Oct 15, 2018

Bezos to invest more than $1 billion in Blue Origin next year

Jeff Bezos at Wired's 25th anniversary conference in San Francisco. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Monday he plans to spend "a little more" than $1 billion on his space exploration company, Blue Origin, next year — a slight increase over the current $1 billion a year.

Why it matters: Bezos, along with other billionaires like Elon Musk, has been criticized for focusing his resources on moonshot projects like space travel instead of immediate problems on Earth (he did recently announce a $2 billion investment in early education and homelessness). Bezos made his announcement at Wired's 25th anniversary conference in San Francisco.

I will not spend one minute of my life on anything I don’t think is contributing to society and civilization...You want risk taking. You want people to have a vision most people don’t agree with.
— Jeff Bezos

On the recent backlash against tech companies working with the military: "If big tech companies are going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, we are in big trouble.... This is a great country and it does need to be defended."

On concerns for technologies' misuse: "Technology is always two-sided... this isn't new. The book was invented and people could write really evil books and lead bad revolutions with them and fascist empires with books... It doesn't mean the book is bad."

On social media: "I think social media is increasing, unfortunately, identity politics and tribalism. I think the internet in its current iteration is a confirmation bias machine... So we don't know the solutions to these problems yet but we'll figure them out yet.

  • "I worry that some of these technologies will be very useful for autocratic regimes to enforce their rules ... But that's not new, that's always been the case ... The last thing we want to do is stop these technologies even if they're dual-use."

On growing calls for large tech companies (like Amazon) to be heavily scrutinized: "I think all large institutions should be scrutinized ... it's normal ... We want large companies but we want to scrutinize them. And I preach inside Amazon that this is going to happen, don't take it personally."

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Scoop: Census Bureau is paying Chinese state media to reach Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign, which sends U.S. taxpayer dollars to community media outlets to run ads about the upcoming census, is including a Chinese state-run broadcaster as one of its media vendors.

Why it matters: After China's yearslong campaign to co-opt independent Chinese-language media in the U.S., Washington is now paying Beijing-linked media outlets in order to reach Chinese Americans.

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Live updates: Coronavirus spreads to Latin America

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Brazil confirmed the first novel coronavirus case in Latin America Wednesday — a 61-year-old that tested positive after returning from a visit to northern Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

GOP congressman accuses California pension official of working for China

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The latest season of Red Scare has come to Sacramento.

Driving the news: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) has repeatedly accused Ben Meng, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), of tacitly working on behalf of the Chinese government. Banks also says that, were it up to him, Meng would be fired — and has questioned the patriotism of California Gov. Gavin Newsom for not at least investigating Meng.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World