Ever been dissed by your cable-TV provider when you called to report a problem with your service? If so, imagine the reaction of subscribers who phoned NTL, Britain's largest cable company, late last week seeking help with their connections and were greeted with a taped message: "You are through to customer services. We don't give a [bleep] about you ... and we are not going to handle any of your complaints. Just [bleep] off and leave us alone." Suspicion fell on a malicious hacker or perhaps a disgruntled employee. NTL apologized profusely and quickly changed the tape.
Speaking of profanity, the air must have been pretty blue over the summer in Belgorod, a Russian region near Ukraine. A new clean-living campaign declared by authorities includes a ban on swearing in public. The penalty: a $50 fine. By mid-September, $17,400 had been collected from offenders.
Bill Gates remains the richest American on this year's Forbes magazine list of the 400 wealthiest individuals. His $48 billion net worth far exceeds that of tycoons such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch (27th with $6.9 billion) and real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump (tied for 74th with $2.6 billion). Even so, Microsoft's magnate can't match the combined wealth ($90 billion) of the five members of Wal-Mart's Walton family. The 10 richest Americans, with their worth in billions of dollars:
1. Bill Gates $48 (Microsoft Corp.)
2. Warren Buffett 41 (Berkshire Hathaway Inc.)
3. Paul Allen 20 (cofounder of Microsoft)
4. Alice Walton 18 each Helen Walton Jim Walton John Walton S. Robson Walton (Wal-Mart Stores)
9. Michael Dell 14 (Dell Inc.)
10. Lawrence Ellison 13 (Oracle Corp.)