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10 dictators - While their people suffered, these men agonised over how to spend their gains
(1) Kim Jong-il, "Dear Leader" of North Korea, has 17 palaces, hundreds of cars and 20,000 video tapes. He spends $650,000 a year on Hennessy VSOP cognac and has a group of girls known as the "Pleasure Brigade". --- (2) Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines, 1965-1986. The WWII freedom-fighter turned kleptocrat hid billions in overseas accounts. His wife Imelda left behind 888 handbags and 1060 pairs of shoes in the presidential palace when the family fled. --- (3) Nicolae Ceausescu, "Genius of the Carpathians", President of Romania, 1967-1989, had official salary of $3,000, but he still find the cash for 15 palaces, a superb car collection and yachts.

One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nucleur War
In 1962 Americans became aware of the chance of the Third World War, when Soviet missiles were spotted 90 miles from Florida. America's nuclear advantage had failed to deter Nikita Khrushchev from setting up missiles in Cuba. On Black Saturday, October 27, 1962, the world came close to nuclear apocalypse. The countless books and films dedicated to that event show the fascination of imagining catastrophic destruction. Can this book tell us anything new? Michael Dobbs thinks so: He has interviewed Soviet veterans, drawn new maps, and plotted more accurate positions of Soviet and American vessels.

Reagan's diaries to be published
Two decades after he left office, the diaries kept by President Ronald Reagan when he was in office are being published. In brief entries, the former actor recorded daily life in the White House. Of the attempt on his life in 1981 he wrote: "Getting shot hurts." His private musings while in office were recorded in 5 maroon leather volumes embossed with the presidential seal. Even on subjects as the Cold War and relations with Cuban leader Fidel Castro a folksy sense of humour is evident. "Intelligence reports say he Castro is very worried about me. I'm very worried that we can't come up with something to justify his worrying."

Boris Yeltsin: A life in pictures
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the man credited with bringing down the Soviet Union, died aged 76. In 1991, a failed coup by hardliners served him well as he proceeded to discredit the Soviet system. He banned the Communist Party and by the end of the year the Soviet Union had broken apart. He resigned in 1999 after presiding over a second military intervention in Chechnya. Largely out of sight since then, he is remembered fondly by some Russians - as others accuse him of undermining Russian prestige.

Book remembers Nixon's groundbreaking China efforts
In Oct 1971, Henry Kissinger traveled to Beijing to pave the way for Richard Nixon's historic opening to China. Kissinger worked closely with Nixon in crafting the initiative that ended almost a quarter-century of silence between the U.S. and China. Some of his most maneuvering involved keeping his rivals in the State Department far from the action. The historian Margaret MacMillan writes in "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World" that Kissinger relegated State's veteran China hand Al Jenkins to diplomatic busy work while he and Chinese Premier Chou Enlai hashed out the core issues: relations with the Soviet Union, the war in Vietnam and Taiwan.

Reagan Considered Invading Poland, political scientist says   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Just a few weeks before assuming the presidency in Jan 1981, Ronald Reagan considered the idea of using military force to prevent a Soviet invasion of Poland. Reagan discussed the possibility of deploying U.S. forces in Poland with his defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, says political science professor Paul Kengor. The discussions took place after pre-inauguration security meetings, which highlighted the position Poland was in at the time. Reagan decided it was not possible to use U.S. troops in Eastern Europe, since the military had been so "gutted" during the 1970s by President Carter.

KGB smear campaign against Pius XII exposed   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The Vatican has presented a defence of Pope Pius XII's role during WWII in protecting Jews as a former KGB spy reveals a secret Soviet plan to smear the Pope as a Nazi sympathiser. Lt General Ion Mihai Pacepa recounts how the KGB and the Kremlin designed the campaign to portray the Pius XII "as a cold hearted Nazi sympathiser". In Feb 1960, Nikita Khrushchev approved a plan, "Seat-12", for destroying the Vatican's moral authority. Eugenio Pacelli was selected as the KGB's main target because he had departed this world in 1958 - "Dead men cannot defend themselves." He had served as the papal nuncio in Munich and Berlin when the Nazis were beginning their bid for power.

Ted Kennedy: Collaborator or Soviet agent?
There has been a fuss concerning the alleged letters written by Senator Ted Kennedy and first carried to Leonid Brezhnev and later to Yuri Andropov. The initial one (1979), was an offer to work with the Soviets and against Jimmy Carter, who, in Kennedy`s estimation, was working a bit too hard in thwarting the USSR`s goals in Afghanistan. According to the hand copied documents Vasily Mitrohkin secreted out when he defected, Kennedy felt that, "it was his duty to take action himself, which could force the Carter administration to act to de-escalate the crisis." In other words, he saw his duty to assist our Cold War enemy.

Nikita Khrushchev's Cold War - an erratic leader's brinkmanship
Nikita Khrushchev was a man with no sense of dignity, which is what happens when you toady to a Stalin for decades and at his bidding kill without conscience. This was the man who in 1962 brought the world as close to a nuclear war as hasn't happened since. That crisis occurred because Khrushchev planted missiles in Cuba hoping to bluff the US into humiliating surrender. President Kennedy was not to be bluffed and Khrushchev retreated ignominiously. Even Communist China criticized him for what they called his "adventurism." Two years after this defeat, Khrushchev was cashiered by his own Politburo.

How John F. Kennedy's mother warmed up the Cold War
The release of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy`s papers has revealed an independent woman who almost caused a diplomatic flap at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. At the height of the Cold War, the matriarch of the Kennedy clan wrote to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to ask him to sign photographs of his meeting with John F. Kennedy. Mr Khrushchev, who had met Mrs Kennedy during a US-Soviet summit, honoured her request by sending her back the pictures with his autograph. Soon afterwards JFK sent a note to his mother. "Would you be sure to let me know in the future any contacts you have with heads of state, etc."

Fidel Castro has seen off nine US presidents
They indirectly triggered the worst nuclear stand-off of the Cold War. The fraught relations between the US and Castro`s Cuba have shaped the course of recent history. In the 47 years of rule that have made him the world`s most durable leader, Fidel Castro has locked horns with 10 US presidents. He has survived an invasion, a naval blockade, and decades of diplomatic isolation and sanctions not to mention hundreds of US-backed attempts to assassinate him. Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House when Mr Castro took power in 1959. He recognised the new regime in Havana. But ties soon grew frosty, as Cuba nationalised US-owned assets.