Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO, names Andy Jassy as successor

SAN FRANCISCO: Amazon.com Inc on Tuesday said founder Jeff Bezos would step down as CEO and become executive chairman, as the company reported a third consecutive record profit and quarterly sales above $100 billion for the first time.

This summer, Bezos, 57, will hand the keys of the world’s largest online retailer to Andy Jassy, head of its cloud computing division. The announcement ends a long-running question about who would succeed the world’s second-richest person at the company’s helm.

Jassy, 53, joined Amazon in 1997 after Harvard Business School, founding Amazon Web Services (AWS) and growing it to a cloud platform used by millions, the company’s website said. He had been a clear contender for the top job since Amazon created two CEO roles reporting to Bezos, the other held by recently retired consumer CEO Jeff Wilke.

Tom Johnson, chief transformation officer at Mind­share Worldwide, said Jassy’s promotion underscored the importance of web services to Amazon’s future.

“Jassy’s background in steering AWS shows just how top of mind those services are to Amazon’s business strategy. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects their strategy and balancing that priority with a growing ad business and the commerce behemoth,” he said.

Jassy is known for understanding technical details, and he has regularly taken jabs at legacy player Oracle Corp and cloud rival Microsoft Corp, which AWS continues to exceed in sales.

Under Jassy’s leadership, Amazon’s cloud business has signed major customers including Verizon, McDonald’s and Honeywell. The division’s quarterly revenue consistently rose by double digits, helping cement its position as the market leader.

One contract AWS failed to win was the $10 billion “JEDI” contract from the Pentagon, which was awarded to Microsoft.

Jassy has bestowed a rock-star aura to keynotes at AWS’s annual Las Vegas conference, speaking before over 60,000 attendees in 2019 after upbeat music preceded his talk.

Bezos, who started the company 27 years ago as an internet bookseller, said in a note to employees posted on Amazon’s website, “As Exec Chair I will stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus on the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Earth Fund, Blue Origin, The Washington Post, and my other passions.” Blue Origin is Bezos’ space company, and the Post is his private newspaper holding. He added, “Ive never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring.”

Amazon’s net sales rose to $125.56 billion as consumers turned to the world’s largest online retailer for their holiday shopping, beating analyst estimates of $119.7 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021

Netflix dominates Golden Globes 2021 nominations

Golden Globe nominations are out and Netflix is dominating the announcement thanks to both its films and television series in a pandemic-marred movie year.

David Fincher’s Mank has topped the 2021 nominations with 6 nods while the other names include what we’ve been watching at home in quarantine, such as the lovable Schitt’s Creek, the divisive Emily in Paris, the addictive Killing Eve and of course, The Queen’s Gambit.

The 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards, which kick off a pandemic-era Hollywood awards season, are due to be handed out at a ceremony on Feb 28, hosted by actors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. And for the first time, the event — typically a bubbly dinner gathering with flowing drinks — will be held bi-coastally.

Mank, the film about Citizen Kane co-writer Herman Mankiewicz, landed nominations for best film, drama; best actor for Gary Oldman; best director for Fincher, best supporting actress for Amanda Seyfried; best score; and best screenplay for Jack Fincher, the director’s father who penned the script before dying in 2003

Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 — which, like Mank, is a Netflix release — came closest with five nominations, including nods for best film, drama; best director and best screenplay for Sorkin; supporting actor for Sacha Baron Cohen; and best song.

The other nominees for best film in the drama category were Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman and Florian Zeller’s The Father.

A year after fielding no female nominees for best director — or best feature film nomination for any movie directed by a woman — the Hollywood Foreign Press nominated more female filmmakers than it had before.

Regina King (One Night in Miami), Zhao and Fennell were nominated for best director, alongside Sorkin and Fincher.

Netflix, which topped all studios at the Globes last year, too, led with a commanding 42 nominations, with 22 coming in film categories and 20 in television.

The nominees for best musical or comedy film are Borat Subsequent MoviefilmHamiltonMusicPalm Springs, and The Prom.

The nominees for best television series, drama, are The CrownLovecraft CountryThe MandalorianOzark, and Ratched.

The nominees for best television series, musical or comedy, are Schitt’s CreekTed LassoThe GreatThe Flight Attendant, and Emily in Paris.

The nominees for lead actor in a drama film are Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal; Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Anthony Hopkins, The Father; Gary Oldman, Mank; and Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian.

The nominees for actress in a drama film are Frances McDormand, Nomadland; Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman; Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman; Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

The nominees for lead actor in a comedy or musical film are Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; James Corden, The Prom; Andy Samberg, Palm Springs; Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton; and Dev Patel, The Personal History of David Copperfield.

The nominees for lead actress in a comedy or musical film are Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm; Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit; Anya Taylor-Joy, Emma; Kate Hudson, Music; Rosamund Pike, I Care A Lot.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Taraji P. Henson hosted the nominations announcement on Wednesday morning.

The Globes are typically the first major show of Hollywood’s awards season, which ends with the crowning of the best picture winner at the Oscars. They’ll retain that distinction, despite being delayed nearly two months, after a surge in virus cases in recent months pushed the Grammy Awards to March.

Last year’s Golden Globes culminated in awards for 1917 and Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. The telecast, hosted by Ricky Gervais, couldn’t buck the overall ratings trend for awards shows, drawing an average of 18.3 million viewers, down 2 per cent from the previous year.

Facebook blocked in Myanmar as UN chief says coup must fail

Myanmar’s generals ordered internet providers to restrict access to Facebook on Thursday, as UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world must rally to ensure the military coup fails.

The Southeast Asian nation was plunged back into direct military rule on Monday as de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders were detained in a series of dawn raids, ending the country’s brief experiment with democracy.

The coup sparked international condemnation and fears that the military would drag 54 million people back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of Asia’s most impoverished and repressive nations.

With soldiers back on the streets of major cities, the takeover has not been met by any large street protests.

But people have flocked to social media to voice opposition and share plans for civil disobedience — especially on Facebook.

“We have digital power […] so we’ve been using this since day one to oppose the military junta,” said activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who’s behind a so-called “Civil Disobedience Movement” fanning out across social media platforms.

Telenor, one of the country’s main telecoms providers, confirmed on Thursday that authorities had ordered it to “temporarily block” Facebook access.

The Norwegian-owned company said it had to comply but “does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law”.

Facebook confirmed access “is currently disrupted for some people” and urged authorities to restore connectivity.

NetBlocks, which monitors internet outages around the world, said the disruptions were also affecting Facebook-owned apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

For many in Myanmar, Facebook is the gateway to the internet and a vital way to gather information.

“The first thing we look at each morning is our phone, the last thing we look at in the night is our phone,” Aye, a 32-year-old entrepreneur opposed to the coup, told AFP.

A small rally kicked off on Thursday in front of Mandalay Medicine University, saw protesters carrying signs that said “People’s protest against the military coup!”.

Local media said police arrested four people, although authorities could not confirm the detentions to AFP.

‘Coup must fail’

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s coup has left the international community scrambling to respond.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Guterres said he would pressure Myanmar’s generals to reverse course, in his most forceful comments yet.

“We will do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” Guterres told The Washington Post.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to reverse the results of the elections and the will of the people.”

Min Aung Hlaing justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November’s election.

Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since she was detained, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD), while the military’s favoured parties received a drubbing.

International and local observers — as well as Myanmar’s own election monitor — reported no major issues that might have affected the integrity of the vote.

Myanmar’s junta-era constitution ensures the military retains considerable influence, including a quarter of parliamentary seats and control of key ministries.

But analysts say top generals feared their influence was waning and were dismayed by the enduring appeal of Suu Kyi.

On Wednesday, authorities brought an obscure charge against the 75-year-old to justify her ongoing detention.

According to her party, she was charged with an offence under Myanmar’s import and export law after authorities found unregistered walkie-talkies at her home.

The United States said it was “disturbed” by the charge.

Limited options

Myanmar’s military has declared a one-year state of emergency and said it would hold new elections once its allegations were addressed.

That has caused huge anger inside the nation, but opposing the military is fraught with risk.

During junta rule, dissent was quashed with thousands of activists — including Suu Kyi — detained for years on end.

Censorship was pervasive and the military frequently deployed lethal force, most notably during huge protests in 1988 and 2007.

The new government has already issued a warning telling people not to say or post anything that might “encourage riots or an unstable situation”.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday but failed to agree on a statement condemning the coup.

To be adopted, it required the support of China and Russia, which both wield veto power as permanent Security Council members and are Myanmar’s main supporters at the UN.

Diplomats said Russia and China asked for more time to finesse the Security Council’s response.

PM wants Parvez to ensure Senate victory from Punjab

GUJRAT: Prime Minister Imran Khan has tasked Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi with playing a pivotal role in clinching maximum seats in the Senate from Punjab.

The senior PML-Q leader is part of a three-member committee of the ruling coalition in the province. Its other members are Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar. The committee will devise a joint strategy for the success of the coalition’s nominees in the Senate election due to be held in March.

The decision was taken in a meeting between the delegations of both coalition partners in Islamabad on Monday that was chaired by Prime Minister Khan. The PML-Q delegation comprised Mr Elahi, federal minister Tariq Basheer Cheema and MNA Moonis Elahi, while federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervaiz Khattak and Shafqat Mehmood assisted the prime minister in the meeting.

Sources said that during the meeting, the PM formally endorsed his party’s decision to back PML-Q candidate Kamil Ali Agha in the Senate polls and asked Mr Elahi to utilise his experience to ensure the candidate’s victory.

Meanwhile, Mr Elahi invited the PM to inaugurate the newly built Punjab Assembly building and also thanked him for visiting their Lahore residence to inquire after PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat last month.

Matters relating to national politics were also discussed during the meeting. Both the coalition partners have been engaged in talks on the PML-Q’s reservations over the local bodies system in Punjab.

However, when asked by this correspondent, Moonis Elahi said the local bodies system was not discussed during the meeting with the PM.

Responding to another question, he dispelled the impression that his father, Parvez Elahi, was being given a new key role in the Punjab government, saying the provincial assembly speaker would only play his due role in the Senate elections.

Though the PML-Q only has 10 seats in the Punjab Assembly and five in National Assembly, but it has an important place in the current political scenario, which is why the PTI leadership has decided to accommodate the Q’s wish of having its nominee in the Upper House of parliament as well as benefiting from Mr Elahi’s experience in Punjab’s politics, analysts remarked.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2021