[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:18 GMT
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are BILL GATES, with ANDREW STRAUSS, NICOLE KIDMAN, JOHNNY CARSON and THE TASMANIAN DEVIL.

BILL GATES

Bill Gates' $750m donation to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation is just the latest move in his plan to give away most of his fortune during his lifetime.

F Scott Fitzgerald's oft-quoted aphorism, "the rich are different from you and me", is an old chestnut, as is Ernest Hemingway's equally famous rejoinder, "Yes. They have more money."

But far from wallowing in the delight of their vast wealth, a remarkable number of the super-rich, mainly Americans it seems, have gone out of their way to fulfil what they see as a responsibility to society as a whole: to make the world a better place.

Everyone knows of the Scots-born US steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie, who gave away millions to build his eponymous public libraries and who once said: "He who dies rich dies disgraced."

The Ford Foundation, built on money from the car company, does sterling work in the field of education and international co-operation.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Largesse: Bill Gates and his wife Melinda
And the Rhodes Scholarships, built on the proceeds of African gold and diamonds, have brought people including Kris Kristofferson, Naomi Wolff and Bill Clinton to study at Oxford University.

But all of these are now dwarfed in scale by a new kid on the block. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 1994 and funded by Microsoft's ongoing dominance of the worldwide computer market, can boast assets of 13bn.

Gates' wealth, recently reckoned to be around $46bn (25bn) means not only that he could stand drinks for everyone in the world for a whole evening but also that he and his wife are able to play a strategic role in international development.

Until today, this has been the preserve of nation states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

But it's not just the sheer size of the Gates Foundation which differentiates it from the rest.

Rather than standing as mere custodians, whose primary role is simply to distribute largesse, Bill and Melinda Gates have favoured an increasingly hands-on approach to their charity, which aims to tackle worldwide health problems including Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Vaccine hope

"I think both making money and giving it away well are quite difficult, probably equally so," Gates wrote recently. "At one time I thought it would be confusing to be doing both at the same time. But that has turned out OK."

To this end, Mr and Mrs Gates have steeped themselves in learning about the problems confronting poor people in the developing world; a lack of even basic sanitation, poor levels of immunisation and little, if any, education about sexual and reproductive health.

Every cent spent by the foundation is personally cleared by Bill or Melinda and they have travelled thousands of miles, especially in Africa, to watch, listen and talk to those they are trying to assist.

Bill Gates, Tony Blair and Bono
Big hitters: Gates, Blair and Bono
Their foundation has almost doubled the amount spent on malaria research, provided whole nations with the wherewithal to combat HIV/Aids, and has poured cash into the high-risk, low-return hunt for vaccines to combat a raft of diseases.

Such spending has brought criticism, with some NGOs feeling left out of the loop in the face of the Gates leviathan. Others welcome the new money, and the can-do ethos which underpins it.

But, not content with being the 16th largest donor in the world, the Gates Foundation plans a huge expansion in its activities. Its Grand Challenges in Human Health initiative, due to be launched within months, sets out to attack 14 so-called "roadblocks" to better health.

These include preparing vaccines that do not require refrigeration and using genetic engineering to kill the insects which spread disease. The vision is huge, but then again, so are the funds to back it up.

Who knows? Maybe Bill Gates' almost evangelistic approach to eradicating illness may yet be able to CTRL-ALT-DEL some of the world's biggest killers.


ANDREW STRAUSS

England batsman Andrew Strauss has been named Man of the Series following the successful tour to South Africa. The 27 year-old Middlesex left-hander dominated the five match Test series, finishing with 656 runs at an average of 72, including centuries at Port Elizabeth, Durban and his birthplace, Johannesburg. England's first series win in South Africa since 1965 sets up the relishing prospect of success against Australia in this summer's Ashes clash.

NICOLE KIDMAN

A difficult week for Nicole Kidman, pipped for the award of Australian of the Year by a surgeon and so troubled by the Australian paparazzi that she took legal action against them. Currently filming in Sydney with Russell Crowe, the actress won a restraining order against two photographers whose behaviour allegedly made her fear for her safety. A bugging device was found outside her home and photographers were reported to have driven through red lights in pursuit of Kidman's vehicle.

JOHNNY CARSON

America's most famous chat show host, Johnny Carson, died at the age of 79, 13 years after his retirement from the Tonight show. Behind the banter which entertained millions of Americans for nearly 30 years, Carson was a private man. He struggled with alcohol, made some disastrous business investments and all but the last of his four marriages ended in divorce. But he became a national institution through his ability to reflect the prevailing mood of the nation.

THE TASMANIAN DEVIL

Fears are growing for the future of the Tasmanian Devil, the ferocious antipodean beast popularised in cartoons. A mystery cancer affecting the face has already wiped-out half of their numbers, or 75,000 animals, since being discovered in 1997. Researchers believe the disease is passed from devil to devil as they bite and scratch each other while mating, as well as fighting over animal carcasses. The facial tumours reduce the animal's ability to feed and kill in about six months.

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Andrew Walker



PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific