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Amazon’s CEO-in-waiting Andy Jassy to inherit big headaches

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Amazon's CEO-in-waiting Andy Jassy to inherit big headaches

Andy Jassy is inheriting the top job at Amazon this year along with a tidal wave of threats facing the e-commerce juggernaut.

Billionaire Jeff Bezos will be stepping down from day-to-day operations of the empire he built later this year amid mounting labor, regulatory and even competitive pressures. But some experts think Jassy may be better equipped in some ways to handle the coming challenges than Bezos — a political lightning rod due to his vast wealth and ownership of the Washington Post.

“It’s a unique period in the history of Amazon,” said Nicholas McQuire, a senior vice president at technology and research consultancy, CCS Insight. “The bumps in the road that will materialize over the next couple of years will require new things of Amazon that will test Andy Jassy.”

In addition to growing labor unrest, Amazon faces probes by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission into whether it unfairly uses its platform to compete with independent sellers on its site. And while the pandemic has only boosted the company’s sales and stock price — competitors like Walmart and Target are also ramping up their online businesses.

In order to fend off rising criticisms, the famously secretive Amazon will need to be more transparent, experts say. And that’s where Jassy comes in as he has already proven himself more “outspoken on social and political issues” than Bezos, according to McQuire.

McQuire pointed to the company’s feud with the Pentagon over the so-called JEDI contract for cloud computing in 2019. The Pentagon awarded the $10 billion contract to Amazon’s cloud computing rival Microsoft, which prompted a lawsuit from Amazon and plenty of outrage from Jassy, who was better positioned to vocalize the company’s claims that Amazon was being punished by then-President Trump, who dubbed Bezos “Jeff Bozo.”

Jassy at the time blasted the award as “political interference,” citing Trump’s “disdain” for Bezos. The Pentagon has said an internal review confirmed Microsoft as the rightful winner of the contract.

Some of the challenges Jassy faces include:

Labor Unrest

Amazon has long resisted efforts to unionize its workforce. But the pressure is mounting as its nearly 1 million warehouse workers seek to draw attention to their needs by coordinating work stoppages during peak shopping periods, including Prime Day.

Employee activists made significant inroads last year when Amazon faced harsh criticism for its warehouse working conditions during the pandemic, leading to improved pay and coronavirus protections.

On Feb. 8, Amazon will face its first union test since 2014 in Bessemer, Ala., where some 5,800 warehouse workers will begin voting on whether to unionize.

Rising Competition

The coronavirus has forced Amazon’s retail competitors to pick up their e-commerce game with Walmart last year launching a Prime-like membership program called Walmart Plus that offers same-day delivery.

Amazon Web Services — the company’s profitable cloud computing business, which Jassy has run since 1997– is also facing tougher competition from rivals like Google and Microsoft.

“Amazon’s competition like Walmart and Target have finally started to make the right moves and are enjoying success in markets where Amazon is lacking, like online grocery,” Juozas “Joe” Kaziukenas, founder of Marketplace Pulse, which covers Amazon told The Post. 

The Crackdown

It’s not just US regulators who are looking into claims that Amazon unfairly competes with its third-party sellers. The European Commission late last year issued a charge sheet against Amazon alleging that it uses the nonpublic information it gleans from independent sellers to better push its own products.

Amazon has denied engaging in anticompetitive practices. “No company cares more about small businesses or has done more to support them over the past two decades than Amazon,” the company told the Wall Street Journal in response to the EU’s claims last year.

Even if no lawsuits result from the US probes, Jassy is taking over the reins at a time when lawmakers are becoming increasingly vocal in targeting Big Tech. 

“There has been a lot of anti-competitive concerns surrounding Amazon, but it keeps getting louder and has moved from articles in the press to official government inquiries,” Kaziukenas said. “There is going to be a lot more of this.”

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Myanmar soldiers use TikTok to threaten protesters

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Myanmar soldiers use TikTok to threaten protesters

SINGAPORE – Armed Myanmar soldiers and police are using TikTok to deliver death threats to protesters against last month’s coup, researchers said, leading the Chinese video-sharing app to announce it was removing content that incites violence.

Digital rights group Myanmar ICT for Development (MIDO) said it had found more than 800 pro-military videos that menaced protesters at a time of increasing bloodshed – with 38 protesters killed on Wednesday alone according to the United Nations.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said MIDO executive director Htaike Htaike Aung, who said there were “hundreds” of videos of threatening uniformed soldiers and police on the app.

A spokesman for the army and junta did not respond to a request for comment.

One video from late February reviewed by Reuters shows a man in army fatigues aiming an assault rifle at the camera and addressing protesters: “I will shoot in your fucking faces… and I’m using real bullets.”

“I am going to patrol the whole city tonight and I will shoot whoever I see… If you want to become a martyr, I will fulfil your wish.”

Reuters was unable to contact him or the other uniformed men who appear in the TikTok videos or to verify that they are in the armed forces.

TikTok is the latest social media platform to suffer a proliferation of menacing content or hate speech in Myanmar.

US tech giant Facebook has now banned all pages linked to Myanmar’s army – and has itself been banned.

TikTok said in a statement: “We have clear Community Guidelines that state we do not allow content that incites violence or misinformation that causes harm… As it relates to Myanmar, we have been and continue to promptly remove all content that incites violence or spreads misinformation and are aggressively monitoring to remove any such content that violates our guidelines.”

TikTok’s policies forbid displays of guns unless they are in “safe environments”. According to a Linkedin job posting from Thursday, the platform is currently recruiting for a Myanmar product policy manager.

Reuters reviewed over a dozen videos where uniformed men, sometimes brandishing guns, threatened to harm protesters who are calling for the reversal of the coup and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some videos had tens of thousands of views. Those reviewed by Reuters were taken down this week. Some used hashtags relating to US celebrities.

Already growing fast in Myanmar, TikTok saw a strong rise in downloads after the military banned Facebook last month. It is in the top 20 most downloaded apps in Myanmar, according to industry data. It also became popular with young activists, with the protest hashtag #SaveMyanmar reaching 805 million views.

Facebook, which remains popular in Myanmar despite the ban, has toughened its scrutiny of content since being accused of helping to fan atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017.

Researchers like Htaike say they believe the military is now attempting to grow its presence on other platforms.

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Amazon opens first UK checkout-free grocery store in London

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The Amazon Fresh grocery store opens in London, Thursday March 4, 2021, where a sign explains for shoppers to pick up items and walk out of the store, contactless, without the need for a till. Customers will scan a QR code on their way into the store, with cameras and technology identifying the items that shoppers take from the shelves and their account automatically paid.

LONDON — Amazon has opened a cashier-free supermarket in London, its first bricks and mortar expansion outside the US as the company bets on strong demand for its contactless shops.

The online retailing giant opened the doors to its Amazon Fresh shop in West London’s Ealing neighborhood on Thursday, in what it said will be the first in a wave of shops in the British capital using its automated checkout technology.

Shoppers use a smartphone app to scan a QR code so they can enter the store. They can fill their shopping bags with milk, eggs or other groceries while cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves.

Purchases are charged to an Amazon account after leaving and a receipt sent by email. There’s no need to wait in line to pay at the checkout, a feature that has more appeal after the pandemic highlighted the need for social distancing.

Amazon already operates 26 cashier-free convenience stores in the US under the Amazon Go brand and two larger supermarkets called Amazon Go Grocery. As part of its U.K. launch, Amazon also unveiled its new private label food brand, by Amazon.

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UK doorbell cameras, dashcams capture meteor on video

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UK doorbell cameras, dashcams capture meteor on video

Residents of the UK were surprised over the weekend when a slow-moving meteor blazed across the night sky.

Videos posted to social media taken from doorbells and dashcams across Britain show the fireball just before 10 pm on Sunday.

A video from UK Meteor Network now has more than 100,000 views on YouTube.

“Was so clear,” Twitter user @JillHemingway wrote on Twitter alongside her own footage from Yorkshire.

Another user, @Lafford_MK, shared his nine-second video from his doorbell in the town of Milton Keynes.

@gingerssnap wrote to her followers: “Anyone else see the #meteor burn up over the UK just before 10pm tonight? I first thought it was a bright star or plane, then it got bigger & faster, then a huge flash lit up the sky & it burst into a massive tail of orange sparks trailing behind like a giant firework! So cool!”

The falling object flashed flight as it began to burn up and break down.

The meteor is likely to have been a small piece of a comet or asteroid entering the planet’s atmosphere, UK Meteor Network co-founder Richard Kacerek told The New York Times, noting that some pieces of it were believed to have survived the fall.

Some witnesses reported hearing a sonic boom or rumbling

Scientists from the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFall) agreed and told Yahoo News that the bright light was speeding at around 30,000 miles per hour.

Hundreds of people took to the internet with eyewitness reports of the incident.

In general, meteors are common, though less than 5 percent make it to the ground, according to NASA.

The Planetary Science Institute reports that approximately 500 meteorites make it to the Earth’s surface annually, but less than 10 are found.

More than 50,000 meteorites have been found on Earth, most from asteroids, they report.

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