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Weekend edition—Bernie vs. Bezos, AI meets medicine, the new skinny jeans

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US senator Bernie Sanders has it out for Amazon. On Sept. 5, Sanders introduced a bill—the unsubtle “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act” or Stop BEZOS Act—that would tax employers whose workers depend on government-assistance programs such as SNAP and rental subsidies. Roundly criticized for effectively encouraging companies to hire fewer low-income workers, the Stop BEZOS Act is unlikely to live up to its name.

But the political pressure on Amazon isn’t going anywhere. In addition to its (brief) $1 trillion market value and the $167 billion personal fortune of its CEO, Amazon faces a drumbeat of worker complaints, unionizing efforts from employees at Whole Foods, fatigue with its game-show-like hunt for a new headquarters, persistent rumblings about antitrust, and Congress souring on big tech. It’s clear the company should be wary of Washington.

Amazon, of course, knows this, even if it wouldn’t admit it. That might be why three of the 20 cities on Amazon’s HQ2 shortlist were in the DC metro area, why Bezos is spending $12 million to renovate his $23-million DC mansion, and why Bezos this week made his biggest-ever campaign contribution, donating $10 million to a PAC that supports military veterans running for Congress on both sides of the aisle.

For most of its history, Amazon’s main concern was keeping customers happy and profit-hungry investors at bay. These days, the money is pouring in. Alexa is a hit, the stock is up more than 60% since January, and Amazon is crushing competitors with mere announcements. It’s become difficult to even define what Amazon is as a company. But that won’t stop it from being a target for critics.—Alison Griswold

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

India makes history. The country’s landmark decision to scrap section 377 of its penal code, which criminalized homosexuality, sends a message to other former British colonies that have retained similarly draconian laws, write Maria Thomas and Isabella Steger. Of the 70 countries where homosexuality is still a crime, at least 42 were once under some kind of UK control.

How medical algorithms really work. Quartz’s Prescription: AI series explores the promises and perils of efforts to advance medicine through artificial intelligence. As part of it, we decided to train a lung cancer-detection algorithm—ourselves. We fed it nearly 200,000 CT scans, which would take a radiologist years to read. Our AI matched the accuracy of human doctors in less than two hours.

A paradigm shift in trousers. Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne says a decade-defining revolution in the shape and silhouette of women’s trousers is nigh. “A new pant shape is gathering momentum,” writes Marc Bain of the high-waisted, ‘A’-legged trousers that are coming for our skinny jeans. Finally, some good news.

Astrology isn’t science, but… Scientists agree that the stars do not actually affect our lives, no matter how weird things feel when Mercury is in retrograde. Yet could science actually learn something from astrology? In a new episode of Love, Science, Michael Tabb looks at how astrology once drove important scientific discoveries—and why it shouldn’t be discounted.

A recipe for historic Gatorade. In ancient Rome, soldiers received rations of posca, a mix of vinegar and water that helped quench their thirst and came with supposed health benefits. The beverage, which also appears in the Bible, made use of Rome’s ample wine supply and was a “cheap source of calories to distribute in bulk,” as Gwynn Guilford writes.

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Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Google takes aim at the URL. The Chrome browser is 10 years old, and its next initiative is nothing less than fundamentally rethinking addresses online. For Wired, Emily Waite looks at Google’s search for URL alternatives that could enhance security without sacrificing convenience.

The real-life Goldfinger was indeed a bond villain. The Bretton Woods system, based on dollars backed by gold and tightly controlled currency flows, created an unprecedented period of global financial stability after World War II. Oliver Bullough profiles the German banker whose ingenious “eurobonds” helped break that postwar system—giving rise to the global superrich.

A glass case of emotion. Psychologist Paul Ekman famously suggested that there are six core emotional faces: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, happiness, surprise. For How We Get to Next, Dr. Rich Firth-Godbehere argues that, especially in the age of AI, six emotions aren’t enough.

Working too much, or just enough. Urban professionals may forego leisure for career, pay others to raise their children, and live life glued to a smartphone, writes Ryan Avent in 1843, but choosing the culture of “always-on” work is the most life-affirming of modern options.

Every breath she takes. The role of metabolism in weight and health is still not well understood. To learn more, Vox’s Julia Belluz spent 24 hours inside one of only 30 “metabolic chambers” in the world, which tracked her every heartbeat, exhalation, and excretion. “Science from the chamber should debunk our metabolism myths,” Belluz writes. “It certainly debunked mine.”

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, URL alternatives, and so-last-season skinny jeans to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Kira Bindrim.

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