Backstory: Buffetted into giving charity

This week's news that Warren Buffett would soon be giving away 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune really lifted my spirits, even though, as far as I can determine, he's giving none of it to me.

This will still leave the 75-year-old Buffett with about $6.6 billion, which, if he doesn't go too wild, should last him well into old age. But, it got me to thinking, what if Buffett's generosity is contagious? What if other well-heeled individuals and corporations surprised us with random acts of kindness? Then we might see stories like these.

IRVING, TEXAS – ExxonMobil, one of the world's largest oil companies, is buying and giving away 295,000,000 tickets to Al Gore's hit movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," so that every American will understand how our dependence on oil is rapidly bringing on an environmental cataclysm. Proceeds from the ticket sale will be used to fund the development of renewable energy sources.

HOUSTON – Former Enron CEO Ken Lay, convicted last month of sucking the company dry while thousands of employees lost their life savings, has announced that he will repay every dollar even if it means selling every last home and car he owns. Said a contrite Lay, "And if that doesn't cover it, I will work flipping burgers or washing cars. I don't care. Whatever it takes."

BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox, with the highest average ticket prices in Major League Baseball, announced today that the proceeds from every ticket sold in the 2007 season will be donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The club said the giveaway was made possible when the team's players agreed, unanimously, to a 75 percent salary cut for next year.

ALONG THE PAKISTANI/AFGHAN BORDER – Ayman Al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's No. 2 man, has announced a weapons buy-back program similar to one started by Boston Mayor Tom Menino earlier this year. In a videotape delivered last week to Al Jazeera, Mr. Zawahiri said the goal of the program is to get guns and grenade launchers off the mean streets of Islamabad.

Al-Zawahiri also announced his willingness to buy North Korean nuclear weapons. "We can't have mad men like Kim holding the world hostage," he said.

WASHINGTON – With record budget deficits and the US deeply in hock to China, which owns trillions in US Treasury bills, President Bush announced today that the government is deeding the entire national park system to China as a way of saying "thank you."

"Fiscal responsibility means paying your bills," he said at a hastily arranged press conference in the Rose Garden, with the Chinese ambassador looking on. "I've been assured the parks will remain protected, although the food served at concessions might change."

HOUSTON – Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playboy playmate who, at age 26 married 89 year-old oil billionaire Howard Marshall, and who has been locked in a legal fight over her deceased husband's estate, announced today that if she wins her battle she will donate the entire fortune to the Save the Whales Foundation. "This has never been about me or the money," said Ms. Smith. "It's always been about the whales."

Peter Zheutlin is a freelance writer based in Boston.

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