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Allen Family Foundation donates to COVID-19 causes

WA Food Fund at work
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation donated $1 million to the WA Food Fund, a statewide food relief program. (WA Food Fund / Philanthropy Northwest Photo)

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation announced two contributions to support people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington state, adding up to $2.2 million.

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Seattle cancer centers get $500K to fight COVID-19

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are headquartered in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. (Fred Hutch Photo)

Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and its clinical-care partner, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, are receiving a $500,000 grant from Bank of America to promote COVID-19 testing efforts as well as measures to protect against the pandemic.

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UW Medicine kicks off $50M COVID-19 campaign

COVID-19 testing
A nurse prepares to screen a patient for coronavirus at a drive-through testing station at UW Medical Center – Northwest. (UW Medicine Photo / Randy Carnell)

The CEOs of Amazon and Microsoft are among thousands of people contributing to cover the $50 million in private support that the University of Washington School of Medicine expects to need to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

So far, more than $20 million in contributions to the UW Medicine Emergency Response Fund have come in from about 3,400 donors, UW Medicine said today.

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MacKenzie Bezos sheds $400M in Amazon stock

MacKenzie Bezos
MacKenzie Bezos will donate more than half of her fortune to charity. (Photo via Bystander Revolution)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, has divested herself of about $400 million worth of the Amazon stock she received as part of the couple’s divorce settlement — potentially providing the wherewithal for the charitable activities she’s planning.

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Gates Ag One to help farmers cope with climate

Farm in Africa
Gates Ag One will focus on accelerating agricultural innovation for smallholder farmers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. (Gates Foundation Photo)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is starting up a new nonprofit group that will focus on providing small-scale farmers in developing countries with the tools and innovations they’ll need to deal with the effects of climate change.

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Amazon begins hurricane relief airlifts to Bahamas

Amazon says it’s completed the first of two relief flights to the Bahamas, delivering tons of supplies earmarked for the victims of Hurricane Dorian.

The first Amazon Air cargo plane arrived in Nassau on Sept. 16 with about 19,300 items on board, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reported in a tweet. The cargo weight amounted to 72,728 pounds.

“Huge thanks to the teams across Amazon who made this happen,” Bezos wrote.

Amazon and its customers have donated cash and more than 300,000 relief items, with a combined worth of $1 million, to Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas and the United States, the company said today in a posting to its Day One blog. Donated items include personal hygiene products, food, water, clothing, tarps, generators and solar lanterns.

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Sources: Paul Allen’s foundation to add advisers

Jody and Paul Allen
Sources say Jody Allen is seeking outside expertise to help guide the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in the wake of the death of her brother, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. (Allen Institute / Kevin Cruff Photos)

Five months after the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the billionaire’s sister is taking steps to put her own stamp on a family foundation thought to hold at least $750 million in assets.

Sources tell GeekWire that Jody Allen, co-founder of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, is bringing fresh blood to the charitable organization. Among the names being mentioned as potential additions to the foundation’s board or to an advisory panel are former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nancy Peretsman, managing director of the New York investment bank Allen & Co.

Three sources discussed the transition on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. No principals in the process — ranging from representatives of the foundation and the Allen family’s holding company, Vulcan Inc., to representatives of Ballmer and Peretsman — were willing to provide comment.

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Vulcan builds drones to protect African wildlife

EarthRanger monitoring
The EarthRanger software platform pulls together data from drones, animal collars, vehicle tracking and other sources. (Vulcan Photo)

One of the legacies left behind by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who passed away last October, is a drone development program aimed at providing aerial intelligence for Africa’s anti-poaching efforts.

The program takes a share of the spotlight in a behind-the-scenes report about Allen’s philanthropic operation at Vulcan Inc., published last week by Inside Philanthropy.

Vulcan has been working for years on a surveillance program for elephants and other African species, including the use of autonomous aerial vehicles to patrol protected areas. Allen’s team sought a regulatory exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration three years ago to test drones such as the DJI Phantom 3and the UASUSA Tempest for conservation purposes.

The in-house drone program has advanced significantly since then. Inside Philanthropy reports Vulcan is adapting off-the-shelf equipment to create affordable drones that are optimized for anti-poaching surveillance.

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Jeff Bezos defends his billion-dollar space effort

John Travolta and Jeff Bezos
John Travolta and Jeff Bezos share the stage at the Living Legends of Aviation ceremony. (LLOA Photo)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person and the founder of Amazon as well as the Blue Origin space venture, defended his billion-dollar-a-year expense on space travel here in front of a receptive, star-studded crowd.

The occasion was the 16th annual Living Legends of Aviation awards ceremony, held on Jan. 18 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with John Travolta as host and Harrison Ford as one of the celebrity presenters. The event, produced as a fundraiser for the Kiddie Hawk Air Academy, honors those who have made significant contributions to aviation.

Bezos got a triple dose of recognition, thanks to his induction into the Living Legends lineup plus his acceptance of the Kenn Ricci Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award and a newly created honor called the Jeff Bezos Freedom’s Wings Award.

After receiving the Freedom’s Wings trophy from Airbus CEO Tom Enders, Bezos sat down for one of his traditional fireside chats. At one point, Bezos was asked why he should spend money on space exploration rather than on earthly issues that need fixing.

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Google kicks off $25M contest for AI social impact

AI-enabled wildfire project
California high-school students Sanjana Shah and Aditya Shah built a device that uses AI to identify areas in a forest that are susceptible to wildfires. (Google Photo)

Google today unveiled a $25 million initiative called the Google AI Impact Challenge, aimed at soliciting and supporting projects that make use of artificial intelligence to solve some of the world’s greatest social, humanitarian and environmental problems.

The global challenge is open to nonprofit organizations and public charities — and to for-profit businesses as well, as long as their projects have a charitable purpose.

Google’s call to humanitarian action is part of its broader “AI for Social Good” campaign, and comes just weeks after Google Cloud decided not to bid on the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI cloud computing project due to ethical concerns.

Microsoft, which is bidding on the contract, announced its own $40 million “AI for Humanitarian Action” initiative last month. And in the weeks before his death, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen set up a new organization called the Vulcan Machine Learning Center for Impact to support the use of machine learning for philanthropic projects.

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