Amazon Quarterly Profit Jumps But Shares Slide

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2019 an Amazon sign is pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Peterborough, east England. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

 

Amazon said Thursday second-quarter profit jumped 48 percent from a year ago to $7.8 billion, but shares in the tech and e-commerce giant fell on a disappointing revenue number.

Total revenues increased 27 percent to $113.1 billion, below most Wall Street forecasts, sparking a slide of some six percent in after-hours trading.

Andy Jassy, who took over as chief executive earlier this month from Jeff Bezos, said Amazon remained focused on delivering goods and services for consumers during the pandemic.

“Over the past 18 months, our consumer business has been called on to deliver an unprecedented number of items, including PPE, food, and other products that helped communities around the world cope with the difficult circumstances of the pandemic,” Jassy said.

He added that Amazon’s cloud computing division AWS “has helped so many businesses and governments maintain business continuity… as more companies bring forward plans to transform their businesses and move to the cloud.”

The Amazon results capped a series of earnings from major tech firms highlighting surging profits and revenues as digital lifestyles and work-from-home trends continue even with the end of most pandemic lockdowns.

Tech rivals Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet all reported higher revenues and profits even as they faced heightened scrutiny from antitrust regulators for their growing dominance of key economic sectors.

Amazon has faced criticism over its workplace policies but has argued that it pays above-average wages and invested billions for employee safety.

A growing number of consumers turned to Amazon during the pandemic for delivery of goods and services including groceries, and its cloud computing division also grew to help businesses and consumers stay connected.

Amazon has also been expanding its streaming television and artificial intelligence operations.

Bezos stepped away earlier this month from day-to-day operations at Amazon some 27 years after he founded the company, choosing to devote more time to other projects including his Blue Origin company that launched him briefly into space earlier this month.

Originally an online bookseller, Amazon has grown into one of the world’s most valuable companies with operations in dozens of countries and a market value of some $1.8 trillion and 1.3 million employees.

Amazon’s revenues for the quarter were some $2 billion below the average analyst forecast and come despite a two-day event known as Prime Day aimed at spurring sales and drawing more consumers into its Prime subscription plan.

AFP

Pentagon Scraps $10 Billion Cloud Contract Amid Amazon-Microsoft Rift

This file photo taken on December 26, 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. STAFF / AFP
This file photo taken on December 26, 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. STAFF / AFP

 

The Pentagon said Tuesday it scrapped a massive $10 billion cloud computing contract, sidestepping a bitter dispute between Amazon and Microsoft over allegations of political bias that swayed the bidding.

A Defense Department statement said the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract was canceled because it no longer meets current needs and that it would start a process for a new “multi-cloud/multi-vendor” computing contract.

Microsoft in late 2019 won the contract, sparking a challenge by Amazon on grounds that vengeful politics by former president Donald Trump may have improperly influenced the outcome.

Officials said that instead of going forward with the deal in the face of litigation, the government would start over with the aim of getting the most up-to-date technology.

“JEDI, conceived with noble intent, was developed at a time when the department’s needs were different,” Defense Department spokesman John Sherman said during a press briefing.

“Now, we want to leverage multiple cloud environments.”

Sherman equated arming US “war fighters” with cutting-edge, 21st century cloud computing capabilities to providing top armor or weaponry, saying the technology landscape has shifted since the JEDI contract was stalled by litigation.

A statement said the Pentagon would seek proposals from Amazon and Microsoft on a new contract, noting that the two vendors appear at the moment to be the only cloud service providers capable of meeting the department’s requirements.

Staying on mission

The 10-year JEDI program was designed see all military branches sharing information in a cloud-based system boosted by artificial intelligence.

Amazon alleged it was shut out of the deal because of former president Donald Trump’s vendetta against the company and its chief executive Jeff Bezos.

Sherman maintained that it was urgent to move ahead and that “the overriding factor is not what may have happened in previous administrations; what was said or not said, the litigation.”

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

Amazon argued in court documents that the Pentagon’s choice of Microsoft was mystifying if not for Trump’s repeated “expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon.'”

US defense officials will reach out to Amazon and Microsoft to solicit bids for parts of the new cloud contract, which Sherman said will have an overall value in the billions, without specifying an amount.

‘Difficult choice’

Microsoft president of US regulated industries Toni Townes-Whitley said in a post that the technology giant “respects and accepts” the decision.

“The DoD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward,” Townes-Whitley said in a post.

“What matters now is the way forward, as the DoD has a critical unmet need to bring the power of cloud and AI to our men and women in uniform, modernizing technology infrastructure and platform services technology.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon and Microsoft have already been deemed capable of meeting defense department needs for the new cloud initiative. Defense officials planned to also reach out to Google, Oracle, IBM and other computing titans to assess whether they are will and able to enter the bidding for some of the jobs.

The department aimed to begin awarding contracts early next year with a hope of having systems starting to deploy by 2025.

Microsoft will be able to submit a bill to the government for terminating the JEDI contract, the amount of which has not been determined, according to Sherman.

AFP

As Jeff Bezos Steps Down As Amazon CEO

 In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP
In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP

 

As he prepares to blast off into a new career stage, Jeff Bezos leaves an enduring legacy after transforming Amazon from a modest online bookseller into one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

Bezos, 57, was set to hand over the job of Amazon chief executive on Monday to Andy Jassy and turn his attention to his private space exploration firm, philanthropy and other endeavors. He will retain a key role, however, as executive chair at the technology and e-commerce colossus he founded 27 years ago.

The transition comes after a spectacular streak for Amazon, which has drawn attention for its innovations.

But the firm has also been vilified over business practices that have crushed competitors and raised concerns over treatment of a workforce of more than one million.

“Bezos has been a transformational leader… in book selling, the retail market, cloud computing and home delivery,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

“He was a pioneer who introduced many of the conveniences that people take for granted, such as going to an online store, ordering something, and having it delivered to your home the next day. The whole e-commerce sector owes many of its innovations to this individual.”

In public appearances, Bezos often recounts the early days at Amazon, started in his garage, when he packed up orders himself and drove boxes to the post office.

Today, Amazon has a market value of more than $1.7 trillion. It posted 2020 annual revenues of $386 billion from operations in e-commerce, cloud computing, groceries, artificial intelligence, streaming media and more.

‘An instinct’

Bezos “had an instinct for the right thing” in finding the next market, said Roger Kay, analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Kay said Bezos deftly transitioned from books to other merchandise to an online marketplace, and successfully built the cloud infrastructure for the company which became the highly profitable Amazon Web Services.

Amazon outlasted its rivals by forgoing profits in its early years “and reinvesting everything into expanding,” Kay said.

“If you look at the trajectory now, it was all logical,” Kay added. “You can say Bezos has been one of the best business architects of his time.”

Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research said Bezos “wasn’t the first or the only one, but he took the concept (of e-commerce) and worked to perfect it.”

Amazon was able to outdo rivals because Bezos “recognized the need to build infrastructure,” including the vast network of warehouses, trucks, planes and other logistics for the business, O’Donnell said.

“A lot of other companies didn’t want to spend money on the messy behind-the-scenes work.”

The stunning rise of Amazon has made Bezos into one of the world’s richest people, with a net worth close to $200 billion, even after a divorce settlement which gave part of his stake to his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott.

Bezos will step away from day-to-day Amazon management to spend more time on projects including his space firm Blue Origin — which is set to take him into space later this month.

He owns the Washington Post newspaper and has devoted time and funds to efforts to fight climate change, while also facing criticism after recent reports that he paid no income tax at all some years.

Whither Amazon?

His departure leaves questions about the future of Amazon as it faces a torrent of regulatory scrutiny and criticism from activists.

US lawmakers are considering a measure that would make it easier to break up Amazon, amid concerns that a handful of Big Tech firms have become too dominant, hurting competition in a way that eventually harms consumers.

Amazon was well-positioned during the coronavirus pandemic with its fast delivery of goods and groceries, and boosted its US workforce to more than 800,000.

While the company has boasted of its $15 minimum wage and other benefits, critics say its relentless focus on efficiency and worker surveillance has treated employees like machines.

The Teamsters union recently launched a campaign to organize Amazon employees, claiming its workers “face dehumanizing, unsafe and low-pay jobs, with high turnover and no voice at work.”

Bezos appeared to respond to worker concerns earlier this year when he called for a “better vision” for employees after a bruising battle over a unionization vote in Alabama, which ultimately failed.

He laid out a new goal for the company to be “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work,” in his final letter as chief executive.

Yet Amazon is likely to face challenges ahead that will make it difficult to keep its trajectory.

“The backlash against this sector probably will result in stronger government oversight of technology companies,” said West.

Kay said Amazon might become “a victim of its own success” and be forced to break up into two or more firms.

Still, he said that “each of those entities would thrive in its own market; I can easily imagine the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, so it might not hurt shareholders.”

AFP

Amazon Buys Encrypted Messaging App Wickr

 In this file photo taken on November 27, 2019 an Amazon sign is pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Peterborough, east England. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

 

Amazon said Friday it was acquiring the encrypted messaging app Wickr which offers secure communications for businesses, government agencies and individuals.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Amazon said in a statement it would incorporate Wickr in its Amazon Web Services (AWS) division which offers cloud computing and other services.

AWS will continue to offer Wickr services including end-to-end encrypted communications which meet certain regulatory requirements.

“The need for this type of secure communications is accelerating,” said AWS vice president Stephen Schmidt

“With the move to hybrid work environments, due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, enterprises and government agencies have a growing desire to protect their communications across many remote locations.”

Wickr has touted its “military grade” encryption for business and government users, and was among the apps reportedly used to leak information from the White House during the Trump administration.

Other apps offering encrypted communications include Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage and foundation-operated Signal.

These apps can allow people to send messages which cannot be intercepted or read by law enforcement authorities.

The news comes following a congressional panel’s approval of legislation which could limit the ability of large technology firms to acquire rivals that would limit competition.

 

AFP

Amazon ‘Prime Day’ Spend Soars Amid Reopening

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 5, 2021, the Amazon logo at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. – Amazon announced plans on May 13, 2021, to add 75,000 jobs in the US and Canada as part of a further ramping up of the e-commerce giant’s massive warehouse and logistics network. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

 

 

Amazon’s annual “Prime Day” online shopping bonanza racked up more than $11 billion in sales at the e-commerce platform, market tracker Adobe reported on Wednesday.

The event known for discounted prices and quick deliveries from Amazon and third-party retailers hawking goods at its website spanned two days, topping last year’s sales total of $10.4 billion, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.

“This is despite relatively muted discounts across most categories, suggesting that there’s a pent-up demand for online shopping as consumers look forward to a return to normalcy,” said Adobe digital insights director Taylor Schreiner.

“The halo effect of Prime Day also played a significant role, giving both large and small online retailers significant revenue lifts.”

Amazon did not disclose sales figures for the Prime Day event that took place Monday and Tuesday, but boasted that small and medium sized businesses using its platform saw unprecedented business during the period.

“A huge thank you to all of the Amazon teams who made this Prime Day possible for members worldwide and to Prime members who supported small businesses in big ways,” worldwide consumer chief executive Dave Clark said in a post.

There are more than 200 million members of the Prime subscription service, which offers fast, free shipping of purchases along with streamed television shows that compete with Netflix.

Prime members in 20 countries shopped at the website during its sale event, buying more than 250 million items overall, according to Amazon.

Top-selling categories globally included tools, beauty, nutrition, baby care, and electronics – including Amazon gadgets such as Fire sticks for streaming television from the internet to television screens.

Popular products included a Roomba robotic vacuum; a Keurig coffee maker; gummy vitamins, and teeth whitening strips, according to Amazon.

The banner online shopping event comes as Amazon faces criticism that it pushes warehouse workers too hard to maximize productivity.

Members of a major US union on Thursday are to vote whether to make a priority of organizing Amazon workers despite such efforts failing in the past.

Global Outage Hits UK Government Website, CNN, Others

 

Major media and government websites, including the White House, New York Times, Reddit and Amazon were temporarily down on Tuesday after being hit by a global outage blamed on a glitch from cloud computing services provider, Fastly.

The widespread outages around 1000 GMT also hit the UK government website, CNN and the BBC before resuming services more than an hour later.

“Error 503 Service Unavailable” and “connection failure” messages appeared on several websites, later blamed on a problem at San Francisco-based firm Fastly, which scrambled to restore sites.

The company offers a service to websites around the world to speed up loading time for websites.

It competes with rivals such as Akamai and Cloudflare, which handle hundreds of billions of requests every day, playing a key role in global internet access.

Fastly’s clients span the globe, and include Deliveroo, Pinterest and Shazam, with a turnover of $291 million last year alone.

The firm said in a tweet after the outages that “the issue has been identified and a fix has been applied. Customers may experience increased origin load as global services return.”

It later confirmed “our global network is coming back online”, as service was restored on most sites.

‘Huge’ Impact

A slew of sites around the world were hit, including major media such as The Guardian, the Financial Times, France’s Le Monde newspaper, Italy’s Corriere delle Serra and Spanish daily El Mundo.

Social and entertainment site Reddit was hit, along with the White House and gov.uk websites plus a number of web pages in the Nordic region and the Swedish social security service Forsakringskassan.

“The impact is huge. It’s gone and affected millions of web pages and thousands of companies that rely on their services,” Jake Moore, a cybersecurity specialist at ESET, told AFP.

He added that since so few companies offer services similar to Fastly’s, any service disruptions can have widespread impact.

“If they go down, then of course we then see lots of companies fall over and panic,” he said.

Analyst Corinne Cath-Speth echoed the sentiment.

“Almost all internet websites use content delivery networks and cloud services,” said the researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute.

“So when those @fastly services fail or falter — it has major ramifications for everyone’s internet experience,” she said on Twitter.

“This in turn–raises major questions about the dangers of (power) consolidation in the cloud market & the unquestioned influence these often invisible actors have over access to information.”

Jeff Bezos To Travel To Space Next Month

In this file photograph taken on October 22, 2019, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos speaks after receiving the 2019 International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Excellence in Industry Award during the 70th International Astronautical Congress at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced Monday he will fly into space next month on the first human flight launched by his Blue Origin rocket firm.

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother,” Bezos said on his Instagram account.

Blue Origin said Bezos and his brother Mark will travel on the first crewed flight of the company’s New Shepard capsule.

The company is auctioning off the third spot, and that bidding is already at $2.8 million with nearly 6,000 participants from 143 countries.

READ ALSO: Tesla Scraps Plan On Model S Plaid Plus

The trip will last a total of 10 minutes, four of which passengers will spend above the Karman line that marks the recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

After lift-off, the capsule separates from its booster, then spends four minutes at an altitude exceeding 60 miles (100 kilometers), during which time those on board experience weightlessness and can observe the curvature of Earth from space.

The booster lands autonomously on a pad two miles from the launch site, and the capsule floats back to the surface with three large parachutes that slow it down to about a mile an hour when it lands.

New Shepard has successfully carried out more than a dozen uncrewed test runs launching from its facility in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas.

The reusable suborbital rocket system was named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space 60 years ago.

The proceeds from the auction will go to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, which aims to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM.

After the auction for the first flight, Blue Origin will offer places for sale.

 

– Billionaire rivalry –

The automated capsules with no pilot have six seats with horizontal backrests, placed next to large portholes, in a futuristic cabin with swish lighting.

Multiple cameras help immortalize the few minutes the tourists experience weightlessness while taking in the Earth’s curvature.

Blue Origin has not yet published its prices but its clientele is expected to mainly be wealthy individuals.

Virgin Galactic, the company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, is also developing a spacecraft capable of sending clients on suborbital flights. Some 600 people have booked flights, costing $200,000 to $250,000.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning orbital flights that would cost millions of dollars and send people much further into space.

Bezos announced earlier this year that he is stepping down as chief executive of Amazon to spend more time on other projects including Blue Origin.

He has a very public rivalry with Musk, whose Space X has already begun to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and is a competitor for government space contacts.

AFP

Amazon Boosts Streaming Ambitions With Deal For MGM Studios

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2019 an Amazon sign is pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Peterborough, east England. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

 

 

 

Amazon has agreed to buy the storied MGM studios for $8.45 billion, the companies said Wednesday, giving the US tech giant a vast content library to further its ambitions in streaming.

The deal bolsters Amazon Prime Video, which competes with Netflix and others in the fast-evolving market, with some 4,000 films — including the James Bond franchise — and 17,000 television shows.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP (intellectual property) in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

The deal comes with Amazon experiencing surging growth in online retail and cloud computing, while making a push into entertainment as more consumers turn to streaming media.

It gives Amazon the fabled Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios, an iconic name in Hollywood which has been through a series of ownership changes and bankruptcy in recent years.

In addition to the James Bond franchise, MGM owns the rights to film productions including “Rocky”, “Legally Blonde” and “Tomb Raider,” and television shows such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills.”

“MGM has nearly a century of filmmaking history and complements the work of Amazon Studios, which has primarily focused on producing TV show programming,” a statement from the companies said.

“Amazon will help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films, and provide customers with greater access to these existing works. Through this acquisition, Amazon would empower MGM to continue to do what they do best: great storytelling.”

– Streaming gains steam –
The tie-up marks a new twist in a fast-evolving media landscape increasingly dominated by streaming giants such as Netflix, a trend which has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent updates, Netflix said its subscriber base has grown to 208 million worldwide, while Disney has 159 million for its various streaming services.

Netflix is investing as much as $17 billion in content this year in an effort to stay ahead of rivals.

The MGM deal “definitely helps Amazon because consumers want more content,” said Dan Rayburn, a media analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

Additionally, Amazon will be acquiring a fabled Hollywood name with a reputation in the cinema business, Rayburn noted.

“MGM is all about making movies, and that’s not really what Amazon does,” the analyst said. “So it gives them a company in the business of making movies.”

Rayburn added that Amazon may also be able to use the deal to increase its “brand and messaging,” with ads in movie theaters, and that this “helps Amazon further their worldwide dominance of everything.”

The deal could increase scrutiny for Amazon, one of the Big Tech firms gaining unprecedented economic power in recent years and in the crosshairs of antitrust enforcers around the world.

Amazon was sued this week by US capital city Washington for allegedly abusing its dominance of online retail

Last week, telecom giant AT&T said it was spinning off its WarnerMedia division — owner of the Warner Bros studios — in a combination with Discovery, creating a new entity to focus on streaming and competing with the rapidly growing Disney+ and new entrants such as Apple TV+.

Amazon has said its Prime Video is used by some 175 million people worldwide. Its “Manchester by the Sea” in 2017 became the first film from a streaming service to be nominated for a best picture Oscar.

MGM studios, which is known for its roaring lion mascot but has struggled to make recent box office hits, is not connected to the MGM Resorts group that owns hotels and casinos around the world.

For Amazon, the deal is its second largest acquisition after its purchase in 2017 of the Whole Foods grocery chain for $13.7 billion.

Amazon’s New Africa HQ Site Facing Indigenous Backlash

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 5, 2021, the Amazon logo at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. – Amazon announced plans on May 13, 2021, to add 75,000 jobs in the US and Canada as part of a further ramping up of the e-commerce giant’s massive warehouse and logistics network. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

 

 

A legal battle is looming over plans to build Amazon’s multi-million-dollar African headquarters on land cherished by South Africa’s indigenous Khoi San people.

Amazon is setting up its African HQ in Cape Town — a project with the promise of thousands of jobs in a country where unemployment is cripplingly high.

City authorities last month approved the construction of a nine-storey business and residential complex on a greenfield site that will be anchored by Amazon.

Its offices will provide total floor space of 70,000 square metres (7.5 million feet) — equivalent to almost 10 football pitches.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2019 an Amazon sign is pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre in Peterborough, east England. – US e-commerce giant Amazon on Friday said it will create another 10,000 jobs in Britain, a day after announcing a US hiring spree as online shopping booms during the pandemic. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

 

But some of the country’s first inhabitants, the Khoi Khoi and San — whose presence in the southern tip of the continent has been dated by archaeologists to thousands of years —  say the project desecrates ancestral land.

They say it lies on a battlefield in which the Khoi defended the territory from Portuguese colonisers in 1510.

“Our heritage will be completely wiped out,” paramount chief Aran Goringhaicona told AFP this week. “There is so much spiritual significance to this place.”

He represents the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoi Indigenous Traditional Council, which is among the indigenous, environmental and community activists contesting the scheme.

Led by a neighbourhood group, the Observatory Civic Association (OCA), they wrote to the developer Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust (LLPT) this week stating their intention to appeal the project in the courts.

Construction of the four-billion-rand ($283 million / 234 million euro) complex is due to start little more than a month from now.

The group is also questioning environmental approvals for the riverside site, said OCA chair Leslie London.

Cape Town is already struggling with episodes of severe floods and drought — a risk that could be amplified when climate change goes into higher gear, London argued.

City authorities say the impact on floods is “minimal” and the site will be built up above the 100-year flood line.

Amazon, which has been operating in South Africa for 15 years, declined to comment on the development.

 

An employee prepares a package for shipment at the Amazon logistics centre in Suelzetal, eastern Germany, on Mai 12, 2021. – The US online sales giant opened the new warehouse in Saxony-Anhalt in August 2020. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP)

 

‘Ancestors’ graves’

The site had been protected under a two-year provisional heritage designation, which lapsed in April 2020, according to city authorities.

To acknowledge the history, LLPT said it will build a heritage, cultural and media centre that will be operated by indigenous groups. It will also include a medicinal garden, trail and outdoor amphitheatre.

Some indigenous groups see this as a victory.

“Those plans place the First Nations at the centre of this entire development, right opposite this building that everybody’s talking about, the Amazon building,” said chief Garu Zenzile Khoisan, who heads the First Nations Collective representing several clan formations.

Both the group and the developer said the proposal had been endorsed by the majority of indigenous peoples in the area.

“It is therefore perplexing that a small group of naysayers who claim to work for better inclusive housing opportunities or respectful celebration of local heritage and sustainable environmental upgrades wouldn’t support our plans,” LLPT said in a statement to AFP.

But opponents, including Goringhaicona, say divide-and-rule tactics are being used to stifle or sideline dissent.

City officials have lauded the potential job creation at the site at a time when official unemployment reached 29 percent in the last quarter of 2020.

The project will create 5,239 jobs during construction and close to 900 jobs once the project is up and running, according to LLPT.

Once hunter-gatherers known under the now-discarded label of Bushmen, the Khoi San suffered deeply under colonisation and apartheid.

Many in their community say they still endure wide social inequalities and economic opportunities today, and their past remains overlooked.

“Going onto someone’s sacred terrain and building something on top of it, saying ‘we’re going to offer employment in doing so’ is a morose and sick form of arguing the notion of job development,” said Tauriq Jenkins, high commissioner for the Goringhaicona council.

“You don’t employ the descendants of the Khoi Khoi and San… to dig up their ancestors’ graves”.

US Asks Brazil For ‘Immediate’ Action On Amazon

In this file photo taken on August 15, 2020, smoke rises from an illegally lit fire in Amazon rainforest reserve, south of Novo Progresso in Para state, Brazil. A coalition of 230 environmental organisations and Brazilian agribusiness companies wants the country to regain its leadership in combating climate change and called on Jair Bolsonaro’s government to present “more ambitious” goals at the next. PHOTO: CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

 

The United States on Friday welcomed Brazil’s renewed promise to end illegal deforestation but urged immediate action to protect the Amazon, a major factor in global climate change.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a longtime scourge of environmentalists, in a letter to President Joe Biden ahead of next week’s US-led climate summit voiced support for a previous Brazilian goal of stopping illegal deforestation by 2030.

Bolsonaro’s “recommitment to eliminating illegal deforestation is important,” US climate envoy John Kerry wrote on Twitter.

READ ALSO: Over 1,000 Test Positive For COVID-19 At India Religious Festival

“We look forward to immediate actions and engagement with indigenous populations and civil society so this announcement can deliver tangible results.”

Bolsonaro, one of the closest international allies of former US president Donald Trump, said his efforts on deforestation showed “unequivocal” support for Biden’s efforts.

But Bolsonaro also appealed for “considerable” international support to help Brazil meet the goal.

One of the most prominent defenders of the Amazon, indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire, voiced skepticism over Bolsonaro’s promise in a video addressed to Biden that warned of encroachments by loggers.

“The president of this country has told many lies,” he said.

“If this bad president says something to you, ignore him. Say that Raoni already talked to me.”

During the presidential campaign Biden called for $20 billion in international funding to stop Brazil from “tearing down the forest” with a risk of economic consequences if it does not comply. Bolsonaro at the time denounced the then candidate’s threats.

Brazil had committed under the 2015 Paris accord to end illegal deforestation by 2030 but the goal was under a cloud due to the election of Bolsonaro, who has opened protected lands to mining and agribusiness.

The Amazon and other rainforests are crucial to the battle against climate change as they serve as giant sinks of carbon in the atmosphere.

In the 12 months to August 2020, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 9.5 percent, destroying an area bigger than Jamaica, according to government data.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said on Friday in an interview with AFP that if Brazil received a billion dollars in aid from the international community, it would be able to reduce illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by up to 40 percent.

The money would serve to strengthen “control actions (against illegal deforestation) and, at the same time, to create an economic alternative” for 25 million people who live in the northern Amazon region, he said.

That region is one of the poorest in Brazil despite its vast natural resources.

AFP

Amazon To Produce First Bollywood Film

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Amazon is diving into Bollywood with its first Hindi-language movie, starring India’s highest-paid actor, as it fights for viewers in the huge but crowded market.

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar will be the lead in the action-adventure flick “Ram Setu”, which will be released in cinemas before its streaming debut on Amazon Prime Video, the American tech giant said in a statement Wednesday.

Global streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon and Disney’s Hotstar, have expanded their presence in the country of 1.3 billion in recent years, including by commissioning local productions featuring Bollywood stars.

Streaming services have surged in popularity due to the coronavirus pandemic as locked-down, cinema-loving Indians turned to them for entertainment, with theatres shut for more than six months.

Amazon, which has already bet big on India with its core e-commerce business, recently ruffled feathers when it was forced to issue an apology for “Tandav”, a drama streamed on Prime.

Politicians from India’s ruling party called for the show to be banned for “deliberately mocking Hindu gods” and disrespecting religious sentiments.

Streaming TV services are not subject to the country’s notoriously fussy censor boards, which regularly cut scenes from movies shown in cinemas and on television.

But under contentious new guidelines announced last month, streaming platforms will soon be forced to withdraw content deemed objectionable 36 hours after a complaint.

The furore over “Tandav” and the new rules are already prompting production firms to tone down programmes they are making, or even drop them, according to media reports.

During his visit to India last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told an audience of Bollywood filmmakers that while Prime Video was doing well in all geographies, “there’s nowhere it’s doing better than in India”.

Amazon has not announced a release date for “Ram Setu”, which refers to Adam’s Bridge, a chain of shoals off southeastern India that was built by an army of monkey warriors, according to Hindu mythology.

“I look forward to telling the story of a significant part of Indian heritage, especially for the youth,” said Kumar, the highest-paid Indian actor in the world according to Forbes’ 2020 rankings.

“I am happy that, with Amazon Prime Video, the story will cut across geographies and strike a chord with viewers across the world.”

 

AFP

Amazon Accused Of Race-Gender Bias In Workplace

 

 

A lawsuit filed in US federal court on Monday accused Amazon of keeping women and Black employees down while publicly talking up the need for diversity and social justice.

Charlotte Newman, who is Black and heads Underrepresented Founder Startup Business Development at Amazon Web Services, said in the suit she has been harassed, sexually assaulted, and kept from advancing to positions she deserved in the corporation.

“Like so many other Black and female employees at Amazon, Charlotte Newman was confronted with a systemic pattern of insurmountable discrimination based upon the color of her skin and her gender,” attorneys argued in the lawsuit.

Newman is asking for her case to be heard by a jury, and to be awarded unspecified cash damages.

“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigate all claims and take appropriate action.”

Amazon is digging into allegations made in the lawsuit, the spokeswoman added.

Newman said she was hired as a public policy manager at Amazon four years ago, quickly doing work typically assigned to higher level employees and paid less than white co-workers.

In June of last year she filed a written complaint about harassment by a male executive and “discriminatory attitudes” expressed by managers at Amazon, according to the suit.

Later that year, she filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights in Washington, DC, the filing said.

Practices at Amazon include putting Black employees into lower paying jobs at levels beneath their qualifications and skills, and then making them wait longer for promotions, the suit contended.

A number of Black women at Amazon, and particularly its cloud services division, have spoken of having their hair touched without consent or being criticized for not being friendly enough, according to the suit.

“Racial and sexual discrimination exists in Amazon’s corporate corridors, not just its warehouses – it simply takes a different form,” the lawsuit charged.

“Amazon has failed to seriously grapple with these issues among its management.”