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Monday, July 9, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Richest man's gifts pale next to Gates'

Is Bill Gates no longer the richest man on Earth?

Possibly.

As Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim adds $3.5 billion to his piggy bank every month, according to Business Week, the most recent estimate figures his wealth at $67.8 billion, eclipsing Gates' measly $56 billion at the end of 2006. Much of Slim's treasure chest comes from his holdings in wireless and wireline Latin American companies.

Now that Slim's wallet is so fat, people are questioning his charitable contributions.

Looks like he can't beat the Microsoft co-founder there.

Gates' wealth, in part, has shrunk over the years because of his donations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of about $33 billion. Those funds also include donations by billionaire Warren Buffett.

Business Week compared that with Slim's charities, which include a $1.2 billion endowment of his telecom company's Telmex Foundation. On top of that, Slim has a family charity — the Carso Foundation — worth $2.5 billion.

Telmex Foundation is reportedly the largest corporate giver in Latin American.

iPhone on hold

In the week leading up to the launch of the Apple iPhone, we talked to Chase Forslund, who wanted one so badly he was willing to sell his 2003 Ford Ranger to pay for it.

"If I begged my mom, maybe I could have afforded one," said the 24-year-old Capitol Hill resident, "but otherwise it would have definitely taken some saving to get up to $500 or $600. So, no, I could not have bought one if I didn't sell my car."

Three days before launch date, we found him waiting for a potential buyer to arrive at the downtown Seattle Greyhound bus station. Forslund figured the $8,000 he was asking would cover both the pricey phone and a moped to get around on.

He was eager to replace his black Motorola Razr, which he spray-painted a tanlike beige to give it a cooler look.

Forslund checked in with us by e-mail last week to let us know the latest. Because the e-mail subject line was "iPhoneless," we had an idea of how things were going.

He wrote: "As for buying the phone, it hasn't happened yet. My bank is holding the check until the 13th ... UGH!"

While thousands of people couldn't wait for stores to open on iDay, camping out on sidewalks around the country, just imagine, Forslund has to wait five more days!

You can call us

More homes in Washington state have phones than any other state in the nation, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission report.

The report found that 98.3 percent of residents here subscribe to telephone service, including wired, wireless and other types of services.

Alabama ranked the lowest with a penetration rate of 90.7 percent. The national average: 94.6 percent

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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