Eight billionaires 'as rich as world's poorest half'

The world's eight richest individuals have as much wealth as the 3.6bn people who make up the poorest half of the world, according to Oxfam.

The charity said its figures, which critics have queried, came from improved data, and the gap between rich and poor was "far greater than feared".

The richest eight include Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett.

Mark Littlewood, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said Oxfam should focus instead on ways to boost growth.

"As an 'anti-poverty' charity, Oxfam seems to be strangely preoccupied with the rich," said the director-general of the free market think tank.

For those concerned with "eradicating absolute poverty completely", the focus should be on measures that encourage economic growth, he added.

Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said it was not the wealth of the world's rich that mattered, but the welfare of the world's poor, which was improving every year.

"Each year we are misled by Oxfam's wealth statistics. The data is fine - it comes from Credit Suisse - but the interpretation is not."

http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/640x360/p04pndnq.jpgEconomist Amartya Sen tells Radio 4's Today that economic inequality must be tackled

'Elite gathering'

Oxfam's report coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a Swiss ski resort. The annual event attracts many of the world's top political and business leaders.

Katy Wright, Oxfam's head of global external affairs, said the report helped the charity to "challenge the political and economic elites".

"We're under no illusions that Davos is anything other than a talking shop for the world's elite, but we try and use that focus," she added.


The world's eight richest billionaires

1. Bill Gates (US): co-founder of Microsoft (net worth $75bn)

2. Amancio Ortega (Spain): founder of Zara owner Inditex (net worth $67bn)

3. Warren Buffett (US): largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8bn)

4. Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico): owner of Grupo Carso (net worth $50bn)

5. Jeff Bezos (US): founder and chief executive of Amazon (net worth $45.2bn)

6. Mark Zuckerberg (US): co-founder and chief executive of Facebook (net worth $44.6bn)

7. Larry Ellison (US): co-founder and chief executive of Oracle (net worth $43.6bn)

8. Michael Bloomberg (US): owner of Bloomberg LP (net worth $40bn)

Source: Forbes billionaires' list, March 2016

UK economist Gerard Lyons said focusing on extreme wealth "does not always give the full picture" and attention should be paid to "making sure the economic cake is getting bigger".

However, he said Oxfam was right to single out companies that it believed fuelled inequality with business models that were "increasingly focused on delivering ever-higher returns to wealthy owners and top executives".

Oxfam's Ms Wright said economic inequality was fuelling a polarisation in politics, citing Donald Trump's election as US president and the Brexit vote as examples.

'Fair share'

"People are angry and calling out for alternatives. They're feeling left behind because however hard they work they can't share in their country's growth," she said.

The charity is calling for "a more human economy" and is urging governments to crack down on executive pay and tax evasion and impose higher taxes on the wealthy.

It also wants business leaders to pay a "fair share of tax" and has urged companies to pay staff the "living wage", which is higher than the government's National Living Wage.

Oxfam has produced similar reports for the past four years. In 2016 it calculated that the richest 62 people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population.

The number had fallen to just eight this year because more accurate data was now available, Oxfam said.

It was still the case that the world's richest 1% had as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, Oxfam said.

http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/B975/production/_93577474_gettyimages-512267506.jpgFacebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan / Getty Images

Some of the eight richest billionaires have given away tens of billions of dollars. In 2000 Bill Gates and his wife Melinda set up a private foundation that has an endowment of more than $44bn.

In 2015 Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan pledged to give away 99% of their net worth in their lifetimes, which equated to about $45bn based on the value of Facebook shares at the time.

It takes cash and assets worth $71,600 to get into the top 10%, and $744,396 to be in the top 1%.

Oxfam's report is based on data from Forbes and the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth datebook, which gives the distribution of global wealth going back to 2000.

The survey uses the value of an individual's assets, mainly property and land, minus debts, to determine what he or she "owns". The data excludes wages or income.

The methodology has been criticised as it means that a student with high debts, but with high future earning potential, for example, would be considered poor under the criteria used.


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US Mall Bans Woman for Life After Racist Spiel Against Latinas

The search for the woman is underway, so she can be banned from the mall in the future.

A woman’s racist tirade against two Latina women in a mall in Louisville, Kentucky begins with a cacophony of tired slurs against immigrants. Caught on tape and posted on social media Tuesday, the incident has prompted a search for the woman — who faces a lifetime ban from the mall.

RELATED: Major US Mall’s First Black Santa Unleashes Racist Firestorm​

In the lineup at a JCPenney store in Jefferson Mall, two Latina women, in front of the woman who went on the racist rant, added some last-minute items to their cart.

That, according to the now-deleted Facebook video bystander Renee Buckner posted, instigated the woman to begin shouting her anti-immigrant views at the two women.

The woman tells the customers to “go back to wherever the fuck you come from, lady.”

“They come here to live, then act like everybody else,” the woman continues to yell. “You’re nobodies. Just because you come from another country, it don’t make you nobody. You’re nobody, as far as I’m concerned. You’re probably on welfare. The taxpayers probably paid for all that stuff.”

“It’s true,” the woman then turns to tell the other customers in line. “We probably pay for every bit of that stuff. You know that. Probably all the food they get and everything else. I’m sorry, but that’s the way I feel.”

RELATED: 'BackingBlack Business' Is BLM's Latest Anti-Racist Initiative

While the two Latina women ignore her racist speech, the video ends after the woman tells them to “speak English. You’re in America. If you don’t know it, learn it.”

Once the video garnered nearly 6 million views, Jefferson Mall authorities decried the woman’s outburst and said they are working to identify her and ban her from the mall.

JC Penney also issued a similar statement Wednesday, asking the public to help them find the victims so they can be given a formal apology and a full reimbursement for their purchases that day.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also posted a series of tweets expressing his regret and disappointment about the situation.

  • Published in World

UN: More Than 380 Million Children Live in Extreme Poverty

United Nations, Oct 5 (Prensa Latina) Nearly 385 million children live under the scourge of extreme poverty, a situation that demands urgent government measures, according to an analysis released by UNICEF and the World Bank Group.

The analysis made by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank Group reveals that children are more than twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty.

According to research, in 2013, 19.5 percent of children in developing countries were living in households that survived with an average of USD 1.90 a day or less per person, while adults in the same situation were less than 10 percent.

Children under the age of five are the most at risk, with more than one-fifth of children living in extreme poverty in Southern countries.

This is a very worrying scenario, its impact on the development of children, their bodies and their minds, said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, on the subject of recent analysis.

The UN called on world governments to increase the efforts in the fight against child poverty, to enhance social protection systems and prioritize investments in education, health, sanitation, infrastructure and access to drinking water in order to benefit the children.

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Uruguay's Pepe Mujica: 'Inequality Is the Enemy of Democracy'

"The biggest threat to democracy is the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few," said the former Uruguayan president.

Former President of Uruguay Jose Mujica said Latin America was the richest and at the same time the most unjust region in the world, and that all democracies should seek to end economic injustice, remarks that came during the third annual Latin American Summit of Progressive Movements Wednesday in Ecuador on Wednesday.

RELATED: Uruguay's Mujica Campaigns for FARC Peace Deal in Colombia

"The biggest threat to democracy is the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, and therefore the concentration of power," Mujica told an audience in the coastal city of Guayaquil.

Lenin Moreno, former vice president of Ecuador and the U.N.’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, greeted Mujica and recalled one of his most important sayings: "If you like money, don't go into politics. Keep making money, for that is not the fruit of politics."

According to “Pepe” Mujica, to achieve a socialist vision of an ideal society, governments need to fight for equality, not charity.

"We live in the most unequal and unjust continent in the world," said Mujica, now an Uruguayan senator. "We have so many debts to our people."

RELATED: Uruguay's Jose Mujica Says 'Coup' in Brazil Was Premeditated

Mujica said that people can’t live in an idealistic world, since there is a deep economic inequality in the region, and cited the example of the Mexican billionaire businessman Carlos Slim.

"The richest man in the world is from this continent. He would have to live 250 years, spending US$1 million a day, to spend it all," said Mujica.

Mujica said leftist parties and governments should not let the right-wing destroy everything for which they have fought.

“Inequality is the enemy of democracy,” said Mujica. Mujica called on progressive movements to find unity, since “without unity, we lose our strength.”

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Native Americans Forced to Travel Hours, Just to Vote

Native American groups in Nevada have started legal procedure just to enjoy the same voting privileges that other citizens enjoy.

Two Native American tribes, the Pyramid Lake Paiutes and the Walker River Paiutes, filed a lawsuit against the state of Nevada because they currently have no choice but to endure long travel to ballot boxes compared to white members in the same area.

RELATED: At Least 20 Dakota Pipeline Protesters Arrested

“The failure to establish satellite office locations will result in ... tribal members having less opportunity than Anglo citizens to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice for federal, state, and county offices,” said the group of plaintiffs in a statement.

The Native American groups are poorer and more isolated than others in the electorate and have less access to transport to voter registration offices and early voting locations. Around 1,700 members from the Pyramid Lake Paiutes tribe need to travel from near Nixon to Reno, almost a 100-mile round trip to vote. More than 1,200 Walker River Paiutes tribal members have to endure a 70-mile round trip from Schurz to Hawthorne.

The tribes say both the Washoe County and Mineral County in Northern Nevada are in violation of the voting rights act and the U.S. constitution's 14th Amendment. The tribes say that the restrictive policy leads to low Native American voter turnouts.

The tribes had earlier requested satellite election offices, but the request was denied by Republican Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who cited the inconvenient time of the request. Native American groups say that Cegavske would not want to help them given that overall they would be more inclined to vote for Democrats.

“Their inconvenience has nothing to do with the voting rights of Native voters,” said OJ Semans, member of Four Directions, a voting rights group helping the native plaintiffs.

Native Americans are unlikely to have a significant effect on the election results nationally compared to other demographic groups, as around 5 million Native Americans make up less than 2 percent of the overall U.S. population. But the plaintiffs say the barrier “is an apparent effort to dilute Indian voting strength.” And they could actually make a difference in a tight election in a swing state like Nevada.

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Hollywood inequality is 'entrenched', study suggests

Inequality is "entrenched" in Hollywood, with women, minorities and LGBT people among those excluded, a new study has suggested.

The University of Southern California's report showed that women had just 31.4% of spoken roles in 2015's top 100 films, compared with 32.8% in 2008.

Lesbian, gay or transgender characters accounted for less than 1% of speaking parts - or 32 out of 35,205 characters.

Researchers described Hollywood as "an epicentre of cultural inequality".

They said little progress had been made in increasing diversity.

Between 2007, when the study was first carried out, and 2015, the authors said there has been no marked change in the proportion of black, Latino or Asian characters - at 12.2%, 5.3% and 3.9% respectively.

'Exclusionary forces' at work

Study author Stacy Smith, a professor at USC, said: "We're seeing entrenched inequality.

"Whether we're studying gender, race, ethnicity, LGBT or characters with disabilities, we're really seeing exclusionary forces leaving out anybody that's not a straight, white, able-bodied man.

"Despite all the chatter and all the activism and all the press attention, it's another year where the status quo has been maintained.''

The report also showed:

  • There were 2.2 men for every woman in a speaking role in the top 100 films of 2015
  • Just one character identifying as transgender was portrayed - there had been none in 2014
  • Out of 107 directors, four were black or African American and six were Asian or Asian American. Eight were women - the highest figure since 2008
  • The number of LGBT characters increased in 2015 - but only two were shown as parents
  • Women are more than three times as likely as men to be shown in sexually revealing clothing or nude - 30.2% to 7.7%
  • Characters with a disability made up 2.4% of all speaking roles, despite 18.7% of the US population reporting having a disability in the 2010 census

The new figures follow the #OscarsSoWhite controversy earlier this year, sparked by two years of all-white acting nominees at the Academy Awards, as well as concerns over the gender gap in pay and the lack of female directors.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, has expanded its membership in an attempt to improve diversity.

'The same groups get the most visible roles'

Smith said: "We've seen a lot of talk and little action. What we need now is for companies to take the same leadership position, be transparent in their inclusion goals and be accountable to representing the actual world we live in when it comes to the demography of the US."

The survey found that female lead or co-lead roles increased by 11% from 2014 to 2015 - but only three films cast such a role from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. There were no Asian male or female leads across all of the films studied.

"When we really drill down in the numbers, we see a perpetuation of the same groups getting access to the most visible roles, whether that's in the director's chair or on screen, and that continues to be the problem plaguing Hollywood's hiring practices," Smith said.

Several of 2015's most profitable films had diverse casts, however, including the seventh Fast and Furious film, Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A number of remakes or reboots with women in lead roles have also been announced, including Ocean's Eight and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

  • Published in Culture

Racism Casts 'Dark Shadow' over United States, Says UN Expert

The official raised alarm over police brutality and impunity, mass incarceration, and racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

The United States is struggling to adequately tackle structural racism and criminal justice issues, which is impacting the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, a United Nations human rights expert warned.

OPINION: Anatomy of a Neoliberal Racist Killing Machine

“People have good reason to be angry and frustrated at the moment,” said Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in a statement Thursday.

Much of the focus of social movements such as Campaign Zero and Black Lives Matter has been the racial bias of police in the United States and the fact that people of color are placed behind bars at a much greater rate than whites for crimes they are statistically no more likely to commit, Kiai pointed out. 

“And it is at times like these when robust promotion of assembly and association rights are needed most. These rights give people a peaceful avenue to speak out, engage in dialogue with their fellow citizens and authorities, air their grievances and hopefully settle them,” he added.

According to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males. Indeed, though they make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 40 percent of the United States’ 2.3 million prisoners are African-Americans.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is simply a reaffirmation that Black lives do in fact matter, in the face of a structure that systematically devalues and destroys them, stretching back hundreds of years."

"There is justifiable and palpable anger in the Black community over these injustices. It needs to be expressed. This is the context that gave birth to the non-violent Black Lives Matter protest movement and the context in which it must be understood," Kiai stated.

According to a Pew Research survey carried out in August 2014, 7 in 10 Black people in the U.S. say police departments do a poor job of holding officers accountable for misconduct and racial bias.

That perception is supported by evidence. Investigative news website ProPublica looked at fatal police shootings of teenagers aged 15 to 19 between the years 2010 and 2012 and found that Black teens were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, compared to 1.47 per million among white teens.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is simply a reaffirmation that Black lives do in fact matter, in the face of a structure that systematically devalues and destroys them, stretching back hundreds of years," Kiai added. 

  • Published in World
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