Jeff Bezos does a whole lot more than just Amazon

You know Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos as the guy who runs a global marketplace that’s shaken up the world of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

But Bezos actually has a huge business portfolio that spans everything from space to social media.

Some of these businesses have helped make him one of the richest men in the world with a fortune estimated at nearly $60 billion. Others have cost him money. Below are a few of the other items that Jeff Bezos currently has in his shopping cart.

Rocket ships

In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, a private space flight company that hopes to bring space tourists into outer space. He plans to make these flights affordable by reusing the rocket that will carry tourists to space. Blue Origin did its first test flight in 2006. On Monday, the company successfully launched a rocket to the edge of outer space and landed it upright on a landing pad, which is a first for the growing space industry.

bezos rocket

The 10,000-year clock

This is more of a gesture than a business. Bezos is the major financial sponsor of a clock that’s designed to tick once a year, and to have a century hand that moves every 100 years. It is being built inside a mountain in Texas, and can only be reached by climbing 2,000 feet high on foot. Bezos says it’s meant to be an “icon for long-term thinking” needed to solve civilization’s problems.

bezos clock

Cloud services

Even if you never buy a book or anything else from Amazon (AMZN, Tech30), it’s very likely you are using the company’s cloud services without knowing it. Netflix (NFLX, Tech30) uses Amazon’s cloud to stream billions of hours of shows, even though it competes with Amazon’s own streaming video service. Many companies have moved their data storage and software programs to Amazon’s servers. It even counts the CIA as a customer. Amazon’s cloud services division brings in more than $7 billion a year in revenue.

amazon cloud drive

The Washington Post

As print media was struggling, Bezos purchased the Washington Post for $250 million in August of 2013. He bought the iconic paper as an individual, not through Amazon, and pledged to support its critical role in Washington, D.C. and the nation. “Our duty to readers will continue to be the heart of the Post,” Bezos said at the time.

It had previously been part of a publicly-traded company whose investors included Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA)‘s Warren Buffett.

the washington post exterior

Uber, Airbnb and other investments

Bezos was an early investor in several other business that are disrupting other industries. He backed the online ride service Uber, as well as the short-term rental firm Airbnb. He also invested in Twitter (TWTR, Tech30), but ironically he only tweeted for the first time on Tuesday morning, when he announced the success of his Blue Origin test flight.


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Volkswagen emissions scandal: German officials open tax probe

German prosecutors have launched another investigation into Volkswagen — this one about possible tax issues stemming from the emissions scandal.

Volkswagen has admitted to rigging emissions tests in the United States and Europe.

The cheating led to lower carbon dioxide readings, and therefore lower tax bills for the owners of the cars. In Germany, vehicles that pollute more are charged higher taxes.

“Because of the false emission statements, the vehicles were wrongly taxed at reduced rate,” said Birgit Seel, a spokeswoman for the state prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig, a city near Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg.

In a statement, Volkswagen said Tuesday that it is “cooperating with the authorities” working on the investigation.

Related: Volkswagen scandal in two minutes

The tax probe is centered around five Volkswagen employees. The five were not named, but Seel said they have been “accused of being responsible for falsifying information with respect to the carbon dioxide emissions.”

On Monday, Volkswagen admitted that more Audi models are involved in the scandal than first thought.

Volkswagen has already started to cut back on investments in order to build up a war chest to pay for the growing scandal. It has already set aside some 8.7 billion euro ($9 billion) to deal with the scandal.

Related: Volkswagen gives owners $500 amid scandal

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Disney discriminated against US workers, complaint states

walt disney logo

More than two dozen American workers are poised to sue the Walt Disney Company, their former employer, claiming that they were discriminated against based on national origin.

At least 27 former Disney (DIS) IT employees filed Title VII discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after losing their jobs to overseas workers. The dismissed workers were employed at Disney facilities in Orlando, Florida.

Their replacements were brought over with H-1B visas, mostly from India, and former workers are citing their American citizenship and age as the basis for their dismissal.

The former Disney workers also had to train their replacements, prompting attorney Sara Blackwell to add allegations of hostile work conditions to the filing.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The employees, who were terminated on January 30, have until Thursday to file complaints with the federal EEOC. Once complaints are filed, the EEOC will investigate and determine whether discrimination occurred.

The EEOC filings and subsequent investigation are the first steps before a lawsuit can be brought against Disney. Blackwell said she plans to file a class action suit, but said each employee can decide whether to file separately.

The EEOC can also file a suit of its own based on the results of its investigation.

Related: Disney CEO is ‘bullish’ about ESPN

Blackwell said Disney is one of several companies that have utilized H-1B and other work visas to replace American employees with foreign workers. Some of these companies also encourage employees to train their replacements. In the case of Disney, Blackwell said employees were offered bonuses as incentives to train the new workers.

Blackwell, who founded the organization Protect U.S. Workers, said the case isn’t about immigration but rather discrimination.

She noted that the employees who are brought from overseas are subjected to harsh working conditions and are treated and paid poorly.

“The only beneficiaries are the corporations,” Blackwell said.

Many of the former Disney employees are also filing complaints within Florida, saying that the state’s anti-discrimination laws were violated. The deadline to file a state claim is January 30 of next year.

Related: ESPN laying off several hundred people

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Blackphone vows to keep its ultra-private phone out of terrorists’ hands

The Blackphone was designed to keep hackers and spies from snooping on your personal data. Now ISIS may be interested in it too.

Running a special version of Android, the Blackphone allows users to stop apps from tracking them. The device is built by encryption technology company Silent Circle, and it also comes with software that encodes text messages and calls.

Last year, a cybersecurity company in Kuwait called Cyberkov recommended the Blackphone in a manual for activists and reporters looking to protect their communications from prying eyes.

Cyberkov explained that the Blackphone “is well maintained, updated and comes bundled with secure call/chat apps.”

The manual has since been uploaded to, an anonymous file sharing site, and shared widely on ISIS forums and Twitter, according to Dr. Aaron Brantly, a cyber fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

“[We] then make the valid claim that this is used as an ISIS training document for digital operational security,” he told CNNMoney in an email.

In response to these reports, Silent Circle says it’s now taking extra precautions to ensure that its encryption technology and smartphone don’t end up in the wrong hands.

Some of these tactics include being “more aggressive” about detecting stolen credit card information, fake addresses and other data points that signal potential black market activity for the Blackphone, according to an AFP report.

“We provide secure communications — not anonymity — and we will not tolerate bad actors using our service,” CEO and president Bill Conner said in a separate blog post. “As a paid subscription service, we require from anyone seeking to use our service basic financial information that helps us to vet who we sell our services to.”

The Blackphone has been such a success that Silent Circle released a second generation model earlier this year that costs $800.

But the device wasn’t the only one mentioned in the Cyberkov manual. CryptoPhone was another.

“German CryptoPhone devices can be used to encrypt calls and communications at the device and network levels,” Cyberkov’s translation of its manual reads. “The only caveat is that both of the communicating parties need to use a CryptoPhone.”

GSMK, the maker of CryptoPhone, says that it’s “highly unlikely” its phones are being used by ISIS, citing its adherence to German and European export laws.

“In addition, GSMK maintains a frequently reviewed list of conflict zones to which according to our company policy our products are not shipped to,” a company spokesman told CNNMoney in an email.

Cyberkov has been trying to distance itself from being associated with ISIS’ technology as well.

“We definitely do not wish to see our guide being abused by malicious entities,” CEO Abdullah AlAli told CNNMoney in an email. “However the information included in the manual is publicly available and can be discovered independently by others.”

The document that refers to the Blackphone and CryptoPhone is just one of hundreds of posts that help ISIS train new members on digital communication.

– CNNMoney’s Jose Pagliery and Erica Fink contributed to this report.

Related: There’s now a super-private Blackphone 2

Related: This messaging app is shutting down 78 ISIS channels

Related: How the NSA can ‘turn on’ your phone remotely

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Giant Chinese brokerage can’t find its CEO

The Hong Kong subsidiary of one of China’s largest brokerages said Monday that it can’t find its CEO, sending shares of the company tumbling.

Guotai Junan International has been unable to reach its top executive, Yim Fung, since Nov. 18, according to a stock exchange filing. The company’s board has appointed Wong Tung Ching, currently deputy CEO, to take the reins until further notice.

Despite the strange case of its missing CEO, Guotai Junan has said that “the current operations of the company are normal and stable.”

On Monday, the company’s shares in Hong Kong plunged 12%. By Tuesday, they had recovered a bit, rising in morning trading. The subsidiary’s parent, a state-owned securities firm listed in Shanghai, fell early Tuesday by around 2%.

Related: The president of China’s biggest brokerage is under investigation

It’s unclear why Yim has gone missing. But his disappearance comes as many industry executives and senior government officials are being detained by Chinese authorities in a widening insider trading probe following major market turmoil that hit stocks this year.

Yao Gang, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, is currently being investigated, state media reported earlier this month. He also served as general manager at Guotai Junan from 1999 to 2002, according to the CSRC website.

Just a few weeks ago, Zhang Xun, the president of the Agricultural Bank of China — ranked as the world’s third-largest bank — was detained. Well-known fund manager Xu Xiang was also recently arrested and is being investigated.

These are just the latest high-profile individuals linked to the insider trading crackdown.

Hundreds of people have already been arrested for alleged rumor-mongering that caused massive market swings, including prominent journalists, officials with China’s securities regulator and even executives at Citic Securities, a top Chinese investment bank.

Related: Hundreds arrested as Beijing launches stock market crackdown

Related: Top China banker implicated in corruption probe

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I’m no ‘anchor baby,’ I’m Yanely Gonzalez and I’m going to vote

yanely community event fun
Yanely Gonzalez, 17, (left) is going to be a first-time voter in 2016.

Yanely Gonzalez is counting the days until her 18th birthday.

The big day falls just weeks before the 2016 election next November, meaning that she’ll be able to vote for the next president of the United States.

And this U.S.-born daughter of undocumented immigrants from Mexico knows exactly what she will be looking for in a candidate: Someone that will help her family come out from the shadows.

“I can’t wait to vote… I believe that I’m voting for my family and that my vote will make a difference,” she said.

Gonzalez’s parents have been in the United States since they were teenagers. They met here, married here and and are raising a family here, but they can’t legally work, travel abroad or drive a car.

Gonzalez says she and her six younger brothers and sisters live in constant fear that their parents will be deported and that the family will be separated.

yanely by herself
Gonzalez spends a lot of her free time encouraging other people in her community to register to vote.

Her father, now 40, came to the U.S. at age 19 on tour with a band that played Norteña music — a polka-influenced style of music from northern Mexico that is popular on both sides of the border. He decided to stay in the country and seek a better life.

Gonzalez’s mom was brought to the U.S. at age 14 by her own mother, who brought her in tow when she was seeking better opportunities North of the border. Now, 35, she stays home to take care of the children.

“Because [my parents] don’t have papers they don’t feel like they’re part of the U.S.,” Gonzalez said. “But I feel like they are [part of the U.S.] because they contribute and because they were raised here and they raised us here.”

Related: I’m no ‘anchor baby,’ I’m Jim Melo — an Ivy League-educated lawyer

Gonzalez says her parents are among the millions of undocumented immigrants that qualify for protection from deportation under President Obama’s executive action, which was proposed in November 2014. Under the proposed law, undocumented people who have continuously lived in the U.S. since 2010 and pass a background check would qualify. If enacted, they could obtain driver’s licenses and legal work status, as well as give them a path to citizenship.

“It would help to bring steady jobs to my family,” she said.

But the executive action was put on hold after the state of Texas sued the U.S. government claiming that the proposed revisions to the immigration system were unconstitutional. The judge ruled in favor of Texas, thereby blocking the executive action from being implemented. The U.S. government appealed, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The government is now petitioning the Supreme Court to review the case.

yanely community event
Gonzalez (left) with other “Mi Familia Vota” volunteers at a voter drive in Denver.

Gonzalez is making sure that when she steps into the voting booth a year from now, her single ballot is going to count for a lot more. She’s been volunteering with a local organization “Mi Familia Vota,” for over a year to register people to vote in her community.

“My friends just need a little more information,” she said. “I know some of them are going to vote and want to vote. Others need a little push.”

Related: I’m no ‘anchor baby,’ I’m Michele Cantos — and I’m giving back

She’s also testified before the Denver school board about immigration issues and has supported local laws that are supportive of immigrants. She educates the community about their rights, seeks signatures for petitions and registers people to vote. She’s even spoken to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s staff to request that Colorado join states like California in support of President Obama’s executive action.

yanely gonzalez with dog
Gonzalez loves animals and is currently an intern at a veterinarian’s office in Denver.

When Gonzalez isn’t volunteering with the voter drive, she is doing school work or at her internship in a veterinary office.

“I love animals and I’ll be studying to be a veterinarian. I was looking at Colorado State University,” she said. “Since I was a little kid I’ve always been passionate about animals, and now I think that I should tackle this as a career.”

Gonzalez is currently applying for scholarships to pay for college, but her efforts in the community won’t stop.

As for her upcoming vote, she says she’ll cast her ballot for candidates who are for comprehensive immigration reform.

“I will remember the people who spoke about Latinos in a racist and hateful way,” she said. “Our country was founded on the principles of justice and equality.”

Related: I’m no ‘anchor baby,’ I’m Noe Paramo – a future doctor

Related: This former FBI spy hunter fled Cuba at age 9

Related: How one Mexican company keeps its workers from crossing the border

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Google could be your next mortgage broker

google mortgage

Shopping for a mortgage? Google is now a licensed mortgage broker.

The tech giant launched Google Compare for mortgages on Monday that will allow potential home buyers to find and compare home loans.

When looking to buy a home, experts recommend shopping around to find the best mortgage terms. With Google Compare, users will be able to enter personal information, including property value, down payment size and approximate credit score to get tailored results. The results will also show lenders’ ratings and reviews.

Homeowners can also use the tool to refinance their mortgages.

The product is currently only available in California, but the company plans to expand into other states.

Related: How to buy a home without a 20% down payment

Google is registered as a licensed mortgage broker. Though the company won’t be financing mortgages, it will aggregate quotes from local and national lenders it has partnered with, including Zillow (Z) and Lending Tree (TREE), in order to help users find the best mortgage.

Google (GOOG) acknowledged that lender participation is based on a flexible cost-per-lead model, which means the company is paid by the mortgage lenders.

The mortgage comparison tool adds to Google Compare’s offerings, which also allow users to shop around for car insurance quotes and credit card offers.

Related: Not buying a home was my smartest financial move

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Why Hispanics can’t get NBC to apologize after Trump’s ‘SNL’ gig

NBC is facing pressure from Hispanic lawmakers to apologize for allowing Donald Trump to host “Saturday Night Live,” but the network appears unwilling to apologize for a problem that “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels created, CNNMoney has learned.

Michaels, one of the most powerful figures within NBCUniversal, decided to extend the invitation to Trump despite the fact that NBC had cut ties with him months earlier over remarks he made about Mexican immigrants.

That has complicated matters for NBC executives who are being called upon to apologize for a decision they did not make.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with NBCUniversal executives last Wednesday and voiced their frustrations with Trump’s appearance on the show. They noted that his remarks about Mexican immigrants — he has called them criminals, drug dealers and “rapists” — were derogatory and offensive. The lawmakers have also struggled to comprehend how NBC could host Trump when the network had severed their Miss USA and Miss Universe joint venture with him in the summer.

Related: Trump’s GOP rivals get ‘equal time’ on NBC

“The biggest issue for me is whether NBC Universal Comcast or NBC Entertainment Division plan on saying anything by way of an apology or simply an acknowledgment that putting someone on the air as host of a marquee NBC program who said Mexicans are rapists and drug-dealers was a mistake,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat from Illinois, said during the meeting.

But the executives at the meeting, who represented only NBC News and NBCUniversal, told the Hispanic lawmakers that the decision had been made by NBC Entertainment, and that they were therefore unable to address the matter.

“They passed the buck and said they couldn’t address it because it was entertainment, not news,” one source with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

The lawmakers now fear that NBC Entertainment won’t engage. They have even less faith that Michaels will respond, let alone apologize.

Related: Where’s Larry David? There’s $5,000 waiting for him

Rebecca Marks, a “Saturday Night Live” spokesperson and the executive vice president for NBCUniversal Television Group Publicity, did not respond to a request for comment.

For Michaels, the decision to have Trump host “SNL” was a no-brainer. Trump delivered 9.3 million viewers to the show, it’s largest audience in years.

But that turnout has only rubbed salt in the wounds of the Hispanic lawmakers.

In Wednesday’s meeting, Rep. Gutiérrez told the NBCUniversal and NBC News executives that “members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other members of Congress and Senators will find it hard to take anything you say about diversity and Hispanic representation seriously until this is addressed.”

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Trump’s GOP rivals get ‘equal time’ on NBC

trump snl still

NBC will give four Republican presidential candidates free advertising time next week to compensate them for the 12 minutes given to Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” an NBC spokesperson told CNNMoney.

John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, James Gilmore and Lindsey Graham will each be given 12-minutes-worth of advertising time on 18 NBC affiliate stations in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The ads will air during primetime hours on November 27 and 28, as well as during “Saturday Night Live” on November 28.

“In compliance with FCC regulations, NBC has come to an agreement…on each candidate’s equal time requests following Donald Trump’s appearance on SNL on Nov. 7,” Lauren Skowronski, the NBC spokesperson, said in a statement.

George Pataki, who also requested equal time, turned down NBC’s offer. A Pataki spokesperson said the campaign will continue to discuss the matter with NBC in coming days and is “hopeful to reach a swift resolution.”

Related: Trump’s ‘SNL’ gig prompts equal time bid by Pataki

NBC had reached out to the five campaigns last week with initial offers for “equal time,” which varied based on the campaigns’ requests. The Kasich and Huckabee campaigns had requested time on NBC’s national broadcast, whereas the Pataki and Graham campaigns sought time in early primary states (and, in Pataki’s case, New York). The other presidential candidates did not file a request for equal time.

The FCC’s “equal time” regulations state that presidential candidates are entitled to equal time for any appearance that does not qualify as a news event. The candidates are not necessarily entitled to the same platform.

Trump appeared on “Saturday Night Live” on Nov. 7 for a total of 12 minutes and 5 seconds. The episode drew 9.3 million viewers, SNL’s largest audience in years.

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