AT the end of 2005, the Gates Foundation endowment stood at $35 billion, making it the largest in the world. Then in June 2006, Warren E. Buffett, the world's second-richest man after Bill Gates, pledged to add about $31 billion in installments from his personal fortune. Not counting tens of billions of dollars more that Gates himself has promised, the total is higher than the gross domestic products of 70% of the world's nations.
Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5% of its worth every year, to avoid paying most taxes. It invests the other 95% of its worth. This endowment is managed by Bill Gates Investments .
Monica Harrington, a senior policy officer at the Foundation, said the investment managers had one goal: returns -"that will allow for the continued funding of foundation programs and grant making."
The Los Angeles Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices . Using the most recent data available, a Times tally showed that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments , 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.
The Gates Foundation has put $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. Yet - it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the Niger Delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe. Hundreds of flares at oil plants in the Niger Delta have caused an epidemic of bronchitis in adults, and asthma and blurred vision in children. Many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer. The bright, sooty gas flares — which contain toxic byproducts such as benzene, mercury and chromium — lower immunity, and make children more susceptible to polio and measles — the diseases that the Gates Foundation has helped to inoculate him against.
The oil plants , whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, find it cheaper to burn nearly 1 billion cubic feet of gas each day and contribute to global warming than to sell it.
Local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.Oil workers, for example, and soldiers protecting them are a magnet for prostitution, contributing to a surge in HIV and teenage pregnancy, both targets in the Gates Foundation's efforts to ease the ills of society, especially among the poor. Oil bore holes fill with stagnant water, which is ideal for mosquitoes that spread malaria, one of the diseases the Foundation is fighting.Investigators for Dr. Nonyenim Solomon Enyidah, health commissioner for Rivers State, where Ebocha is located, cite an oil spill clogging rivers as a cause of cholera, another scourge the foundation is battling. The rivers, Enyidah said, "became breeding grounds for all kinds of waterborne diseases."
In South Africa , In 2002, a study found that more than half of the children at a school in Merebank , near Durban , suffered asthma — one of the highest rates in scientific literature. A second study, published last year, found serious respiratory problems throughout the region: More than half of children aged 2 to 5 had asthma, largely attributed to sulfur dioxide and other industrial pollutants. Asthma was not the only danger. Isipingo is in what environmental activists call "Cancer Valley." Emissions of benzene, dioxins and other carcinogens were "among the highest levels found in any comparable location the world .
The Gates Foundation is a major shareholder in the companies that own both of the polluting plants. As of September, the Foundation held $295 million worth of stock in BP, a co-owner of Sapref. As of 2005, it held $35 million worth of stock in Royal Dutch Shell, Sapref's other owner. The foundation also held a $39-million investment in Anglo American, which owns the Mondi paper mill.
Bill Gates and his much lauded anti-AIDS campaign .
Gel capsules of Kaletra , a second line anti-viral drug , melt in Nigeria's sweltering climate, where temperatures often top 100 degrees. A new version of Kaletra does not require refrigeration . A hospital helped by the Nigerian government, which gets money from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The fund has been awarded $651 million by the Gates Foundation. Yet the hospital does not offer the new Kaletra. It is too expensive.
Kaletra is made by Abbott Laboratories. As of this September, the Gates Foundation held $169 million in Abbott stock. In 2005, the Foundation held nearly $1.5 billion worth of stock in drug companies whose practices have been widely criticized as restricting the flow of key medicines to poor people in developing nations.On average, shares in those companies have increased in value about 54% since 2002. Investments in Abbott and other drug makers probably have gained the Foundation hundreds of millions of dollars.
Drug makers say they need price protection for research and development. The drug makers, with other research-intensive businesses, lobbied hard and successfully for the international Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which made it harder to move from costly brand-name drugs to cheap generics. The agreement protected new-drug monopolies for 20 years or more.This meant no low-priced generic for Kaletra. The pact locked in Abbott as its sole supplier, and Abbott set prices for the world.
"We also recognize that private industry needs adequate incentives to develop new drugs." states Monica Harrington for the Gates Foundation .
Some critics say the foundation's failure to use its own investments "to promote … public benefit in developing countries at reasonable cost" might trace back to the source of most of its money — Microsoft — which Bill Gates serves as chairman.Microsoft monopolies in computer operating systems and business software depend upon the same intellectual-property and trade-law approaches favored by drug companies.
"The Gates Foundation is in a position to change the dynamic, to make sure that drugs get first to the places they are most needed," said Daniel Berman, deputy director in South Africa for Doctors Without Borders. "But it conflicts with the interests of Microsoft."
On Tuesday 30 January 2007 at 20:00 in the Quakers Hall Victoria Terrace , Edinburgh , Tristan Miller , a research scientist in the field of computer science and digital information management will be offering a socialist analysis , Free Software dot.communism..? , that will be discussing patents and copyrights - so called "intellectual property" - that gives companies such as Microsoft the legal power to withhold computer software benefits from the public .