Amazon’s Jeff Bezos commits $2 bln to help homeless, pre-schools

Jeff Bezos made a $2 billion commitment to helping homeless families. (Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos commits $2 bln to help homeless, pre-schools

  • The announcement marks a deeper foray into philanthropy for Bezos
  • Bezos solicited ideas on Twitter last year for ways to donate some of his wealth

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc’s founder and the world’s richest person, said on Thursday he will commit $2 billion to helping homeless families and starting pre-schools for low-income communities.
The announcement marks a deeper foray into philanthropy for Bezos, whose fortune has soared to more than $160 billion thanks to his stake in Amazon. Dominance in e-commerce and the nascent field of cloud computing has made Amazon the world’s second-most valuable public company.
Bezos solicited ideas on Twitter last year for ways to donate some of his wealth. While he has financially supported cancer research and scholarships for immigrants, among other causes, Bezos has primarily devoted his fortune to his Blue Origin rocket company, which he described on Thursday as an “investment in the future of our planet through the development of foundational space infrastructure.”
His private ownership of The Washington Post, which has published articles critical of the White House, has also put him at odds with US President Donald Trump.
The new philanthropic effort is called the Bezos Day One Fund, a nod to the executive’s management philosophy that organizations must view every day with the fervor of a new start, or face stagnation and decline.
Within this, the “Day 1 Families Fund” will support existing non-profit organizations that offer shelter and food to young homeless families.
The “Day 1 Academies Fund” will start an organization to operate a new network of full-scholarship pre-schools for low-income communities. Citing the Amazon mantra of customer obsession, Bezos said in a tweet : “The child will be the customer.”
Bezos said in remarks to the Economic Club of Washington that it is “really really hard” for a child to catch up if they fall behind in their early years. The money will pay “gigantic dividends for decades.”
He said he did not know how much money he would eventually give away.
Bezos has yet to join “The Giving Pledge” created by fellow billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, whose more than 180 signatories have promised to give more than half of their fortunes to philanthropy.
The Amazon chief’s wealth has become problematic for some.
Earlier this month, US Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, proposed a bill in Congress called the “Stop BEZOS” Act, which would make large corporations pay workers more or pay for public assistance programs like Medicaid. Amazon has said Sanders’ statements about the company were “inaccurate and misleading.” 


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 2 min 51 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017
GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”