Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Charles Taylor

Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor (born 28 January 1948) was the 22nd President of Liberia, serving from 2 August 1997 until his resignation on 11 August 2003.

Born in Arthington, Montserrado County, Liberia, Taylor earned a degree at Bentley College in the United States before returning to Liberia to work in the government of Samuel Doe. After being removed for embezzlement, he eventually arrived in Libya, where he was trained as a guerilla fighter. He returned to Liberia in 1989 as the head of a Libyan-backed resistance group, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, to overthrow the Doe regime, initiating the First Liberian Civil War. Following Doe's execution, he gained control of a large portion of the country and became one of the most prominent warlords in Africa. Following a peace deal that ended the war, Taylor terrorized the population into electing him president in the 1997 general election.

During his term of office, Taylor was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War. Domestically, opposition to his regime grew, culminating in the outbreak of the Second Liberian Civil War in 1999. By 2003, he had lost control of much of the countryside and was formally indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. That year, he resigned as a result of growing international pressure and went into exile in Nigeria. In 2006, the newly elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf formally requested his extradition. Upon his arrival in Monrovia, he was transferred to the custody of the United Nations Mission in Liberia and immediately flown to Sierra Leone. He is currently being held in the United Nations Detention Unit on the premises of the Penitentiary Institution Haaglanden in The Hague, where he is on trial before the Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in the civil war.

Early life
Charles McArthur Taylor was born in Arthington, a town near Monrovia, on 28 January 1948 to Nelson and Bernice Taylor. He took the name 'Ghankay' later on, possibly to please and gain favor with the indigenous people. His mother was a member of the Gola ethnic group. According to most reports, his father was an Americo-Liberian. Taylor was a student at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, from 1972 to 1977, earning a degree in economics.

In 1979, he led a demonstration at the Liberian Mission to the United Nations in New York City, protesting then-president of Liberia William Tolbert, who was on a state visit to the U.S. at the time. Tolbert publicly debated Taylor, but when Taylor insinuated that he would seize the Liberian Mission by force, he was arrested by the New York Police Department. He was later released and invited back to Liberia by Tolbert.

Taylor supported the 12 April 1980 coup led by Samuel Doe, which saw the murder of Tolbert and seizure of power by Doe and Justin, a CPC banker. Taylor was appointed to a high position in Doe’s government in the General Services Agency of Liberia, a position that left him in charge of purchasing for the Liberian government. However, he was sacked in May 1983 for embezzling almost $1,000,000 and sending the funds to an American bank account.

Taylor fled to the United States but was arrested on 24 May 1984 by two US Deputy Marshals in Somerville, Massachusetts, on a warrant for extradition to face charges of embezzling $922,000 of government funds intended for machinery parts. Citing a fear of assassination by Liberian agents, Taylor sought to fight extradition from the safety of jail with the help of his attorney, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark. He was detained in a House of Corrections in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

On 15 September 1985, Taylor and four other inmates allegedly escaped from the Plymouth facility, a maximum security prison, by sawing through a bar covering a window in an unused laundry room. After dropping 12 feet to the ground by means of a knotted sheet, the five inmates climbed a fence. Shortly thereafter, Taylor and two other escapees were met at nearby Jordan Hospital by Taylor's wife, Enid, and Taylor's sister-in-law, Lucia Holmes Toweh. A getaway car was driven to Staten Island, where Taylor then disappeared. All four of Taylor's fellow escapees, as well as Enif and Toweh, were later apprehended. Prince Johnson, a Liberian senator and former associate of Taylor, claimed before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on 27 August 2008 that the United States released Taylor from jail in 1985 to engineer the overthrow of the Doe regime. This charge was later repeated by Taylor himself during his testimony at his trial in The Hague. He has recently said that his escape from the penitentiary in Boston was facilitated by the US government. IntelNews.org identifies D'Onofrio Ruggiero, a 40 year CIA agent, as a close ally of Charles Taylor. His smuggling network and money laundering activities provided Taylor with outlets for selling stolen diamonds and buying illegal arms. 

Civil war
Taylor managed to flee the United States and shortly thereafter it is assumed that he went to Libya, where he underwent guerrilla training under Muammar al-Gaddafi, becoming Gaddafi's protégé. Eventually, he left Libya and traveled to Côte d'Ivoire, where he founded the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).

In December 1989, Taylor launched a Libyan-funded armed uprising from Côte d'Ivoire into Liberia to overthrow the Doe regime, leading to the First Liberian Civil War. By 1990, his forces soon controlled most of the country. That same year, Prince Johnson, a senior commander of Taylor's NPFL, broke away and formed the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). In September 1990, Johnson captured Monrovia, depriving Taylor of outright victory. Doe was captured and tortured to death by Johnson and his forces, resulting in a violent political fragmentation of the country. The civil war turned into an ethnic conflict, with seven factions fighting for control of Liberia's resources (especially iron ore, diamonds, timber, and rubber).

According to a 2 June 1999, article in The Virginian-Pilot,[9] Taylor had extensive business dealings with American televangelist Pat Robertson during the civil war. According to the article, Taylor gave Robertson the rights to mine for diamonds in Liberia's mineral-rich countryside. According to two Operation Blessing pilots who reported this incident to the Commonwealth of Virginia for investigation in 1994, Robertson used his Operation Blessing planes to haul diamond-mining equipment to his new mines in Liberia, despite the fact that Robertson was telling his 700 Club viewers that the planes were sending relief supplies to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda. The subsequent investigation by the Commonwealth of Virginia concluded that Robertson diverted his ministry's donations to the Liberian diamond-mining operation, but Attorney General of Virginia Mark Earley blocked any potential prosecution against Robertson, as the relief supplies were also sent.

Presidency
After the official end of the civil war in 1996, Taylor ran for president in the 1997 general election. He famously campaigned on the slogan "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him."  The elections were overseen by the United Nations' peacekeeping mission, United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia, along with a contingent from the Economic Community of West African States. Taylor won the election in a landslide, garnering 75 percent of the vote. Taylor's toughest competitor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, collected only 10 percent of the vote. Taylor's victory has been widely attributed to the belief that he would resume the war if he lost.

During his time in office, Taylor ran down the Armed Forces of Liberia, dismissing 2,400-2,600 former personnel, many of whom were ethnic Krahn brought in by former President Doe. In its place, he installed the Anti-Terrorist Unit, the Special Operations Division of the Liberian National Police (LNP), which he used as his own private army.

Numerous allegations were leveled at Taylor during his presidency, particularly regarding his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War. He was accused of aiding the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) through weapon sales in exchange for blood diamonds. Due to a UN embargo against arms sales to Liberia at the time, these weapons were largely purchased on the black market through arms smugglers such as Viktor Bout. Furthermore, he was charged with aiding and abetting RUF atrocities against civilians that left many thousands dead or mutilated, with unknown numbers of people abducted and tortured. Moreover, he was accused of assisting the RUF in the recruitment of child soldiers. In addition to aiding the RUF in these acts, Taylor reportedly personally directed RUF operations in Sierra Leone.

Taylor obtained spiritual and other advice from the evangelist Kilari Anand Paul. As president, he was known for his flamboyant style. Upon being charged by the UN of being a gunrunner and diamond smuggler during his presidency, he publicly appeared in all white robes and begged God for forgiveness, while at the same time denying the charges. He was also reported to have said that “Jesus Christ was accused of being a murderer in his time.”

Rebellion and indictment
In 1999, a rebellion against Taylor began in northern Liberia, led by a group calling itself Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). This group was frequently accused of atrocities, and is thought to have been backed by the government of neighboring Guinea. This uprising signaled the beginning of the Second Liberian Civil War.

By early 2003, LURD had gained control of northern Liberia. That year, a second Ivorian-backed rebel group, Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), emerged in southern Liberia and achieved rapid successes. By the summer, Taylor's government controlled only about a third of Liberia: Monrovia and the central part of the country.

On 7 March 2003, the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) issued a sealed indictment for Taylor. Earlier that year, Liberian forces had killed Sam Bockarie, a leading member of the RUF in Sierra Leone, in a shootout under Taylor's orders. Some have claimed that Taylor ordered Bockarie killed in order to prevent Bockarie from testifying against him at the SCSL.

In June 2003, the Prosecutor to the Special Court unsealed the indictment and announced publicly that Taylor was charged with war crimes. The indictment asserted that Taylor created and backed the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, who were accused of a range of atrocities, including the use of child soldiers. The Prosecutor also said that Taylor's administration had harbored members of Al-Qaeda sought in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The indictment was unsealed during Taylor's official visit to Ghana, where he was participating in peace talks with MODEL and LURD officials. With the backing of the then-South African president Thabo Mbeki and against the urging of Sierra Leone president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Ghana declined to detain Taylor, who returned to Monrovia.

Resignation
During his absence for the peace talks in Ghana, it was alleged that the American government urged Vice President Moses Blah to seize power. Upon his return, Taylor briefly dismissed Blah from his post, only to reinstate him a few days later.

In July 2003, LURD initiated a siege of Monrovia, and several bloody battles were fought as Taylor's forces halted rebel attempts to capture the city. The pressure on Taylor increased further as U.S. President George W. Bush stated that Taylor "must leave Liberia" twice that month. On 9 July, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo offered Taylor safe exile in his country, but only if Taylor stayed out of Liberian politics.

Taylor insisted that he would resign only if American peacekeeping troops were deployed to Liberia. Bush publicly called upon Taylor to resign and leave the country in order for any American involvement to be considered. Meanwhile, several African states, in particular the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) under the leadership of Nigeria, sent troops under the banner of ECOMIL to Liberia. Logistical support was provided by a California company called PAE Government Services Inc., which was given a $10 million contract by the US State Department.[26] On 6 August, a 32-member U.S. military assessment team were deployed as a liaison with the ECOWAS troops.

On 10 August, Taylor appeared on national television to announce that he would resign the following day and hand power to Vice President Blah. He harshly criticized the United States in his farewell address, saying that the Bush administration's insistence that he leave the country would hurt Liberia.

On 11 August, Taylor resigned, with Blah serving as president until a transitional government was established on 14 October. At the handover were Ghanaian President John Kufuor, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, all representing African regional councils. The U.S. brought Joint Task Force Liberia's Amphibious Ready Group of three warships with 2,300 Marines into view of the coast. Taylor flew to Nigeria, where the Nigerian government provided houses for him and his entourage in Calabar.

Exile
In November 2003, the United States Congress passed a bill that included a reward offer of two million dollars for Taylor's capture. While the peace agreement had guaranteed Taylor safe exile in Nigeria, it also required that he not attempt to influence Liberian politics, a requirement that his critics claimed he disregarded. On 4 December, Interpol issued a red notice regarding Taylor, suggesting that countries had a duty to arrest him. Taylor was placed on Interpol's Most Wanted list, declaring him wanted for crimes against humanity and breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention, and noting that he should be considered dangerous. Nigeria stated it would not submit to Interpol's demands, agreeing only to deliver Taylor to Liberia in the event that the President of Liberia requested his return.

On 17 March 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the newly elected President of Liberia, submitted an official request to Nigeria for Taylor's extradition. This request was granted on 25 March, whereby Nigeria agreed to release Taylor to stand trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Nigeria agreed only to release Taylor and not to extradite him, as no extradition treaty existed between the two countries.

Disappearance and arrest
Three days after Nigeria announced its intent to hand him over to Liberia, Taylor disappeared from the seaside villa where he had been living in exile. One week prior to his disappearance, Nigerian authorities had taken the unusual step of allowing local press to accompany census takers into Taylor’s seaside Calabar compound.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was scheduled to meet with President Bush less than 48 hours after Taylor was reported missing. Speculation ensued that Bush would refuse to meet with Obasanjo if Taylor were not apprehended. Less than 12 hours prior to the scheduled meeting between the two heads of state, Taylor was reported apprehended and en route to Liberia.

On 29 March, Taylor tried to cross the border into Cameroon through the border town of Gamboru in northeastern Nigeria. His Range Rover with Nigerian diplomatic plates was stopped by border guards, and Taylor's identity was eventually established. State Department staff later reported that significant amounts of cash and heroin were found in the vehicle.

Upon his arrival at Roberts International Airport in Harbel, Liberia, Taylor was arrested and handcuffed by LNP officers, who then immediately transferred custody of Taylor to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Irish UNMIL soldiers then escorted Taylor aboard a UN helicopter to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was delivered to the SCSL.

Family
In 1997, Taylor married Jewel Taylor, with whom he has one son. She filed for divorce in 2005, citing her husband's exile in Nigeria and the difficulty of visiting him due to a UN travel ban on her.[46] The divorce was granted in 2006. Jewel Taylor currently serves as the senior senator from Bong County.

Phillip Taylor, Taylor's son with Jewel, remained in Liberia following his father's extradition to the SCSL. He was arrested by Liberian police officials on 5 March 2011 and charged with attempted murder in connection with an assault on the son of an immigration officer who had assisted in Charles Taylor's extradition. At the time of his arrest, he had been attempting to cross the border into Côte d'Ivoire.

Taylor has another son, a U.S. citizen named Charles McArther Emmanuel, born to his college girlfriend. Emmanuel was arrested in 2006 after entering the US and was charged with three counts, including participation in torture while serving in the Anti-Terrorist Unit in Liberia during his father's presidency.The law that prosecuted Taylor was put in place in 1994, before "extraordinary rendition" in an attempt to prevent US citizens from committing acts of torture overseas. To date, this is the only prosecuted case. In October 2008, Emmanuel was convicted on all three counts and sentenced to 97 years in prison.

In popular culture
The character Andre Baptiste, Sr. from the movie Lord of War is partially based on Taylor.

Taylor appears in the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

From : www.wikipedia.org

Laurent Gbagbo

Laurent Koudou Gbagbo (born 31 May 1945) served as the fourth President of Côte d'Ivoire from 2000 until his arrest in April 2011. A historian by profession, he is also an amateur chemist and physicist.

Gbagbo was imprisoned in the early 1970s and again in the early 1990s, and he lived in exile in France during much of the 1980s as a result of his union activism. Gbagbo founded the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) in 1982 and ran unsuccessfully for President against Félix Houphouët-Boigny at the start of multi-party politics in 1990. Eventually he won a seat in the National Assembly of Côte d'Ivoire.

Gbagbo became president after Robert Guéï, head of a military junta, barred other leading politicians from running against Gbagbo in the October 2000 presidential election. Gbagbo claimed victory after the election and his supporters took to the streets toppling Guéï. Gbagbo was then installed as President.

Following the 2010 presidential election, Gbagbo challenged the vote count, alleged fraud, and refused to stand down. He called for the annulment of results from nine of the country's regions. Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner and was recognized as such by election observers, the international community, the African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States. However, the Constitutional Council, which according to Article 94 of the Ivorian Constitution both determines disputes in and proclaims the results of Presidential elections, declared that Gbagbo had won. After a short period of civil conflict, Gbagbo was arrested by the Republican Army of Ivory Coast. In November, he was extradited to the International Criminal Court, becoming the first head of state to be taken into the court's custody.

Early life and academic career
Gbagbo was born in the village of Mama, near Gagnoa. He became a history professor and an opponent of the regime of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. He was imprisoned from 31 March 1971 to January 1973. In 1979, he obtained his doctorate at Paris Diderot University (French: Université Paris Diderot, also known as Université Paris 7 – Denis Diderot). In 1980, he became Director of the Institute of History, Art, and African Archeology at the University of Abidjan. He participated in a 1982 teachers' strike as a member of the National Trade Union of Research and Higher Education. Gbagbo went into exile in France in the same year.

From : www.wikipedia.org 

How do you survive a month adrift at sea?

After a month adrift on the ocean, two men have been found on a deserted island in the Pacific. How could anyone survive being at sea for so long?

Two sailors from Kiribati are recovering after spending more than a month drifting in a small boat in the South Pacific Ocean. The pair was eventually found on an isolated atoll on the southern fringes of the Marshall Islands, 500km from home.

For 33 days the men from Kiribati, a former British colony that straddles the Equator, defied a combination of mountainous waves, howling winds and strong ocean currents to emerge weak and hungry but alive at the end of an astonishing journey.

Little is known about how they survived but theirs is a story of true resilience.

For Bob Cooper, a veteran survival expert from Western Australia, escaping such dire circumstances depends on staying positive and calm - not easy when salvation seems so far away.

He thinks the men were likely to have faced a "storm" of conflicting emotions, where panic and rational thought battled for supremacy.

"Often it is whichever wins determines whether you succeed or not in a survival situation. So one side of your brain is saying, 'Let's get out of here, let's get help, I'm going to die and never see my loved ones again,' and it goes into sorrow and even depression.

"That fight is going on with your logical side saying, 'We need water, warmth, shelter, signals and food.'"

Desperate measures like jumping over board and towing the boat to an island in the distance can kill you, he adds.

Any food must be rationed and a system set up for collecting rainwater in buckets or plastic sheeting, he says, and having a daily routine is essential.

Innovation helps too. One way to avoid sunburn, for example, could be the use of cardboard boxes to fashion hats, and using awnings for shade. Staring at the horizon can stave off seasickness.

Experts agree that while sound planning and a clear mind are key ingredients, luck plays a decisive part too. One over-inquisitive nudge by a passing shark or a freak wave could sink all hope, while a slice of good fortune could make all the difference.

"If they have fishing gear they can start fishing, you can extract the fluid out of fish and drink that as a substitute for water," says Mr Cooper, who once survived a fire on a prawn trawler, which sank in "heavily shark-infested waters" off Port Hedland in Western Australia.

"I went down with this net around me and sharks thrashing around me. I didn't panic and managed to get out, and was hanging on to this upside-down boat for about four hours before someone saw the odd silhouette against the sunset," he recalls.

Even if you survive on a boat, the chances of being seen on a vast ocean are slim.

Despite an international effort, the marooned islanders from Kiribati could not be found while they were still at sea, their boat a tiny speck on a gigantic moving mass.

A team in the US used computer modelling to predict the currents to try to estimate where the men might be, while Australia sent a C130 Hercules on a marathon mission to scour the Pacific.

"It searched for three days for these two men over a 5,000 sq km area but didn't find anything," says Malcolm Larsen from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which oversees 53 million sq km of sea, including vast swathes of the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. "It is very difficult to see a vessel in the water."

Eventually the sailors, aged 53 and 26, reached Namdrik, a tiny coral outpost in the Marshall Islands. Their incredible efforts have drawn praise from some of the best in the survival business.

"I've known of people who have been in a perfectly survivable situation who have basically thrown it away and given up for whatever reason, while other people have just persevered with very little knowledge but have been able to tough it out mentally, so the will to live is key to all of this," says Nick Vroomans, a former chief instructor of the Australian Defence Force combat survival training school in Townsville.

These guys convinced themselves they could survive and weren't going out without a fight, says Mr Vroomans, who is the director of Queensland-based Staying Alive Survival Services.

Coastal communities that rely on abundant supplies of fish in the South Pacific must also accept the inherent dangers that a seafaring life brings.

In Kiribati, the search for another fishermen who went missing last week has been suspended. He was onboard a small boat with two friends, who went diving. When they returned to the surface their companion and his vessel had disappeared.

Reporting by Phil Mercer
From : www.bbc.co.uk

Greenland by dog sledge: The Sirius Patrol in numbers

Since the Cold War, Denmark has staked its claim to northern Greenland - and its untapped mineral wealth - with dog sledge patrols. This is the Sirius Patrol in numbers.

The vast icy expanses at the top of our planet are rich in coal, ore and minerals. Although inhospitable in the extreme, these areas are in demand.

Denmark patrols and protects its sovereignty over Greenland with a small naval unit called the Sirius Patrol. The US Geological Survey estimates the oil reserves off its coast are as big as those in the North Sea.

Each autumn, six dog sledge teams - each manned by two soldiers from the Royal Danish Navy - spend up to six months patrolling an area of 160,000 sq km (60,000 sq miles). They are the only people in a vast wilderness about three times the size of Denmark.

During winter the sun disappears for two months. The average yearly temperature is -10C (14F) and the mercury can dip as low as -55C (-67F) - the lowest recorded temperature in the area.

There are up to 14 dogs in each team, and a day's patrol will typically cover 30km (19 miles). At night the soldiers retire to a hi-tech tent. The dogs sleep outside, even in the depths of winter.

The unit selectively breeds Greenlandic dogs for endurance and strength. Each dog works for five years. By the time it retires, a dog in the Sirius Patrol will have pulled sledges for more than 20,000km (12,427 miles).

During a two-year placement with the unit, the soldiers are paid a monthly salary of 22,000 Danish kroner (£2,535) after tax. Their arctic training includes dog handling, building emergency snow shelters, and hunting for food.

After being granted sovereignty over Greenland in 1933, Denmark has been obliged to maintain a permanent presence in the entire area.

The first dog sledge patrols began during World War II to monitor and then destroy German weather bases as part of efforts to keep Greenland in Allied hands.

In 1950, with the Cold War cooling international relations, Denmark decided to establish a permanent military presence. Initially christened Operation Resolut, it was renamed Sirius in 1953 after the brightest star in the dog constellation.

The Cold War has long since ended, but Greenland remains a desirable territory, rich in oil and precious metals. The environment is too extreme for current mining technology, but the patrols secure Denmark's claim to this valuable wilderness simply by their presence.

From : www.bbc.co.uk

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mikheil Saakashvili

Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgian: მიხეილ სააკაშვილი, IPA: [mixɛil sɑɑkʼɑʃvili]; born 21 December 1967) is a Georgian politician, the third and current President of Georgia and leader of the United National Movement Party. Involved in the national politics since 1995, Saakashvili became president on 25 January 2004 after President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned in a November 2003 bloodless "Rose Revolution" led by Saakashvili and his political allies, Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Zhvania. Saakashvili was re-elected in the Georgian presidential election on 5 January 2008. He is widely regarded as a pro-NATO and pro-USA leader who spearheaded a series of political and economic reforms. In 2010, he had a 67% approval rating despite being criticized by the opposition for his alleged authoritarian tendencies and electoral fraud.

Some non-Georgian sources spell Saakashvili's first name via the Russian version of the name Mikhail. In Georgia, he is commonly known as "Misha," a hypocorism for Mikheil.

Early life and career
Mikheil Saakashvili was born in Tbilisi, capital of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union, to a Georgian intelligentsia family. His father, Nikoloz Saakashvili, is a physician who practices medicine in Tbilisi and directs a local Balneological Center. His mother, Giuli Alasania, is a historian who lectures at Tbilisi State University.

During University, he served his shortened military service with the Soviet Border Troops in 1989/90. Saakashvili graduated from the Institute of International Relations (Department of International Law) of the Kiev State University (Ukraine) in 1992. He briefly worked as a human rights officer for the interim State Council of Georgia following the overthrow of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia before receiving a fellowship from the United States State Department (via the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program). He received an LL.M. from Columbia Law School in 1994 and took classes at The George Washington University Law School the following year. In 1995, he also received a diploma from the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

After graduation, while on internship in the New York law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler in early 1995, Saakashvili was approached by Zurab Zhvania, an old friend from Georgia who was working on behalf of President Eduard Shevardnadze to enter politics. He stood in the December 1995 elections along with Zhvania, and both men won seats in parliament, standing for the Union of Citizens of Georgia, Shevardnadze's party.

Saakashvili was chairman of the parliamentary committee which was in charge of creating a new electoral system, an independent judiciary and a non-political police force. Opinion surveys recognised him to be the second most popular person in Georgia, behind Shevardnadze. He was named "man of the year"[dubious – discuss] by a panel of journalists and human rights advocates in 1997. In January 2000, Saakashvili was appointed Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

On 12 October 2000, Saakashvili became Minister of Justice for the government of President Shevardnadze. He initiated major reforms in the Georgian criminal justice and prisons system. This earned praise[dubious – discuss] from international observers and human rights activists. But in mid-2001 he became involved in a major controversy with the Economics Minister Ivane Chkhartishvili, State Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze and Tbilisi police chief Ioseb Alavidze, accusing them of profiting from corrupt business deals.

Saakashvili resigned on 5 September 2001, saying that "I consider it immoral for me to remain as a member of Shevardnadze's government." He declared that corruption had penetrated to the very center of the Georgian government and that Shevardnadze lacked the will to deal with it, warning that "current developments in Georgia will turn the country into a criminal enclave in one or two years."

In the United National Movement
Having resigned from the government and quit the Shevardnadze-run Union of Citizens of Georgia party, Saakashvili founded the United National Movement (UNM) in October 2001, a right-of-center political party with a touch of nationalism, to provide a focus for part of the Georgian reformists leaders. In June 2002, he was elected as the Chairman of the Tbilisi Assembly ("Sakrebulo") following an agreement between the United National Movement and the Georgian Labour Party. This gave him a powerful new platform from which to criticize the government.

Georgia held parliamentary elections on 2 November 2003 which were denounced by local and international observers as being grossly rigged. Saakashvilli claimed that he had won the elections (a claim supported by independent exit polls), and urged Georgians to demonstrate against Shevardnadze's government and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against the authorities. Saakashvili's UNM and Burdjanadze-Democrats united to demand the ouster of Shevardnadze and the rerun of the elections.

Massive political demonstrations were held in Tbilisi in November, with over 100,000 people participating and listening to speeches by Saakashvili and other opposition figures. The Kmara ("Enough!") youth organization (a Georgian counterpart of the Serbian "Otpor") and several NGOs, like Liberty Institute, were active in all protest activities. After an increasingly tense two weeks of demonstrations, Shevardnadze resigned as President on 23 November, to be replaced on an interim basis by parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze. While the revolutionary leaders did their best to stay within the constitutional norms, many called the change of government a popular coup dubbed by Georgian media as the Rose Revolution.

Saakashvili's "storming of Georgia's parliament" in 2003 "put U.S. diplomats off guard. .... [Saakashvili] ousted a leader the U.S. had long backed, Eduard Shevardnadze." Seeking support, Saakashvili went outside the U.S. State Department. He hired Randy Scheunemann, now Sen. John McCain's top foreign-policy adviser, as a lobbyist and used Daniel Kunin of USAID and the NDI as a full-time adviser.

On 24 February 2004 the United National Movement and the United Democrats had amalgamated. The new political movement was named the National Movement - Democrats (NMD). The movement's main political priorities include raising pensions and providing social services to the poor, its main base of support; fighting corruption; and increasing state revenue.

Georgia–Russia relations
Saakashvili held an official meeting[when?] with the Prime Minister of of Russia Vladimir Putin, in his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo. The presidents discussed the issues of aviation regulations between the two countries.[citation needed] This was Putin's last meeting as the President of Russia, having been succeeded by Dimitry Medvedev.

However, a series of clashes between Georgian and South Ossetian forces resulted in Saakashvili ordering an attack on Tskhinvali. In response, the Russian army invaded South Ossetia, later followed by the invasion of Georgia proper. The two counterparts were led to a ceasefire agreement and a six-point peace plan, due to the French President's mediation. On 26 August the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, signed a decree recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. On August 29, 2008, in response to Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze announced that Georgia had broken diplomatic relations with Russia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev holds Saakashvili responsible for the 2008 South Ossetia war, and states that Saakashvili is responsible for the collapse of the Georgian state. Medvedev has stated "(a)s soon as Georgia gets a new leader we will have every opportunity to restore ties."

Personal life
Saakashvili married Dutch-born Sandra Roelofs, whom he met in 1993. The couple has two sons, Eduard and Nikoloz.

Apart from his native Georgian, he speaks fluent English, French, Russian, and Ukrainian,and has some command of Ossetian and Spanish.

Depictions
Saakashvili is played by Cuban-American Hollywood actor Andy García in the 2010 Hollywood film 5 Days of War by Finnish-American film director Renny Harlin. The film will tell the story of Saakashvili and the events during the 2008 South Ossetia war.

From : www.wikipedia.org

Kurmanbek Bakiyev

Kurmanbek Saliyevich Bakiyev (born 1 August 1949) is a politician who served as the second President of Kyrgyzstan, from 2005 to 2010. Large opposition protests in April 2010 led to the takeover of government offices, forcing Bakiyev to flee the country.

Bakiyev was the leader of the People's Movement of Kyrgyzstan before his ascendance to the presidency. He received most of his popular support from the south of the country.

The Legislative Assembly of Kyrgyzstan of the Supreme Council of Kyrgyzstan appointed him acting President on March 25, 2005, following the ousting, during the Tulip Revolution, of President Askar Akayev. In October 2007, Bakiyev initiated the creation of Ak Jol party, but could not lead it due to his presidency.

Tulip Revolution
Following the events of the 2005 Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev won the 10 July ballot for the Presidential election with 89% of the vote with a 53% turnout.

President
Despite initial hopes, Bakiyev's term in office was marred by the murder of several prominent politicians, prison riots, economic ills and battles for control of lucrative businesses. In 2006, Bakiyev faced a political crisis as thousands of people participated in a series of protests in Bishkek. He was accused of not following through with his promises to limit presidential power, give more authority to parliament and the prime minister, and eradicate corruption and crime. Bakiyev claimed that the opposition was plotting a coup against him.

In April 2007, the opposition held protests demanding Bakiyev's resignation, with a large protest beginning on April 11 in Bishkek. Bakiyev signed constitutional amendments to reduce his own power on April 10, but the protest went ahead, with protesters saying that they would remain until he resigned. Clashes broke out between protesters and police on April 19, after which the protests ended.

Over the years, the relationship between China and Kyrgyzstan has grown. The number of Chinese students in Kyrgyzstan has risen. There is even a plan for a high-speed rail to connect the two countries.

In February 2009, while in Moscow, Bakiyev announced the eviction of the US Air Base from Kyrgyzstan, right after a meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, during which Russia promised a $2 billion investment.

Bakiyev was re-elected in the 2009 presidential election.

After the re-election in 2009, some people in Kyrgyzstan said that he would now deal with political and economic reform. Others were skeptical. The Eurasian Daily Monitor wrote on September 10 that his style resembled other leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev. However, he lacked resources and Kyrgyz people were anxious about the risk of renewed power shortages and blackouts like in the winter 2008–2009.

During the winter of 2010 Kyrgyzstan has suffered from rolling blackouts and cutoffs occurring regularly while energy prices have risen.

In January 2010 Kyrgyzstan sent a delegation to China to discuss improved economic relations. Kyrgyzstan national electric company Natsionalnaya electricheskaya syet and the Chinese Tebian Electric signed a $342 million contract to build the Datka-Kemin 500 kv power transmission lines. This would have reduced Kyrgyzstan's dependence on the Central Asian power system. The delegation was led by Bakiyev's son.

In February 2010 Kyrgyzstan had to raise energy tariffs. Heating costs were reportedly going to rise 400 percent and electricity by 170 percent.

Russia backed his government until March 2010. The Eurasian Daily Monitor reported on April 1 that, for two weeks, the Kremlin had used the Russian mass media to run a negative campaign against Bakiyev. Russia controls much of the media in Kyrgyzstan. The sudden campaign coincided with Bakiyev's failure to carry out Russia's various demands related to things such as military bases. On April 1 Russia also imposed duties on energy exports to Kyrgyzstan. It influenced fuel and transport prices immediately, and reportedly led to a massive protest in Talas on April 6.

2010 coup
In April 2010, after bloody riots in the capital overturned the government, Bakiyev reportedly fled to the southern city of Osh. The head of the new provisional government, Roza Otunbayeva, declared that Bakiyev had not resigned and was trying to rally support. On April 13, 2010, Bakiyev said he was willing to resign the presidency if his security was guaranteed. On April 15, 2010, at 19:00, Bakiyev left Kyrgyzstan for Kazakhstan, having signed a resignation letter. Otunbayeva stated that she would press ahead to bring Bakiyev to trial.

On April 20, the Belarussian president, Alexander Lukashenko told his parliament that "Bakiyev and his family, four people in all, have been in Minsk since Monday evening, as guests...Today they are here under the protection of our state, and personally of the president."

On April 21, Kurmanbek Bakiyev held a press conference in Minsk and stated "I, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, am the legally elected president of Kyrgyzstan and recognised by the international community. I do not recognise my resignation. Nine months ago the people of Kyrgyzstan elected me their president and there is no power that can stop me. Only death can stop me," and called Otunbayeva's administration an "illegitimate gang".

Parliamentary elections of 2010
Ata-Zhurt, a party campaigning for bringing Kurmanbek Bakiyev back to power, won 28 out of 120 seats in Kyrgyzstan's parliamentary elections of 2010, outperforming all competitors.

Family
During his time as president, several Bakiyev family members had prominent positions in the government, with at least five close relatives working in the upper echelons of power. His brother Janysh Bakiyev was head of the presidential guard, brother Marat Bakiyev was Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to Germany, and another brother Adyl Bakiyev was an adviser to Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to China.

Since the overthrow, Maksim Bakiyev, the younger son of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has been charged with embezzlement and abuse of power by the interim government. It is suspected that he transferred about $35 million of a $300 million loan from Russia into his private bank accounts. When the revolt took place, Bakiyev was headed to the US for a series of meetings in Washington. On June 14, 2010, Maksim was arrested in the UK when he landed at Farnborough Airport in Hampshire in a privately hired jet. The interim Kyrgyz government is demanding his extradition.

From : www.wikipedia.org

Bear Grylls

Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls (born 7 June 1974) is an English adventurer, writer and television presenter. He is best known for his television series Man vs. Wild, known as Born Survivor in the United Kingdom. In July 2009, Grylls was appointed the youngest ever Chief Scout at the age of 35.

Personal Life
Grylls grew up in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland and Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. He is the son of the late Conservative party politician Sir Michael Grylls and Lady Grylls (née Sarah Ford). His maternal grandparents were Patricia Ford, an Ulster Unionist Party MP and Neville Ford who played first-class cricket. He has one sibling—an elder sister, Lara Fawcett, a cardio-tennis coach who originally gave him the nickname 'Bear' when he was a week old.

Grylls was educated at Eaton House, Ludgrove School, Eton College, where he helped start its first mountaineering club, and Birkbeck, University of London, where he graduated with a degree, obtained part-time, in Hispanic studies in 2002. From an early age, he learned to climb as well as sail from his father, who was a member of the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron. As a teenager, he learned to skydive and also earned a second dan black belt in Shotokan karate. He now practices Yoga and Ninjutsu. He also became involved in Scouting, beginning at age eight, as a Cub Scout. He speaks English, Spanish, and French. Grylls is a Christian, describing his faith as the "backbone" in his life.

Although Grylls was christened 'Edward' he has legally changed his forename to 'Bear'. Grylls married Shara Grylls (née Cannings Knight) in 2000. They have three sons: Jesse, Marmaduke, and Huckleberry (born 15 January 2009 via natural childbirth on his houseboat).

Military service
After leaving school, Grylls considered joining the Indian Army and spent a few months hiking in the Himalayan mountains of Sikkim and West Bengal, Assam. He then briefly attended the University of the West of England where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps. In March 1997, he joined the British Army and after passing on his second attempt United Kingdom Special Forces Selection (where he claims he was one of four to have passed out of his group of 180), from 1994–1997, he served in the part-time United Kingdom Special Forces Reserve, with 21 Regiment Special Air Service, 21 SAS(R), as a trooper, survival instructor and Patrol Medic.

In 1996, he suffered a freefall parachuting accident in Zambia. His canopy ripped at 4,900 metres (16,000 ft), partially opening, causing him to fall and land on his parachute pack on his back, which partially crushed three vertebrae. Grylls later said: "I should have cut the main parachute and gone to the reserve but thought there was time to resolve the problem". According to his surgeon, Grylls came "within a whisker" of being paralysed for life and at first it was questionable whether he would ever walk again. Grylls spent the next 18 months in and out of military rehabilitation at Headley Court before being discharged and directing his efforts into trying to get well enough to fulfil his childhood dream of climbing Mount Everest.

In 2004, Grylls was awarded the honorary rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve.

Everest
On 16 May 1998, Grylls achieved his childhood dream (an ambition since his father gave him a picture of Everest when he was eight) and entered the Guinness Book of Records, as the youngest Briton, at 23, to summit Mount Everest, just eighteen months after injuring his back. However, James Allen, an Australian/British climber who ascended Everest in 1995 with an Australian team, but who has dual citizenship, beat him to the summit at age 22. The feat has since been surpassed by Jake Meyer and, at age 19, by Rob Gauntlett.

To prepare for climbing at such high altitudes in the Himalayas, in 1997, Grylls became the youngest Briton to climb Ama Dablam, a peak described by Sir Edmund Hillary as "unclimbable". Grylls' Everest expedition involved nearly four months on the mountain's southeast face. On his first reconnaissance climb he fell into a deep crevasse and was knocked unconscious. The following weeks of acclimatisation involved climbs up and down the south face, negotiating the Khumbu Icefall (a frozen river), the Western Cwm glacier, and a 1,500-metre (5,000 ft) wall of ice called the Lhotse face, before he made the ascent with the ex-SAS soldier Neil Laughton.

Chief Scout
On 17 May 2009, The Scout Association announced Grylls would be appointed Chief Scout following the end of Peter Duncan's five year term in July 2009. He was officially made Chief Scout at Gilwell 24 on 11 July 2009 in a handover event featuring Peter Duncan in front of a crowd of over 3,000 Explorer Scouts. He is the tenth person to hold the position and the youngest Chief Scout since the role was created for Robert Baden-Powell in 1920.

From : www.wikipedia.org