OPENING NOTES

Bill Bradley makes an early score, Pierre Trudeau sharpens his pen, and Salman Rushdie speaks from the shadows

February 5 1990

OPENING NOTES

Bill Bradley makes an early score, Pierre Trudeau sharpens his pen, and Salman Rushdie speaks from the shadows

February 5 1990

OPENING NOTES

Bill Bradley makes an early score, Pierre Trudeau sharpens his pen, and Salman Rushdie speaks from the shadows

RE-ENTERING THE ARENA

During the past three years, Pierre Trudeau has made several sorties from a jealously guarded private life in Montreal to deliver stinging denunciations of the Meech Lake constitutional accord. And the former prime minister is likely to become even more visible— and vocal—as the June deadline for ratifying the pact draws closer. For one thing, Trudeau has scheduled speeches in Montreal and Toronto that are tied to the March release of Towards a Just Society: The Trudeau Years, a book that he and former aide Thomas Axworthy have edited together. Penguin Books Canada Ltd. had originally planned a

fall, 1989, release for a collection of political essays that, according to Senator Keith Davey, was sparked by the failure of Liberal Leader John Turner to defend his predecessor's record against Tory attacks. But the publication of works by such Trudeau-era figures as former cabinet minister Marc Lalonde had to be delayed—in part, say Liberals close to the project, because Trudeau wanted to sharpen an attack on Meech Lake in his essay. The book, which is now scheduled to appear during the race for the Liberal leadership, also contains an essay by one of the leading contenders for that post: Jean Chrétien. And while the book's effect on that race and the Meech Lake accord is hard to predict, its planned release date underlines a maxim that Trudeau strove to heed during a 15-year tenure as prime minister: timing is everything.

Reports from the underground

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini imposed a death sentence on Salman Rushdie almost one year ago—on the grounds that Rushdie had blasphemed Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses. That threat has forced Rushdie into a clandestine existence marked by frequent moves from one secret location to another, but the British author still rejects charges that The Satanic Verses offends Islam. Indeed, a spokesman for his publisher has acknowledged that Rushdie is urging Viking Penguin to issue a paperback version of the controversial novel. Still, the so-called Rushdie affair has clearly had a chilling effect, as other Moslem writers acknowledge their fear about facing a similar fate. Tunisian-born scholar Youssef Seddik, for one, is the author of Tell Me a Story about the Koran, a children’s book that uses cartoons to depict tales

from the Islamic holy book. But last week, Seddik allowed his Paris-based publisher to withdraw the book after Tunisia’s Supreme Islamic Council said that it violated a Moslem ban on pictorial depictions of God. Art may not always imitate life.

SCANDAL IN HIGH PLACES

A $207-per-night hotel room has become the latest tourist attraction in Washington. According to Vista Hotel manager Rex Rice, hundreds of would-be guests have telephoned to reserve Room 727 following the Jan. 12 arrest of Washington Mayor Marion Barry for allegedly smoking crack cocaine in that room. Indeed, a firm that offers bus tours of scandal sites, including the Capitol Hill townhouse where presidential hopeful Gary Hart once entertained model Donna Rice, has added the Vista Hotel to its route. Scandalmongering has taken a new turn.

THE STREETS THAT DIVIDE A CITY

When Montreal city councillors renamed Dorchester Boulevard in honor of former Quebec premier René Lévesque, the 1988 change led to a heated debate in some parts of the city. Indeed, residents of largely anglophone Westmount succeeded in retaining the old name for the section of the street that cuts through their neighborhood. Now, a civic committee that names—and renames—streets and squares is facing another controversial issue: how to mark the 100th

anniversary of the birth of France’s Charles de Gaulle. To that end, the St. Jean Baptiste Society is urging the committee to rename Sherbrooke Street, a central thoroughfare that the French leader used during a 1967 visit to city hall. There, he electrified the country by shouting “Vive le Québec libre. ” Montreal Gazette columnist Jack Todd has called the Sherbrooke Street proposal “a colossally bad idea,” but to Montrealers it is a familiar experience: a battle over signs.

More cracks in the Iron Curtain

Hungary’s shift towards a market economy passed another milestone last week: Rupert Murdoch became a major figure in that country’s press circles. The Australianborn media tycoon spent $4.8 million to buy half-shares in two publications: Reform, a weekly newspaper with a circulation of400,000, and Mai Nap (The Sun), a daily with a circulation base of 100,000 readers. And observers in Budapest say that the new acquisitions should fit easily into Murdoch’s press empire: the two tabloids are already considered to be among the most sensationalist newspapers in Eastern Europe.

RAIL WAY SIGNALS FROM THE PAST

The last freight train rumbled along Newfoundland's narrow-gauge tracks in the fall of 1988, but signs on St. John's civic buses still proclaim, "This bus stops at all railway crossings." In fact, the vehicles no longer stop before the defunct rail lines, and the general manager of the city's MetroBus transit system, William Thistle, said that the company had been slow to remove the signs because the procedure entailed a paint job. Still, on Prince Edward Island, where train service stopped last December, SMT Eastern Ltd.'s buses carry similar signs—and obey them. Said SMT spokesman Everett Swan: "We stop because that is still the law as far as I know. We haven't had a letter from the railway to tell us not to." Old habits can be hard to break.

Smoke gets in your eyes

Ottawa’s hardening stance against smoking can be confirmed by simply sniffing the air in the Parliament buildings. A stringent ban on cigarette smoking is now in effect—and it even includes such former havens as MPs’ private offices. Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka swiftly encountered the new antismoking rules on Jan. 22 when he attended a Hill reception for several members of the Toronto Blue Jays, among them slugger Fred McGriff and pitcher Todd Stottlemyre. There, in the Railway Committee Room, Sopinka lit up a large cigar and puffed away for several minutes before James Watson, the communications director for Commons Speaker John Fraser, asked him to douse the fire. Recalled Watson: “He is probably still wondering who I was. But when I told him he was not allowed to smoke here, he chuckled and put it out.” Still, Tory officials say that smokers in the federal cabinet did manage one small reprieve recently— by delaying a pending smoking ban on all flights by Canadian air carriers until June 30. Transport Minister Benoît Bouchard had planned to introduce the ban last December, but his tobacco-using colleagues said that both smokers and airlines needed more time to prepare for a now-familiar refrain: butt out.

AN EARLY LEAD IN A LONG RACE

George Bush has barely completed his first year in the White House, but Democrats are already eyeing candidates for the 1992 presidential election. Indeed, a recent poll of key Democrats, the chairmen of party organizations in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, revealed that most of them wanted Bill Bradley, the senior senator

from New Jersey, to run against Bush. Bradley, 46, a former Rhodes Scholar who played 10 years for the National Basketball Association’s New York Knickerbockers, outpolled such likely candidates as New York state Gov. Mario Cuomo and Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Still, the onetime forward dis| played some deft I dribbling when he u learned those results: he stressed that it was too early to decide if he would enter the 1992 race. Presumably, he is waiting to see how many tickets he can sell.