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Amazon did a lot of funky stuff this year and it’s paying off

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Holy hell, it’s been a year for Amazon. Jeff Bezos’ former-online-bookstore dumped $13.7 billion to buy a bunch of grocery stores, that speaker you talk to in your living room that Amazon makes is really popular and a bunch of server farms Amazon runs generate more than $10 billion in revenue annually.

The confluence of all these things has led to an incredible rise in its stock on the year — one that might be even more impressive than Apple’s slow march toward hitting a $1 trillion market cap (assuming the iPhone X story plays out the way they hope). Amazon is nowhere near as big as Google or Apple, but at the same time, its core business is an online retail operation that operates with razor-thin margins. For the most part, Bezos has gotten the benefit of the doubt from Wall Street, and its strategy of gleefully investing in new operations appears to be playing out as hoped.

Let’s get to the chart:

And with all this, its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is making a run at becoming the richest human in the Local Group. Amazon is investing in a lot of wild operations, like buying Whole Foods, and all of these big moves are starting to coalesce into something that actually makes a little bit of sense as the company looks to become the backbone of the way people run a lot of their daily lives through the internet. Whether that’s buying stuff online, buying groceries, watching movies, listening to music or even using services that are running on Amazon’s invisible infrastructure, the real Amazon is becoming an absolute force in the everyday life of nearly every internet consumer.

So, because Amazon did all the stuff this year, we’re just gonna run through each one bit by bit, starting off with probably its most important one.

Amazon’s server business is booming

Were it not for AWS, Amazon probably would not have posted a profit in the string of quarters that it did. We’ve noted this before, but here’s the money chart again:

While Amazon is increasingly facing a lot of competition from Microsoft’s Azure, as well as Google Cloud, it was one of the original infrastructure operations that gave birth to modern internet services, helping startups get off the ground with servers that they didn’t have to buy themselves. It was also one of Amazon’s most ambitious bets, and one early example of how Amazon was willing to bulldoze its way into new markets orthogonal to its core business model.

The bet paid off, with AWS now on track to generate more than $10 billion annually. More importantly, that $10 billion annually comes with a pretty healthy margin — though, over time, that margin may slip down. For the time being, though, it’s an impressive business compared to the razor-thin profits that Amazon might generate from its retail operations and a good data point as its media services like video or music start to play out.

And, as usual, recurring revenue is a story that Wall Street loves. Amazon is a company that people will often tell you not to bet against, and its stock is up more than 50 percent on the year thanks to an array of businesses that all appear to be showing growth and the company’s recent-ish ability to turn a profit. Amazon can thank AWS a lot for that.

Amazon’s play for the vocal internet

Amazon also said the Echo, its voice-enabled speaker, was the best-selling product on Amazon for the holiday season, with millions of devices sold. This is a pretty big deal for Amazon, as it may have stepped into one of the single-best new interfaces for the internet as a whole — as well as reducing the friction further for buying stuff on Amazon. And for a service that is essentially the hub of online commerce in the U.S., having an Amazon-sold item is also a pretty good look for the company.

Even if the devices are relatively cheap, locking consumers into the Amazon ecosystem, in the end, is likely much more valuable than selling a bunch of internet-connected speakers. Amazon Prime gives Amazon an opportunity to turn its shoppers from once-in-a-bit purchasers to a reliable stream of recurring incremental revenue. Amazon doesn’t do much in terms of disclosing how Prime performs, but at the same time, a reliable recurring revenue model is something that Wall Street loves — and something that’ll keep them happy and off Bezos’ back.

We’d love to show you a chart here, but the best we’re gonna get is some kind of vague large number from Amazon. So for now, be skeptical, but assume that it’s big and has a lot of potential ramifications for the future of the internet (as much of Amazon’s operations do) — especially as companies like Google and Apple nip at its heels.

Amazon buys a bunch of grocery stores

Amazon made one of the biggest and splashiest acquisitions of the year, second only to Broadcom’s move to acquire Qualcomm and consolidate the fabless semiconductor market into a single unit (which is an equally very large deal). It acquired Whole Foods, a trendy grocery store chain that has a strong brand, for $13.7 billion — and it went through! This was both wildly, in a very Amazon way, expected and unexpected (and was definitely not a good thing for Blue Apron, which was prepping to go public at the time).

Whole Foods gives Amazon a set of local waypoints for groceries, but also storefronts to get its products in front of consumers. It can apply its wealth of data to reorient the prices of products in such a way to get consumers in the door for their staples while getting them interested in other products. And, maybe, more importantly, it can stick its own products in those stores, like the Echo.

While this gives Amazon a big business right away, it also offers Amazon yet another opportunity to lock consumers into the Jeff Bezos Sphere of Influence. We don’t know the full ramifications here just yet, but it’s another example of how Amazon was ready to just crash its way into a new market that sort of makes sense in the Amazon grand scheme of things.

Amazon, in the end, is setting itself up for a future where it serves as the backbone of how consumers interface with products they use in their everyday life that are, in some way, connected to the internet. These moves may seem drastic and have a very long runway to play out, but if you ask a lot of people in tech which stock they would keep from the FAANG group (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google), you’re probably going to get Amazon as an answer. And then they’ll reference that Tweet wherever that says Amazon grew x thousand percent since it went public (because, in hindsight, I guess we totally should have seen this coming, and the future played out exactly as it was supposed to). So as we head into 2018, we’ll see if Amazon actually fulfills that destiny.

Also, Amazon should buy a coffee shop

Seriously, Jeff, buy a coffee startup. Maybe don’t spend as much as Nestlé did on Blue Bottle. Or do. Whichever. There can only be good things that come of this.

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Crime

Zainab’s father expresses concerns over JIT head

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KASUR: The mourning father of slain 7-year-old rape victim, Mohammad Naeem, on Thursday appealed the enraged protesters to remain peaceful, while demanding authorities to remove head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe into the matter. 

Addressing a press conference here, he said Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has assured strict action against the culprit(s) but he expressed lack of confidence in the head of JIT.

“We do not trust him,” he said while calling upon the protesters to remain peaceful. He also deplored the killings of two protesters in police action.

On the occasion, he also urged an exemplary action against the culprit(s).

Earlier today, he had slammed the police for its negligence in tracing out the culprits. “Police could save my daughter’s life if a prompt action would have been taken,” he said while talking to media.

Protests in the Kasur soon erupted after the minor girl named Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage heap near Kashmir Chowk in Kasur on Tuesday. In light of initial postmortem, police said the minor has been sexually assaulted before her murder. The girl was strangled to death after being raped multiple times, police said.

The incident shook the whole country and made headlines around the world. The incident was widely condemned and calls for justice echoed on social media and other platforms.

The minor was a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur and was abducted on January 5 (Friday) while she was on her way to tuition centre, relatives informed.

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Grief in Kasur as residents mourn murder of minor rape victim

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KASUR: Grief and shock were evident on the faces of residents of Punjab’s Kasur city as they tried desperately to come to grips with coldblooded murder of 7-year-old Zainab after being sexually assaulted for second day on Thursday. 

Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage heap near Kashmir Chowk in Kasur on Tuesday. In light of initial postmortem, it was said the minor has been sexually assaulted multiple times before her murder.

The minor was a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur and was abducted on January 5 (Friday) while she was on her way to tuition centre.

The incident which shook the whole country and made headlines around the world was widely condemned and calls for justice echoed on social media and other platforms.

Tensions persist in Kasur for second day

Protests in the Kasur soon erupted after Zainab’s body was recovered from a garbage heap on Tuesday, which are still ongoing.

The residents are protesting at Kali Pul Chowk, whereas the city’s main artery has been blocked for commuters. Markets and shops are also closed in protest against the heart-wrenching incident.

The Punjab Bar Council also announced a complete boycott of courts today and lawyers have demanded immediate arrest of the killer(s).

The protests claimed two lives when police resorted to firing in a bid to stop the protesters from surrounding the District Police Officer (DPO) and District Coordination Officer (DCO) offices.

They were identified as Shoaib and Mohammad Ali. Their funeral prayers were offered on Thursday amid presence of large number of people including social and political activists.

The post-mortem of slain protesters is expected to be released later today.

Keeping the tense situation in view, the authorities have called in additional police contingents to control the law and order situation on Thursday.

FIRs lodged against policemen

Two FIRs have been registered against 16 ‘unidentified’ policemen on the complaints of the slain protesters’ relatives. The FIRs have been registered under murder charges.

To diffuse mounting pressure, authorities also claimed to have arrested two policemen for resorting to firing to disperse the protesters.

Punjab govt announces Rs1 million reward for info on suspect

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday announced Rs10 million reward for any information about the identity of the culprit.

The chief minister also announced Rs3 million for heirs of the slain protesters, who were killed in police action on Wednesday.

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World News

Pakistan, A Victim Of The Single Story

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At a party in Lahore recently, while commiserating about the political affairs in the U.S, a Pakistani friend recounted a not so surprising experience. While visiting the U.S. through a cultural exchange program, a white woman whose house he was invited to for dinner to showcase American hospitality refused to take a photo with him because she was afraid he might give the photo to the Taliban. Other participants in the program were taking photos with her, but she specifically told my friend that she would not take a photo with him. We both laughed at the ridiculousness of this woman’s assumption. Did she really think that all Pakistanis have interactions with the Taliban?

A better assumption might be for my friend to assume his host’s sympathy to Trump’s intolerant ideology, since 53 percent of white women voters in the U.S. backed Trump. But this captures the terrible consequences of America’s mainstream political and media entities conflating Pakistan with terrorism and only understanding Muslim majority countries within the context of war. Never mind that Pakistanis continue to pay the biggest price for terrorism and are at the forefront of the fight against it. The news this year that Pakistani troops, operating on intelligence provided by the United States, rescued an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children being held for years by militants suspected of ties to the Taliban was not surprising

This, certainly and unfortunately, is nothing new. In the early ’90s, I had just immigrated with my family to the U.S., and at my high school in the Chicago suburbs, my teacher asked me to show my fellow classmates where Pakistan is on the map. But he first asked me to show Kuwait. This was right after the first Gulf War. I was so confused about why I had to show Kuwait, a country I had no relationship to. I now understand that people in the U.S. only know about the Muslim world through war and extremely dehumanizing stereotypes that leave no room for people like my Pakistani friend to be understood as feminist, queer and just like the majority of Pakistanis, opposed to the ideology of the Taliban.

But what gets covered in the mainstream media about Pakistan is so often only about terrorism. Even human interest stories usually begin with a phrase like “despite terrorism…” After the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, I was asked by a writer for the New Yorker if they kill gay people in my country. My response that I go back every year came as a surprise to the writer; it is to Pakistan that I return for my annual pilgrimage to find my humanity and connect with so many friends who are part of the LGBT community.

Pakistan does struggle with increasing extremism and a shrinking definition of what it means to be Muslim, which leaves so many out of the fold and susceptible to attacks; and there is also the perilous plight of religious minorities. However, to only understand Pakistan in this context is similar to only understanding the socio-cultural context of the United States as a country riddled with gun violence.

How can a country of more than 190 million with thriving cosmopolitan cities, artists of global acclaim, designers who exhibit in fashion weeks in Pakistan and around the world, feminist collectives, LGBT organizing, and most importantly, warm and loving people, be reduced to being connected to terrorism?

I do know that this makes it easier to wage war and impose harsh demands on Pakistan as Trump did during the State of the Union address. Seeing Pakistan only in the context of harboring extremists makes it easier to imagine victims of the ongoing drone attacks as terrorists and not grandmothers who happen to be out in the yard. It makes all of us Pakistanis complicit in the U.S’s imagination as terrorists as though our lives don’t hold any other meaning.

And this also makes it easier to continue to fuel anti-Muslim hate in the U.S. It is so often now that I am told that women in Pakistan get killed for going to school by those who know of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s, nearly killed for encouraging girls to learn. In her much shared TED Talk of 2009, Chimamanda Adichie warns us about the danger of a single story. Malala is a powerful and brave young woman but she cannot be the only representation of women in my country; her story cannot be the only story about the women of Pakistan.

On the contrary, women in Pakistan have a long history of fiercely participating in all walks of life, including holding the highest political office in the land, an accomplishment that United States has yet to match. To Americans I would say:  Don’t make victims of us to assuage your own conscience.

No country should have to prove that it is multi-faceted and complicated, that the people living there have dreams, too, and that if they are lucky enough to go through all the checks you need to pass to get a visa to visit the U.S., they are not coming as part of a sinister Taliban plot.

Is that too much to ask?

Urooj Arshad is a member of the steering committee of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity and the Director of international youth health and rights Programs at Advocates for Youth, and a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow at The OpEd Project.

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