She’s nicknamed the “Hillary Clinton des tropiques” for her influential involvement in the government of her husband, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, but there’s a more sinister taint to Simone Gbagbo. This week she ignored a summons from a French judge to respond to questions about the 2004 disappearance of a Franco-Canadian journalist. Guy-André Kieffer was abducted while probing corruption. Simone’s brotherin-law, Michel Legré, was indicted. A man claiming to have been the driver in the abduction says that a Gbagbo confidant oversaw the operation and that Simone was on the phone with him during the kidnapping. Simone is a controversial figure, partly owing to her supposed connection to local death squads. Ignoring the summons won’t make it go away: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to get to the bottom of Kieffer’s disappearance.
HOLLYWOOD’S NEW CANADIANS
At 15, Jay Baruchel co-hosted Global TV’s Popular Mechanics for Kids with a 14-year-old Elisha Cuthbert. “All my friends wanted her number,” he says. “I never understood why everybody thought she was hot.” Now 26, Baruchel belongs to a new generation of Hollywood Canadians, along with Cuthbert, Seth Rogen, Michael Sera and Ellen Page. He’s been in movies ranging from Knocked Up to next month’s Tropic Thunder. But he hates Hollywood; a few years ago, he had a tattoo artist plant a maple leaf over his heart. Sure, in Tropic Thunder Baruchel was thrilled to work with Robert Downey Jr., who got him hooked on Gatorade and unfiltered cigarettes. But he goes out of his way to make Canadian movies. In Just Buried, out this month, Baruchel stars in a black comedy about a Nova Scotia couple who maintain their funeral parlour by bumping off townsfolk. Sounds like Popular Embalming for Adults.
A SONG BY A LONG-LOST BROTHER
When the Nazis snatched her from her family’s home in 1942, Irene Famulak recalled that her little brother, Wssewolod Galizkij, who was just seven at the time, pushed her away when she kissed him goodbye. “He said that he didn’t like kisses.” It was a different scene last week when Famulak, 83, and her brother, 81, were reunited after 66 years. Tears streaming down their faces, the siblings met in Donetsk, Ukraine, spent the rest of the Second World War working in a German concentration camp. She moved to Philadelphia in 1956 without knowing what happened to her brother. Galizkij was in Ukraine and for decades he made little progress searching for her. He says he wouldn’t have found her without the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center. Last week, in an orchard, Galizkij hosted a feast for his sister and recounted how he had survived without her. “He says he wrote a song for me,” Famulak said. “He sang every night and cried.” With that, a frail Galizkij burst into that song, but this time with
GOING THROUGH HELL TO BECOME QUEEN
It sounds trite, but Dayana Mendoza told judges at last weekend’s Miss Universe 2008 contest that being kidnapped had enabled her to remain so poised at the pageant. The Miss Venezuela contestant, 22, went on to win the tiara, beating out women from 79 other countries (including an American beauty who tripped and fell on camera, the second time in as many years that’s happened). Mendoza showed all the poise she putatively learned when she was 10, at the hands of an abductor. She says her charm and sang-froid made him trust her to the point that he left her alone with a telephone—end of abduction. Her competitors didn’t lack vivid experien-
ces either. Miss jfl Angola says she 1 was in a plane 1 crash while fleej ing her land’s civil I war, Miss Argentina claimed to have psychic experiences, and Miss Antigua enjoys the company of snakes. /
EVER UNDERSTOOD WHY EVERYBODY THOUGHT SHE ERATION HOLLYWOOD CANADIAN ELISHA CUTHBERT
CHARLES SCHUMER BANK WATCHDOG OR PUBLICITY HOUND?
When U.S. regulators seized mortgage lender IndyMac Bank last Friday, they didn’t seem to focus their blame for the collapse on the bank’s liberal mortgage dealings. No, the Office of Thrift Supervision pointed the finger at U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. An OTS press release said aUS$1.3-billion deposit run began after the Democratic senator, a member of the Senate banking committee, sent a letter to regulators expressing con cern about the bank’s viability. Though Schumer has been labelled a publicity chaser in the past—former senator Bob Dole said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Charles Schumer and a television camera”—he was angry at being blamed and accused the OTS of duty dereliction. IndyMac is a spin-off of Countrywide Financial, which imploded in last year’s mortgage meltdown. Schumer complained that “they are doing what the Bush administration always does: blame ¿gr the fire on the person who calls 911.”
JEN ALEXANDER THREE PROVINCES, ONE TOUGH SWIM
She may have failed to become the first person to swim the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia via New Brunswick last weekend, but Jen Alexander of Halifax deserves applause for courage. After touching the New Brunswick shore early Saturday morning, the 33-year-old marathon swimmer was en route to Nova Scotia when nausea and strong currents forced her to call the swim off. She had been in the water for 13V2 hours, struggling with every stroke as she ingested salt water and was stung repeatedly by jellyfish. But what * makes Alexander’s attempt even more impressive is that she has type 1 diabetes and wore a waterproof insulin pump in the water. Yet, like a true hero, Alexander wasn’t feeling sorry for herself after her failed attempt. Instead, her thoughts were with those she swam to raise awareness for. “I did think a lot about the diabetes community while I was swimming, and I know that they were pulling for me,” she noted, “ft was a really difficult decision to choose to get out.” Alexander is confident that on a better day she will conquer the strait.
SCOTT ERWOOD MAY THE BEST FRIEND WIN
Sometimes you beat the field to win. Other times you crush the soul of a friend to capture a dream. Such was the case last weekend when BMX rider Scott Erwood ofSurrey, B.C., squared off against roommate and chum Jimmy Brown from Airdrie, Alta., in a sudden-death race to determine who will represent Canada next month in Beijing. Brown, 19, crashed on the second straightaway during the best-of-five race-off in California, helping Erwood,
20, to cinch victory. Yet even though Brown is gutted by his loss, he’s a true friend: “The fastest guy is going and Canada’s going to be represented very well.” For Erwood, the win is sweeter considering he shattered his wrist during an event last year and missed five months of competition. “Going to the Olympics to compete is crazy,” said Erwood. “I’m going to give it my all.” Erwood may come back with a medal he can share with his pal.
NOT SO UNTOUCHABLE
The Argentine lawyer who became the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in 2003 has earned a reputation for holding the seemingly untouchable accountable for human rights atrocities. During the 1980s, Luis Moreno-Ocampo helped prosecute former senior members of Argentina’s notorious military junta for their roles in the nation’s “dirty war.” This week, MorenoOcampo set his sights on Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accusing him of committing genocide in Darfur, which has left an estimated 300,000 dead. “The decision to start the genocide was taken by Bashir personally,” he explained. The charges, the first ever against a sitting head of state, provoked fury in Sudan, and there is fear that international peacekeepers could be expelled. Next up: freezing Bashir’s assets.
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