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Nonprofit ‘Mercy Ships’ to Launch World’s Largest Non-Governmental Hospital Ship

Becton, Dickenson and Company (BD) is a medical technology company, one of the largest in the world and over 120 years old. They essentially invented the modern hypodermic needle, and in the last decade have spent over $30 billion in acquiring some of their competitors.

Feel what you may about the cost of medicine, which tech companies like BD certainly play a large part in, this company works to maintain a clean public image. In 2010, BD was ranked 18th in the Fortune 500 Green List, which ranks all of the Fortune 500 companies by their environmental impact. And then there is Mercy Ships.

Mercy Ships is a global nonprofit with which BD is partnered, running hospital ships which can travel to underserved countries and ports, providing medical care and infrastructure without needing anything new to be built on site.

Celebrating 25 years of their partnership, BD is donating $1 million to the charity to support the construction and launch of the Global Mercy, which at 571 feet and 37,000 tons will be the largest ever non-government hospital ship. The Global Mercy will feature six operating rooms, a fully-functioning hospital, and will house as many as 600 staff, from highly-trained surgeons to volunteers.

Once launched, the Global Mercy will join Mercy Ships’ only other extant vessel, Africa Mercy, in bringing medical care to African nations, where the need for quality surgical care is highest. According to Mercy Ships’ website, 18.6 million people die a year in need of surgical care, nearly all of them in Africa.

“The high quality, compassionate surgical care that Mercy Ships provides to patients has transformed nearly three million lives over four decades,” said Tom Polen, CEO and President at BD. “It’s been a privilege for BD to support the Mercy Ships mission over the past 25 years, and with this newest philanthropic commitment, we look forward to being part of the life-saving medical treatment that the Global Mercy will bring to millions of vulnerable patients.”

Source: Press Release

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Serena Williams Donates 4.25 Million Masks for Kids

Serena Williams, one of the most highly decorated athletes of all time, is one of many celebrities taking public health into her own hands during the COVID-19 crisis. On Sunday August 9th, the tennis star announced on her Instagram that she’s teaming up with clothing company Bella Canvas, publishing company Scholastic Inc, and the National School Board Association to donate 4.25 million masks to underserved schools around the country. Additionally, the team-up, going by the hashtag #MasksForKids, wants to distribute educational materials about masks to every schoolchild in the country.

Schools will also be able to buy additional masks for students, with a mask donated for every mask sold, on top of that initial 4+ million.

“Getting back to school this fall means having #masksforkids to wear,” Williams wrote. “I’m grateful to be able to help educate our schools about this resource, and to be given the opportunity to serve so many students.”

While scientists almost universally agree that children in the U.S. should not be going back to school in person this fall at all, in many states, classes have already begun. For instance, in Georgia, schools began in the first week of August. North Paulding High School, where a student’s pictures of crowded, maskless hallways went viral after she was suspended for taking them, has already seen nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in both students and staff.

If students are going to be back in class, despite these risks, they must be given masks. And the wearing of them must be enforced, along with education of why it is so important to do so. Too many Americans simply don’t or won’t understand that wearing a mask is an act of compassion, not a sign of fear. Education is the key to moving past the politicization we’ve seen these past few months and stopping this pandemic from spreading even further.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Creators, Cast Donate to Protester Bail Funds

During the protests over police brutality in the United States after the death on video of George Floyd, the police arrested over 10,000 protesters across the country in just the first two weeks, and they haven’t stopped. Some of the arrests for looting and violence, but others have been plainly unjust, such as the arrest of Evan Hreha, who was arrested for “unlawfully discharging a laser” by a mob of cops while walking his dog a week after his footage of a 7-year-old child screaming in pain after police pepper sprayed him directly in the face went viral.

Hreha was released without bail after 43 hours, but many have not been so lucky. A variety of charities have been launched to provide bail funds for the hundreds of protesters who are still awaiting charges or trial. For many, waiting in a cell is life-ruining. Every hour they remain inside, they risk losing a job, custody of their children, or their apartment, and they’re made less able to participate in their own defense.

The cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a comedy show which satirizes the police and has an excellent track record of not shrinking away from the either issues of police corruption or the risks they face, has been vocally on the side of the protesters since this began.

“The cast and showrunner of ‘Brooklyn 99’ condemn the murder of George Floyd and support the many people who are protesting police brutality nationally,” tweeted Dan Goor, the show’s co-creator. “Together we have made a $100,000 donation to The National Bail Fund Network. We encourage you to look up your local bail fund: the National Bail Fund Network is an organization that can lead you to them. #blacklivesmatter.”

Stephanie Beatriz, one of the show’s lead actors, also made a personal donation of $11,000 to support bail funds, and said she regards it as her moral responsibility.

“I’m an actor who plays a detective on tv,” Beatriz tweeted. “If you currently play a cop? If you make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in residuals from playing a cop? I’ll let you do the math.”

The Brooklyn Nine-Nine donations is just the latest in a series of large donations to Black Lives Matter and related causes. K-pop group BTS and its fans donated millions, and Bank of America pledged $1 billion to address racial inequality.

Photo: A June 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C.

Credit: Kalen Martin-Gross / Shutterstock.com

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Sam Mendes Establishes Fund for Theater Workers with Help from Netflix

On Monday, July 6, the British government announced a £1.5 billion effort to help hard-hit arts organizations in the UK through the pandemic. Art institutions like the National Gallery have only just begun reopening, but performance venues still probably have months to go before they can resume operating at their normal occupancy levels. Several major venues have already announced they’re overrun, and won’t be able to re-open at all. Art lobbyists have stated that they don’t expect things to return to normal until April 2021, at best.

While the government package is encouraging news, the process of dissemination its funds has not yet even begun, and many businesses, and the people they’ve already had to lay off, are in dire straits now. It has been nearly four months since all theaters, venues, and cultural sites were closed.

In light of this, film director Sam Mendes, and the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, has established the Theatre Artists Fund. The new initiative is meant to directly help British arts workers whose livelihoods have been cut off by the pandemic.

Money for the fund has come from Netflix, who announced a £500,000 ($625,000) donation to initiative the fund.

“Playwrights and directors, theatre artits and performers, composers and comedians, are the lifeblood of our industry too and, while Netflix has been more fortunate than many, in the end we are only as strong as the people we work with,” said Anne Mensah in a statement about the donation. Mensah is the vice president of original content at Netflix.

The fund will deliver £1000 grants directly to freelance and laid-off theatre workers who suffer under the ongoing effect of the pandemic.

The money is specifically intended for “theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether,” said Mendes in a statement. He hopes that further donations will be forthcoming.

Source: Forbes

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Jack Dorsey Gives $5M to Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income Experiment

In early March, while governments were still figuring out how seriously to take the COVID-19 crisis, Andrew Yang seems to have seen the writing on the wall. The former Presidential candidate launched Humanity Forward, a nonprofit focused on continuing the promises of his platform, especially Universal Basic Income (UBI) and data privacy by encouraging new voters and voting down-ballot, clear down to the local levels. Grassroots progress at its most democratic.

As March wore on and American unemployment suddenly rose from 4 percent to over 20 percent, Yang announced that his organization would begin experiments in offering UBI. They began with a $500,000 budget, experimenting in a small, unnamed New York town to study the benefits. On March 20th, CNN announced that Humanity Forward would spend $1 million in $1,000 payments to 500 low-income Bronx households during the crisis. 

Yang always planned to expand those numbers, if he could seek out additional funding. On Sunday, May 21, Jack Dorsey gave him some of that. The Twitter billionaire donated $5 million to Humanity Forward, and Humanity Forward has announced that plans to immediately distribute that money in $250 grants to nearly 20,000 people who have lost their jobs or their hours to the pandemic.

Dorsey, who backed Yang’s run for the presidency, believes that UBI is a necessary antidote to capitalism gone over the top, and that it can’t remain only an intellectual problem. “The only way we can change policy is by experimenting and showing case studies of why this works,” he said on Yang’s podcast, Yang Speaks.

“Not only will Jack’s donation directly impact tens of thousands of people in need during the current economic downturn, it will help Humanity Forward and our movement continue to make a case for universal basic income in the United States,” said Yang in a released statement. “We know UBI for every American is possible, and this $5 million from Start Small [Dorsey’s charitable foundation] is going to help demonstrate what is possible for families across the country.”

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K-Pop Group BTS and its Fans Donate Millions to Black Lives Matter

BTS, aka Bangtan Sonyeondan, 방탄소년단, or the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-man boy band from Seoul. Performing, writing, and producing together since 2010, They’ve evolved from hip hop to a diverse pop-influenced style, trading heavily on the trials of personal growth and coming of age for material. Massively popular in South Korea, they used Youtube to leap into the international music market in 2017. Since then, 4 albums have topped the US music charts in the fastest rise since the Beatles. Globally, they were the second-best selling artists of 2018, and as of 2019, the group is reported to be worth 0.3 percent of South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product.

Their popularity and financial success have given the band a platform that they haven’t shied away from using. In 2017, they launched their Love Myself campaign with the aid of UNICEF, funding social programs to reduce violence against children and teenagers and to support victims of violence. The members of the band donated approximately $500,000 personally, and two years of all proceeds from the campaign’s merchandise sales. By 2019, the campaign had raised over $2 million.

Other philanthropic efforts included another partnership with UNICEF, their “Generation Unlimited” fundraiser to support continuing education for at-risk youth, and “Be the Brightest Stars,” a Starbucks initiative which raised money toward career support for disadvantaged Korean youths.

On June 6, BTS’s members revealed that they had donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter, the international human rights movement addressing violence and authoritarian racism against black people. It was, at the time, one of the largest celebrity donations to come in the aftermath of the murder by police of George Floyd. The popular band’s army of fans were swift to match their donation, raising another $1 million for BLM under the hashtags #MatchAMillion and #MatchtheMillion. The fans also used their numbers to take over and drown out #WhiteOutWednesday, a tone-deaf or outright racist response to the black day of visibility, #BlackoutTuesday.

Source: CNN

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Magic Johnson’s EquiTrust to Donate $100M to Support Minority-Owned Businesses

When Earvin “Magic” Johnson retired from playing professional basketball in 2000, it was already obvious that he was not the sort of man who would just retire and ride out his substantial fortune for the rest of his days. He’d already tried his hand at coaching, and at hosting a television show, and starting a record label. And he was just getting started.

Today, Johnson runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a diverse conglomerate company with a net worth over $700 million, which dabbles in dozens of different industries. Briefly, he owned 125 Starbucks locations. At another time, a chain of movie theaters in his name. For a while, he owned part of the L.A. Lakers and a Pepsi bottling plant in Washington. And he continues to own a controlling interest in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company.

Under his direction, EquiTrust is going to donate $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for business owners who have been struck down by the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing minorities and children.

The donation, which will be distributed as forgivable loans via lender MBE Capital Partners, will be governed by the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, the small business stimulus plan meant to help small businesses keep their staff on the payroll, giving them a greater chance of weathering the crisis.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said on MSNBC on Sunday, May 17. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

His statement alludes to the concern that minority-owned businesses have been left out, after the PPP stimulus has run out, been renewed, and run out of funds again, with large percentages of the package being snapped up by businesses which are not by any means ‘small.’

Source: CNN

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Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s Initiative Urges Prisons to Address COVID-19

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the flea-spread typhus was spread so heavily in prisons that it was called jail fever. It spread unavoidably between inmates because they were crowded in conditions that didn’t allow them to take care of their own hygiene. And while endemic typhus is no longer a jailhouse plague, inmates are still particularly vulnerable to crowd-spread disease.

The steps we’re all taking to keep one another safe – social distance, frequent hand-washing, sanitizer, and masks – aren’t available to inmates. As of the end of April, over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in U.S. prisons and jails.

Reform Alliance, an organization launched in 2019 by rappers Meek Mill and Jay-Z, is an initiative dedicated towards prison reform, specifically aiming at challenging the for-profit prison model that many say results in over-sentencing. Their overall goal is to reduce the number of people subject to parole and probation law by one million before 2025, by changing laws and policies. But in the current crisis, more urgent goals have risen up.

“COVID-19 is ripping through our prison system and risking the lives of everyone inside,” says a pop-up when one visits Reform Alliance’s website, directing visitors to a petition they can sign with their Facebook information. The petition urges prison authorities to increase the safety of their facilities, including equipment, monitoring, and reporting.

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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donates $13.6M to Antibody Testing

In 2015 on the birthday of their daughter, pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to fight disease worldwide. In the past 5 years, most of their activities have been towards securing funding beyond the $1 billion in yearly funds coming from Facebook shares, but now they are taking a step forward.

On Wednesday, April 29th, Zuckerberg announced that the Initiative would be donating $13.6 million towards COVID-19 antibody testing in San Franscisco, and coordinating with Stanford University and the University of California to conduct antibody studies in the Bay Area.

There will be two studies, one of which has already begun. The first will test 4,000 Bay Area volunteers monthly for both active COVID-19 and for the antibodies which will indicate they’ve encountered the disease before. That one will run from April into December, and be used to track where new cases emerge, helping to guide a safe return to normal.

The second study will be localized to frontline health care workers. 3,500 doctors, nurses, and EMTs will be tested weekly to determine how heavily and quickly the medical community can be hit. It will also work on determining if prior infection means future immunity, which is so far an unknown factor. Many important things hinge on whether or not you can re-catch the disease, and no one really knows yet.

Both studies are intended to be used as guideposts in reopening business and normal life in and around San Franscisco, but their data will have world-wide applications. The Chan Zuckerberg donation is the largest single share of funding coming into this vital project.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg also mentioned combining the data from both studies with the self-report symptom surveys that Facebook has been running for a Carnegie Mellon research group, which could provide even more information.

Source: The Week

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Bloomberg Donates $2 Million to Fight Voter Suppression

Having freshly stepped off of the stage of Democrat candidates, Michael Bloomberg has moved immediately into doing his best to boost voter turnout.

“Voter suppression efforts across the country have been a barely disguised effort to keep Black Americans and other Democratic-leaning voters from the polls,” said Bloomberg in a statement on Monday, March 9th. “I’ve always believed we need to make it easier for all citizens to register and vote, not harder.”

Putting his money where his mouth is, Bloomberg took action with a $2 million donation to Collective Future, a nonprofit which partners with grassroots groups to focus on registering black voters in places where many haven’t been registered before.

Collective Future, which is the nonprofit arm of The Collective PAC, has a mission to “fix the challenge of African American underrepresentation in elected seats of power throughout our nation.”

“There is a critical need for Black voter engagement across the country in the 2020 election and beyond and we are deeply grateful to Mike Bloomberg for his partnership and dedication to this critical cause,” said Quentin James, president of The Collective PAC in a statement responding to the donation.

Historically, black voters have faced a number of obstacles in casting their ballots. From the now-illegal literacy tests and poll taxes to voter roll purges alleged to fight voting fraud but disproportionately impacting black communities, those obstacles aren’t over. Bloomberg’s donation will help put feet on the ground towards getting black voters registered and engaged.

Bloomberg, currently #9 on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest people in the world, is worth approximately $56 billion, and has spent billions over the decades to back his political affiliations, which change from time to time. In 2018, he spent hundreds of millions propping up Democratic candidates in the congressional races. He’s pledged to do so again in 2022.

Source: CBS News

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