Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Radovan KaradzicJohn SergeantJosef FritzlUsain BoltJohn CowardRafa NadalHenry ConwayDavid AxelrodNathaniel RothschildMax MoselyJay-ZDamian Green

Some of the men who have made the headlines in 2008, clockwise from top left: Radovan Karadzic, John Sergeant, Josef Fritzl, Usain Bolt, John Coward, Rafa Nadal, Damian Green, Jay-Z, Max Mosely, Nathaniel Rothschild, David Axelrod and Henry Conway.

Click herefor the women of the year.

The former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, was finally apprehended after 12 years on the run. He faces 11 charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. They include genocide relating to his orchestrating the mass murder of tens of thousands of Bosnians, mainly Muslims, during the civil war in Bosnia, which ended 1995. Karadzic initially evaded capture by surrounding himself with sympathisers and flitting between farmsteads, monasteries and caves. He never used a mobile phone for fear of being detected by the US intelligence services. Later, he adopted the disguise of a new-age faith healer called Dragan Dabic, with long white flowing locks. He was arrested on a Belgrade bus.

John Sergeant is "normal" in that he is a bloke who can't dance. This ought to have been a huge disadvantage since he took part in the BBC's highly popular TV show, Strictly Come Dancing. Week after week, the judges poured scorn on his pedestrian, uncoordinated routines. Yet, week after week, the public voted for him to remain in the show at the expense of more talented contestants. Arguments broke out as to whether this was a dance show or simply an entertainment spectacle. Then, halfway through the series, Sergeant pulled out saying that "there was a real chance I could win and that would be a joke too far". His partner, Kristina Rihanoff claimed the judges had driven him out. One judge, Craig Revel Horwood, dismissed this and accused Sergeant of being "cowardly".

Retired electrical engineer Josef Fritzl was arrested for a crime that shocked the world. He confessed to holding his daughter Elisabeth captive in an underground bunker for 24 years in the provincial Austrian town of Amstetten. What's more, he repeatedly raped her and fathered seven children by her. The case only came to light when Mr Fritzl allowed one of his children to seek hospital treatment. Mr Fritzl was formally charged in November with murder, rape, slavery, incest, mental torture and false imprisonment. The murder charge relates to one of the incest children who died as a child. Mr Fritzl told police he destroyed the corpse by throwing it into his heating furnace. Three of his offspring were allowed to live with Mr Fritzl and his wife as "normal" children in their home upstairs, while the others stayed with their mother.

The 6ft 5in Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt left Beijing flying high after becoming the first man to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at a single Olympics since Carl Lewis in 1984. He was also the first man in history to set world records in all three at a single Olympic Games. His 9.62 seconds 100m record would have been even better had he not begun celebrating before he crossed the finish line. Bolt then smashed Michael Johnson's 200m world record that had stood for 12 years, in a time of 19.3 seconds. Finally, he and his three Jamaican teammates took the Olympic gold in the relay in a time of 37.10 seconds. Not surprisingly, he earned the nickname Lightning Bolt.

Despite his name, John Coward is anything but cowardly. He was at the controls of a Boeing 777 when it was coming in to land at Heathrow airport on a British Airways flight from Beijing. Without warning, the plane stalled. He said later: "I thought this is going to be a catastrophic crash. This is it." However, Mr Coward managed to keep the plane's nose up, clear the fence and maintain the aircraft in a straight line until it shuddered to a halt. Investigators believe the engine failure was probably caused by ice restricting the flow of fuel. One airport worker said of Mr Coward: "The man deserves a medal as big as a frying pan."

Rafa Nadal's victory over Roger Federer at this year's Wimbledon men's final is regarded as a classic. The Spanish player had been threatening the Swiss's status as world number one for many months. But the manner in which it was achieved left every tennis fan breathless. The gruelling five-setter ended in near darkness prompting one leading sports columnist to declare it as "the greatest sporting event I've ever seen". Even John McEnroe agreed that it had eclipsed his epic 1980 final against Bjorn Borg. With his rippling biceps, his rocket forehands and his never-say-die attitude, Nadal had defeated arguably the most complete tennis player ever in Federer. Nadal went on to take the Olympic gold in Beijing, though knee problems hampered his progress in later tournaments.

The son of the now-disgraced Tory MP Derek Conway first came to the public's attention when it was revealed he was receiving £32,000 a year of taxpayers' money for being his father's "research assistant". In fact, there was very little "research" being done. His father and younger brother Freddie, who was also on the payroll, kept a low profile after the scandal broke. However, the self-styled "Queen Sloane" embraced his notoriety and partied his worries away. He became known for his flamboyant dress sense and arrived at one nightclub in a horse-drawn carriage dressed as a Regency dandy. He was forced to give up his "job" in politics and is now reportedly planning to be an interior designer.

Known as "the Ax", David Axelrod was the mastermind behind Barack Obama's victory over John McCain in the race to be the next US president. He had previously orchestrated Obama's meteoric rise from small-time community organiser to Illinois senator and his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. A 53-year-old former journalist on the Chicago Tribune turned political consultant, the heavily moustachioed Mr Axelrod first met Obama during a voter-registration drive in Chicago in 1992. The two became close friends. By constantly honing the message of "change", studying voter analyses and by using the internet as a major campaigning tool, Mr Axelrod and his team helped persuade the American people to elect their first black president, something most African-Americans thought would never happen in their lifetimes.

It was "bad manners" that got Nathaniel Rothschild hot under the collar and in the headlines. The banking heir was furious when his old university friend, shadow chancellor George Osborne, leaked comments Peter Mandelson had made to him in private about Gordon Brown during the summer, aboard a yacht in Corfu. Mr Rothschild, who was also a guest on the yacht, was furious and thought Mr Osborne had broken an unwritten rule of friendship by snitching. In retaliation he wrote a letter to the Times revealing that on the same yacht Mr Osborne had discussed soliciting a donation to Conservative Party funds from their host, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Accepting money from a non-UK citizen would have broken election rules. Mr Osborne eventually had to admit he had made a "mistake" by getting involved in discussions about a possible donation. He was probably struck off Mr Rothschild's Christmas card list too.

The president of FIA, the Formula 1 body, Max Mosley, also suffered a blow to his reputation but kept his job. The News of the World published on their website secretly filmed excerpts of a sadomasochism session Mr Mosley took part in. Some of the women involved wore striped uniforms and one scene was played out in German. But Mr Mosley successfully sued the newspaper for libel and invasion of privacy. He was awarded £60,000 in damages, after persuading the judge that his actions were consensual, had no Nazi theme, and were of no public interest. Mr Mosley is the son of former British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley. The verdict inevitably raised the issue of press freedom.

A volley of criticism surrounded the decision to choose rapper Jay-Z to headline the 2008 Glastonbury Festival. American, Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, is widely regarded as the world's greatest hip-hop artist. "Jay-Z? No chance," complained Noel Gallagher of Oasis. To Gallagher Glastonbury was built on a tradition of guitar music. "I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury," he continued. "It's wrong." Jay-Z's inclusion was blamed for initial poor ticket sales, but eventually the festival was sold out. As the rapper took to the stage, giant video screens played images of Gallagher's criticism. Then Jay-Z began his performance with a tongue-in-cheek version of Oasis's hit, Wonderwall. His fans loved it.

Leaks are at the centre of a political row that continues to rumble on at Westminster. The Conservative Party's immigration spokesman, Damian Green, was arrested in November following leaks to him of classified information from the Home Office over a two-year period. The police are investigating whether or not Mr Green may have encouraged these leaks. The MP was later released on bail but not before anti-terror police officers were allowed to search his office at the House of Commons and seize his computer. Conservative politicians are incensed, believing it to be the right of any MP to highlight misdeeds and cover-ups in government and that the police action had been heavy-handed.

Compiled by Bob Chaundy.



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