Iraq: Worse than the worst

Iraq: it's worse than you can possibly imagine, and worse than we can possibly know.

That was the message when the brilliant Middle East reporter, Patrick Cockburn, spoke about the British and American occupation of Iraq. Iraq, he said, is a country that's been "hollowed out". Two million people have left. The rest live in terror.

Before the war, there were 32,000 doctors in Iraq; now 2,000 are dead, 12,000 have left, and the remainder, who are seen as having money and are thus targets for kidnappers, must work from armed-guarded clinics.

He reminded us about the Green Zone, the giant fortified area in the center of Baghdad - while most of the city doesn't get electricity or water or sewage disposal, the Green Zone gets plenty, so the occupiers who live there have no idea what it feels like to live anywhere else.

He discussed "one of the great thefts in history", the "enormous kleptocracy", that started with Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, which, infamously, didn't keep accounts. (They believed that all money spent would miraculously "trickle down".)

He talked of cities that reporters rarely get to, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, where we don't know just how bad the violence is; he stressed that even the conservative official figures record that at least 3,000 civilians are murdered every month. It is a "society pulsating with fear the whole time".

Said Cockburn. "This is the worst thing to happen to Iraqis since 1258, when the Mongols invaded and took Baghdad."

[Excerpt of an article by Katharine Viner, The Guardian]


In Iraq, Every Day Is Memorial Day

We were told that 10 American soldiers died in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash on Memorial Day, making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq. And what of the civilians that call Iraq home?

In Iraq, every day Is Memorial Day, as the following excerpt from TIME conveys.

The Shi'ite militias that forced Azhour Ali Mohammed from her home in Baghdad's al-Dolai district last month shot her husband Amer dead before her eyes and torched all her worldly possessions. And the fear that the killers may come back for her and her two little children prevented her from mourning her husband. "I could not hold a proper wake for him," says the young widow. "He deserved at least that."

A society with as much experience of violence as Iraq learns to adapt its mourning traditions to its circumstances.
Up to half a million soldiers and civilians were killed in the war with Iran in the 1980s,
Hundreds of thousands were massacred on Saddam Hussein's orders in the 1990s
Tens of thousands have died in the Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian carnage in the past two years.

Under Sdadam, Iraqis developed a new custom: families in mourning painted notices on black banners — the name of the deceased, the manner of their death and the date and location of the wake — and posted them on street corners. The practice continued after Saddam's fall. Many of Baghdad's major intersections became festooned with black banners. The mounting death toll from suicide bombings and roadside explosions led to a boom in the funerary industry — coffin makers, grave diggers, caterers. Wakes were often held in mosques, and before sectarian hatreds flared up it was not uncommon for Sunnis to use Shi'ite mosques, or the other way around.

These days, mourning has itself become potentially deadly: Sunni suicide bombers have been known to target Shi'ite wakes, and Shi'ite militias have attacked Sunni funeral processions. So when Azhour went to collect her husband's body from Baghdad's central morgue, only her father and brother volunteered to go with her. They put Amer's body in a simple wooden coffin, strapped it onto the roof of the car and drove as quickly as possible to the nearest Sunni graveyard. "I was terrified that [Shi'ite militias] would see the coffin and stop us," she recalls. "And once they found out that we were Sunni, they would kill us as well."

[Excerpt of TIME article by Bobby Ghosh]


Infant mortality in Iraq soars as young pay the price for war

Two wars and a decade of sanctions have led to a huge rise in the mortality rate among young children in Iraq, leaving statistics that were once the envy of the Arab world now comparable with those of sub-Saharan Africa.

A new report by Save the Children charity shows that in the years since 1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125 per cent, the highest increase of any country in the world.

Figures collated by the charity show that in 1990 Iraq's mortality rate for under-fives was 50 per 1,000 live births. In 2005 it was 125.

Sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime were imposed by the UN in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and remained in place until after the coalition invasion in 2003. Precisely how many children died because of sanctions is unknown but a report in 1999 from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), suggested that between 1991 and 1998 an additional 500,000 died.

Denis Halliday, who resigned as the UN's humanitarian coordinator in protest at the sanctions, said at the time: "We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral."
[Excerpt of an article by Andrew Buncombe, The Independent]


$100 Billion more “to fight terror”

American spending on Iraq and Afghanistan has eclipsed the cost of the Vietnam War, making the War on Terror the second most expensive conflict in United States' history.

The Senate approved a budget of almost $100 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, taking total spending to £300 billion. The decision to approve funding marks a reversal for the Democrat-controlled Congress.

This £300 billion is more than the inflation-adjusted £276 billion that the US spent in its ill-fated nine-year war in Vietnam. Only the Second World War cost more.

It means the war has cost more than £1,000 for every man, woman and child in America, with more money going on Iraq than the country's total spending on education and justice.

The cost of America's war in Iraq has ballooned from the £25 billion estimate that the White House gave in January 2003, when it planned on a short invasion followed by early withdrawal.

[Excerpt of an article by Chris Stephen, The Scotsman]


Why Bush Hasn’t Been Impeached

Why was Clinton, who was never as unpopular as Bush, impeached for lying about sex, while Bush faces no sanction for the far more serious offense of lying about war?

The main reason is obvious: The Democrats think it’s bad politics. Bush is dying politically and taking the GOP down with him, and impeachment is risky.

But there’s a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off — and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people.

Bush’s warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America’s support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It’s a national myth. It’s John Wayne.

To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we’re not ready to do that. ... This doesn’t mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim, half-conscious level we’re too confused — not least by our own complicity — to work up the cold, final anger we’d need to go through impeachment.

A large percentage of the American people, and their elected representatives, accepted Bush’s unlimited authority to do whatever he wanted in the name of “national security.” To this day, the primitive feeling that in response to 9/11 we had to hit hard at “the enemy,” whoever that might be, is a sacred cow. America’s deference to the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach is profound.

The unpleasant truth is that Bush did what a lot of Americans wanted him to.

[Excerpt of an article by Gary Kamiya, Salon]


Why Congress caved to Bush

A Democratic Congress is now voting to fully fund the war in Iraq, as demanded by President Bush, and without any timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Bush got his $100 billion, then magnanimously agreed to let Democrats keep the $20 billion in pork they stuffed into the bill – to soothe the pain of their sellout of the party base.

Today, there are more U.S. troops in Iraq than when the Democrats won Congress. More are on the way. And with the surge and retention of troops in Iraq beyond normal tours, there should be a record number of U.S. troops in country by year's end.

Why did the Democrats capitulate? Because they lack the courage of their convictions.

Because they fear the consequences if they put their anti-war beliefs into practice. Because they are afraid if they defund the war and force President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops, the calamity he predicts will come to pass and they will be held accountable for losing Iraq and the strategic disaster that might well ensue.

The congressional Democrats are cynical, but they are not stupid. If the surge works and U.S. troops are being withdrawn by fall 2008, they do not want it said of them that they "cut and ran" when the going got tough.

And if the war is going badly in 2008, they know that the American people, in repudiating the party of Bush and Cheney, have no other choice than the [Democrats].

[Excerpt of a WorldNetDaily article by Patrick J. Buchanan]


America, the world's arms pusher

Even when there is media coverage on the arms trade, [it] can't possibly convey the feel of a business that has always preferred the shadows to the sun.

Maybe the only way to break through this paralysis of analysis would be to stop talking about weapons sales as a trade and … start thinking in another language entirely — the language of drugs. After all, what does a drug dealer do? He creates a need and then fills it. He encourages an appetite or (even more lucratively) an addiction and then feeds it.

Arms dealers do the same thing. They suggest to foreign officials that their military just might need a slight upgrade. After all, they'll point out, haven't you noticed that your neighbor just upgraded in jets, submarines and tanks? And didn't you guys fight a war a few years back? Doesn't that make you feel insecure?

And why feel insecure for another moment when, for just a few billion bucks, we'll get you suited up with the latest model military, even better than what we sold them — or you the last time around.

[L.A. Times excerpt, from an article by Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate at the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center]


Countries ranked according to Current Account Balance

Countries ranked according to Current Account Balance:
1 China $ 179,100,000,000 2006 est.
2 Japan $ 174,400,000,000 2006 est.
3 Germany $ 134,800,000,000 2006 est.
4 Russia $ 105,300,000,000 2006 est.
5 Saudi Arabia $ 103,800,000,000 2006 est.
6 Norway $ 63,330,000,000 2006 est.
7 Switzerland $ 50,440,000,000 2006 est.
8 Netherlands $ 50,170,000,000 2006 est.
9 Kuwait $ 40,750,000,000 2006 est.
10 Singapore $ 35,580,000,000 2006 est.

[Looking for the USA? -Scroll down to #163!!]

11 Venezuela $ 31,820,000,000 2006 est.
12 Sweden $ 28,610,000,000 2006 est.
13 United Arab Emirates $ 26,890,000,000 2006 est.
14 Algeria $ 25,800,000,000 2006 est.
15 Hong Kong $ 20,900,000,000 2006 est.
16 Canada $ 20,560,000,000 2006 est.
17 Malaysia $ 17,860,000,000 2006 est.
18 Libya $ 14,500,000,000 2006 est.
19 Brazil $ 13,500,000,000 2006 est.
20 Iran $ 13,130,000,000 2006 est.
21 Nigeria $ 12,590,000,000 2006 est.
22 Qatar $ 12,510,000,000 2006 est.
23 Taiwan $ 9,700,000,000 2006 est.
24 Finland $ 8,749,000,000 2006 est.
25 Iraq $ 8,134,000,000 2006 est.
26 Angola $ 7,700,000,000 2006 est.
27 Oman $ 7,097,000,000 2006 est.
28 Belgium $ 6,925,000,000 2006 est.
29 Austria $ 5,913,000,000 2006 est.
30 Argentina $ 5,810,000,000 2006 est.
31 Chile $ 5,063,000,000 2006 est.
32 Denmark $ 4,941,000,000 2006 est.
33 Philippines $ 4,900,000,000 2006 est.
34 Luxembourg $ 4,630,000,000 2006 est.
35 Trinidad and Tobago $ 3,259,000,000 2006 est.
36 Azerbaijan $ 2,737,000,000 2006 est.
37 Egypt $ 2,697,000,000 2006 est.
38 Korea, South $ 2,000,000,000 2006 est.
39 Bahrain $ 1,999,000,000 2006 est.
40 Gabon $ 1,807,000,000 2006 est.
41 Botswana $ 1,698,000,000 2006 est.
42 Yemen $ 1,690,000,000 2006 est.
43 Indonesia $ 1,636,000,000 2006 est.
44 Peru $ 1,515,000,000 2006 est.
45 Israel $ 1,463,000,000 2006 est.
46 Uzbekistan $ 1,410,000,000 2006 est.
47 Burma $ 1,247,000,000 2006 est.
48 Congo, Republic of the $ 1,215,000,000 2006 est.
49 Vietnam $ 1,029,000,000 2006 est.
50 Ecuador $ 727,000,000 2006 est.
51 Bolivia $ 688,000,000 2006 est.
52 Papua New Guinea $ 661,000,000 2006 est.
53 Namibia $ 572,000,000 2006 est.
54 Cote d'Ivoire $ 460,000,000 2006 est.
55 Cameroon $ 419,000,000 2006 est.
56 Morocco $ 389,000,000 2006 est.
57 Bangladesh $ 339,000,000 2006 est.
58 Turkmenistan $ 321,200,000 2006 est.
59 Equatorial Guinea $ 175,000,000 2006 est.
60 British Virgin Islands $ 134,300,000 1999
61 Kazakhstan $ 133,000,000 2006 est.
62 Cook Islands $ 26,670,000 2005
63 Palau $ 15,090,000 FY03/04
64 Tuvalu $ 2,323,000 1998
65 Samoa $ -2,428,000 FY03/04
66 Tonga $ -4,321,000 FY04/05
67 Comoros $ -17,000,000 2005 est.
68 Kiribati $ -19,870,000 2004
69 Swaziland $ -23,130,000 2006 est.
70 Sao Tome and Principe $ -24,400,000 2006 est.
71 Vanuatu $ -28,350,000 2003
72 Micronesia, Federated States of $ -34,300,000 FY05 est.
73 Anguilla $ -42,870,000 2003 est.
74 Cape Verde $ -44,430,000 2006 est.
75 Gambia, The $ -54,610,000 2006 est.
76 Burundi $ -57,840,000 2006 est.
77 Haiti $ -58,720,000 2006 est.
78 Tajikistan $ -73,950,000 2006 est.
79 Lesotho $ -75,440,000 2006 est.
80 Seychelles $ -78,590,000 2006 est.
81 Antigua and Barbuda $ -83,400,000 2004
82 Guyana $ -84,300,000 2006 est.
83 Rwanda $ -104,100,000 2006 est.
84 Honduras $ -160,000,000 2006 est.
85 Zambia $ -165,400,000 2006 est.
86 Macedonia $ -167,000,000 2006 est.
87 Belize $ -173,400,000 2006 est.
88 Malawi $ -186,000,000 2006 est.
89 Ghana $ -219,000,000 2006 est.
90 Armenia $ -247,300,000 January-September 2006 est.
91 Togo $ -261,900,000 2006 est.
92 Zimbabwe $ -264,600,000 2006 est.
93 Kyrgyzstan $ -287,300,000 2006 est.
94 Paraguay $ -300,000,000 2006 est.
95 Chad $ -324,100,000 2006 est.
96 Benin $ -342,700,000 2006 est.
97 Guinea $ -344,000,000 2006 est.
98 Cambodia $ -369,000,000 2006 est.
99 Mexico $ -400,100,000 2006 est.
100 Uganda $ -423,000,000 2006 est.
101 Eritrea $ -440,500,000 2006 est.
102 Mozambique $ -444,400,000 2006 est.
103 Fiji $ -465,800,000 2006 est.
104 Panama $ -467,000,000 2006 est.
105 Madagascar $ -504,000,000 2006 est.
106 Laos $ -504,200,000 2006 est.
107 Belarus $ -511,800,000 2006 est.
108 Syria $ -529,000,000 2006 est.
109 Moldova $ -561,000,000 2006 est.
110 Uruguay $ -600,000,000 2006 est.
111 Burkina Faso $ -604,600,000 2006 est.
112 Mauritius $ -651,000,000 2006 est.
113 Albania $ -679,900,000 2006 est.
114 Georgia $ -735,000,000 2006 est.
115 Tunisia $ -760,000,000 2006 est.
116 Slovenia $ -789,200,000 2006 est.
117 Nicaragua $ -883,000,000 2006 est.
118 Senegal $ -895,200,000 2006 est.
119 Thailand $ -899,400,000 2006 est.
120 Tanzania $ -906,000,000 2006 est.
121 Malta $ -966,200,000 2006 est.
122 Jamaica $ -970,000,000 2006 est.
123 Cyprus $ -1,051,000,000 2006 est.
124 El Salvador $ -1,059,000,000 2006 est.
125 Sri Lanka $ -1,118,000,000 2006 est.
126 Kenya $ -1,119,000,000 2006 est.
127 Dominican Republic $ -1,124,000,000 2006 est.
128 Costa Rica $ -1,176,000,000 2006 est.
129 Cuba $ -1,218,000,000 2006 est.
130 Guatemala $ -1,533,000,000 2006 est.
131 Bosnia and Herzegovina $ -1,730,000,000 2006 est.
132 Estonia $ -1,919,000,000 2006 est.
133 Ukraine $ -1,933,000,000 2006 est.
134 Colombia $ -2,219,000,000 2006 est.
135 Serbia $ -2,451,000,000 2005 est.
136 Latvia $ -2,538,000,000 2006 est.
137 Lithuania $ -2,572,000,000 2006 est.
138 Jordan $ -2,834,000,000 2006 est.
139 Croatia $ -2,892,000,000 2006 est.
140 Iceland $ -2,932,000,000 2006 est.
141 Ethiopia $ -3,384,000,000 FY05/06 est.
142 Slovakia $ -3,781,000,000 2006 est.
143 Czech Republic $ -4,352,000,000 2006 est.
144 Sudan $ -4,510,000,000 2006 est.
145 Poland $ -4,548,000,000 2006 est.
146 Bulgaria $ -5,100,000,000 2006 est.
147 Lebanon $ -5,339,000,000 October 2006
148 Pakistan $ -5,486,000,000 2006 est.
149 New Zealand $ -7,944,000,000 2006 est.
150 Hungary $ -8,392,000,000 2006 est.
151 Ireland $ -9,450,000,000 2006 est.
152 Romania $ -12,450,000,000 2006 est.
153 South Africa $ -12,690,000,000 2006 est.
154 Portugal $ -16,750,000,000 2006 est.
155 Greece $ -21,370,000,000 2006 est.
156 Italy $ -23,730,000,000 2006 est.
157 Turkey $ -25,990,000,000 2006 est.
158 India $ -26,400,000,000 2006 est.
159 France $ -38,000,000,000 2006 est.
160 Australia $ -41,620,000,000 2006 est.
161 United Kingdom $ -57,680,000,000 2006 est.
162 Spain $ -98,600,000,000 2006 est.
163 United States $ -862,300,000,000 2006 est.

[Source: CIA World Fact Handbook]


No water or electricty but Iraq to spend 1.5 billion dollars on weapons

Iraq's defence ministry will buy new weapons worth more than 1.5 billion dollars (1.11 billion euros), including helicopters and US rifles, the minister announced on Monday.

The purchases will be made possible by a 26 percent increase in the country's defence budget.

"The Iraqi government has signed a contract with the American government to set up a foreign weapons sales office to buy weapons that Iraq needs," Defence Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed said at a Baghdad press conference.

"This programme will help Iraq to buy modern weapons and to ensure arrival of these weapons when the ministry asks for them," he added.



The USA is Still Number One

Consider some of the areas in which the United States is still No. 1:
First in weapons sales: Since 2001, U.S. global military sales have totaled $10 billion to $13 billion. That's a lot of weapons, but in fiscal 2006, the Pentagon broke its own recent record, inking arms sales agreements worth $21 billion.
First in sales of surface-to-air missiles: From 2001 to 2005, the U.S. delivered 2,099 surface-to-air missiles like the Sparrow and AMRAAM to nations in the developing world, 20% more than Russia, the next largest supplier.
First in sales of military ships: During that same period, the U.S. sent 10 "major surface combatants," such as aircraft carriers and destroyers, to developing nations. Collectively, the four major European weapons producers shipped 13.
First in military training: A thoughtful empire knows that it's not enough to send weapons; you have to teach people how to use them. The Pentagon plans on training the militaries of 138 nations in 2008 at a cost of nearly $90 million. No other nation comes close.

Rest assured, governments around the world, often at each others' throats, will want U.S. weapons long after their people have turned up their noses at a range of once dominant American consumer goods.

[Excerpt of a L.A. Times article by Frida Berrigan, a senior research associate at the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center]


Accounting of the Iraq Refugee Crisis

The figures are startling:

Nearly 2 million Iraqis have fled Iraq for neighboring countries.

And another 1.9 million Iraqis have been internally displaced amounting to roughly 15% of the Iraqi population abandoning their homes.

Meanwhile, since 2003, the United States has only allowed in 466 Iraqis.


"They attack us because we're over there"

Quotations from Rep. Ron Paul, stating that among the reasons for Islamic resentment of the United States is the 10 years of bombing and sanctions that brought death to thousands of Iraqis after the Gulf War:

"I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it. They are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, 'I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.' They have already now since that time –have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary."

"If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. [With 9-11] they didn't come here to attack us because we're rich and we're free. They came and they attacked us because we're over there.

"I mean, what would we think if ... other foreign countries were doing that to us?"

Commentary on Ron Paul’s Statements

Shocking theory that the terrorists were not merely freedom-hating madmen but perhaps had some actual motive for their crime … [Afterall] it is a normal part of human experience that if you occupy, meddle, bully, and coerce, people who are affected by it all are going to get angry. You don't have to be Muslim to get the point.

The problem is that most … Americans think that America the country is much like their own neighborhood: peaceful, happy, hard working, law abiding. ... "Why would anyone hate us?"

The problem is that the military wing of the US government is very different from your neighborhood. After the Soviet Union crashed, US elites declared themselves masters of the universe, the only "indispensable nation" and the like. .... If we don't like your government, we can overthrow it. Meanwhile, we sought a global empire unlike any in history: not just a sphere of interest but the entire world. ...The bottom line: one-third of a million deployed troops in 134 countries in 1000 locations in foreign countries.

All during the 1990s, the US attempted to starve the population of Iraq. … Madelyn Albright said on national television that the deaths of 500,000 children (the UN's number) was "worth it" in order to achieve our aims, which were ostensibly the elimination of non-existent, non-US built weapons of mass destruction. Yes, that annoyed a few people. There were constant bombings in Iraq all these years.

[Excerpt of an article by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama]


The world of modern child slavery

It is believed there are nearly nine million children around the world today who are enslaved.

Slavery is a word which immediately conjures up very specific images in our minds. We do not see slavery as something which is still happening today.

Sexual slavery – There are an estimated 1.2 million children that the International Labour Organisation believes are trafficked every year, and tricked and forced into prostitution.

Unregulated industry – Parents and other relatives sell children to a fishing master, far from believing they are being sold into anything approximating slavery. Many are indeed given an apprenticeship, a chance to learn a trade. But they are sold nevertheless, usually for around $50.

Many people will be shocked and horrified by such a figure. How can anyone, let alone a mother, put a price on a child's head? But $50 may very well be the equivalent of two months salary for a local teacher, or enough water to meet the needs of a family of six for over three months.

Forced to beg – Children in wealthier Arab countries, such Saudi Arabia, are smuggled in from Yemen and sold to gangs and forced to beg each year to beg on the streets. Many of these children smuggled over the border are often sold by families who are duped into believing their offspring will get a better life.

[Excerpt of an article by Rageh Omaar, BBC Two]


The Modern Successor to the Slave Trade

Desmond Tutu, writing in the "The Independent":

Every year, small arms alone kill more people than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together.

Despite a UN arms embargo against armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, weapons have continued to flood in from all over the world. Arms found during weapons collections include those made in Germany, France, Israel, USA and Russia.

Five rich countries manufacture the vast majority of the world's weapons. In 2005, Russia, the United States, France, Germany and the UK accounted for an estimated 82 per cent of the global arms market. And it's big business: the amount rich countries spend on fighting HIV/Aids every year represents just 18 days' global spending on arms.

The world could eradicate poverty in a few generations were only a fraction of the expenditure on the war business to be spent on peace. An average of $22bn is spent on arms by countries in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa every year, according to estimates for the US Congress. This sum would have enabled those countries to put every child in school and to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, fulfilling two of the Millennium Development Goals.


The Genocide of Iraq

This summer will be one year since researchers from Johns Hopkins University collected data for a study which concluded 655,000 additional deaths were caused by the military war, and things have only gotten worse since then.

Then consider that the economic war killed an additional 500,000 Iraqi kids under the age of five during only the first seven years of sanctions which were in force for a dozen years, according to a 1999 U.N. report.

Since our government declared economic and military warfare on Iraq we’ve killed well over one million people, fast approaching two. Based on the Johns Hopkins estimate of Iraqis killed in the war, one could conservatively estimate that another 2.6 million people have been wounded.

The U.N. estimates that between 1.5 million and 2 million Iraqis are now “internally displaced” by the fighting and roughly the same number have fled their country, including disproportionate numbers of doctors and other professionals.

Reflect for a minute on the grief brought by a single loved one’s death. Then open your heart to the reality of life if we suffered casualties comparable to those endured by the people of Iraq.

In the former cities of Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Baltimore, San Francisco, Dallas and Philadelphia every single person is dead.
In Vermont, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Kansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Oregon, South Carolina and Colorado every single person is wounded.
The entire populations of Ohio and New Jersey are homeless, surviving with friends, relatives or under bridges as they can.
The entire populations of Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky have fled to Canada or Mexico.
Over the past three years, one in four U.S. doctors has left the country.
Last year alone 3,000 doctors were kidnapped and 800 killed.

In short, nobody “out there” is coming to save us. We are in hell.

[Excerpt of an article by Mike Ferner, Information Clearing House]


America’s Child Soldier Problem

Almost 600,000 of America’s 1 million active and reserve soldiers enlisted as teens.

The military lures these physiologically immature kids with a PR machine that would make Joe Camel proud. The military markets itself to children as young as 13 with multimedia videos, school visits and cold calls to teens’ homes and cell phones. The Department of Defense (DoD) spends more than $4 billion a year on recruiting, with $1.5 billion for advertising and maintaining the recruiting stations staffed by more than 22,000 recruiters.Much of that money goes to convincing children to become soldiers.

In 2002, almost half of Marine recruits were 17 or 18. A Pentagon survey found that “for both males and females, propensity [to enlist] is highest among 16- and 17-year-olds.” That “propensity” quickly declines with age.

A recent study headed by Jay Giedd of the National Institutes of Health using MRI scans shows that the brain of an 18-year-old is not fully developed, with the limbic cortex-brain structures, the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex still undergoing substantial changes. Teenagers’ brains simply lack the impulse control that can prevent a lifetime of regret, psychological and physical disability, and preventable deaths—their own, their fellow soldiers’ and those of civilians.

The child soldier problem is global and so is America’s role in it. The State Department reports that 10 countries are violating international treaties against child soldiers. Washington provides military assistance to nine of these outlaw nations: Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

“Chiefs of warfare reach out to children precisely because they are innocent, malleable, impressionable,” says Olara Otunnu, the U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

The science is clear: Turning children below the age of brain maturity into soldiers, whether in the United States or Sudan, exploits that vulnerability.

[Excerpt of an article by Terry J. Allen]


Child soldiers: "A four-foot tall killing machine"

From Sierra Leone to Congo, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, child soldiers are the war weapon of choice, "easily manipulated, intensely loyal, fearless and, most important, in endless supply", the New York Times reports.

Human rights groups say there are 300,000 child soldiers in the world, and no sign of the problem going away. The changing nature of conflict, in Africa in particular, is the reason why children are still recruited as "four-foot killing (machines)". Ideology was the main driver behind wars in Eritrea, Zimbabwe and most of the liberation struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. These days, the main goal of many conflicts, or at least many groups involved, is pillaging.

Emmanuel Jal, a hip-hop artist and a former child soldier, describes in Britain's Guardian the moment when he was enlisted at the age of seven to fight in south Sudan's 21-year war:

"When most kids where playing soccer, watching cartoons and learning how to read and write, I was learning how to fight. I left my home when I was seven after I saw a close relative raped and people's heads cut off by the government bombers... For years I was wielding an AK47, taller than myself."

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the recruitment and the use of children under 18 in any form of armed conflict, has been enforceable for the past five years. The United States and Britain, though, are among the countries which have refused to sign it.

The recent Hollywood blockbuster Blood Diamond examines the problem of child soldiers in Sierra Leone, where orphaned children or those kidnapped in the conflict end up accepting their new family of rebel soldiers and become "drug-addicted killers, without pity or fear." Then there's God Grew Tired of Us, a documentary produced by Brad Pitt, with Nicole Kidman as a narrator.

Events such as Live 8 and Make Poverty History certainly helped raising the profile of Africa, Cowley says. And the successes of Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland, a film about Idi Amin's rule of Uganda, showed Hollywood that "African stories, especially African war stories, sell."

[Reuters AlertNet]


Adios, World Bank!

Throughout Latin America, countries are paying off their World Bank loans early, cutting off ties with the Bank, and creating their own financing instruments to replace the world's oldest multilateral lending agency.

Unfortunately, the latest corruption scandal involving questionable promotions and outrageous salary increases for Wolfowitz’s girlfriend, Shaha Riza, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to doubts about the World Bank’s credibility, legitimacy and capacity to fulfill its stated mission of eradicating world poverty.

Since its creation over 60 years ago, the World Bank has provided trillions of dollars in loans to poor countries. In addition to providing financial resources, the World Bank—along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—took the lead in making policy prescriptions to poor governments, which it ensures are adopted by making them “conditions” for lending.

Throughout the developing world, debt seriously hinders countries’ abilities to provide for the basic needs of their citizens, and imposed “conditionality” interferes with governments’ rights to make sovereign decisions.

At the same time, persistent poverty in Latin America and other countries has barely budged.
In April, Venezuela announced that it was paying off all its outstanding debt with the World Bank—totaling $3.3 billion and dating from before President Hugo Chavez took office in (1999)—five years ahead of schedule. Venezuelan Minister of Finance Rodrigo Cabezas said that because of this, “Venezuela is free ... and thank God, neither today’s Venezuelans nor children yet to be born will owe one single cent to those organizations.”

Likewise, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador have paid off their debts to the World Bank’s sister institution—the IMF—and others have expressed a desire to do the same. Symbolically, Venezuela’s recent decision could help strengthen the efforts of other developing countries seeking reform at the World Bank by demonstrating to the institution that choosing not to be part of it is a real option.

Regardless of what happens to Wolfowitz or his girlfriend, the World Bank will continue in its downward spiraling crisis of legitimacy, at least in Latin America. As countries are able to mobilize the necessary resources to free themselves from financial obligations with the institution, they are likely to make this a priority. So too, will they continue to collaborate in finding new ways to solve the region’s poverty and other plights without turning to the World Bank—but rather by devising innovative arrangements such as bartering (i.e. oil for doctors, as in the case of Venezuela and Cuba), and by catalyzing existing resources through the Bank of the South and other regional institutions.

[Excerpt of an article by Nadia Martinez, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network]


Blackwell, part of the Shadow Army in Iraq

Most Americans will know next to nothing about … the estimated 126,000 private military "contractors" who will stay put [in Iraq] as long as Congress continues funding the war.

The 145,000 active duty U.S. forces are nearly matched by occupation personnel that currently come from companies like Blackwater USA and the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, which enjoy close personal and political ties with the Bush administration.

"We got 126,000 contractors over there, some of them making more than the secretary of Defense," said House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha. "How in the hell do you justify that?"

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman estimates that $4 billion in taxpayer money has so far been spent in Iraq on these armed "security" companies like Blackwater - with tens of billions more going to other war companies like KBR and Fluor for "logistical" support. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the House Intelligence Committee believes that up to forty cents of every dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors.

Although contractor deaths are not effectively tallied, at least 770 contractors have been killed in Iraq and at least another 7,700 injured. These numbers are not included in any official (or media) toll of the war.

More significantly, there is absolutely no effective system of oversight or accountability governing contractors and their operations, nor is there any effective law - military or civilian - being applied to their activities. They have not been subjected to military courts martial (despite a recent Congressional attempt to place them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice), nor have they been prosecuted in U.S. civilian courts - and, no matter what their acts in Iraq, they cannot be prosecuted in Iraqi courts.

Before Paul Bremer, Bush's viceroy in Baghdad, left Iraq in 2004 he issued an edict, known as Order 17. It immunized contractors from prosecution in Iraq which, today, is like the wild West, full of roaming Iraqi death squads and scores of unaccountable, heavily-armed mercenaries, ex-military men from around the world, working for the occupation.

[Excerpt of an article by Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.]

More on Mercenaries in Iraq

The following is an excerpt of Robert Greenwald's testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense about war profiteering:I spent a year researching the experiences of soldiers, truck drivers and families affected by the presence of private military contractors [i.e. mercenaries] in Iraq.

Imagine someone with the exact same job as you, working next to you, but getting paid three times as much as you! We heard this story over and over again from the soldiers we interviewed.

US Army specialist Anthony Lagouranis spoke of the effects of the private contractors on the military: "It certainly affected retention because I don't know why any military person would re-enlist to do the same job when they could get out of the military and make six times the money -- I really don't understand why they were outsourced. I mean, it seems like this is a military job and the military should be doing it. Especially because the more civilians you have out there, the more military people you need to guard them. So we're spreading us thin."

In my research, I was shocked to discover the role of contractors in the tragedy of Abu Ghraib. Its images are seared into the minds of people throughout the world, yet few realize the role of CACI and its interrogators. As our team dug deeper and deeper into the numerous contracts, CACI and JP London kept appearing over and over. The Taguba report, the Fay report, and the Human Rights Watch report "By The Numbers" all made clear that CACI had played a significant role in the torture.


Blackwater Mercenaries

An excerpt of “Blackwater, the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”, written by Jeremy Scahill:

“When Paul Bremer skulked out of Iraq on June 28, 2004, he left behind a violent, chaotic mess that the White House called ‘a free and sovereign’ Iraq.

“Just how unstable the country was when Bremer departed was evident in the fact he actually had to stage an exit in one plane for the press and then fly out of Baghdad in another ‘to get me out of here … preferably in one piece.’

“In reality, this ‘sovereignty’, which President Bush described as ‘the Iraqi people having their country back,’ was a way to set the stage for U.S. officials to blame the puppet government in Baghdad for the worsening American-made disaster.

“When Bremer’s secret flight fled Baghdad, anti-U.S. attacks were increasing by the day as more mercenaries poured into the country.”

The above sentence begs the question, “Who are these mercenaries?”

And do they only operate in the war zone of Iraq? (There were an estimated 20,000 mercenaries operating when Bremer pulled out, but now the figures have apparently grown to over 120,000, in addition to the regular American troops.)

Right after Hurricane Katrina, mercenaries from American companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut, plus an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) were fanning out in New Orleans to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions. Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235.

Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract.

Read more: Blackwater establishing training camp in rural San Diego

Blackwater Mercenaries establish new base in rural San Diego

Blackwater USA, one of the largest private military contractors in the world, has proposed "Blackwater West" to be built in a 824 acre valley just north of the small town of Potrero, in East San Diego County.

Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater, the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”, visits Potrero and speaks with local residents. see video

Read more

War as Big Business

This year’s proposed US spending on the Iraq war is larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined. The combined spending requests would push the total for Iraq to US$564 billion, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).

A proposed supplemental appropriation to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq “brings proposed military spending for FY 2008 to $647.2 billion, the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II", the CRS said. Total proposed US military spending for 2008 is larger than military spending by all of the other nations in the world combined. It is:
•10 times the military budget of the second-largest military spending country in the world, China;
•larger than the combined gross domestic products of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa;
•more than 30 times higher than all spending on State Department operations and non-military foreign aid combined;
•more than 120 times higher than the roughly $5 billion per year the US government spends on combatting global warming, and;
•represents 58 cents out of every dollar spent by the US government on discretionary programs: education, health, housing assistance, international affairs, natural resources and environment, justice, veterans’ benefits, science and space, transportation, training, employment and social services, economic development and several more items.

That sort of money could go a long way to addressing so many of the world’s most urgent problems.

But war is a very profitable business for some very big and powerful corporations such as Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Vinnell and Blackwater. It has been argued that rather than profiteering from war, these corporations are making war for profit. Many of them would not exist as we know them without war.

[Excerpt of an article found at greenleft.org.au]


Venture Philanthropy and lives saved

Nonprofits such as the Gates Foundation and Seattle-based PATH are working with pharmaceutical companies to push development of vaccines for neglected diseases that ravage developing nations. They've taken the unorthodox step of paying for research the drug companies would not do otherwise, because there isn't demand for such drugs in wealthier countries.

The foundation also must provide funds for poor countries to buy the vaccines, convince government leaders to include them in their health budgets and find an effective distribution system.

It's like building a market from scratch, said Erik Iverson, the foundation's associate general counsel.

"The Gates Foundation is seen as a venture capitalist," he said. "In return, what we want is lives saved."

Jim Kim, a Harvard health expert who formerly led the World Health Organization's (WHO's) AIDS programs, said lately when he thinks about how to solve the health-care crisis in developing countries and at home, he gets the most inspiration from his colleagues at Harvard Business School.

[The Seattle Times]


Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World

Altrushare Securities is a brokerage firm, engaged in the sort of things you might expect of a Wall Street outfit, like buying and selling stock, and providing research on companies. Unlike its peers, however, the firm is majority-owned by two charities that each control about one-third of it.

So is it a for-profit business? Or a nonprofit fund-raising machine?

In fact, like hundreds of new businesses starting up around the country, it is both. Altrushare is an example of the emerging convergence of for-profit money-making and nonprofit mission.

“We’re a for-profit institutional brokerage, and we have to compete on execution and commissions and do so with the same technology and talent you would expect from a top-tier firm,” said Peter Drasher, a founder of Altrushare, which is based in Bridgeport, Conn.

“What makes us different is our nonprofit ownership and our mission, which is to support struggling communities with our profits.”

[Excerpt of an article by Stephanie Strom, The New York Times]


Report: Iraq child mortality rate soars

The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990, according to a report released Tuesday, which placed the country last in its child survival rankings.

One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005, according to the report by Save the Children, which said Iraq ranked last because it had made the least progress toward improving child survival rates.

Iraq's mortality rate has soared by 150% since 1990. Even before the latest war, Iraq was plagued by electricity shortages, a lack of clean water and too few hospitals.

The vast majority of child deaths — more than nine in 10 — occur in just 60 developing countries, the report said.

Of the approximately 10 million children under age 5 who die every year, most could be saved with cheap solutions, like nets to protect against mosquito-borne malaria or antibiotics to treat pneumonia, according to the report.

"These aren't intractable problems," Dr. William Foege, of the Emory University School of Public Health, wrote in a foreword to the report. "It is simply wrong for only the few to have access to all of the tools for survival because of where they live."

[The Associated Press]


Making a profit while helping the poor

During a recent visit to the U.S. from India, Vikram Akula walked into a downtown restaurant to talk to a group of well-heeled Seattle philanthropists about how they could help end poverty.
As one of the new mavericks bringing banking to the poor, Akula didn't mention Mother Teresa, the World Bank or the U.N. His guiding lights are Starbucks, Coke and McDonald's.

"My single goal is to eradicate poverty," he said. "The best way to do that is to apply a business model." SKS Microfinance, which Akula started in 1988, connects opposite ends of the global economy: poor women in India looking for loans to expand their tiny businesses with wealthy investors in the U.S.

The traditional system of loans to the poor by aid groups, known as "microfinance," relies mostly on charitable donations. SKS is helping transform that field by plugging into the engines of commercial capital. Along the way, SKS has picked up a nickname: "the Starbucks of microfinance."

SKS' growth reflects an explosion of interest in providing financial services to the world's poor among socially minded entrepreneurs and major funders such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As banks and venture capitalists take an interest in microfinance, they add valuable resources to "scale up," or expand credit to millions more who could benefit.

The borrowers, mostly women who use the money to buy fish nets, goats or water buffaloes for their livelihoods, pay back SKS with 25 percent interest. SKS then pays about 20 percent to the original investors, considered a healthy return for venture-capital funds.

It isn't such a bad deal for the impoverished borrowers, either: The only loans usually available to the poor in India are from local moneylenders who charge interest rates of up to 120 percent.
So far, SKS says it has a 99 percent on-time repayment rate.

What keeps Brookfield going is the thought that a year spent raising money will help 600,000 people. Many use their first loan to buy a water buffalo for about $175. They'll make $1.50 a day from the milk, and use the profit to pay back the loan.

"At the end of the year they own a buffalo, and we get our money back," Brookfield said. "There's an entrenched idea that you're either doing charity or you're making money and there's nothing in between," he said. "I'm trying to walk the middle ground."

[The Seattle Times]


More philanthropists planning to “Spend It Down”

Wealthy families are setting up new philanthropic foundations in increasing numbers, but they are also shutting them down at an accelerating pace.

Some of the biggest names in philanthropy are backing the idea of setting a time limit on their giving: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced in December it will spend its entire endowment -- more than $32 billion -- within 50 years of the death of the last of its three current trustees, then close its doors.

Other families, too, are putting an expiration date on their foundations because they believe they can do more good by spending a lot of money over a short period of time rather than doling out the funds over decades, as some well-known groups such as the Rockefeller and Ford foundations have long done.

[By Sally Beatty, The Wall Street Journal]


Abbott to cut AIDS drug cost in poor nations

Moving to defuse a potentially damaging international controversy, Abbott Laboratories announced it will cut the price of its AIDS-fighting Kaletra drug by more than half in many developing nations.

The plan, which has the backing of the World Health Organization, is designed to help Abbott avert a pending patent-rights showdown with the government of Thailand, where officials have been threatening to break Abbott's patent and produce a low-priced generic version of Kaletra.
Abbott's discount plan, which promises to save thousands of lives in Thailand and other less-developed nations, "is really a huge victory for AIDS activists worldwide over one of the most formidable opponents in the drug industry," said Michael Weinstein, president of Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has long been a harsh critic of the company's pricing practices.

The dispute between Abbott and Thailand has been closely followed by governments and drug producers alike because it involves what could prove to be a new battlefield in the ongoing debate over the pricing of AIDS drugs.

Although globalization has sparked a host of intellectual-property fights around the world, tiffs over pirated software do not pack the same public-relations punch as the pharmaceutical industry's fight to protect patentrightsoverlife-savingdrugs.

Simply put, the drugs now available for fighting the scourge of AIDS are effective but are also so costly that they are economically out of reach in poorer parts of the globe.

[Excerpt of an article by James P. Miller, The Chicago Tribune]


Melinda Gates: "We need to take input from people in the field"

Melinda French Gates has learned [a lot] during 10 years of co-chairing what has become the nation's largest and perhaps most influential philanthropy. "We didn't invent philanthropy or a way of doing it," she said to begin her talk, which focused largely on the mistakes she and her husband have made since starting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Melinda Gates said the foundation's effectiveness is tied to its willingness to take feedback and to learn from its mistakes. Gates told the story of a trip she and her husband, the co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, took to Vietnam last month to learn more about that country's approach to vaccination, since the Southeast Asian nation has one of the best rates of participation in the developing world.

While they were in Vietnam they noticed the small refrigerators used to store medicines were entirely full. A new vaccine the foundation was hoping to test in Vietnam was supposed to be delivered in a large container that would never fit in these small, full refrigerators.

The discovery taught her two lessons -- one immediate and one long-term. First, the Gates Foundation would have to go back to the manufacturer of the new vaccine and have it repackaged in smaller containers. Second, someone needed to develop vaccines that do not require refrigeration.

"We need to take input from people in the field," she said. "They know what works in their community and we need to listen to them."

Vaccine research has taught them to work more closely with the private sector. "Every single day in Africa, 2,000 children die from a disease we know how to treat," Gates said referring to malaria. But the people who need a malaria vaccine can't afford to pay for it and the pharmaceutical companies have not had a financial incentive to create a vaccine because no one in the United States or other developed nations needs one.

She said the Gates Foundation is now working with governments to create incentives for pharmaceutical companies so those vaccines are developed despite the lack of need in the United States. "Helping people in need doesn't have to be an unsound financial strategy," Gates said.

[The Seattle Times]


Google finds disturbing charity gap

A new study commissioned by Google.org reinforces a disturbing and often-ignored truth about charitable giving in the U.S.

Giving by individual Americans totals over four times that of foundation and corporate giving combined, says Sheryl Sandberg, a board member of Google.org.

While most Americans who give to charity believe most of their donations help those most in need, the study says, less than one-third of giving by individuals in 2005 actually helped people who are economically disadvantaged.

The needs of the poor throughout the world also get the short end of giving, she says, with only 8 percent of all individual giving by Americans supporting international causes of any kind.

“The world’s poorest are virtually ignored by the philanthropic giving of citizens of the world’s wealthiest nation,” Sandberg says.

[Excerpt of an article by Todd Cohen, Philanthropy Journal]


China's Rich giving it away

In a world of fast-expanding human desire and greed, giving away one's wealth is a rare virtue.

And in China, many billionaires are now making huge donations for education, social welfare and healthcare. According to the 2007 Hurun Report's Chinese Philanthropists List, compiled by Briton Rupert Hoogewerf, 30 of the China's 100 richest were among the 100 most generous in 2006, up from 20 the previous year.

"Almost all the top 100 rich Chinese are considering the concept of charity. With a good policy environment, more and more wealthy people are setting up their own charitable funds," Hoogewerf reported.

Of the total 10 billion yuan ($1.23 billion) donated last year, the amount given by the 100 was 3.9 billion yuan compared with 3.75 billion yuan the previous year.

[Excerpt of an article by Zou Hanru, China Daily]


Ok, so “American Idol raised Millions for charity”

Mainstream media touted the fact that “Television singing talent show ‘American Idol’ proved its clout as a U.S. cultural phenomenon by raising more than $30 million for young people in Africa and the United States."

To wax pessimistic for a moment, Fox was no doubt happy with its $5 million “charitable” investment as the show's contestants received more than 70 million votes -- a new record and almost double the previous week's 38 million.

Fox’s had owner pledged $5 million to the effort, but some wondered why the company that owns one of the must lucrative franchises in television history couldn’t have opened its wallet a bit more. After all, given the price of commercials on “American Idol” ($745,000 for 30 seconds), it was in actuality donating the equivalent of less than five minutes of advertising time, even as it implored viewers to give generously.

Ok, what if American Idol had asked viewers to donate just $1 for every vote they cast, Idol would have raised $70 million from viewers alone.

While one must applaud ‘American Idol’ raisng $30 million for charity, Jerry Lewis Telethon, a dinosaur compared to American Idol’s high-tech glitz and celebrity star-power, last year raised over $61 million, with a fraction of Idol’s self-promoting hype.

So while Idol Gives Back did some good for poor children, the main cause it championed was American Idol.

Hopefully the positive accomplished will ourweight the above negtaives via the funding that does indeed reach the aid organizations mentioned: Save the Children, UNICEF, Malaria No More, The Global Fund and Nothing But Nets in Africa and poverty-hit areas of the United States.


Insights into Highly-Publicized Charitable Givers

Converted to today's dollars, during his lifetime the industrialist Andrew Carnegie gave away $8 billion of his $10.3 billion net worth, or 78 percent, according to Carnegie Corp. figures.

Microsoft mogul Paul Allen, net worth $16 billion, gave away one-third of 1 percent of his fortune.

Oracle magnate Larry Ellison, net worth $20 billion, half of 1 percent.

Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, net worth $7.7 billion, less than 1 percent.

Nike tycoon Philip Knight, net worth $7.9 billion, slightly more than 1 percent.

For the average person to keep much more than he or she gives is understandable; for the super-rich, it's a different matter.

[Excerpt of an article by Gregg Easterbrook, The San Jose Mercury News]