OPENING NOTES

MPs battle over a parliamentary smoking ban, Art Buchwald orders in pizza, and NASA conquers a dirty enemy

April 16 1990

OPENING NOTES

MPs battle over a parliamentary smoking ban, Art Buchwald orders in pizza, and NASA conquers a dirty enemy

April 16 1990

OPENING NOTES

MPs battle over a parliamentary smoking ban, Art Buchwald orders in pizza, and NASA conquers a dirty enemy

BUTTING OUT ON THE HILL

The fresh-air era officially arrived in the House of Commons last December when MPs voted to ban smoking in all buildings on Parliament Hill. Since then, Greg Thompson, a Progressive Conservative backbencher from New Brunswick, has become embroiled in a campaign to persuade tobacco users in the caucus to adhere to the nonsmoking regulations. In his pursuit of a smoke-free environment, Thompson has identified government whip James Hawkes and parliamentary secretary Albert Cooper—the two MRS who are most concerned with party discipline—as Tories who are still lighting up in the members' lobby. In-

deed, in February the New Brunswick member even asked Speaker of the House John Fraser to state that his colleagues' illegal smoking infringed upon his rights as an MP. Fraser declined to rule on the issue at that time, adding that he "would prefer that this matter was resolved among members speedily and with a sense of responsibility and self-discipline rather than have more severe measures taken." But Thompson maintains that he is still finding cigarette butts ground into the carpet in the members' lobby adjacent to the government benches—in contrast to the opposition lobby, where MPs have refrained from smoking. He added that he is again considering asking Fraser to rule on the illegal smoking. As a result, another type of litter could soon surface in the members' lobby: the wrappers from nicotine-laced chewing gum.

Removing the bugs from the system

Despite elaborate precautions

Despite against such intrusions, a swarm of tiny black flies caused a delay as scientists prepared for the scheduled launch of the space shuttle Discovery and its $1.75-billion payload, the Hubble Space Telescope, this week. Maclean’s has learned that, as technicians prepared to load the massive telescope aboard the shuttle at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on March 27, the insects, commonly known as midges, swarmed into the supposedly sealed payload preparation room. Said National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman Michael Brau-

kus: "We do not know where they came from or how they go in. The telescope has to be kept in a dust-free environment, and the flies could have ruined everything.” Indeed, the NASA employees who were loading the 25,000-lb. telescope had to refrain from

swatting the midges, because that would have contaminated the atmosphere. The technicians finally restored the room’s pristine state by employing a chemical insect trap to lure 40 midges to their deaths. A fly in the ointment was a welcome development.

CRAMMING FOR A CONFERENCE

A state department staffer has privately acknowledged that George Bush found little time to prepare for a one-day visit with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Toronto this week. He said that the President was kept busy in Washington last week with briefings on friction between Iraq and Israel and talks with visiting Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Indeed, the U.S. official added that Bush would be brushing up on such U.S.-Canadian issues as acid rain during the one-hour flight of Air Force One to Toronto. Clearly, he was prepared to wing it.

TEST-DRIVE THIS FREIGHT CHARGE

Ford Canada products are the targets of some unflattering comparisons in a current series of TV and print ads for compact cars. In the ads, Oshawa-based General Motors claims that its Pontiac Sunbird and Chevrolet Cavalier lines have lower operating costs than Ford Tempo and Topaz models in the same price range—between $11,500 and $13,000. But officials at Ford’s Oakville, Ont., headquarters strongly objected to GM’s claim that its customers pay lower freight

rates—about $400 per car, against the $540 charged by Ford—for shipping autos to dealerships. Said Ford spokesman John Jelinek: “We were surprised that they would get that down and dirty and go so directly on the attack.” For his part, GM representative Nick Hall defended the ads, noting that GM had lower freight rates even though its Sunbirds and Cavaliers are all made in U.S. plants while most of Ford's Tempo and Topaz models are built in Canada.

Lighting the way for police

Police in Manitoba are using an unusual tool to trace marijuana growers, as judges have allowed them to examine the electricity bills of customers suspected of cultivating marijuana. The police say that the plants are being grown hydroponically—an indoor growing method that requires continuous, highpowered lighting and can increase a monthly hydro bill by $2,000. According to Winnipeg police Insp. Raymond Johns, the perusal of Manitoba Hydro records has resulted in “seven real good busts ” in that city alone since January. Now, more home gardeners could be in for a shock.

Tremors at the Globe

Editorial staff at the Toronto Globe and Mail adjusted to turnover at the top in 1989 as publisher Roy Megarry fired editor-in-chief Norman Webster and managing editor Geoffrey Stevens, replacing them with William Thorsell and Timothy Pritchard, respectively. Since then, persistent rumors that Megarry had grown disenchanted with Thorsell and would replace him have failed to bear fruit. Still, a significant newsroom change occurred last month, when Megarry fired Paul Palango as national editor. Palango was a sharp-tongued veteran of 13 years’ service at the newspaper, and some colleagues say that he had bluntly expressed his concern that the Globés commitment to investigative journalism appeared to be waning. Shortly before his dismissal, in fact, Palango engaged in a heated discussion with senior managers over an internal report in which Palango criticized the performance of the newspaper’s domestic bureaus—particularly the Montreal bureau. While Megarry declined to comment on the dismissal, Globe staffers say that Palango’s stinging comments in that report clearly angered the publisher. In any event, Palango is now negotiating a settlement with Globe representatives—and, he says, considering several job offers.

HAUNTING ECHOES OF HISTORY

Since 1945, the U.S. government has controlled the world's largest collection of Nazi personnel records, housing millions of original documents in the American sector of West Berlin. But West German officials say that papers ranging from Nazi party membership cards to the files of SS storm-trooper units should be transferred to Bonn's control because they are "part of German history.'' Still, some U.S. justice department officials who are hunting Nazi war criminals are quietly opposing that request, noting that similar archives on Nazi activities in Austria disappeared shortly after U.S. officials turned them over to Vienna—in 1955. Germany may be on the verge of reunification, but the Second World War still casts a long shadow.

BREAD-ANDBUTTER ISSUES

In January, a California judge ruled that Paramount Pictures had used ideas in a

script submitted by Art Buchwald to make the 1988 movie Coming to America. But because Buchwald’s original contract called for 19 per cent of the film’s net profits, the hu-

morist's lawyer and accountant have since been poring over 95,000 accounting entries in

Paramount’s Los Angeles offices—trying to disprove the studio’s contention that a blockbuster hit starring comedian Eddie Murphy had actually lost money. Late last month, Paramount executives indicated that they were

still smarting from the court loss: they barred the two men from taking meal breaks in the studio cafeteria. In response, Buchwald sent a pizza to them—and told them to order in, at his expense, for as

long as it took them to comb the studio's books—and, presumably, bring home some bacon.