Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Benevolent Eye on America Billionaire Soros Puts Focus, Cash on Issues of Drugs, Death

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Benevolent Eye on America Billionaire Soros Puts Focus, Cash on Issues of Drugs, Death

Article excerpt

George Soros is spending billions of dollars to help the former Soviet Union and its allies. Now trends there have discouraged him and he is turning to two American problems he sees as being handled unrealistically: drugs and death.

His shift appears as a theme of his new book, "Soros on Soros - Staying Ahead of the Curve."

In 321 pages of dialogues, Soros explains to a fellow investor, Byron Wien, managing director of Morgan Stanley, how he made his billions and to Krisztina Koenen, a German journalist, how he is spending them.

Soros, 65, has made a fortune estimated as high as $10 billion, mostly through currency speculation. As a young Jew he survived both the Nazi and Communist takeovers of his native Hungary, studied at the London School of Economics, worked as railway porter in Britain and made his fortune on Wall Street.

He plans to give away $300 million this year, one of the largest amounts in American philanthropy. Though the bulk of that money will still go to Eastern Europe, he has started a "Project on Death in America," with a pledge of $5 million a year.

"We have been told all about sex, but very little about dying," Soros says in his book. "Yet dying is even more widespread than sex. It cannot be avoided, but we ought to come to terms with it."

He wants to encourage people to die at home - four out of five Americans die in hospitals - to encourage family involvement in lessening the horror of the experience, and to educate medical professionals to pay more attention to relieving pain.

His interest comes in part from the death of his mother. "She had this experience . . . of walking up to the gates of heaven, and I was accompanying her," he said when he founded the project. "Her dying was really a very positive experience for all of us."

As for how to deal with drugs, Soros says he still has an open mind and has set up an institute to investigate possible new policies. …

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