Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir, Last Month

I have long claimed that the rise of extremism and militancy in Pakistan could not happen without support from elements within the current administration. My return to my country poses a threat to the forces of extremism that have thrived under a dictatorship. They want to stop the restoration of democracy at any price. They have exploited a poor, desperate, and powerless people and allowed extremists the right environment in which to flourish.

The ruling party is an artificial, political party created in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA) during the General Elections of 2002. Its core support comes from the political partners of the military dictator of the '80s, General Zia al-Haq, who empowered the most radical elements within the Afghan Mujahedeen who went on to morph into al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani militants of today.

This party has called for a banning of outdoor rallies, demonstrations and caravans. They would thus suspend all activity that demonstrates to the people of Pakistan and to the people of the world which parties enjoy mass support amongst the people.

On my return to Pakistan last month, throngs of people turned out to welcome me back home. The demand to ban grassroots political activity is a suspicious prelude to what could be an overt attempt to rig the upcoming elections. All people who believe in the process of democracy should reject this attempt to undermine public participation in the campaign and set the table for what I believe would simply be a fraudulent election.

It has now been more than two weeks since the horrific assassination attempt against me and the police have still not filed my complaint. They filed their own report without taking statements from eyewitnesses on the truck targeted for the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of more than 158 of my supporters and security guards.

Soon thereafter, I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows -- which protected me from identification by terrorists -- or travel with privately armed guards.

I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police security outside my home in Karachi was reduced, even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing.

While the authorities speculated on whether a suicide bomber had been involved or two suicide bombers or perhaps a hand grenade or perhaps a car bomb, I reflected on my plight.

I decided not to be holed up in my home, a virtual prisoner. I went to my ancestral village of Larkana to pray at my father's grave. Everywhere, the people rallied around me in a frenzy of joy. I feel humbled by their love and trust.

Although it remains difficult to know for certain, I doubt that a suicide bomber was involved in the attack on me. I suspect, after talking to some of the injured, that the terrorists used a small child as a ploy to get to me. They were trying to hoist the child -- dressed in the colors of my party's flag -- onto my truck.

Failing to do so, they dropped the child near my vehicle. Some witnesses said the child had been rigged as a human bomb. I can't be sure. What followed was a massive explosion, killing scores immediately, tearing many bodies in half and sending blood, gore and flames up into the vehicle.

In less than a minute a second bomb -- reports later suggested a car bomb -- went off.

As I have reflected on the past two weeks, there are some things I wonder about:

• What was the car doing there?

Why had the street lights been turned off?

• Was that intended to prevent my security from clearly seeing any approaching dangers?

• Is there any truth to the report that a high government official ordered the lights turned off "to prevent her getting so much television coverage"?

• Why would the leadership of the ruling party of Pakistan make a claim that my own party had committed the attack to gain sympathy?

Why would the investigation be initially given to a police officer who was present when my husband was nearly tortured to death in 1999?

And, then, there is to me the most worrying: the adamant rejection by Islamabad of any assistance from the state-of-the art forensic teams of the FBI and Scotland Yard. There are precedents in Pakistan for such international assistance. Such teams were called in to investigate the mysterious and sudden death of Army Chief General Asif Nawaz and the Egyptian Embassy bombing in the '90s.

I had called in international experts when my brother Murtaza was killed in what I believed was a conspiracy to destabilize my government in 1996.

We can only wonder -- if there is nothing to hide -- why international investigators from the FBI and Scotland Yard are being prevented from assisting a Pakistan-led investigation?

The sham investigation of the October 19 massacre and the attempt by the ruling party to politically capitalize on this catastrophe are discomforting, but do not suggest any direct involvement by General Pervez Musharraf.

Until recently, he had made both public and private commitments to confidence building gestures that would move Pakistan forward in the transition to democracy. But at a time when he should be demonstrating to our country and the world his seriousness in allowing free, fair and transparent elections, he has declared martial law. This can only be seen as a step to entrench his dictatorship.

We must have elections under an independent caretaker government, and neutral administrative officials who have the confidence of all major political parties in the country. And these elections should be under the supervision of an autonomous and competent Election Commission.

It is time that Islamabad facilitates the operation of a rigorous election monitoring mechanism -- both domestic and international -- that can guarantee the sanctity of the ballot and allows election experts to conduct exit polls to insure that the counting reflects the voting.

It is time, in other words, for reconciliation to truly begin that will allow for the mobilization of the moderate majority of my nation and the marginalization of militants, fanatics and extremists.

But for that to happen, General Musharraf will need to revive the constitution by lifting martial law.

This Year Putin, Next Year Barack

Barack is going to be Time's Person Of The Year next year.

Diego Maradona And Barack

You can't be American and still appreciate Diego. When I was at high school, there were two gods, one was Pele, another Maradona.

Maradona is in news saying he has met Fidel and Chavez, now he would like to meet Ahmedinejad. I see a Barack fan there.

Good things happen to you when you support Barack. Suddenly I find myself in the same leagues as Diego. Lucky star.

Come to think of it, I was thinking of Diego recently. If Barack were to win all four January states, as looks likely, that will be like this score by Diego. He took the ball from the midfield all the way to scoring.

In The News

Bhutto photographer: 'She was clearly in her element' CNN International John Moore took last known images of Benazir Bhutto before death ..... Moore "surprised" to see Bhutto rise through sunroof to wave to crowd .... Moore was also at Karachi rally where Bhutto motorcade attacked in October ...... "And then suddenly, there were a few gun shots that rang out, and she went down, she went down through the sunroof. And just at that moment I raised my camera up and the blast happened. ... And then, of course, there was chaos." ........ However, the Rawalpindi rally was announced beforehand, he observed. ...... "Whoever planned this attack -- they had time on their hands to plan everything properly, and you saw the results today" ...... Moore said he himself expected there could be another attack following the Karachi massacre. He said he stayed away from gates at the Rawalpindi parkground, where police were searching people, because he suspected that's where a bomb would go off. Moore said it was obvious that Bhutto enjoyed being with her supporters. "She was clearly in her element," he said. "She just wanted to get close to the people, and obviously whoever was after her -- they saw that coming."
Bhutto's death rocks Pakistan Christian Science Monitor the starkest evidence yet that the forces aligned against law and order, once contained to the remote border region with Afghanistan, are now spilling into the heart of Pakistan, disrupting the country's ability to function. ......... "What is evident is a complete lack of command and control." ..... Riots erupted in Rawalpindi soon after the news of her death was confirmed. The city has been the site of several suicide bombings in past months, though most have targeted security forces. Private television channels also reported riots in major towns across the country, especially in Sindh, Bhutto's home province. ....... Baitullah Mesud, a Taliban commander in Waziristan, had several times openly threatened her life. ....... "fewer people will challenge extremism openly." ...... Bhutto died just a few miles from where her father was hanged. One brother died from poisoning, and another was killed in a police shootout.
A Christian-Hindu Clash in India TIME On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, Hindu nationalists in the Kandhamal area attacked churches and convents and set fire to houses belonging to Christians, killing one person and injuring at least two dozen more. Since then, more than forty Christian houses have been set ablaze despite curfews and increased police patrols. ......... a tangled intersection of political power, communal prejudice and the injustices of Hinduism's archaic caste system. ....... thousands of Hindus have converted to Christianity. Many converts, and the churches they join, say conversion is a way to escape their place in the complex social hierarchy of Hindu caste. ........ the Dalits, or "untouchables" .... it is this group that accounts for the most converts to Christianity. By becoming Christian, converts say, they move outside the caste system and can hopefully become more socially mobile. ......... Other low-caste groups and so-called "tribals" ...... "If you can identify a common enemy it is easier to unify all these Hindu groups"
Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007) In a male-dominated, Islamic society, she rose ...... exiled twice. In the end, Bhutto was better at rallying people to the idea of her power than at keeping them inspired by her use of it. ...... a child of privilege ... Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the fiery and magnetic founder of the Pakistan People's Party ..... her mother Nusrat Ispahan, from a distinguished Kurdish family from Iran. ..... "Pinky." ..... great populist spectacles and little governmental achievement ..... an almost tawdry cycle of exile, house arrest, ascent into power and dismissal, much sound and fury and signifying little ...... a daylong demonstration that was the largest display in memory of discontent with Zia's government. "Zia is a dog," chanted the demonstrators again and again. "We love Benazir."
Where Bhutto's Death Leaves the U.S. Hussain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto and now a professor at Boston University .... "People like me have been making specific requests to American officials to intervene and ask for particular security arrangements be made for her, and they have been constantly just trusting the Musharraf Administration." ....... He blames Musharraf himself, above all, for Bhutto's death. ...... "Since 1954 almost $21 billion had been given to Pakistan in aid," he told the House Armed Services Committee. "Of this, $17.7 billion were given under military rule, and only $3.4 billion was given to Pakistan and the civilian government." ........ U.S. policy in Pakistan has favored personalities over principles. ...... Some will say Bhutto had a death wish ..... She returned to Pakistan and faced a range of powerful anti-democratic enemies, including both religious extremists like al-Qaeda and corrupt branches of the Pakistani military and intelligence services ....... "In a sense Benazir knew she was on a martyrdom mission. She was willing to give up her life for democracy." ....... didn't provide Bhutto with adequate security. In fact, he twice urged the Pakistani President to bolster Bhutto's protection. ...... "The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered," said Biden, who is also chairman of the foreign relations committee. "The U.S. should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror." ......... al-Qaeda — making marginal progress in Afghanistan, backsliding in Iraq, and rebuffed in Somalia — is looking for a new battlefield. "I really think they're trying to ignite Pakistan into the kind of chaos they need to survive," Zinni says, "and create a fundamentalist, even radical, Islamic government." ......... "The losing of Pakistan — to whatever degree we've lost it, and I wouldn't write it off yet — goes back to after the first Afghan war," Zinni says, when Washington neglected the Afghan-Pakistan border roiling with insurgents.
In Final Iowa Push, Obama Stresses Importance of Change Washington Post "In seven days, what was improbable has the chance to beat what Washington said was inevitable" ..... "It was our message when we were down, and our message when we were up. And it must be catching on, because in these last few weeks, everyone is talking about change." ....... We don't need more heat. We need more light.
Black Candidates Continue Steep Climb in Politics In 2000, President Clinton's former chief adviser on race, Christopher Edley Jr., was asked to speculate about the prospects of a black president by 2020. "I'm pessimistic about that," said Edley, who by then had returned to his Harvard Law School professorship. "I think we will see a woman or Latino before we see an African American." ....... Obama is a former student of Edley's at Harvard Law ..... But I'm almost afraid to believe. ...... I think there is something really magical about this brother. ...... Breakthroughs in the popular culture, where many Americans form their impressions of each other, have been among the hardest to achieve. ..... 1967 hit movie "In the Heat of the Night ....... "I think [the film] woke up a lot of people in the Deep South," Jewison says. "I don't think they'd ever seen a black character on the screen as smart and talented as Sidney." ......... Less than 4 percent of the nation's elected officials are black, and 90 percent of them represent predominantly black or predominantly black-and-Hispanic constituencies. ....... Only three black U.S. senators and two black governors have been elected since Reconstruction. ........ the heavy hanging cloud has been that a black can't win ...... Republican Party, Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts ..... As the first African American to be popularly elected to the Senate, in 1966, he had quickly become a national star, called on to give speeches and appear at fundraisers across the country. ....... a pivotal meeting in 1983 at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. ...... others were worried about their groups' nonprofit status. ..... "Jesse said, 'Well, if no one else is willing to run, I'll run.' ...... he had this network, these relationships with black preachers all over the country. ..... On his second attempt, Jackson won 13 primaries and caucuses, doubled his total votes to 7 million and took 29 percent of the total primary vote. He finished a strong runner-up to Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis ....... Obama was a recent graduate of Columbia University when Jackson launched his first campaign, and once told Jackson that he was inspired watching him on television debating Walter Mondale and Gary Hart. ...... September 2004 ... an 84-year-old white woman approached Jones. "I hope I live long enough," she said, according to Jones, who is black. "This man is going to be president, and I want to vote for him." ...... Jones's first glimpse of Obama's broad appeal ....... "What happens is folks try to pigeonhole you, and he would never let folks pigeonhole him."
Obama's plea to voters as Clinton gains ground Times Online signs that Hillary Clinton has stabilised her presidential campaign and is gaining ground. ....... a new poll claiming to show that after months of deadlock in the state Mrs Clinton has suddenly opened up a wide lead. ......... The American Research Group poll put Mrs Clinton 15 points ahead of Mr Obama, just a week after it had the two in a statistical tie. ....... increased fears in the Obama camp that Mrs Clinton's relentless message of experience versus Mr Obama's theme of change might be having more resonance in the final, frantic stretch of campaigning. ....... played on voters' fears. ........ In his final pitch to voters, he will attack the Clintons for their secrecy and try and focus minds on "how close we are to making change". On Wednesday, he implied that a vote for Mrs Clinton was "madness". .... There is a growing belief inside Mr Edwards's camp that the former senator, and John Kerry's 2004 running mate, can win Iowa. Anything less than victory for him would deal a severe blow to his campaign, as he has been campaigning in the Hawkeye State for nearly four years. The Democratic race is still extremely volatile. Any of the three leading candidates could win in Iowa — and any of them could come third.
Urgent and personal: Clinton's final case to voters AFP Clinton is debuting an urgent warning that only she can rescue America from a perfect storm of political peril. ...... she launched an eight-day blitz ..... Clinton is developing the theme that help her coast through much of the year with a gaping lead in key opinion polls, hoping to quell a serious of setbacks and missteps that plagued her earlier in December. ....... Clinton painted a dire picture of an America under siege at home and abroad. ...... The unspoken but clear implication of her words was that Americans should think carefully before entrusting the White House to a first-term senator, like 46-year-old Obama. ...... "If they've been secretive in the past, they'll be secretive as president," Obama said ....... "If haven't been all that strong on lobbyists in the past, it doesn't matter what they say in the campaign, theythey won't be that strong about it when they are president." ...... a dueling bus tour of the state against Clinton. ..... she was spooked by tightening opinion polls.
Hillary Clinton the woman most admired by Americans: poll AFP
McCain Campaigns in Iowa, Energized by New Hampshire
New York Times
Vote-Counting Under Way in Kenyan Elections
Voice of America
Kibaki leads Kenya election: early exit poll Reuters
Bhutto's Last Words
FOX News "Some of my friends think I’m mad to be going back," Bhutto said. "Even my relatives, because they don’t want to lose me. They’ve seen what happened to my brothers and my father. They keep telling me, ‘Think again!’ But it’s my country." ..... Bhutto seemed isolated. "I feel, as I’m leaving, that perhaps Bhutto’s life — for all the staff and assistants — is a little lonely. She asks if I can stay for dinner but I have a plane to catch. ....... "Her father is dead, her mother is ill, her brothers are dead, her husband is a liability and two of her children are in college." ........ "I miss the scent of the rain when it falls on the dusty roads," she told Wilentz. "And the wheat crops in flower. I miss the people; I miss all of our rituals — visiting the graves of our forefathers."
Candidates go into overdrive, one week before Iowa caucuses CNN Obama launches "Stand for Change" tour across Iowa ...... "If Clinton wins Iowa, she could be unstoppable. If she loses Iowa, she may also lose New Hampshire and South Carolina. Then we've got a real race on our hands." ....... Clinton said on Wednesday. "Who, if something happened that none of us can predict now, would be there able to respond and act on behalf of our country immediately?" ...... "A nation at war... Troubles at home...America at a crossroads...Demands a leader...With a Steady Hand." ......"If Huckabee wins, we're likely to see economic and foreign policy conservatives coalesce around an alternative," CNN's Schneider said. "But who? That could be decided five days later in New Hampshire." ....... The Sunshine State could be critical to Giuliani since he is trailing in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina. ....... The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Thursday could add uncertainty to the already uncertain political situation in the Iowa
Bhutto death severe blow to U.S.
Amitabh performs last rites for his mother Rediff The Bachchans were taken to the banks of the Ganga in a chartered bus from the airport, where a huge crowd was waiting to catch a glimpse of the superstar. ..... There was tight police security at the river's banks as a sombre Bachchan, in a white kurta-pyjama, carrying his mother's ashes, proceeded towards a motorboat booked to take them to the sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. ..... The Bachchans and their friends were brought to the sangam by the motorboat and an hour-long ritual was conducted by Prayagwal mahasabha, a famous group of Allahabad priests. .... The prayagwals had refused to perform the last rites of Bachchan's poet father Harivansh Rai Bachchan in 2003 to protest the fact that priests from Varanasi having been flown in for the occasion. However, this time, the prayagwals were persuaded to take charge of the rituals by Gupta.
Bachchans reach Allahabad to immerse Teji's Sahara Samay Abhishek was seen holding on to his father's shoulders at regular intervals in an attempt to console him. ...... Shweta was seen crying inconsolably. Both Aishwarya and Abhishek took turns to console her. ..... Amitabh, Ajitabh, Abhishek, Anil Ambani and Amar Singh carried the body on their shoulders.
Citigroup, Merrill Face More Writedowns, Goldman Says (Update1) Bloomberg
Argentine Jewish Community Upset with Maradona VivirLatino "I've already met (Hugo) Chávez and Fidel (Castro). Now the only one I've still got to meet is their [the Iranian] president. I want to meet Ahmadineyad." ..... "Diego is the most well-known Argentine in the world and our soccer embassador. It would be good to tell him the true story about how much pain [Iran] brought us 13 years ago," said the Agencia Judía de Noticias.
IRS: Tax Fix Delays Refunds The Associated Press
Apple at $200 Is Just the Beginning
Motley Fool
Reports: Apple, Fox planning movie rental service
CNET Apple's stock is at an all-time high, and it went up further Thursday on reports of the movie rental deal.
Google stands firm on Reader sharing as users' ire grows Computerworld
Google Thinks It Knows Your Friends New York Times Google is desperately trying to become a force in social networking
Google change triggers uproar San Jose Mercury News
Google must stand trial on Autolink patents Boston Globe
Hilton to donate bulk of fortune to foundation
USA Today
Amazon adds Warner Music downloads BusinessWeek
AT&T and Cisco: A Bandwidth Bonanza In a world in which more and more computing occurs out on the Internet as opposed to inside PCs and corporate networks, the companies that handle all the communications needs—carriers and cable companies—become increasingly crucial.

Authorities unsure how tiger got loose
Los Angeles Times
Why Tigers Attack Newsweek
Democrats Enter Stretch in Iowa Washington Post just eight days left to break a three-way deadlock ..... the three remain tightly bunched in surveys. ..... a tour themed "It's Time to Pick a President," injected a note of menace into her case, arguing that "the job itself is unpredictable" ...... a team of "Hill's Angels" that includes fundraiser Terence R. McAuliffe and women's outreach organizer Ann Lewis ....... attention from news outlets worldwide. ...... have the courage to vote their hopes and not their fears ...... an atmosphere of heightening hostility in the final days ....... "we're getting down to the jury deliberation here" and it is essential for all the candidates to sharpen their closing arguments. ........ Edwards spent the day campaigning in New Hampshire, which one adviser called a sign of the candidate's growing confidence that he is in a strong position in Iowa and determined not to repeat his mistake of four years ago, when he put too little effort into the Granite State and finished poorly after a strong second-place showing in Iowa.
Obama backs Israel as Jewish state Ha'aretz
Clinton, Obama trade 'switches' USA Today "Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign today announced that United States Army veteran Kent Sovern, who was announced just last week as the statewide Co-Chair of Senator Clinton's Veterans Committee, has now decided to caucus for Senator Obama and is encouraging other Iowa veterans to caucus for Obama on Thursday, January 3rd"
Obama Embraces Tearful Veteran The Associated Press He said he felt bad about the impression he might leave calling on Hampton because he was wearing an Obama T-shirt, so he urged him to "make it a tough question." The crowd chuckled but soon grew quiet as it became obvious that Hampton was having a hard time speaking without breaking down. ........ "You made the essential point, which is you earned your benefits," Obama said. He said if elected president, he would take care of veterans as a way of encouraging future generations to enter the military, as well as provide mental health screening and adopt a "zero tolerance" policy for homeless veterans.
Candidates get serious after holiday rest top contenders could afford no more than a two-day holiday before resuming their fervent courtship of voters.
Play of the Day: Obama's Grocery Trip The Associated Press He said he bought a necklace for his wife, Michelle, for Christmas. ..... "We agreed that we weren't going to give each other gifts, but I never believe she really means it," Obama said. "The point is no matter what she says, you don't want to show up empty-handed."
Michelle Obama: Choir director's death 'sad' Chicago Sun-Times
Choir Director at Barack Obama's Church Found Slain FOX News
Clinton, Obama clashing on health Baltimore Sun mandatory automobile insurance and motorcycle helmet use, never result in universal compliance. ...... they want a presidential candidate who supports universal health care, far fewer say they want a Medicare-style government program that replaces private markets. ....... stressing individual choice and the central role of employers ..... young people who make enough money to get insurance where they work but don't think they need it ....... The Illinois senator wants a rule change so that those up to age 25 can stay on their parents' policies, even if they're not in school. ....... Depending on the state, anywhere from 4 percent to 34 percent of drivers do not buy auto insurance ...... reducing the costs of insurance, which would almost certainly require huge government subsidies for the poor. Obama says it makes most sense to focus there first. ...... an important lesson from her failed 1993 health reform effort was the folly of the White House writing a complex proposal and trying to persuade lawmakers to accept it.
In Iowa President Bill Clinton says: "It Is In Your Hands" CBS News
Clinton launches final push MSNBC
Clinton Ad Serves As Campaign Closer The Associated Press
Thompson teases Clinton, says no woman ought to be president next year KGAN
Bush, Sen. Clinton top 'most admired' list USA Today

Person of the Year: Vladimir Putin Time that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking ....... so little visible security at Putin's dacha ...... spacious but spartan office ...... Russia's most powerful men: Putin's chief of staff, his ideologist, the speaker of parliament ....... contained power: he is compact and moves stiffly but efficiently ...... He is fit .... early-morning swims of an hour or more ...... he makes no effort to be ingratiating ..... He relaxes, he says, by listening to classical composers like Brahms, Mozart, Tchaikovsky. ...... His favorite Beatles song is Yesterday. He has never sent an e-mail in his life. ....... impatient to the point of rudeness with small talk ...... He is passionate in his belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a tragedy, particularly since overnight it stranded 25 million ethnic Russians in "foreign" lands. ........ a pragmatist, and has cobbled together a system—not unlike China's—that embraces the free market (albeit with a heavy dose of corruption) but relies on a strong state hand to keep order. ......... everybody is made to believe...[Russians] are a little bit savage still or they just climbed down from the trees, you know, and probably need to have...the dirt washed out of their beards and hair. ............ will assume the nominally lesser role of Prime Minister. ..... Putin will surely remain the supreme leader, master of Russia's destiny ....... Russia's economy has grown an average of 7% a year for the past five years ....... On global issues, it offers alternatives to America's waning influence, helping broker deals in North Korea, the Middle East, Iran. Russia just made its first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran ...... Putin's popularity ratings are routinely around 70%. "He is emerging as an elected emperor, whom many people compare to Peter the Great ........ Leonid Brezhnev was always the dolt, Gorbachev the bumbling reformer, Yeltsin the drunk. Putin, in current punch lines, is the despot. ........ Stalin's ghost appears to Putin in a dream, and Putin asks for his help running the country. Stalin says, "Round up and shoot all the democrats, and then paint the inside of the Kremlin blue." "Why blue?" Putin asks. "Ha!" says Stalin. "I knew you wouldn't ask me about the first part." ....... "He does not rely on personal charm. It is a combination of aloofness, considerable intelligence, strategic grasp and Russian nationalism" ....... He was born into humble circumstances in St. Petersburg in 1952. ...... his paternal grandfather, who had served as a cook for both Lenin and Stalin ........ So Putin headed to Moscow. ...... he had no connections when he arrived in the capital in mid-1996 ...... in August 1999, Putin was named Prime Minister ..... "It never occurred to me," he says. "It still surprises me." ....... Putin goes to a restaurant with Medvedev and orders a steak. The waiter asks, "And what about the vegetable?" Putin answers, "The vegetable will have steak too." ......... Grozny, Chechnya's capital, was all but obliterated ...... Putin tells us how, at an APEC dinner at which he was feeling somewhat lost, Clinton crossed the room past other world leaders and leaned down to talk to him. "Volodya," Clinton said, using the familiar form of the name Vladimir, "I suggest we walk out together from this room." Putin rose to his feet, and the two men strolled out together. "Everyone applauded," Putin recalls. "I will remember that forever." ......... Putin strongly opposed America's invasion of Iraq ........ Putin and Bush are fishing on the Volga River. After half an hour Bush complains, "Vladimir, I'm getting bitten like crazy by mosquitoes, but I haven't seen a single one bothering you." Putin: "They know better than that." ......... routinely suggests that Kasparov is a stooge of the West because he spoke to the foreign press in English after his arrest ........... Nashi (Ours, in Russian), the cultish pro-Putin youth movement ........ children's division of Nashi ..... "Tomorrow there will be war in Iran. The day after tomorrow Russia will be governed externally!" ....... Russia will become a political competitor to the U.S. and to rising nations like China and India. ....... Putin has been irritable throughout, a grudging host.
TIME's Interview with Vladimir Putin
Hu Jintao China, the most populous, economically dynamic and politically intriguing nation in the world ....... industrial park to the world ...... infinitely complex nation ....... has never granted a free-ranging interview ..... Hu has had to lead by consensus ...... Tall trees attract wind ....... peaceful rise, a phrase designed to soothe foreigners worried about the double threat of China's fireball economy and rapidly modernizing military. ....... the datong, the great harmony
Al Gore
examples of civilizations changing course ..... a whole new economic boom, one that is low-carbon and high-productivity ....... the fight against extreme poverty in the developing world and the struggle against climate change can reinforce each other. ...... the eco-warrior with whom I share a bed ..... he is an America the world needs to meet.
J.K. Rowling Rowling calls her time with Harry "one of the longest relationships of my adult life," her rock through bereavement, a turbulent marriage and divorce, single motherhood, changes of country, fear of failure — and transcendent joy, on the day a wise man at Bloomsbury offered her $2,250 and agreed to print 1,000 books. ........ Forbes magazine put Rowling second only to Oprah as the richest woman in entertainment, ahead of Martha Stewart and Madonna — and as the first person to become a billionaire by writing books. ........ I don't think anyone has mourned more than I have. It's left the most enormous gaping hole in my life." ...... funny and self-mocking and earnest by turns but always unguarded and unrehearsed ...... her fans know where to find her: her website ........ One day when Rowling was shopping for toys in New York City ........ After six books with no mention of God or Scripture ...... "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." ........ inviting people to explore and struggle with the hard questions. ...... 4,100-page treatise on tolerance ....... "The weapon we have is love." ....... the frenzy that surrounded Uncle Tom's Cabin before the Civil War ........ "Rowling may do more for libertarianism than anyone since John Stuart Mill." ..... a generation of obsessive readers unafraid of fat books and complex plots.

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