Newsweek`s first ever list of the world`s 50 most powerful people lays out a roadmap for how the world works today. The December 29, 2008-January 5, 2009 double issue, "The New Global Elite" (on newsstands Monday, December 22), opens with an essay by Editor, Jon Meacham who looks at the history of power, how it is earned and how it transforms those who have it. Meacham also explains how the list of new global elite was determined.

Newsweek correspondents from around the world put together a highly subjective list of the most powerful people who will figure in the era over which President-Elect Barack Obama will preside. "It is arbitrary, but the choices are well-considered, and each, we believe, represents a thread in the new global tapestry," writes Meacham. "Some are utterly surprising; others are not. Perhaps most important, each meets the test of power as we have just defined it: they are men and women who are either in the business of bending others to their will or who are seeking to rearrange reality in ways they find more congenial. They are in command, or they seek control (and there is, naturally, more than a little overlap; the features are not mutually exclusive)."

The list of fifty is made up of global figures who were not selected to delineate an elite based on wealth, social class, or educational credentials. "The figures in this issue are global, and they are chosen on merit," Meacham adds. "Many of the names here, it is true, are well-off, move in what might be considered high circles and went to celebrated schools. But many began life in obscurity (see, for instance, the 44th president of the United States) and have risen to prominence through a combination of determination and good fortune."

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The list includes:

-- Barack Obama. Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria breaks down what the newly elected 44th President of the United States will need to do to become a truly influential figure.

-- Ben Bernanke, Jean-Claude Trichet and Masaaki Shirakawa. Contributing Editor Robert J. Samuelson explores why a trio of central bankers will likely decide the fate of the global economy next year.

-- Hillary and Bill Clinton. Senior Editor Jonathan Alter looks at how the most powerful couple in politics may find the times suited to their unmatched skills.

-- Osama bin Laden. Despite having kept a low profile recently, and lost many of his top lieutenants, his ideology continues to inflict monstrous harm.

-- John Lasseter. Assistant Editor Jennie Yabroff explains why Pixar`s animation chief has immense soft power and why escapist fare does well in recessions.

-- Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Abu Dhabi`s ruler has something everyone wants right now -- cash with which to invest in ailing blue-chip companies.

-- E.A. Adeboye. Senior Editor Lisa Miller looks Nigeria`s most successful preacher and the wildfire spread of Pentecostalism, the world`s fastest growing religion.

-- Vladimir Putin. Russia`s leader talks a big game and has the military to back it up, but faces a softening economy as oil prices plummet

-- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran`s Supreme Leader is the real force to be reckoned with in Tehran.

-- Shahrukh Khan. Bollywood`s biggest star spreads a message of openness and tolerance to some of the world`s most closed societies.

PR Newswire