NEWSMAKERS

June 9 2008

NEWSMAKERS

June 9 2008

NEWSMAKERS

‘THE WAY I ATTACKED IT WAS TO THINK OF WASN’T DIAMONDS, WASN’T BIRD DROPPINGS’-

MENGISTU HAILE MARIAM

FATE OF THE DESPOT

The fate of the former Marxist leader of Ethiopia was decided this week by that nation’s Supreme Court. Now 71, Mengistu Haile Mariam has been sentenced to death for a reign of terror that saw thousands of Ethiopians murdered between 1974 and 1991. Mengistu, whose regime overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie and instigated a national purge now referred to as the “Red Terror,” had been convicted in absentia in Addis Ababa following an epic 16-year trial. He had received a clemency ruling ,in 2007. But this week a court overturned the clemency decision for him and 17 senior associates, agreeing with prosecutors that their sentences should be commensurate with the crimes. Mengistu is currently holed up in Zimbabwe, where he resides under the increasingly precarious protection of President Robert Mugabe, who refers to him as “Comrade Mengistu.” While he won’t face a firing squad just yet, his death sentence gave Ethiopians satisfaction during this week’s national holiday, which expressly celebrates Mengistu’s ouster.

ELISHA CUTHBERT

A PUCK BUNNY SCORES A HAT TRICK

She once auditioned unsuccessfully for the role that Kirsten Dunst scored in the Spider-Man films. But Calgary-born Elisha Cuthbert, 25, has proved adept at spinning a web of romance with professional hockey players. The star of TV’s 24 as well as movies such as House of Wax is no stranger to ice rinks. Her brother and mother both play on hockey teams. Further, she’s been linked romantically to Montreal Canadien Mike Komisarek and the L.A. Kings’ Sean Avery. Now, after being introduced by the wife of Calgary Flames centre Craig Conroy, Cuthbert has scored a hat trick with player No. 3: Calgary defenceman Dion Phaneuf. The paparazzi caught the six-foot-three Phaneuf towering over the petite actress at Maui. Phaneuf is so besotted with her that he turned down a berth on Team Canada at the recent World Hockey Championin favour of the Hawaiian

JOSÉ CANSECO

A 'ROID HEAD COMES OUT SWINGING

Flamboyant baseball player José Canseco has worn a lot of hats —he’s been a professional athlete, a tell-all author and a reality TV star. Now, the admitted steroid user adds another: celebrity boxer. Canseco—who outed other drug-using athletes in his 2005 book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids,

Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big—is seeking a challenger in the ring July 12 in Atlantic City, N.J. (his opponent will be paid $5,000 for the trouble). If nobody else wants to fight him, some ball players might. His latest book alleges more steroid users, including the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. Canseco claims he introduced Rodriguez to a Canadian trainer and alleged steroid pusher (details from the account were later called into question). A-Rod take note: those interested in facing Canseco in the ring should email fightcanseco @ aol.com.

SEBASTIAN FAULKS

IAN FLEMING TRIBUTE IS SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED

For acclaimed British novelist Sebastian Faulks, it might be a better accomplishment than spending a romantic evening with legendary Bond girl Octopussy. After receiving permission from the estate of the late Ian Fleming, Faulks has penned a new, authorizedjames Bond “tribute” novel entitled Devil May Care. Faulks, who wrote the book in just six weeks, decided against placing Bond in a modern context in preference of depicting 007 as he originally appeared in the ’50s and ’60s. Accordingly, the story is set during the summer of love, 1967, and along with a dose of exotic locations, glamorous women and unruly villains, Faulks touches upon a topic Fleming never dealt with—drugs. “The way I attacked it was to think of something the villain could do that wasn’t gold, wasn’t diamonds, wasn’t bird droppings —which is what Dr. No is into,” Faulks told the Sunday Times. Apparently Faulks’s approach has worked. Elis publisher is so chuffed with the book, due out this week, that it’s even created a new James Bond imprint, Penguin 007-

IETHING THE VILLAIN COULD DO THAT WASN’T GOLD, EBASTIAN FAULKS ON WRITING A NEW JAMES BOND

DIMA BILAN SINGING HOTTIE HAS RUSSIA BELIEVING

When he left his squalid little hometown in southern Russia in 1999 to take part in a Moscow music festival, everyone chipped in on the 2,000 rubles Dima Bilan needed to enter. “I knew Bilan would become a star,” said his former music teacher. Not only did the young Russian nail the festival, but he did become a star. Last weekend he honoured all of Russia by winning the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. His song, Believe (produced by the American music wizard Timbaland), swept the event, the first ever at the competition for a Russian. President Dmitri Medvedev called to congratulate Bilan and to begin planning to host next year’s competition, an honour accorded the winning singer’s country. Russians see Bilan’s win as a boost to the nation’s reviving self-respect. His trademark mullet haircut has been widely copied by Russian males and women sport tattoos of his likeness. Bilan-maniais taking off.

GARY NELSON

NO WARM WELCOME FOR CANADIAN COPS

When he arrived in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda recently, former Mountie Gary Nelson found the climate anything but warm. Nelson, 58, and three other retired Mounties arrived in the country in March to reform Antigua’s ineffective police force. Nelson received a government mandate to boost morale and turn around a force that is widely viewed as corrupt and unable to control a growing wave of crime in the island nation. Police headquarters had no fax, two-way radio or even running water, and there were only 45 cars for more than 500 officers. In addition, there was widespread public mistrust of the cops, which Nelson has sought to reverse through community-policing techniques. But instead of receiving encouragement for the job, Nelson and his team found themselves in the centre of a political storm that has frayed racial sensibilities. Opposition leader and former prime minister Lester Bird blasted their appointments as a return to the days of white colonial rule. He charged that black locals were overlooked for the jobs and he vowed he will fire Nelson and his associates if he is re-elected in next year’s f elections.

SCOTT SPEEDMAN

HUNGRY, BEARDED MAN ON THE RED CARPET

As a student at Toronto’s Earl Haig Secondary School, Scott Speedman was a senior on a fast track to be an Olympic swimmer, until an injury ended his career. So he plunged into acting and has since worked with Kate Beckinsale and Gwyneth Paltrow. And last week he was on the red carpet in Cannes for his starring role in Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, as an intolerant towtruck driver who adopts his orphaned teenage nephew. Speedman, 32, had to talk Egoyan into giving him the role, which was written for a 45-year-old. “He was thinking more of a Bruce Greenwood type,” he says. “But I was really hungry.” In Adoration, Speedman’s hunky good looks are hidden by a beard. “I usually have a beard if I’m not working,” he says. “I just don’t like shaving.” His manager made him shave in Cannes. “He said: ‘You’re not walking down that red carpet with a beard.’ ”

SHANNON KOREMAN THE BICYCLE THIEVES: A CITY REACHES OUT

Had the residents of northern Edmonton looked into the sky Saturday night, they might have seen a police helicopter—one on a mission to find a boy’s lost bike. The donated, specially modified yellow bicycle, which has training wheels and a seat belt, was stolen from a 13year-old autistic boy last week. “It really helped him be one of the guys out there,” says Shannon Koreman, the boy’s foster mom. She says the theft was devastating for the boy, who has been crying ever since. Cycling was one of the few activities they could do “as a family,” she says. (The boy can’t be named because he’s in foster care.) Koreman says she’s been amazed by the sheer number of people who’ve offered their help: “It makes me feel like I’m not the only one out there looking for it.” Koreman estimates it would take her a year to save up the $1,000 necessary to replace the boy’s bike—but it looks like she won’t have to. Workers at Midwest Constructors Ltd. passed around a hard hat and collected enough to buy the boy a new customized bike. Koreman hopes she and her son will be cycling together again by the fall.