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Pieces Together

BABY, IT'S COLD INSIDE

"The number of households in fuel poverty in the UK rose to 3.5 million in 2006, government figures show. The figures from the Department for Environment and the Department for Business show this is an increase of one million on 2005 levels. Fuel poverty is defined as households who spend more than 10% of their income on fuel. The Unite union said thousands more people are likely to suffer from fuel poverty this winter. The figures include around 2.75 million homes classed as "vulnerable" – containing a child, elderly person or someone with a long-term illness. The number of homes in fuel poverty in England rose from 1.5 million in 2005 to 2.4 million in 2006, including an extra 700,000 vulnerable households." (BBC News, 2 October)

 

GOT IT?, FLAUNT IT

"While most of us are tightening our belts, they are planning to increase spending, taking advantage of the falling price of everything from property to private jets. About 80% of those worth £50m or more plan to spend more this year, according to a survey by the US-based wealth analysts Prince & Associates. Take Alwaleed. The small fortune he dropped on the Airbus is, it turns out, pocket change. The 53-year-old recently bought the Savoy hotel in London for £250m and is spending a further £100m giving the grande dame of the Thames the kind of makeover that would make Demi Moore blush. He is also doing up his other favourite five-star bolt holes, the George V in Paris and the Plaza in New York. But there’s no place like home. His £500m palace in Riyadh is constantly being remodelled and enlarged. At the last count it had 317 rooms, including 20 kitchens that can cater for up to 1,000 people." (Times, 21 September)

 

WORLD HUNGER WORSENS

"Global numbers afflicted by acute hunger rose from 850 million to 925 million by the start of this year because of rising prices, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said Wednesday. The number of people suffering from malnutrition, before the worst effects of global price rises, ‘rose just in 2007 by 75 million,’ Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Rome-based agency, told an Italian parliament committee, according to ANSA news agency. An FAO prices index showed global food price rises of 12 percent in 2006, 24 percent in 2007 and 50 percent over the first eight months of 2008, Diouf added – suggesting the number affected is likely to top one billion by the end of the year. ‘Thirty billion dollars per year must be invested to double food production and eliminate hunger,’ Diouf said, calling the figure ‘modest’ in comparison with the amount many countries spend on arms and agriculture." (Yahoo News, 17 September)

 

A FRIGHTENING FUTURE

"Pentagon officials have prepared a new estimate for defense spending that is $450 billion more over the next five years than previously announced figures. The new estimate, which the Pentagon plans to release shortly before President Bush leaves office, would serve as a marker for the new president and is meant to place pressure on him to either drastically increase the size of the defense budget or defend any reluctance to do so, according to several former senior budget officials who are close to the discussions." (CQ Today, 9 October)