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Mike Bloomberg Announces $40 Million Plan To Combat Coronavirus In Developing Countries

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Less than two weeks after withdrawing from the presidential race, Mike Bloomberg announced Tuesday that his Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching what it’s calling the Coronavirus Global Response Initiative, a $40 million plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus in vulnerable low and middle-income countries.

Bloomberg tweeted that the new initiative will particularly focus on Africa, which has 417 confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven deaths across the continent as of March 17. 

The new plan comes just days after the three-term New York City mayor announced the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative, which will mobilize mayors across the U.S. to fight the pandemic and keep their cities safe by providing them with virtual technical assistance, coaching, and accurate information. The first virtual meeting will take place on March 19, where more than 180 cities are expected to join experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

“I know from my experience as mayor of New York City that giving public health professionals the tools to protect the public is vital to saving lives,” said Bloomberg in a statement, “and to help mitigate the kind of economic and social damage that could make this crisis even more debilitating for families and communities.”

The international initiative, which will work alongside The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s response to the virus in developing countries, will fund rapid response teams that will prevent and detect infections, train healthcare workers on the ground to control infections, develop lab networks to manage and transport specimens to central laboratories for diagnosis; measure acceptance and impact of containment strategies, provide communications support such as public education campaigns and provide technical expertise to global and regional health organizations.

Bloomberg’s tenure as the Mayor of New York City included fighting outbreaks in the U.S. such as the swine flu in 2009, which infected 60.8 million people and the outbreak of West Nile virus in 2012, which infected 5,674 people.

In a March 1 television ad for his campaign, Bloomberg addressed the country’s lack of preparedness for the then-epidemic, stating that “at times like this, it’s the job of the President to reassure the public that he or she is taking all the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of every citizen.” He went on, “They want him or her to prepare for events like these in advance with teams of experts.”

Since then, the World Health Organization has declared the virus a global pandemic that has infected 196,000 people around the world and killed nearly 7,900. In its statement, Bloomberg Philanthropies will partner with Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and currently president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of global health organization Vital Strategies, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) to mitigate the virus.

“We have a window of time to partner with Ministries of Health in sub-Saharan Africa to protect their population from a disease that could kill through both infections and disruption of health services,” said Frieden.

Forbes estimates that Bloomberg, who is currently worth $45 billion and is the fourth biggest philanthropist in America has given away billions of dollars in recent years with a focus on climate change and global public health initiatives, including a $1.8 billion pledge to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. Bloomberg Philanthropies says it distributed at least $3.3 billion last year.

Natalie Sachmechi, Forbes Staff, Billionaires

Billionaires

Jeff Bezos ‘Trillionaire’ Is Trending On Twitter. Here’s Why

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TOPLINE Jeff Bezos’ wealth suddenly caught Twitter’s attention on Wednesday amid ‘claims’ that the world’s richest man is set to become a trillionaire, in part thanks to pandemic-driven demand that has sent Amazon stock soaring.

KEY FACTS

  • Bezos was trending on Twitter on Wednesday after a months-old study by small business advice platform, Comparisun, resurfaced, claiming that Bezos net worth could reach $1 trillion by 2026.
  • The company analyzed the market cap of the highest valued firms on the New York Stock Exchange, as well as Forbes’ 25 richest people. Chinese real estate billionaire Xu Jiayin is second on the study’s list.
  • But Bezos has a long way to go to become the world’s first trillionaire. At the time of publication, Forbes values the 56-year-old’s net worth to be $143 billion. He owns a 11.2% stake in Amazon, and his wealth has surged upwards from around $125 billion in March.
  • Amazon is predicted to be one of the winners of the pandemic as demand for online shopping, streaming and delivery services flies.
  • Sales in the first three months of the year topped $75 billion, up from $60 billion in 2019. The potential for a second wave of the virus and further lockdowns could keep that demand high.
  • Bezos joined Forbes’ list of 400 richest Americans in 1998, four years after he founded Amazon, and had a net worth of $1.6 billion at the time.

KEY BACKGROUND

Amazon AMZN shares are up more than 28% so far this year. But the company is now up against “the hardest time” it has ever faced, Bezos said in April. The company predicted operating profits of $4 billion in the three months to June, but is now committing that entire amount to “COVID-related expenses” such as higher wages for hourly teams, buying up personal protective equipment for staff, and developing coronavirus testing facilities.

The company has been under fire from former employees—both office staff and warehouse workers—for allegedly silencing them after they spoke out about a lack of protection against the virus. Amazon has let go a number of employees, claiming that they breached company policy. 

TANGENT

In February, Bezos pocketed $3.1 billion after selling $4 billion worth of Amazon shares since January.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Facebook Will Pay Out $52 Million After Failing To Protect Moderators From Dangers Of Extreme Content

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TOPLINE Former Facebook moderators will receive at least $1,000 each after Facebook agreed to pay $52 million to settle a lawsuit over allegedly failing to protect moderators being exposed to harmful content online.

KEY FACTS

  • Moderators were exposed to the worst types of content online including terrorism, pedophilia and animal abuse. They were hired by Facebook through third-party firms.
  • The settlement covers more than 11,000 current and former moderators across California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. It was filed at San Mateo County Superior Court on Friday.
  • Plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, including PTSD, qualify for additional compensation of up to $50,000.
  • The social media giant says it will change its policies in response to the case, and introduce compulsory group counseling sessions for moderators, while third-party firms will be required to step up support for moderators’ mental health.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

Lawyer Steve Williams, representing the plaintiffs, told The Guardian: “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe. So the fact that we got some real, meaningful relief going forward just feels really good.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Facebook was sued in September 2018 by former content moderator Selena Scola, who developed PTSD after nine months in the job, thanks to regular exposure to images of rape and murder. The scale of the mental toll on moderators was exposed by The Verge last year. The outlet reported that some Facebook content moderators working for IT firm Cognizant CTSH in Arizona had developed fringe views after exposure to extreme right-wing and conspiracy theorist content, while some had developed PTSD. To cope, some moderators at the firm smoked weed to numb their emotions, while being paid just $28,800 a year. A Guardian report last year found that moderators for Facebook based in Berlin were becoming addicted to extreme content, were overworked and paid little. 

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Billionaire Behind TikTok Commits $10 Million To A Bill Gates-Backed Accelerator For COVID-19 Therapeutics Treatments

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Zhang Yiming, the 36-year-old Chinese billionaire founder of social media app TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, has pledged $10 million to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a project founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Other donors to the Accelerator include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and singer Madonna. 

“While [Zhang] has met Bill Gates a couple of times in passing, he does not know him well but has tremendous respect for Bill and Melinda Gates’ systematic approach and ongoing efforts in contributing to philanthropy,” a spokesperson for Zhang said. “He sees them as an inspiration for all entrepreneurs fortunate enough to be in a position to give back to the community.” 

The Accelerator was launched in March as a $125 million fund, initially backed by the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Mastercard. In early April, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic arm CZI announced a $25 million gift to the fund. The U.K. government and Madonna also became donors; the size of their gifts were undisclosed.

The Accelerator’s mission is to coordinate research, remove barriers to drug development, and scale up treatments to the coronavirus with fast and flexible funding, according to the Accelerator’s website. It is working with the World Health Organization, researchers, governments, the private sector and global regulators to fast track drugs related to COVID-19.

“Philanthropic, government and private sector organizations, as well as individuals like Zhang Yiming demonstrate the wide array of donors who understand the value of collaboration in developing effective drugs  to help turn the tide of this pandemic,” said Trevor Mundel, president of the global health division at the Gates Foundation. “Until we have a vaccine, expanded testing, isolation and treatment are our best options.”

Forbes pegs Zhang’s net worth at $16.2 billion, based on his estimated ownership of about one quarter of ByteDance. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Beijing, the privately held company last raised financing in 2018 at a massive $75 billion valuation. 

TikTok launched in 2016 and reached international markets the next year. The short video app, which has around 625 million users worldwide, according to App Annie, appeals particularly to the Gen Z demographic. 

This is the first known significant philanthropic donation by Zhang. 

Angel Au-Yeung, Forbes Staff, Billionaires

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