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Amazon Workers Went to Jeff Bezos’ $165 Million Mansion to Ask For a $2 Raise



Former Amazon workers and labor activists held a rally at Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos’ $165 million mansion in Beverly Hills on Sunday, demanding higher wages, better benefits, and increased safety precautions at Amazon warehouses to keep workers safe from coronavirus.

Around 100 people gathered at Will Rogers Memorial Park and then marched to Bezos’ home, which he purchased earlier this year from record executive David Geffen. The protest was organized by the Congress of Essential Workers, which was founded by former Amazon worker Christian Smalls. 

Smalls was fired by Amazon in March after publicly speaking out and organizing protests at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island where he works. Amazon has claimed he was terminated because he violated a company-imposed quarantine, though a leaked memo written by Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky described Smalls, a Black man, as “not smart or articulate,” and said the company should focus its anti-union PR efforts on making Smalls the face of unionization efforts.

“Cancel your Prime, stand in solidarity with the workers,” Smalls said during the rally. “You don’t need Jeff Bezos. He needs us. We made him the richest man in the world.” Amazon didn’t immediately respond to an email from VICE News requesting comment on the protest.

The demonstrators’ demands included free childcare and healthcare for all employees, company shares for workers, a $30 minimum starting wage for workers, and the closure and sanitation of buildings with COVID-19 outbreaks. They also demanded the reinstatement of $2 per hour hazard pay for employees until the end of the pandemic, which the company ended in June

The Congress of Essential Workers also called for a wealth tax of at least 1%, with the revenue distributed to the “to fund the urban communities and organizations that the employers are invested in.”

“We demand that Jeff Bezos and the rest of the billionaire class pay their fair share to deal with the climate crisis,” the Congress of Essential Workers said in a release. “We are calling for a decent living wage of $30/hour minimum for all Amazon employees, Medicare and childcare for all, and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation. These are just a few of the issues that we feel billionaires like Jeff Bezos, who makes nearly $4,000 a second, can absolutely help relieve or resolve.” 

Demonstrators also held a moment of silence for Amazon workers who had died of COVID-19. Last week the company finally disclosed that more than 19,000 Amazon workers had tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, though they didn’t disclose the number of deaths within the company’s workforce. Amazon confirmed to NBC News last week that at least 10 Amazon workers have died of COVID-19. 

Cover: Twitter/Eric Levai


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EU border agency ‘involved in illegal pushbacks’ of migrant boats



Media investigation reveals ‘senior Frontex officials know about illegal practices by Greek border guards’.

Europe’s border security agency Frontex has been involved in several illegal “pushbacks” of migrants and refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, a media investigation has revealed.

The investigation shows “senior Frontex officials know about illegal practices by Greek border guards – and that some of them are themselves implicated in pushbacks”, Germany’s Der Spiegel said on its website.

Also known as refoulements, “pushbacks” are incidents where refugees or migrants are illegally returned across a border to a country where they could face persecution.

Journalists say they have uncovered six cases since April when Frontex units did nothing to stop refugee boats in Greek waters being returned towards Turkey.

A video from a June incident shows a Frontex boat blocking one with refugees on it. A later shot from the same encounter shows it racing across the bow of the boat before leaving the area.

German public broadcaster ARD, journalist collective Lighthouse Reports, investigative platform Bellingcat and Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi were involved in the investigation alongside Der Spiegel.

The journalists say they compared “dozens” of videos, also checking satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts from refugees, migrants and Frontex workers.

Der Spiegel reported that more than 600 people from the European border agency equipped with boats, drones and aircraft are deployed in Greece, where many migrants first enter the European Union.

It added that Frontex would not comment on the individual cases uncovered by the investigation, but referred to a human rights and non-refoulement code of conduct supposed to bind staff.

On Friday, it posted on Twitter that its actions in support of Greek authorities were “in full respect of fundamental rights and international law”, adding that it “has been in contact with the Greek authorities about some incidents at sea in recent months”.

Athens had launched an “internal inquiry”, it added.

Greece’s conservative government has always rejected claims of illegal pushbacks taking place at its borders, regularly alleged by several charities.


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NASA probe leaking asteroid samples due to jammed door



Images beamed back to ground control revealed it caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.

A US probe that collected a sample from an asteroid earlier this week retrieved so much material that a rock is wedged in the container door, allowing rocks to spill back out into space.

On Tuesday, the robotic arm of the probe, OSIRIS-REx, kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth and trapped the material in a collection device for the return to Earth.

But images of the spacecraft’s collection head beamed back to ground control revealed it had caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing an excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.

The leakage had the OSIRIS-REx mission team scrambling to stow the collection device to prevent additional spillage.

“Time is of the essence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told reporters on Friday.

Zurbuchen said mission teams will skip their chance to measure how much material they collected as originally planned and proceed to the stow phase, a fragile process of tucking the sample collection container in a safe position within the spacecraft without jostling out more valuable material.

NASA will not know how much material it collected until the sample capsule returns in 2023.

The troubleshooting also led mission leaders to forgo any more chances of redoing a collection attempt and instead commit to begin next March the spacecraft’s return to Earth.

“Quite honestly, we could not have performed a better collection experiment,” OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator Dante Lauretta said.

But with the door lodged open by a rock and the “concerning” images of sample spillage, “we’re almost the victim of our own success here”, he added.

The roughly $800m, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first US sample of pristine asteroid materials.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.


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We will not allow Khashoggi’s killers to evade justice



Last week, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the human rights organisation founded by late Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and his fiancee Hatice Cengiz, filed a joint lawsuit  in a Washington District Court against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and 28 other top Saudi officials over the journalist’s 2018 killing in Istanbul.

While the main architects of the murder have evaded justice in a sham Saudi trial that pinned all the blame on eight sacrificial underlings, we aim to make the actual masterminds pay for their crime here in the United States.

The facts of Khashoggi’s gruesome torture and dismemberment in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul are well-established, thanks to recording devices placed in the consulate by Turkish intelligence, surveillance videos, phone intercepts, flight records, forensic work and intelligence gathered by various spy agencies, including our own CIA. Faced with incontrovertible proof of the crime, the Saudi government eventually accepted responsibility for the murder, but they still have not disclosed where they hid Khashoggi’s remains or acknowledged the involvement of the lead perpetrators – including MBS and his senior adviser Saud al-Qahtani.

Khashoggi’s shocking murder took away the man Cengiz was planning to spend the rest of her life with, a harm she suffers to this day. It also constituted a severe blow for DAWN. We lost our founder and executive director, and the network of supporters he had cultivated. Indeed, DAWN remained dormant for more than a year following the murder. On September 29, almost two years after Khashoggi’s murder, DAWN officially launched with a mission of upholding his vision: exposing those most responsible for human rights abuses and promoting democracy in the Arab world.

As part of our mission, we are now bringing this action because we want both justice for Khashoggi and a guilty verdict for those who murdered him. We believe the US represents the best forum in which we can hold his killers accountable. And we believe that the US has a special interest in seeking justice for Khashoggi, who, as a political dissident, had found refuge in the country and had strong ties to it. Besides having three US citizen sons, Khashoggi founded our American human rights organisation and ran it from an office in Washington until his murder.

In the immediate aftermath of the murder that dominated international headlines for months, MBS was isolated and weakened, a victim, it seemed, of his own worst and violent instincts. Many governments around the world condemned the killing, demanded accountability, and imposed travel bans and international sanctions on the killers. The US Congress passed not one but two bills to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia, killed by President Donald Trump’s vetoes. International corporations cancelled lucrative business deals.

Two years on, Saudi Arabia and MBS are still trying to weather the storm of the damage to their reputation caused by this murder, on top of the catastrophic war in Yemen and relentless persecution of reform activists in the country. While Saudi Arabia remains secure as the number one oil exporter and arms buyer in the world, the stench of its crimes has remained an overwhelming public relations burden.

Mayors of prominent cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Paris, have withdrawn from the virtual Group of 20 summit that will be hosted by Saudi Arabia in November, and dozens of European legislators have issued a resolution urging the European Union to downgrade its participation in the event. Just last week, Saudi Arabia failed in its attempt to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Apparently, Saudi Arabia’s standing is even worse than Russia and China’s, as the latter two managed to secure seats on the council.

DAWN is not alone in seeking accountability for Khashoggi’s murder. Since the journalist’s gruesome killing, human rights organisations and civil rights groups from around the world have been waging a sustained campaign involving press conferences, commemorations, panel discussions, vigils and freedom of information act litigations to bring those responsible for his death to justice. Recently, hundreds of non-governmental organisations declared a boycott of the G20 civil society meetings in the lead up to the summit. Most recently, a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats have passed legislation to pressure the Trump administration to declassify an intelligence report identifying those responsible for the murder.

With this lawsuit, we open another front in the struggle to hold Khashoggi’s killers accountable. We want to make clear to MBS that we and others will trail him around the world to make impunity impossible for his grotesque and barbarous acts. But the stakes involved in the case are much larger than one man and one country. With autocracies on the rise across the world, Saudi Arabia, under the grip of MBS, is not the only oppressive regime that has sought to crush political dissent at home, while engaging in extrajudicial killings of political dissidents abroad.

A US lawsuit by itself may not deter MBS from targeting political dissidents abroad. But a successful suit with a punitive verdict will provide a measure of justice for Khashoggi, fracture the veneer of impunity for his killers, and permanently affix the charge of murderer to the crown prince and his “Tiger Squad” of thugs. A successful court verdict will also send a clear and unequivocal message that the highest authority we recognise is the law of nations, which does not bow to princely assassins.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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