NEWSMAKERS

MERGERS

December 25 2006
NEWSMAKERS

MERGERS

December 25 2006

★ THIS JUST IN ★

NEWSMAKERS

TIMBITS IN KANDAHAR

Less than two weeks after Timmy’s opened in Afghanistan, they ran out of doughnuts. Today the franchise is going gangbusters, pouring at least 1,000 cups of coffee a day. Sure, Cana dian taxpayers subsidize the business to the tune of millions a year—how else do you think they can charge just $1.65 for a large double-double in a war zone?—but consider whether you, personally, would want to take on the Taliban without Timbits. Thought not.

UGLY BETTY

The year’s hottest show is a family-friendly, underdog story based on a Colombian telenovela. Ugly Betty, wherein a sweet girl—albeit one with bushy eyebrows, braces, acne and ghastly clothes—ventures into the fur-lined snakepit of a fashion magazine, proves that network execs finally get it: enough already with reality TV.

CERVICAL CANCER VACCINE

Merck’s new vaccine, Gardasil, prevents the four most common strains of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus; they cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers. As an added bonus, the vaccine also works against 90 per cent of genital warts. The target group is females aged 9 to 26, in an attempt to immunize them—ideally before they become sexually active. It’s a major medical breakthrough in terms of women’s health and, by extension, reproductive freedom. No wonder pro-abstinence groups are not exactly overjoyed.

PRINCE GOES VEGAS

The newly single Prince has made his way to Vegas to open club 3121 in the Rio hotel, where he’ll play two nights a week; his personal chef will run the adjacent restaurant. It’ll certainly be the city’s hottest ticket. And, quite possibly, the shortest-lived: how long can a Jehovah’s Witness really last in Sin City?

KATIE COURIC AT NIGHT

Katie Couric, who starts her nighdy newscasts with “Hi, everyone,” is the first—get ready, it’s a mouthful-solo female national nightly news broadcaster in the U.S. And after 15 years on morning duty at Today, her evening debut on Sept. 5 brought CBS boffo ratings. The newscast has since dropped back to third, though her show is pulling in around two million more viewers than Dan Rather (in his last years, anyway).

OCEAN-CURRENT TURBINE

If the world’s fuel reserves run dry, let’s move to Bermuda, the location of the first-ever electricity-generating ocean-current turbine. A utility company will sink the submarine-like power generator off the coast of the tiny island, thereby providing 10 per cent of its energy needs. Or so they claim. We suspect the real plan is to suck up a few pesky scuba divers.

A NEW PEPSI GENERATION

In 2005, Indra Nooyi described the U.S. as the “middle finger” of the world. She later apologized for the, urn, cryptic comment. Now, all is forgiven and Indian-born Nooyi, 50, has been promoted from within to head Pepsico, the largest U.S. company led by a woman. But for now, the exec will no doubt keep her hands in her pockets.

BIG BABIES

Newborns: Suri Cruise. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Jayden James Federline. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (you know, the guy who keeps saying he won the Mexican election). Peter MacKay (you know, the nerdy ninth grader who just can’t get over being ditched by the cheerleader). We’re just not that into babies.

'I'M GOING TO GET MYS AN EXTRA LARGE TRIPLETRIPLE COFFEE-LIQUID RALE’--CPL. PAT HALCRO, ON THE ARRIVAL OF I HORTONS IN KANDAHAR

EVGENI MALKIN

The six-foot-three centre was picked in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Pittsburgh

Penguins, but his home team in Russia refused to let him go. It took two years, and some fancy manoeuvring, to get him on the ice in an NHL rink. He sat out his first four games as a Penguin with a shoulder injury, but has made up for lost time; the 20-year-old is the first player in 89 years to score in his first six games. He’s set to hit 50 goals this season. No wonder Russia hung on.

KIRAN DESAI

When it comes to winning Booker Prizes, Anita Desai is zero for three, but her daughter is one for one. The younger Desai, 35, captured the 2006 prize for her sophomore novel, The Inheritance of Loss, an immigrant story that zeroes in on the realities of multiculturalism and post-colonialism. Some asked if she would turn down the prize, considering its colonial nature. “I’m not crazy!” she told the Guardian. After all, the honour comes with more than $100,000 cash—quite enough to buy a lovely consola' )n prize for mom.

THE GAY BAD GUY

Homosexuals used to be demonized onscreen—and that was wrong. Then they were sanitized to the point of holier-than-thouness—and that was wrong. But this year, TV celebrated the complexity of the Gay Bad Guy. There’s T-Bag on Prison Break, indulging in gay sex as a way to gain power behind bars, and the tormented tormentor Vito on The Sopranos, plus the outand-proud murdering thief Omar on The Wire. They’re here, they’re queer, get the hell out of their way.

ERIS

Scientist Michael Brown discov-

ered an object even bigger than Pluto in the Kuiper belt, a swarm of icy bodies beyond Neptune. In August, the International Astronomical Union, not wanting to create a 10th planet, gave it “dwarf planet” status, and demoted Pluto, too. Brown’s team initially called it Xena after TV’s Warrior Princess, but the IAU said the name must come from creation mythology. Brown chose Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord. Fitting.

ISLAMIC TERROR PLOTS COME TO CANADA

You’ll never buy ammonium nitrate in this country again, CSIS warned would-be terrorists. With the help of an informant, in June police seized three tonnes of ammonium nitrate and halted an alleged plot to blow up buildings in Ontario and behead the Prime Minister. We thought it couldn’t happen here, but 18 suspects, reportedly inspired by al-Qaeda, were arrested and charged under anti-terrorism laws.

MICHELLE BACHELET

She was imprisoned and tortured in the 1970s during Augusto Pinochet’s bloody reign. Today, she’s a liberal-leaning agnostic who, in March, became Chile’s first female president. With the economy booming, normally conservative Chileans are in love with Santiago’s most famous single mom, who gave half her cabinet portfolios to women.

JUSTIN MORNEAU

The 25-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., took baseball’s American League MVP, beating out the likes of Derek Jeter and David Ortiz. Morneau, who plays first base for the Minnesota Twins, is the second Canadian to win baseball’s highest honour (Larry Walker won the National League’s MVP in 1997). With the millions he’ll make next year, he’ll presumably be able to afford a better barber.

CONSERVATIVE PARTY

Stephen Harper stymied Paul Martin’s fear-mongering campaign, taking 124 seats and becoming Canada’s 22nd PM. How did he do it? Repeating the same five ideas over and over again and locking up the morning news cycle. And though he leads a minority government, Harper immediately began governing as though he’ll be around forever. Scared? Who’s scared?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE AND PETER MACKAY

Just one look, that’s all it took for reporters on both sides of the border to catch the chemistry between the U.S. secretary of state, 52, and Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, 41. The two spent the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 traipsing around the waterfront in Pictou, N.S., grinning from ear to ear. The New York Times praised his “build” and CP called her “elegant.” It was fun while it lasted.

NICOLE KIDMAN AND KEITH URBAN

They met in January 2005, married in June ’06, and he checked into Betty Ford in October. Both are 39-year-old Aussies, but they seemed an odd match from the get-go: she is a willowy, ethereal Oscar-winner who’s made some deadly script choices recently, he has a predilection for grunge, posing nude and ffeebasing. Worse, the country singer is almost as short as Tom Cruise.

FAIRMONT HOTELS AND A SAUDI PRINCE

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud acquired the Toronto-based Fairmont hotel chain, which manages Canadian icons like the Château Frontenac, for amere US$3.9 billion. Along with fellow pauper Bill Gates, he plans on acquiring the Four Seasons chain, another Canadian icon. What’s next? Moose Jaw’s Comfort Inn?

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY

AND LANCE ARMSTRONG

Breaking Away meets Brokeback Mountain? Rumours that Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong are lovers were fuelled by shared sweaty athletic pursuits, shopping trips and sports outings from Malibu to Miami last summer (sometimes with Jake Gyllenhaal bringing up the rear). There are pet names—“Livestrong” for Lance, “the Redneck Buddha” for McConaughey—but the pair deny any bro-mance. “We all have buds,” Armstrong explained. “We all take guy trips.” Gyllenhaal, wisely, said nothing.