By Alan W. Dowd

Billionaire Blues
If you think the last 12 months have been hard on your bottom line, imagine what it feels like to lose $32 billion. That’s what India’s Anil Ambani—a communications and banking magnate—lost in 2008. He was the biggest loser among the world’s billionaires, according to Forbes.

In fact, 373 people fell from the Forbes billionaire list (which included 1,125 men and women in 2008).

Bill Gates lost $18 billion, Warren Buffet lost $25 billion and Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helu lost $25 billion. Yet Gates reclaimed the top spot on the list of billionaires as the world’s richest man.

All told, 110 Americans, 55 Russians and 29 Indians lost their billionaire status, according to Forbes.

The average net worth of the world’s billionaires “fell 23 percent to $3 billion.” Of course, losing a billion—or two or 32—is a lot easier to take when you have a billion in the bank.

Fires of War
A terrorist group is calling on its followers to launch a “forest jihad” by setting forest fires in the U.S., Australia, Europe and Russia. Leaders of the al-Ikhlas Islamic Network believe the fires would create a new “level of fear that would take hold of people in the United States, in Europe, in Russia and in Australia.”

Troops and Transformers
Anyone interested in seeing our military in action can do so from the safety of a movie theater, when Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen opens at the end of this month.

“As far as I know, this is the biggest joint military operation movie ever made, in terms of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines,” Lt. Col. Gregory Bishop, the film’s Army liaison, told USAToday.

According to USAToday, military assets used in the film include:

  • two A-10s,
  • six F-16s,
  • 10 Humvees,
  • the Army Golden Knights parachute team,
  • two M-1 Abrams tanks and two M-2 Bradley fighting vehicles,
  • two missile-launcher vehicles, and
  • two armored personnel carriers.

In addition, a high-tech F-22 makes an appearance.

USAToday reports that the Pentagon cooperated extensively with the film’s production team, granting broad access to the Army’s New Mexico missile range and allowing filmmakers to capture footage from jets flying out of Holloman AFB and off the carrier USS John C. Stennis. In addition, real Marines are featured in the film’s battle sequences. All are “off-duty enlisted men and women paid to be extras,” the paper reports.

Working with Hollywood not only allows the Pentagon to showcase its personnel and equipment; it also helps the troops, according to Lt. Col. Francisco Hamm, the Air Force liaison to the film. “The morale level goes through the roof,” Hamm explained to USAToday. “There's nothing like an airman taking his family out to Transformers and watching the kids see something their father or mother does on the big screen.”

As a contributing editor to The American Legion Magazine, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.