The one country Boris Johnson will find 'easier' to strike a Brexit deal with exposed

BORIS JOHNSON will have an "easier" time to negotiate a new post-Brexit trade deal for Britain with a key ally the UK already has in the Asia Pacific, former ambassador Sir David Warren claimed.
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The Children Who Desegregated America’s Schools
In 1954, the Supreme Court decided that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional—but it was thousands of children who actually desegregated America’s classrooms. The task that fell to them was a brutal one.In the years following Brown v. Board of Education, vicious legal and political battles broke out; town by town, Black parents tried to send their children to white schools, and white parents—and often their children, too—tried to keep those Black kids out. They tried everything: bomb threats, beatings, protests. They physically blocked entrances to schools, vandalized lockers, threw rocks, taunted and jeered. Often, the efforts of white parents worked: Thousands upon thousands of Black kids were barred from the schools that were rightfully theirs to attend.But eventually, in different places at different times, Black parents won. And that meant that their kids had to walk or take the bus to a school that had tried to keep them out. And then they had to walk in the door, go to their classrooms, and try to get an education—despite the hatred directed at them, despite the knowledge that their white classmates didn’t want them there, and despite being alone. They changed America, but in large part, that change was not lasting. As they grew older, many of them watched as their schools resegregated, and their work was undone.Those kids are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s now. Many of them are no longer with us. But those who are have stories to tell.Here are five of them.Hugh Price and his family fought for him to be one of the first Black students at his all-white high school in Washington, D.C. But once he was there, he “couldn’t wait for it to be over.” Jo Ann Allen Boyce and 11 other students desegregated their high school in Clinton, Tennessee. Then the riots came. Sonnie Hereford IV desegregated Alabama’s public schools in 1963. He was only 6 years old. Millicent Brown changed Charleston, then watched it stay the same. Frederick K. Brewington’s education came at the end of a bitter civil-rights battle that engulfed New York state, more than a decade after the Court’s Brown v. Board decision.
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The Undoing of a Tennessee Town
Editor’s Note: This is the second story in The Firsts, a five-part series about the children who desegregated America’s schools.The dress Jo Ann Allen Boyce had picked out for her first day of school, August 27, 1956, was beautiful: a black top and matching skirt with a pattern around the hem. Her grandmother had made it. In fact, her grandmother, a brilliant seamstress, had made Jo Ann an entire wardrobe of clothes for that first week.Jo Ann had given herself bangs and wore her long hair down. “For some reason I thought that was a really cute hairdo,” she told me recently. She got ready and headed out the door. At Green McAdoo Elementary School, just down the road from her home in Clinton, Tennessee, she met up with nine other Black classmates, their pastor, and family members to pray.For the two years before that late-summer Monday, her morning routine had been different. She typically rose with the sun, got dressed—in whatever felt right—and walked to catch a bus that would take her a little more than 20 miles east, first to Vine Junior High and then on to Austin High School, both in Knoxville. The bus ride usually took an hour. She felt relieved that morning because her commute was shorter, just a brief walk from her house. But her relief was temporary. It was the first day of the new reality in Clinton’s public schools—in all of Tennessee’s public schools, for that matter. That day, 12 students—Jo Ann, Bobby Cain, Anna Theresser Caswell, Minnie Ann Dickey, Gail Ann Epps, Ronald Gordon Hayden, William Latham, Alvah Jay McSwain, Maurice Soles, Robert Thacker, Regina Turner, and Alfred Williams—would be the first Black students in Tennessee to attend a desegregated state-supported high school.The prayer steeled the students, who had been preparing for that moment all summer. They had heard about how poorly integration had gone elsewhere—about the mobs, the slurs hurled at Black students, the violence. But this was Clinton. “Nothing bad had ever happened to us here,” Boyce said. She doesn’t remember having to step off the sidewalk when white people passed by, as was common in other southern towns. But segregation had still been the law. “We couldn’t sit at the counter or go to restaurants; we went to the back of the bus; we had our own bathrooms—our own water fountains clearly marked colored only.” Segregation in public schools was now illegal, though, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and she expected the white citizens of Clinton to at least respect the law.While the Black students had been preparing to enroll, the leadership at the high school had been preparing white students for integration. At the end of the spring semester, administrators gathered white students in the auditorium and explained how they were to behave when their Black classmates arrived. It was a crash course in civility, if not tolerance.As Boyce and her classmates departed from Green McAdoo and descended down the hill, they didn’t see much. “There weren’t too many people,” she said. The crowd consisted largely of white high-school students angling to get a better look at the Black students. She remembers three very young boys who held signs, however. we won’t go to school with negroes, the placards read.Still, aside from the signs, the first day went well. The Black students felt fairly safe. There was only one Black student per classroom, which meant that Boyce and her best friend, Gail, were not together, but the teachers were welcoming. “They were interested in teaching their classes,” she said. “They were not going to allow any outside agitation or whatever to enter the classroom. So if a loud noise came from outside, if someone yelled, they would get up and close the windows.”This congeniality extended to Boyce’s election as vice president of her homeroom class. She had run against a member of the football team. “It’s just that Jo Ann is so pretty and smart and has such a wonderful personality,” Carol Peters, a classmate and the president of the Future Homemakers of America Club, told The New York Times at the time. But the calm faded. The teachers, Jo Ann said, wanted to keep order, but as the days went by, they realized that there was only so much they could do.On September 7, 1956, Boyce (pictured in the black top and patterned skirt) and five other Black students walked in front of Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, while a crowd of white onlookers gathered in front. They’d just desegegated the school on August 27, and though things seemed to go well at first, the calm quickly faded. (Gene Herrick / AP)Boyce’s family members were not strangers to the Jim Crow South. Her father, Herbert, was born in Luverne, Alabama, a timbering town in the southeastern part of the state. He left Alabama for Clinton—six hours from Luverne as the crow flies—when he was in his 20s and looking for work. Her mother, Alice Josephine, was from nearby Oliver Springs, Tennessee, where Jo Ann’s grandfather was a farmer and a lumberjack. On September 15, 1941—one year after a Black man was lynched in Luverne—Jo Ann was born in Clinton.She was not able to go to public pools or skating rinks growing up. But the small town did have a school that Black students could attend: Green McAdoo. One teacher taught first through fourth graders together as a group. Another teacher—typically the principal—taught fifth through eighth graders. The textbooks were old, hand-me-downs from the white elementary school down the road. They were “clearly marked ‘obsolete.’ They were stamped,” Boyce told me. What they lacked in resources, however, the teachers made up for in dedication. Her first teacher, she said, “really wanted us to learn. She was insistent that we learn how to write well and read well, that we understood math and science.” But as fourth grade turned into fifth, and the Black students became more “rowdy,” learning became more difficult. “But if you were interested in learning, you did okay. I did okay.”Education for Black students in the town ended in eighth grade, and if parents wanted their children to attend high school they had to pay for transportation to send them outside of Clinton. Even though Boyce had friends who had continued on at school in Knoxville, 20 miles away, she still felt anxious about leaving home. “I felt like a country bumpkin in a city school,” she laughed. She went to the all-Black Vine Junior High School for ninth grade, but she never quite felt comfortable. It began with the ride, which “was uncomfortable,” she said. “Hot during the summer. Very cold during the winter.” Then there were her new classmates.She had a hard time making friends. After all, one year is a short adjustment period after having been in the same school for eight years, and the hour-long drive each way meant that there was no room for extracurriculars at school. “I remember there were things I wanted to join that I would have had to be involved in after school and I couldn’t.” Both of her parents worked, and neither of them could pick her up.That transportation issue became too much for some Black families. With 12 children, including triplets who would soon start school, one family, the McSwains, had had enough. They would ultimately have to pay to send all of their children to school in Knoxville. They had already sent two of their children to Austin High School, and it had been expensive.Meanwhile, Clinton High School—the white school—was a short walk away. Two other Black families with several children, the Dickies and the Willises, joined the suit. Together, they sued the county board of education, arguing that it was the county’s responsibility to at least provide a separate and equal facility for the Black students. Having to go to Knoxville every day was an injustice, and it needed to be addressed. In 1950, the families took their case to court, and in 1952 it landed before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, where Judge Robert Taylor presided over the case.Taylor didn’t buy the families’ argument. Tennessee was trying its hardest to educate both Black and white students, he wrote in his lengthy opinion. He disregarded the outdated books, the overstuffed classes, the lack of instructors. “The riding of a bus by the student plaintiffs is a small contribution upon their part and that of their parents toward the success of this effort, too small to be regarded as a denial of constitutional rights,” he wrote in his decision on April 26, 1952.Then came Brown v. Board of Education. Separate was not equal, and schools needed to integrate with all deliberate speed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed Taylor’s decision and sent the case back to him. The country’s position on segregation had changed, and his jurisprudence would need to change as well. He ruled that the school needed to integrate. Clinton High School was required to enroll Black students who wanted to attend. And it needed to be done as early as 1956.Boyce and her classmates took placement exams, and every one of the 12 Black students who would attend Clinton High the following year placed in his or her appropriate class. The group included a pair of seniors; Boyce and her friend Gail, who were juniors; and a handful of sophomores and freshmen. They began preparing mentally. That fall, they would desegregate the public schools in Tennessee.Boyce, who became a pediatric nurse and worked in hospitals for 30 years, still talks to anyone who will listen about the experience of the Clinton 12. (Bethany Mollenkoff)The post-integration calm in Clinton was brief. If the first day was fairly calm, the subsequent days were a steady escalation of violence. Boyce first felt things changing when she opened her locker on the second day and saw that her books had been torn. The vandals had left a note inside the cabinet: “Go home Nigger.”On her first day, Boyce had worn her hair long, proud. But after that, white students would walk up behind her in the halls and yank it. “You would never know who it was,” she said. “They would make plenty of space by the time you had recovered and turned around.” On the third day of that first week, the ruckus outside the school grew. Inside, students would step on the back of the Black students’ heels. Gail remembers her heels being stepped on until they bled.John Kasper, a 26-year-old segregationist and Ku Klux Klan member, had also started organizing in town. The walk to school became treacherous for the Black students as the mob threw rocks, bottles, sticks, and rotten tomatoes and eggs at them. “It felt like you were being squeezed” walking into the building, Boyce said. “They weren’t that close, but it felt that way, like you were being smothered by these rows of people on the side of the road.” Students put tacks on the chairs. The slurs piled up: Pickaninny. Coon. Jungle bunny. Kasper had been calling white families to tell them they shouldn’t want their kids to go to school with Black people, because that would lead to interracial marriage. Leading up to Labor Day, Kasper incited nearly 3,000 people to protest integration in Clinton. The mob became unwieldy, and a group of local volunteers organized to keep the peace. “A volunteer citizens’ police unit dispersed a jeering, taunting crowd on Clinton’s courthouse lawn tonight with six tear gas bombs,” a front-page story of The New York Times read on September 2. For his role in agitating the group, Kasper was sentenced to a year in prison.Clockwise from top left: A mob of anti-integrationists gathered in Clinton after the desegregation of the schools. It was the second night that the mob gathered in the city; tear gas had to be fired in order to disperse the crowd, and many cars with Black people in them were attacked. (AP); Three students at Clinton High School picketed their school on August 27, 1956, as it became the first state-supported high school in Tennessee to desegregate. (AP); The National Guard in Clinton on Sept. 2, 1956. (H.B. Littell / AP)The governor sent in troops to keep the peace—not just for the security of the Black students, but for the town’s sake, as well. Following Kasper’s arrest, Asa Earl Carter, the head of the North Alabama Citizens’ Council, arrived in Clinton and “delivered a speech attacking integration,” the Times reported. “After the speech a mob began stopping cars on the highway, ripping out ornaments and smashing the windows.” Roughly 200 men organized to march toward the mayor’s home before the sheriff stopped them.For the Clinton 12, as the group would come to be known, the first week was a wake-up call. “Now we know,” Boyce remembered thinking. “Now we know they aren’t going to accept this the way we thought.” Some white students began withdrawing from school. The friendly smiles in the hallway stopped. White students moved their desks away from Black students. Still, Boyce never considered going back to Austin High School. “I didn’t like that bus ride, to tell you the truth,” she told me, laughing. “I liked the fact that I could wake up a little later and walk down the hill and go to school.”By November, after months of intimidation, several members of the Clinton 12 had stopped attending school. Someone had set off an explosion outside of Alvah McSwain’s home. Someone had fired bullets at Alfred Williams’s house. But in early December, thanks to coaxing by Paul Turner, a local white minister who vowed to protect them, the students decided to return to school. The minister had not been at the forefront of the fight for integration. He had taken to using his pulpit to preach peaceful integration, but he was not prone to marching. However, now he felt that it was his duty to do more. The riots had gotten out of hand, and he figured if a man of the cloth was helping the students get to school, he could stave off some of the animosity toward them. “He thought it was important that we return to the school,” Boyce, who was among those who briefly stopped attending, told me.On December 4, 1956, Turner escorted the 10 students who remained at Clinton—two had left in September and weren’t coming back—to school. On his way home, he was severely beaten by white supremacists, who bounced his head against the fender of a car and broke his nose. That Sunday, however, he was back in the pulpit, wearing a brown suit with a white carnation on his lapel, his nose still swollen and his eye black. His message: “There is no color line around the cross of Jesus.”A student tries to enter school in Clinton, Tennessee, amidst jeers from the students surrounding him. (Photo 12 / Universal Images Group / Getty)The school was closed for the next several days, and when it reopened on December 9, only nine Black students returned. Boyce was not among them. Her parents felt that enough was enough, and her mother decided to move the family to California. “I was surprised that she wanted us to get out of there and leave and go thousands of miles away, because right next door was her mother and her sister and her brothers,” Boyce said. But fear for her daughter—and her family’s safety—had pushed her over the edge. “It wasn’t going to get much better,” Boyce told me.The family moved to Los Angeles, where Boyce attended Susan Miller Dorsey High School. It was desegregated, she said, “but it wasn’t integrated.” Black students, white students, and Asian students all kept to their own groups, segregated patches in the integrated space.Back in Clinton, other students left over time. Bobby Cain graduated in 1957, and Gail graduated in 1958. But they are the only two of the original 12 that finished school at Clinton High. The school was bombed the next year, on October 5, 1958, and three explosions reduced the building to rubble. No one was injured, nor was anyone ever arrested. The FBI dropped its investigation when two of the primary suspects died. (Local citizens eventually rebuilt the school.)There are glancingly few Black students in Clinton’s public schools now, and Black students make up just 1 percent of the entire district.Boyce stayed in Los Angeles. She became a pediatric nurse, working in hospitals for 30 years, and sang jazz in a cabaret theater. She married and had children, and her children had children. And she still speaks with anyone who will listen about the experience of the Clinton 12, because it’s easy to forget how hard progress is to win, and the courage it takes along the way.
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Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters
One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.”“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.The president’s alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. “My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the Supreme Court.But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.[Read: The Christians who loved Trump’s church stunt]Reached for comment, a White House spokesman said that “people of faith know that President Trump is a champion for religious liberty and the sanctity of life, and he has taken strong actions to support them and protect their freedom to worship. The president is also well known for joking and his terrific sense of humor, which he shares with people of all faiths.”From the outset of his brief political career, Trump has viewed right-wing evangelical leaders as a kind of special-interest group to be schmoozed, conned, or bought off, former aides told me. Though he faced Republican primary opponents in 2016 with deeper religious roots—Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee—Trump was confident that his wealth and celebrity would attract high-profile Christian surrogates to vouch for him.“His view was ‘I’ve been talking to these people for years; I’ve let them stay at my hotels—they’re gonna endorse me. I played the game,’” said a former campaign adviser to Trump, who, like others quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.It helped that Trump seemed to feel a kinship with prosperity preachers—often evincing a game-recognizes-game appreciation for their hustle. The former campaign adviser recalled showing his boss a YouTube video of the Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn performing “faith healings,” while Trump laughed at the spectacle and muttered, “Man, that’s some racket.” On another occasion, the adviser told me, Trump expressed awe at Joel Osteen’s media empire—particularly the viewership of his televised sermons.In Cohen’s recent memoir, Disloyal, he recounts Trump returning from his 2011 meeting with the pastors who laid hands on him and sneering, “Can you believe that bullshit?” But if Trump found their rituals ridiculous, he followed their moneymaking ventures closely. “He was completely familiar with the business dealings of the leadership in many prosperity-gospel churches,” the adviser told me.The conservative Christian elites Trump surrounds himself with have always been more clear-eyed about his lack of religiosity than they’ve publicly let on. In a September 2016 meeting with about a dozen influential figures on the religious right—including the talk-radio host Eric Metaxas, the Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, and the theologian Wayne Grudem—the then-candidate was blunt about his relationship to Christianity. In a recording of the meeting obtained by The Atlantic, the candidate can be heard shrugging off his scriptural ignorance (“I don’t know the Bible as well as some of the other people”) and joking about his inexperience with prayer (“The first time I met [Mike Pence], he said, ‘Will you bow your head and pray?’ and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I’m not used to it.”) At one point in the meeting, Trump interrupted a discussion about religious freedom to complain about Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and brag about the taunting nickname he’d devised for him. “I call him Little Ben Sasse,” Trump said. “I have to do it, I’m sorry. That’s when my religion always deserts me.”And yet, by the end of the meeting—much of which was spent discussing the urgency of preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms—the candidate had the group eating out of his hand. “I’m not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class. That’s not what he’s running for,” Jeffress said in the meeting, adding, “I believe it is imperative … that we do everything we can to turn people out.”The Faustian nature of the religious right’s bargain with Trump has not always been quite so apparent to rank-and-file believers. According to the Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are more than twice as likely as the average American to say that the president is a religious man. Some conservative pastors have described him as a “baby Christian,” and insist that he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior.To those who have known and worked with Trump closely, the notion that he might have a secret spiritual side is laughable. “I always assumed he was an atheist,” Barbara Res, a former executive at the Trump Organization, told me. “He’s not a religious guy,” A. J. Delgado, who worked on his 2016 campaign, told me. “Whenever I see a picture of him standing in a group of pastors, all of their hands on him, I see a thought bubble [with] the words ‘What suckers,’” Mary Trump, the president’s niece, told me.Greg Thornbury, a former president of the evangelical King’s College, who was courted by the campaign in 2016, told me that even those who acknowledge Trump’s lack of personal piety are convinced that he holds their faith in high esteem. “I don’t think for a moment that they would believe he’s cynical about them,” Thornbury said.[Read: God’s plan for Mike Pence]Trump’s public appeals to Jewish voters have been similarly discordant with his private comments. Last week, The Washington Post reported that after calls with Jewish lawmakers, the president has said that Jews “are only in it for themselves.” And while he is quick to tout his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism when he’s speaking to Jewish audiences, he is sometimes less effusive in private. Cohen told me that once, years ago, he was with Trump when his wife, Melania, informed him that their son was at a playdate with a Jewish girl from his school. “Great,” Trump said to Cohen, who is Jewish. “I’m going to lose another one of my kids to your people.”One religious group that the Trump campaign is keenly fixated on this year is Mormons. In 2016, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejected the Republican ticket in unprecedented numbers. To win them over in 2020, the campaign has made Donald Trump Jr. its envoy, sending him to campaign in Utah and other Mormon-heavy states. The president’s son has cultivated relationships with high-profile conservatives in the faith. Earlier this year, he invoked Mormon pioneers in a call with reporters to describe his father’s “innovative spirit.” In fact, according to two senior Utah Republicans with knowledge of the situation, Don Jr. has been so savvy in courting Latter-day Saints—expressing interest in the Church’s history, reading from the Book of Mormon—that he’s left some influential Republicans in the state with the impression that he may want to convert. (A spokesman for Don Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.)I’ve been curious about the president’s opinion of Mormonism ever since I interviewed him in 2014 at Mar-a-Lago. During our conversation, Trump began to strenuously argue that Mitt Romney’s exotic faith had cost him the 2012 election. When I interrupted to inform him that I’m also a Mormon, he quickly changed tack—extolling my Church’s many virtues, and then switching subjects. (He remained committed to his theory about 2012: During his September 2016 meeting with evangelical leaders, Trump repeatedly asserted that “Christians” didn’t turn out for Romney “because of the Mormon thing.”) I’ve always wondered what Trump might have said if I hadn’t cut him off.When I shared this story with Cohen, he laughed. Trump, he said, frequently made fun of Romney’s faith in private—and was especially vicious when he learned about the religious undergarments worn by many Latter-day Saints. “Oh my god,” Cohen said. “How many times did he bring up Mitt Romney and the undergarments …”
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Amazon wants shoppers at its stores — and those of other retailers — to pay by palm with Amazon One. | Amazon And, it hopes, other retailers’ stores in the future. Amazon accounts for nearly 40 percent of e-commerce sales in the US today, and it takes a cut of even more online shopping by selling payments services and other technologies to external shopping sites. Now, the online retail giant is making a play to grab a piece of brick-and-mortar shopping, too — and it wants customers to literally lend a hand to do it. Amazon on Tuesday is unveiling a new biometric technology called Amazon One that allows shoppers to pay at stores by placing their palm over a scanning device when they walk in the door or when they check out. The first time they register to use this tech, a customer will scan their palm and insert their payment card at a terminal; after that, they can simply pay with their hand. The hand-scanning tech isn’t just for Amazon’s own stores — the company hopes to sell it to other retailers, including competitors, too. The technology will be available at the entrance of two of the company’s Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores in Seattle starting Tuesday, and will roll out to the rest of the chain’s 20-plus stores in the future, Amazon Vice President Dilip Kumar told Recode in an interview Monday. Recode reported in December that Amazon had filed a patent application for such a hand-payment technology. The technology could also show up in Whole Foods stores, with Amazon hinting in a press release that it will introduce palm payments in the coming months inside its other stores beyond just Amazon Go locations. Kumar wouldn’t comment on a potential Whole Foods implementation, though the New York Post reported a year ago that such a plan was in the works. But the Amazon executive did make it clear that the company expects to sell the technology to other retailers, like it began doing earlier this year with its “Just Walk Out” technology, which is the cocktail of cameras, sensors, and computer vision software that powers Amazon Go stores. Kumar said the Amazon One pitch to other retailers is straightforward: Reduce friction for your customers at checkout, shortening lines and increasing how many shoppers you can serve along the way. Amazon’s plan to license these two homegrown technologies to other retailers, whether competitor or not, is the real story: Amazon isn’t satisfied with e-commerce dominance, and wants to earn a cut of more transactions in the physical retail world, too, where 80-something percent of commerce still takes place in the US. So it’s building out a futuristic suite of services to court other retailers, while showcasing the technology in its own stores as case studies. One obvious question is whether retailers, many of which consider Amazon a competitor of one sort or another, will want to do business with the tech giant. Kumar pointed to Amazon Web Services, the company’s $40 billion division that leases computing power, data storage, and myriad software capabilities to internet companies big and small, as an example of an Amazon offering that attracts competitors. Amazon will collect data on where Amazon One customers shop when they use the payment option, but it will not know what shoppers purchase or how much they spend inside third-party retail stores. Either way, an Amazon spokesperson said the company has “no plans to use transaction information from third party locations for Amazon advertising or other purposes,” and shoppers can sign up for the service without linking it to an Amazon customer account if they choose. Another obvious question is whether enough people will be willing to hand over scans of their hands to Amazon in order to save a bit of time at checkout. It’s true that a no-touch payment method might be more attractive today, during the pandemic, than even a year ago. But new payment methods often face steep adoption challenges, and that’s even when biometrics aren’t involved. Biometric tracking poses a host of privacy concerns, including the potential of targeted hacking or a mass data breach. Kumar, the Amazon executive, said the more locations where Amazon can introduce the technology, the more valuable customers will find it and be willing to give it a try. That’s why the company plans to pitch other use cases beyond payments, and Kumar said Amazon is discussing with potential partners the idea of linking palm scans with building IDs to replace office ID cards, or to event tickets for stadiums or arenas — two settings that don’t sound especially appealing during the global health crisis, but may once again in the future when gathering in a crowd won’t pose serious health risks. The executive added that Amazon chose palm scans over other biometric options for a few reasons. One, he said, is that it’s not easy for a bad actor to identify a person by simply viewing an image of their hand, if that material ever leaked. Another is the uniqueness of each person’s hand. “Even identical twins have many differences in their palm structure,” he said. A spokesperson added that the images are encrypted when scanned, and then “sent to a highly secure area we custom-built in the cloud for analysis and storage.” To some, the upside still won’t be worth it. “How lazy are people that they will hand over their handprints so they don’t have to take out their wallet?” my wife asked when I mentioned the new technology to her in an embargoed dinner-table discussion. But Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint-scanning tech and its Face ID face-scanning tech seemed a little crazy at first too — until they weren’t. And if enough customers trust Amazon with the tradeoff, physical retailers will face an interesting dilemma: chase the future by aligning with the most powerful tech company in retail, or stick to the present and hope your customers don't stray as a result.
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