The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2012, adding $241 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 100 wealthiest individuals.
The aggregate net worth of the world's top 100 stood at $1.9 trillion at the market close Dec. 31, according to the index. Of the people who appeared on the final ranking of 2012, only 16 registered a net loss for the 12-month period.
"Last year was a great one for the world's billionaires," said John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of Red Apple Group Inc., in an email written poolside on his BlackBerry in the Bahamas. "In 2013, they will continue looking for investments around the world — and not necessarily in U.S. — that will give them an advantage."
Amancio Ortega, the Spaniard who founded retailer Inditex, was the year's biggest gainer. The 76-year-old tycoon's fortune increased to $57.5 billion, a gain of $22.2 billion, according to the index, as shares of the retailer that operates the Zara clothing chain rose 66.7%.
"It's an amazing company that has done great, and the gains are quite justified given its performance," said Christodoulos Chaviaras, an analyst at Barclays in London who's had an "equalweight" rating on Inditex for about a year. "Can they repeat that? It will be harder. A lot of the positive news is already reflected in the share price."
Global stocks soared in 2012. The MSCI World Index gained 13.2% during the year to close at 1338.50 on Dec. 31. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.4% to close at 1426.19.
European stocks surged in the second half of the year. The Stoxx Europe 600 index is up 19.6% since June 4, advancing as the European Central Bank introduced bond-buying programs, S&P upgraded Greece's debt and German business confidence rose more than forecast. The benchmark gauge's 14.4% advance for the year was the best annual return since 2009.
Carlos Slim, the telecommunications magnate who controlsMexico's America Movil, maintained his title as the richest person on Earth for the entire year. The 72-year-old's net worth rose $13.4 billion, or 21.6%, through Dec. 31, making him the second-biggest gainer by dollars.
Gains by Slim's industrial conglomerate, Grupo Carso, and Grupo Financiero Inbursa, his banking and insurance operation, more than offset the decline posted by America Movil, his biggest holding. The largest mobile phone operator in the Americas by subscribers fell 5.8% to close at 14.9 pesos at the end of the year.
U.S. software mogul Bill Gates, 57, ranks second on the list, trailing Slim by $12.5 billion. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder added $7 billion to his net worth as shares of the Redmond, Wash., company rose 2.9%. Microsoft stock accounts for less than 20% of the billionaire's fortune.
Warren Buffett, 82, lost his title as the world's third-richest man to Ortega on Aug. 6. The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman gained $5.1 billion during the year, even after donating 22.3 million Berkshire Class B shares in July to charity. The billionaire, who has pledged to give away most of his fortune, spent much of the year pressing for higher taxes on the wealthy.
Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, 86, is the world's fifth-richest person with a $42.9-billion fortune. The complex ownership structure behind Ikea, the world's largest furniture retailer, became more transparent in August after Ikea's franchisor published its financial performance publicly for the first time. His net worth rose 16.6% in 2012.
Brazil'sEike Batista, 56, was the year's biggest loser by dollars, falling $10.1 billion. The commodities maven, who vowed a year ago that he'd become the world's wealthiest man by 2015, sold a 5.63% stake in his EBX Group Co. in March to Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co.
As part of the deal, he pledged an unspecified additional stake in 2019 if he fails to meet a 5% annual return on the sovereign wealth fund's $2-billion investment, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. Batista now ranks 75th in the world with a net worth of $12.4 billion. On March 27, he was worth $34.5 billion and ranked 8th on the Bloomberg index.
Batista's former title as the richest Brazilian is now held by 73-year-old banker Jorge Paulo Lemann, who ranks 37th on the index with an $18.8-billion fortune. The country's second-richest person is Dirce Camargo, the matriarch behind Camargo Correa, the Sao Paulo conglomerate that has interests in cement, electricity and Havaianas flip-flops. Her net worth is $13.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking.
Camargo, who doesn't appear on any other major international wealth ranking, is one of 54 billionaires the index uncovered during the year. Among the others: Hamdi Ulukaya, the 40-year-old Turkish immigrant owner of Chobani, the bestselling yogurt brand in the U.S.; South Africa's Nathan "Natie" Kirsh, 80, who amassed a $5.4-billion fortune in retail and real estate; and Elaine Marshall, 70, whose 14.6% ownership of closely held Koch Industries makes her the fourth-richest woman in America. She is worth $14.1 billion.
Koch Industries' two other shareholders, the brothers Charles and David Koch, are each worth $40.9 billion, up $7.1 billion, or 20.9%, for the year.
Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison rose $6.4 billion in 2012 as shares of the world's largest database company jumped 31.7%. Ellison, 68, who has more than tripled the amount of Oracle stock he has pledged against lines of credit in the last year, agreed to buy 98% of Hawaii's Lanai island. The 141-square-mile parcel with no traffic lights was purchased from billionaire David Murdock, the 89-year-old chairman of Dole Food Co., the world's largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The bulk of Ellison's fortune comes from his 23.5% stake in Oracle. He also has interests in software makers NetSuite Inc. and LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., as well as property holdings, including estates in California and Newport, R.I.
In America it's the fault of gays, atheists, blacks and Latinos. In Italy it's the fault of women. Especially because of the cold meals. And if you don't agree then you're gay.
A Catholic priest in Italy has created a firestorm by claiming that women bring violence on themselves by serving cold food and dressing provocatively.
Father Piero Corsi of Liguria sparked outrage after members of his congregation posted his Christmas bulletin onto Facebook. The flyer, entitled “Women and femicide – healthy self-criticism. How often do they provoke?” said victims of domestic and sexual violence should question if they were themselves to blame for the incident.
The flyer said women “provoke the worst instincts” and “should search their consciences and ask: did we bring this on ourselves?”
“The fact is that women are increasingly provocative, they become arrogant, they believe themselves to be self-sufficient and end up exacerbating the situation,” Corsi added. “Children are abandoned to their own devices, homes are dirty, meals are cold or fast food, clothes are filthy.”
He later added fuel to the fire by suggesting an Italian reporter must be gay if he wasn’t enticed by a picture of a nude woman.
Following the uproar in Italy, Corsi said he plans “to take a period of rest.”
Daniel Hopsicker is an investigative reporter who's done lots of work on the drug trade and various governments involved in it. For America, that's the CIA and DEA. The question now is whether or not there's a go-ahead for the coup.
For more than a year the CIA has been trafficking 300 kilos of cocaine a month from Ecuador to Chile for export on to Europe, according to recent credible media reports from Santiago, the Chilean capital.
Proceeds from the 300 kilo-a-month business have been used to create a war-chest to finance a Cocaine Coup in Ecuador that was scheduled to be “green-lighted” after the expected win in the just-concluded U.S. Presidential election—expected, at least, by some Agency officials—of Mitt Romney.
It's a CIA “Ay, there’s the rub” moment.
The machinations were part of a plan to topple current Ecuador President Rafael Correa, who is unpopular in Washington.
An unexpected side effect of the revelation of the plan, which has received little publicity, has been to focus an observer's attention on what's going on in the drug trade in Ecuador lately. The country's history in the drug business, almost as rich as Switzerland's with banks, goes back a long way.
When it comes to efficiently moving drugs, this is far from Ecuador's first rodeo, and the drug network there is one of long-standing, (Wikileaks PDF).
So too is its relationship with both the the CIA and DEA.
For example, when famous CIA drug pilot Barry Seal was first caught smuggling cocaine way back in 1979, he picked up his huge load of cocaine—it was 45 kilos; those were more innocent times—in Guayaquil, one of Ecuador’s three major seaports.
Things are always happening around the world and though we think we're in an age where we are plugged into everything, some news manages to miss us. I'm not talking about a train crash in India or flooding in Bangladesh.
For example, there is a legitimate movement for Scotland to secede from Britain, and to strengthen ties to Scandinavian countries. The Scottish National Party is the main political force behind this. Here:
An independent Scotland would shift much of its attention away from the UK to become a member of the Scandinavian circle of countries, with its own army, navy and air force modelled on its Nordic neighbours, according to detailed plans being drawn up by the SNP.
Senior SNP strategists are compiling a "prospectus for independence" which they hope to use to sell the idea of separation to Scots ahead of the referendum in 2014 or 2015.
The document is not due to be published in full for another year but SNP insiders have disclosed key extracts.
They reveal that SNP leaders want an independent Scotland to look north and east in Europe for partnerships, trade and key defence relationships, rather than continuing to focus on western Europe and the Commonwealth, as the UK does now.
Senior Nationalists, including Alex Salmond, have made several trips to Scandinavia over the last couple of years, meeting ministers and officials in an attempt to pave the way for greater co-operation if Scotland becomes independent, particularly on energy. Indeed, initial plans have already been drawn up for an electricity super-grid between Scotland and Norway.
SNP strategists insist that Scotland would continue to be extremely close to the rest of the UK, which would remain its biggest trading partner, but they also believe that Scotland has more in common with its Scandinavian neighbours than the UK does and they are keen to take this relationship to a new level.
The Scandinavian approach is being driven by Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence and foreign affairs spokesman in Westminster. Mr Robertson said recently that Scotland's relationship with its Scandinavian neighbours had suffered because of a southern bias since the Act of Union in 1707.
He declared: "Our neighbours to the north and east have already made a good start and work constructively together. We need to join them and play our part. The UK has opted out of a serious approach. We should not."
As well as being used to sell the idea of an independent Scotland at home, the prospectus for independence will be the basis for negotiations with Westminster if the referendum is won. In those negotiations, Alex Salmond will demand 9 per cent (roughly Scotland's share of the UK population) of all UK assets, including defence hardware.
Not sure how the electrical grid will work, though.