Monkeys helped man who mysteriously vanished in the Bolivian Amazon

Tourist Maykool Coroseo Acuña, 25, was lost in the Bolivian Amazon for nine days. He says that he was only able to survive thanks to "a group of monkeys, who dropped him fruit and lead him to shelter and water every day." And that isn't even the strangest part of the story surrounding Acuña. From Elizabeth Unger's fascinating article in National Geographic:

(Tour organizer Feizar Nava) had invited the tourists at the lodge to participate in a Pachamama ceremony—a tradition involving coca leaves, candles, and cigarettes—to thank Pachamama, or Mother Earth, for giving them permission to enter the forest.

When Maykool was asked to join the ceremony alongside the group, he had refused, Feizar said. And when a guide had returned to his cabin to check on him, he was nowhere to be found. The amount of time that had passed between when Maykool was last seen and when someone went back for him was only five minutes.

Panicked, Feizar and his guides checked every inch of the lodge. Maykool wasn’t there. The group headed out into the rainforest with flashlights. They searched until five in the morning, to no avail. Maykool seemed to have completely vanished.

“It’s because he offended the Pachamama.” Feizar said. “He didn’t want to participate in the ceremony.”

"Lost Tourist Says Monkeys Saved Him in the Amazon" (Nat Geo) Read the rest

That big Amazon S3 outage was caused by a typo, company admits

On Monday, many websites, news services, publishing platforms, and other internet-connected things that use Amazons AWS platform went dark. The cause can finally be revealed.

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The internet promised open markets, delivered rigged ones, then fake ones, then outright monopolies

Markets don't solve all our problems, but they sometimes produce remarkably efficient systems for producing and distributing goods, and the internet traded on that promise with marketplaces like Ebay (anyone can sell, anyone can buy); Google (anyone can publish, anyone can read), and Amazon (one marketplace where all goods are transparently priced and ranked). Read the rest

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other tech firms donated cash and services to Trump inauguration

Technology companies including Amazon, Google and Microsoft donated considerable amounts of both cash and technical services for the ceremonies and events around the inauguration and swearing in of President Donald Trump, according to reports making the internet rounds on Tuesday night.

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Reminder: you can buy vintage milk at Amazon

Have you vomited uncontrollably and at such length as to leave you shaking and in tears lately? Try it! Amazon can help by shipping you vintage milk, "Used & New" from $45. Read the rest

TV news report about unwanted Alexa orders triggers unwanted Alexa orders

Television anchors on San Diego's CW6 were discussing how a young girl "accidentally" ordered a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies by talking to Amazon's Alexa when one of the anchors said "I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse." Oops. From CW6 San Diego:

As soon as (anchor Jim) Patton said that, viewers all over San Diego started complaining their echo devices had tried to order doll houses...

Amazon says shopping settings can be managed via its Alexa app, including turning off voice purchasing and creating a confirmation code before any order.

The company also says any “accidental” physical orders can be returned for free.

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Interviewing for Amazon: a literal Orwellian experience

Shivan, a computer science student in Montreal, applied for a job at Amazon; the second round interview was conducted remotely by a proctor from an online service called Proctor U who insisted that Shivan install a remote-access trojan on his computer that let the proctor completely control his machine; then he was made to use the camera on his laptop to give the proctor a view of his room and all the things in it (with the proctor barking orders at him to shift his belonging around to give a better view. Read the rest

First impressions of Amazon's Echo Dot

I didn't think an IoT voice assistant was for me, but at $50 I couldn't resist the Amazon Echo Dot. I'm finding Alexa to be handy for lots of little things.

Amazon's hockey puck like Echo Dot gives you all the utility of their personal assistant Alexa at pretty low price. I felt it wouldn't be too much of a disaster if the thing never got used. Thus far it is proving to be pretty handy.

Echo Dot pairs with bluetooth speakers pretty well, and I enjoy being able to voice control my radio. Switching between news, music and podcasts is easy. I've found that this alone makes Echo Dot useful to me. Being able to occasionally stop the sound and ask Alexa for time time, weather in San Francisco or other simple, frequent searches one may perform is strangely satisfying, and temporarily provides an 'I live in the future' feeling.

Next up will be syncing it with my Fitbit, tho I'm not sure what that is really going to do for me.

Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black via Amazon Read the rest

"Incentivized" shill reviews now banned on Amazon

Following complaints and a scathing exposé by Review Meta (previously) Amazon announced it will now ban incentivized reviews, a form of shill review written in exchange for free or reduced-cost products. Read the rest

Inside a multimillion dollar fake Kindle book scam

Vancouver-based engineer-turned-"entrepreneur" Valeriy Shershnyov published thousands of titles in the Kindle store, "books" of typo-riddled nonsense that he upranked with a system of bots that gamed Amazon's fraud-detection systems, allowing him to sell more than $3M worth of garbage to unsuspecting Amazon customers. Read the rest

High bias found in Amazon reviews of low-cost or free samples

Review Meta has published an in-depth analysis of 7 million Amazon reviews and found that "incentivized reviews," those with a disclaimer that the reviewer got the product free or discounted, skew substantially higher than non-incentivized reviews. Read the rest

UK gives OK to Amazon for drone delivery exploration

Amazon.com says it has entered into a partnership with the British government to get the nation's aviation authority approval for deliveries via small drones.

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Cinesift is a handy way to find great movies by platform

Whenever I think I've exhausted the possibilities of Netflix or Amazon Prime, I jump on Cinesift and use their handy filters for a deep dive into the vaults.

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Elon Musk Says Humans Will Go To Mars by 2024

In my weekly segment on KCRW's “Press Play” news program with host Madeleine Brand, we listen to Elon Musk wax poetic about artificial intelligence and whether life might be a dream--and his plans to send humans to Mars by 2025.

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Amazon is suing its own retailers over fake reviews

If you're an Amazon seller and you pay people to review your products on Amazon, the company may sue you. The online commerce giant sued three sellers today for using sockpuppet accounts to post glowing but phony product reviews.

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What Amazon's Jeff Bezos thinks about Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker

In this video from the Recode conference, an interesting reveal of what Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos thinks of the legal battle between Peter Thiel and Gawker, with Hulk Hogan as a most unfortunate proxy. Bezos is full of surprising insights here, and offers Thiel some tough love.

The only effective defense public figures like Thiel have against their critics, says Bezos: “Develop a thick skin.”

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Report: Google to introduce Amazon Echo competitor device called 'Google Home'

Anonymous sources quoted in the New York Times and elsewhere today said Google will introduce a competitor to Amazon's Echo on Wednesday. Its long-anticipated entry into the voice-activated home device market is said to be named Google Home.

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