Tom Paulson

Humanosphere Blogger

The host of the Humanosphere community is Tom Paulson, who spent 22 years reporting on science and medicine at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Tom was one of the first daily news reporters to cover the topic of “global health” (a much-debated label which he discusses the merits of on the Humanosphere website).

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BBC

It’s a safe bet.  Sending cardboard boxes to poor countries will be the next big global child health initiative.

The use of cardboard boxes as child beds in Finland has persisted in popularity for nearly 75 years thanks to this government providing families with these boxed-up maternity packages. The parents are given the option to take 140 euros in cash or a box filled with baby needs. The package includes goodies such outdoor gear for the cold Finnish winters, bedding and diapers. 95% of families choose the box. Then they use it as a crib.

Delaney Ruston spent a lot of her early days as a physician working in clinics for the poor and disenfranchised, like Berkeley Free Clinic and, later, Seattle’s Pike Market Medial Clinic with a few of area’s leading and long-time health activists Les Pittle and Joe Martin.

“Early on, I kept wondering why we, the medical community, usually just communicated by giving talks and writing reports, said Delaney. Why, she wondered, did the medical community not make better use of video, especially as a form of physician-doctor communication, since it is so emotionally compelling, personal and we’re such visual animals?

Sumi Abedin was making 18 cents an hour as a seamstress, putting together garments for Sean “P Diddy” Combs’ clothing line (known as Sean John Clothing) when the factory she worked in located outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, began burning.

“The door was locked and we couldn’t get out,” Abedin said, speaking through translator and Bangladeshi labor activist Kalpona Akter. She ended up having to leap from a three-story window, breaking an arm and a leg – and feeling lucky to have survived. More than a hundred did not.

Mike Urban / Humansophere

Malaria remains one of the world’s biggest killers and also a massive economic drag on poor countries, poor families.

One of our best weapons against this scourge is a drug known as artemisinin, which is harvested from the plant sweet wormwood and, as a crop, is about as predictable as corn or hog futures.

LasseSH / Flickr

Game designer Jane McGonigal thinks gaming can save the world, or at least help make it a better place.

“I know you’d rather hear that these games are turning kids into brain-dead zombies,” McGonical told a packed room at the University of Washington today, for the School of Social Work’s annual breakfast.

But the evidence suggests otherwise and that gaming is better than harmless. It could be a powerful force for good. Gaming is building a library in Ghana, for starters. More on that in a bit. 

bnilsen / Flickr

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation thinks safe sex isn’t as much fun as it should be.

At least, that seems to be the gist of one request for a grant application from the world’s largest philanthropy as part of its Grand Challenges Explorations program. One of the goals for this round is to develop a better condom.

“It is a bit unusual,” said Stephen Ward, the program officer with the Gates Foundation administering the project.

Melinda Gates is running full tilt against the Catholic Church on family planning and now the philanthropy’s blog is pumping out this thinly disguised attack on, well, rich people. Something seems to be changing over there. The Gates Foundation is getting political. As the authors — Joe Brewer, Martin Kirk and Adriana Valdez Young — say:

“The depiction of poverty as a background reality with no human cause conceals the active role of decision makers to create and perpetuate it.”

Read the full story on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

Today’s Seattle subversives are pretty low-key, superficially boring even — smiling at you in their wrinkled clothing, offering tea and cookies, mumbling quietly about equity and justice and gently nudging you toward whatever might be their most ambitious goal.

Take the iLEAP program, for example.

Read the story on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

“Good science is based on uncertainty, on having an open mind and dealing with the unknown,” said Dr. Jim Kublin, executive director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) based at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

His frankness got a laugh at the network’s meeting in Seattle this week. And what makes it easier to laugh about not knowing where you’re going, he added, is that researchers today have a lot more tantalizing clues.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Three of the area’s leading organizations at the forefront of this movement – Hub Seattle, Social Venture Partners and the Bainbridge Graduate Institute – celebrate the grand opening of their new conjoined and co-working space known as the Center for Impact and Innovation.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

"We invent things and have fun doing it. We explore ideas. Most of them won’t work but they don’t all need to work. We have a number of projects out there that I would say stand a fair chance of improving the lives of many people," Nathan Myhrvold.

The former chief technologist for Microsoftis a close associate of Bill Gates and now CEO of a business, Intellectual Ventures, which some say holds more patents (about 40,000) than any other company in the United States.

I wanted to talk to Myhrvold about his recent ventures into philanthropy, into humanitarianism, which his firm has dubbed its “Global Good” project.

Check out Humanosphere for the rest of the story.

The words “global health” conjure up for most folks images of health workers vaccinating children in Africa, major initiatives aimed at getting anti-HIV drugs or anti-malaria bed nets out to people in poor communities across the globe or any number of other noble efforts aimed at fighting diseases of poverty.

Most don’t think of global health as a means to also advance corporate or political agendas. But Anne-Emanuelle Birn does …

Read the interview on Humanosphere.

Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today published its 2011 annual report. Yes, I know it’s almost 2013. But they’ve been going through some big internal changes and all these annual reports are issued after-the-fact.

Check out the five main takeaways from the report on Humanosphere.

Partners Asia / Prasit Phasomsap

Burmese activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is now on a U.S. tour, her freedom celebrated as evidence of change in this once repressive nation. But a Seattle-based humanitarian organization that works with the poor in Myanmar-Burma still has to operate 'discreetly,' off the radar.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International AIDS Conference, a mega-meeting of more than 20,000 people, has opened here to fanfare, protests, calls to action and (overly?) ambitious proclamations aimed at fighting complacency.

The world’s biggest AIDS conference has returned to the U.S. – to a city with HIV infection rates comparable to some African nations – after 22 years of ‘separation’ due to our government’s ban against HIV-infected visitors. The Obama Administration repealed the travel ban in 2010.

It appears to be a critical moment for the global response to AIDS. The theme of AIDS 2012 is “Turning the Tide Together."

Read more on Humanosphere.

GILEAD

The FDA today approved the first drug, known as Truvada, for preventing HIV in people at high risk of infection due to ‘discordance’ – science lingo for being HIV negative but having a sex partner who is HIV positive.

Seattle scientists played a critical role in demonstrating the drug’s effectiveness in Kenya and Uganda studies.

Read more on Humanosphere.

The Associated Press

In a "landmark" legal case, the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline pled guilty last week to engaging in fraudulent, criminal behavior which included covering up adverse drug side-effects, promoting ineffective therapies and hiding unfavorable data — and will pay a record $3 billion in fines.

An aspect of the story that seems to be underreported is that one high-profile Glaxo executive alleged to have engaged in misbehavior is Tachi Yamada, former head of global health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who was before that head of research and development for GSK.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Michael Free Jazz Faster / Flickr

The threats to our well-being (well beyond climate change now) are quite real. The goals of Rio+20 – to arrive at consensus on what’s needed to avoid continuing this massive fouling of our nest – are perhaps more important to our future than any other meeting we could hope to hold.

So you’d think there would be some urgency to achieve something. Don’t hold your breath.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / KPLU

Earlier this week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the latest 100 winners of $100,000 grants from its Grand Challenges Exploration program aimed at supporting high-risk, creative approaches to improving health and fighting poverty in poor countries.

Celebrated for funding “wild” and “wacky” ideas, this year’s batch of Gates Grand Challenge winners included proposals to develop, as the AP reported, unmanned drones to deliver vaccines, tattoos for monitoring pregnancy and a “tuberculosis breathalyzer.”

Read more on Humanosphere.org

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

The Harvard University professor of international development is author of “The New Harvest,” a book (free online) in which he makes his case for how agricultural reforms offer the most promise for positively transforming African economies.

Juma, though entertaining, doesn’t mince words — “Africa is already doing organic farming … and it isn’t working very well.” He describes himself as a bit of ‘techno-optimist,’ a believer like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the fundamental power of science and technology to transform agriculture in poor countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Rodrigo Senna / Flickr

What looks like a very boring academic and institutional report, entitled “Ensuring Safe Foods and Medical Products Through Stronger Regulatory Systems Abroad,” is in fact a call to arms. A Seattle man is a leading voice in sounding the alarm on the problem of counterfeit drugs.

Read more on Humanosphere.

This time, the video by Invisible Children is not so much a repeat of their first call to action as a defense of their action.

It’s kind of like when the Star Wars franchise put out a sequel that actually went back in time to explain how everything got started.

Read more on Humanosphere.

The Associated Press

The film company Lionsgate, which produced the blockbuster movie based on books about a post-apocalyptic, oppressive and divided America where the poor are starving, abused and also enlisted for gladiator-like sport, threatened to sue Oxfam for riffing off the popular movie to launch its campaign “Hunger is Not a Game.”

Read more on Humanosphere.

As an example of how cancer is no longer viewed solely as a health care issue of the rich world, a physician from Seattle plans to launch a pilot project studying the use of portable ultrasound for breast cancer diagnosis in Uganda.

Dr. Constance Lehman, a radiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, wants to see if using the device in selected communities can improve detection and treatment success rates of this common cancer and killer.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Steve Davis has been selected by PATH’s board to take the position of president and CEO.

In one sense, Davis' new job leading PATH represents a return to where he started — as a refugee settlement coordinator on the Thai-Laos border in the 1980s and later, as a young attorney, working on human rights issues in China, for gay and lesbian rights here in the U.S. and as a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised in general.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

As part of a somewhat spotty call for a worldwide protest against the practices of the multinational agricultural company Monsanto, about 40 protesters in Seattle descended upon the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday to demand that the philanthropy sever all its ties with the firm.

Read more on Humanosphere.

George Clooney, who has praised the Stop Kony campaign aimed at ridding east-central Africa of warlord Joseph Kony, is trying to make sure our focus on such efforts isn’t too singular.

The actor and human rights advocate has long been focused on the ongoing atrocities in Sudan and recently testified in Congress to draw attention to the killings, conflict and suffering. He recently snuck into a dangerous part of the country and produced this powerful, disturbing video.

Read more and watch the video on Humanosphere.

Meryl Schenker / www.merylschenker.com

"We’re due for a resurgence of the women’s movement."

Actor and women’s advocate Geena Davis, who played Thelma in the 1991 hit ‘neo-feminist’ movie Thelma & Louise, spent a lot of time at a Global Washington event in Seattle fielding questions and criticizing the way women are portrayed — and perceived — in Hollywood and throughout the media.

But her concerns are much more global.

Read more on Humanosphere.

The Seattle-based global health organization has recently launched a steamy six-part television series in Nairobi, Kenya, called Shuga: Love, Sex, Money aimed at preventing the spread of HIV, the AIDS virus.

“This is pretty racy for Kenya,” said Rikka Trangsgrud, PATH’s long-time country programs director for Kenya. “There are some fairly explicit scenes and themes … We are really pushing the envelope here but the idea is to prompt important discussions.”

Read more and watch the trailer on Humanosphere.

Glenna Gordon

Over the last few days, a video posted on YouTube that aims to raise the profile — and potential for arrest — of the infamous African warlord Joseph Kony has been hugely popular and, in the eyes of many, so simplistic and inaccurate it is likely to do much more harm than good.

Read more on Humanosphere.

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