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Obama in Saudi Arabia on fence-mending visit

US President Barack Obama (L) speaks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia at Erga Palace in Riyadh, on April 20, 2016
President Barack Obama held talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Wednesday as he began a two-day visit hoping to ease tensions with the historic US ally. Riyadh and its Sunni Arab Gulf neighbours have bristled at what they see as Washington's tilt towards their regional rival Shiite Iran after Tehran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers. Obama, making probably his last visit to Riyadh as president, attends a summit of Gulf leaders on Thursday hoping to focus on intensifying the fight against the Islamic State group and resolving the wars in Syria and Yemen.

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Vision of Hope
file under: moneyeconomic developmentcharitable investment 1 Nov 2007 11:53 AM
Big Money Posted by Nissim Dahan
I just shook hands with the third wealthiest man in the U.S., who is also the sixth wealthiest man in the world. I'm not kidding. I was tempted never to wash my hands again; but my wife nixed that idea, and quick. He seemed like a nice enough guy; someone you'd invite over for coffee and cake. But he's a nice guy who just happens to be sitting on over 30 billion dollars.


There is a lot of money out there. My dad says that in the United States alone, we have some 3 ½ trillion dollars sitting in charitable foundations. That's "trillion" as in "one thousand billion."


So the question is: Why can't we use some of that money to solve some of our big ticket problems like: the Middle East, Global Warming, our Inner Cities, World Hunger and Disease, etc.? Well, the truth is that some charitable money is going to those worthwhile causes; but not in any sort of a concerted way. Right now, each charity, and each foundation, has to decide how to invest its money. It is difficult at times to coordinate all these various charitable entitles to move in one direction. Each organization does its own thing; as it has a right to do. So what is the problem?


It doesn't take a genius to see that the world is coming together; or becoming "flat" as Tom Friedman suggests. For good or for bad, the world, by the process we call "globalization," is coming together technologically and economically. What does this mean? It means, among other things, that as the world comes together globally, global problems will emerge, problems which will require global solutions, solutions which will entail global funding. And so, the solitary efforts of charitable foundations and institutions, noble as they may be in and of themselves, may not suffice to handle the global challenges which lie at our doorstep.


Think about the links of a chain. Each link, by itself, is of limited utility. But connect the links together, and now you have a chain that can be used to pull a heavy object in any given direction. It's like that with charitable giving. If every charity and every foundation invests privately, as it sees fit, then the good that is done is spread around randomly, but not necessarily in a common direction. And so, big global problems, which cry out for massive funding, like Global Warming or the Middle East, remain unattended. The money that is available is being spread too thin to make a difference where it really counts. This doesn't mean that no good is being done. It just means that some major global problems are being left by the wayside.


How do we get wealthy people to invest globally? It's not easy, but there is hope. The problem is that making money is not easy. It often takes one hell of an ego to amass one hell of a fortune. Some people who are very wealthy have such big egos, that it is often difficult to fit more than one of them into a single room. So how would you get them to coordinate their charitable efforts so as to tackle some of the big ticket problems like the Middle East, Global Warming, Hunger, and Disease?


You guessed it: If you could somehow sell the wealthy of the world on a Vision of Hope, easier said than done, then you may be able to convince them to prioritize differently, to concentrate their efforts, and to subsume some of their personal pet projects into the realm of the greater good.


There are a few shining examples which stand out in this regard. Bill Gates, a computer genius and business titan, gets married, and decides, all of a sudden, to change the face of healthcare in Africa, and the face of education, in America. And he and Melinda have enough money, enough compassion, and enough vision, to actually make a difference. Then Warren Buffett comes along, an investment icon, and looks for a legacy that is worthy of his good name. He is taken in by Bill and Melinda, and guess what; he turns over his money to them, to further their lofty goals for the betterment of mankind.


There is hope in the world, with people like Bill, Melinda, and Warren. It is up to us to give substance to that hope, by spreading the word, and spreading the wealth within the broader context of a Vision of Hope. That way we can connect our various links together, and begin pulling in the same direction.

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