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Biography of Henry Alfred Kissinger 1923 -

Secretary of State; statesman. Henry Kissinger was born as Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923, in Fürth, a city in the Bavaria region of Germany. Kissinger's mother, Paula Stern, came from a relatively wealthy and prominent family, and his father, Louis Kissinger, was a teacher. Kissinger grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household, and during his youth he spent two hours each day diligently studying the Bible and the Talmud. The interwar Germany of Kissinger's youth was still reeling from its defeat in World War I and the humiliating and debilitating terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Such national emasculation gave rise to the intense German nationalism of Nazism, in which many Germans increasingly treated Germany's Jewish population as outsiders and scapegoats for their misfortunes.

As a child, Kissinger encountered anti-Semitism daily. An avid soccer fan, he defied laws banning Jews from professional sporting events to attend matches, receiving several beatings at the hands of the stadium guards. He and his friends were also regularly abused by local gangs of Nazi youth. These experiences understandably made a lasting impression on Kissinger. One of his childhood friends said, "You can't grow up like we did and be untouched. Every day there were slurs in the streets, anti-Semitic remarks, calling you filthy names."

Kissinger was a shy, introverted and bookish child. "He withdrew," his mother remembered. "Sometimes he wasn't outgoing enough, because he was lost in his books." Kissinger excelled at the local Jewish school and dreamed of attending the Gymnasium, a prestigious state-run high school. However, by the time he was old enough to apply, the school had stopped accepting Jews. Sensing the impending tragedy of the Holocaust, his family decided to flee Germany for United States in 1938, when Kissinger was 15 years old.

On August 20, 1938, the Kissingers set sail for New York City by way of London. His family was extremely poor upon arrival in the United States, and Kissinger immediately went to work in a shaving brush factory to supplement his family's income. At the same time, Kissinger enrolled at New York's George Washington High School, where he learned English with remarkable speed and excelled in all of his classes. One of his teachers later recalled of Kissinger, "He was the most serious and mature of the German refugee students, and I think those students were more serious than our own." Kissinger graduated from high school in 1940 and continued on to the City College of New York, where he studied to become an accountant.

In 1943, Kissinger became a naturalized American citizen and, soon after, he was drafted into the army to fight in World War II. Thus, just five years after he left, Kissinger found himself back in his homeland of Germany, fighting the very Nazi regime from which he had once fled. He served first as a rifleman in France and then as a G-2 intelligence officer in Germany. Over the course of the war, Kissinger abandoned his plan to become an accountant and instead decided that he wanted to become an academic with a focus on political history. In 1947, upon his return to the United States, he was admitted to Harvard University to complete his undergraduate coursework. Kissinger's senior thesis, completed in 1950, was a 383-page tome that tackled a vast subject matter: the meaning of history. His daunting manuscript which, though unrefined, showed flashes of brilliance, inspired Harvard to impose "the Kissinger rule" limiting future theses to about one-third that length.

Upon graduating summa cum laude in 1950, Kissinger decided to remain at Harvard to pursue a Ph.D. in the Department of Government. His 1954 dissertation, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822, examined the efforts of Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich to reestablish a legitimate international order in Europe in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. Metternich proved a profound influence on Kissinger's own later conduct of foreign policy, most notably in his firm belief that even a deeply flawed world order was preferable to revolution and chaos.

After receiving his doctorate in 1954, Kissinger accepted an offer to stay at Harvard as a member of the faculty in the Department of Government. Kissinger first achieved widespread fame in academic circles with his 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, opposing President Dwight Eisenhower's policy of holding out the threat of massive retaliation to ward off Soviet aggression. Instead, Kissinger proposed a "flexible" response model, arguing that a limited war fought with conventional forces and tactical nuclear weapons was, in fact, winnable. He served as a member of the Harvard faculty from 1954-69, earning tenure in 1959.

However, Kissinger always kept one eye outside academia on policymaking in Washington, D.C. From 1961-68, in addition to teaching at Harvard, he served as a special advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson on matters of foreign policy. Then in 1969, Kissinger finally left Harvard when incoming President Richard Nixon appointed him to serve as his National Security Advisor. As National Security Advisor from 1969-75, and then as Secretary of State from 1973-77, Kissinger would prove one of the most dominant, influential and controversial statesmen in American history.

The great foreign policy trial of Kissinger's career was the Vietnam War. By the time Kissinger became National Security Advisor in 1969, the Vietnam War had become enormously costly, deadly and unpopular. Seeking to achieve "peace with honor," Kissinger combined diplomatic initiatives and troop withdrawals with devastating bombing campaigns on North Vietnam designed to improve the American bargaining position and maintain American credibility with its international allies and enemies.

On January 27, 1973, Kissinger and his North Vietnamese negotiating partner Le Duc Tho finally signed a ceasefire agreement to end direct American involvement in the conflict. Both men were honored with the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, although Duc declined, leaving Kissinger the sole recipient of the award. Nevertheless, Kissinger's handling of the Vietnam War was highly controversial. His "peace with honor" strategy prolonged the war for four years, from 1969-73, during which 22,000 American troops and countless Vietnamese died. Furthermore, he initiated a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia that ravaged the country and helped the genocidal Khmer Rouge take power there.

In addition to ending the Vietnam War, Kissinger also accomplished a host of other foreign policy achievements. In 1971, Kissinger made two secret trips to the People's Republic of China, paving the way for President Nixon's historic visit in 1972 and the normalization of Chinese-American relations in 1979. Kissinger was also instrumental in bringing about the early 1970s détente between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1972, he negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, helping to ease tensions between the two Cold War superpowers. When détente was threatened by the October 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel, an American ally, and Egypt, a Soviet ally, Kissinger proved crucial in leading diplomatic efforts to prevent the war from escalating into a global confrontation. Kissinger stepped down as secretary of state at the conclusion of the Ford administration in 1977.

Since, then Kissinger has continued to play a major role in American foreign policy. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to chair the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, and from 1984-90, under Presidents Reagan and Bush, he served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Kissinger founded the international consulting firm Kissinger Associates in 1982, and he serves as a board member and trustee to numerous companies and foundations. Kissinger has authored several books and countless articles on American foreign policy and diplomatic history.

Kissinger is married to Nancy Maginnes. He has two children with his former wife, Ann Fleicher, whom he divorced in 1964.

Henry Kissinger stands out as the dominant American statesman and foreign policymaker of the late 20th century. With his intellectual prowess and tough, skillful negotiating style, Kissinger ended the Vietnam War and greatly improved American relations with its two primary Cold War enemies, China and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Kissinger's ruthlessly pragmatic, sometimes Machiavellian tactics have earned him as many critics as admirers. The writer Christopher Hitchens, for example, has castigated Kissinger for bombing Cambodia, endorsing the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and orchestrating the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende. Regardless of whether they praise or despise him, commentators agree that the current international order is the product of Kissinger's policies. As Kissinger himself put it, "Only rarely in history do statesmen find an environment in which all factors are so malleable; before us, I thought, was the chance to shape events, to build a new world, harnessing the energy and dreams of the American people and mankind's hopes."

Biography of Nicolas Copernicus 1473 – 1543

Born Feb. 19, 1473, Toru, Pol.—died May 24, 1543, Frauenburg, East Prussia [now Frombork, Pol.]) Polish astronomer who proposed that the planets have the Sun as the fixed point to which their motions are to be referred; that the Earth is a planet which, besides orbiting the Sun annually, also turns once daily on its own axis; and that very slow, long-term changes in the direction of this axis account for the precession of the equinoxes. This representation of the heavens is usually called the heliocentric, or “Sun-centred,” system—derived from the Greek helios, meaning “Sun.” Copernicus's theory had important consequences for later thinkers of the scientific revolution, including such major figures as Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, and Newton. Copernicus probably hit upon his main idea sometime between 1508 and 1514, and during those years he wrote a manuscript usually called the Commentariolus (“Little Commentary”). However, the book that contains the final version of his theory, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri vi (“Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs”), did not appear in print until 1543, the year of his death.

Early life and education

Certain facts about Copernicus's early life are well established, although a biography written by his ardent disciple Georg Joachim Rheticus (1514–74) is unfortunately lost. According to a later horoscope, Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473, in Toru, a city in north-central Poland on the Vistula River south of the major Baltic seaport of Gdask. His father, Nicolaus, was a well-to-do merchant, and his mother, Barbara Watzenrode, also came from a leading merchant family. Nicolaus was the youngest of four children. After his father's death, sometime between 1483 and 1485, his mother's brother Lucas Watzenrode (1447–1512) took his nephew under his protection. Watzenrode, soon to be bishop of the chapter of Varmia (Warmia), saw to young Nicolaus's education and his future career as a church canon.

Between 1491 and about 1494 Copernicus studied liberal arts—including astronomy and astrology—at the University of Cracow (Kraków). Like many students of his time, however, he left before completing his degree, resuming his studies in Italy at the University of Bologna, where his uncle had obtained a doctorate in canon law in 1473. The Bologna period (1496–1500) was short but significant. For a time Copernicus lived in the same house as the principal astronomer at the university, Domenico Maria de Novara (Latin: Domenicus Maria Novaria Ferrariensis; 1454–1504). Novara had the responsibility of issuing annual astrological prognostications for the city, forecasts that included all social groups but gave special attention to the fate of the Italian princes and their enemies. Copernicus, as is known from Rheticus, was “assistant and witness” to some of Novara's observations, and his involvement with the production of the annual forecasts means that he was intimately familiar with the practice of astrology. Novara also probably introduced Copernicus to two important books that framed his future problematic as a student of the heavens: Epitoma in Almagestum Ptolemaei (“Epitome of Ptolemy's Almagest”) by Johann Müller (also known as Regiomontanus, 1436–76) and Disputationes adversus astrologianm divinatricenm (“Disputations against Divinatory Astrology”) by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–94). The first provided a summary of the foundations of Ptolemy's astronomy, with Regiomontanus's corrections and critical expansions of certain important planetary models that might have been suggestive to Copernicus of directions leading to the heliocentric hypothesis. Pico's Disputationes offered a devastating skeptical attack on the foundations of astrology that reverberated into the 17th century. Among Pico's criticisms was the charge that, because astronomers disagreed about the order of the planets, astrologers could not be certain about the strengths of the powers issuing from the planets.

Only 27 recorded observations are known for Copernicus's entire life (he undoubtedly made more than that), most of them concerning eclipses, alignments, and conjunctions of planets and stars. The first such known observation occurred on March 9, 1497, at Bologna. In De revolutionibus, book 4, chapter 27, Copernicus reported that he had seen the Moon eclipse “the brightest star in the eye of the Bull,” Alpha Tauri (Aldebaran). By the time he published this observation in 1543, he had made it the basis of a theoretical claim: that it confirmed exactly the size of the apparent lunar diameter. But in 1497 he was probably using it to assist in checking the new- and full-moon tables derived from the commonly used Alfonsine Tables and employed in Novara's forecast for the year 1498.

In 1500 Copernicus spoke before an interested audience in Rome on mathematical subjects, but the exact content of his lectures is unknown. In 1501 he stayed briefly in Frauenburg but soon returned to Italy to continue his studies, this time at the University of Padua, where he pursued medical studies between 1501 and 1503. At this time medicine was closely allied with astrology, as the stars were thought to influence the body's dispositions. Thus, Copernicus's astrological experience at Bologna was better training for medicine than one might imagine today. Copernicus later painted a self-portrait; it is likely that he acquired the necessary artistic skills while in Padua, since there was a flourishing community of painters there and in nearby Venice. In May 1503 Copernicus finally received a doctorate—like his uncle, in canon law—but from an Italian university where he had not studied: the University of Ferrara. When he returned to Poland, Bishop Watzenrode arranged a sinecure for him: an in absentia teaching post, or scholastry, at Wrocaw. Copernicus's actual duties at the bishopric palace, however, were largely administrative and medical. As a church canon, he collected rents from church-owned lands; secured military defenses; oversaw chapter finances; managed the bakery, brewery, and mills; and cared for the medical needs of the other canons and his uncle. Copernicus's astronomical work took place in his spare time, apart from these other obligations. He used the knowledge of Greek that he had acquired during his Italian studies to prepare a Latin translation of the aphorisms of an obscure 7th-century Byzantine historian and poet, Theophylactus Simocattes. The work was published in Cracow in 1509 and dedicated to his uncle. It was during the last years of Watzenrode's life that Copernicus evidently came up with the idea on which his subsequent fame was to rest.

Copernicus's reputation outside local Polish circles as an astronomer of considerable ability is evident from the fact that in 1514 he was invited to offer his opinion at the church's Fifth Lateran Council on the critical problem of the reform of the calendar. The civil calendar then in use was still the one produced under the reign of Julius Caesar, and, over the centuries, it had fallen seriously out of alignment with the actual positions of the Sun. This rendered the dates of crucial feast days, such as Easter, highly problematic. Whether Copernicus ever offered any views on how to reform the calendar is not known; in any event, he never attended any of the council's sessions. The leading calendar reformer was Paul of Middelburg, bishop of Fossombrone. When Copernicus composed his dedication to De revolutionibus in 1542, he remarked that “mathematics is written for mathematicians.” Here he distinguished between those, like Paul, whose mathematical abilities were good enough to understand his work and others who had no such ability and for whom his work was not intended.

Copernicus's astronomical work

The contested state of planetary theory in the late 15th century and Pico's attack on astrology's foundations together constitute the principal historical considerations in constructing the background to Copernicus's achievement. In Copernicus's period, astrology and astronomy were considered subdivisions of a common subject called the “science of the stars,” whose main aim was to provide a description of the arrangement of the heavens as well as the theoretical tools and tables of motions that would permit accurate construction of horoscopes and annual prognostications. At this time the terms astrologer, astronomer, and mathematician were virtually interchangeable; they generally denoted anyone who studied the heavens using mathematical techniques. Pico claimed that astrology ought to be condemned because its practitioners were in disagreement about everything, from the divisions of the zodiac to the minutest observations to the order of the planets. A second long-standing disagreement, not mentioned by Pico, concerned the status of the planetary models. From antiquity, astronomical modeling was governed by the premise that the planets move with uniform angular motion on fixed radii at a constant distance from their centres of motion. Two types of models derived from this premise. The first, represented by that of Aristotle, held that the planets are carried around the centre of the universe embedded in unchangeable, material, invisible spheres at fixed distances. Since all planets have the same centre of motion, the universe is made of nested, concentric spheres with no gaps between them. As a predictive model, this account was of limited value. Among other things, it had the distinct disadvantage that it could not account for variations in the apparent brightness of the planets since the distances from the centre were always the same. A second tradition, deriving from Claudius Ptolemy, solved this problem by postulating three mechanisms: uniformly revolving, off-centre circles called eccentrics; epicycles, little circles whose centres moved uniformly on the circumference of circles of larger radius (deferents); and equants. The equant, however, broke with the main assumption of ancient astronomy because it separated the condition of uniform motion from that of constant distance from the centre. A planet viewed from the centre c of its orbit would appear to move sometimes faster, sometimes slower. As seen from the Earth, removed a distance e from c, the planet would also appear to move nonuniformly. Only from the equant, an imaginary point at distance 2 e from the Earth, would the planet appear to move uniformly. A planet-bearing sphere revolving around an equant point will wobble; situate one sphere within another, and the two will collide, disrupting the heavenly order. In the 13th century a group of Persian astronomers at Margheh discovered that, by combining two uniformly revolving epicycles to generate an oscillating point that would account for variations in distance, they could devise a model that produced the equalized motion without referring to an equant point.

The Margheh work was written in Arabic, which Copernicus did not read. However, he learned to do the Margheh “trick,” either independently or through a still-unknown intermediary link. This insight was the starting point for his attempt to resolve the conflict raised by wobbling physical spheres. Copernicus might have continued this work by considering each planet independently, as did Ptolemy in the Almagest, without any attempt to bring all the models together into a coordinated arrangement. However, he was also disturbed by Pico's charge that astronomers could not agree on the actual order of the planets. The difficulty focused on the locations of Venus and Mercury. There was general agreement that the Moon and Sun encircled the motionless Earth and that Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were situated beyond the Sun in that order. However, Ptolemy placed Venus closest to the Sun and Mercury to the Moon, while others claimed that Mercury and Venus were beyond the Sun.

In the Commentariolus, Copernicus postulated that, if the Sun is assumed to be at rest and if the Earth is assumed to be in motion, then the remaining planets fall into an orderly relationship whereby their sidereal periods increase from the Sun as follows: Mercury (88 days), Venus (225 days), Earth (1 year), Mars (1.9 years), Jupiter (12 years), and Saturn (30 years). This theory did resolve the disagreement about the ordering of the planets but, in turn, raised new problems. To accept the theory's premises, one had to abandon much of Aristotelian natural philosophy and develop a new explanation for why heavy bodies fall to a moving Earth. It was also necessary to explain how a transient body like the Earth, filled with meteorological phenomena, pestilence, and wars, could be part of a perfect and imperishable heaven. In addition, Copernicus was working with many observations that he had inherited from antiquity and whose trustworthiness he could not verify. In constructing a theory for the precession of the equinoxes, for example, he was trying to build a model based upon very small, long-term effects. And his theory for Mercury was left with serious incoherencies.

Any of these considerations alone could account for Copernicus's delay in publishing his work. (He remarked in the preface to De revolutionibus that he had chosen to withhold publication not for merely the nine years recommended by the Roman poet Horace but for 36 years, four times that period.) And, when a description of the main elements of the heliocentric hypothesis was first published, in the Narratio prima (1540 and 1541, “First Narration”), it was not under Copernicus's own name but under that of the 25-year-old Georg Rheticus. Rheticus, a Lutheran from the University of Wittenberg, Germany, stayed with Copernicus at Frauenburg for about two and a half years, between 1539 and 1542. The Narratio prima was, in effect, a joint production of Copernicus and Rheticus, something of a “trial balloon” for the main work. It provided a summary of the theoretical principles contained in the manuscript of De revolutionibus, emphasized their value for computing new planetary tables, and presented Copernicus as following admiringly in the footsteps of Ptolemy even as he broke fundamentally with his ancient predecessor. It also provided what was missing from the Commentariolus: a basis for accepting the claims of the new theory.

Both Rheticus and Copernicus knew that they could not definitively rule out all possible alternatives to the heliocentric theory. But they could underline what Copernicus's theory provided that others could not: a singular method for ordering the planets and for calculating the relative distances of the planets from the Sun. Rheticus compared this new universe to a well-tuned musical instrument and to the interlocking wheel-mechanisms of a clock. In the preface to De revolutionibus, Copernicus used an image from Horace's Ars poetica (“Art of Poetry”). The theories of his predecessors, he wrote, were like a human figure in which the arms, legs, and head were put together in the form of a disorderly monster. His own representation of the universe, in contrast, was an orderly whole in which a displacement of any part would result in a disruption of the whole. In effect, a new criterion of scientific adequacy was advanced together with the new theory of the universe.

Publication of De revolutionibus

The presentation of Copernicus's theory in its final form is inseparable from the conflicted history of its publication. When Rheticus left Frauenburg to return to his teaching duties at Wittenberg, he took the manuscript with him in order to arrange for its publication at Nürnberg, the leading centre of printing in Germany. He chose the top printer in the city, Johann Petreius, who had published a number of ancient and modern astrological works during the 1530s. It was not uncommon for authors to participate directly in the printing of their manuscripts, sometimes even living in the printer's home. However, Rheticus was unable to remain and supervise. He turned the manuscript over to Andreas Osiander (1498–1552), a theologian experienced in shepherding mathematical books through production as well as a leading political figure in the city and an ardent follower of Luther (although he was eventually expelled from the Lutheran church). In earlier communication with Copernicus, Osiander had urged him to present his ideas as purely hypothetical, and he now introduced certain changes without the permission of either Rheticus or Copernicus. Osiander added an unsigned “letter to the reader” directly after the title page, which maintained that the hypotheses contained within made no pretense to truth and that, in any case, astronomy was incapable of finding the causes of heavenly phenomena. A casual reader would be confused about the relationship between this letter and the book's contents. Both Petreius and Rheticus, having trusted Osiander, now found themselves double-crossed. Rheticus's rage was so great that he crossed out the letter with a great red X in the copies sent to him. However, the city council of Nürnberg refused to punish Petreius, and no public revelation of Osiander's role was made until Kepler revealed it in his Astronomia Nova ( New Astronomy) in 1609. In addition, the title of the work was changed from the manuscript's “On the Revolutions of the Orbs of the World” to “Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs”—a change that appeared to mitigate the book's claim to describe the real universe.

Many of the details of these local publication struggles enjoyed an underground history among 16th-century astronomers long before Kepler published Osiander's identity. Ironically, Osiander's “letter” made it possible for the book to be read as a new method of calculation, rather than a work of natural philosophy, and in so doing may even have aided in its initially positive reception. It was not until Kepler that Copernicus's cluster of predictive mechanisms would be fully transformed into a new philosophy about the fundamental structure of the universe.

Legend has it that a copy of De revolutionibus was placed in Copernicus's hands a few days after he lost consciousness from a stroke. He awoke long enough to realize that he was holding his great book and then expired, publishing as he perished. The legend has some credibility, although it also has the beatific air of a saint's life.

Biography of Osama bin Laden 1957 – 2011

Jihadist leader. Born Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden on March 10, 1957, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to construction billionaire Mohammed Awad bin Laden and Mohammed's 10th wife, Syrian-born Alia Ghanem. Osama was the seventh of 50 children born to Muhammad bin Laden, but the only child from his father's marriage to Alia Ghanem.

Osama's father started his professional life in the 1930s in relative poverty, working as a porter in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. During his time as a young laborer, Mohammed impressed the royal family with his work on their palaces, which he built at a much lower cost than any of his competitors could, and with a much greater attention to detail. By the 1960s, he had managed to land several large government contracts to build extensions on the Mecca, Medina and Al-Aqsa mosques. He became a highly influential figure in Jeddah; when the city fell on hard financial times, Mohammed used his wealth to pay all civil servants' wages for the entire kingdom for a six-month period. As a result, Mohammed bin Laden became well respected in his community.

As a father, he was very strict, insisting that all his children live under one roof and observe a rigid religious and moral code. He dealt with his children, especially his sons, as if they were adults, and demanded they become confident and self-sufficient at an early age.

Osama, however, barely came to know his father before his parents divorced. After his family split, Osama's mother took him to live with her new husband, Muhammad al-Attas. The couple had four children together, and Osama spent most of his childhood living with his step-siblings, and attending Al Thagher Model School at the time the most prestigious high school in Jedda. His biological father would go on to marry two more times, until his death in a charter plane crash in September 1967.

At the age of 14, Osama was recognized as an outstanding, if somewhat shy, student at Al Thagher. As a result, he received a personal invitation to join a small Islamic study group with the promise of earning extra credit. Osama, along with the sons of several prominent Jedda families, were told the group would memorize the entire Koran, a prestigious accomplishment, by the time they graduated from the institution. But the group soon lost its original focus, and during this time Osama received the beginnings of an education in some of the principles of violent jihad.

The teacher who educated the children, influenced in part by a sect of Islam called The Brotherhood, began instructing his pupils in the importance of instituting a pure, Islamic law around the Arab world. Using parables with often-violent endings, their teacher explained that the most loyal observers of Islam would institute the holy word even if it meant supporting death and destruction. By the second year of their studies, Osama and his friends had openly adopted the attitude and styles of teen Islamic activists. They preached the importance of instituting a pure Islamic law at Al Thagher; grew untrimmed beards; and wore shorter pants and wrinkled shirts in imitation of the Prophet's dress.

Osama was pushed to grow up rather quickly during his time at Al Thagher. At the age of 18 he married his first cousin, 14-year-old Najwa Ghanem, who had been promised to him. Osama graduated from Al Thager in 1976, the same year his first child, a son named Abdullah, was born. He then headed to King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, where some say he received a degree in public administration in 1981. Others claim he received a degree in civil engineering, in an effort to join the family business.

But Osama would have little chance to use his degree. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Osama joined the Afghan resistance, believing it was his duty as a Muslim to fight the occupation. He relocated to Peshawar, Afghanistan, and using aid from the United States under the CIA program Operation Cyclone, he began training a mujahideen, a group of Islamic jihadists. After the Soviets withdrew from the country in 1989, Osama returned to Saudi Arabia as a hero, and the United States referred to him and his soldiers as "Freedom Fighters."

Yet Osama was quickly disappointed with what he believed was a corrupt Saudi government, and his frustration with the U.S. occupation of Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War led to a growing rift between Osama and his country's leaders. Bin Laden spoke publicly against the Saudi government's reliance on American troops, believing their presence profaned sacred soil. After several attempts to silence Osama, the Saudis banished the former hero. He lived in exile in Sudan beginning in 1992.

By 1993, Osama had formed a secret network known as al-Qaeda (Arabic for "the Base"), comprised of militant Muslims he had met while serving in Afghanistan. Soldiers were recruited for their ability to listen, their good manners, obedience, and their pledge to follow their superiors. Their goal was to take up the jihadist cause around the world, righting perceived wrongs under the accordance of pure, Islamic law. Under Osama's leadership, the group funded and began organizing global attacks worldwide. By 1994, after continued advocacy of extremist jihad, the Saudi government forced Osama to relinquish his Saudi citizenship, and confiscated his passport. His family also disowned him, cutting off his $7 million yearly stipend.

Undeterred, Osama began executing his violent plans, with the goal of drawing the United States into war. His hope was that Muslims, unified by the battle, would create a single, true Islamic state. In 1996, to forward his goal, al Qaeda detonated truck bombs against U.S. occupied forces in Saudi Arabia. The next year, they claimed responsibility for killing tourists in Egypt, and in 1998 they bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Tanzania, killing nearly 300 people in the process.

Osama's actions abroad did not go unnoticed by the Sudanese government, and he was exiled from their country in 1996. Not able to return to Saudi Arabia, Osama took refuge in Afghanistan, where he received protection from the country's ruling Taliban militia. While under the protection of the Taliban, Osama issued a series of fatwas, religious statements, which declared a holy war against the United States. Among the accusations reared at the offending country were the pillaging of natural resources in the Muslim world, and assisting the enemies of Islam.

By 2001, Osama had attempted, and often successfully executed attacks on several countries using the help of Al Qaeda trained terrorists and his seemingly bottomless financial resources. On September 11, 2001, Osama would deliver his most devastating blow to the United States. A small group of Osama's Al Qaeda jihadists hijacked four commercial passenger aircraft in the United States, two of which collided into the World Trade Center towers. Another aircraft crashed into The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth plane was successfully retaken, and crashed in Pennsylvania. The intended target of the final aircraft was believed to be the United States Capitol. In all, the attack killed nearly 3,000 civilians.

Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, the government under President George W. Bush formed a coalition that sucecssfully overthrew the Taliban. Osama went into hiding and, for more than 10 years, he was hunted along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. In 2004, shortly before President Bush's reelection, Osama bin Laden released a videotaped message claiming responsibility for the September 11 attacks.

Then, on May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a terrorist compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In an 8-month plan enacted by the president, and led by CIA director Leon Panetta and American special forces, Osama was shot several times. His body was taken as evidence of his death, and DNA tests revealed that the body was, in fact, his. "For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda's leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and our allies," President Obama said in a late-night address to the nation on the eve of Osama's death. "The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda." He added that "his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."

31 May World No Tobacco Day

World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. It is meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe. The day is further intended to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to deaths worldwide annually. The member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) created World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) in 1987. In the past twenty years, the day has been met with both enthusiasm and resistance across the globe from governments, public health organizations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco industry.

WHO and World No Tobacco Day

World No Tobacco Day is one of many other world health awareness days throughout the year organized by the WHO, including World Mental Health Day, World AIDS Day, and World Blood Donor Day, among others.


# In 1987, the World Health Assembly of the WHO passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for April 7, 1988 to be "a world no-smoking day". April 7, 1988 was the 40th anniversary of the WHO. The objective of the day was to urge tobacco users worldwide to abstain from using tobacco products for 24 hours, an action they hoped would provide assistance for those trying to quit.

# In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed by the World Health Assembly, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on May 31. Since then, the WHO has supported World No Tobacco Day every year, linking each year to a different tobacco-related theme.

# In 1998, the WHO established the Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI), an attempt to focus international resources and attention on the global health epidemic of tobacco. The initiative provides assistance for creating global public health policy, encourages mobilization across societies, and supports the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The WHO FCTC is a global public health treaty adopted in 2003 by countries across the globe as an agreement to implement policies that work towards tobacco cessation.

# In 2008, on the eve of the World No Tobacco Day the WHO called for a worldwide ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. The theme of that year’s day was Tobacco-free youth; therefore, this initiative was especially meant to target advertising efforts aimed at youth. According to the WHO, the tobacco industry must replace older quitting or dying smokers with younger consumers. Because of this, marketing strategies are commonly observed in places that will attract youth such as movies, the Internet, billboards, and magazines. Studies have shown that the more youth are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely they are to smoke.


Each year, the WHO selects a theme for the day in order to create a more unified global message for WNTD. This theme then becomes the central component of the WHO’s tobacco-related agenda for the following year. The WHO oversees the creation and distribution of publicity materials related to the theme, including brochures, fliers, posters, websites, and press releases. In 2008 for the theme Tobacco-free youth, Youtube videos were created as a part of the WNTD awareness campaign, and podcasts were first used in 2009.

In many of its WNTD themes and related publicity-materials, the WHO emphasizes the idea of “truth.” Theme titles such as “Tobacco kills, don’t be duped” (2000) and “Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise” (2006) indicate a WHO belief that individuals may be misled or confused about the true nature of tobacco; the rationale for the 2000 and 2008 WNTD themes identify the marketing strategies and “illusions” created by the tobacco industry as a primary source of this confusion. The WHO’s WNTD materials present an alternate understanding of the “facts” as seen from a global public health perspective. WNTD publicity materials provide an “official” interpretation of the most up-to-date tobacco-related research and statistics and provide a common ground from which to formulate anti-tobacco arguments around the world.

Event coordination

The WHO serves as a central hub for coordinating WNTD events around the world. The WHO website provides a place for groups to register their planned WNTD events. The WHO publishes this information, by country, on its website. The registry helps foster communication and awareness between groups (locally, nationally, and globally) interested in the public health effects of tobacco, and it also serves as a way for interested individuals to quickly see if there is an event in their area.


Since 1988 the WHO has presented one or more Awards to organizations or individuals who have made exceptional contributions to reducing tobacco consumption. World No Tobacco Day Awards are given to individuals from six different world regions (Africa, Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia, and Western Pacific), and Director-General Special Awards and Recognition Certificates are given to individuals from any region.

Global observance

Groups around the world—from local clubs to city councils to national governments—are encouraged by the WHO to organize events each year to help communities celebrate World No Tobacco Day in their own way at the local level. Past events have included letter writing campaigns to government officials and local newspapers, marches, public debates, local and national publicity campaigns, anti-tobacco activist meetings, educational programming, and public art.

In addition, many governments use WNTD as the start date for implementing new smoking bans and tobacco control efforts. For example, on May 31, 2008, a section of the Smoke Free Ontario Act came into effect banning tobacco "power walls" and displays at stores, and all hospitals and government offices in Australia will become smoke free on May 31, 2010.

The day has also been used as a springboard for discussing the current and future state of a country as it relates to tobacco. For example, in India, (which, with 120 million smokers, has one of the highest rates of tobacco consumption in the world), a special section of the Indian journal Current Science, together with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, was published in time for WNTD, 2009. This section examined tobacco use and control in India in an attempt to spread awareness and build support for stricter tobacco control.


For some, WNTD is nothing more than a “futile attempt to curb smoking” which has little to no visible effect in places like the former USSR, India, and China. For others, WNTD is seen as a challenge to individual freedom of choice or even a culturally acceptable form of discrimination. From ignoring WNTD, to participating in protests or acts of defiance, to bookending the day with extra rounds of pro-tobacco advertisements and events, smokers, tobacco growers, and the tobacco industry have found ways to make their opinions of the day heard.

Smoker response

There has been no sustained or wide-spread effort to organize counter-WNTD events on the part of smokers. There is, however, an active community of smokers’ rights advocates who see the WNTD as unfairly singling them out and challenging their rights. The WHO maintains a listing of these organizations on its website.

Some small groups have created local pro-smoking events. For example, the Oregon Commentator, an independent conservative journal of opinion published at the University of Oregon, hosted a “Great American Smoke-in” on campus as a counter to the locally more widespread Great American Smokeout: “In response to the ever-increasing vilification of smokers on campus, the Oregon Commentator presents the Great American Smoke-in as an opportunity for students to join together and enjoy the pleasures of fine tobacco products.”Similarly, “Americans for Freedom of Choice” a group in Honolulu, Hawaii organized “World Defiance Day” in response to WNTD and Hawaii’s statewide ban on smoking in restaurants.

Industry response

Historically, the tobacco industry has supported initiatives that provide resources to help smokers quit smoking. For example, Phillip Morris USA operates a “Quit Assist” website that acts as a guide for those who choose to quit smoking. Acknowledging the fact that quitting is possible puts the power back into the hands of the individual and therefore alleviates responsibility from the tobacco companies. Additionally, advocating for cessation of smoking can allow companies to still advocate for alternative forms of tobacco, while cessation of tobacco would eliminate business completely.

World No Tobacco Days have not induced a positive vocal response from the tobacco industry. For example, a memo made publicly available through www.tobaccoarchives.com was sent out to executives of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in preparation for the 3rd annual World No Tobacco Day, which had the theme of “Childhood and Youth Without Tobacco.” The memo includes a warning about the upcoming day, a document that explains the arguments they anticipate the WHO making, and an explanation of how the company should respond to these claims. For example, in response to the anticipated argument that their advertisements target children, the company’s response includes arguments that claim their advertisements are targeted towards adults by using adult models, and that advertisements lack the power to influence what people will actually purchase. In Uganda, since the World No Tobacco Day is the one day that the media is obligated to publicize tobacco control issues, the British American Tobacco company uses the eve of the day to administer counter-publicity. In 2001, their strategy included events such as a visit with the President of the International Tobacco Growers Association.

Unlike the tobacco industry, some big pharmaceutical companies do publicly support WNTD. For example, Pfizer was a large sponsor for many WNTD events in the United Arab Emirates in 2008. At the time, Pfizer was preparing to release its drug Champix (Varenicline) into the Middle Eastern market. The drug was “designed to activate the nicotinic receptor to reduce both the severity of the smoker's craving and the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine.”

Grower response

Many tobacco growers feel that anti-tobacco efforts by organizations such as the WHO jeopardize their rights. For example, the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) argues that poor farmers in Africa may suffer the consequences if WHO anti-tobacco movements succeed. They also argue that these efforts may gang up on manufacturers of tobacco and be an attack on the industry, therefore hurting the growers.