The List

Gone Fishing

Five leaders who were conspicuously absent when they were needed the most.

ASIF ALI ZARDARI

Who: President of Pakistan

The crisis: massive flooding, political violence

Where he was instead: Europe

The backlash: For a world leader, being seen directing relief efforts (or at least showing sympathy for the victims) is usually a good idea when a natural disaster strikes. But for Pakistan's Zardari, forging ahead with a tour of Europe seemed more important -- even after U.S. officials privately urged him to discontinue the lavish trip, which allegedly included hotel stays that cost more than $11,000 a night. Zardari officials fired back, saying the president chose the "cheapest five-star hotel in London" -- the Churchill Hyatt Regency -- and even chose not to sleep in the royal suite.

The president's trip wasn't all fun and games, though -- at a public speech during one of Zardari's final stops in Britain, a 60-year-old British-Pakistani protester hurled his shoes at the president in light of his decision not to return home. "This was the only means of protest available in front of me at that time," the demonstrator said after he was released by police. Zardari's absence continued on Aug. 18 with a visit to the Black Sea resort at Sochi, Russia, where he met his Russian, Afghan, and Tajik counterparts for a security summit. Perhaps wisely, Zardari decided not to stay for lunch and left quickly after the meeting.

YURI LUZHKOV

Who: Mayor of Moscow

The crisis: Russian wildfires

Where he was instead: Receiving physical therapy in the Austrian Alps

The backlash: After wildfires started sweeping across Russia in late July, touching off a crisis that would cost the country some $15 billion and a quarter of its grain crops, Moscow's leading official announced he was canceling parts of the city's traditional birthday bash. But disappointed Muscovites should probably be thankful Luzhkov did anything at all to confront the emergency; if it wasn't for a chorus of calls for the mayor's resignation, Luzhkov might never have put his treatment for "a serious sports injury" on hold in the first place.

Six days into a rehab stint that began on Aug. 2, Luzhkov reluctantly flew back to Moscow to face the music. Then, after a mere 10 days back at work, Luzhkov returned to his holiday on Aug. 18. The mayor's administration-by-parachute stunned locals still recovering from the record-setting heatwave. At the height of the climatic anomaly, more than 700 city residents were dying every day as a result of smog and high temperatures.Despite the public criticism, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised Luzhkov for interrupting his vacation.

WYCLEF JEAN

Who: Hip-hop artist, Haitian presidential candidate

The crisis: Haiti Reconstruction

Where he was instead: In hiding

The backlash: Jean went to ground this week after reportedly receiving death threats. Never mind that his candidacy hasn't even been approved yet; Jean doesn't meet the residency requirements put forth by Haitian electoral law, and the country's electoral commission is currently weighing the legality of his candidacy. 

The musician's latest PR fiasco follows a string of recent reports by  website The Smoking Gun alleging that Jean misused money from his humanitarian relief fund to pay for -- among other things -- a parade float and sirloin steaks for a domesticated lion. Though experts say Jean isn't guilty of any crimes, the charges of impropriety aren't likely to disappear anytime soon. Can this man really lead a disaster-stricken country with more than a million homeless and an unemployment rate exceeding 70 percent? To show it, the rapper-cum-politico will need to work hard to burnish his public image and improve his leadership skills.

TONY HAYWARD

Who: Former CEO of BP

The crisis: Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Where he was instead: On a yacht off the Isle of Wight

The backlash: After famously wishing that the gulf oil leak be quickly contained so that he could have his life back, the gaffe-prone Hayward sought to reclaim that life even as oil continued to gush from the Deepwater Horizon platform. In June, BP's CEO marked the two-month anniversary of the rig's explosion by attending a yacht race in Britain. Though it's unclear whether Hayward was actually sailing his boat, the Bob, or merely watching, onlookers in Louisiana were outraged that the executive was spending his weekend rubbing elbows with billionaires -- at the unfortunately titled "J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race."

Hayward succumbed to calls for his resignation in late July, when he and BP announced his departure from the company, naming executive director Robert Dudley as his replacement. Hayward will receive a generous severance package in October and assume a position on the board of BP's joint venture in Russia.

TONY WOODLEY

Who: General secretary of Unite, Britain's largest labor union

The crisis: British Airways strikes

Where he was instead: On a Mediterranean island villa

The backlash: In the midst of a five-day cabin crew strike that grounded thousands of British Airways flights in June -- the third such walkout in a month -- the head of Britain's largest labor union evidently thought it would be a good time to fly to a private Cypriot villa with his wife. In his wake, Woodley left tens of thousands of stranded passengers to fend for themselves, as well as an unfinished series of wage negotiations with the airline's brass. Woodley's colleague Derek Simpson -- who previously angered BA by airing labor negotiation details on Twitter -- had to fill in. A spokesman said Woodley's Cyprus trip had been "planned a long time ago," but criticism of the union leader's vacation only grew when it was revealed that he had taken a rival airline to his destination.

After 18 months of negotiations, British Airways and its picketing cabin crew still have yet to strike a deal. Sixty-seven percent of voting crewmembers rejected a management proposal in July that would have ended the stalemate. And as the dispute drags on, Woodley and Simpson themselves are reportedly locked in a succession battle.

Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images; ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Image; THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

The List

The World's Most Powerful Prisoners

Five people who are still making an impact from behind bars.

HUANG GUANGYU

Country: China

In jail since: 2008

Impact: Huang may be China's ultimate rags to riches to prison jumpsuit story. The 41-year-old high school dropout started out in business by selling radios out of a single market stall and eventually built Gome electronics into one of China's largest companies, making himself the country's richest man in the process.

All that seemed to come to an end when, as part of a crackdown on corporate corruption, the Chinese government made an example of Huang and sentenced him to 14 years in prison on charges of bribery and insider trading.

Huang formally stepped down as Gome's chairman in 2009 but has continued to exert his influence over the company nonetheless, fighting a battle for control against U.S. private-equity firm Bain Capital, which owns a 10 percent stake in the company. In August, 2009,  Huang bought enough shares to allow him to retain a one-third stake in the company. Then in May of this year, shareholders affiliated with Huang voted out Bain's representatives on Gome's board of directors. They were reinstated a month later. Most recently, a holding company controlled by Huang recently called a shareholders meeting to cancel decisions made by the company.  

Gome has now filed an additional insider-trading lawsuit against Huang, who is also facing charges from Hong Kong's top financial watchdog. The authorities certainly seem to have enough on Huang to keep him in jail for the next few decades, but if the past year is any indication, it will take more than prison to keep this tycoon away from the company he founded.

MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY

Country: Russia

In jail since: 2003

Impact: The fact that Russia's most important political dissident is an imprisoned oil tycoon may say more about the state of the country's political discourse than it does about Khodorkovsky. Nonetheless, the former Yukos CEO has emerged as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's most persistent and trenchant domestic critic.

Khodorkovsky was jailed on tax evasion charges in 2003, though supporters say the real reason was that then President Vladimir Putin was threatened by his increasing political ambitions. Since his arrest, Khodorkovsky, who has been held in a Siberian prison camp as well as a number of detention centers in Moscow, has taken every available opportunity to assail the current leaders in the Kremlin, granting interviews to journalists, penning op-eds in Western newspapers, and cross-examining powerful officials during his ongoing corruption trials.

For Russia's current president, Dmitry Medvedev, who has sought to project an image of pro-business reform, Khodorkovsky is a continual embarrassment. Khodorkovsky himself has little faith in Medvedev's reform efforts, saying that without more fundamental change to the country's justice system, "destruction will occur in the traditional way for Russia -- from below and with bloodshed."

Khodorkovsky is due to be released in October 2011, just five months before Russia's next presidential election, though new charges have been brought against him. It seems unlikely that the "billionaire dissident" will be allowed to go free as long as Putin, who is said to despise him personally, is still in power.

OMAR ABDEL-RAHMAN

Country: United States

In jail since: 1993

Impact: Abdel-Rahman, a prominent jihadist leader in Egypt during the 1980s, immigrated to the United States in 1990 and was convicted five years later for his role in planning the first World Trade Center bombing. He is currently serving a life sentence at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

Despite his imprisonment, "the blind sheikh" is believed to have continued to communicate with the Gamaa al-Islamiyah terrorist group in Egypt, which is responsible for a number of major terrorist attacks, including the 1997 Luxor massacre. Gamaa al-Islamiyah continues to claim Abdel-Rahman as its leader and a number of other militant groups have also cited the ailing cleric as an influence and threatened more attacks if he is not released.

In 2005, Abdel-Rahman's attorney, Lynne Stewart, along with a paralegal and Arabic interpreter, were convicted of helping him communicate with his jihadist colleagues. In these messages, Rahman reportedly joked about the ease with which he was able to communicate with his followers while behind bars. 

Abdel-Rahman also used his trial in the mid-1990s as a platform to assail the West and call for violent attacks against the United States.  Proponents of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay have cited Rahman's case as an example of why terrorists should be tried in closed military hearings. Abdel-Rahman's family is currently campaigning to have the aging cleric, who is reportedly in poor health, transferred to Qatar.

MARWAN BARGHOUTI

Country: Israel

In jail since: 2002

Impact: Barghouti joined the Palestinian Fatah movement at age 15 and emerged as a prominent figure in the party's "young guard," which gained power in the Palestinian territories while more established figures like Yasir Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas were in exile.

Elected to the Palestinian parliament in 1996, Barghouti was one of the main leaders of the Second Intifada in 2000 and was later convicted on five counts of murder for the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk during that uprising. Barghouti had been tempting arrest for some time but was finally picked up by Israeli authorities after he was identified as a leader of the militant al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

Despite his imprisonment, Barghouti has emerged as an unlikely voice for reform and is often suggested as a possible future Palestinian president. From his cell, Barghouti used a mobile phone to help negotiate a unilateral cease-fire by Palestinian militant groups in 2003, and his writings were instrumental in establishing a Palestinian unity government in 2007. Last year, he was elected to a seat in absentia on Fatah's Central Committee.

Many Palestinians, and some Israelis, see Barghouti as a figure who could unite Hamas and Fatah and finally provide a credible voice at peace negotiations. Nonetheless, Israeli authorities have ruled out releasing the convicted murderer, who is serving five life sentences.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI

Country: Burma

In jail since: 1990

Impact: Aung San Suu Kyi, who may be the most internationally prominent imprisoned dissident since Nelson Mandela left Robben Island, has been a fixture on her country's political scene for the past two decades -- despite being rarely seen in public and forbidden from giving speeches.

Aung San Suu Kyi won Burma's 1989 presidential election, but the result was thrown out by the country's ruling military junta, which placed her under house arrest. She was given the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia two years later. She has spent about 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest for various charges, including a bizarre incident last year in which an American man swam across a lake to her house to meet with her. The incident gave the junta pretext to extend her sentence once again. 

Although long prohibited from making contact with Western authorities and democracy activists, Aung San Suu Kyi has received more welcome guests in recent years including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari. It's a testament to her stature and moral authority that the Burmese regime -- which has been known for its brutality in punishing dissent and has even targeted Buddhist monks for execution -- has allowed her to live at home in relative comfort and receive prominent foreign guests.

Aung San Suu Kyi has made several recent overtures to the regime, including an offer to help get international sanctions lifted, but she has nonetheless been barred from participating in the country's upcoming elections.

Chinese Embassy in Canada; Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images; ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images; STEPHEN SHAVER/AFP/Getty Images