Did "The Phantom Menace" actually predict the rise of Jeff Bezos and Amazon?

Well, no, probably not. Also the dialogue remains objectively terrible. But tumblr user swan2swan makes a fairly convincing argument that the actual plot of Star Wars Episode 1 is eerily reminiscent of our present predicament:

https://swan2swan.tumblr.com/post/171120920177/the-phantom-menace-is-the-best-movie-ever-because

 

The Phantom Menace is the best movie ever because the entire premise is essentially “Amazon has obtained its own private army and now two future samurai have to stop it from forcing Natalie Portman’s planet to use its services by cutting through Jeff Bezos’s army of robots and attempting to convince Congress to do something about it SPOILER WARNING Congress doesn’t do jack so Natalie Portman has to take matters into her own hands also the day is saved by a redneck kid the samurai picked up when the car broke down”.

And I thought it was bad enough just thinking about how Trump could use Palpatine's tactics to cancel Election Day 2020.

Image via Hannford/Flickr and DoD/Flickr Read the rest

10,000 people are calling for Congress to investigate Amazon Ring

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "Amazon Ring's surveillance doorbell partnerships with police are spreading like a virus. There are already more than 500 of them across the country. We can fight them at the local level, but at this scale we need Congress to intervene. Amazon is refusing to be transparent about its own policies and relationships with law enforcement. That's why more than 10,000 people have already called on Congress to investigate and demand answers about the impact these partnerships have on our privacy and civil liberties. If you're concerned, you can add your voice here." Read the rest

What's cooler than being cool? Hundreds of musicians protesting ICE and Amazon

Stop, collaborate, and listen: Amazon's complicit in ICE's extraditions (plus other abuses of human rights enabled by that agency's authoritarian agenda)

That's why hundreds of musicians—nearly 500, at the time of this writing, though it was just over 100 when news broke Thursday morning—have signed onto an open letter pledging to boycott Amazon festivals, events, and other exclusive deals until the tech giant stops enabling the systematic abuses of Immigration Customs Enforcement. The list of signatories includes Guy Picciotto of Fugazi, as well as Ted Leo, Immortal Technique, Downtown Boys, Thursday, WHY?, Jeff Rosenstock, the Mowglis, War on Women, Diet Cig, Tim Kasher (of Cursive/The Good Life), and many more.

These are the demands for Amazon, directly from that open letter:

Terminate existing contracts with military, law enforcement, and government agencies (ICE, CBP, ORR) that commit human rights abuses

Stop providing Cloud services & tools to organizations (such as Palantir) that power the US government's deportation machine

End projects that encourage racial profiling and discrimination, such as Amazon's facial recognition product

Reject future engagements w/ aforementioned bad actors.

I signed my own band onto the list earlier this week, after catching wind of the movement on Twitter. (I tried to pull our songs from all Amazon-affiliated services, but our distro service makes that difficult to do.) My friends in the Kominas mentioned something about it, and then I noticed Deerhoof interacting with Sadie Dupois of Speedy Ortiz and Sad13, following up on the recent op-ed by Tom Morello and Evan Greer of Fight For The Future (both musicians and activists in their own rights). Read the rest

#NothingButDragnet: EFF calls on @Shaq to stop endorsing police partnerships with Amazon's creepy, surveilling Ring doorbells

Amazon's Ring surveillance doorbells are part of a secretive, nationwide police surveillance network, with cops being offered covert incentives to act as street-teams to buzz market the products, and with Amazon repeatedly misleading the public and reporters about when and how police can gain access to footage from the cameras. Read the rest

It's dismayingly easy to make an app that turns a smart-speaker into a password-stealing listening device and sneak it past the manufacturer's security checks

German security researchers from Security Research Lab created a suite of apps for Google and Amazon smart speakers that did trivial things for their users, appeared to finish and go dormant, but which actually stayed in listening mode, then phished the user for passwords spoken aloud to exfiltrate to a malicious actor; all their apps were successfully smuggled past the companies app store security checks. Read the rest

Orthodox Jewish owned businesses sell a lot of stuff on Amazon

“This is like the Gold Rush in the 1840s.”

Mike Monteiro put a pro-union message for Amazon workers on his new book's cover

Designer/activist Mike Monteiro added a pointed pro-Union message to the cover of his new, print-on-demand book that Amazon workers would perhaps see when they print copies to ship to customers. The Amazon-specific cover to Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It made it through their approval process and is visible on the product page, for the moment anyway.

From The Verge:

While Monteiro says he’s sold over 10,000 copies of the book so far, only 150 paperbacks have been printed since he changed the cover, which isn’t a lot of opportunities for it to catch the right person’s eye.

Monteiro says he was working on some union organizing when he came up with the idea: “We were discussing how to get messages in front of people and I realized ‘Oh, huh. I have this thing that Amazon workers see every time a book gets ordered. Let’s put a message there.’”

Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It (Amazon)

Read the rest

Civil rights groups call for a stop to Amazon's doorbell surveillance partnerships with cops

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "More than 30 civil rights organizations, including Fight for the Future, Color of Change, National Immigration Law Center, and CAIR, have signed an open letter calling for elected officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and put an end to all Amazon-police surveillance partnerships. This is the first major action taken by groups to pressure lawmakers to address these partnerships and the threats they pose to privacy, civil liberties, and democracy. Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach. These partnerships are a clear case of both. If you're concerned about Amazon's surveillance partnerships, there's a petition you can sign to your local elected officials here." Read the rest

Supreme Court greenlights lawsuit over Amazon's wage-theft from warehouse workers

Amazon and its contractors are notorious for their wage-theft from warehouse workers, who are required to endure lengthy, unpaid delays while they wait to have their bags and bodies searched for stolen goods; a group of workers sued Amazon and one of its contractors, Integrity Staffing, under a Nevada state law. Read the rest

Amazon wants to draft model facial recognition legislation

Between its line of Ring-brand surveillance doorbells and its "Rekognition" facial recognition product (both of which are used in law-enforcement and immigration-enforcement contexts), Amazon is at the center of the controversy over facial recognition technology. Read the rest

Samuel L. Jackson to be the first Amazon Alexa celebrity voice

"And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

Deadline:

Samuel L. Jackson and other celebrities will lend their voices to Amazon’s Alexa devices in a new feature that will be available as a 99-cent upgrade, the tech giant announced at a major product reveal in Seattle...

Jackson “can tell you jokes, let you know if it’s raining, set timers and alarms, play music and more – all with a bit of his own personality,” according to the company’s official blog post. The company plans two versions of his voice — “explicit and non-explicit.”

screenshot via Pulp Fiction Read the rest

Police redeliver Amazon packages sent to cemetery

Officers in the Burlington, Massachusetts police department temporarily performed the work of Amazon drivers when a number of undelivered (misdelivered?) packages were found in a local cemetery. Read the rest

Sept 20: More than 900 Amazon employees pledge to walk out over climate inaction

More than 900 Amazon employees have pledged to walk off the job at 11:30PST on Sept 20 to protest the company's inaction on climate change as part of Greta Thunberg's Global Climate Strike: they are demanding an end to donations to climate-denying politicians and PACs; kicking oil and gas companies off of Amazon's platforms; and for Amazon to be zero emissions by 2030. Read the rest

Amazon's plan for traffic deaths from same-day delivery: deflect blame to anonymous subcontractors

Amazon's got a tried-and-true way to deal with the negative consequences of high-speed ecommerce logistics: use subcontractors who can absorb the blame for the human toll wrought by the machine-like pace it demands of its workers. Read the rest

Amazon breaks embargo on Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale sequel

Bookstores don't have it on sale yet, but Amazon is already shipping out Margaret Atwood's The Testaments, her long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. The impromptu exclusive—apparently Amazon breaking a publisher's embargo—has enraged and terrified booksellers.

The Guardian:

A number of angry independent booksellers have taken to social media to vent about the fact that Amazon violated the embargo set by Penguin Random House; the publisher instructed retailers to withhold the book from customers until its September 10 on-sale-date.

On Tuesday night, Astoria Bookshop (Queens, N.Y.) owner Lexi Beach posted on Twitter that some consumers had already received their pre-ordered copies of The Testaments from Amazon, while booksellers, like herself, were still abiding by the embargo.

Instagram user @JAMNPP posted that he had pre-ordered The Testaments “months ago” from Amazon, and received it in the mail yesterday. “I just figured they’d changed the date but now I checked! I don’t know how I got it a week early,” he wrote. Another Amazon customer, @LateBloomer, shared on Twitter that they had received the book, adding that they were “discouraged that Amazon would fail to abide by the release date, to the detriment of our beloved indie booksellers.” This comment earned a sharp rebuke from Beach, who responded, “If you’re that concerned, why did you order from Amazon?”

Hit up your local independent bookstore and pick up a copy with your own two hands. Read the rest

Ring: "We don't use facial recognition"; also Ring: "We have a head of facial recognition research"

One of the most obvious facts I've learned in covering the unfolding scandal of the secret deals between Amazon's Ring surveillance doorbell group and hundreds of US police departments is that Amazon loooooves to play word-games. Read the rest

Amazon testing 'Orville' biometric tech that scans your hands to pay at Whole Foods, stores will use it starting early 2020

Your hands are your ID. New payment system for Whole Foods being tested by Amazon now.

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