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Amazon unveils

Amazon unveils home drone security camera – Yahoo News

Amazon’s indoor drone, the Ring Always Home Cam, available next year, aims to capture video where customers otherwise lack static cameras.

It can show users video where an alarm has gone off, said Amazon Vice President Daniel Rausch.

“It’s super reassuring to be able to get a view inside your home,” he said in an interview.

The device only records while flying, Ring said.

The drone camera, which costs $249, represents Amazon’s latest push into shoppers’ homes, which evolved from package delivery years ago to gadgets that let consumers turn off the lights or stream media by voice command.

Ring devices have garnered criticism from civil liberties advocates such as the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has said the company should end partnerships with police.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Oh, No.

[ALARM BEEPING]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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Amazon Prime

When is Amazon Prime Day 2020? Here’s what we know. – Mashable

All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

The shopping event typically happens in the summer.
The shopping event typically happens in the summer.

Image: amazon

By Miller KernMashable Shopping

Following months of uncertainty, Amazon Prime Day has a date for 2020. 

After a slew of other publications went live with stories on Sept. 22, we feel pretty confident saying that Prime Day 2020 will be on Tuesday, Oct. 13, as reported by CNET, The Verge, and a slew of others.

Last year the shopping event ran for a full 48 hours, so we wouldn’t be surprised if that happened this year too. 

CNET says they got the date from “four people with knowledge of Amazon’s plans” while The Verge cites “an internal Amazon email” as their source. Amazon has not officially confirmed anything.

This news comes after the summer shopping event was officially delayed back in July. Amazon scaled back on its promotional events when the coronavirus pandemic hit because of a huge increase in demand for essential items. Now that we’re six months into our “new normal” and have adjusted our daily lives, big shopping events like this seem to be a bit easier to manage.

Prime Day is usually in July, making it a nice distance out from the winter holiday shopping — like a Christmas in July sort of situation. But because it got pushed back to October this year, it’s going to run into the regularly scheduled holiday deals and we’ll likely see some overlap.

Black Friday is going to be different this year too because of COVID-19 and social distancing regulations, and some retailers have already said that they will run promotions and deals earlier than ever. So, buckle in and get ready for savings thrown at you starting with Prime Day on Oct. 13 and running through the end of the year. This is going to be a long-ass holiday season, y’all.

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Amazon FreeTime

Amazon FreeTime is now called Amazon Kids – Engadget

Kids will also soon be able to use their Fire tablets to broadcast a message to other Alexa devices in their home. A parent will have to approve the Alexa Announcements feature, which will become available in the next few weeks. Kids will just need to tap on the Announce icon on their home screen to broadcast a voice message. 

On top of that, Amazon has added hundreds more video titles aimed at kids aged 6-12. They include titles from the likes of Angry Birds, Lego, Transformers, Barbie and Carmen Sandiego, along with game playthroughs (aka let’s plays). The Amazon Kids home screen also includes quick access to iHeartRadio music stations.

Amazon Kids is free, while Kids+ costs $3/month for Prime members and $5/month for everyone else. The latter includes expanded access to audiobooks, Spanish-language media, books, shows, movies and games.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Amazon foreign

Amazon bans foreign sales of “mystery” seeds in U.S. – CBS News

Officials warn not to plant mystery seeds delivered across U.S.


Officials warn not to plant mystery seeds del…

01:15

Amazon has banned foreign sales of seeds in the U.S. after Americans across the country received suspicious packages of seeds, many originating in China, earlier this summer.

Under the online retailer’s new policy, as of September 3 overseas seed vendors are prohibited from importing plant or seed products into the U.S., according to Amazon. Non-residents of the U.S. are also banned from bringing seeds into the country.

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the U.S.,” the company said in a statement. Sellers who don’t comply with the restrictions could have their account shut down.

Amazon’s rule change was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Americans in all 50 states have reported getting the seeds in the mail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has advised recipients against planting them, warning that the seeds could be invasive species. 

seeds-from-china-maryland.jpg
Images tweeted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture show packets of unidentified seeds received in the mail, unsolicited, by state residents, apparently from China.

Maryland Department of Agriculture


So far, however, more than a dozen of the seed types identified by the agency have turned out to be innocuous species such as mustard, cabbage and morning glory as well as herbs like mint, sage, rosemary and lavender.

The USDA “is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China,” the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said in statement last month.

The USDA asks anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to file an online report and to mail the product to an agency office in their state. Alternatively, people may contact local APHIS officials to arrange for seeds to be picked up or dropped off.


Mystery seeds from China raise alarm

00:32

The Agriculture Department has said the packages could be a “brushing” scam, in which a seller sends unsolicited items to someone and then posts false positive customer reviews to boost sales.

“Brushing scams involving seed packets in international mail shipments are not uncommon,” the USDA said in June. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has intercepted similar seed shipments in recent years.”

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Amazon fitness

Amazon’s new fitness tracker Halo will monitor your tone of voice – Quartz

Amazon may not have unlocked the secret to happiness. But with the announcement of a new voice monitoring tool called Tone, the company promises that it knows what happiness sounds like. And that—with a new gadget and a little tracking—you, too, can sound happy.

Tone will be a feature on Amazon’s new wearable health tracker, dubbed Halo. Users can opt in to let it sample snippets of their speech throughout the day, or turn it on for up to 30 minutes at a time to get a detailed report on how they sounded in a particular conversation. Powered by AI algorithms designed to detect the “positivity” and “energy” in human voices, the tool purports to offer users feedback on their tone so they can improve their communication skills and relationships.

Of course, it’s hard to define fuzzy traits like positivity—and it’s an even more Herculean task to train an AI model to objectively quantify and measure them. In a blog post, Amazon simply says that “positivity” measures how happy or sad a voice sounds. But humanity (and the field of positive psychology) have been wrestling with how to define happiness for eons.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that there could be a single objective measure,” said Jim Allen, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Geneseo who writes and teaches about the psychology of happiness. Our perception of what a happy voice sounds like, he notes, varies depending on culture, gender, ethnicity, and other personal factors.

An Amazon spokesperson said that the developers had accounted for these differences by drawing on vocal samples from tens of thousands of voices from across US regions and demographic groups. A team of Amazon employees then listened to the recordings and rated the voices as happy or sad to determine “positivity” and tired or excited to measure “energy.” The model associated those emotional ratings with vocal qualities like pitch, intensity, tempo, and rhythm, which the AI uses to label users’ speech.

Training sets, however, are highly susceptible to bias from the humans who build them, as researchers have extensively documented in fields like facial recognition. That makes vetting the data, and the people who label it, very important. Amazon declined to offer any detail about the demographic breakdown of its vocal samples, or the team whose perceptions of positivity and energy form the basis for the model. “Throughout product development, we’ve focused on ensuring the data we use to train and evaluate our models accounts for all demographic groups,” a spokesperson said in an email.

In particular contexts, Allen said some version of a tool like Tone could work well. “In the hands of a skilled counselor giving feedback to a client about how they come across to other people, it could be really helpful,” he said. But, he noted, constantly monitoring yourself for signs of happiness—or worse, projecting a positivity you do not feel—has been shown to make people less happy.

Pattie Maes, an MIT professor who studies wearable technology designed to enhance people’s lives, pointed out that the AI would be more likely to return meaningful results if it didn’t try to treat happiness as a universal truth. “People have different speaking styles,” she said in an email. “I believe a personalized AI model trained on an individual’s own data would perform better.” (While Tone learns to pick out a user’s voice in a conversation, it does not calibrate its ratings to that user’s emotional baseline.)

But these approaches to boosting the model’s validity are not compatible with mass consumer tech. In its announcement blog post, Amazon medical officer Maulik Majmudar describes a gadget that comes out of a box ready to coax users into better communication. He writes about the ease with which his colleagues can turn on Tone and rehearse for a big presentation at work. Majmudar says he switches the system on before talking to his children, to make sure he’s not taking work stress out on his family.

It’s an intriguing vision for an AI-enabled future. But it might not be the one we live in right now.

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Amazon Pulls

Amazon pulls ‘Joe and the H*e’ t-shirts after online backlash over Kamala Harris attack – Daily Mail

Amazon pulled t-shirts from their site Wednesday that pushed the slogan ‘Joe and the H*e’ following uproar online from users calling them racist, sexist and ‘unacceptable’. 

The offensive line was being used on clothing from pro-Trump sellers, referencing Democratic candidate Joe Biden‘s Vice Presidential pick Kamala Harris

The derogatory terms refers to a right-wing theory that Harris gained power through her sexual relationships with men. 

The slogan gained momentum last Friday when conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh repeated it while he claimed that Harris ‘used sex to get ahead’ and shared articles calling her an ‘escort’ and a ‘mattress’.  

Amazon announced Wednesday it had removed  anti-Biden and Harris t-shirts reading ‘Joe and the H*e’ from their site. The offensive line references claims Harris ‘used sex to get ahead’

 Some right-wing articles have claimed Harris used her brief romantic relationship with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown 25 years ago to help her political career

The t-shirts faced heavy backlash on Twitter and have since been removed by Amazon

The clothing was being sold through a number of third-party brands on Amazon, specializing in pro-Trump and anti-Biden products. 

One brand named The Oxygen Bandit was selling t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and sweatshirts with a similar design to Biden’s campaign logo yet reading ‘Joe and the h–‘. 

The prices of the products ranged from $24.99 to $42.99. 

Other products from the brand, which does not have a stand-alone website, take further hits at Harris including a t-shirt that reads: ‘Kamala smelled the best.’ 

It alludes to claims of inappropriate behavior against Biden himself and him sniffing women. Another t-shirt captioned ‘Joe & the H*e’ with the subheading ‘Sniff & Blow’. 

The clothing was being sold by pro-Trump third-party sellers through Amazon. They referred to a right-wing theory that claims Kamala Harris used her sexual relationship to win power

The Oxygen Bandit was among the main sellers. They continue to sell other products through the online retailer but the ‘Joe and the H**’ clothing has now been removed

The offensive products were removed from Amazon by Wednesday afternoon

Another third-party seller named ‘Weisay’ was selling the t-shirt for $17.99. Their others political products included one reading ‘Yes, I’m a Trump girl, get over it’ and another stating ‘save America’s postal service’. 

The items gained widespread condemnation Tuesday night after a screenshot of one of the t-shirts was shared by Twitter user @LesaPamplin, a criminal defense attorney from Texas. 

‘Let @amazon know this is unacceptable,’ she wrote, as others shared information on how to file a complaint about the products with the online retailer. 

The images were quickly shared hundreds of times as others joined the protest.

‘@amazon is selling “Joe and the Hoe” shirts. This is a targeted, sexist, racist attack against Kamala Harris. PLEASE JOIN ME in demanding that Amazon not only pull this vile merchandise from its store, but also apologize directly to Senator Harris,’ wrote Democratic political strategist Kaivan Shroff. 

‘This isn’t just hateful, it’s racist and irresponsible. We urge you to remove these retailers before further damage to your brand is done,’ added Twitter account R. Stephen Browning. 

The t-shirts were met with outrage online as complaints were filed to Amazon

‘Vile that Amazon seeks to profit from the sale of defamatory & degrading products such as this,’ wrote an account named Trumpism is not Patriotism.

The products remained online through the night despite the outrage.  

However, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed to USA Today Wednesday afternoon that the products have since been removed. 

The meme is the latest hit at Harris over her brief romantic relationship with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown 25 years ago.

Some right-wing theories have suggested that Harris slept her way to the top through her relationship with Brown. 

They dated between 1994 and 1995.

Harris did not run for office for the first time until 2003 when she won the San Francisco District Attorney runoff election. 

The idea that Harris ‘used sex to get ahead’ became more prominent in recent days after right-wing pundit Limbaugh, a fervent supporter of President Trump, alluded to it on his popular radio show. 

Limbaugh has a history of making claims about Harris’ former relationship with Brown, in January 2019 stating that she was similar to porn star Stormy Daniels who alleged she was paid off by Trump to keep quiet about an affair she had with him. 

On last week’s show, Limbaugh referenced the firing of Bill Baptist, a freelance photographer for the Houston Rockets, after he shared a doctored Biden campaign logo with the offensive slogan on Facebook. 

Baptist has since apologized for his actions. 

‘The phrase I posted does not reflect my personal views at all. I should not have been so insensitive to post the statements by others,’ he said. 

‘I sincerely apologize to all of those who have rightfully been offended and I have taken the post down from my FB page. It was a horrible mistake on my part.’

Rush Limbaugh on his show Friday pushed stories that refer to Kamala Harris as a ‘h*e’

Despite Baptist’s apology, Limbuagh shared his story, saying he was addressing ‘the question of using sex to get ahead’. He later referenced articles that call Harris an ‘escort’ and a ‘mattress’. 

‘Now, what do you think that’s about, “Joe and the Hoe”?’ Limbaugh asked. 

‘Then there is this from The Spectator: “Why It Should Matter to Women That Kamala Slept Her Way Up,”’ he added referencing the article. 

 ‘Whoa! You know what that’s about? That’s about Willie Brown.

‘So we have two different stories here that are trading off the known fact that she was Willie Brown’s mattress, and that he has written about it, and that he has talked about how it propelled her — that he ended up being one of her mentors. 

‘And yet there’s no — there’s no reaction to this whatsoever. And now we have something new that’s been thrust — ahem — into American politics, and that is the question of using sex to get ahead,’ Limbaugh continued. 

While the ‘Joe and the H*e’ products have been removed from Amazon, brand The Oxygen Bandit still appeared active on the site as of Wednesday evening and continued to sell politically charged clothing including “’I’m an AmeriKaren’ T-shirts.

Amazon has faced backlash before for allowing third-party sellers to market offensive products through their site. One child’s t-shirt last year was criticized for reading ‘Daddy’s Little Slut’ while earlier this year, one was spotted stating ‘Let’s Make Down Syndrome Extinct’.  

Harris is set to speak as the first woman of color on a major party ticket as she accepts the party’s vice-president nomination at the Democratic national convention on Wednesday night. 

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Adding Amazon

Amazon Adding Hundreds of Tech, Corporate Jobs in North Texas – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Amazon is planning to add more than 600 new tech and corporate jobs in Dallas as they expand their Tech Hub in North Texas.

The expansion is part of a national expansion of hubs in Detroit, Denver, New York, Phoenix and San Diego that will create more than 3,500 jobs across the country. The DFW-based teams will support a variety of Amazon businesses including AWS, Retail and Amazon Devices in a new 100,000-square-foot space at Galleria Dallas. The teams will also use “machine learning to scale cloud infrastructure and principal architects that will implement transformational solutions, accelerating the benefits of 5G.”

“We are proud to create 600 new jobs on top of the thousands of roles we’ve created over the last several years in the Dallas/Fort Worth area across our tech offices and logistics infrastructure. We are drawn to this region by its highly-skilled workforce and culture of innovation,” said Alberto Bayarena, Site Lead of Amazon’s Dallas Tech Hub. “We look forward to being a strong community partner as we continue to invest and grow here in Dallas/Fort Worth, helping to diversify the local economy and create more opportunity for its residents.”

Business News

In addition to the 600 jobs announced, Amazon says there are currently 130 open tech and corporate roles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“The Lone Star State is the leading state for technology exports thanks to elite companies like Amazon that continue to expand and create more jobs for Texans across our great state,” said Gov. Greg Abbott (R). “With over $16 billion already invested, this latest project will create an additional 600 jobs for Texans in the DFW area. As governor, I will continue to promote policies that remove barriers and incentivize further investment from the world’s top companies.”

Amazon said over the last decade they have created more than 43,000 jobs and invested more than $16 billion in communities across Texas, which contributed an additional $18.8 billion to the Texas economy.

Those interested in applying or learning more about roles available at Amazon can visit amazon.jobs.

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Alexa Amazon

Amazon Alexa security bug allowed access to voice history – BBC News

A white Amazon Echo smart speaker stands on a kitchen countertop with staged coffee and croissant

Image copyright
Getty Images

A flaw in Amazon’s Alexa smart home devices could have allowed hackers access personal information and conversation history, cyber-security researchers say.

Attackers could install or remove apps on a device without the owner knowing, Check Point Research reports.

The hack “required just one click on an Amazon link” purposely crafted by the attacker, it says.

The firm told Amazon about the flaw, which has now been fixed.

Amazon said: “The security of our devices is a top priority, and we appreciate the work of independent researchers like Check Point who bring potential issues to us.”

It said it did not know of any case where a bad actor had used the vulnerability to target its customers.

In January, Amazon said there were “hundreds of millions” of Alexa devices in the world.

Malicious skills

Check Point said the hack required the creation of a malicious Amazon link, which would be sent to an unsuspecting user.

Once they clicked the link, the attacker could get a list of all installed Alexa “skills” – or apps – and steal a token allowing them add or remove skills.

One way to use the flaw would be to remove a skill and then install a malicious one that uses the same “invocation phrase” – the series of spoken words used to trigger it. This could have been done without the user knowing.

The next time the user tried to activate that skill, it would have run the attacker’s app instead.

The attackers would have been able to see Alexa’s voice history – a record of conversations between the user and device.

Check Point said this could create major problems, pointing to banking skills that let the user check their account balance.

“This could lead to exposure of personal information, such as banking data history,” they argued – even though it does not save banking login details.

Amazon objected to this suggestion, however, saying that banking information – like balances – was redacted in the record of Alexa’s responses, so it could not have been accessed.

The attack would also allow access to personal information in the Amazon profile, such as a home address, Check Point said.

Amazon also said it believed the use of a secret malicious skill was less likely than Check Point’s researchers implied.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionAmazon’s head of Alexa Dave Limp on privacy concerns

It said there were systems in place to prevent malicious skills from ever hitting the Alexa Skills Store – and that security reviews were part of their process.

Badly behaving apps were also routinely deactivated, it said.

“Their screening process probably would have caught most bad actors – they are quite good at that and know their reputation is at stake,” said University of Surrey cyber-security expert Prof Alan Woodward.

“The thing about this hack was that it was due to a vulnerability that is well-known… so it’s surprising to see it in Amazon’s estate.”

He said the access to voice records was a big concern, but was unsure if other hackers could have known about the vulnerabilities in specific subdomains used to launch the attack.

“Although if the security researchers found it, I’m sure less scrupulous people could have done the same.”

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Amazon wants

Amazon wants to turn shuttered JCPenney and Sears stores into fulfillment centers, report says – NJ.com

Amazon

Amazon fulfillment centers are used to store inventory like electronics, kitchen appliances and face masks, until orders are shipped to customers. (Ross D. Franklin | AP)AP

Simon Property Group Inc., the largest mall operator in the U.S., has been in talks with Amazon about transforming shuttered department stores into fulfillment centers, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon is targeting shuttered JCPenney and Sears stores operated by Simon Property Group Inc., the report says. Both companies have filed for bankruptcy, while Sears has closed just about all of its New Jersey stores.

Fulfillment centers are used to store inventory like electronics, kitchen appliances and face masks, until orders are shipped to customers, Amazon’s website says.

Simon Property Group Inc. currently has 63 JCPenney and 11 Sears stores, the report says. There are 13 Simon-owned malls and shopping centers in New Jersey, according to the company’s website.

The Wall Street Journal report did not list the potential locations that Amazon was interested in converting to fulfillment centers. An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In June, Amazon signed leases in New Jersey for 14 delivery stations, with plans to open them this year.

The online retail giant officially postponed its annual Prime Day shopping event, but is making up for it with a “Big Summer Sale” currently ongoing.

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Nicolette Accardi can be reached at naccardi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter: @N_Accardi. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tip

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Amazon Operator

Amazon and Mall Operator Look at Turning Sears, J.C. Penney Stores Into Fulfillment Centers – The Wall Street Journal

The largest mall owner in the U.S. has been in talks with Amazon.com Inc., the company many retailers denounce as the mall industry’s biggest disrupter, to take over space left by ailing department stores.

Simon Property Group Inc. has been exploring with Amazon the possibility of turning some of the property owner’s anchor department stores into Amazon distribution hubs, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon typically uses these warehouses to store everything from books and sweaters to kitchenware and electronics…

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