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21.6.10

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It was a dinner meeting that fed the appetites of the world's conspiracy theorists just as much as those sitting down to eat. Held in May 2009 at a secret location in New York, the meal was a meeting between some of the globe's richest billionaires, organised by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

A year later, we know what they were talking about. Not taking over the world, but working out ways to give away billions of dollars.

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Full details of the secret meeting have emerged in an article in Fortune. The magazine has revealed a guest list that included well-known billionaires such as Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner and Michael Bloomberg, sitting alongside lesser-known lights of the ├╝ber-wealthy such as Eli and Edythe Broad and John and Tashia Morgridge. According to the magazine, the aim of the meeting was to sow the seeds of philanthropy among the wealthiest people in the world with the hope that they would pass it on to other like-minded souls. And this would not be small-scale giving. No, this would be donations that would seriously impact the pockets of even the most wealthy.
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The meeting was called the "first supper". There have been, according to Fortune, second and third suppers since then. Finally, a strategy has emerged around a "pledge" whereby billionaires who sign up promise to give away 50% of their net worth. If it works, the group will be the greatest private philanthropic effort in history.

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Of course, there are many problems that the rich might turn their hand to. Global warming caused by a world obsession with fossil fuels; pollution caused by unthinking industrial development; victims of war caused by fighting over resources like diamonds and gold, or even helping the millions of victims of the great recession triggered by the excesses of the finance industry. All of which prompts a, perhaps, uncharitable thought. It would be wonderful if the rich helped sort out the world's problems. It would be even more wonderful if some had not benefited so much from creating them in the first place.

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