Hillicon Valley — Dems press Amazon on warehouse collapse

·7 min read
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Dems press Amazon on warehouse collaps

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A group of Democrats sent a letter to Amazon asking the e-commerce giant for details about its safety protocols after a recent fatal warehouse collapse in Illinois. Meanwhile, the Justice Department on Monday charged a Russian individual recently extradited from Switzerland with hacking into U.S. companies involved in stock market trading.

Let's jump into the news.

Democrats ask Amazon for answers

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) arrives for a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to discuss oversight of the Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve over the CARES Act on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) arrives for a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing to discuss oversight of the Department of Treasury and Federal Reserve over the CARES Act on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

Democrats are pressing Amazon for answers about company safety protocols after six people died at an Illinois warehouse that was hit by a tornado.

Pushing for details: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) led a group of Democrats in a letter Monday asking the e-commerce giant for details about its policies and actions both at the Edwardsville, Ill., facility and nationwide.

"Amazon profits should never come at the cost of workers' lives, health, and safety," the Democrats wrote.

"These reports of Amazon's workplace safety failures at the Edwardsville facility are disturbing when considered alone. But they fit all too well with an ongoing, company-wide pattern of worker mistreatment, including neglecting worker safety, shortchanging workers on proper pay and benefits, and employing union-busting tactics towards workers when they have tried to organize for better working conditions," the Democrats added.

Amazon's response: Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company is "reviewing the letter and will respond directly," but right now is focusing on "taking care of our employees and partners, the family members of those killed by the tornado, and the communities affected by this tragedy."

The pressure from Democrats comes a week after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it would be investigating the fatal collapse.

Read more here.

Another Russian hacker in custody

A Russian national was indicted and extradited to the United States this week for allegedly hacking into the networks of U.S. groups involved in stock market trading to profit from insider information, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Vladislav Klyushin was extradited from Switzerland to the U.S. on Saturday after his arrest by Swiss authorities in March, and is set to appear in federal court in Boston on Monday, where he is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Massachusetts.

Shady trading: Klyushin is alleged, alongside several Russian co-conspirators, to have hacked into the networks of two unnamed U.S-based filing agents between January 2018 and September 2020 to obtain information on whether stocks would rise or fall, then making trading decisions that brought in tens of millions of dollars.

The hackers allegedly leased servers based outside of Russia, including in Boston, to view the information. Klyushin is charged with unauthorized access to computers and committing wire fraud and securities fraud, among other charges, and faces a maximum of up to 50 years in prison and $1 million in fines if convicted on all counts.

"The integrity of our nation's capital markets and of its computer networks are priorities for my office," Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell said in a statement Monday. "Today's charges show that we, the FBI, and our other law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue those who hack, steal and attempt to profit from inside information, wherever they may hide."

Read more here.


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will dedicate $280 million to transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the three-digit phone number 988 in July 2022, officials announced on Monday.

The funding from the Biden administration's fiscal 2022 budget and the American Rescue Plan will go toward the "critical priority" of making the suicide prevention hotline more accessible across the country, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters on a call.

Approximately $177 million will be allocated through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to improve and expand lifeline network operations and telephone infrastructure. Another $105 million is meant to increase staffing at state and local crisis call centers.

"This is the beginning of a major effort undertaken by the administration to really put resources behind this effort to try to improve that infrastructure we have for mental health and crisis care services," Becerra said.

"If we do this right and we do it together as a team, 988 will become a lifeline, just as 911 has become a foundation in emergency response," he added.

Read more here.


The jury deliberating over the case of Elizabeth Holmes will reconvene on Monday to weigh 11 charges against the Theranos CEO after she was accused of fraud and conspiracy in connection to her now-defunct health technology startup.

Lawyers for the defense and prosecution concluded their closing statements Friday afternoon, sending the trial to the jury after more than three months of testimony. The jury started deliberating late on Friday and are scheduled to pick up on Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Holmes, 37, is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud for allegedly taking part in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud investors, and an additional ploy to deceive doctors and patients.

Read more here.


Elon Musk revealed on Twitter Sunday night that he will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who is the world's richest person, tweeted, "For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year."

The estimate comes at the end of a year in which the billionaire's tax contributions have been heavily scrutinized - amid public spats with progressives in Congress, during consideration of a billionaire tax to fund the Democrats' social agenda, and after Time magazine named him "Person of the Year".

A June ProPublica report estimated that Musk paid $68,000 in federal income taxes in 2015, $65,000 in 2017 and none in 2018.

Read more here.


An op-ed to chew on: New AI and free press standards fortify the fight against autocracy

Lighter click: Welcome, Commander!

Notable links from around the web:

'Q' Has Been Quiet, but QAnon Lives On (The New York Times / Davey Alba)

'No One's Life Is Worth a Package': Amazon Workers Are Organizing for Cellphone Access (Motherboard / Lauren Kaori Gurley)

U.S. and Britain help Ukraine prepare for potential Russian cyberassault (The New York Times / David Sanger and Julian Barnes)

The year that hackers went wild and everything changed (The Wall Street Journal / James Rundle)

One last thing: Fallout from log4j continues

Belgium's Ministry of Defense was recently hacked by attackers exploiting the massive vulnerability in Apache logging library log4j that has become a worldwide security concern, according to multiple reports.

A spokesperson for the ministry told Belgian newspaper De Standaard on Monday that the ministry had "discovered an attack on its computer network with internet access" last week and that the organization had taken steps to quarantine the impacted network areas. They confirmed that the attack took place due to the exploitation of the log4j vulnerability.

The ministry posted on Facebook on Monday that "due to technical issues, we are unable to process your requests via mil.be or answer your queries via Facebook. We are working on a resolution and we thank you for your understanding."

The Hill reached out to both the ministry and a spokesperson for Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder for comment.

Cybersecurity professionals around the world are scrambling to patch the log4j vulnerability before it can be exploited.

Read more here.

That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We'll see you Tuesday.

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