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Amazon employee reaction to HR programs Connections, Forte

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In conversations with CNBC, employees questioned the Connections program’s true anonymity and said they feared potential backlash if they give negative feedback about their jobs and managers.

“There’s just no way you’re going to answer it honestly without an absolute guarantee that it’s anonymous,” said one person at the company.

Two managers said the feedback from Connections help them running their teams. But one of them said some people have asked about potential “repercussions” for sharing critical feedback, while the other said he doesn’t put a lot of importance on the program in general.

Amazon seems to be trying to increase employee engagement with Connections.

In February, Amazon’s People Science team, which was previously known as “WW Operations Connections” and supports employees and managers in its operations group (including fulfillment centers), sent out its first pilot newsletter to raise awareness about the program.

In the email, obtained by CNBC, the team said it would hold a monthly webinar called ChimeIn, to give employees “the opportunity to dive deep into Connections and ask any questions you might have.”

In the newsletter, People Science is described as a team that “uses employee feedback, science, and technology to help leaders solve business problems.” According to people familiar with the team, People Science is part of the HR organization and closely analyzes Connections data.

In September, Amazon hired Krish Krishnan for the team. Krishnan previously spent over seven years at Microsoft, mostly as part of its artificial intelligence team. On LinkedIn, Krishnan once described his team as a group of researchers, data scientists, and machine learning experts trying to “understand the sentiment, provide actionable insight in real time, and enhance the work environment.”

One person involved with People Science said one of the team’s broader goals is to identify the best employees while reducing attrition. This person pointed out that many tech companies, most prominently Google, have “People Analytics” teams that help turn employee feedback and data into meaningful HR initiatives.

“You can quantify a lot of these things using data, and that’s exactly why you want to have a team like this,” this person said.

Still, some employees aren’t sure how meaningful the data from Connections is. Most managers give regular reviews of the data to their teams, but some say they haven’t been given detailed instructions on how to evaluate the data.

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Biden tells Netanyahu U.S. supports ceasefire as Israel, Hamas tensions escalate

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US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination in the East Room at the White House in Washington, DC on May 17, 2021.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden in a Monday afternoon call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for a ceasefire as fighting between Israel and Hamas enters a second week.

“The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The President welcomed efforts to address intercommunal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem, ” according to a White House readout of the call.

Biden also called on Israel to ensure the protection of innocent civilians amid the conflict.

“The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” the statement added. Biden also discussed engaging with other partners and allies in the region in order to help de-escalate tensions.

Violence intensified over the weekend, with Israel conducting an airstrike Sunday that leveled several homes in the Gaza Strip. The strike, the deadliest yet in the ongoing conflict, killed at least 42 people. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 rockets bombarded Israeli cities.

On Sunday, Netanyahu defended the punishing airstrike on Saturday that collapsed a 12-story building housing international media, citing intelligence that Hamas was using a portion of the building to plan terror attacks.

A member of the Palestinian civil defence walks amidst the rubble of a building in Gaza city which housed the Intaj Bank linked to the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip, on May 15, 2021.

Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images

Netanyahu said that the building’s occupants, which included the Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media agencies, were given an hour’s notice to evacuate before the strike.

“Here’s the intelligence we had,” Netanyahu told CBS Sunday program “Face the Nation.”

″[It’s] an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. So, it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” he explained.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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WarnerMedia-Discovery deal pressures ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal

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Shari Redstone, chairwoman of ViacomCBS and president of National Amusements, reacts as she celebrates her company’s merger at the Nasdaq Market site in New York, December 5, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

In the words of the great Tom Lehrer, “Who’s Next?

Now that AT&T has decided to separate WarnerMedia and merge with Discovery, the rest of the media world — particularly the smaller players — face new pressure to make their countermoves.

Even before this deal, it was clear that Lionsgate, MGM, Sony Pictures and AMC Networks were probably too small to compete in a streaming world where success depends on a massive store of content and global reach.

But ViacomCBS and Comcast‘s NBCUniversal are much bigger, and probably assumed they had some time — at least a year — to see how many subscribers signed up for their streaming offerings, Paramount+ and Peacock.

“Within the next two years, it’s going to be put up or shut up for all of us,” said David Zaslav, Discovery’s CEO who will take the top job at the combined company, in December. “Can you show you’re scaling? Are you going to be a player in the U.S.? Are you going to be a player around the world?”

Under pressure

That timeline is shorter now.

Suddenly, both ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal seem subscale as they attempt to put together global streaming services. They aren’t trying to be niche players, such as Starz or AMC+.

That means both will need more content to compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney and whatever the new name of WarnerMediaDiscovery will be.

The obvious move would be for ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal to merge. But a combined ViacomCBS/NBCUniversal would have two U.S. broadcast networks — CBS and NBC — housed under the same corporate roof. That won’t fly with U.S. regulators. While the parent companies could theoretically spin out or sell them, the broadcast networks provide so much value to both companies — and their streaming services — that it seems unlikely.

Further, Shari Redstone controls ViacomCBS and Brian Roberts controls NBCUniversal through his family’s Comcast shares. Their dual class share structure is another obstacle for both companies, as it makes it hard for outsiders to pressure the companies to make changes the executives don’t favor. But it’s not a deal stopper — Discovery had several classes of shares too, but John Malone was willing to eliminate his voting shares to get a deal done with WarnerMedia.

Four options

That leaves Comcast and ViacomCBS with four likely options.

Buy. If both companies feel their streaming services can compete around the world, they can go on global and domestic acquisition sprees. It may take several deals to get to a scaled position, as they piece together smaller U.S.-based assets and larger global media companies in Latin America and Europe.

Sell. They could also sell. Shari Redstone is more open to the idea of selling ViacomCBS than her father, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s unclear if Roberts would consider selling NBCUniversal. Potential buyers could include Amazon or the newly merged WarnerMedia-Discovery. Apple and Netflix continue to hover along the periphery, but neither company has ever shown much interest in making big media acquisitions.

Reduce their ambitions. The third option is to throw in the towel on being a global streaming service. Instead, NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS could license their content to other, larger streamers and wind down Paramount+ and Peacock if they fail to gain global traction.

Bundle. Option four is similar but less drastic. ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal could begin bundling their streaming services together or finding new streaming partners to increase global distribution through discounted offerings. The main problem with this strategy is it limits the upside for both companies, who won’t be able to compete with larger players for top content and breadth of programming.

The fifth option — inaction — is no longer a viable strategy. The pressure is on Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, Redstone and ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish to find exciting go-forward solutions for their companies.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.

WATCH: What the WarnerMedia-Discovery deal could mean for the streaming wars

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Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, suspended from entering Belmont Stakes

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Bob Baffert the trainer of Medina Spirit talks to the media during the training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 29, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Horse trainer Bob Baffert was temporarily suspended Monday by New York racing officials from entering horses — including Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit — in the upcoming Belmont Stakes or races at other major state tracks as a result of Medina Spirit’s positive test for a banned drug after its Derby victory.

The suspension applies to any Baffert-trained horses at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack, the three major thoroughbred racing venues in New York.

The New York Racing Association said that its decision to bar Baffert’s horses, for now, took into account not only the probe into Medina Spirit’s Derby win, but also “the fact that other horses trained by Mr. Baffert have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in the assessment of penalties against him by thoroughbred racing regulators in Kentucky, California, and Arkansas.”

John Velazquez guides Medina Spirit to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Jamie Rhodes | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters

New York Racing Association CEO Dave O’Rourke said, “In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants.”

“That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing,” O’Rourke said.

Medina Spirit on Saturday finished third in the Preakness Stakes behind the winner Rombauer, and Midnight Bourbon, which finished second.

If a second test sample confirms that positive result, Medina Spirit will be stripped of the Derby win.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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