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Amazon Employees Join Sept. 20 Global Climate Walkout

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More than 1,000 Amazon employees plan to walk out of work on Sept. 20 in support of a global climate strike.

For more than a year, teen activist Greta Thunberg has been leading students and young people in weekly school climate strikes.

Now, they want adults to join the fight.

“As employees at one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world, our role in facing the climate crisis is to ensure our company is leading on climate, not following,” Amazon Employees For Climate Justice wrote in a Monday blog post.

The group, whose aim is to “ensure our business models don’t contribute to the climate crisis,” has invited workers across the world to band together next Friday in hopes of appealing to company CEO Jeff Bezos.

Last year, Amazon teamed with Procter & Gamble and Hasbro to reinvent boxes, reduce waste, and simplify packaging. It also boasts a network of solar and wind farms, as well as solar fulfillment center rooftops.

And in February, the firm announced a new initiative to reach 50 percent carbon neutral shipments by 2030.

That’s not good enough, though, for many employees, who claim Amazon pollutes communities with fossil fuels, bolsters the petroleum industry, and funds climate deniers.

Bezos & Co. “must demonstrate real climate leadership,” the group said, by committing to:

  • Zero emissions within a decade (and pilot electric vehicles in communities most impacted by pollution)
  • Zero custom Amazon Web Services contracts for fossil fuel firms accelerating oil and gas extraction
  • Zero funding for anyone who dismisses climate change

“Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis,” the blog post said.

Climate science suggests that the world needs to reach net zero emissions by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Next Friday’s strike marks the first time Amazon workers at corporate offices are walking out; it is also the tech industry’s first revolt over the climate crisis.

“I’m proud that Amazon is one of the most innovative companies, and that means we can be a leader on climate,” Roshni Naidu, senior technical product manager at the Seattle headquarters, said in a statement. “As a leader, we need to reach zero first and not be a company who slides in at the last possible deadline.

“This walkout is about telling our business and political leaders that we demand urgent action at the scale of the crisis,” she added.

Employees will leave work to join youth-led, city-wide actions in their respective locations.

Seattle-based staffers are set to walk out at 11:30 a.m., gathering with other tech workers for climate-related activities before marching to join youth groups and the community at City Hall for a rally.

Microsoft workers, meanwhile, will also be joining millions of folks around the globe by participating in the Sept. 20 strike.

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BBC’s ‘Own It’ App Aims to Keep Kids Safe Online

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The BBC wants to monitor how young people use the Internet with a new app.

Dubbed Own It, the “wellbeing” program uses artificial intelligence to evaluate a child’s mood and offer advice or encouragement as needed.

“The digital world is a fantastic place for people to learn and share, but we know many young people struggle to find a healthy online balance, especially when they get their first phones,” Alice Webb, director of BBC Children’s, said in a statement.

“Our Own It app gives them a helping hand as they navigate this new experience so that they can make the most of the time they spend on their phones whilst avoiding some of the pitfalls,” she added.

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While kids text with friends, keep a diary of their emotions, and access other BBC-commissioned content, the app’s special keyboard offers real-time help: It may encourage the user to talk to a trusted adult, or simply remind them to think twice before sharing personal details.

“We’re using cutting-edge machine learning technology in a way no one has done before,” Webb said. “Putting help, support, assistance, and a bit of fun, too, directly into young people’s hands at the moments when they need it most.”

Despite encouraging children to pick up their phone, Own It also tries to manage screen time, passing on advice about responsible online behavior.

The app offers advice alongside the text and messages children type (via BBC)

Prince William, a father of three, approves of the application, which he called a “positive and practical” outcome from his Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying.

Data from the app is not shared with parents; Own It does not provide reports or feedback to parents. Everything the child types remains private to their phone.

BBC’s kid-friendly platform has been in the works since last year, and has attracted partners like the Mental Health Foundation, the Anti-Bullying Alliance, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the Diana Award, and Childnet.

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Better, Faster, Stronger Wi-Fi 6 Officially Launches

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Next-generation Wi-Fi is ready and raring to go.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, which oversees implementation of the radio technology, is launching its official Wi-Fi 6 certification program.

Sounds like a snoozefest, I know.

But it means harder, better, faster, stronger access.

Wi-Fi 6 has been percolating for the past year, and now it’s ready to permeate more products, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 10—the first Wi-Fi Certified 6 smartphone.

“High-speed 5G services need Wi-Fi 6 and so do consumers who want to seamlessly share the moments they create on their mobile devices,” according to Inkang Song, vice president of Mobile Tech Strategy and Partnership at Samsung.

Apple’s upcoming iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and Pro Max handsets also support Wi-Fi 6, meaning the new tech will soon reach millions more customers, helping to accelerate adoption.

The central goal of Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) is to boost connectivity within crowded networks—at home or in the wild.

It is particularly well-suited for airports or sports stadiums, where hundreds of thousands of devices are vying for a spot on the same Wi-Fi wave. Even busy households can benefit; families often have a dozen or more gadgets connected to the same sardined system.

“Wi-Fi Certified 6 is ushering in a new era of Wi-Fi, building on [its] core characteristics to provide better performance in every environment for users, great network capacity for service providers to improve coverage for their customers, and new opportunities for advanced applications,” Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance, said in a statement.

“[It] will deliver improvements in connectivity,” he added, “including in high-density locations and IoT environments.”

The theoretical maximum speed for Wi-Fi is also increasing—from 3.5 Gbps to a whopping 9.6 Gbps. But, as The Verge pointed out, “those numbers don’t really matter since you’ll never get them at home.”

Wi-Fi 6-friendly routers from Cisco, Netgear, Asus, and TP-Link are already rolling out the next-gen technology; mesh options for the Netgear Orbi and TP-Link Deco lineups are expected later this year.

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Audible Claps Back at Publishers Over Copyright Infringement

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In August, seven major book publishers sued Audible over a new caption feature they claim infringes on copyright law.

An Audible countersuit, filed last week, however, argues that the technology is “quintessential fair use.”

Introduced in July, Audible Captions aims to enhance the literacy experience by allowing listeners to follow along with “a few lines of text.”

“We developed this technology because we believe our culture, particularly in under-resourced environments, is at risk of losing a significant portion of the next generation of book readers,” CEO Don Katz wrote in a summer announcement.

A sentiment with which I’m sure the Association of American Publishers (AAP), on behalf of its member companies, agrees.

It’s the underhanded way Audible approached the feature that publishers are not on board with.

The August lawsuit claims “willful copyright infringement,” and highlights Audible’s alleged efforts to “take for itself cross-format features” without authorization from, compensation to, or quality control by intellectual property owners.

Chronicle Books, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster argue that Audible is effectively distributing ebooks alongside audio files—which normally requires a separate license and additional royalty payments.

Audible clapped back, asserting that it has agreements with each plaintiff, and has paid, and will continue to pay, royalties and license fees for audiobooks.

“Audible Captions is not a book of any kind, much less a replacement for paper books, ebooks, or cross-format products,” the Amazon-owned company said. “The goal is simple: to help listeners understand and engage with the audiobook they purchased.”

Audible already provides simultaneous text and audio via “Immersion Reading” (read along with the ebook as you listen to the audiobook)—with the AAP said operates lawfully, and without errors.

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