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How People’s Power Beat Amazon in NYC

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No Tech for ICE! Campaign

Mijente has launched a No Tech for ICE campaign, focusing on Palantir — its CEO, Alex Karp is pictured above — and its use of Amazon Web Services to help ICE, the Border Patrol and DHS carry out the mission of deportation and repression of immigrants and other Latinx people in the US.

Here are two links:

https://action.mijente.net/petitions/tell-jeff-bezos-amazon-cut-your-ties-to-ice

https://notechforice.com/palantir/

As vice.com recently reported:

HTTPS://CMS.VICE.COM/VICE/EN_U…

In a CNBC interview at Davos, Palantir CEO Alex Karp admitted that his company “[finds] people in our country who are undocumented.” For years, Palantir has attempted to deny or downplay any role in those operations by pointing to the two wings of ICE, which deal with “criminal investigations” and immigration enforcement.

Palantir, a technology company founded by Karp and Peter Thiel, has contracts with the Pentagon, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. Last year alone, Palantir secured $1.5 billion in new federal government contracts. But it has faced the most scrutiny over its contracts with ICE.

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Amazon Web Services Used to Monitor Prisoner Calls for COVID keywords

https://theintercept.com/2020/04/21/prisons-inmates-coronavirus-monitoring-surveillance-verus/

Prisons Attempt to Track Coronavirus-Related Keywords in Inmate Phone Calls

Akela Lacy, Alice Speri, Jordan Smith, Sam Biddle – April 21 2020

Prison officials in at least three states are using software to scan inmate calls for mentions of the coronavirus, a move advocacy groups believe paves the way for abuse while raising stark questions about carceral health care.

The monitoring software was created by LEO Technologies, a Los Angeles company backed primarily by scandal-plagued Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Known as Verus, it was first deployed several years ago to forestall suicide attempts, mine calls for investigative tips, and for a range of other purposes. In recent weeks, it has been marketed as a system “that can mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across our nation’s jail and prison facilities” by alerting prison authorities to sickness-related conversations between inmates and the outside world.

LEO then routes the data through Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, to obtain call transcripts, which are then shared back to LEO for keyword analysis by its staff. The LEO Technologies website notes the company is part of the “AWS partner network,” an Amazon initiative that “helps companies build, market, and sell their AWS offerings by providing valuable business, technical, and marketing support,” per an Amazon web page.

Document: LEO Technology

“It automatically downloads, analyzes, and transcribes all recorded inmate calls, proactively flagging them for review,” explains a Verus product brochure, which also claims this “near real-time intelligence” can be used to identify sick inmates, help allocate personnel in understaffed prisons, and even prevent “COVID-19 related murder.” The brochure touts Verus’s “advanced semantics” and “proactive analysis” and provides what it says are real-world examples of Verus already at work in undisclosed prison facilities.

Coronavirus monitoring trials have begun at prisons in Alabama, California, and Georgia, LEO Tech CEO Scott Kernan said, adding that there may be further deployments he could not immediately detail.

Advocates for incarcerated people said they feared the technology would be used against those discussing the virus with people outside.

“We’ve been using words that would trigger the keywords that were advertised on that document,” said Sarah Hamid, an organizer with the Carceral Tech Resistance Network, whose volunteers work closely with incarcerated people. “And so we became concerned because we don’t know what the ramifications are of using those words. Like, if somebody uses the word ‘coughing,’ will their entire dorm be put under lockdown or something like that?”

How It Works — and Who Pays For It

According to LEO Technologies’ website, the Verus system operates in at least 26 facilities in 11 states, including uses not specific to the coronavirus. In an interview with The Intercept, Kernan said that prisons use Verus by telling their phone service provider to share call data with LEO Technologies;

LEO then routes this data through Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, to obtain call transcripts, which are then shared back to LEO for keyword analysis by its staff. The LEO Technologies website notes the company is part of the “AWS partner network,” an Amazon initiative that “helps companies build, market, and sell their AWS offerings by providing valuable business, technical, and marketing support,” per an Amazon web page. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Kernan, a former California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation secretary, also sits on the board of the GEO Group, one of the two largest private prison corporations and the largest operator of immigration detention facilities in the country.

LEO Technologies is funded by Elliott Broidy, a Trump insider and former national deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee whose office was raided in 2018 as part of a Justice Department investigation into money laundering and foreign influence peddling.

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Boycott Amazon Campaign

NY Times Profile of Athena Co-Founder

nytimes.com/2020/04/18/technology/athena-mitchell-amazon.html

Ms. Mitchell has testified before Congress, is a polite but persistent presence on Twitter, and is a frequent tutor to journalists new to the monopoly beat. She had a starring role in “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos,” a documentary by PBS’s “Frontline” that is one of the most incisive examinations of the company and its founder. And last winter, Ms. Mitchell was a driving force in creating Athena, a coalition of nearly 50 labor, small business and social justice groups that aims to reform and possibly break up Amazon.

The company declined to make a senior executive available for this article, but in the past it has noted that it has only a small share of global commerce, that it faces formidable competitors, and that its “customer obsession” has lowered prices. “Amazonians are working around the clock to get necessary supplies delivered directly to the doorsteps of people who need them,” chief executive Jeff Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders published Thursday, which also detailed steps taken to protect workers from the virus and temporarily increase pay.

Athena has kept the pressure on, publicizing Amazon employee walkouts, holding press calls on topics like “Is Amazon a Danger to Public Health?” and giving a platform to workers. Never before has Amazon faced this kind of organized, sustained and national opposition.

All of this makes Ms. Mitchell’s tiny two-room office in Portland, Maine — a desk, a few bookshelves piled high and a poster that says “Strike while it’s hot” — a headquarters of the budding Amazon resistance.

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Virginia Pushback Against Amazon

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/virginia-amazon-faces-some-new-york-style-pushback-n975836

Buoyed by the success of activists and policymakers in New York, a coalition of community and advocacy groups alongside a handful of local politicians in Northern Virginia are calling on policymakers to reject Amazon’s plans to build a second headquarters in Arlington.

The “For Us, Not Amazon” coalition is calling for transparency from Amazon and politicians over their plans for the East Coast headquarters, which were largely negotiated behind closed doors. They argue, as New York opponents did, that the project will lead to gentrification and rising housing costs that will disproportionately harm low-income and minority communities in the region.

As in New York, community activists in Virginia are concerned about the generous government incentives offered to the technology company. Under the terms of the deal, Amazon will receive $573 million in incentives in return for creating 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000.

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Amazon’s Self-Publishing Arm Is a Haven for White Supremacists

https://www.propublica.org/article/the-hate-store-amazons-self-publishing-arm-is-a-haven-for-white-supremacists

The company gives extremists and neo-Nazis banned from other platforms unprecedented access to a mainstream audience — and even promotes their books.

Featured Graphic: Extremism flourishes on Amazon’s self-publishing arm. (Tom Gauld, special to ProPublica )

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

This story is a collaboration between ProPublica and The Atlantic and is not subject to our Creative Commons license.

Fair use excerpt (go to link above for full story):

“Give me, a white man, a reason to live,” a user posted to the anonymous message board 4chan in the summer of 2017. “Should I get a hobby. What interests can I pursue to save myself from total despair. How do you go on living.”

A fellow user had a suggestion: “Please write a concise book of only factual indisputable information exposing the Jews,” focusing on “their selling of our high tech secrets to China/Russia” and “their long track record of pedophilia and perversion etc.”

The man seeking advice was intrigued. “And who would publish it and who would put it in their bookstores that would make it worth the trouble,” he asked.

The answer came a few minutes later. “Self-publish to Amazon,” his interlocutor replied.

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Whole Foods Wants Workers to Donate Sick Leave to Ailing Co-Workers

We guess this is part of the way HOW Jeff Bezos got to be the world’s richest man. And this is at a time when Amazon is making money hand over fist because of the shift to remote shopping and goods delivery due to the physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Coronavirus-Whole-Foods-Asks-Workers-to-Pay-for-Sick-Leave–20200315-0007.html

“With the amount Jeff Bezos makes in one day, he could shut stores down and pay employees to stay safe,” a former employee said.

Employees of Whole Foods, which is owned by the richest person on the planet Jeff Bezos, were asked to give their own accumulated paid sick days to their co-workers forced to stop working because of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The executives of the grocery chain proposed employees to do so knowing the company is able to give its workers unlimited paid sick leave during what has been declared a national emergency in the United States (U.S.).

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said in an email sent Wednesday to staffers that one of the options available to face the coronavirus crisis was to put their “paid time off” (PTO) days into a pool that other workers could take from.

“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours, not only from Team Members in their own location but also from Team Members across the country,” Mackey wrote in the email.

“As a subsidiary of Amazon, the world’s biggest company, Whole Foods could easily afford to pay its hourly employees for sick days taken during the coronavirus outbreak without breaking the bank. Instead, the company has put the onus back on workers, and they’re not happy about it,” Journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley, who broke the story for Motherboard, said.

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World’s Richest Man Wants Your Donations to His Workers

https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-fury-worlds-richest-man-173301947.html

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos faces backlash after publicising a relief fund the public can donate to for his contract employees working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Amazon Relief Fund was created with $25m from the e-commerce company to assist its “employees and partners”, specifically those who are responsible for the necessary task of delivering all the products consumers order across the US.

It’s focused on “supporting our US-based Delivery Associates employed by Delivery Service Providers, our Amazon Flex Delivery Partners, and Associates working for Integrity Staffing, Adecco Staffing, and RES Staffing, and drivers and support team members of line haul partners under financial distress due to a Covid-19 diagnosis or quarantine.”

Besides the company contributing $25m to the fund, it also allows the public to donate if they deem it important. “While we aren’t expecting anyone to do so, you can make a voluntary donation to the fund if you desire to do so,” Amazon wrote on its fund’s website.

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Amazon accused of bias in West Bank settlements

Amazon accused of bias in West Bank settlements

https://www.ft.com/content/7b5699fe-48c5-11ea-aee2-9ddbdc86190d

Free shipping for anyone who lists address as Israel attacked as discriminatory. Customers who select their address as the Palestinian Territories are subject to shipping and handling fees upwards of $24

by Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem and Max Harlow in London

Amazon is offering free shipping to highly contentious Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, but only to their Palestinian neighbours if they list their country as Israel, an FT investigation has found.

The e-commerce giant started selling in Israel in November and offers free shipping on orders of more than $49.

The FT checked all the West Bank addresses listed as Israeli by the activist organisation Peace Now and found that Amazon’s offer extends to nearly all Israeli settlements in the contested region, which are considered illegal under international law.

But Palestinian customers who select their address as the Palestinian Territories are subject to shipping and handling fees upwards of $24.

Nick Caplin, an Amazon spokesman, said that “if a customer within the Palestinian Territories enters their address and selects Israel as the country, they can receive free shipping through the same promotion”.

Contested territory

Israel has occupied the West Bank since it wrested the region from Jordanian control in the 1967 war. Today, it is home to some 460,000 Israelis, who live in settlements widely considered illegal by the international community. Palestinians have decried the increasing normalisation of these settlements, which are guarded by the Israeli military, as a barrier to an eventual negotiated peace with Israel.

Last month the Trump administration rolled out its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which in effect called for the creation of a fractured, rump Palestinian state surrounded by Israel. The Palestinians were outraged, with President Mahmoud Abbas arguing that the plan “detracts from Palestinian rights and denies all agreements and resolutions of international legitimacy”.

Mail deliveries to the Israeli-occupied West Bank must pass through Israel before reaching the Palestinian territory, and are often subject to long delays. Human rights campaigners said that by offering the discount exclusively to addresses listed as Israeli West Bank settlements, and not the Palestinian Territories, Amazon is wading into a geopolitical dispute that is increasingly creating two sets of rules for two increasingly intertwined populations.

Michael Sfard, an Israeli international human rights lawyer, said that Amazon’s policy is “blatant discrimination between potential customers on the basis of their nationality” in a single geopolitical area.

Peace Now said that the discrepancy in Amazon’s services between Israelis and Palestinians “adds to the overall picture of one group of people enjoying the privileges of citizenship while another people living in the same territory do not”.

‘100 or 200 packages every day’

Until last year, Amazon existed in Israel only as a means to buy from international sellers, a limitation that meant high prices and long delivery times. That changed in 2019 as the company courted local sellers to use the platform to sell locally and globally, as well as launching a Hebrew-language version of its website in August.

With retail prices in Israel notoriously high compared to incomes, and little domestic competition for consumer goods, Amazon’s arrival came as welcome news for many Israelis.

In the West Bank settlement of Efrat, home to around 10,000 Israelis, there has been such a massive increase in parcels in recent months that the overwhelmed post office pressed the butcher shop next door into delivering packages to customers.

“Every day 100 or 200 packages from Amazon,” said Meir Cohen, an Efrat post office clerk, calling the recent influx “madness”.

Barely two miles south of Efrat, however, the comparable-sized Palestinian town of Beit Fajjar has no postal service. Local resident Yazeed Odah said he must travel 45 minutes into Bethlehem in order to retrieve mail, with the Palestinian postal service largely dysfunctional, and estimated delivery times in excess of a month.

Amazon is not the first tech company to encounter complications when operating in West Bank settlements. In 2018, home rental website Airbnb removed listings in the region following outrage from Palestinian officials and human rights groups, only to reverse that decision less than a year later after Israeli pressure mounted.

This week, the UN published a list of 112 companies it identified as having business ties with Israeli West Bank settlements that “raised particular human rights concerns”. Among those named in addition to Airbnb were TripAdvisor, Motorola and Expedia. Amazon was not included.

Diana Buttu, a former PLO spokeswoman and legal adviser in peace talks between Israel and Palestine, said Amazon’s policy is, in effect, “allowing the settlement activity to be viewed as legal when [it’s] not.”

“The issue is just how normalised the settlements have become, not just in Israeli eyes, but in international eyes,” Buttu added. “And that’s the problem, it’s that unless you begin to treat them as illegal, then it becomes so natural for them to become normalised.”

After the publication of this article, for which the FT contacted Amazon for comment several times, the company added that the exclusion of the Palestinian Territories from the shipping discount was “a logistical issue and not a sign of any other consideration”.

Noam Perry, Economic Activism Associate

American Friends Service Committee, 1730 Franklin St. Suite 201, Oakland, CA 94612

@NoamPerry

Investigate: Action/Research on State Violence. What are you invested in?  investigate.afsc.org

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Amazon Threatens its Workers Agitating for Climate Justice

A new report on PBS:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/employees-clash-with-amazon-over-climate-change

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon employees say the company is threatening to fire workers for publicly pushing the company to do more to combat climate change.

Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, a climate change advocacy group founded by Amazon workers, said Thursday that the company sent letters to members telling them that they could be fired if they continued to speak to the press.

“This is not the time to shoot the messengers,” said Amazon employee Maren Costa, in a prepared statement. “This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.”

You can learn more from them directly at https://medium.com/@amazonemployeesclimatejustice

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