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.