Amazon Offers Permanent Jobs To 125K COVID-19 Temporary Hires

Amazon workers arrive at the company's centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP
Amazon workers arrive at the company’s centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge on May 19, 2020 as Amazon France partially reopens amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Eric PIERMONT / AFP

 

Amazon on Thursday said it is offering permanent jobs to 125,000 of the temporary workers hired to handle surging use of its online shopping service due to the pandemic.

Amazon expanded its workforce with 175,000 new positions in March as restrictions on movements shuttered real-world shops and had people staying home to avoid the virus.

“Like other companies, we hired these individuals for seasonal roles to meet a surge in demand and, for many, there was the hope of returning back to their previous companies once states began to reopen,” Amazon said in a blog post.

“As the long-term picture becomes more clear, we’re providing the opportunity for 125,000 of those who came on with us seasonally to stay with Amazon and transition into a regular, full-time role beginning in June.”

The move comes as Amazon’s role in delivering goods for consumers facing lockdowns and restrictions around the world, through its e-commerce platform as well as its grocery operations, grows.

But the company has also faced protests from warehouse workers and activists who claim Amazon has failed to do enough to keep them safe.

Amazon’s move came on a day when the US government said an additional 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, bringing the total to more than 40 million since March.

The announcement came a day after Amazon shareholders turned back a series of proposals put forth by critics at the company’s annual meeting aimed at creating new social responsibility goals for the tech giant.

Amazon noted that it was among the first large employers to offer a minimum US wage of $15 an hour, well above the federal requirement, along with other benefits.

Amazon Wins Suit Suspending $10bn Microsoft US Military Contract

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces Blue Moon, a lunar landing vehicle for the Moon, during a Blue Origin event in Washington, DC, May 9, 2019. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the US military from awarding a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract to Microsoft, after Amazon claimed the process was tainted by politics.

A preliminary injunction requested by Amazon was issued by Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith, barring the Department of Defense from starting work on the contract known as JEDI, according to a summary of the ruling available online.

Details of the ruling were sealed for unspecified reasons.

Amazon has alleged it was shut out of the deal because of President Donald Trump’s vendetta against the company and is seeking testimony from the president and other top officials on the reasons for awarding the $10 billion US military cloud computing contract.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI)  program will ultimately see all military branches sharing information in a cloud-based system boosted by artificial intelligence.

An earlier court filing by Amazon detailed alleged errors that ended with Microsoft being chosen over its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division, part of the technology group led by Jeff Bezos — a frequent target of the president.

 Microsoft confident 

Microsoft said it hoped to prevail after the merits of the case are heard in court.

“We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft,” Microsoft vice president of communications Frank Shaw said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with AWS dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government agencies including the CIA.

The Pentagon’s mistakes in the contract were “hard to understand and impossible to assess” when separated from Trump’s “repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon,'” court documents filed by Amazon argued.

Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, is a frequent target of the US president, who claims the newspaper is biased against him.

The bid protest filed in US Court of Federal Claims urges that the rival JEDI bids be re-evaluated and a new decision reached.

As a condition of the injunction, Amazon was directed to provide $42 million that would be used to cover any costs or damages incurred if it is determined that the injunction was issued wrongly.

AFP

Deforestation In Brazil’s Amazon Up 85 Percent In 2019

 

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil soared 85 per cent in 2019, compared with the previous year, official data showed Tuesday.

The 9,166 square kilometers (3,539 square miles) cleared was the highest number in at least five years, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

In 2018, the deforested area was 4,946 square kilometers.

The sharp increase overlapped the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who has eased restrictions on exploiting the Amazon’s vast riches.

The data was collected by the satellite-based DETER system, which monitors deforestation in real-time.

It comes after fires ravaged swaths of the Amazon basin last year, igniting a global outcry and diplomatic feud between Bolsonaro and European leaders.

The number of fires in the rainforest rose 30 per cent to 89,178 in 2019, compared with the previous year, the latest official data show.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Bolsonaro to reverse his environmental policy, which the campaign group says has accelerated land clearing and encouraged attacks on forest defenders.

In recent months, three indigenous people have been killed in two separate incidents in the northeastern state of Maranhao.

One of them died after being ambushed by loggers. The others were killed in a drive-by shooting.

Amazon Faces UK Probe Over Deliveroo Deal

An employee carries a package at the distribution center of US online retail giant Amazon in Moenchengladbach, on December 17, 2019. INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

Britain’s competition regulator on Friday launched an in-depth investigation into Amazon’s bid to buy part of online takeaway delivery group Deliveroo.

The Competition and Markets Authority said the so-called phase two probe comes after the pair failed to address initial “serious” concerns expressed by the CMA.

Announcing its plan for an investigation lasting up to six months, the CMA said it believes the tie-up could result in a “substantial lessening of competition” in the UK online grocery delivery sector in which Amazon and Deliveroo are market leaders.

UK-based Deliveroo in May announced that Amazon was the largest investor in a $575-million funding round.

A Deliveroo spokeswoman on Friday said the company was confident of persuading the CMA that Amazon’s “minority investment will add to competition, helping restaurants to grow their businesses, creating more work for riders, and increasing choice for customers”.

Created in 2013, Deliveroo has grown to delivering meals to clients in more than 200 cities across 12 countries.

 

AFP

Amazon Accuses Trump Of Interfering With $10bn JEDI Contract

Amazon is alleging that US President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to deny the company a massive military cloud computing contract, court documents released on December 9, 2019 showed.  GABRIEL BOUYS, Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

 

The lawsuit filed by Amazon challenging a $10 billion US military cloud computing contract awarded to Microsoft will not delay implementation of the project, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Amazon has alleged that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to deny the company the massive contract in late October.

“We will deal with Amazon’s legal actions. I cannot comment on those right now,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord.

“But I will tell you we are moving right now forward with the JEDI contract.”

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, better known as JEDI, ultimately will see all military branches sharing information in a system boosted by artificial intelligence.

“We actually have a kick-off event with Microsoft tomorrow [Wednesday] morning,” Lord said.

A heavily redacted court filing by Amazon detailed alleged errors that ended with Microsoft being chosen over its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division, part of the technology group led by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.

Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, is a frequent target of the US president.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with AWS dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government outfits including the CIA.

In court documents released Monday, Amazon alleged “improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump, who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy — Jeffrey P. Bezos.”

The Pentagon’s mistakes in the contract were “hard to understand and impossible to assess” when separated from Trump’s “repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon.'”

The bid protest filed in US Court of Federal Claims urges that the rival JEDI bids be re-evaluated and a new decision reached.

AFP

Amazon Acquire Champions League Broadcast Rights In Germany

 

Amazon confirmed Tuesday that they have acquired the rights to broadcast a selection of Champions League games in Germany from the 2021-22 season, as the company continues its offensive into the football TV rights market.

The company has secured a package which includes the top picks of the Tuesday night games in Europe’s biggest club competition, German media magazine DWDL.de revealed.

In a statement on Tuesday, Amazon confirmed that they had secured the rights for their streaming platform Prime Video.

“We are excited to bring UEFA Champions League to our customers in Germany,” said Alex Green, executive director of Prime Video Sport Europa.

The announcement comes just days after Amazon UK debuted their live coverage of the English Premier League.

The coverage was the first time Premier League games had been broadcast exclusively online in the UK, and was met with mixed reactions from viewers.

German football fans are more accustomed to watching football online, however.

Broadcasting rights for both the Champions League and the Bundesliga are currently shared between traditional broadcaster Sky Sports and London-based streaming service DAZN.

Germany is the biggest market outside the USA for Amazon, who entered the sports streaming market in 2017 and have since broadcast major events in both football and tennis.

AFP

Pentagon Snubs Amazon For $10bn ‘Jedi’ Contract

The Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

The Pentagon said Friday it is awarding a $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft, following a highly scrutinized bidding process which Amazon had been favored to win.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, better known as JEDI, ultimately will see all military branches sharing information in a system boosted by artificial intelligence.

“The National Defense Strategy dictates that we must improve the speed and effectiveness with which we develop and deploy modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform,” Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said in a release.

“This award is an important step in execution of the Digital Modernization Strategy.”

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for JEDI, with its Amazon Web Services dominating the cloud computing arena and the company already providing classified servers for other government outfits including the CIA.

But the Pentagon earlier this year delayed  awarding the hefty contract, saying the process would be reviewed by newly appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Esper was selected by US President Donald Trump, who has lashed out at Amazon and company founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.

In July, Trump said he had heard “complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM” over the JEDI bidding process.

“We’re going to take a look at it. We’ll take a very strong look at it,” he said, raising concerns among observers that the process would be improperly influenced.

Amazon said late Friday it was “surprised about this conclusion.”

“AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion,” the company said in a statement.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Necessary evil? 

The contract has caused controversy over whether internet giants who say they want to make the world better should be involved in the defense industry.

JEDI critics have likened it to the nefarious “Skynet” computing overlord in “Terminator” films.

Microsoft was Amazon’s only rival in the final bidding for the winner-take-all contract, despite employees urging it to drop out.

“Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war,” company staffers wrote in an anonymous op-ed posted a year ago on Medium, which said it had verified the authenticity of the piece.

“The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building.”

Microsoft has defended its interest in military contracts, saying at one point, “All of us who live in this country depend on its strong defense.”

Amazon chief Bezos had also defended the company’s bid, saying it was important to support US defense efforts, even if it is unpopular.

 Cloud cash 

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives expected Amazon, and perhaps others, to challenge the Pentagon contract decision in court but still saw it giving a major lift to Microsoft’s cloud business in a market where $1 trillion is expected to be spent in the coming decade.

“This is a game changer deal for Microsoft to win as this will have a ripple effect for the company’s cloud business for years to come,” he said.

“While the current political landscape further complicated this high stakes bake-off with JEDI, both Microsoft and Amazon among others will have much to gain over the coming years in these cloud sweepstakes.”

Microsoft this week reported that quarterly profits rose 21 percent on the back of its thriving cloud computing business which has become a core focus for the US technology giant.

The tactic is a major switch from the way the Redmond-based company built its empire selling packaged software to computer users.

Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, has expanded from its origins in e-commerce to cloud services, streaming media, artificial intelligence and other ventures.

Amazon Web Services accounted for nearly $9 billion in revenue in the recently-ended quarter, with growth in the cloud computing unit up 35 percent from a year ago.

AFP

Halle Shooter Reportedly Posted Video On Twitch Livestream Platform

 

The gunman in Wednesday’s deadly shooting in the German city of Halle posted a video of the attack on the Twitch livestream platform owned by Amazon, the company said.

“We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected,” a Twitch spokesperson said in response to an AFP query after the shooting at a synagogue and a Turkish restaurant.

“Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously. We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”

Pope Francis Blames Amazon Fires On Destructive ‘Interests’

Pope Francis speaks as he celebrates a mass on October 6, 2019, at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, for the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Pope Francis opened a synod on Sunday to champion the Amazon’s poverty-stricken and isolated indigenous communities by condemning the destructive “interests” he blamed for the fires that devastated the region.

The three-week synod, or assembly, is to unite 184 bishops, including 113 from the nine countries of the pan-Amazon region, including Brazil.

Brazil is home to 60 percent of the world’s largest rainforest, which is vital for the planet but is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years.

The fires, mostly caused by humans with the goal of clearing land for farming and cattle ranching, are having a grievous effect on the forest.

Representatives of indigenous peoples, some with their heads adorned with coloured feathers, also gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to hear the pope’s inaugural mass.

“The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel,” the pontiff said in his homily.

“The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits.

“The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.”

‘Predatory and ecocidal development’

The working document for the synod denounced in scathing terms social injustices and crimes, including murders, and suggested a Church action plan.

“Listen to the cry of ‘Mother Earth’, assaulted and seriously wounded by the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development… which kills and plunders, destroys and devastates, expels and discards,” the 80-page document said.

The run-up to the synod saw some 260 events held in the Amazon region involving 80,000 people, in a bid to give the local populations a voice in the document.

Among those attending the synod as an observer was Sister Laura Vincuna, a missionary trying to protect the territories of the Caripuna indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon.

“Help us defend our motherland, we have no other home!” she said on Saturday.

“Earth, water, forest: without these three elements nobody can do anything”.

Jose Luiz Cassupe, a member of an indigenous community from Brazil’s Ronodia state, said the Brazilian government “did not keep its word”.

“We are asking the world for help because we are very worried about the new mining exploration policy in the Amazon,” he told AFP, wearing a headdress of indigo blue feathers.

The Amazon is suffering from its worst outbreak of fires in years. In this file photo taken on August 23, 2019, aerial picture showing a fire raging in the Amazon rainforest about 65 km from Porto Velho, in the state of Rondonia, in northern Brazil, on August 23, 2019. Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

 

‘New forms of colonialism’

Sunday’s gathering comes as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate-change sceptic, told the United Nations that the world’s media were lying about the Amazon, and attacked indigenous leaders as tools of foreign governments.

In his 2015 encyclical on ecology and climate change “Laudato Si”, Francis denounced the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest in the name of “enormous international economic interests”.

Last year, the world’s first Latin American pope visited Puerto Maldonado, a village in southeastern Peru surrounded by the Amazon jungle, to meet thousands of indigenous Peruvians, Brazilians and Bolivians.

That trip was the first step towards the synod which opened Sunday.

The pope in his homily also voiced regret that the Church had in the past promoted “colonisation rather than evangelisation”, but warned against “the greed of new forms of colonialism”.

Francis’ hopes of bringing the Catholic faith to far-flung populations will also see the bishops gathered in Rome debate a highly controversial proposal — allowing married men to become priests.

The issue deeply upsets some traditionalists, who argue that making an exception for the Amazon would open the door to the end of celibacy for priests, which is not a Church law and only dates back to the 11th century.

The German Catholic Church in particular, which has an influential progressive wing, has been hotly debating the subject.

The synod will also reflect on making official roles for women, who already play a central part in the Amazonian Church.

AFP

Rights Defender Shot Dead In Brazil’s Amazon

Aerial view of deforestation in the Menkragnoti Indigenous Territory in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin, on August 28, 2019.
Joao LAET / AFP

A human rights defender has been shot dead in the Amazon, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, Funai, announced Monday.

Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was shot dead in the town of Tabatinga last Friday, close to where seven Latin American leaders signed a treaty to protect the Amazon.

The murdered activist had worked for the past 12 years to protect indigenous people in the Tabatinga area, close to Brazil’s borders with Peru and Colombia, an association of rights defenders said.

Dos Santos “was murdered in cold blood on a busy avenue at 6:00 pm in front of his family” the association of indigenous protection workers said on its website.

All the indications were he was murdered “because of his fight against illegal practices in the indigenous territory of Vale do Javari,” it said.

The Vale do Javari is home to “the largest number of isolated indigenous people in the world,” and “a permanent target of criminal organizations for illegal exploitation of hunting, fishing, timber and gold.”

Four attacks have been carried out on rights defenders in the area over the past year, it said.

France Fines Amazon $4.4m

 

A French court has fined the US retailing giant Amazon four million euros ($4.4 million) over terms of use deemed unfair for companies using its online marketplace to sell their goods.

“It’s a record fine” for a suit involving abusive commercial clauses, Loic Tanguy, a director at the DGCCRF, France’s consumer and anti-fraud watchdog, told AFP on Wednesday.

The agency filed its lawsuit in 2017 after a two-year investigation into third-party vendor platforms, which found several clauses potentially unfair to the 10,000 small and midsize French companies selling on Amazon.

They gave Amazon the power to modify contracts at a moment’s notice, demand shorter delivery times or block deliveries while demanding additional corporate information from vendors.

Tanguy said Amazon was the only online vendor who refused to modify its terms of use after the investigation.

Despite the obvious advantages for companies using Amazon, Tanguy said, the “asymmetrical balance of power” must not force vendors to accept unfair terms of use.

In its ruling, first reported by a French online news site Tuesday, the court found the contested clauses “manifestly unbalanced” and ordered Amazon to change them within six months.

It said Amazon’s marketplace generated around 60 percent of the company’s five billion euros of Amazon’s total French sales.

“The court ruled on a limited number of clauses, most of which were already updated earlier this year,” Amazon France told AFP late Tuesday.

Online marketplaces like Amazon have been a boon for small and midsize French firms, in particular for finding new export markets, with their total foreign sales rising to 350 million euros last year, according to the DGCCRF.

“The development of the digital economy is a tremendous opportunity, as long as the big marketplaces respect competition and consumer protection rules,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday on Twitter.

AFP

Brazil Bans Burning For Two Months To Defuse Amazon Crisis

Aerial view of deforestation in the Menkragnoti Indigenous Territory in Altamira, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon basin, on August 28, 2019. PHOTO: Joao LAET / AFP

 

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree Wednesday to ban burning throughout the country for two months, government sources cited in local media said, as the authorities scramble to defuse the Amazon fires which have triggered a global outcry.

The blazes that have engulfed parts of the world’s largest rainforest — which is crucial for maintaining a stable global climate — have also sparked a diplomatic spat between Brazil and Europe that threatens to torpedo a major trade deal.

The decree, which will be officially published on Thursday, prohibits any burning for the next 60 days, barring some exceptions in cases of approved agricultural and forestry practices, media reports said.

It comes as Bolsonaro’s renewed demand that French leader Emmanuel Macron withdraw “insults” against him cast doubt on whether Brazil would accept the G7’s offer of $20 million to help combat the fires.

Bolsonaro initially rejected the G7’s offer, saying on Tuesday that he would be willing to accept it only if Macron withdrew his “insults,” before appearing to change his mind to say Brazil would accept foreign aid on the condition that it controlled the money.

But later on Wednesday, the South American leader fired a fresh salvo.

“Only after he withdraws what he said… we can talk again,” Bolsonaro told reporters Wednesday, referring to Macron.

He also accused France and Germany of “buying” the Latin American country’s sovereignty with Amazon fire aid.

“It seems that $20 million is our price. Brazil doesn’t have a price of 20 million or 20 trillion — it’s the same thing for us,” he said.

Macron has accused Bolsonaro of lying to him about his commitments on climate change and vowed to block the EU-Mercosur trade deal involving Brazil that took decades to negotiate.

An aide to President Donald Trump said Wednesday the US was ready to assist with the Amazon crisis, but only if it involved the Brazilian government.

“We didn’t agree to a G7 initiative that failed to include consultations w/ @jairbolsonaro . The most constructive way to assist w/ Brazil’s ongoing efforts is in coordination w/ the Brazilian Gov,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis tweeted late Wednesday.

Bolsonaro’s latest remarks make him and his government appear “increasingly unhinged,” said Robert Muggah, from a Rio de Janeiro think tank, the Igarape Institute.

“There don’t appear to be any adults left in the room with the ability or inclination to restrain his worst impulses,” Muggah said.

No liars

On Monday, Macron rebuked the “extraordinarily rude” Bolsonaro after the Brazilian leader personally expressed approval for a supporter’s Facebook post implying that Brigitte Macron was not as attractive as his own wife, Michelle Bolsonaro.

The Brazilian leader has since removed the comment from social media to avoid misinterpretation, his spokesman Otavio Rego Barros told reporters Wednesday.

Vice President Hamilton Mourao — widely considered to be a moderate voice in Bolsonaro’s government — also weighed in publicly for the first time.

In an opinion piece published in the conservative Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, Mourao criticized an “international campaign” against Brazil and said the country “does not lie and nor does its president, its government and its institutions.”

Bolsonaro said Brazil would accept bilateral aid to fight the fires, saying yes to Chile’s offer of four aircraft. “We all love the Amazon, but the nine Amazon countries… have sovereignty” over it, Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said.

The outcry over the fires has alarmed industries in Latin America’s largest economy. They fear potential boycotts of their products.

Global brands have threatened to suspend leather purchases from Brazil over the country’s environmental policies, according to a document sent by the Brazil Tanneries Industry Center to the government.

Fires are also ravaging neighboring Bolivia where President Evo Morales and his rival in upcoming elections have suspended campaigning to deal with the blazes.

Bolsonaro on Wednesday supported Peru and Colombia’s proposal for an emergency Amazon summit in September so regional countries could coordinate a strategy to protect the vast rainforest.

The latest official figures show 1,044 new fires were started Monday and Tuesday, taking the total this year to 83,329 — the highest since 2010 — even as military aircraft and troops help battle the blazes.

More than half of the fires are in the massive Amazon basin.

In the hard-hit northwestern state of Rondonia, thick smoke has choked the capital Porto Velho as fires blacken swaths of the rainforest.

But the defense ministry insists the fires are under control. It has published satellite data it says show a reduction in the number of blazes in the nine states spanning the Amazon.

AFP