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(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump launched his second attack in a week on Amazon.com Inc on Saturday, accusing the world’s biggest online retailer of getting unfairly cheap rates from the U.S. Postal Service and not paying enough tax.
Trump’s comments on Twitter reiterated criticisms he made on Thursday about the company. He may have been prompted by a report from news website Axios saying he was obsessed with Amazon and considering ways to rein in the company’s power, possibly with federal antitrust or competition laws.
Investor concerns about regulatory action sent Amazon shares down 3.3 percent over Wednesday and Thursday, knocking $ 24 billion off the company’s market value.
“While we are on the subject, it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $ 1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon. That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
A Citigroup analysis last year showed that if the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) reallocated costs to account for the growing volume of packages it delivers, it would cost $ 1.46 more to deliver each package. Federal regulators, which review contracts made by USPS, have not raised any issues with the terms of its contract with Amazon.
“If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $ 2.6 Billion’,” Trump tweeted, although it was not clear what report he was citing. “This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!”
A White House spokeswoman said on Thursday the administration has no Amazon-related action at this time.
Trump also accused the Washington Post, owned privately by Amazon Chief Executive and founder Jeff Bezos, of being a “lobbyist” for Amazon.
The newspaper, a frequent target of Trump’s ire, won a Pulitzer Prize last year for its critical investigation of Trump’s donations to charities.
Amazon declined comment. The Washington Post did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Bill Trott
A version of the technology that’s meant to make cryptocurrency payments faster and cheaper went live Thursday.
The software, called Lightning Network, can now be used for Bitcoin payments after more than a year in which thousands of developers tested it. Lightning Labs, one of the firms developing the technology, released this initial version, which is compatible with networks being developed by other groups, such as Blockstream and Acinq.
Bitcoin has become digital gold — or a viable investment alternative — to many, but it has been harder for it to fulfill its original purpose of becoming digital money, as transaction fees have skyrocketed to as high as $ 50, while confirmation times took as long as a week at their peak. Enthusiasts say the Lightning Network will solve these problems with fees at a fraction of a cent and instantaneous transactions.
The Lightning Network rolls out, another technology meant to speed up transactions, Segregated Witness, gains traction, with the number of transactions using it doubling to more than 30 percent of total Bitcoin transactions in the past month. Bitcoin transaction fees have plummeted in part thanks to this, but the total number of transactions has also declined. Lightning Network is also meant to help lower fees on the main Bitcoin network.
The Lightning Network allows Bitcoin users to open payment channels between each other. The parties can than conduct transactions without having to post them to the Bitcoin blockchain, avoiding delays and costs that result from recording those transactions each time. Once the channel is closed, only the resulting balances are recorded on the blockchain, not the full transaction history of the channel, and only then are Bitcoin fees paid. There is no required time or transaction limit required to close a payment channel, so they can potentially remain open for months of years.
Elizabeth Stark, Lightning Labs founder and chief executive officer, says merchants and especially online businesses will be the most likely users as it facilitates a high volume of payments and its near-zero fees allow for micropayments. Cryptocurrency exchanges could also use the software to accelerate deposit and withdrawal of funds, she said.
The network is currently able to process transactions in the low thousands per second, according to Stark, which is still far from Visa Inc.’s maximum of 56,000, but an improvement on Bitcoin’s five transactions per second. More than 4,000 payment channels have been opened since the technology was released in January 2017, and even though it was in testing, some merchants already started using it. Block & Jerry’s, an online ice-cream store playing on American ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, is one.
“Bitcoin enthusiasts have gotten excited about this, merchants are excited about this,” Stark said. “It feels like we’re right on the edge of mass cryptocurrency adoption.”
Atlanta is the smartest show on television. I’m unoriginal in that sentiment—for the entirety of its first season, which emerged in 2016 with the marvel and depth of an art-house indie film, it was regarded as such—but that doesn’t make it any less genuine, or true. Depending on how you color it, that view does present its creator-star Donald Glover with a high-stakes dilemma for the second season: How do you reinvent the most inventive show currently on TV?
In the lead-up to last year’s Emmy Awards—where Glover won for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series—I wrote about Atlanta‘s expanding narrative parameters. For the whole of its first 10 episodes, Glover introduced viewers to a universe that was familiar to some, and imaginatively new to others. There was a cultural knowingness alive in his telling; one that, until its debut, had never been granted room on TV (partially due to the racial and gender conservatism Hollywood refuses to assess properly, even now). But, ultimately, a magician has only so many tricks and trap doors at his disposal.
Looking back, it seems ridiculous to think that a series of such tender truths could ever fail in a climate besieged by such baroque distortions and deliberate misbeliefs. Yet, even Glover was prepared for the show to do just that. Thankfully, powerfully, it did the opposite. The TV landscape benefitted from Atlanta’s refusal to be made small and indistinguishable from its contemporaries.
During its 15-month sabbatical—remember, the Season 1 finale aired two Novembers ago—fans wondered if Glover could deliver magic once again. Would he be more daring in Season 2? What unpaved direction would he take us in? Would black Justin Bieber reappear like a unicorn in the forest of our tangled lives?
Reinvention, like all good TV, is predicated on risk. And with the second season, Glover has gambled on one of the riskiest propositions an auteur can: shrinking the expanse of his show and turning the camera to the prejudices and motivations of its audience.
It’s still TV’s most self-defined and self-propelled series, but the Atlanta that returned earlier this month, officially styled as Atlanta Robbin’ Season, is fueled by a new narrative structure altogether. If the first season blurred the lines between the bizarre and the real, the second suggests that the ravine between life and death for black people—at the bottom looking up, just trying to get by—is moored by a grim, mundane fate.
For starters, there’s less episodic dissonance this season, which gives the series more of a backbone and traditional arc for its 11 episodes. It’s also thick with plot, and threaded together by a heavy presence of violence that hangs overhead, the kind of violence that unveils itself in upheavals large and small. “Robbin’ season. Christmas approaches and everybody gotta eat… Or be eaten,” Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) and Earn (Glover) observe in the debut episode (“Alligator Man”). They’ve caught sight of a lifeless body surrounded by police. Nearby another man sits with his wrists tightly handcuffed. There’s terror and desperation in the air, and they know it well.
But the failure is ours when we register brutality and dread as exceptional when really they are constants for people who have nothing and are often forced to impose those realities on the people and communities around them. Glover doesn’t want us to unsee what’s right in front of our eyes. Life unfolds this way, in wrinkles and creases, in beginnings and bloody ends, a scorched harvest with no guarantee that the rain will replenish the land, with no sure bet that the land itself won’t also betray you. Glover’s weaponized Atlanta against its residents. The violence needn’t always be physical, though. There’s a deadlier violence that presents itself socially, through slow-moving gentrification, or psychologically, through subtle racist remarks made by people who don’t realize they’re making subtle racist remarks. All of it compounds, and eventually someone cracks.
Early on, we see Alfred, aka Paper Boi (a moon-eyed Brian Tyree Henry), grappling with newfound local fame. It’s not exactly how he envisioned rap life—having to show face at an out-of-touch streaming company modeled in the vision of Spotify (where one white executive jests: “Everyone calls me 35 Savage”); or being robbed at gunpoint during a drug transaction by a dealer who tells him he can recoup lost funds through his on-the-rise rap career (it’s financially stalled, but the dealer doesn’t know that). The mundane darkness of the season begins to jell more visibly in tonight’s third episode (“Money Bag Shawty”), when Earn encounters a series of repeated defeats (that is, more than his usual share per episode). It’s date night with Van (Zazie Beetz) and he’s finally got some money, but the thing is, life’s still out to flatten him. He quickly learns that money is of no value if people refuse to extend trust, or are clouded by racist beliefs. At the strip club, Al clarifies: “Money is an idea. There’s a reason that a white guy dressed like you can walk into a bank and get a loan and you can’t even spend a hundred dollar bill.”
The season is not without flash and levity. Darius’s philosophical neurosis is even more endearing this time around. Upon first meeting Al’s father Willy (played with dynamism and bite by comedian Katt Williams), he offers: “I would say ‘nice to meet you,’ but I don’t believe in time as a concept. So I’ll just say we always met.” There’s also a young, crosstown rapper who’s more performance art and business acumen than actual skill (although the former may be the only skill that matters in the music industry at the moment). “And we drink Yoo-hoo like it’s dirty Sprite,” he gleefully raps in a commercial for Yoo-hoo, a living parody of art that’s been made fruitless by capitalist ambitions.
In a passing scene from episode two (“Sportin’ Waves”), one of the show’s central questions begins to reveal itself. Walking through the mall, speaking about the animated dark comedy BoJack Horseman, Tracy (Khris Davis) says to Earn: “Don’t get me wrong it’s a funny show, but the way they dive into depression, especially after what he did to her daughter, I was like, ‘Can I even feel bad for this horse anymore?’” That question also extends to Glover’s universe. Should we sympathize with Earn and Alfred? As observers, even if you’re from Atlanta, we watch the show from the outside, its moments so distinctively hyper-specific that everyone plays the role of spectator in most scenarios. The result of that positioning allows Glover to test the elasticity of human empathy—he’s not telling us what to feel, but I do believe he is challenging the motivations behind our compassion and concern for each character. It’s not that we’re wrong in feeling the way we do, it’s the reason behind our sentiments that Glover is poking at, and curious about. Why do you feel what you feel? Where did that come from? How did that come to be? Which gets at perhaps the show’s most important question: How do people come to know themselves? In Atlanta, it’s violently, unavoidably simple. By understanding that life can be a blade.
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