Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science, medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom-at-humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.
If you think the debate over vaccines in the United States can sometimes be a little wacky, take a look at India.
And if you think irresponsible politicking and journalism can’t kill, think again.
Seattle-based PATH, which in 2009 attempted to test the logistics of expanding the use of HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine in girls to prevent cervical cancer, has been castigated by critics for ‘unethical human experimentation’ – even though the vaccine is hardly experimental – and is now the target of two lawsuits in India.
One politician, capitalizing on the controversy, even called for PATH to be entirely expelled from India.
Meanwhile, the international biomedical research community, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and the pharmaceutical industry have suspended more than a hundred clinical trials throughout India because of the government’s new rules that require those running the trials to compensate any study volunteers who later suffer injury or death – whether the injury or death is directly caused by the study or not.
“This has become very harmful,” said Vivien Tsu, a women’s health expert at PATH who led the HPV study in India. “The HPV controversy and the arguments over clinical trials in India have ended up fueling each other in a way that undermines public health, not to mention India’s role in biomedical research.”
Humanosphere has followed the dispute over the PATH HPV study for a few years now. Many perhaps expected the controversy would subside over time as the evidence accumulated to show it was both beneficial and well-intended. Just the opposite has happened. Continue reading →
I met Mandela in Seattle a few years ago, when he was already old but still a powerful presence. Many are celebrating his legacy as South Africa’s first black president, as an icon of the successful struggle against apartheid and as the lead character in a story of right versus might.
Left out of this narrative, usually, is that Mandela was labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which supported the former South African government’s policy of racial separation and discrimination up until a few years before the wretched apartheid system finally collapsed.
Mandela was a freedom fighter and an African nationalist, in the best sense of the word. But he was also not a big fan of capitalism or what might be called ‘the American way,’ aligning himself ideologically with more left-leaning folks like Fidel Castro and the old Soviet Union. He wasn’t a pacificist. He believed in fighting fire with fire. These facts are usually also left out of these stories – or buried down at the bottom.
Much of the news coverage of Mandela’s death is focused on the question of what his passing will mean for the future of South Africa – a nation variously described as either an up-and-coming emerging economy or a still-racially-polarized and immensely unequal country at risk of further unraveling.
I won’t add to the flood of posthumous news stories by recalling Mandela’s visit to Seattle. And I’ll leave it to others more knowledgeable than me to provide perspective and analysis on whither South Africa.
My question is where are the Mandelas of today? Who are the people in jails and prisons around the world, usually labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the powers-that-be, only because they refuse to accept a system that keeps them down?
Will we support them now, or just celebrate them once the struggle is all over?
The global HIV/AIDS pandemic – which, though slowed, continues to infect and kill millions – moved up on the media radar screen this week thanks to World AIDS Day, on Sunday, and an international meeting hosted by the U.S. government devoted to coordinating the fight against three of the world’s leading killer diseases.
Today, at that meeting, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced it had beaten the most dire predictions of the pessimists and received $12 billion in new pledges to fund treatments and prevention projects aimed at reducing the burden of these diseases in poor countries over the next three years.
“This represents nearly a 30 percent increase over what we received in 2010, $9.2 billion,” said Christoph Benn, spokesman for the Global Fund. Benn and others credited the Obama Administration’s pledge of $4 billion together with a $2-for-$1 match (up to a total of $5 billion) promised for other donors who contribute over the next year to the Global Fund.
The U.S. government, which also funds Pepfar (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, focused on Africa), is the largest contributor to the Global Fund. Other promised donations announced today included $815 million from Germany, $800 million from Japan, $612 million from Canada and $500 million more from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It sounds like a lot of money and most are celebrating this as a major step forward. The support has prompted pundits and experts to again talk about being at a ‘tipping point’ in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, of someday soon creating an ‘AIDS-free generation.’
There has been a lot of progress made against AIDS and malaria, and to some extent TB, which shouldn’t be minimized. But it’s important to put this all in context and face some harsh realities. Continue reading →
Do you want to make the world a better place? Of course you do.
Do you think we can make the world a better place by becoming more informed about the rest of the world, by getting outraged about global poverty and injustice, by holding the powerful to account or even by poking fun at our humanitarian selves?
We do, and we are asking for your support in the fight against the impoverished news narrative.
Humanosphere is an independent and increasingly influential nonprofit news organization that offers daily reports, cutting-edge analysis, irreverent humor and expert perspective on the top stories within the international aid and development sector.
The brutal reality is we live in a world where tens of millions of children today still go to bed hungry, where mundane and easily preventable diseases still kill hundreds of millions of people and billions don’t have clean drinking water or a pot to poop in. That’s absurd! It should be front-page news every day. But it’s not – except here on Humanosphere.
Powerful people who also think these inequities are absurd and outrageous talk to us, all the time. When World Bank President Jim Yong Kim came to Seattle, the only journalist he talked to was Humanosphere’s editor Tom Paulson. When renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs came under attack for failing to end global poverty, Humanosphere wondered if that was fair. When the swashbuckling journalist-adventurer Robert Young Pelton announced he was going to go find African warlord Joseph Kony, we asked Pelton why this was not ridiculous (and got a pretty good answer).
Humanosphere was one of the first organizations to warn, in 2011, that the CIA’s ill-advised fake vaccine scheme in Pakistan would endanger and undermine the polio vaccination efforts there – not to mention aid work in general. We were the first news organization to get a sneak preview of the new Gates Foundation campus – an accomplishment that later prompted Bill Gates to jokingly threaten expulsion when we attended the official unveiling a month later.
We could go on patting ourselves on the back, which is a standard routine for fund-raising. But self-promotion can become pathological, a phenomenon we report on regularly and hope to avoid.
We are simply trying to make the case for your financial support to continue and grow in influence.
Bill Gates and Tom Paulson yuck it up.
Here’s the basic info we hope will prompt you to donate to Humanosphere:
Humanosphere, originally launched in 2010 as an NPR project at Seattle affiliate KPLU, in 2013 converted to an independent non-profit news site recognized as a charitable organization by the Washington Secretary of State and the IRS, as a 501(c)3 organization.
The website has been ranked as one of the top ten ‘most influential’ online news resources by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
More than a third of our regular readers are not based in the United States, evidence that Humanosphere is clearly engaged in a global dialogue.
The Seattle International Foundation, one of our primary financial supporters, selected Humanosphere (among literally hundreds of other non-profit organizations) for inclusion in its 2014 Global Giving Guide.
The team: Tom Paulson, founder and editor at Humanosphere, was previously medical and science reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and has written for numerous other publications. Tom Murphy is Humanosphere’s Boston-based correspondent and has written for other publications such as The Guardian and The Atlantic. Ansel Herz, a Seattle freelancer, is producer of the Humanosphere podcasts and also manages social media. Countless other freelance writers make up our extended family.
You can help strengthen Humanosphere’s voice on these issues that matter to you. Please support our work aimed at making the world a better place through improved news coverage and informed dialogue. All donations are tax-deductible and can be made through PayPal or by mailing a check to:
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Humanosphere is taking the day off to celebrate Thanksgivvukah – the third time in history that the American holiday celebrating immigration (i.e., the pilgrims) and the Jewish holiday of Hannukah overlap. The reason they don’t always line up is because of the difference between the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar (yes, the world’s main calendar was established by the Catholic church, under Pope Gregory).
For International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we re-run a recent post by Katie Leach-Kemon on Humanosphere charting violence in Latin America. As the graphic below indicates, violence from intimate partners is a leading cause of disability for women:
He’s that infamous, murderous African rebel leader who, for a while anyway, was world public enemy number one because of his long and bloody history of indiscriminant murder, child kidnapping, sex slavery and other atrocities committed across central Africa.
There are plenty of other murderous people out there, in all parts of the world, with similar resumes. But Kony went to the top of the list of global bad guys in 2012 thanks to a powerful video produced by an evangelical Christian organization in California called Invisible Children that aimed to spur public outrage and a new push to capture or kill him.
Outrage was spurred and all sorts of things got set in motion, including the deployment of US special forces to the region and a somewhat bizarre paramilitary adventure funded by Howard Buffett and a Texas philanthropist named Shannon Sedgwick Davis – whose faith led her to support an unsuccessful private military action against the Kony abominations.
But Kony remains at large, frustratingly so.
Robert Young Pelton
Enter Robert Young Pelton, author of the “World’s Most Dangerous Places,” adventurer, businessman and (very) independent journalist. Pelton, along with Seattle-based documentary film-maker Ross Fenter and his colleague Rob Swain, have launched a crowd-funding campaign to go find Kony themselves.
This new hunt for Joseph Kony is called Expedition Kony, is something of a new media experiment and you can contribute to it (or even join it) via Indiegogo. Not surprisingly, given Invisible Children’s stunning rise and fall, Pelton’s new adventure is already drawing criticism, if not ridicule. Continue reading →