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The ‘Brushing’ Scam, Fake Amazon Reviews

It has hit the headlines after thousands of Americans received unsolicited packets of seeds in the mail, but it is not new. It’s an illicit way for sellers to get reviews for their products. And it doesn’t mean your account has been hacked. Here’s an example of how it works: let’s say I set myself up as a seller on Amazon, for my product, Kleinman Candles, which cost $3 each. I then set up a load of fake accounts, and I find random names and addresses either from publicly available information or from a leaked database that’s doing the rounds from a previous data breach. I order Kleinman Candles from my fake accounts and have them delivered to the addresses I have found, with no information about where they have been sent from. I then leave positive reviews for Kleinman Candles from each fake account — which has genuinely made a purchase.

This way my candle shop page gets filled with glowing reviews (sorry), my sales figures give me an algorithmic popularity boost as a credible merchant — and nobody knows that the only person buying and reviewing my candles is myself. It tends to happen with low-cost products, including cheap electronics. It’s more a case of fake marketing than cyber-crime, but “brushing” and fake reviews are against Amazon’s policies. Campaign group Which? advises that you inform the platform they are sent by of any unsolicited goods.

Bill Gates’ Nuclear Venture Plans Reactor To Complement Solar, Wind Power Boom

A nuclear energy venture founded by Bill Gates said Thursday it hopes to build small advanced nuclear power stations that can store electricity to supplement grids increasingly supplied by intermittent sources like solar and wind power. Reuters reports:
The effort is part of the billionaire philanthropist’s push to help fight climate change, and is targeted at helping utilities slash their emissions of planet-warming gases without undermining grid reliability. TerraPower LLC, which Gates founded 14 years ago, and its partner GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, plan to commercialize stations called Natrium in the United States later this decade, TerraPower’s President and Chief Executive Chris Levesque said.

Levesque said the companies are seeking additional funding from private partners and the U.S. Energy Department, and that the project has the support of PacifiCorp, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, along with Energy Northwest and Duke Energy. If successful, the plan is to build the plants in the United States and abroad, Levesque said. By 2050 “we would see hundreds of these reactors around the world, solving multiple different energy needs,” Levesque said. The 345-megawatt plants would be cooled by liquid sodium and cost about $1 billion each.

The new plants […] are designed to complement a renewable power because they will store the reactor power in tanks of molten salt during days when the grid is well supplied. The nuclear power could be used later when solar and wind power are low due to weather conditions. Molten salt power storage has been used at thermal solar plants in the past, but leaks have plagued some of the projects. Levesque said the Natrium design would provide more consistent temperatures than a solar plant, resulting in less wear and tear.

US Tech Stocks Are Now Worth More Than the Entire European Stock Market

The dominance of major U.S. tech stocks in recent years has pushed the sector past another milestone as it is now more valuable than the entire European stock market, according to Bank of America Global Research. The firm said in a note that this is the first time the market cap of the U.S. tech sector, at $9.1 trillion, exceeds Europe, which including the U.K. and Switzerland is now at $8.9 trillion. For reference, the firm said that in 2007, Europe was four times the size of U.S. technology stocks.

Tech pulling ahead of the European continent comes as the U.S. market has become increasingly concentrated in mega-cap tech stocks, worrying some market strategists. The five biggest tech names — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook — accounted for 17.5% of the S&P 500 in January, and the rotation into tech during the coronavirus pandemic has pushed that number well above 20%. Consumer tech goliath Apple is worth more than $2 trillion by itself. The run for Amazon might be the most stunning of the group. The company has been growing into a dominant force in e-commerce since the 1990s, but the explosion of the cloud computing industry has helped its stock surge over the past decade. Its share price was about 20 times higher on Thursday than it was in August 2010.

Amazon Drivers Are Hanging Smartphones in Trees To Get More Work

A strange phenomenon has emerged near Amazon.com delivery stations and Whole Foods stores in the Chicago suburbs: smartphones dangling from trees. Contract delivery drivers are putting them there to get a jump on rivals seeking orders.

Someone places several devices in a tree located close to the station where deliveries originate. Drivers in on the plot then sync their own phones with the ones in the tree and wait nearby for an order pickup. The reason for the odd placement, according to experts and people with direct knowledge of Amazon’s operations, is to take advantage of the handsets’ proximity to the station, combined with software that constantly monitors Amazon’s dispatch network, to get a split-second jump on competing drivers. That drivers resort to such extreme methods is emblematic of the ferocious competition for work in a pandemic-ravaged U.S. economy suffering from double-digit unemployment. Much the way milliseconds can mean millions to hedge funds using robotraders, a smartphone perched in a tree can be the key to getting a $15 delivery route before someone else. Drivers have been posting photos and videos on social-media chat rooms to try to figure out what technology is being used to receive orders faster than those lacking the advantage.