Here’s a selection of people who made the news in 2011.
7th billion baby
TWO babies – one in the Philippines and the other in India – were born around the same time on Oct 31 but it was Filipina Danica May Camacho who peered out at the world first and named the world’s seven billionth baby. She was born just after midnight in a packed government hospital in Manila. Members of the press were present in the delivery room. Danica, weighing 2.5kg, is the second child for Camille Dalura and her partner, Florante Camacho. Soon after the delivery, top officials of the United Nations met the baby and her parents and presented them with a small cake.
The youngest son and heir to Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un is in the international spotlight this year as North Korea sees a transition in leadership following the death of Kim Jong-il this December. Little is known about the young man, born in 1983 or 1984, who first came to attention in 2009 when news suggested that he was being groomed to succeed his father. Swiss-educated like his two older brothers, Jong-un is said to be the child of his father’s favourite wife, and is himself his father’s favourite son. Although not quite 30 yet, he is reported to be already afflicted by diabetes and heart disease, like his late father.
This Chinese-American author sparked international controversy this year with her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Chua described how her parents’ refusal to accept anything less than excellence led her to achieve great things, including becoming a Yale law school professor, and how her own strict parenting helped her to raise two very accomplished teenage girls. The book tapped into some Americans’ deepest insecurities and led many women to ask each other: “Are you a tiger mum?”
With his killer smile and baby blue eyes, actor Bradley Cooper edged out Ryan Reynolds and was chosen by People magazine as the 2011 Sexiest Man Alive. Earlier this summer, he told Ellen DeGeneres that he was campaigning to be on the cover. Cooper disclosed that his Hangover II co-stars Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis were helping with the “grassroots campaign”.
“I’ve started passing out flyers at The Grove,” Cooper joked, adding that his mother was going to be so happy with his new title. She must be on the moon now.
Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan
The former Bar Council president made the news as chairman of Bersih 2.0, the organisation behind the July 9, 2011 rally in Kuala Lumpur calling for free and fair elections. Ambiga and 1,667 protestors were detained but later released.
As a lawyer, Ambiga’s most controversial work is in the areas of religious freedom and women’s rights. She has assertively confronted sexism in Parliament, and takes her case directly to the public when necessary. On March 11, 2009, Ambiga became the first Malaysian to receive the Award for International Women of Courage from Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama at the White House.
Obedient Wives Club
The OWC and its controversial pronouncement on sex hit the headlines earlier this year. The OWC claims it can curb things like prostitution and gambling by showing Muslim wives how to be submissive and keep their husbands happy in the bedroom.
The organisation has been accused of being “misguided” and guilty of portraying women as subservient. Previously, one of its members provoked an outcry from women’s rights groups and religious authorities for encouraging women to behave like “a first-class whore” while in the company of their husbands if they wanted their marriages to succeed. The group claims to have about 3,000 members in Malaysia and branches in the United Kingdom, Australia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Singapore and Indonesia.
The Sultan of Kedah, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, took his oath as the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the new Istana Negara in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur. At 84, the oldest monarch in Malaysian history, Tuanku Abdul Halim is also the first head of state to become king twice. His first five-year tenure started in 1970 at the age of 43. The King’s new five-year term commenced in December.
Tuanku Abdul Halim succeeds Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu for the kingship, which has been rotated among Malaysia’s nine Malay hereditary rulers since independence on Aug 31, 1957.
The former IMF chief was arrested by US police on May 14 and detained pending investigation into an attempted rape that took place at the Sofitel Hotel in New York’s Times Square. After a lengthy legal process, he was finally cleared of all charges and returned home to Paris.
Strauss-Kahn admitted to having a sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo, 32, but said it was consensual. He said his “uninhibited” sex life had cost him the chance of becoming president of France. Strauss-Kahn is now at the centre of another judicial inquiry into a vice-girl ring operating out of a hotel in Lille, northern France. He has admitted to attending “sex parties” but said he stays away from prostitution and pimping.
Ai Wei Wei
Ai, who is best known for creating the Sunflower Seed Installation in London’s Tate Modern and his work on Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, was in the news as Chinese officials took him to task in what is seen as a crackdown on dissent. As a political activist, he has been openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights.
A Hong Kong newspaper alleged that Beijing police arrested him for avoiding taxes, suspected bigamy and for spreading pornography online. Though he was released two months later, the government said he owed them 12 million yuan in unpaid taxes. Lawyer-friend Liu Xiaoyuan has initiated an internet donation campaign to help Ai to pay the unpaid taxes. They have reportedly received more than 1 million yuan to-date.
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Prince William got married. The elder of Princess Diana’s sons tied the knot with Catherine Middleton on April 29 in a fairy tale-like ceremony in Westminster Abbey of London. The entire British royal family turned up to watch the happy couple exchange vows, as did 45 crowned heads from around the world and nearly 2,000 guests.
That’s not all. Police estimated that a million people turned up in the streets of London to be a part of the big day, while The New York Times put the number of people worldwide who tuned in live to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge riding into the sunset at a staggering three billion people.
The former California governor’s marriage to Maria Shriver unravelled at lightning speed, with news of a split first surfacing earlier this year, to be followed quickly by the admission of an affair with the housekeeper by Schwarzenegger, an illegitimate child and, finally, the identification of his mistress.
Arnie’s “love child” – who he has financially supported for 10 years – came as a shock to the world. Poor Shriver, who had stood by her man for 25 years, only learned of the affair when her husband left political office. Mister Terminator took “full responsibility” for the hurt caused to his family.