Amazon Is Becoming One Of America’s Biggest Military Giants


09-10-19 11:32:00,

By Aaron Kesel

Amazon is on its way to becoming one of the U.S. military’s biggest security giants, with a pending $10bn JEDI cloud computing deal that the company could win, MIT Technology Review reported.

In August the Pentagon halted the controversial contract deal, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), an initiative to “aggressively accelerate the Department’s adoption of cloud architecture and services, with a focus on commercial solutions.”

The deal was stopped and is now under investigation by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to audit the process which caused complaints form other tech companies like Microsoft.  U.S. President Donald Trump has publicly criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in the past and announced in July that he wanted a review of the contract, citing “tremendous complaints” from competing companies.

Further, the Office of the Inspector General is investigating possible conflicts of interest, the acquisition process and requirements, according to Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the watchdog office, Fed Scoop reported.

The office has “assembled a multidisciplinary team of auditors, investigators, and attorneys” to review “the DoD’s handling of the JEDI cloud acquisition, including the development of requirements and the request for proposal process,” Allen told Fed Scoop in an emailed statement. “In addition, we are investigating whether current or former DoD officials committed misconduct relating to the JEDI acquisition, such as whether any had any conflicts of interest related to their involvement in the acquisition process.”

Microsoft and Amazon are now the two finalists in the running for the contract, leaving many of the others in the dust due to their technological abilities and security outmatching the competition to build the U.S. military its first “war cloud” computing system. Both companies beat out Oracle and IBM who were eliminated at an earlier round of the contract competition.

This “war cloud” would eventually replace the military’s current internet structure, which sources indicate uses a software hard fork of the Navy created TOR (The Onion Router) network to communicate. The program aims to move about 80% of all Department of Defense (DoD) data into the cloud according to Federalist News Network.

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Amazon Reportedly Changed Search Algorithm To Favor More Profitable Products


16-09-19 04:30:00,

After publishing a steady stream of scoops about Amazon’s anti-competitive tendencies, the Wall Street Journal on Monday dropped one of the biggest media bombshells to rock the e-commerce giant in recent memory: That Amazon has deliberately tweaked its product-search algorithm to more prominently feature products that are more profitable for Amazon, including its own in-house brands.

Multiple sources from inside the company told WSJ last year that the company’s engineers were ordered to change the algorithm so that instead of just showing customers the most relevant listings to their search, or the best sellers on the platform, they would also see companies that would have the highest return for Amazon if sold.

The change followed a lengthy struggle between executives overseeing the company’s retail business in Seattle and its search team – also known as A9 – in Palo Alto. The search team reportedly opposed the move.

The news hasn’t had much of an impact on AMZN shares, but it will almost certainly be of interest to Congress, as well as the State AGs and federal agencies who are investigating anti-trust practices at the big tech giants – both in the US, and in Europe.

From WSJ’s description of how the project unfolded, it seems like Amazon’s retail execs ignored the company’s directive to put the company’s interests first, and tried to shape the changes in such a way that they wouldn’t trigger anti-trust concerns.

Amazon’s lawyers rejected an initial proposal for how to add profit directly into the algorithm, saying it represented a change that could create trouble with antitrust regulators, one of the people familiar with the project said.

The Amazon search team’s view was that the profitability push violated the company’s principle of doing what is best for the customer, the people familiar with the project said. “This was definitely not a popular project,” said one. “The search engine should look for relevant items, not for more profitable items.”

When approached by WSJ, Amazon denied that the changes to the algorithm were significant, but declined to further discuss the innerworkings of its algorithm.

Amazon said it has for many years considered long-term profitability and does look at the impact of it when deploying an algorithm.

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Amazon Chaos: “BlackRock Is Literally Reaping Profits As The World’s Jungles Burn”


07-09-19 12:45:00,

According to a new report from the Friends of the Earth U.S.; Amazon Watch; and Profundo, Larry Fink’s BlackRock Inc is one of the top investors in companies “responsible for tropical forest destruction in the Amazon and around the world.”

The report called BlackRock’s Big Deforestation Problem, published on Amazon Watch’s website, claims BlackRock is the top three shareholders in 25 of the world’s biggest publicly traded deforestation-risk companies; these companies are known for producing soya, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber, but also have a long track record in burning down forests to clear land for agriculture purposes. The New York-based investment bank is also a top ten shareholder in another 50 of the world’s top deforestation-risk companies, the report added.

“The data is clear: from the Amazon to the great forests of Africa and Southeast Asia, BlackRock is a global leader in financing forest destruction,” said Jeff Conant, senior international forest program manager with Friends of the Earth U.S., the report’s lead author.

“As long as this financial behemoth continues to unconditionally back the world’s most destructive agribusiness companies, the forests of the world, and consequently the climate and the rights of forest-dwelling people, will continue to go up in flames. BlackRock is literally reaping profits as the world’s jungles burn.”

BlackRock’s investment in deforestation-risk companies has been increasing in the last half-decade. In 4Q14, BlackRock owned roughly $1 billion in deforestation-risk investments. By 4Q18, the value of these investments jumped to $1.6 billion. 

The report said the investment firm’s deforestation-linked commodity holdings are comprised mainly of index funds. In 2014, 80% of BlackRock’s deforestation-linked commodity holdings were through index funds; by 2018, it had jumped to 94%. 

“BlackRock claims that its hands are tied by index funds. It is wrong. BlackRock can follow the lead of other global asset managers and make change for the good of the rainforest, the climate, and of its customers by shifting investments out of companies wrecking the planet, and applying maximum pressure to change company behavior,” said Moira Birss, Finance Campaign Director of Amazon Watch.

“The fires currently raging in the Amazon clearly demonstrate the risk that agribusiness expansion poses for the Amazon rainforest,

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Amazon ‘smart’ doorbell company partnered with 400+ police departments to surveil your neighborhood


29-08-19 07:39:00,

Over 400 US police forces have access to the video footage generated by Amazon’s “smart” Ring doorbells, creating an unprecedented – and largely unaccountable – surveillance network outside existing legal structures.

Video-sharing partnerships allow law enforcement to automatically request video from Ring owners within a designated timeframe and area, giving them access to millions of cameras that police claim have proved invaluable for investigations. Officers are not supposed to receive access to live-streaming video, and users can deny the footage requests – which come in the form of emails thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place” –but they don’t always have the option of saying “no.

Also on
New Jersey cops turn citizens’ phones into surveillance devices – for their own good, of course

By installing the “smart” doorbells, Ring users consent to the company supplying video to “law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or third parties” in response to a “legal process or reasonable government request,” according to the terms of service. The company can also preserve footage the user deletes. Confronted with uncooperative residents, police can go directly to Amazon to obtain the footage, as long as they present a “valid and binding legal demand.” 

Ring users have access to a social network called Neighbors, allowing area residents to swap footage from their doorbells and discuss suspicious goings-on in the neighborhood – another invaluable resource for law enforcement.

Emails reviewed by Motherboard show several New Jersey police departments coaching their officers on how to cajole surveillance footage out of Ring users without a search warrant – “increasing the opt-in rate,” as one representative called it. Surveilled individuals don’t have the option of opting out. If they walk by a camera, 400 police forces are potentially going to know about it, and if someone on the network deems them suspicious, they may find police attention follows them out of that neighborhood.

Read more

Mysterious man with TV for a head leaves old sets on doorsteps of 60 homes (VIDEO)

Amazon’s surveillance network has the advantage of operating in the private sector,

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The Amazon Fires and the Dawn of Environmental Interventions – Global Research


28-08-19 07:51:00,

So-called “environmental interventions” might become commonplace as global powers seek excuses to intervene in the domestic affairs of sovereign states in order to seize control of their natural resources.

The entire world has watched in horror over the past week as the Amazon rainforest burns worse than it’s ever done before, or at least that’s the narrative that the Mainstream Media wants the global audience to believe. The storyline is that ranchers have been emboldened by Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s rhetoric about developing the rainforest region and therefore decided to set more fires than ever in order to clear as much land as possible for future cattle ranching and settlement. It’s true that the country’s leader might have inspired some rogue ranchers, who he belatedly decided to blame after first suggesting that left-wing environmental groups were responsible, but that doesn’t explain the media firestorm that’s since commenced and the manipulation of international perceptions in favor of what can only be described as an “environmental intervention” by a select group of global powers.

It’s factually false to assert that these latest fires are unprecedented, as proven by the investigative reporting that Off Guardia’s Catte Black carried out, and Bolsonaro already called out French President Macron for jumping on the bandwagon and misleadingly sharing older photos purporting to be of the most recent fires just like a host of celebrities have done as well. The French leader has taken the lead in trying to assemble international support for putting out this blaze, though he and the rest of his ilk are silent about the much worse fires presently raging all across the Southern African country of Angola right now, strongly suggesting that there are ulterior motives behind their laser-focused interest in the resource-rich Amazon. Macron has already politically instrumentalized the crisis to blackmail Brazil by threatening to block a long-negotiated EU-Mercosur trade deal because of it, showing that he’s not afraid to exploit these fires for his own purposes.

Unwittingly, the possible collapse of EU-Mercosur trade talks would only help the US since it would make it much easier for Trump to clinch a similar pact with the bloc as part of his “Fortress America” vision of reestablishing the US’ hemispheric hegemony if it’s not institutionally tied to the EU.

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Burn the Amazon!


24-08-19 03:18:00,

Cut down the trees. Kill the wild animals. Burn the bush. Pollute the rivers. Pave over the grass. Raise more beef, pigs and poultry in cages.

That’s the credo of the new right. Hatred of Nature is an integral part of its politics. President Donald Trump is the high priest of such environmental vandalism. In his narrow land-developer mind, Nature is a left-wing liberal conspiracy.

Trump’s Brazilian wannabe, President Jair Bolsonaro, is now doing his mentor one better: he encouraged Brazilian farmers, loggers and miners, all key Bolsonaro constituencies, to accelerate their destruction of the Amazon rain forest, which provides 20% of the Earth’s oxygen.

The farmers, miners and loggers responded to his call by burning the irreplaceable forest, the world’s largest, at a rate over 80% higher than last year. Rarely has the world seen a more horrifying example of humans destroying the small planet on which they live.

Bolsonaro and his fellow Brazilian vandals say they lack the means to stop this incendiary epidemic. Nonsense. The Brazilian president is a former army officer. He must deploy the entire Brazilian Army to protect his nation’s most important resource, the Amazon. Neighboring Bolivia, Columbia and Paraguay should join in. Here is a perfect example for the UN Security Council to take action by declaring the 75,000 man-made fires a threat to all humanity and threaten to sanction Brazil’s exports if its does not take decisive action.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron put it right at the current G7 meeting at Biarritz, ‘our house is on fire.’ France, Spain and Portugal all have their very serious dry season fires, but they send small armies to combat them. Climate change is playing a major role in sparking the raging fires. Unlike Bolsonaro, the European nations don’t absurdly claim the fires were begun by NGO’s (non-governmental environmental organizations).

Brazil’s army numbers 222,700 men, backed by reserves of 1,980,000. Mobilize them. Bolsonaro has been eager to send special paramilitary militia groups into slums in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Send them to the Amazon, which has three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.

The Amazon’s forests are being burned primarily to create more grazing land for cattle, one of Brazil’s most important exports.

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Is Amazon Surveillance Secretly Infiltrating Police Departments?


23-08-19 09:01:00,

By Eta Onrish

Big Tech has come under fire quite consistently for privacy concerns and has even faced big fines for violations (which they can afford). It seems that public attention on this matter has forced them to start going underground, with secret back-end deals with the government at local levels to expand their surveillance capabilities.

If you haven’t heard, there is a very useful doorbell camera called Ring. Ring started out as a product called, Doorbot, on the Shark Tank TV show but was rejected. The owners got immediate exposure and millions of dollars from investors after the show, changing the name from Doorbot to Ring. Fast forward five years, and Amazon decides to compete with Google’s friendly surveillance system called Nest, and buys Ring for A Billion Freaking Dollars.

Using Ring to expand a surveillance network

Ok, so what? It’s a very useful thing to be able to see who’s at the door and have a record of someone breaking into your home. The systems, in themselves, aren’t an issue. It’s when governments start to get involved and big money starts being made that conflicts of interest can lead to misuse and violations of privacy.

It’s these very expansions outside of the homeowner’s benefit that need scrutiny.

In addition to the actual doorbell surveillance camera itself, Ring/Amazon added a handy online app called, Neighbors, to use these systems to help reduce crime. According to Jamie Siminoff, Chief Inventor and Founder of Ring,

“At Ring, we come to work every day with the mission of reducing crime in neighborhoods. Over the past few years we have learned that, when neighbors, the Ring team and law enforcement all work together, we can create safer communities. Neighbors is meant to facilitate real-time communication between these groups, while maintaining neighbor privacy first and foremost. By bringing security to every neighbor with the free Neighbors app, communities can stay on top of crime and safety alerts as they happen.”

That sounds very good, doesn’t it? This may not seem all that much of an issue on the surface (if we ignore the obvious conflict of interest), but let’s dig deeper…

In addition to a system that allows people to monitor their homes,

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Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon: Mass Mining Invasion of Yanomami Lands in Brazil Threatens Their Survival – Global Research


09-08-19 02:12:00,

Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon: Mass Mining Invasion of Yanomami Lands in Brazil Threatens Their Survival

Acting in response to public statements from the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, on the need to open up indigenous lands in the Amazon Basin to extractive industries, an estimated 20,000 illegal miners are reported to have invaded the lands of the Yanomami peoples in Brazil. Although the 9.7 million hectare area was established as an Indigenous Park in 1992, meaning it could only be exploited for mining subject to special decisions in the national legislature, over the past 20 years it has been repeatedly threatened by mining invasions which have caused epidemics and violent clashes.

Concerns have also been raised about copycat invasions of Yanomami lands across the border in Venezuela, where the Government of President Maduro has announced plans for a Mining Arc embracing the whole of the south of the country. Currently, owing to a nation-wide gasoline shortage, illegal mining in the Upper Orinoco and Caura rivers in Venezuela have been scaled back.

The American Association of Anthropologists has also appealed to human rights organisations to demand the protection of the Yanomami’s rights.


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Amazon’s Ring Is a Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats


09-08-19 07:49:00,

By Matthew Guariglia

Doors across the United States are now fitted with Amazon’s Ring, a combination doorbell-security camera that records and transmits video straight to users’ phones, to Amazon’s cloud—and often to the local police department. By sending photos and alerts every time the camera detects motion or someone rings the doorbell, the app can create an illusion of a household under siege. It turns what seems like a perfectly safe neighborhood into a source of anxiety and fear. This raises the question: do you really need Ring, or have Amazon and the police misled you into thinking that you do?

Recent reports show that Ring has partnered with police departments across the country to hawk this new surveillance system—going so far as to draft press statements and social media posts for police to promote Ring cameras. This creates a vicious cycle in which police promote the adoption of Ring, Ring terrifies people into thinking their homes are in danger, and then Amazon sells more cameras.


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Map of Ring partnerships with police compiled by Shreyas GandlurSee full screen


How Ring Surveils and Frightens Residents

Even though government statistics show that crime in the United States has been steadily decreasing for decades, people’s perception of crime and danger in their communities often conflict with the data. Vendors prey on these fears by creating products that inflame our greatest anxieties about crime.

Ring works by sending notifications to a person’s phone every time the doorbell rings or motion near the door is detected. With every update, Ring turns the delivery person or census-taker innocently standing on at the door into a potential criminal.

Neighborhood watch apps only increase the paranoia. Amazon promotes its free Neighbors app to accompany Ring. Other vendors sell competing apps such as Nextdoor and Citizen. All are marketed as localized social networks where people in a neighborhood can discuss local issues or share concerns. But all too often, they facilitate reporting of so-called “suspicious” behavior that really amounts to racial profiling.

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Auch Amazon will Tausende von Satelliten in eine Umlaufbahn schicken


18-07-19 07:36:00,

Zwei Stapel mit insgesamt 60 Starlink-Satelliten auf einer Falcon‑9-Oberstufe. Bild: SpaceX

In den nächsten Jahren stehen Hunderte von Raketenstarts für Zehntausende Satelliten und eine Massierung des Weltraumschrotts an. Die Folgen scheinen nicht zu interessieren

Amazon bzw. Jeff Bezos steigt auch ins Wettrennen mit Satellitennetzen zur Abdeckung der Erde mit Breitbandverbindungen. Im April wurde bekannt, dass Amazon im Rahmen Tausende von Satelliten in eine erdnahe Umlaufbahn (LEO) bringen will. Verantwortlich wird das Tochterunternehmen Kuiper Systems sein, in dem viele ehemalige Mitarbeiter von SpaceX arbeiten, das für Starlink insgesamt fast 12000 Kommunikationssatelliten in den Weltall bringen will. Die FCC, die für die USA zuständige Behörde, hat genehmigt, 4425 Satelliten in eine Höhe von 1200 km den Weltraum zu bringen. Auch der Antrag, weitere 7518 Satelliten in einer Höhe von 335 km bis 346 km anzubringen, wurde von der amerikanischen Behörde genehmigt. Die Satelliten haben nach Starlink jeweils ein Gewicht von 227 kg. Sie haben einen Antrieb und sind manövrierfähig, können miteinander kommunizieren und sind mit Phased-Array-Antennen wie 5G-Sendemasten ausgestattet (Allein SpaceX will 12.000 Satelliten in eine Umlaufbahn bringen).

Jetzt hat in der Oligarchenkonkurrenz Bezos-Musk Amazon bei der FCC einen Antrag für ein nicht-geostationäres Netzwerk von 3236 Satelliten auf 98 Umlaufbahnen in einer Höhe von 590, 610 und 630 km eingereicht. Es würde also voll um die Erde werden, wo jetzt bereits 4.816 Satelliten, davon 2000 noch funktionsfähig, und über 14.300 Raketen, Raketen- und andere Schrottteile kreisen. Die neuen kleineren Satelliten werden die Schicht aus Weltraumschott um die Erde mehren und es mitunter künftig schwieriger machen, den Weltraum zu beobachten oder in ihn zu gelangen.

Schließlich wollen nicht nur Amazon und SpaceX, sondern viele andere Unternehmen wie Samsung, OneWeb oder Kepler eine große Menge Satelliten in Umlauf bringen. Damit wird für die weltweit flächendeckende Breitbandkommunikation durch Satelliten nicht nur die erdnahen Umlaufbahnen mit Artefakten verdichtet, sondern auch das Klima der Erde mit vermutlich Tausenden von Raketenstarts belastet. Ein Start einer Falcon-9-Rakete belastet nach Berechnungen die Atmosphäre mit 640 Tonnen CO2-Äquivalent. Dazu kommen Rußpartikel in großer Höhe, die die Temperatur auf der Erde beeinflussen könnten. Möglich wäre auch wieder ein Abbau der Ozonschicht.

Amazon will die digitale Kluft schließen

Amazon erklärt, dass es viele Millionen Menschen und Firmen in den USA und auf der ganzen Erde,

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Get Ready, Amazon Delivery Drones Coming ‘Within Months’


07-06-19 07:08:00,

Amazon announced this week that they will begin delivering packages to customers using drones within months, according to the Financial Times 

Unveiled at a presentation during the robotics and space conference in Las Vegas (Re:Mars), Amazon’s electric delivery drone has a range of 15 miles and can deliver packages weighing up to five pounds to customers in under 30 minutes – which accounts for 75-90% of Amazon’s consumer deliveries, according to Jeff Wilke, head of Amazon’s consumer business.

“You’re going to see this new drone delivering packages to customers in months,” said Wilke, without elaborating. 

“With the help of our world-class fulfillment and delivery network, we expect to scale Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, delivering packages via drone to customers within months,: Wilke said in a blog post that accompanied the conference announcement. 

Drones will join an expanding fleet of Amazon’s delivery formats as the company takes greater control over its sprawling logistics network and looks to get items to customers more quickly and cheaply. In recent years it has invested in freight trailers, cargo planes and delivery vans, built out an extensive network of delivery hubs, and begun to experiment with autonomous vehicles for deliveries.

Earlier this year Amazon pledged to spend $800m in the second quarter cutting shipping times to one day for members of its Prime subscription programme in the US. –Financial Times

Amazon’s drone delivery program has been public knowledge since 2013, while the company tested its first delivery in a rural corner of England in December, 2016. It took 13 minutes from order to delivery, and had a similar 5 lb maximum constraint – which was quoted as constituting 87% of items sold. 

The company’s new hexagonal drone takes off vertically but can fly like an airplane, which Business Insider likened to a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet. 

The drone can detect obstacles such as wires, chimneys and paragliders in real time – and can avoid them “using machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence,” according to Business Insider. 

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CREEPY: Amazon and Facebook Both Want To Read Human Emotions


03-06-19 08:11:00,

By Aaron Kesel

Facebook and Amazon’s insanity only seems to continue with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Now, the two big conglomerate giants want to move into the uncharted territory of reading human emotions, both in their own ways.

Facebook wants a robot that has five senses which can read human emotions. Facebook wants “emotionally sensitive” robots that can explore the world, identify objects and people and enable its users to make more friends, Dailymail reported.

The robots would be fitted with wheels or tank-like caterpillar treads that would allow them to trundle about their environment.

Alternatively, such robots could be fitted out with drive systems that would allow them to move around underwater, fly through the air or float in space, Facebook suggest in their patent.

I am not sure why anyone would trust Facebook with data ever again, let alone biometric data, after all the numerous scandals Activist Post has documented including data mining. But to each their own I guess.

Amazon is also looking into reading human emotions in a completely different way by utilizing a voice-activated wearable device, that will sense its wearer’s state of mind by the tone of voice, Bloomberg reported.

[READ: “The Creepy Study” – Surveillance Cameras Analyze Emotions]

It’s worth noting that both companies have a smart home device, and after reading this you should fear what information is being gathered by the cameras and microphones attached to those electronics … besides the typically targeted advertising to turn consumers into the product.

On the Amazon front, it seems more than likely the company will want to use this technology in a variety of different digital gadgets, ranging from personal assistants such as Alexa to new technologies that the retail giant is currently developing. Amazon has announced it’s developing a personal assistance robot, so the new emotional technology could easily be integrated into this at-home robot as a means to “serve the consumer better.” A horrifically terrifying thought indeed.

Amazon and Facebook aren’t the only companies looking into utilizing human emotions.

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Only 2% of Amazon shareholders vote against giving facial recognition to government


25-05-19 08:06:00,

Amazon shareholders voted almost unanimously to reject a proposal to stop selling facial recognition tech to government agencies, and even a study of its effects garnered little support, effectively green-lighting Big Brother.

The proposal to stop selling Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ program to authorities was rejected by 97.6 percent of the company’s shareholders, according to a regulatory filing released on Friday, while a proposal to study Rekognition’s negative impact on civil rights and privacy repulsed 72.5 percent. CEO Jeff Bezos, who controls 16 percent of the company’s stock, voted against both, and Amazon’s board condemned them.

Also on
You’ve been warned: Widespread US face surveillance is ‘imminent reality’, says tech privacy report

Climate change was more popular, with only 70.2 percent rejecting a proposal for the company to issue a report on how it would address the phenomenon.

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled Amazon had to vote on both facial recognition proposals at its annual meeting after they were brought forward by activist shareholders concerned the company was selling a surveillance system “readily available to violate rights and target communities of color.” The company had argued the proposals were “insignificant to its business,” but was overruled by the regulator.

A group of “socially responsible investors” holding shares in Amazon implored the company to stop selling the tech to law enforcement last year, citing both the potential for abuse by American authorities and fears the tech could end up in the hands of foreign governments, “including authoritarian regimes.”

The shareholders joined hundreds of Amazon employees, the American Civil Liberties Union, and at least 70 more civil rights groups in writing several letters to Bezos asking that Amazon cease sales of Rekognition to law enforcement. The employee letter singled out the potential for abuse by the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration & Customs Enforcement as cause for particular concern, while the ACLU pointed to Amazon’s own marketing materials, which tout Rekognition’s ability to monitor “people of interest” in real time, as “primed for abuse in the hands of governments.”

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Amazon Developing Device That Can Recognize Human Emotions


23-05-19 06:47:00,

Amazon is developing a voice-activated gadget that can recognize human emotions. 

The wrist-worn device is described as a health and wellness product according to internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg, which is being developed in partnership with Lab126, the group behind Amazon’s Fire phone and Echo smart speaker. The Alexa voice software team is also involved. 

Designed to work with a smartphone app, the device has microphones paired with software that can discern the wearer’s emotional state from the sound of his or her voice, according to the documents and a person familiar with the program. Eventually the technology could be able to advise the wearer how to interact more effectively with others, the documents show. –Bloomberg

It is unknown how far along the project is, or if the device code-named “Dylan” will ever be brought to market – however work on the project was ongoing recently according to the documents as well as Bloomberg’s source. It is currently being beta tested, though “it’s unclear whether the trial includes prototype hardware, the emotion-detecting software, or both,” according to the report. 

Machines that can understand human emotion has been a longtime theme in science fiction – from Star Trek’s Data, to ‘Mike’ from Robert Heinlein’s 1966 The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

And now, once again, science fiction may become reality, as companies such as Microsoft, Google and IBM – and many others – are developing technologies to decipher emotional states from imagery, audio data and other inputs. Amazon, for example, has discussed a desire to build a more lifelike voice assistant – a technology which could help the company better serve health needs, and of course, better advertise. 

As Bloomberg noted last month, Amazon has a team of employees listening in on and annotating audio clips captured by the company’s popular Echo line of voice-activated products. 

A U.S. patent filed in 2017 describes a system in which voice software uses analysis of vocal patterns to determine how a user is feeling, discerning among “joy, anger, sorrow, sadness, fear, disgust, boredom, stress, or other emotional states.” The patent,

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Amazon Rolling Out Automated Packing Machines 5X Faster Than Humans


14-05-19 08:14:00,

Amazon has been rolling out machines which automatically scans goods coming down a conveyer belt and boxes them for shipping, according to an exclusive report by Reuters, citing two people who worked on the project.  

The ‘latest and greatest’ in automation will replace thousands of workers. After installing the technology in a “handful of warehouses,” the company has considered installing the machines at dozens more – replacing at least 24 workers each at facilities which typically employ more than 2,000 people. 

The new machines, known as the CartonWrap from Italian firm CMC Srl, pack much faster than humans. They crank out 600 to 700 boxes per hour, or four to five times the rate of a human packer, the sources said. The machines require one person to load customer orders, another to stock cardboard and glue and a technician to fix jams on occasion. –Reuters

Deployed across 55 US fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory, this would mean more than 1,300 jobs gone, while Amazon would recover the cost of the program in less than two years at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses. 

The plan, previously unreported, shows how Amazon is pushing to reduce labor and boost profits as automation of the most common warehouse task – picking up an item – is still beyond its reach. The changes are not finalized because vetting technology before a major deployment can take a long time. –Reuters


“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” said an Amazon spokeswoman in a statement to Reuters. “We expect the efficiency savings will be re-invested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.” 

Last month Amazon tried to downplay steps towards automation taken at its Baltimore fulfillment center, telling worried employees that a fully robotic future was far off. 

A key to its goal of a leaner workforce is attrition, one of the sources said. Rather than lay off workers, the person said, the world’s largest online retailer will one day refrain from refilling packing roles.

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Amazon’s kid-friendly Echo Dot is ‘blatant violation’ of child privacy laws, investigation finds


09-05-19 01:52:00,

An investigation into Amazon’s ‘Echo’ device for kids has revealed alarming details about its operations, including that the tech company keeps children’s sensitive data even after parents try to delete it.

Research into Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition, carried out by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Institute for Public Representation (IPR) at Georgetown Law, found “blatant violations” of children’s privacy laws and the illegal collection of their data.

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The CCFC, who published their findings on Thursday, are now calling on the FTC to investigate and sanction Amazon “because parents, not Jeff Bezos, should be in charge of children’s data.”

The Echo Dot Kids is the child version of Amazon’s ‘home assistant’ speaker device, which records and stores information from its users. The technology uses machine learning to help train the system’s AI and understand its owner better through their requests.

READ MORE: Alexa, what’s my neighbor doing? ‘Human error’ allows user to eavesdrop on stranger’s life

The group investigating the family-friendly version of the device released video footage demonstrating their attempts to delete sensitive data.

Amazon markets Echo Dot Kids as a device to educate and entertain kids, but the real purpose is to amass a treasure trove of sensitive data that it refuses to relinquish even when directed to by parents,” said Josh Golin, CCFC’s Executive Director.

Golin went on to claim that Amazon are in clear violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and called on the FTC to hold the company accountable for “blatantly violating children’s privacy law and putting kids at risk.”

READ MORE: Alexa, is that you? Amazon exposes user data in mystery breach, issues creepy non-explanation

Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said the Echo Dot Kids Edition is “compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” but failed to address any of the specific issues raised in the complaint,

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Amazon: Algorithmen entscheiden, wer entlassen wird


04-05-19 09:21:00,

Amazon-Gründer und -Präsident Jeff Bezos ist der reichste Mann der Welt. (Foto: dpa)

Amazon-Gründer und -Präsident Jeff Bezos ist der reichste Mann der Welt. (Foto: dpa)

In diesem Artikel lesen Sie: 

  • Wie Algorithmen entscheiden, wer bei Amazon entlassen wird
  • Wie das wertvollste Unternehmen der Welt seine Mitarbeiter behandelt, als wären sie Roboter 
  • Wie sich die Situation speziell in Deutschland darstellt

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USA: Amazon und Co. zahlen keinen Cent Steuern


03-05-19 03:11:00,

In den USA hat sich die Zahl der Konzerne, die keine Steuern zahlen, nach Trumps Steuerreform verdoppelt

Das dürfte Donald Trump in Bedrängnis bringen. Während die kleinen Leute ihre Steuern zahlen müssen, weil sie – wie bei uns – keine Möglichkeiten haben, ihr Einkommen am Finanzamt vorbei zu tricksen, zahlen mehr Konzerne trotz Milliardengewinnen keinen Cent an Steuern. Und das hat sich mit Trumps Steuerreform noch weiter verstärkt.

Die New York Times hat das Thema aufgegriffen und gegen Donald Trump gewendet, wie das die Politik des Mediums ist. Tatsächlich wird in den USA derzeit die Forderung nach einer höheren Besteuerung der Reichen populär. Einige Präsidentschaftskandidaten der Demokraten haben dies auf ihr Programm gesetzt, während Trump weiter die Alternative “Sozialismus oder Freiheit” gegen Venezuela, aber auch gegen die demokratischen Politiker propagiert (Socialist States of America?, Höhere Besteuerung der Reichen ist plötzlich mehrheitsfähig).

Nach einem Bericht zahlten 60 Fortune 500-Konzerne keine Unternehmenssteuer, obgleich sie fast 80 Milliarden US-Dollar Profit machen. Die Konzerne hätten sogar 4,3 Milliarden an Unternehmenssteuern zurücküberwiesen bekommen. Besonders krass ist Amazon. Der Konzern machte über 10 Milliarden US-Dollar Gewinn und erhielt sogar noch eine Steuerrückzahlung. Ganz neu ist die Steuervermeidung großer Konzerne nicht, aber in den USA hat sich deren Zahl, die nach Trumps Steuerreform keine Steuern zahlen, gleich verdoppelt.

Zu den Null-Steuer-Konzernen gehören neben Amazon beispielsweise Halliburton, Netflix, IBM, Delta Air Lines, Chevron oder General Motors. Nach Plänen mancher demokratischer Präsidentschaftskandidaten sollen nicht nur die Reichen, sondern auch die profitablen Unternehmen mehr Steuern zahlen und damit zum Gemeinwohl beitragen. Sie werden natürlich als Linke oder gar Kommunisten bezeichnet, aber ist eine Besteuerung von Unternehmen und Reichen schon links, wenn kleine Einkommen ganz selbstverständlich Steuern zahlen müssen?

Die Präsidentschaftskandidatin Elizabeth Warren fordert beispielsweise, dass Unternehmen 7 Prozent Steuern auf die Gewinne über 100 Millionen US-Dollar in den USA zahlen sollen, die sie in der Welt erzielen. Das würde nur 1200 Unternehmen betreffen und eine Billion US-Dollar bringen. Amazon hätte nach Warren fast 700 Millionen US-Dollar an Steuern zahlen müssen. Das wären 700 Millionen mehr als nichts (Das Vermögen der Reichsten wächst am schnellsten).

Allerdings fordern Länder, in denen US-Konzerne Gewinne machen, ohne sie dort zu versteuern,

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It’s not just Amazon: These profitable US corporations paid ZERO taxes


21-04-19 11:22:00,

Sixty of America’s biggest companies from the Fortune 500 list, including IBM, Netflix, General Motors and Chevron, managed to avoid paying a dime in income taxes on their whopping profits last year.

After the explosive report on how Jeff Bezos’ Amazon used tax loopholes and paid nothing in taxes for two years in a row, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) revealed that many more US companies did the same thing absolutely legally in 2018.

They include 60 major firms from different sectors of the US economy from retail to oil and gas. For example, Delta Air Lines paid nothing to Uncle Sam despite recording over $5 billion in profits. Energy major Chevron and automotive giant General Motors also paid zero tax, with each having earned more than $4 billion last year.

In total, the listed companies zeroed out federal income taxes on $79 billion in US pretax income, according to ITEP findings. And instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes, these corporations enjoyed a net corporate tax rebate of $4.3 billion.

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This all happened thanks to various legal loopholes created by the “technically flawed” 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The law left most tax breaks intact while it also set a 21 percent statutory corporate tax rate (reduced from 35 percent).

“The result, unsurprisingly, has been a continued decline in our already low corporate tax revenues: in fiscal 2018, US corporate tax revenues fell by 31 percent, according to US Treasury data,” the authors of the report said. “This was a more precipitous decline than in any year of normal economic growth in US history.”

The diverse array of legal tax breaks includes accelerated depreciation (used, for example, by Chevron and Delta Airlines among others) as well a tax break for stock options, from which Amazon and Netflix benefited. The latter – with $856 million in profit – reduced its income taxes by $191 million by taking advantage of this tax break and paying nothing.

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Bundespolizei goes Amazon


18-03-19 09:34:00,

Eine neue Form von Public-Private-Partnership: Die Bundespolizei speichert Bodycam-Aufnahmen auf Servern von Amazon

Eine ganz neue Form von Public-Private-Partnership ist offensichtlich die deutsche Bundespolizei eingegangen. Kürzlich wurde bekannt, dass die Strafverfolgungsbehörde die Aufnahmen ihrer mit Bodycams ausgestatteten Einsatzkräfte nun auf den Servern von Amazon speichert.

Diese Körperkameras, die bereits seit 2014 verstärkt zum Einsatz kommen, sollen Polizisten im Einsatz vor aggressiven Angriffen schützen und darüber hinaus dabei helfen, Straftäter zu identifizieren. Es handelt sich also um sensibles Datenmaterial, das da auf den Servern eines amerikanischen Privatunternehmens gespeichert wird. Das zuständige Ministerium begründete diesen Schritt damit, dass der amerikanische Internetgigant in Deutschland derzeit der einzige Anbieter sei, der eine vom Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik zertifizierte Cloudlösung anbieten kann. Die Daten seien selbstverständlich verschlüsselt und ausschließlich auf Servern gespeichert, die in Deutschland stehen.

Deutsche Behörden wie die Bundespolizei verfügen also offensichtlich nicht über die nötigen Rechenzentren und Speicherkapazitäten, um das Datenmaterial, das ihre eigenen Mitarbeiter im Einsatz sammeln, unter eigener Regie und Kontrolle zu speichern. Denn wer weiß schon, ob nicht auch amerikanische Sicherheitsbehörden Zugriff auf die hier abgelegten Daten haben. Immerhin ist auch die CIA mit einer “Secret Cloud” auf den Servern der Amazon Web Services (AWS) Zuhause, was bei Bedarf doch kurze Wege für NSA & Co. garantiert.

Die Frage sei erlaubt, was Dorothee Bär, die für Digitalisierung zuständige Staatssekretärin im Kanzleramt, eigentlich den lieben langen Tag so macht? Von Flugtaxis träumen, aber die Basics nicht auf die Reihe kriegen, wie zum Beispiel den Aufbau einer gut funktionierenden IT-Infrastruktur für die bundeseigenen Behörden.

Johannes Bröckers ist Autor des Buches “Schnauze, Alexa! Ich kaufe nicht bei Amazon”: Darin rechnet er mit dem Allesverkäufer ab, der auf dem besten Weg ist, der Allesbeherrscher zu werden. Amazons Alexa hört weltweit in den Wohnstuben alles mit, auch die intimsten Informationen über uns kennt der weltweit größte Händler – vielleicht aber auch die CIA, die ebenfalls auf den Amazon-Servern zu Hause ist? Da hilft nur zu sagen: “Schnauze, Alexa!”

Aber vielleicht träumt ja die Bundespolizei bei dieser strategischen Partnerschaft insgeheim auch schon von “Amazon Rekognition”. Dieses KI-gestützte Gesichtserkennungsprogramm verkauft Amazon seit gut zwei Jahren an die US-Polizei. Rekognition ist bei der Überwachung im öffentlichen Raum in der Lage,

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Amazon Banned These 9 Academic Books Questioning Certain Aspects of the ‘Holocaust’. Why?


08-03-19 06:53:00,

This doesn’t look like extremist hate speech to us. Judging from these blurbs and titles, it looks like pretty balanced and fair discussion of a very serious, and vehemently disputed, allegation.

The first one in the list below even presents both sides of the argument in an attempt to get to the bottom of who is telling the truth.

Why are some people so afraid of a fair and open discussion?

These books were banned from Amazon in March of 2017, but are easily available online at other sellers. Take a look at the blurbs describing these books. They are an eye-opener.

Debating the Holocaust. A New Look at Both Sides.

By Thomas Dalton.

Mainstream historians insist that there cannot be, may not be a debate about the Holocaust. But ignoring it does not make this controversy go away. Traditional scholars admit that there was neither a budget, a plan, nor an order for the Holocaust; that the key camps have all but vanished, and so have any human remains; that material and unequivocal documentary evidence is absent; and that there are serious problems with survivor testimonies. Dalton juxtaposes the traditional Holocaust narrative with revisionist challenges and then analyzes the mainstream’s responses to them. He reveals the weaknesses of both sides, while declaring revisionism the winner of the current state of the debate. 3rd edition. 

332 pp. pb., 6”×9”, b/w ill., bibl., index, £20/25 (2017)

Auschwitz: A Three-Quarter Century of Propaganda Origins, Development and Decline of the “Gas Chamber” Propaganda Lie.

By Carlo Mattogno.

An overview of the many rumors, myths and lies about Auschwitz spread during and right after the war, which mainstream historians today reject as untrue: murder by gas bombs, electrocution chambers, gas showers, pneumatic hammer systems, electrocution conveyor belts; oils, grease and soap made of murder victims; 4 million victims; crematoria with a capacity of up to 400 million bodies… It then explains by which ridiculous methods some claims about Auschwitz were accepted as true and turned into “history,” although they are just as untrue.

124 pp. pb., 5”×8”, b/w ill., bibl., index, £8/$10 (2018) | Free eBook version available

Jewish Emigration from the Third Reich.

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Amazon Vendors Panic After Online Giant Suddenly Halts Purchases


08-03-19 09:39:00,

After Amazon successfully put a majority of its retail “brick and mortar” competitors out of business, it is now cracking down on its own supply chain.

In Jeff Bezos latest move to boost flagging profits and razor-thin margins at the company’s core e-commerce business, Amazon abruptly stopped buying products over the past two weeks from many of its wholesale vendors, encouraging them to instead sell their products directly to consumers on Amazon’s marketplace, even if that means disrupting relationships with longtime suppliers and potentially limiting customer choice. And, according to Bloomberg which cited consultants who help clients sell on Amazon, thousands of vendors are affected.

The departure from the company’s traditional business model of serving as logistical middleman between buyers and sellers, is pushing suppliers directly onto the marketplace – rather than selling products itself – and lets Amazon offload the risk but more importantly, the cost of purchasing, storing and shipping the merchandise. Instead, leveraging its quasi-monopolistic scale, Amazon is moving to charge suppliers for these services while taking a commission on each transaction, resulting in much higher margins per transaction. The disruptive strategy is part of a larger effort to reduce overhead by getting more suppliers to use an automated self-service system that requires no input from Amazon managers.

Commenting on the change in the company’s traditional operating model, Amazon responded to Bloomberg that it regularly reviews its selling partner relationships “and may make changes when we see an opportunity to provide customers with improved selection, value and convenience.” What it meant is that it is now big enough to extract an even greater profit from each transaction as the company’s vendors have no other choice.

And while their options may be limited, the vendors were not only shocked by the change in strategy, they are also furious: the abrupt cancellation of orders prompted panic this week at the ShopTalk retail conference that drew more than 8,000 retailers, brands and consultants to Las Vegas.

Some attendees said Amazon stopped submitting routine orders last week for a variety of products, often without explanation. The drought continued this week, affecting more vendors and leaving them frustrated about the lack of communication from Amazon.

One vendor who has been selling products to Amazon for five years said he got a canned response when he inquired why his routine weekly purchase order never came through.

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Amazon–De mentaliteit van een roofdier


01-03-19 09:55:00,

Een van de essentiële problemen van onze maatschappij is het feit dat grote multinationale bedrijven bijna in regel amper belastingen betalen. Het Amerikaanse Amazon slaagde er vorig jaar zelfs nog in om niet alleen 0 dollar belastingen te betalen maar van de overheid zoals ook al in 2017 nog centen te krijgen. Goed voor 129 miljoen dollar en dit ondanks de torenhoge winsten in het voorbije jaar.

amazon - Winst en belastingen - FT 25-02-2019,jpg

Een tabel die nog maar eens aantoont hoe grote multinationals veelal weigeren belastingen te betalen. Dat is dan maar voor anderen zoals kleine bedrijfjes, zelfstandigen en loontrekkenden. De VS is dan ook de grootste schuldenaar ter wereld. The Financial Times 25 februari 2019.

Een tabel van de Britse zakenkrant The Financial Times toont dit in wezen hallucinant verhaal ten volle. Geen probleem echter voor Jef Bezos, de grote man van Amazon. Want de staatskas is voor hem immers een zeer interessante partner. Zo is Amazon kandidaat voor een enorm groot contract rond informatica voor het Amerikaanse leger ten bedrage van 10 miljard dollar.

En als eigenaar van de erg invloedrijke krant The Washington Post bezit hij ook indien nodig over voldoende middelen om diezelfde overheid onder druk te zetten. De oorlog die hij op dit ogenblik via die krant voert tegen president Donald Trump toont dit.

Maar voor Bezos is dit ook een kwestie van hoger en lager. Stijgen de winsten fenomenaal dan blijkt uit de vele sociale conflicten in o.m. Duitsland dat de werkdruk er eveneens alsmaar stijgt en dat de lonen er dan weer zo laag mogelijk worden gehouden. Winstoptimalisatie heet dat in het jargon.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Jeff Bezos

Voor Jef Bezos van Amazon is de VS een prachtig land. Vanuit zijn zakelijke praktijken heel begrijpelijk. Hij is kandidaat voor de titel van ‘s werelds rijkste man.

Bij de discussies rond dat contract van Amazon met het Pentagon stelde Bezos als excuus dat de Verenigde Staten ‘een prachtig land is dat men dient te verdedigen’. En wie die cijfers ziet kan hem moeilijk vanuit zijn standpunt ongelijk geven. De VS is immers een melkkoe voor figuren als een Bezos.

Willy Van Damme


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«Amazon»: Steuergutschrift trotz Milliardengewinn


20-02-19 11:17:00,

Amazon, Steuern, Schlupfloch, infosperber


Trotz eines Milliardengewinns muss «Amazon» in den USA keine Bundessteuern bezahlen

Tobias Tscherrig / 20. Feb 2019 –

Dank amerikanischer Steuerreform und Schlupflöcher im Gesetz erhält Amazon 2018 trotz Milliardengewinn eine Steuergutschrift.

Ausgerechnet die «Washington Post», die 2013 von «Amazon»-Präsident Jeff Bezos gekauft wurde, berichtete am 16. Februar unter dem Titel «Amazon bezahlte im vergangenen Jahr keine Bundessteuern auf Gewinne von 11,2 Milliarden Dollar» als Erste über den Steuercoup ihres Eigentümers. Im Artikel beruft sich die Zeitung auf Berechnungen des «Instituts für Steuern und Wirtschaftspolitik» (ITEP), welches die Steuererklärung von «Amazon» analysiert hatte.

Demnach wies der Online-Riese «Amazon» im Jahr 2018 Gewinne in der Höhe von 11,2 Milliarden Dollar aus – was im Vergleich zum Vorjahr einer Verdoppelung entspricht. Trotz dem hohen Gewinn habe «Amazon» 2018 eine Steuergutschrift von 129 Millionen Dollar erhalten, so die «Washington Post». Dies sei unter anderem auf zahlreiche Steuerschlupflöcher wie etwa gesetzlich zulässige Steuergutschriften und Steuerbefreiungen beim Handel mit Aktien zurückzuführen.

Gemäss der Analyse von ITEP liegt der effektive Steuersatz des Online-Riesen, der an der Börse zwischenzeitlich mehr als eine Billion Dollar wert war, zeitweise als wertvollstes Unternehmen der Welt galt und seinen Gründer Bezos zum reichsten Mensch der Welt gemacht hat, bei Minus einem Prozent. Damit zahle das Unternehmen keinen Cent der US-Bundessteuern.

Steuerreform von Trump ist mitschuldig

Verantwortlich für den mickrigen Steuersatz ist auch die Steuerreform von US-Präsident Donald Trump. Ende 2017 hatte er die radikale Reform auf den Weg gebracht, ab Anfang 2018 wurde der Steuersatz für Unternehmen auf Bundesebene dann von maximal 35 Prozent auf einen einheitlichen Steuersatz von 21 Prozent gesenkt. Gemäss «Handelsblatt» können Bundesstaaten und Gemeinden ausserdem eigene Körperschaftssteuern erheben, was die gesamte Steuerbelastung von durchschnittlich 38,9 Prozent auf 25,75 Prozent reduziere.

Ein weiterer wichtiger Punkt: Seit Inkrafttreten der unternehmensfreundlichen Steuerreform bezieht sich die Steuerpflicht von US-Unternehmen nicht länger auf alle Einkommen, welche sie weltweit erwirtschaften. Vielmehr werden bestimmte Einkommen wie Dividenden nur noch besteuert, wenn sie aus US-Quellen stammen.

«Amazon» nimmt das Geschenk gerne an

Im Artikel der «Washington Post» über die Steuerrückzahlung nimmt eine «Amazon»-Sprecherin Stellung: «Amazon zahlt alle Steuern,

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Amazon Subsidies Were Uneconomical, Un-American, & Unconstitutional


16-02-19 10:34:00,

Authored by Luigi Zingales via,

As soon as Amazon announced the location of its new headquarters, an intense media battle started on the rationality of the fiscal subsidies offered by the two chosen states to attract the new headquarters. Was it a good idea for New York and Virginia to offer $1.5 billion and $573 million respectively to stir Amazon’s decision?

In each of the two chosen locations Amazon was to invest billions in infrastructure, employ as many as 25,000 people directly (and many more indirectly), and bring billions in new tax revenues. Even the generous fiscal benefits offered by the two locations seem small vis-à-vis the additional fiscal revenues the winning states will enjoy. After all, had Amazon chosen New Jersey over New York, the Empire State would have lost up to $14 billion in new tax revenues over the next 25 years. Why shouldn’t a state pay a fraction of these enormous benefits to secure Amazon’s headquarters?

While appealing, this argument is flawed andas it turns outself-defeating. When companies compete for customers, they have to offer better products or lower prices. They are forced to innovate and improve efficiency in production. In economist lingo, product market competition is not a zero-sum game (my gains are equal to your losses), but a positive-sum game (my gains exceed your losses). By contrast, corporate competition for state subsidies is a zero-sum game. Amazon is not going to be more productive in New York than in New Jersey –it will only pay fewer taxes. If companies are successful in pitting one state against another, they will end up paying no state taxes. As a result, the economy will not be one iota more efficient, and the rest of us will end up paying more taxes to make up for the revenue shortfall.     

Competition for subsidies also fosters crony capitalism and hurts productivity growth. It fosters crony capitalism because it favors companies that are well-connected, rather than companies that are more efficient. A recent paper shows that companies are more likely to receive subsidies when they make financial contributions to political candidates in the state. Competition for subsidies also hurts productivity growth because it forces companies to dedicate time and resources to influencing the political choices,

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Trillion-dollar-valued Amazon pays $0 in income taxes for 2018, gets multi-million refund


14-02-19 09:00:00,

Trillion-dollar-company Amazon skated through 2018’s tax filings without paying a cent for the second year in a row. The e-commerce behemoth, which made $11 billion last year, will pay no taxes at all, thanks to 2017’s tax reform.

Rather than pay the standard 21 percent corporate income tax rate, Amazon is actually claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which works out to a logic-defying rate of -1 percent. Aside from the nebulous “tax credits,” which the company does not have to spell out in its public filings, Amazon is also claiming a tax break for executive stock options, according to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy – a longstanding loophole that permits profitable corporations to dodge federal and state income taxes on almost half their profits.

While President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform legislation lowered corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent, it was sold as an incentive for companies to keep their money in the US, instead of stashing it overseas where the IRS couldn’t touch it. Now that Amazon and Netflix have both made headlines for using the new regulations to avoid paying anything at all, it remains to be seen whether the legislation’s failure to close corporate loopholes will leave the US holding the bag for fiscal year 2018 as the country’s national debt inches past $22 trillion – a record high.

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Amazon’s tax windfall doesn’t even take into account the billions in tax breaks the state governments of Virginia and New York offered the company to open a second (and third) headquarters in their states, though there are rumors that New York is getting cold feet about the unprecedented corporate giveaway. Amazon didn’t pay any taxes in 2017 either, though it raked in a comparatively paltry $5.6 billion in profits and extracted a slightly larger $137 million refund.

Also on
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Amazon Denies Warehouse Workers’ Request For Air Conditioning As “Robots Can’t Work In Cold Weather”


17-12-18 09:12:00,

Thanks to the notoriously brutal working conditions at its fulfillment centers, Amazon has become a lighting rod of criticism from the American labor movement and the Democratic Socialists of America, who claim to champion the rights of workers (despite the fact that most of the organization’s members are college students and creative-class workers relying on handouts from their parents to pay their expensive Brooklyn rents). The e-commerce giant even won the dubious distinction of being specifically called out in a bill proposed by Socialist champion Bernie Sanders (his “Stop BEZOS” act).

As investigative reporters on multiple continents have burnished Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ reputation as a ruthless capitalist by exposing some of the company’s more extreme labor abuses, like effectively forcing employees to pee in bottles to avoid taking unpaid bathroom breaks and hiring ambulances to wait outside some of its warehouses to cart away workers suffering from heat stroke.

As the debate about what, exactly, Amazon owes its workers and the municipalities that host its facilities has taken on renewed relevance following the backlash to the generous tax breaks offered by NYC for Amazon to build a new headquarters in Long Island City (the city’s subway is crumbling, but Amazon is getting taxpayer-funded handouts to build a helipad!), more Amazon workers are rising up to protest their brutal working conditions.


This month, workers at the Amazon’s MSP1 fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota gathered outside the facility on a cold Friday evening to protest several of these ‘abuses’, including the company’s refusal to accommodate Muslim workers by not providing adequate space and time for prayer as well as its refusal to accommodate workers observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year coincided with the company’s Prime Day sale. 

A Gizmodo story about the protest in Minnesota included an interesting detail about another demonstration at a facility in Staten Island. Workers at the Amazon facility in Staten Island who recently announced their intention to unionize complained about the company’s refusal to install air-conditioning in its sweltering facility.

The reason given by Amazon for refusing to provide the air conditioning? The robots in its facility can’t function optimally in cold weather.

MSP1 is a fairly new and heavily-roboticized factory,

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Amazon HQ2 Will Cost Taxpayers at Least $4.6 Billion, More Than Twice What the Company Claimed, New Study Shows


15-11-18 09:49:00,

Amazon’s announcement this week that it will open its new headquarters in New York City and northern Virginia came with the mind-boggling revelation that the corporate giant will rake in $2.1 billion in local government subsidies. But an analysis by the nation’s leading tracker of corporate subsidies finds that the government handouts will actually amount to at least $4.6 billion.

But even that figure, which accounts for state and local perks, doesn’t take into account a gift that Amazon will also enjoy from the federal government, a testament to the old adage that in Washington, bad ideas never die.

The Amazon location in Long Island City, in the New York City borough of Queens, is situated in a federal opportunity zone, a Jack Kemp-era concept resurrected in the 2017 tax law that, in theory, is supposed to bring money into poverty-stricken areas. The northern Virginia site, in the Arlington neighborhood of Crystal City (which developers and local officials have rebranded as “National Landing”), is not directly in an opportunity zone but is virtually surrounded by other geographic areas that are.

Under the tax overhaul signed by President Donald Trump last year, investors in opportunity zones can defer payments of capital gains taxes until 2026, and if they hold them for seven years, they can exclude 15 percent of the gains from taxation. If investors carry the opportunity zone investment for 10 years, they eliminate taxes on future appreciation entirely. Investment managers have been salivating at the chance to take advantage of opportunity zones. Special funds have been built to cater to people holding unrealized capital gains — such as Amazon employees with large holdings of company stock.

Not only could Amazon benefit from the opportunity zone directly in Long Island City, but Virginia employees with unrealized capital gains will have an escape valve next door to an Amazon campus. “People who happen to be sitting around with long-term capital gains may now have vehicles for hiding them,” said Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that scrutinizes economic development incentive deals between cities and companies, and has analyzed the Amazon deal.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the opportunity zone or the Good Jobs First estimate of the subsidies it could receive.

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Amazon’s Accent Recognition Technology Could Tell the Government Where You’re From


15-11-18 03:25:00,

At the beginning of October, Amazon was quietly issued a patent that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a user’s physical characteristics and emotional state based on their voice. Characteristics, or “voice features,” like language accent, ethnic origin, emotion, gender, age, and background noise would be immediately extracted and tagged to the user’s data file to help deliver more targeted advertising.

The algorithm would also consider a customer’s physical location — based on their IP address, primary shipping address, and browser settings — to help determine their accent. Should Amazon’s patent become a reality, or if accent detection is already possible, it would introduce questions of surveillance and privacy violations, as well as possible discriminatory advertising, experts said.

The civil rights issues raised by the patent are similar to those around facial recognition, another technology Amazon has used as an anchor of its artificial intelligence strategy, and one that it controversially marketed to law enforcement. Like facial recognition, voice analysis underlines how existing laws and privacy safeguards simply aren’t capable of protecting users from new categories of data collection — or government spying, for that matter. Unlike facial recognition, voice analysis relies not on cameras in public spaces, but microphones inside smart speakers in our homes. It also raises its own thorny issues around advertising that targets or excludes certain groups of people based on derived characteristics like nationality, native language, and so on (the sort of controversy that Facebook has stumbled into again and again).


From Amazon’s patent, an illustration of a process for determining physical and emotional characteristics from someone’s voice, resulting in tailored audio content like ads.

Document: United States Patent and Trademark Office

Why the Government Might Be Interested in Accent Data

If voice-based accent detection can determine a person’s ethnic background, it opens up a new category of information that is incredibly interesting to the government, said Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

“If you’re a company and you’re creating new classifications of data, and the government is interested in them, you’d be naive to think that law enforcement isn’t going to come after it,” she said.

She described a scenario in which knowing a user’s purchase history,

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Amazon erhält Milliarden für die neuen Konzernstandorte


14-11-18 11:24:00,

Long Island City. Bild: King of Hearts/CC By-SA-3.0

Der Konzern soll neben Geldvorteilen primär nach Orten gesucht haben, um am besten Talente zu gewinnen, mit Arlington und Long Island City wird gegenüber dem Silicon Valley die Ostküste präferiert

Seit einem Jahr konkurrierten Hunderte von amerikanischen Städten darum, zum Standort einer weiteren Zentrale von Amazon zu werden. Versprochen wurden von Amazon, der Konzern beschäftigt weltweit 610.000 Menschen, 250.000 in Nordamerika, 50.000 Arbeitsplätze. Skurril waren teilweise die Angebote an den Internetkonzern. Jetzt hat sich Amazon entschieden, nicht einen, sondern zwei neue Hauptsitze in Long Island City, New York, und in Alexandria (Crystal City), Virginia, zu bauen. Beide sollen jeweils 25.000 Arbeitsplätze anbieten, zusätzlich wird noch ein Logistikzentrum in Nashville errichtet.

Wie erwartet, wurden die beiden Standorte nicht nur wegen ihrer Lage, sondern auch wegen geldwerter Vorteile gewählt. Immerhin erhält Amazon vom Bundesstaat New York einen Zuschuss von 1,5 Milliarden US-Dollar. Angeblich soll es auch von New York City noch Gelder geben, deren Höhe aber noch nicht bekannt ist. Virginia lockte mit einer halben Milliarde Steuergelder, Tennessee mit über 100 Millionen.

Nach Angaben von Amazon erhält der Konzern vom Bundesstaat New York 1,525 Milliarden US-Dollar, davon seien 1,2 Milliarden ein leistungsgebundener Steuerkredit von 1,2 Milliarden, der auf den Löhnen basiert, die Amazon den Angestellten während der nächsten 10 Jahre zahlen wird. Das entspricht 48.000 US-Dollar pro Job mit einem Durchschnittseinkommen von 150.000 US-Dollar. Ausgezahlt wird das Geld nach den gechaffenen Arbeitsplätzen.

Versprochen wird eine Investition von 2,5 Milliarden US-Dollar, die Schaffung von 25.000 gut bezahlten Vollzeitjobs, eine Bürofläche von 370.000 Quadratmetern, die in Zukunft verdoppelt werden könnte, und Steuereinnahmen von mehr als 10 Milliarden US-Dollar während der nächsten 20 Jahre. Durch das neue Zentrum sollen Tausende von weiteren Jobs entstehen. Zudem hat Amazon zugesichert, dass auf dem Gelände auch ein Startup-Inkubator entsteht, zudem Platz für Künstler und Unternehmen. Der Konzern will einen Bauplatz für eine öffentliche Schule stiften und in Infrastruktur und neue Grünräume investieren.

Die ideale Stadt für IT-Konzerne

Interessant ist die Beschreibung der Vorzüge von Long Island City als Standort. Daraus lässt sich erschließen, was für die Ansiedlung eines Unternehmens und von gut bezahlten Angestellten an urbaner Struktur erforderlich ist, was aber möglicherweise durch den Zuzug von Tausenden von neuen Gutverdienern zerstört werden kann,

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Hoe Amazon en andere techbedrijven meehelpen aan de deportatie van migranten


08-11-18 11:14:00,

Technologiebedrijven als Amazon en Palantir verdienen grof geld met de deportatie van migranten in de VS. Eigenlijk is het nog straffer: ze maken die deportatie ook mee mogelijk. Hoe kan dat?

Om de link tussen technologiebedrijven en de Amerikaanse deportatiediensten te begrijpen moet eerst iets verduidelijkt worden over hoe die technologiebedrijven werken en wat hun band is met de Amerikaanse overheid.

Neem nu Amazon. Het is een naam die de meesten onder ons associëren met koopjes doen op het internet. Maar eigenlijk is retail slechts een klein deel van wat Amazon doet. Het bedrijf heeft zich de voorbije jaren gespecialiseerd in het aanbieden van online opslagruimte, de zogenaamde cloud-storage. De tak van het bedrijf die daarin gespecialiseerd is, heet AWS, wat staat voor Amazon Web Services.

AWS werd aanvankelijk ontwikkeld als een intern platform voor Amazon. Het diende om data over klanten, trajecten en producten te managen. Maar algauw zag Amazon in dat de ontwikkelde technologie kon uitbesteed worden aan andere bedrijven. Een slimme zet, want AWS is momenteel de snelst groeiende tak van Amazon. Om een idee te geven: in 2018 was AWS verantwoordelijk voor 73 procent van de totale omzet van Amazon.

Steeds meer bedrijven doen rechtstreeks of onrechtstreeks, via tussenspelers, beroep op AWS om hun data op te slaan. Dat is immers veel goedkoper dan zelf servers te beheren. Bovendien beschikken bedrijven als Amazon ook over de juiste technologie en know how om data te verwerken, analyseren en beheren. In praktijk komt deze praktijk neer op het outsourcen van informatietechnologie.

Niks op tegen? Hangt ervan af hoe je het bekijkt. Door het outsourcen van informatietechnologie geven bedrijven ook heel wat weg. Omdat een bedrijf als AWS over zoveel data beschikt, kan het ook steeds meer data en kennis monopoliseren die eigen zijn aan specifieke sectoren. Het gaat daarbij niet alleen om de data zelf maar ook over de metadata: de data over de data waardoor patronen, structuren en tendensen duidelijk worden. Dat biedt een groot competitief voordeel.


Niet alleen bedrijven zijn geïnteresseerd om hun data te migreren naar de ‘cloud’. In tijden waarin besparingen het mantra zijn, zien ook overheden steeds meer heil in het outsourcen van informatietechnologie. Dat is zeker het geval voor de Amerikaanse overheid.

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Amazon Censorship of 9/11 Unmasked

Amazon Censorship of 9/11 Unmasked

16-09-18 08:49:00,

Edward Curtin

On September 10, 2018, I published a laudatory review of the new book, 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation by David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth.  It is the definitive book on the defining event of the 21st century.  The book concludes that the official version(s) of the attacks of 11 September 2001 are false.  The review was subsequently reposted at many publications. There was great reader response and interest in the book, which was due for official release the next day, 11 September.  My review provided a link to the book’s Amazon page that noted the 11 September availability date.

By the next day readers were responding in great number that the Amazon site was reporting the book was “out of print,” when in fact it had just been published.  This “out of print” notification lasted until the evening of 13 September when it was changed to “in stock on September 30, 2018.”

By the following morning it was changed to “in stock on September 21, 2018,” only to be changed again between 11-12 PM on September 14 to “in stock on September 24, 2018,” where it remains as of noon on Saturday the 15th.  It is unheard of for a book that has an official release date and that is available straight from the publisher to be listed as “out of print.” Amazon Canada continues to report that the book “has not yet been released.”  And obviously, all the date changes that push the book’s availability back by weeks suggest a clear-cut effort by Amazon to make sure readers cannot obtain the book quickly and in a timely manner from the most popular source, if ever.

Will they soon announce that the book will never be available for national security considerations or because it violates Amazon’s “content guidelines”? The book’s publisher, Interlink Publishing, is selling the book now and says Amazon has the books.  So why is Jeff Bezos’s company playing this game? His other major business, The Washington Post, (known as the CIA’s newspaper) is surely not going to review the book, nor would their editorial staff post encomiums to David Ray Griffin, Elizabeth Woodworth, their colleagues in this important research.

Readers should demand that Amazon immediately change their website and accept orders to be shipped today.  

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