Things That Matter

Some People Are Demanding To Know Why Amazon Has Auschwitz-Themed Christmas Ornaments On Its Site

Most historians believe that there’s a very specific and yet general type of reverence to be held for the devastation caused by genocide. As one of the more well-known, more recent and studied incidents of human genocide, the  Holocaust is one particular event that has garnered sensitivity and respect from those that have heard about its tragedy. The event which took place during World War II and sparked the mass genocide of six million European Jewish people between 1941 and 1945 has stomach turning and heart wrenching details. For most stories from the Holocaust would never be considered a part of a “celebration” of Christian customs.

But a recent set of items on Amazon has not only promoted widespread outrage on social media but alarm and disgust. 

In a tweet shared this past Sunday Morning, the  Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland shared images of holiday ornaments and other products that featured images of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.

According to images posted by he Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, Amazon’s marketplace featured products that included ornaments and a bottle ornament that were “adorned” with images of the Nazi built and operated Auschwitz concentration camp. During its operation, Auschwitz held 1.3 million inmates and killed at least 1.1 million. It is said to have held notable inmates like Anne Frank, her father Otto Frank, Edith Stein and Elie Wiesel. Living conditions for the inmates have been described as deeply inhumane and atrocious with few bathrooms, severe lack of access to clean water. Inmates were starved, deprived of food for breakfast, given watered-down soup for lunch and 1.5 cups worth of bread for dinner. 

It’s easy, with just the above small photograph of details of the atrocities committed in mind, to understand why Amazon’s Christmas products have been slammed as disrespectful and disturbing by Auschwitz Memorial. Particularly when the  products being sold were  tree ornaments, a mouse pad and a bottle opener and featured pictures of the Nazi death camp’s train tracks leading to the entrance of Auschwitz II-Birkenau and a number of scenes inside the camps. While sold on Amazon, the retailer for the ornaments is not Amazon it is in fact a brand called Fcheng which sells a number of other ornaments online. 

Backlash from Auschwitz Memorial, sparked the sharing of their post thousands of times on Twitter and prompted questions about Amazon’s product wedding processes. 

By 1pm that same day, the memorial shared that Amazon had taken down the ornaments and according to The New York Times no-one can be found on Amazon for purchase. According to an Amazon spokeswoman’s statement “all sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account.” 

According to The New York Times, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League  said in a statement that “it is hard to fathom why anyone would want to hang a Christmas ornament adorned with images of a concentration camp. These ornaments are deeply offensive by any measure. We’re relieved that Amazon has removed these items from sale.”

Amazon’s policy on offensive and controversial materials, the site deems products “related to human tragedies” as prohibited. 

The prolixity states that Amazon determines which products are appropriate by considering a “global community of customers and cultural differences and sensitivities.” This decision does not, however, apply to books, music, videos or DVDs that are sold on the site.

According to The New York Times, Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee and founder of ecommerceChris, a firm that consults with marketplace sellers, said that it is possible that the increased number of product sales for the holidays could have allowed the slip to happen. “The sheer volume of items being sold on Amazon through third-party sellers makes it challenging to identify and remove all offensive items before they are found by the public,” reported NYT before going on to say that McCabe explained that  the volume of products “also makes it impossible for humans to review all items before they are posted. More than half of the products sold on Amazon.com are from third-party sellers.”

It’s not the first time Amazon has had to pull products from its marketplace.

Last year in July, the website had been seen selling onesies for babies that had images by the alt-right as well as Nazi-themed action figures and anti-Semitic books and music. Earlier this year, the site was also found to be selling various products that were offensive to Muslims. Amazon’s streaming service Amazon Prime Video had also been asked to take down various anti-vaccination documentaries that were available to stream.

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New York Times Square New Years Eve Celebration Canceled

Culture

New York Times Square New Years Eve Celebration Canceled

Stefano / Flickr

For the first time in 114 years, the Times Square New Years Eve party has been canceled. The famous New Year’s Eve gathering is a major part of the New Year’s Eve celebration with people cramming into Times Square to watch the ball drop to mark the new year. This year, everything about the celebration is changing because of Covid.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square has been canceled.

The in-person celebration with crowds packing into the intersection to watch the ball drop is going virtual. Like the Emmys earlier this month, and countless other events, the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration is all virtual. The decision to cancel the in-person part of the Times Square Ball Drop is, well, Covid, of course.

“One thing that will never change is the ticking of time and the arrival of a New Year at midnight on December 31st,” Tim Tompkins, President of the Times Square Alliance, said in a statement. “But this year there will be significantly new and enhanced virtual, visual and digital offerings to complement whatever limited live entertainment or experiences – still in development — will take place in Times Square. And because any opportunity to be live in Times Square will be pre-determined and extremely limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, there will be the opportunity to participate virtually wherever you are.”

We still don’t have a lot of details about the virtual aspect of New Year’s Eve, we are all waiting.

According to a statement, the organizers realize that Covid has been the dominating force of 2020. The celebration always includes aspects of the major events from the previous year into the experience. The socially distanced handful of honorees and lack of an audience is a clear representation of the still real Covid crisis.

Some people are really upset about the decision to cancel the celebration.

It is one of those iconic moments so many people dream of doing. It is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for so many. The Times Square Ball Drop is something that most Americans recognize thanks to the dominant role the ball drop played on New Year’s Eve growing up. It is basically tradition to have the NYE party playing on the TV.

New Yorkers are confused about why anyone would want to do that.

New Yorkers avoid Times Square at all costs. It isn’t a convenient or super enjoyable part of town. It is packed with tourists who don’t know where they are going and NYE is about the worst it gets for Times Square. Now, the ball drop is impressive and something so many people consider an iconic moment in the holiday celebration.

“We will miss everyone this year but we will bring our celebration to you, whether you want to turn off and turn away from the bad news of 2020, or turn to the new year with a sense of hope, renewal and resolution, you’ll be able to join us virtually like never before as part of the Times Square 2021 celebration,” Jeff Straus, President of Countdown Entertainment, said in a statement.

But, mainly, people just want 2020 to be over.

This year has been a hard year for so many. People have lost their jobs and their loved ones as the virus runs through the U.S. Covid-19 is still a real threat to people, especially the vulnerable population.

READ: Nearly 9,000 Unaccompanied Child Migrants Have Been Expelled From the U.S. Under Trump’s COVID-19 Restrictions

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Jussie Smollett Speaks Out For The First Time In Months About His Alleged 2019 Attack— ‘They Won’t Let This Go’

Entertainment

Jussie Smollett Speaks Out For The First Time In Months About His Alleged 2019 Attack— ‘They Won’t Let This Go’

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty

In early 2019, “Empire “actor Jussie Smollett found himself thrust into the public spotlight of scrutiny after it was reported that he had been the victim of a hate crime. His original claim initially prompted public outrage and a flood of support from fans. Then, nearly three weeks later, the public was shocked to learn that Smollett had been charged with disorderly conduct and the false filing of a police report after it was determined that the attack had been staged. Worse? Officials suspected that Smollett himself had choreographed the entire attack from start to finish. In March of 2019, the actor was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report that claimed two men attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him.

Since then, the charges against Smollett have been dropped but his reputation remains tarnished. The court of public opinion has determined that he is a liar and fabricator. Ultimately he was dropped from his role on his show and he has remained relatively silent about the issue.

Now, a year after the alleged attack Smollett is speaking out about the controversy in a rare interview.

On Wednesday, the actor made an appearance in an Instagram Live conversation with author and activist Marc Lamont Hill. During the interview, Smollett addressed his ongoing trial calling the situation “frustrating, to say the least.”

“It’s been beyond frustrating, and I certainly am not going rogue,” Smollett explained. “I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that, but I don’t really see, honestly, what staying quiet has really done, like, where it has gotten me. … It’s so much bigger than me.”

Smollett went onto share what the past year has done to him and shared that his legal team recently filed a motion against his indictment. The motion is set to be reviewed in court on Thursday. “I believe I have to give it up to God,” Smollett explained before adding that he thinks the legal motion will fall in his favor.

“They won’t let this go,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter — there is an example being made. And the sad part is that there’s an example being made of someone who did not do what they are being accused of.”

Addressing accusations that his original claims were all a hoax, Smollett said that “From the very, very beginning, it was set up to seem like I was lying about something or everything.”

Smollett claimed “there would be no reason for me to do this” and called the accusations “bulls—,” before adding that the “last thing” hew would ever want to do is “be portrayed as a victim.”

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