Pieces Together


“Castles in France. Islands in the Caribbean. Private jets. With a collective $1.27 trillion at their disposal, the members of The Forbes 400 could buy almost anything. How about a country? A quick glance at the CIA Fact Book suggests the individual fortunes of many Forbes 400 members are as big as some of the world’s economies. Bill Gates, America’s richest man with a net worth of $50 billion, has a personal balance sheet larger than the gross domestic product of 140 countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Bolivia and Uruguay. The Microsoft visionary’s nest egg is just short of the GDP of Tanzania and Burma. Warren Buffett, who lost $10 billion in the past 12 months and is this year’s Forbes 400 biggest dollar loser, still has a fortune the size of North Korea’s economy at $40 billion.” (Yahoo Finance, 2 October)


“Tens of millions of the world’s poor will have their food rations cut or cancelled in the next few weeks because rich countries have slashed aid funding. The result, says Josette Sheeran, head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), could be the ‘loss of a generation’ of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabalisation. ‘We are facing a silent tsunami,’ said Sheeran in an exclusive interview with the Observer. ‘A humanitarian disaster is unrolling.’ The WFP feeds nearly 100 million people a year.” (Observer, 11 October)


“The Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer. The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb’s ‘development and testing’, and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers. The notification was tucked inside a 93-page ‘reprogramming’ request that included a couple hundred other more mundane items. Why now? The notification says simply, ‘The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard at deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON.’ It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).” (ABC News, 6 October)

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