People: The price of a newspaper: a bed of thorns

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The Independent Online
HE MAY have created an international media empire from a handful of regional Canadian newspapers, a grocery chain and an ailing farm implement company, but Conrad Black paid a price. In interviews and in his new autobiography, Conrad Black, a Life in Progress, the media magnate admitted he almost went bankrupt and suffered such anxiety attacks that he took to his bed in 1986, the year he moved into the Daily Telegraph.

'Our solvency was under severe pressure and I was completely immobilised,' he wrote. Junior bank officials 'had taken to phoning me in my sick bed and agitating for a fire sale of Hollinger,' his holding company, before he was able to hold off a loan demand.

That crisis passed, and he went on gain control of the Telegraph. Black was unimpressed, however, with the construction plans of the previous owners. The planned facilities, he wrote, 'resembled nothing so much as hangars for the great Zeppelins and airships of the Thirties'.

1994: A Rome Odyssey is out of the question for Arthur C Clarke. The science-fiction writer has turned down a conference invitation from the Vatican, saying he considers the Pope a 'dangerous man'. John Paul's opposition to contraception, in Clarke's view, is 'tragically wrong'. In his recent book, The Hammer of God, Clarke likened the Church's stand to its condemnation of Galileo four centuries ago for teaching that the Sun, not Earth, is the centre of the universe.

IT'S NOT the kind of oil used in Chrysler cars, but Lee Iacocca is selling it anyway. The former Chrysler Corp chairman is peddling the extra virgin olive oil produced at his Villa Nicola in Tuscany. 'I got into it about eight years ago,' he said. 'I bought a villa in Tuscany and ended up with 5,000 olive trees.' He named both the villa and the oil after his father. Mr Iacocca, who is also selling the North American Free Trade Agreement, says the accord won't affect his oil business. 'The issue with Mexico is corn oil,' he said. 'Olive oil isn't even on the Nafta plate.'

PANAMA'S first lady does not fit the stereotype. One day Ana Mae Endara is marching at the head of downtrodden rubbish collectors. The next she's riding on the roof of a car to whip up crowds against the country's 'rubbish' justice system.

She has insulted members of President Guillermo Endara's cabinet, labelled the opposition leader, Ricardo Arias Calderon, 'a dead dog', accused Ruben Blades, the salsa star and potential presidential candidate, of talking 'nonsense' and said the Vice-President, Guillermo Ford, was 'burnt out . . . arrogant, haughty, dictatorial'. When striking teachers threatened to vote against the governing party, she told them to stick their votes 'you know where'.

Many Panamanians believe Mrs Endara, 26, says what her husband does not dare to. 'I say she's mad,' said a middle-aged man. 'My wife thinks she's God.'

(First Edition)

THE President of Namibia had one big wish during his official visit to Oslo: to see the Norwegian woman who used to call him 'boy'. Fifty-four years ago, when he was in his 20s, Sam Nujoma was employed by Marit and Knut Johannessen, first in Mr Johannessen's workshop, then as a household servant.

The future president worked for the family in South-West Africa, as Namibia was then known, for about 18 months, until a scholarship enabled him to study in Windhoek. Mr Nujoma and the Johannessens kept up contact for a while, but eventually lost touch. In 1987, the Johannessens got a phone call at their Oslo flat from the South-West Africa People's Organisation office in Stockholm, saying the rebel group's leader wanted to pay a visit. Sam Nujoma joined the Johannessens on a crabbing expedition on the Oslo fjord. When the 'boy' returned for a second visit on Tuesday, it was Mrs Johannessen, 76 and widowed, who did the serving, offering snacks to the President.

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