U.S. President Barack Obama emerged, unanimously, as the world's most powerful person, and by a wide margin. Although there were a number of surprises. Former President George W. Bush didn't come close to making the final cut, while his predecessor in the Oval Office, Bill Clinton, ranks 31st, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie star governor of California (alone, the world's fifth largest economy) did not make it.
1. Barack Obama
How powerful is he? Here are some proofs:
* Presides over world's largest, most innovative, most dynamic economy.
* Commander-in-chief of planet's richest, deadliest military.
* Finger on button of nuclear arsenal containing more than 5,000 warheads.
* Head-of-state of world's sole superpower.
* His Democrats have majorities in both U.S. House and Senate.
* Recently awarded Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for general awesomeness.
* Paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet; 1.3 billion Chinese, some 70% in their prime working years of ages 15 to 64 powering world's low-cost workshop, transforming nation.
* Biggest buyer of U.S. debt avoided Chinese meltdown during financial crisis with massive stimulus package to encourage domestic spending.
* "Coming-out party" at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games showcased young, modern, harmonious society; reality often quite different — few political, religious, press freedoms; brutal suppression of Tibet; refusal to acknowledge Taiwanese independence.
* Still, credible estimates have China poised to overtake U.S. as world's largest economy in 25 years — although, crucially, not on a per-capita basis.
3. Vladimir Putin
* Prime Minister might as well be known as Czar, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russians.
* Vastly more powerful than his handpicked head-of-state, President Dmitry Medvedev.
* Presides over one-ninth of Earth's land area, vast energy and mineral resources.
* Former KGB officer unafraid to wield his power; invading Georgia, cutting off natural gas supplies to Ukraine or Western Europe (again).
* Declared nuclear power has veto on U.N.'s Security Council.
* "I'm deeply convinced that constant change is not for the better."
4. Ben S. Bernanke
* Former chairman of Princeton's economics department and noted Great Depression scholar now guiding world's largest economy through Great Recession; has overseen massive growth in Fed's balance sheet, from less than $900 billion in liabilities in August 2008 to more than $2.1 trillion today.
* With federal funds rate now effectively 0%, the so-called Bernanke Doctrine calls for using monetary policy to stave off deflation.
* "The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost."
* If knowledge is power, maybe information is too. Brainy duo met in Stanford computer science Ph.D. program, now trying to put all the world's information at your fingertips.
* Known for collecting best and brightest young tech talent at Mountain View, Calif., "Googleplex"; employees encouraged to spend one day a week on personal projects; company often named "Best Place To Work" in America.
* Google guys' combined net worth of $30.6 billion would place them third on the Forbes 400.
* Yet despite professed intentions to "do no evil," Google is blamed in some quarters for decimating traditional publishing, journalism. Brin: "Some say Google is God, others say Google is Satan."
* World's third-richest man is dominant economic force in Mexico, personal fortune equivalent to some 2% of Mexican GDP.
* Telecommunications monopolist: His Telemex owns 90% of Mexico's fixed telephone lines; his TelCel has 90% of wireless market.
* Also head of group dedicated to improving Mexico's roads, energy infrastructure, water supply.
* New focus, media: Last fall snapped up 7% stake in the New York Times Co., largest after Sulzberger owner-family.
* "I think it's perverse to believe there shouldn't be strong companies in poor countries."
7. Rupert Murdoch
* "The man who owns the news" still believes in print, not afraid to use vast media holdings to further personal political views.
* Media empire includes leading British (the Times), Australian (The Australian), American (The Wall Street Journal) newspapers, in addition to tabloids like the New York Post and The Sun (U.K.). Also movies (20th Century Fox), books (HarperCollins), television (Fox, BSkyB), online (MySpace).
* Weak ad-marketing hurting his News Corp.: net loss of $3.4 billion in fiscal 2009, stock off March lows, but still well below 2007 levels, when he made a $5.6 billion gamble on Dow Jones. "Quality journalism isn't cheap."
8. Michael T. Duke
* Runs world's largest retailer, more country than company: $401 billion in annual sales, 2 million employees, 8,000 stores.
* Wal-Mart alone is China's eighth-largest trading partner.
* Largest private-sector employer in U.S.; favorite target of unions; blamed and praised for backing Obama health care proposals, shifting economic power from manufacturers to retailers, from mom-and-pop to big box.
* "I am competitive by nature and I want to win."
9. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
* Absolute ruler of desert kingdom that contains the world's largest crude oil reserves, two holiest sites in Islam.
* State-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco most profitable company on Earth, earns more than $200 billion a year, has reserves of 260 billion barrels or 25% of planet's known supply.
* Ultimate succession unclear: 85-year-old king's official heir is 81-year-old Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
* In 2006, established committee of senior princes to ensure smooth transition in the event both become incapacitated.
10. William Gates III
* Richest man in the world dominated, transformed software business.
* More than 85% of world's hundreds of millions of computer users stare at, struggle with, Microsoft products on daily basis.
* Second act: Saving the world. Still Microsoft chairman, but now devotes day-to-day to his Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the largest charity on Earth with $34 billion endowment. Foundation devoted to reducing hunger, improving education and fighting diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.
I'm really glad to know that the richest man in the world had a foundation in helping the poor and the needy.