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Amazon

Major Corporations Giving Out Bonuses To Cope With Coronavirus Impact

Walmart is one of America’s big businesses that has been making some major adjustments to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, the corporation announced that they would be hiring 150,000 temporary workers by the end of May in order to deal with the loss of employment, and quarantine efforts that they know most of their employees are enduring. Within the announcement, they claimed that these hired associates would work in stores, clubs, and distribution/fulfillment centers all at safe distances away from one another. 

“We know millions of Americans who are usually employed at this time are temporarily out of work, and at the same time we’re currently seeing strong demand in our stores. We’re looking for people who see Walmart as a chance to earn some extra money and perform a vital service to their community,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart. 

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The company went on in their statement to claim that anyone who applies will hear back within 24 hours on the status of their application; normally service industry workers wait up to 2 weeks before hearing back from employers. This isn’t that abnormal of a process for a company as big as Walmart. During the holidays companies often give their current employee’s extended hours as well as hire a whole slew of new workers to make up for the increased demand; the same process is what Walmart is attempting to do now.  

“These roles will be temporary at first, but many will convert to permanent roles over time. We’ve reached out to industry groups representing restaurants and hospitality to facilitate temporary roles that can be a bridge for their employees during this difficult time,” Walmart said in a press release

Walmart currently has a workforce of about 1.5 million workers in the United States alone, and while they’re making an effort to bring on new workers, they also know they need to take care of their current employees as well. Walmart also promised that each of its workers, regardless of position, will receive a cash bonus. Full-time hourly workers will be receiving an additional $300 in their paychecks, while part-time hourly workers will receive an additional $150.

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Quarterly bonuses are also being expedited for associates. The total bonuses will equate to about $550 million in additional pay-outs to its employees. Other major companies are trying to follow suit as well through their worker protections and additional bonuses as well. 

Amazon recently announced that in response to an increase in online shopping traffic it will be hiring an additional 100,000 new full-time and part-time employees. The demand that the online shopping market is currently enduring is more intense than it’s ever been, as more and more people are opting to not leave their homes whenever they need something that can simply be ordered with the click of a button. 

Amazon is also investing nearly $350 million to raise hourly pay for all of its current employees; they’re projecting all low-level workers who are making minimum wage will receive an addition $2 per hour in their paychecks. 

Pizza chain Domino’s also announced that it will be looking to hire an additional 10,000 employees in the coming weeks, due to an increase in pressure being placed on the take-out industry for the very same reason that Amazon is seeing an increase in revenue. 

Employee protections and worker rights are of the utmost importance at a time like this. Health and safety should 100% be coming first, and your employer’s should be understanding over that and implement new programs that will not only protect the workers that are being forced into isolation, but also create a larger job market to maintain the economy as much as we possibly can. 

Ring Doorbell

5 Smart Home Devices That Won’t Break The Bank

Smart home technology is currently taking over the world. When Apple initially launched AI assistant Siri for the iPhone, they had no idea they’d be creating one of the first smart technologies that would impact the future of how we interact with all of our devices. Now, we can use these voice-interactive assistants to turn on the lights, lock our cars when we’re miles away, and answer practically any question one could have, all without having to get up from the couch. 

There’s a whole multitude of smart home devices on the market that are all unique in their own way. However, because of how advanced the technology is, they tend to be priced on the expensive side, but one device can assist the average individual on dozens of aspects of their lives. So which devices would best fit your lifestyle without completely breaking the bank?

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Ring Video Doorbell: About one third of all Americans have had packages stolen from their porches at least once in their lifetime. As online shopping continues to outgrow the traditional retail industry, it’s only a matter of time before it completely takes over, and will that come an increase in these crimes. For this reason, among others, more people are investing in the Ring Video Doorbell. Ring is powered by Amazon’s Alexa and allows its users to see, hear, and speak through their doorbells through any smart device with an Alexa app on it (which is free in any app store). 

The doorbell itself has risen in popularity because it provides a video feed that never stops recording. Users can get a livestream of their front door at any given time, as well as record videos. The device itself has already been extremely beneficial at catching porch thieves in the act, and will likely continue to ride in popularity for this reason. 

Google Home Smart Speaker: While Amazon’s Alexa may be the dominant voice for AI assisted technology, Google Home has become its biggest competitor. This is likely because the price point for Google Home Smart Speakers, and their other devices in their line of smart devices, are relatively cheaper than any other brand on the market. Additionally, these speakers obviously have the power of Google, one of the world’s largest online sources for information, within them, so users can ask practically any question to their device and expect a clear answer. 

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Roku Streaming Stick+: Streaming services for music, television, and movies has become a staple in the world of in-home entertainment. With so many platforms out there, many are turning to buy smart TV’s that have app store capabilities so that they can keep up with all of their profiles (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.). However, spending hundreds on a brand new television may be too large of an investment for some, so instead, consider the Roku Streaming Stick+. You simply plug the device into your  existing television’s HDMI port, log into your home’s WiFi network, and you’ll automatically have access to any and all online content that you could ever dream of. The best part? It only costs about $50 with shipping. 

Nest Learning Thermostat: This device is the most expensive on the list, coming in at about $210, however, it’s focus on sustainability and savings will make it worth it in the long run in terms of your heating/electric bills. This is a “smart device” because it’s designed to learn about your specific lifestyle. It will automatically adjust the temperature of your home in moments where you may not need the heat to be on; such as when you go to work or on vacation. Reports claim that on average the Nest Learning Thermostat saves the average individual about $150 a year on their heating and cooling bills.  

Gosund Smart Plug: When it comes to our smart devices being able to work with other, normal electrical devices in our home, such as lamps, typically you need to buy smart plugs that can specifically work with your device exclusively; such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home. However, Gosund Smart Plug’s are universal, in the sense that they are compatible with either Amazon Alexa or Google Home’s voice integration. If you don’t have either, Gosund has it’s own companion app that you can download onto any smart phone and control whatever device you plug into the Gosund’s from your phone. A four pack of these plugs costs $30.

Business people putting their hands together

Kickstarter Workers Make Historic Vote To Unionize

Kickstarter is one of the most well-known tech companies out there. They were one of the original businesses to create a platform for individuals who needed funding for whatever projects life threw their way. Users have used the website to raise money for surgery, travel funds, textbook payments, charities, and more. Now, Kickstarter is setting yet another precedent for the tech industry this week after employees voted to unionize on Tuesday (2/18), making them the one of the only companies in their field to do so. 

The National Labor Relations Board held the election this week in which the workers won the unionization vote by a margin of 46 to 37. The passing vote states that Kickstarter’s employee’s will now be affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). This partnership is between the OPEIU and unionizes 85 employees of all sorts including engineers, analysts, designers, and customer support. 

“Kickstarter employees felt their employer, a public benefit corporation, should live up to the foundational progressive values it espouses by ensuring trust and transparency from management, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, implementing more inclusive hiring practices and giving employees a voice in the decision-making process,” OPEIU said in a statement.

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While Kickstarter has become one of the first ever tech unions in the United States, the move itself wasn’t surprising, as employee’s have been quite public about their discontent with their employers for several months now. Back in September the company fired two employees both of which claimed that their termination was in direct connection to their unionization efforts, a claim Kickstarter has since denied.

Kickstarter also had to give a detailed documentation of events that led up to the two employees terminations to the National Labor Relations Board, those reasons have not been made public, however. But besides that initial incident, corporate heads from Kickstarter have been otherwise supportive of their employees this week as their union dreams have come into fruition. 

“We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here,” Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan claimed after the vote was finalized. 

“This is a sign, loud and clear, that it’s possible to organize tech. Workers in tech want the same agency union workers have won for decades. Nothing is really new, tech is just joining history and proving we’re not an exception,” Clarissa Redwine, one of the fired employees stated.

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As Redwine stated, this is a huge move for the tech industry as a whole, as no company as large as Kickstarter has ever been able to successfully unionize despite the concerns from individuals on the corporate end of things. Workers from all sorts of major tech companies, such as Google and Amazon, have been increasing their overall efforts to unionize within the past few years. 

Claims of sexual harassment, and complaints regarding company impact on the environment have fueled the employee fire for change. However, with companies as large as Google or Amazon, it can be nearly impossible for workers on the ground level to make a real impact without succumbing to the pressure of intimidation and corporate jargon. Lucky for them, The National Labor Relations Board doesn’t take to kindly to wealthy employers restricting their workers rights all in the name of saving a few dollars from their multi-million dollar paychecks. In fact, the NLRB has already opened an investigation against Google after four terminated employees stated they were fired for speaking out against company practices. Amazon is being investigated for the same type of situation involving five employees. 

So while the creation of a union may not seem like a huge deal, in America, and in the tech industry especially, worker rights are often overlooked, so having official employee protections guaranteed is a huge deal. Kickstarter was able to do the impossible and, hopefully, inspire more tech corporations to treat their employees for what they are, hard-working, dedicated, passionate people just trying to make a real honest living; isn’t that the American dream?

Pope Silhouette

Pope Francis Makes Public Plea To Save The Amazon, And The Planet

Pope Francis has taken combating the climate crisis our planet is currently enduring into his own hands. Last week, on February 12th to be more specific, Francis released a 94-page exhortation document in which he passionately discussed the importance of protecting the Amazon Rainforest, the multitude of ecosystems it supports, and the indigenous people native to the forest who utilize its vast range of natural resources.  

The document is titled Dear Amazon, and comes as a response to the historic Vatican meeting that occurred in the fall of 2019 regarding the destruction of the Amazon during its extreme wildfire outbreaks. It also comes as a response to the massive increase in illegal logging, mining and other deforestation tactics in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil, as well as a surge in murders amongst indigenous activists within the past year alone. 

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“If the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable, this becomes especially important in places where the forest is not a resource to be exploited…When indigenous peoples remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. We are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God. For this reason, we demand an end to the mistreatment and destruction of mother Earth. The land has blood, and it is bleeding; the multinationals have cut the veins of our mother Earth,” Francis wrote.

As previously mentioned, the exhortation comes partly as a response to a historic meeting at the Vatican in which, for the first time in history, hundreds of Catholic bishops, environmental activists, and indigenous leaders from nine South American countries came together to discuss preservation of the planet and its relationship to faith, and how both political and religious leaders of the world can join forces to protect what little natural land is left. 

The exhortation acts as a public response to an otherwise private three-week meeting period between the groups mentioned above. The “response” was divided into four sections by Francis; societal, cultural, ecclesial, and ecological, all of which were under the general titles of “dreams.” Scientists and conservationists alike have been warning about the catastrophic effects of climate change for decades. Unless true systematic change is implemented throughout the entire world, it’s nearly impossible to reverse the extensive damage that’s already been done.

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The Amazon Rainforest

Within the past year, the Amazon Rainforest has lost over 3,400 square miles of forest, which is roughly the size of seven New York Cities, and this is not the first time Pope Francis has expressed his discontent with our governments lack of conservation efforts. In 2015, the Vatican and Francis released an encyclical entitled Laudato Si, On Care For Our Common Home. An “encyclical,” is a Catholic teaching document that’s regarded as the “highest order possessing moral authority,” due to the fact that it comes from the Pope. 

In Laudato Si, Francis became a self-proclaimed advocate for environmental protection, and spoke out against the government; placing the blame for global warming on human activity, specifically mentioning “rampant consumerism and unbridled capitalism.” Since then, the Vatican has emphasized climate action as “morally imperative” in the same regard that it’s scientifically imperative for the survival of our planet. 

The progressive Pope’s outspoken attitude in regard to climate change has created a major divide amongst those who consider themselves “devoutly” faithful to both their religion and their government. However, most can agree that having a public figure, as major and influential as the Pope, speak out against any issue regarding injustice is major when it comes to reform. 

“Protecting rainforests is fundamentally an ethical issue, where care for creation and the realization of social justice for indigenous peoples and forest communities are part of one moral fabric. We are seeing that not only is the leadership of Pope Francis rallying Catholics to act, but [it is] also inspiring religious leaders from other faiths to protect rainforests around the world,” said Joe Corcoran, the UN project manager for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI).

Francis is creating a merger of two different worlds through his outspokenness. We have all the facts when it comes to climate change and the action that’s needed to combat it, now it’s just a matter of direct and immediate change.

Young Woman Using AI Device

How AI Will Shape Life in the Home

Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology and a healthy global economy in which companies compete to develop the most impressive and compelling consumer products, the future of life in the home is shaping up to be characterized by artificial intelligence. Google, for instance, has shifted its business to focus on so-called “ambient computing” technology, which aims to integrate itself seamlessly into the home, assisting customers without intruding into their lives. The Google Home line of products, for instance, works by listening for the phrase “OK Google” or “Hey Google,” which prompts it to respond to verbal commands using natural language processing. Other companies, like Amazon and Apple, have developed products that work along the same lines, with the goal of becoming an essential part of people’s lives without making their presence obvious or intrusive. As the trend of integrating AI into the home continues, other manufacturers are likely to develop appliances that use technology to optimize the efficiency of life in the home.

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Take, for example, LG, which is working on technology to improve the oftentimes-difficult experience of installing new appliances like washing machines and dryers, as well as technology that improves the customer service experience when consumers run into issues with the company’s products. So-called “smart appliances” work by integrating artificial intelligence deeply into all aspects of the appliances, helping users install appliances, detecting and communicating hardware errors, and even providing customer service using chatbots which are programmed to understand and respond to common consumer queries. LG’s latest iteration of washing machines and dryers connect wirelessly to customers’ smartphones using their proprietary ThinQ mobile app, which notifies users when the installation of appliances is completed and also provides users with information about the functioning of their devices as time goes on.

LG’s newest washing machine and dryer, called the LG TwinWash and ThinQ Dryer, include a number of sensors and artificial intelligence programs to streamline and improve the laundry experience. The TwinWash washing machine, for instance, includes voice recognition technology to allow users to operate the machine in a natural way without using buttons, and the washing machine can even give users verbal laundry advice depending on the types of stains on clothing. The machines also intelligently discern the softness of laundry in order to minimize fabric damage and improve washing quality. Additionally, when these appliances are released to the general public, users will be able to receive updates via their smartphones notifying them of problems with the devices that need to be addressed as well as reminders for scheduled maintenance in order to extend the life of the products and, in theory, reduce overall costs.

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The appliances that work with LG’s ThinQ app are not limited to washers and dryers, but include everything from refrigerators, robotic vacuum cleaners, smart TVs, and more. LG’s InstaView smart refrigerator introduces a number of features that set it apart from today’s standard refrigerators, with the aim of saving energy and improving food freshness, among other features. The InstaView refrigerator is packed with a number of features that were once considered squarely in the realm of science fiction; for instance, the fridge includes a camera that films the inside of the refrigerator when the door is closed, which users can view on the device’s LCD touchscreen or remotely using the ThinQ app on their smartphones. Users of the InstaView refrigerator can also program the appliance to remind them when their food expires, and the device even includes Amazon Alexa, a popular voice assistant that can play music, check the weather, and even help users shop for groceries. The fridge also alerts users when the door is left open, produces large amounts of ice for parties or other occasions, and can enter a low-power mode that keeps food fresh when the user goes on vacation.

Clearly, such advanced home appliance technology is not for everyone, and consumers may reasonably question the usefulness of many of these products’ features. When LG’s line of smart appliances releases in the United States, they are likely to be very expensive, limiting their appeal to a small audience of consumers. However, if history is any indication, the technology that powers these appliances is likely to grow more sophisticated and cheaper with time, and it may just be a matter of time before smart appliances become a commonplace and even mundane sight in the home.

Microsoft Logo at store

Microsoft Plans to Become Carbon-Negative by 2030

Many major companies have publicly announced their commitments to reduce their contributions to climate change, particularly after the occurrence of a number of extreme weather events that are thought to have been made worse by the impact of human activity. Amazon, for instance, recently announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2040 by contributing to reforestation programs and switching to electric vehicles. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said that he wants Amazon to lead the world in transitioning to carbon-neutral forms of energy, Microsoft has unveiled a plan even more ambitious than Amazon’s, as not only did Microsoft recently pledge to become carbon negative by 2030, but the company also announced a plan to remove all of its historical carbon emissions by 2050.

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Microsoft’s plan depends on the widespread deployment of carbon-capture technology which is currently expensive and not widely available. As such, a substantial component of the plan is to invest in developing this technology, as the company wants to spend $1 billion to fund innovation in this technology. The company has already been carbon neutral for the past eight years, as Microsoft is switching to renewable energy and purchases carbon offsets to negate the greenhouse gases they emit. The policy of being carbon-neutral is supported by a kind of internal carbon tax, as Microsoft charges its business units an internal fee for using greenhouse gases, driving these units to slash their emissions. Now, however, given the immediacy of the threat climate change poses, Microsoft has decided that their efforts thus far are not enough, and has pledged to radically transform their use of energy across their entire supply change.

Microsoft hopes that by investing a billion dollars into carbon capture technology, the company can drive innovation in the field, eventually bringing down the cost of the technology so that it is more practical for other businesses to use. With this technology, Microsoft hopes not only to make up for their own carbon emissions since the company’s founding in 1975, but to make it easier for other businesses to do the same. That being said, carbon capture technology is not without its critics, as some believe that the proliferation of this technology would delay the transition towards renewable energy sources and encourage companies to continue to emit carbon.

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A number of problems exist when it comes to using carbon capture technology, not the least of which is the question of how to safely and permanently store the carbon after it is captured. Despite the company’s commitment to becoming carbon-negative, Microsoft continues to do business with oil and gas companies, which belong to an industry that has significant interest in carbon capture technology. The decision to work with these companies has been met with criticism from within Microsoft, as employees wrote a letter criticizing their employer for working with Chevron and Schlumberger, two oil companies. Microsoft sees their use of carbon capture technology as an appropriate method of negating the carbon emissions created by these companies; however, the company is sure to be met with criticism from environmentalists for this approach, despite the audacity of their recent announcement and plan.

Tinder App

New Study Proves Popular Dating Apps Are Selling Your Data To Advertisers

One of the universal complaints that most have with technology, social media, cell phones, etc. is the lack of clarity regarding privacy. Certain apps and services often say that they keep your information confidential, but how much of that is actually accurate? How many times have you been scrolling through your Twitter feed and seen an ad for a product that you haven’t even searched for on your device, but you were thinking about it? The lines of confidentiality have always been blurred when it comes to our phones, and now, according to a new study, we have even more facts to back that up.

An advocacy group known as the Norwegian Consumer Council recently conducted a study in which they analyzed the logistics of 10 apps, a majority of which were dating apps. The results found that these applications alone were distributing personal information to at least 135 companies. 

Some of the apps tested included Grindr, a popular gay dating app, OkCupid, Tinder, and then beyond the realm of dating apps they also analyzed some of the most popular period-tracking apps such as Clue and MyDays. They concluded that these services were sharing personal data, including users’ birthdays, ID numbers, sexual orientations, religions, etc., with advertising companies. 

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“Because of the scope of tests, size of the third parties that were observed receiving data, and popularity of the apps, we regard the findings from these tests to be representative of widespread practices,” the report states.

Their analytics concluded companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google were among the largest common company names that were receiving the personal data, along with more unknown tech companies who are in business with larger corporations. These companies use your information like a registry, and match you with products that they assume you’d enjoy based on your internet history, dating information, and hobbies. 

The NCC recently uncovered dozens of privacy violations in Europe once they enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an act that works to protect users’ personal information online. The biggest culprit was actually Grindr, which sold data including GPS location technology to advertisers to inform them about what retailers were within the vicinity of a particular user. The GDPR has been quite successful in Europe so far, but in the United States we don’t exactly have the same type of privacy regulations. 

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“There’s no reason to think these apps and countless others like them behave any differently in the United States. American consumers are almost certainly subjected to the same invasions of privacy, especially considering there are hardly any data privacy laws in the U.S., particularly at the federal level,” says Katie McInnis, policy counsel at Consumer Reports.

More often than not, these apps do let the users know that they share their data with third party advertisers, however, that clarification is often made in the fine print of these apps’ terms and conditions, which we all know none of us are actually reading. Technology users are able to adjust their privacy settings on platforms such as Facebook and Google by limiting what applications are allowed to have access to our personal information. This section is typically found in your account settings under the “security and privacy” tab. In the meantime, plenty of advocacy groups are currently trying to work with the Federal Trade Commission and Congress in general to pass more specified cyber-security/privacy laws.

For more information on how to easily protect your information and personal data from third parties, click here.

Golden Globe

Celebrities Comment on Culture at 2020 Golden Globes

Last night’s Golden Globes ceremony offered a number of insights into the world of American culture as the event reflected the complex dynamic between technology, entertainment, and politics. 

As a likely consequence of fears about the impact of streaming services on the movie-going audience, Netflix won just two prizes despite holding 34 nominations, and director Sam Mendes, who won the Globe for best director, said that he hoped his prize for the World War I epic “1917” would mean that “people will turn up and see this on the big screen, the way it was intended.” Mendes’s comments mirror remarks made by Martin Scorcese, director of the acclaimed “The Irishman,” who asked audiences to watch his film in theaters if possible, despite the film being made possible thanks to a considerable investment from Netflix. As people increasingly abandon theaters for the convenience offered by mobile devices, directors fear that the cinematic experience afforded by a night at the movies faces extinction, as evidenced by their negative commentary on the nature of streaming services as well as the relative paucity of prizes award to Netflix and similar services.

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The timing of the ceremony coincided with a number of significant political events, which celebrities unsurprisingly took the opportunity to offer their personal views on. In particular, climate change took center stage last night, as actors used their platform to draw attention to the wildfires currently devastating Australia and the world’s relative lack of action in the face of catastrophic global warming. Russell Crowe was not able to attend the ceremony as he was in Australia with his family, so Jennifer Aniston, who spoke on his behalf, pleaded with the world “to act” in the midst of this crisis in order to “respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is.” Joaqin Phoenix, too, addressed climate change while accepting his award for his performance in “Joker,” saying, “it’s really nice that so many people have sent their well wishes to Australia but we have to do more than that,” adding “we don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards.”

Coincidentally, the show took place the night before the first day of Harvey Weinstein’s trial; while nobody mentioned Weinstein by name, some celebrities addressed the problem of sexual misconduct and the value of speaking truth to power. Michelle Williams, who won the award for best actress in a limited series or TV movie for “Fosse/Verdon,” urged women to vote in their own self-interest in order to gain political power, saying “as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that our not our choice.” 

The new threat of war with Iran also became a subject for commentary during the show, as several actors and actresses expressed their opposition to the conflict and to President Donald Trump more generally. Patricia Arquette, while accepting an award for her role in “The Act,” criticized the president directly, saying that historians will characterize that night as “a country on the brink of war… and a president tweeting out a threat of 52 bombs including cultural sites.” She concluded by saying, “while I love my kids so much, I beg of us all to give them a better world.”

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Last night’s ceremony functioned not just as a recognition for the talent featured in the entertainment world, but of the overall atmosphere of despair clouding the American public consciousness. This was perhaps best captured by Ricky Gervais’s nihilistic opening monologue, during which he repeatedly told the audience that he didn’t care, despite preemptively accusing his celebrity peers of hypocrisy for their political activism as they’ve done work for companies with questionable ethics like Apple and Amazon, and concluding his monologue by urging the audience to “donate to Australia.” Gervais went so far as to say, “if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech; you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing of the real world.” Such a scathing and nihilistic attitude is a consequence of the fatigue many of us feel in response to the extremity of recent political events, and as this fatigue continues, it is sure to manifest ever-more prominently in American culture.

Amazon App

Amazon Threatened to Fire Employees who Spoke Out on Climate Change, Complaint Alleges

The activist group Amazon Employees For Climate Justice has alleged that the company has threatened to fire employees who are outspoken about climate change. According to a statement released by the group on Thursday, Amazon’s human resources and legal departments targeted four employees who spoke out about the issue. Two of these employees were threatened with firings via email, according to the group. In response, the group sharply criticized Amazon’s behavior, accusing the company of attempting to suppress activism related to environmental policy. Maren Costa, an Amazon employee, said that her employment was threatened after she spoke with The Washington Post about climate change, and in a statement remarked that “this is not the time to shoot the messengers … this is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.” Members of the activist group have pressured their employer to take a more meaningful stance against climate change, including urging the company’s leaders to cease working with the oil and gas industry. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2020 by investing in reforestation efforts and electric delivery vehicles, the group nonetheless believes their employer is taking insufficient action on climate.

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In response to the complaint, Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokesperson, said that the company’s policy of prohibiting communications with external organizations is nothing new, and that employees should work within their teams and internally with the company to raise their concerns and suggest improvements. Employee activism within the tech sector has been on the rise in recent years, as several Google employees protested against the search giant’s cooperation with the Pentagon, and Microsoft employees complained that their company was cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even after news broke of migrants being detained in poor conditions. Last year, Amazon Employees For Climate Justice introduced a shareholder resolution, in a letter signed by thousands of employees, asking the company to release information about how it plans to mitigate its contribution to climate change. This suggestion was rejected by shareholders in May, but a few months later Bezos announced a climate plan that met many, but not all, of the protestors’ demands. Additionally, the company lessened restrictions on allowing employees to speak with the media after a planned employee strike in September, though employees now have to ask the company for permission before discussing Amazon in any public forum.

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Though it does not fully satisfy every employee, Amazon’s planned changes to its operations to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions are substantial, as the company intends to lead the world in the fight against climate change. The plan, called The Climate Pledge, aims to achieve the goals established at the 2016 Paris Climate Summit ten years early by encouraging other companies to match Amazon’s environmental efforts. Those who signed the pledge agree to regularly release reports on their own greenhouse gas emissions, implement “decarbonization strategies” to reduce carbon emissions, and invest in technologies to neutralize any remaining carbon emissions. The goal of the pledge is to create a carbon-neutral economy by 2040, which is an ambitious goal, but one that scientists agree is essential for avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. Bezos hopes that by leading the pack when it comes to climate change, he will encourage other companies to follow suit. In order to reach this goal, Bezos announced the company would spend $100 million on reforestation and order 100,000 electric vans to replace Amazon’s existing network of diesel vehicles. The company also intends to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030; currently, 40% of the energy Amazon uses comes from renewable sources. 

Online Shopping

Facing Online Competition, Toy Stores Forced to Innovate

In the face of the existential threat to their business posed by Amazon and other online retailers, toy stores are obligated to innovate or face extinction, as in the case of the ill-fated Toys R Us. Camp is one store that does just that by offering children an opportunity to play with toys before their parents buy them, transforming the shopping process into one more focused on creating family experiences. Indeed, Camp, which recently opened a store in Downtown Brooklyn, bills itself as a “family experience store,” not strictly as a toy store, and the company hopes to lure customers away from online stores by creating a space where kids can have fun and parents can enjoy spending time with their children. In addition to selling toys, Camp hosts family activities, such as arts and crafts projects like making gingerbread houses or building a balloon powered car. The stores change their theme every few months in a bid to encourage families to visit repeatedly; currently, the space is summer-camp themed, and offers spaces like a playground and disco floors for children to play.

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While it’s free for anyone to visit any of Camp’s five retail locations, toys that are available for purchase can be found all over the place, enticing children to convince their parents to buy them something that catches their attention. As such, Camp’s plan to compete with online retailers involves fostering a physical environment where people are more likely to spend money. While it is surely expensive to maintain a store like this, the company hopes that the unique space they offer will attract not only children but parents who would prefer for their kids to play somewhere in the real world instead of engaging mainly with electronic devices. While this may be a risky strategy given the complicated and unpredictable environment of today’s retail industry, it is one that has resonated with investors, who are helping to fund the company’s expansion.

Camp’s bet is that even in this day and age, children are still interested in exploring physical spaces and interacting with each other in person

Digital media poses a threat to the toy industry in more ways than the popularity of online stores. Indeed, toys themselves may become less attractive to children as technology advances, as smartphones and tablets can provide a more engaging experience. And while video games have been a favorite among children for decades, recent advancements in technology have made this hobby far more widespread, as devices like iPhones and iPads grow in popularity and versatility. However, technology has also led to the collapse of physical media, as it is much more convenient to download a game, movie, or even book than it is to buy one from a retail location. Video gaming is a tremendously popular industry, and as toy stores generally sell video games as well, the fact that children are less likely to go to the toy store for video games in recent years is another factor that threatens the industry.

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Camp’s bet is that even in this day and age, children are still interested in exploring physical spaces and interacting with each other in person, but often miss opportunities to do so as they grow up in an increasingly digital environment. While traditional camp programs are expensive and can mean several weeks of separation between parents and their children, Camp is nominally free, and the company’s retail locations are in densely-populated, affluent neighborhoods, ensuring its customers don’t have to travel too far to get there. Unsurprisingly, the toys at Camp are sold at a premium to subsidize the rest of the experience. However, for many parents, the opportunity to spend some quality family time in an environment that’s fun for kids makes the added cost worth it.