Odds and Ends 

FTC brings its first case against fake paid reviews on Amazon

The Federal Trade Commission announced on Tuesday evening that it has brought its first case against using fake reviews to sell products online. The Commission said it will settle with defendant Cure Encapsulations Inc., a New York City-based company, and owner Naftula Jacobwitz, who it accused of making false claims about a weight loss supplement and paying a third-party website to post fake reviews on Amazon. Fake reviews are a constant nuisance for Amazon shoppers, despite algorithms designed to safeguard its review system, and the company has hit back with…

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Odds and Ends 

Transportation Weekly: Didi woes, how Nuro met Softbank, Amazons appetite

Welcome back to Transportation Weekly; I’m your host Kirsten Korosec, senior transportation reporter at TechCrunch. This is the second edition and seriously people, what happened this week? Too much. Too much! Never heard of TechCrunch’s Transportation Weekly? Catch up here. As I’ve written before, consider this a soft launch. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenkorosec to ensure you see it each week. (An email subscription is coming). Off we go … vroom. ONM … There are OEMs in the automotive world. And here, (wait for it) there are ONMs — original news manufacturers. (Cymbal…

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Odds and Ends 

Amazon, Western Union debut PayCode to sell goods in emerging markets and let shoppers pay in cash

While Amazon has been methodical (read: a little slow) in launching local versions of its site for various global markets, it has now embarked on a secondary track to snag more business outside the 14 countries where it has built out full operations. Amazon has partnered with Western Union to set up a service called PayCode, which lets people shop and pay for Amazon items using local currencies that would not have been accepted on the site before, starting with services in 10 countries: Chile, Columbia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kenya,…

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Headlines 

Tesla rival Rivian gets big investment from Amazon

An electric truck that's just as tough? Amazon hopes so.Image: rivian Amazon is on a spending spree. Last week the online retailer invested in self-driving vehicle startup Aurora. On Friday, it announced it was the main investor in an upcoming all-electric truck and SUV company, Rivian. Amazon leads a group investing $700 million in the company, which debuted itsR1T pickup and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show in November. Amazon wants better delivery and logistics, making the electric technology that gives Rivian vehicles more than 400 miles of range…

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Odds and Ends 

Still a year away from launch, Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenbergs Quibi keeps adding talent

Video won’t start rolling on Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new bite-sized streaming service with the billion-dollar backing until the end of 2019, but talent keeps signing up to come along for their ride into the future of serialization. The latest marquee director to sign on the dotted line with Quibi is Catherine Hardwicke, who will be helming a story around the creation of an artificial intelligence with the working title “How They Made Her,” according to an announcement from Katzenberg onstage at the Variety Innovate summit. Whistle called “Benedict Men”…

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Odds and Ends 

Payment service Toss becomes Koreas newest unicorn after raising $80M

South Korea has got its third unicorn startup after Viva Republica, the company beyond popular payment app Toss, announced it has raised an $80 million round at a valuation of $1.2 billion. This new round is led by U.S. firms Kleiner Perkins and Ribbit Capital, both of which cut their first checks for Korea with this deal. Others participating include existing investors Altos Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Goodwater Capital, KTB Network, Novel, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures. The deal comes just six months after Viva Republica raised $40 million to accelerate growth, and it takes…

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Headlines 

This smart motorcycle helmet features a futuristic AR display Future Blink

Image: David Ryder/Getty Images We’re still getting used to the idea of a store where there’s no checkout, but Amazon isn’t standing still. It’s just launched a new, much more compact version of its cashierless Go stores. Jeff Bezos is more than happy to dive into a new market and start disrupting it, but Amazon’s success is due to how the company keeps relentlessly pushing an idea in new directions. That’s why we don’t just have one type of Go store anymore. SEE ALSO: Apple’s coolest keyboard trick became even…

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Headlines 

Amazon’s cashier-less shopping tech is being tested on a larger store

Larger Amazon Go-powered stores are being tested.Image: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images Amazon’s cashier-less shopping tech could come to a full supermarket. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the tech giant is experimenting with its Amazon Go technology at a larger store. SEE ALSO: What it’s like to shop at Amazon Go At the company’s seven Amazon Go stores in Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco, shoppers scan in with their mobile devices, then pick their product and walk out.  The technology uses a mix of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep…

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Headlines 

Steve Carell became Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to troll Donald Trump on ‘SNL’

Saturday Night Live saved its best Donald Trump jokes for guest host Steve Carell. While the latest episode’s cold open sketch ripped Trump’s favorite propaganda network, Fox News, Carell put on a bald cap and transformed himself into Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos. His three-minute message is ostensibly a broad overview of where Amazon is at now that its HQ2 locations in New York and northern Virginia have been selected. But really, this video is just an extended string of Trump burns, targeting his hair, his Twitter addiction, his…

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Odds and Ends 

In venture capital, its still the age of the unicorn

Howie Xu At the time, the piece defined a new breed of startup — the $1 billion privately held company. When Lee did her first count, there were 39 “unicorns”; an improbable, but not impossible number.. Today, the once-scarce unicorn has become a global herd with 376 companies on the roster and counting. But the proliferation of unicorns begs raises certain questions. Is this new breed of unicorn artificially created? Could these magical companies see their valuations slip and fall out of the herd? Does this indicate an irrational exuberance…

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Odds and Ends 

Amazon says it will add 1,000 more employees in the UK, bringing the total to 28,500, bucking the Brexit chill

A lot of uncertainty hangs over the U.K. as it continues its slow march out of the European Union, but today one of the world’s biggest companies announced plans to expand its presence in the country. Amazon today said it would add another 1,000 workers in the U.K., including establishing its first corporate and R&D office in Manchester. Amazon said it also plans to add more people to its R&D bases in Edinburgh and Cambridge — respectively known for developing search technology as well as the AI technology that powers…

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Odds and Ends 

These are the most successful companies to emerge from Y Combinator

The round was impressive for a couple of reasons: The founders are a pair of 22-year-olds that had set out to build a virtual reality company before pivoting to payments, and they had only completed Y Combinator, a well-known Silicon Valley startup accelerator, the year prior. Today, YC has released the latest list of its most successful companies since it began backing startups in 2005. Ranked by valuation and/or market cap, Brex, sure enough, is the youngest company to crack the top 20: Airbnb: An online travel community and room-sharing…

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Headlines 

This robotic bartender is coming soon to an airport near you

Recently uncovered documents show that Amazon was actively pitching its facial recognition technology to ICE.Image: Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Amazon would really like U.S. law enforcement to use its facial-recognition software, despite how its employees feel. According to internal documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight, Amazon met with officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the summer in order to pitch facial-recognition technology known as Rekognition. SEE ALSO: Here’s how to set up a VPN and protect your data In June 2018, Amazon Web Services sales…

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Headlines 

Beaten by Amazon and Walmart, Sears faces the end after 125 years

The company, once a staple of the American lifestyle, is expected to file for bankruptcy after years of losses I dont understand the point of Sears, I just buy everything online, said 23-year-old Lyft driver Shannon Dickey as we pull up to the abandoned storefront of Sears that sits at the top of Ross Park Mall, nine miles north of downtown Pittsburgh I think their old catalogs are cool, but I just dont understand the point of Sears. Founded in 1893, Sears was once a staple of the American lifestyle.…

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