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Pieces Together

A GRATEFUL NATION?
"It is only when darkness falls on the streets of London that the plight of many veterans of the Armed Forces becomes fully apparent. More than 1,000 of them are homeless. Until a couple of months ago Ray (not his real name) was one of them living on the streets. He had enlisted in the Royal Green Jackets (Light Division) in 1993 and saw service in Northern Ireland. He left the Army in November 2001 but found civvy street a harsh place. ... "You think after serving your time in the Army society will accept you," he says, "but they don't and no one helps." (Times, 25 April)

HARD TIMES?
"Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is reported to have lost 56% of his wealth, shedding £1.5bn and is now worth £1.2bn. Meanwhile, Formula 1 motor racing chief Bernie Ecclestone lost £934m, leaving him at £1.46bn, the list reported. The richest British-born billionaire is the land and property owning Duke of Westminster, who has seen his wealth shrink to £6.5bn from £7bn. In fourth spot are Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli: the former Miss UK winner and her husband have a £5.6bn fortune based on pharmaceuticals. Their fortune has shrunk by a relatively modest 12% over the year. But it is not all gloom - the former boss of supermarket chain Morrisons, Sir Ken Morrison, has seen his fortune increase by 11%, making him worth £1.6bn. The wealth of Peter and Denise Coates, owners of Stoke-based online sports betting website Bet365, has gone up by 33%, to £400m. And Harrods boss Mohammed al-Fayed has benefited from a cheap pound - his fortune stands at £650m, up 17% on last year." (BBC Times, 25 April)

AMERICAN POVERTY
"An estimated 3.5 million children younger than 5 are at risk of hunger in the United States, according to government numbers provided by an anti-hunger group. That's more than 17 percent of children who could suffer cognitive and developmental damage if they are not properly fed. The not-for-profit advocacy group Feeding America based its findings on 2005-2007 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Agriculture Department. The study, released Thursday, is the first to look at these numbers for children under the age of 5, according to the group. Feeding America runs food banks and feeding centers around the country. The study also shows that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of children under 5 are at risk of going hungry. Louisiana has the highest rate, with just under a quarter of children at risk, followed by North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho and Arkansas." (Yahoo News, 7 May)