Tag Archives: Amazon

Why Big Tech wants to access your medical records

No surprise that this is happening.

And no surprise why people feel less inclined to share with their doctors any true information about their medical status (think VA).

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Fauxcahontas and Sanders weigh in on Amazon donating money to Seattle City Council race

The city of Seattle has some serious problems. Just search our web site for “Seattle” and you’ll find plenty of examples. This includes issues with their homeless crisis, repeat offenders, the lack of police response and frustrated business owners. A sample:

Business owner gives up on reporting crime to Seattle Police
Failed city of Seattle: Police response to business owner whose customer was assaulted by homeless criminal, “you’re pretty far down the line, pal”
Liberal utopia of Seattle: Downtown family-owned drugstore closing due to crime

Seattle business owners have a vested interest in the upcoming city council elections.

One of the largest employers there, Amazon, is donating money to various candidates. They are donating as is their legal right. MyNorthwest.com reports that Amazon has donated $1.45 million to various candidates and a PAC.

Apparently this has two demorat presidential candidates – Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders – all bent out of shape. They tweeted the following:

Fauxcahontas: “Surprise: Amazon is trying to tilt the Seattle City Council elections in their favor. I’m with the Seattle council members and activists who continue standing up to Amazon. Corporations aren’t people, and I have a plan to get big money out of politics.

Sanders: In a city struggling with homelessness, Amazon is dropping an outrageous amount of money to defeat progressive candidates fighting for working people. The way Amazon conducts itself in its hometown is a perfect example of the out-of-control corporate greed we are going to end.”

These two might want to do their homework. Better yet: Walk in downtown Seattle without any bodyguards. They’ll get a good view of working people being harassed by the homeless and repeat offenders.

They also might want to check out the current candidates. All of them are progressives from what I’ve read and offer no better solutions than what the demorat bureaucrats have been doing for the past ten years. I haven’t seen one conservative running for Seattle City Council.

Amazon is wasting their money as far as I’m concerned.

Fauxcahontas and Sanders don’t really care about the results of the Seattle City Council race or the over-taxed and harassed residents of that city. This is just another excuse for those two millionaires to slam “corporate greed.”

Such very, very rich hypocrites.

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Another reason to not have Amazon technology in your home: Workers reportedly watching home security camera footage

Why anyone would put any of this “SMART” technology in their home is their business. You’ll never find it in mine.

Business Insider reports that Amazon workers in India and Romania are watching footage of Cloud Cam home security recordings in order to improve the AI technology. From their report:

Amazon reviews these video recordings to improve the performance of its Cloud Cam, helping it to better distinguish between an intruder and normal household activity. Amazon’s review team has in some cases assessed up to 150 video clips per day that are usually 20 to 30 seconds long, according to Bloomberg.

Amazon only reviews clips that are submitted by Cloud Cam owners for troubleshooting purposes, as well as those from employee testers, according to Bloomberg. However, two of the people Bloomberg spoke with said that footage submitted for review in rare cases included private interactions, such as recordings of sexual activity.

Customers can share a specific clip with Amazon to improve the device’s performance through the Cloud Cam’s feedback option, the company says. When a clip is shared, Amazon says it “may get annotated and used for supervised learning to improve the accuracy of Cloud Cam’s computer vision systems.

Amazon’s terms of service agreement for the Cloud Cam doesn’t explicitly say that the company’s workers may view footage recorded by the camera. It does, however, say that the customer grants Amazon permission to “review your Cloud Cam recordings to provide technical support.”

Read the whole story here.

See also:

A better communicator: Amazon’s Alexa tells user, “kill your foster parents”
While the owner is away the parrot will play (and order items from Amazon Alexa)
Police think Alexa may have witnessed a double slaying, want Amazon to turn her over

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President Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to “poop every other day” to help save the environment

Um, yeah…that’s a big fat NO THANK YOU. It is NOT healthy to practice this recommendation. What a whack job this guy is.

From Daily Mail: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro suggested Friday that people ‘poop every other day’ as a way to save the environment, after he came under fire for a surge in deforestation of the Amazon since he came to power.

The far-right leader offered this idea in response to a journalist’s question as to whether it was possible to simultaneously spur economic growth, feed the world’s hungry and also preserve the environment.

‘It’s enough to eat a little less. You talk about environmental pollution. It’s enough to poop every other day. That will be better for the whole world,’ said Bolsonaro, who earlier this month sacked the head of a government agency that had reported a major increase in Amazon deforestation.

Bolsonaro has been criticised for a rapid acceleration in deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, which which covers vast swathes of Brazil and is considered vital to combatting global warming.

According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which tracks clear-cutting of the rainforest, around 2,254 square kilometers (870 square miles) of the Amazon were cleared in July, an increase of 278 percent from a year ago.

The rapid rise in deforestation has triggered a global outcry and threatens to create problems for the recent free trade agreement between the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur. The pact includes Brazil and the European Union.

That followed a 90 percent increase in June compared to the year prior – figures that Bolsonaro has called ‘lies,’ and which prompted the sacking of INPE chief Ricardo Galvao on August 2.

The Amazon is vital to the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — a check on global warming.

But Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said the INPE data was published in a way that satisfied “sensationalist interpretations” and was aimed at getting “more donations from foreign NGOs”. Data from INPE, an institution of international repute, showed that overall deforestation has increased 40 percent in the last twelve months compared with the same period a year ago.

Bolsonaro, a combative politician frequently denounced for derogatory remarks about women and minority groups, said the rapid rise in populations around the world needed to be addressed.

“When you see how the world’s population is increasing by 70 million a year, you need a family planning policy,” said the former army officer, declining to use the term “birth control” for fear of an adverse media reaction.

“Don’t make me say that, otherwise (the daily) Folha de S. Paolo will run a headline saying I favor birth control,” he said.

“But you can see that more educated people have fewer children. I’m an exception to that rule, I have five,” he said.

President Bolsonaro: The exception to the rule…

Read the whole story here.

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Postal Service losing billions, burning through cash

Tax dollars at work…

Shocker, not.

From Fox Business: Not only is the U.S. Postal Service delivering less mail – it is now delivering fewer packages Opens a New Window. after it warned Congress Opens a New Window. It could run out of cash in the not so distant future.

In the agency’s latest quarterly statement, it reported a net loss of nearly $2.3 billion as it delivered 3.2 percent fewer packages.

Revenue from packages, however, increased due to higher prices.

But the decline in package volume – the first decrease in nearly a decade – could spell even more trouble for the financially-stricken agency, as its courier competitors ramp up delivery efforts to compete with the likes of Amazon. Packages were also one area of concentration for the Postal Service as it worked on a reform plan to shore up its finances.

The Postal Service experienced a 1.6 percent decline in revenue across first-class mail – its primary revenue driver – as well as a 3 percent decline in marketing mail revenue and an 11.2 percent decline in periodicals revenue.

“We continue to face imbalances in our business model that must be fixed through legislative and regulatory change,” Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Megan J. Brennan said in a statement.

The Postal Service ended fiscal 2018 with a net loss of $3.9 billion.

Losses for the latest quarter ($2.26 billion) were up from $1.49 billion from the same period last year. Revenue of $17.1 billion was slightly lower than last year.

Losses at the Postal Service between 2007 through 2018 are about $69 billion. The last time the agency recorded a profit was more than a decade ago. It has also defaulted on more than $40 billion in payments owed to pre-fund retiree health care expenses.

Read the whole story here.

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Jeff Bezos gave just 0.0906 percent of his money to charity

Shocker, not.

From NY Post: For the world’s richest man, charity begins — and stays — at home.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has given only a tiny fraction of his $160 billion fortune to philanthropic causes, falling far behind fellow billionaires such as Bill and Melinda Gates and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, public records show.

Although Bezos, 55, and his estranged wife MacKenzie recently pledged $2 billion to a new charitable initiative, their previous giving amounts to a total of just over $145 million or .0906 percent — far less than one percent — of their net worth. Out of $100,000, that would be like spending $90.06 on charity.

“The record of both Amazon and Jeff Bezos reveals that they are takers, not givers,” said Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district includes Long Island City, where Amazon plans to set up a corporate headquarters. “When they make promises of how generous they will be, I look at what they have done in the past to know what the truth really is.”

Over nearly two decades, Jeff Bezos has given paltry donations to the Bezos Family Foundation, a charity that was started by his parents in Washington state in Sept. 2000, state incorporation filings show.

Between 2000 and 2017, Bezos contributed just under $6 million to the group that Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos kickstarted with $20,000. Ma and Pa Bezos, who were early investors in their son’s fledgling company in 1995, are worth as much as $30 billion today.

In 2004, Bezos, who had already amassed a net worth of just over $2 billion, joined the board of his parents’ non-profit, along with his wife and siblings Mark and Lisa and their respective partners, according to tax filings for the group reviewed by The Post.

But it was the parents who continued to finance the non-profit, mainly through donations of Amazon stock. In 2017, Jacklyn and Miguel Bezos contributed $30,266,250 in stock to their charity, public documents show. (The foundation makes donations to educational initiatives in the US and around the world.)

It wasn’t until 2011 that Jeff Bezos, whose wealth had shot up to more than $18 billion, finally gave his first contribution to the Bezos Family Foundation: $940,538 in Amazon stock through Zefram LLC, a company that he controls, federal filings show.

As his wealth climbed, Bezos continued to keep a tight rein on his cash, at least when it came to his family charity. In 2015, the year his wealth took a nearly $30 billion leap and his net worth shot up to $58.4 billion, the family foundation received a total of $5,002,590 in Amazon stock from Jeff and MacKenzie, public records show.

The $5,943,128 the tech titan donated to his parents’ charity over the last 17 years averages less than $350,000 annually.

Bezos has long been known for his stingy ways with employees at Amazon. According to Brad Stone’s 2013 book “The Everything Store,” meals in the company cafeterias are not subsidized for workers and new employees receive a backpack with orientation materials and various pieces of equipment, including a power adaptor, that they are asked to return upon resignation.

But in the last year Bezos seems to have opened his philanthropic spigot slightly. He took to Twitter to ask his 700,000 followers for suggestions on the direction his philanthropy should take, and he recently doled out $33 million to finance scholarships for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children and $10 million to With Honor, a political action committee that helps veterans enter politics.

After announcing the creation of the Bezos Day One Fund, an initiative to battle homelessness and support early childhood education with the creation of Montessori schools in needy neighborhoods in September, Bezos earmarked $97.5 million to homeless charities across the country.

Still, the grand total of Bezos’s giving — $146,443,128 — is well below other major wealthy philanthropists, who signed on to billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s 2006 challenge to give half their fortune to philanthropy.

Read the whole story here.

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Another 2020 contender: Bill de Blasio says “There’s plenty of money in NYC, it’s just in the wrong hands”

The mantra of every elite socialist and ill-informed, government-educated proggie.

From NY Post: Burnishing his progressive credentials, Mayor Bill de Blasio portrayed himself as a protector of the working class on Thursday — while proposing a redistribution of wealth — in his sixth State of the City address.

“Brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of money in the world. There’s plenty of money in this city. It’s just in the wrong hands,” said de Blasio, who owns two homes and collects $258,750 a year as mayor.

“You haven’t been paid what you deserve for all the hard work. You haven’t been given the time you deserve. You’re not living the life you deserve. And here is the cold, hard truth: It’s no accident. It’s an agenda,” he continued, blaming Republican presidential administrations from Reagan to Trump.

The mayor proposed initiatives to level the playing field between the haves and have-nots — such as seizing buildings from bad landlords, expanding the Department of Consumer Affairs to include “worker protection” and offering medical care to 300,000 illegal aliens.

But critics pointed out the mayor’s corporate handouts.

“I thought there was something a little contradictory when he talks about having a city with a whole lot of money where workers don’t get their fair share and how we’re going to start to be more fair and more equitable,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.

“The irony there is that you’re giving $3 billion away to Amazon [in city and state subsidies],” Diaz continued, adding that he supports the online retail giant’s plans to build a headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, but not the financial incentives offered to it.

Hizzoner also promised to confiscate land from scofflaw landlords and turn the seized properties over to nonprofits under a newly created Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

“When the city’s worst landlords cheat their tenants, we will take their buildings away from them,” he said in the 67-minute speech at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side.

“If fines and penalties don’t cut it, we will seize buildings and put them into the hands of a nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.”

The details were not announced, but the plan is modeled on the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Third Party Transfer program, which forecloses on properties that have fallen into serious disrepair or are behind on taxes.

It was one of many mayoral ideas that recycled existing programs or proposals de Blasio couldn’t push through during his first five years at City Hall.

The Department of Consumer Affairs will be renamed the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to help freelancers and contract workers get paid quicker while enforcing paid-sick-leave laws and worker vacation requirements. Such activities already largely fall under its purview.

He also re-upped a 2016 proposal to create a public retirement system for the 2 million New Yorkers who do not have employer-sponsored savings programs. The plan stalled three years ago due to federal rule changes, but the city is taking another stab at it now that Oregon got one up and running and Seattle is moving in that direction, city officials said.

The city’s version would require employers to either offer retirement to all employees or auto-enroll them in a city-run retirement system.

De Blasio also pledged to expand pre-K for 3-year-olds to 20,000 by 2019 instead of 19,000 by 2021, while also extending a program that gives free vision checks and glasses to 5- and 6-year-old schoolchildren.

The city expects about 33,000 kids to get the glasses, supplied free by the eyeglass-making company Warby Parker.
The mayor, whose own eye has shifted outside New York as he seeks to raise his national profile, plugged his previously announced plan to expand the city’s MetroPlus public health care system as proof that New York is a progressive bastion battling a regressive national current.

“This country has spent decades taking from working people and giving to the 1 percent. This city has spent the last five years doing it the other way around,” he said.

He also took shots at Albany over the state of the city’s subways, although his gripes may have fallen on dead ears.
“I am not listening to it right now,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told WNYC on Thursday. “I’m in Albany.”

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A better communicator: Amazon’s Alexa tells user, “kill your foster parents”

From Yahoo: Millions of users of Amazon’s Echo speakers have grown accustomed to the soothing strains of Alexa, the human-sounding virtual assistant that can tell them the weather, order takeout and handle other basic tasks in response to a voice command.

So a customer was shocked last year when Alexa blurted out: “Kill your foster parents.”

Alexa has also chatted with users about sex acts. She gave a discourse on dog defecation. And this summer, a hack Amazon traced back to China may have exposed some customers’ data, according to five people familiar with the events.

Alexa is not having a breakdown.

The episodes, previously unreported, arise from Amazon.com Inc’s strategy to make Alexa a better communicator. New research is helping Alexa mimic human banter and talk about almost anything she finds on the internet. However, ensuring she does not offend users has been a challenge for the world’s largest online retailer.

At stake is a fast-growing market for gadgets with virtual assistants. An estimated two-thirds of U.S. smart-speaker customers, about 43 million people, use Amazon’s Echo devices, according to research firm eMarketer. It is a lead the company wants to maintain over the Google Home from Alphabet Inc and the HomePod from Apple Inc.

Over time, Amazon wants to get better at handling complex customer needs through Alexa, be they home security, shopping or companionship.

“Many of our AI dreams are inspired by science fiction,” said Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s vice president and head scientist of Alexa Artificial Intelligence (AI), during a talk last month in Las Vegas.

To make that happen, the company in 2016 launched the annual Alexa Prize, enlisting computer science students to improve the assistant’s conversation skills. Teams vie for the $500,000 first prize by creating talking computer systems known as chatbots that allow Alexa to attempt more sophisticated discussions with people.

Amazon customers can participate by saying “let’s chat” to their devices. Alexa then tells users that one of the bots will take over, unshackling the voice aide’s normal constraints. From August to November alone, three bots that made it to this year’s finals had 1.7 million conversations, Amazon said.

Read the whole story here.

See also:

While the owner is away the parrot will play (and order items from Amazon Alexa)
Police think Alexa may have witnessed a double slaying, want Amazon to turn her over
Amazon launches program to get Alexa in hotel rooms

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While the owner is away the parrot will play (and order items from Amazon Alexa)

Rocco and his owner/Photo from Facebook

Just another hazard of having that device in your home.

From Fox 5 NY: A parrot has fallen in love with his owner’s Amazon Alexa — but keeps using it to order shopping.

So far Rocco the African Grey, from Didcot, Oxfordshire, U.K., has demanded treats such as strawberries, watermelon, raisins, broccoli and ice cream.

He has also ordered a kite, light bulbs and even a kettle.

Rocco likes to dance too and tells the voice-activated device to play favorite tunes. Sometimes they are slow numbers, but he generally prefers rock.

See also:

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Police think Alexa may have witnessed a double slaying, want Amazon to turn her over

Can the recordings on Alexa be trusted? Who was actually there? Was if the recording was from a movie/TV show/other audio recording? Was the crime a set-up?

Seems to me that without visual evidence, you can pre-determine a desired outcome based upon your position (as can happen in many trials with circumstantial evidence).

The data may be used to exonerate someone yet it may also be used against you.

Another reason I will never have an Alex in my home.

From SF Gate: Alexa might have been listening, as she almost always is, when Christine Sullivan was stabbed to death in the kitchen of the Farmington, New Hampshire, home where Sullivan lived with her boyfriend on the night of Jan. 27, 2017.

But does Alexa remember any of it?

That’s the question state prosecutors are hoping will produce key evidence in the murder case against Timothy Verrill, who is accused of killing Sullivan and her friend, Jenna Pelligrini, over suspicions they were informing police about an alleged drug operation. Prosecutors say Alexa, the artificial woman who personifies the Amazon Echo smart device, was sitting on the kitchen counter the entire time.

Now, a judge has ordered Amazon to turn over any recordings the Echo device may have made from Jan. 27, the day the women were killed, until Jan. 29, when police discovered them tucked beneath a tarp under the back porch.

“The court finds there is probable cause to believe the server(s) and/or records maintained for or by Amazon.com contain recordings made by the Echo smart speaker from the period of Jan. 27 to Jan. 29, 2017 … and that such information contains evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen.”

Verrill has pleaded not guilty. His defense attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

Verrill’s case marks at least the second time Amazon has become entangled in a high-stakes murder case in which its device, a task manager activated on voice command, morphs into a de facto witness for the prosecution.

In a statement to The Washington Post, an Amazon spokesperson indicated Amazon wouldn’t be turning over the data so easily, appearing to prioritize consumer privacy as it has done in the past.

“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” the spokesperson said. “Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”

There’s no guarantee that Alexa will turn into a star witness. For the Echo smart device to be activated, typically it has to be prompted by the words “Alexa,” “Computer,” or “Echo” – the “wake words” that cause the device to begin recording.

But if Alexa really were listening, evidence collected so far indicates she would have heard a horrific attack.

Investigators laid out the mostly circumstantial evidence against suspect Timothy Verrill during an evidentiary bail hearing last summer.

On Jan. 29, Sullivan’s boyfriend, Dean Smoronk, the owner of the house where the women were killed, told police he arrived home from a trip to Florida to find that it had been turned into a crime scene, New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Brian Strong testified during an evidentiary bail hearing last summer. Sullivan was nowhere to be found, and so he called 911.

When police arrived, they found blood splattered on the kitchen walls and on the refrigerator, Strong said. It was soaked into the mattress in the upstairs bedroom, where police believe Pellegrini was stabbed 43 times.

Verill had previously lived at the house with Sullivan and Smoronk and had been friends with all of them. Strong revealed under questioning from Verrill’s defense attorney that the home where the killings took place was also at the center of an alleged drug trafficking empire, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported. Verrill’s attorney, Melissa Davis, suggested that this left open additional avenues for investigation into other suspects, maintaining Verrill’s innocence, Foster’s reported.

But prosecutors contended that Verrill’s behavior on the night of the murder and in the days following made him the prime suspect.

On the night of the murder, Smoronk, the suspected drug trafficker, received a phone call from Verill in the early morning hours of Jan. 27: Verrill, Smoronk told police, was concerned Jenna Pellegrini was an informant, Foster’s reported.

In a matter of hours, home surveillance captured Verrill arriving at the home where in a flannel shirt and a ball cap, Strong testified during the bail hearing. Within 20 minutes, he was captured attempting to obscure the lens of three of the surveillance cameras before ultimately shutting the system down.

And over the next several days prosecutors say he made a series of suspicious trips around town, according to footage by WMUR-TV. He bought cleanup products from a Walmart. He went to go see a priest, and he had “not one, but two breakdowns that take him to the hospital,” the prosecutor said.

Verrill was arrested the day after he traveled to Massachusetts for a drug-treatment program Feb. 5, the Rochester Voice reported.

When executing a search warrant, Strong said he found the women’s bodies beneath the tarp and found the knives buried a foot beneath the ground, wrapped in a flannel shirt. The police found a shovel speckled with blood, believed to be Sullivan’s, resting on top of the porch.

And in the kitchen, of course, they found Alexa, and took the device into custody.

The case recalls a 2015 Arkansas murder investigation in which a woman was found dead in a backyard hot tub the morning after the man who lived there, Nate Bates, invited friends over to watch a football game. Bates was soon charged in her death and pleaded not guilty.

Just as in the New Hampshire case, police found Alexa sitting on Bates’s kitchen counter, suspecting she might know something.

Amazon initially resisted law enforcement’s efforts to obtain the potential relevant recordings, as The Post reported in December 2016. In a 91-page brief, Amazon moved to quash the search warrant on First Amendment grounds. It advanced the same argument put forth by Apple in 2015, when the company refused the federal government’s request to unlock the iPhone of the accused San Bernardino shooter for customer privacy reasons.

“Amazon does not seek to obstruct any lawful investigation, but rather seeks to protect the privacy rights of its customers when the government is seeking their data from Amazon, especially when that data may include expressive content protected by the First Amendment,” Amazon wrote in its brief.

Amazon ultimately relented after Bates gave permission for his Amazon Echo to be searched – but it didn’t turn into the linchpin prosecutors hoped for: They dropped the charges against Bates in November 2017 after finding that the evidence, including the Echo recordings, supported more than one “reasonable explanation” for the victim’s death.

Read the whole story here.

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