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Big Money

17 Billion

You know, it's a lot of money. But really, what is 17 billion? In America, it's 1000 million. Just to confuse things, in Europe a billion often refers to a million millions. Whatever, the number shows up with remarkable frequency in the news. Here's a short sampling:

— According to a report from Eurostat released this week, the European Union's trade deficit with the rest of the world was 17.1 billion Euros. That's up from 15.3 just last October.

— CBS News reported last year that in 1983, companies spent $100 million marketing to kids. In 2007, they spent nearly $17 billion.

— Last year Thompson Corporation paid $17.2 billion to acquire the news wire service, Reuters Group.

— Microsoft's 2007 version of Excel offers a maximum spreadsheet size of 16,000 columns containing 17 billion cells.

— Astronomers believe the universe is about 17 billion years old.

— Last year Princeton University's endowment was estimated to be worth about $17 billion

— An Egyptian blogger recently estimated the cost of building The Great Pyramid, at today's labor rates: about 17 billion British pounds.

The Huffington Post reported this week that Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme may cost the US Treasury $17 billion in lost tax revenue.

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— Assuming a Cadillac budget of $5 million per year, $17 billion would keep Day to Day on the air for more than three millennia, until the year 5409.

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