. (A horse, buggy and harness are among his personal assets, the Washington Post reports.) By then, less than US$18 million of the original $33 million invested remained. Ironically, some of the loss resulted from the dot-com bust, a shock to his investors, who shun modern technology. Investors don’t want to pursue the claims in court, saying it’s a matter for the church. “Members of the Plain Community love and trust one another in all their relationships,” an Amish creditors group said.
Where have we heard that before
Maclean’s took a thrashing last fall for calling Quebec “the most corrupt province” in Canada. While we don’t wish to reignite that debate, it’s refreshing to see the announcement last week of a permanent anti-corruption unit in the province. It will have a $30-million budget and 189 investigators and support staff, said Quebec Public Security Minister Robert Dutil. He called it a better anti-corruption strategy than the public inquiry demanded by the opposition. “We want to have these criminals in jail, not on television,” he said. Stéphane Bergeron, public security critic for the Parti Québécois, conceded the unit “wouldn’t hurt” the corruption fight. It’s “also an admission that the problem is bigger than [the government] has been willing to admit,” he told reporters.
What would Jack Bauer say?
Kiefer Sutherland is considering a return to TV after his break from eight seasons playing CTU agent Jack Bauer on the hit series 24. The Hollywood Reporter says he’s in talks for the lead role in Touch, by Heroes creator Tim Kring. He’d play the dad of a mute, autistic son who predicts the future. Meantime, the past of his real-life grandfather Tommy Douglas resurfaced in declassified documents, the Canadian Press reports. In one curious item, the former RCMP security service claimed Douglas, then NDP leader, met with actress Jane Fonda in 1970 about efforts to stop the Vietnam War and to bring Vietnamese to Canada for a public inquiry.
And baby makes four
Little Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen has an impressive parentage. “Katherine” honours her father Rufus Wainright’s late mother, singer Kate McGarrigle, and “Wainright” his father, Loudon Wainwright III. The other “proud parents” are “Deputy Dad” Jorn Weisbrodt (Rufus’s romantic partner), and Lorca Cohen, daughter of Leonard Cohen. No pressure to deliver on a dazzling musical career, kid.
Party for one!
Kim Jong Il usually uses his birthday celebration to instill confidence in the North Korean people by giving them at least a day’s worth of rice and corn. This year, though, the Supreme Leader failed to carry out the ritual, since food shortages are crippling the country, with the UN predicting shortfalls of more than 500,000 tonnes of grain. Even senior officials felt the pinch, reportedly receiving knock-off celebratory Rolex watches and Gucci bags in lieu of real ones. But the day wasn’t all for naught: Jong Il went home with presents including a fleet of Mercedes Benz automobiles and a US$16-million yacht. And heir apparent Kim Jong Un was named vice-chairman of the defence commission on the eve of his proud papa’s birthday.
Tears of a clown
Coming from a world of squirting flowers and joy buzzers, Brazilian clown and newly elected congressman Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva would surely be adept at pushing buttons. But last week Silva, a.k.a. Tiririca, generated more groans than laughs when he blew his first congressional vote. He’d pledged to back the government’s austerity measure for a new minimum wage. But he pressed the wrong button on the computerized system and backed an opposition motion for a much higher wage. Tiririca had outpolled all candidates by admitting he knew nothing about politics. But his slogan, “It can’t get any worse,” apparently underestimated his abilities.
High art with a very low brow
Fallen women tend to figure in opera—think of Violetta in La Traviata. But most divas haven’t fallen this far. The Royal Opera House in London dressed itself in sequins and hot pink this week for the premiere of Anna Nicole, an opera about Anna Nicole Smith. Richard Thomas’s libretto—called “caustically witty”—follows the life of the late Playboy model who married an 89-year-old billionaire, then died of a drug overdose. Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage said people will be “surprised how seriously we’ve taken the subject,” and soprano Eva-Marie Westbroek was hailed as sensational. Not all critics were moved: the Financial Times said the opera “belongs in the same genre as Jerry Springer, strung along a clothesline of lewd ditties and frothy choruses.” But the masses gobbled it up: all six performances sold out.
Ye can’t fight city hall, matey
Rodney McGrath calls his backyard—with its homemade two-storey pirate ship and “Mohawk Mountain,” a sculpture of tires and concrete—an “enchanted kingdom.” But what city inspectors and many of his neighbours on Midwood Avenue see is an unsightly safety hazard. Last week, after a two-year fight, councillors issued a demolition order for both ship and mountain. City engineers say the structures are unstable and aren’t built to code. Pirates, of course, aren’t big on rules and codes. “It’s beautiful,” McGrath says of his land-locked ship. “When the sun comes up in the morning it… reflects on the whole structure,” he told the CBC. “It comes alive.”
The new Wonder Woman
It wasn’t enough to possess superpowers, fight crime and look impossibly good in satin granny underpants; in a TV remake starring Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights, she also has a power career and work-life balance issues. The new show departs from the old, but apparently Lynda Carter approves.
Home, sweet KABOOM!
Steve Jobs ended a decades-long battle to tear down his own house. In 1984, the Apple CEO purchased a Spanish-style mansion in Woodside, near San Francisco, in the hopes of demolishing it and building a new residence. But Jackling House was the 1920s dream abode of copper industrialist Cowan Jackling, and Jobs faced legal challenges and cries for preservation of the manse. When he finally obtained a demolition permit this week, Jobs’s demo team destroyed the house in a single day, prompting Wired magazine to note the move was consistent with Jobs’ career: “He doesn’t have any doubts about deleting the past to create the future.”
Unlikely queen of queens
At age 15, Phiona Mutesi may be Uganda’s best female chess player. She’s certainly the unlikeliest, living in a Kampala slum, and just learning to read. She was attracted to the game at age nine, after her brother learned it from Robert Katende of the U.S. charity Sports Outreach Institute. Soon she was beating Katende. By 2009 she’d won regional tournaments. Last fall she travelled to Siberia for the Chess Olympiad, where she was beaten by Dina Kagramanov, the Canadian champ, who gave her advice and books on advanced chess. Mutesi continues to improve. “In chess, it doesn’t matter where you come from,” she said, “only where you put the pieces.”
Another day for the Jackal
The French aren’t finished with Carlos the Jackal, one of the world’s most hunted terrorists pre-Osama Bin Laden. The 61-year-old Venezuelan—real name is Ilitch Ramirez Sanchez—goes on trial in Paris in November for a series of bomb attacks that killed 11 people in France from 1982 to 1983. He’s already serving a life sentence for a run of deadly crimes, including an attack and hostage taking at the Vienna headquarters of OPEC in 1975.
It’s all in the mail
A forensic scientist and a student from Simon Fraser University may offer the best hope of solving one of aviation’s great mysteries. Amelia Earhart vanished in 1937 while circumnavigating the world. Donya Yang hopes to collect DNA from the envelope glue of four letters written by Earhart to see if it matches a bone found on the South Pacific island of Nikumaroro. The letters came from a collection held by student Justin Long’s grandfather, Elgen Long, an Earhart scholar. The letters are personal: “One was written by Amelia on airline letterhead while waiting for a flight—so we can be fairly certain that she is the one who sealed the envelopes,” says Long.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 17, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
James Franco’s newest reinvention, a dolphin that goes fishing, Prince embraces the medium formerly known as print
Is the Lady a mere copycat?
In its way, Lady Gaga’s tireless hunt for ways to shock us is nothing if not ambitious. Last week, it was her pals at PETA who were outraged after she appeared on Vogue Japan’s cover wearing only slabs of meat. Her Warholian shtick is now under fire as not being as original as we think. Yana Morgana claims Gaga stole her late daughter Lina’s flair for theatrics after the two recorded a dozen songs together in 2008. “Every other word she says is from Lina,” she told the New York Post.
Painting the town white
François Croteau, the mayor of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Que., hopes to cool his corner of Earth one white roof at a time. He’s proposed a bylaw making white roofs mandatory on all new buildings in the Montreal borough so they generate less heat. Roofs under repair would also have to be painted white, though residential peaked roofs are exempt. The plan is endorsed by Concordia University engineering professor Hashem Akbari, who is campaigning to get 100 of the world’s largest cities to go white. Changing all the roofs in the world would be equal to parking the world’s cars for 20 years, he says. Councillors vote in October.
Newspapers: the next big thing
Prince, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, is having a boffo summer since he famously declared the Internet “completely over”—as “outdated” as MTV. He’s playing last-minute stadium shows and occasional small gigs, maintaining his reputation as a musical rebel. He gave away for free his new CD, 20TEN, in four European newspapers, including London’s Mirror. Fed up with Internet abuses, he’s banned YouTube and iTunes from using his songs. “I really believe in finding new ways to distribute my music,” he told the Mirror, which, incidentally, was founded in 1903.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The leaders’ spouses avoided protesters—and any whiff of substance
As mayhem erupted on Toronto streets on Sunday, the spouses of G20 leaders were above the fray quite literally—ferried more than 800 m up to the revolving restaurant atop the CN Tower. The occasion was a brunch with “Canadian women of distinction” hand-picked by G20 summit hostess Laureen Harper. Flutes of bubbly and strawberry juice circulated, and the most pressing decision was whether to order the rosemary-mushroom gnocchi or the French toast.
It was a fitting finale to an event that saw politicians’ partners kept at a hermetic remove unprecedented in the G8’s 25-year history. Gawking at spouses has become part of summit spectacle, a justification for big-buck spending, a way to promote the global family. While world leaders thrash out big issues, their partners tour local landmarks—a high-tech incinerator in Japan, an earthquake site in Italy, a Harry Potter party in London.
By Katie Engelhart - Friday, December 4, 2009 at 1:40 PM - 0 Comments
Kate Gosselin’s hair cut got its own phrase, as did Michelle Obama’s pipes
Fashion faux pas of the season: the “reverse mullet”—named after the haircut that Kate Gosselin (of Jon & Kate Plus 8) got last spring. The asymmetrical bob—short and spiky at the crown and longer in the front—was widely mocked, notably by celebrity site TMZ.com, which dubbed it a “bi-level, Flock of Seagulls-humped-a-porcupine” weave.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wrote a Facebook post falsely accusing Obama of trying to set up “death panels” to ration access to health care. She mused: “My baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide . . . whether [he is] worthy of health care.” Fear, it seems, is contagious. A later CNN poll found 41 per cent of Americans felt seniors could fall victim to “government panels.”
That’s about all that bankers from Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. were left with when their firms went bust. Well, that and the millions in bonuses they accrued over the years, giving out “toxic loans” from “toxic banks” on “toxic streets” (think Wall).
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 7:04 PM - 4 Comments
Comedian Chris Rock has ventured into Michael Moore territory with a comic documentary that exposes the strange and secret world of black women’s coiffure. As host and co-writer of ‘Good Hair,’ he conducts a funny, fascinating excursion into tricks and taboos surrounding the billion-dollar industry of African American perms, weaves and wigs. Above is a video of my interview with Rock, conducted when his movie premiered last month at the Toronto International Film Festival.
By Ken MacQueen - Friday, October 2, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Newsmakers of the week
Dalai Lama: a ray of Vancouver Sunshine
The Dalai Lama, the peace-loving Buddhist monk and champion of an autonomous Tibet, began a busy week in Canada by serving as “guest editor” of the Saturday edition of the Vancouver Sun. The result was a very earnest paper filled with love, compassion and understanding—the usual murder, mayhem and politics sent to the back of the bus. Even the sports section opened with a story on the value of breathing and positive mantras. Football and the Vancouver Canucks were relegated to the inside pages, not being very Zen. On Sunday, the Nobel Peace Prize winner hosted the opening of a sold-out Vancouver Peace Summit, sharing the stage with leading spiritual thinkers, and fellow Nobel laureates. A bad back kept retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu from a session on achieving personal peace. In his stead, he sent his daughter Mpho Tutu, a mother and Episcopalian priest. Avoiding tantrum-throwing two-year-olds, she joked, is one step toward harmony. Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean sent greetings by video although she had been scheduled to appear in person. A spokesperson denied her absence was to appease Chinese leaders, who see the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. He made no references to China, perhaps wishing to avoid controversy. The news media focuses too much on bad news, he said after a day of editing the Sun.
Putting the Fidel in infidelity
Revolution isn’t Fidel Castro’s only passion, says American author Ann Louise Bardach, who tabulates his conquests of Cuban women in her forthcoming book, Without Fidel. She calculates Castro populated Cuba with 10 and possibly 11 children by at least seven women. He had a son with his first wife, Myrta Diaz-Balart, in 1949, and five boys with Dalia Soto del Valle, a long-time companion he is believed to have secretly married in 1980. There were many lovers, but 1955 was a banner year, after the 29-year-old rebel leader was released from prison after a failed uprising. He celebrated his freedom to such an extent that three women bore his children the next year. Continue…