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AIDS activists
named Time magazine's Persons of the Year

AIDS activists
named Time magazine's Persons of the Year

The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda, were named Time magazine's "Persons of the Year" along with Irish rocker Bono for being "Good Samaritans" who made a difference in different ways.

"For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and reengineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time's Persons of the Year," the magazine said in its December 19 issue, made public on Sunday.

Managing editor James Kelly said the three had been chosen as the people most effective at finding ways to eradicate such calamities as malaria in Africa; HIV and AIDS; and the grinding poverty that kills 8 million people a year.

Time also named former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton as "Partners of the Year" for their humanitarian efforts after the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, and the unlikely friendship that developed from that work.

"Natural disasters are terrible things, but what defines us is not what happens to us but how we react to it," Kelly said. "When you look at the number of people who die from the kind of diseases and poverty that the Gateses and Bono are fighting, the death tolls are far greater than what occurs in natural disasters or wars," he told Reuters.

The founder of computer giant Microsoft, whose personal fortune of $46.5 billion topped Forbes magazine's list of the world's richest again this year, and his wife were named for their work in the Gates Foundation, the world's biggest charity with a $29 billion endowment, while Bono was described as the "rocker who has made debt reduction sexy."

"The rocker's job is to be raucous, grab our attention. The engineer's job is to make things work," Time said, describing the unlikely alliance that developed after the three met for dinner in 2002. They were reunited to be photographed for the cover on Friday in Omaha, Neb., where Bono was performing with U2.

The Gates Foundation funds hundreds of projects around the world that are primarily focused on public health, such as vaccinating children and developing new drugs. The foundation also funds educational programs and scholarships in the United States and abroad.

Bono and fellow musician Bob Geldof spearheaded a popular campaign to tackle poverty in Africa through canceling the debts of the poorest countries in the world, raising global awareness through the Live 8 concerts in July. Partly due to popular pressure, the world's industrialized nations agreed in July to double aid to poor countries by 2010--thus adding $50 billion a year--and to cancel poor countries' debt.

"Bono charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world's richest countries into forgiving $40 billion in debt owed by the poorest," Time said.

Kelly said he expected the choice to surprise some people, but the unlikely alliance of the richest man in the world and a "hell-raiser" like Bono was an inspiring example of how different approaches could be effective.

Kelly said the "odd couple" of former presidents Bush and Clinton had been among the contenders for "Person of the Year," which ranged from talk-show host Oprah Winfrey (for her influential campaigning for hurricane relief) to Mother Nature (encompassing the tsunami, hurricanes, and earthquakes).

Time has been naming its Person of the Year since 1927, and the tradition has become not only the source of speculation every year but of controversy, due to unpopular choices such as Adolf Hitler in 1938 and Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. The aim is to pick "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse," according to the magazine.

Time's 2004 Person of the Year was U.S. President George W. Bush, while "The American Soldier" graced the cover in 2003, the year when U.S. troops invaded Iraq. "You want to make a choice for the history books as well as one which is fresh and interesting," Kelly said. (Reuters)

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