Biden wants Amazon to ‘start paying their taxes’

By Brian Fung, CNN Business

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Amazon should “start paying their taxes” in a broader critique of large, successful businesses.

“I don’t think any company, I don’t give a damn how big they are, the Lord Almighty, should absolutely be in a position where they pay no tax and make billions and billions and billions of dollars,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.

For the 2017 and 2018 tax years, Amazon’s own financial filings showed that it expected to receive money back from the federal government, not that it owed money in income tax. For the 2019 tax year, Amazon said it owed more than $1 billion in federal income tax. But thanks to tax deferrals, Amazon projected it would pay only $162 million of that, according to federal filings and tax experts, who say the $162 million figure represents little more than 1% of its profits.

Biden added that companies generally should “start paying their employees a decent wage and protect their employees.” Amazon has come under fire as its warehouse and delivery workers have complained of insufficient workplace protections amid the pandemic.

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s remarks. Amazon has previously said it merely follows all applicable tax laws.

“The U.S. Congress has written a tax code that incentivizes the type of job creation, capital investment, development of technology, and employee ownership that Amazon does because these are critical drivers of a prosperous economy,” the company wrote on its blog in January.

Amazon has found itself in bipartisan crosshairs in Washington. Even as Democrats have ripped the company — and its CEO Jeff Bezos — for what they see as prioritizing profit over people, the e-commerce giant has received repeated criticism from President Donald Trump and his administration.

Trump previously said he would take a “strong look” at Amazon’s bid for a multibillion-dollar cloud contract for the military, a deal that was later awarded to Microsoft over Amazon’s objections. Trump has also accused The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, of being a “lobbyist” for Amazon and called the publication “the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should).”

In the CNBC interview, Biden declined to say whether he thought Amazon should be broken up, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other critics of the e-commerce giant have demanded.

But Biden said that if he were elected president, his administration would “take a hard look” at corporate mergers to determine if some of them harm competition.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated what proportion of Amazon’s profits its projected federal income tax payment in 2019 represented.


Step up your strength and balance with this stair workout

By Dana Santas, CNN

Shelter-in-place restrictions may be loosening across the United States and around the world, but with gyms still closed in most US states and many online fitness sites sold out of equipment, finding safe and effective means to work out at home continues to be a mission for many of us.

Look no further than a couple of stairs. You don’t need a full flight; using only two stairs and your own body weight, you can train your whole body.

If you don’t have access to stairs, you can modify the exercises below, using a sturdy wooden chair or box. Or check out one of my other at-home training routines, like this couch workout.

Establish balance

When using stairs as a training tool, balance is essential for safety. Wear sneakers with minimal soles that still provide good traction. This is especially key on slicker surfaces, like marble, wood or tile.

When the sole is too thick, your ankle is more likely to roll laterally and you’ll have a harder time sensing ground contact. Get shoes with a minimal, flexible sole and adequate grip to get the sensory feedback needed for stable, intentional movement without sacrificing necessary traction.

Wearing the right footwear is important, but that alone can’t prevent falls if you’re not steady on your feet. Before beginning any stair-based exercises, do a balance check. Without holding anything for support, try standing on each leg for 10 seconds.

If you’re unable to do so unsupported, these exercises aren’t for you right now. Instead, focus on mind-body exercises that strengthen the aspects of your nervous system impacting balance, your proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Once you’ve improved your balance, you’ll be better equipped to safely perform this workout.

Even people with stellar balance can sometimes feel wobbly. When training on stairs, use the railing whenever necessary to steady yourself. And, as with any new exercise program, consult your doctor before attempting these exercises.

Warm up

If you’re using a full flight of stairs, walking up and down them for two to three minutes can be a good warm up. Pay close attention to your steps, walking slowly at first to establish balance and control, before gradually speeding up as much as you feel comfortable.

Otherwise, if you only have a few stairs (again, you only need two steps for the workout), stay on the ground and warm up by doing a set of 20 jumping jacks and a minute or two of jogging in place.

The stair workout

Perform the seven exercises below for the prescribed number of reps. Repeat all exercises in order for two to five rounds. In between rounds, rest for a minute or two and drink plenty of water.

Step-up: 10 to 15 reps per side

This is one of the most obvious — and effective — exercises to perform when training on the stairs. Step-ups primarily target legs, glutes and core. As a unilateral (single-limb) exercise, it relies on one leg at at time to power the movement.

Begin by standing, facing the stairs. Step one foot up to the second stair. Drive through that heel to lift your opposite foot up off the floor, also placing it on the stair. Step back to the floor with the same foot you just lifted.

Repeat with the opposite foot on the stair.

Want an added challenge? When you bring your back foot up to meet the foot on the stair, pause at the top, balancing on one leg with your opposite knee lifted toward your chest before placing your foot down next to the other one.

If stepping up only two stairs doesn’t feel challenging enough, and you have more than two stairs, you can also try stepping up three stairs at a time.

Elevated hip lift: 10 to 20 reps per side

This hinging exercise offers a nice counterbalance to the squatting movements in this workout by taking the load off your hip flexors. It strengthens the backs of your legs, glutes and core.

Lie down in front of the stairs. Place your heels up on it, hip distance apart, with your knees bent and hips, back and head on the floor. If it’s more comfortable, place a mat or towel under you.

Exhale as you drive through your heels to lift your hips and back up off the floor in a bridge position. Do not arch your back: Keep it straight and flat. You should feel the muscle activation in your hamstrings and glutes (backs of legs and butt) — not your lower back. Return your hips to the floor.

Repeat on the other side.

To increase the challenge, do a single-leg variation with only one heel on the stair while keeping the other leg lifted and straight.

Rear-foot elevated split squat: 6 to 10 reps per side

Also known as Bulgarian split squats, this unilateral exercise strengthens quads and glutes as well as hip stability and mobility. Balance is definitely a factor, so be sure you establish a stable base through your front foot and leg before you begin the movement in your back leg.

Stand 1 to 2 feet in front of the stairs, facing away from them. How far you stand from the stairs will be determined by your leg length: closer if you’re shorter, like me, and further away if you’re taller. Lift one foot back behind you, bending your knee to place your toes onto the second stair. Keep your forward leg straight, grounding down into the floor to establish a firm base. This is your starting position.

When you feel balanced, begin the exercise by bending from your front knee to lower your back knee downward, keeping your torso upright and hips squared. Stop when your front knee is at 90 degrees without allowing your knee to track over your toes.

Drive through the heel of your front foot to straighten your leg and lift yourself back to the starting position. You should feel all of the effort coming from your front leg and core.

Switch legs and repeat.

If you struggle to steady yourself while performing this exercise, hold onto a broom handle or chair on the floor in front of you for support.

Decline plank with shoulder tap: 10 to 20 reps

As with any planking exercise, this one works your core and shoulders, but the shoulder tap movement and decline significantly increases the challenge to both areas.

Start in high plank position at the bottom of the stairs with your feet on the first step and hands on floor. Place your feet slightly wider than hip distance to help with balance and avoid rocking when you lift each hand. Establish good form by engaging your core to maintain a flat back.

Exhale as you lift your right hand and tap the front of your left shoulder before returning your hand to the floor. Repeat with your left hand touching your right shoulder. Continue alternating back and forth.

If this is too difficult for you, simply hold the declined plank position for 30 seconds without the shoulder taps. Alternatively, if you’d like an added challenge, bring your feet up to the second or third step.

Side squat: 8 to 12 reps per side

This movement promotes strength, stability and mobility in your legs and glutes. Like the earlier step-up and split-squat exercises, it can also be classified as a unilateral exercise, assisting in the correction of muscular imbalances.

Begin standing sideways at the bottom of the stairs. Sidestep the foot closest to the stairs up to the second step, keeping your body and feet sideways. In this starting position, you’ll need to bend the knee of your top leg and allow the bulk of your weight to be supported by the straight leg on the floor.

Squat down, pushing your hips back, avoiding letting your knees come past your toes. Drive through your heels, predominantly the heel of your foot on the floor, to come back up to starting position.

Switch sides and repeat.

Twisting mountain climber: 10 to 20 reps

This move gives the traditional mountain climber a twist. Like a basic mountain climber, it works shoulders, core and hips. While the added elevation of the stairs makes the exercise a little easier, the twist puts extra emphasis on side-waist muscles and inner thighs.

Standing facing the stairs, bend over to place your hands on the second step, walking your feet out into a high plank position. Establish good form by engaging your core to maintain a flat back.

Remain stable in your shoulders, avoiding rocking forward, while you alternate driving each knee up to your chest and twisting over toward the opposite elbow. Keep your shoulders stationary and back and neck neutral.

Perform these at a pace that feels right for you while maintaining good form.

Tricep dips: 8 to 12 reps

Dips work to strengthen your arms (triceps), shoulder girdle and core.

To set up for this exercise, begin by sitting on the second step with your hands holding the edge. Supporting yourself with your arms, slowly walk your feet out on the floor in front of you, keeping your knees bent and your hips up until your knees are right above your ankles.

In this starting position, you should feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders. If you feel any cautionary sensations in your shoulders, this exercise might not be for you right now.

With control, bend your elbows to lower your hips down as far as is comfortable before pushing back up to starting position. You should feel the back of your arms powering the movement.

For an added challenge, you can move your feet out further in front of you and perform the exercise with straight legs. Use care to avoid putting too much strain on your shoulders if they feel significantly tight.

Practicing this stair workout will not only step up your overall strength and balance but because of its focus on unilateral exercises that work one side at a time, it can also help address muscular imbalances to enhance functional, pain-free movement in daily life.

Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”


5 exercises to offset too much sitting

By Dana Santas, CNN

It’s another day of self-isolating, which means it’s potentially another day of sitting indoors restlessly taking yet another Zoom meeting.

Prolonged sitting is an unavoidable reality for many. And with lots of us spending more time inside, as the pandemic continues, it’s inevitable that we’re spending even more time being sedentary.

The irony is that we’re staying home to protect our health, but all that added sitting is putting our health at risk in other ways.

In addition to being a risk factor for many life-threatening cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, excessive sitting can lead to depression, chronic pain and increased risk of physical injury, according to research. That’s why it’s important for us to become aware of our sitting habits and do what we can to counteract them.

The poor posture problem

Poor posture is the most recognized, tangible problem associated with too much sitting. Many of us know, all too well, how our sitting posture contributes to neck and back pain while limiting our ability to move our shoulders and spine.

Simple, passive stretches, like standing and raising your arms overhead, can provide immediate relief of tension and help break up long bouts of sitting, but they don’t create long-term posture changes. Only exercises that address the muscular dysfunction from poor sitting posture will strengthen weakened muscles and inhibit overactive ones to truly counteract the impact of too much sitting.

The two most common posture issues associated with sitting are Upper-Crossed Syndrome and Lower-Crossed Syndrome. Upper-Crossed Syndrome is characterized by slumping shoulders due to a dysfunctional combination of over- and underactive muscles in your chest, neck and shoulders.

Lower-Crossed Syndrome, which usually goes hand in hand with its upper-body counterpart, creates issues of tension and weakness in your core, back and hips.

To provide both instant relief and restore muscle function, the five exercises below include a combination of instant-gratification, feel-good stretches with posture-correcting exercises.

No more aches and pains

Practice the first three stretching and mobilizing exercises throughout your day to break up long bouts of sitting. Ideally, try to get up from sitting at least once per hour to stretch. Do the last two strengthening and mobilizing exercises daily to make lasting, positive changes to your overall posture. Many of my professional athlete clients do them as part of their daily warm-ups.

You’ll notice that specific breathing instructions are included with all the exercises. That’s because your diaphragm, your primary muscle of respiration, attaches to both your rib cage and your spine. Consequently, how you breathe has a significant impact on the overall position of your ribcage and spine, which, in turn, creates your body posture.

Important note: Consult your physician before starting any new exercise program. Use caution and stop if you feel any pain, weakness or lightheadedness.

Supported warrior one with hip flexor release

This move stretches out tight hip flexors and compressed side waist muscles from too much sitting.

Place your left hand lightly on top of a chair or desk, and move your right foot back so that your left leg is in a short lunge position. Drop your back heel and point your toes out slightly. Bend your front knee to align above your ankle, keeping your back leg straight.

Inhale as you lift your right arm up and over your head. Exhale as you side bend to the left, feeling your left lower ribs rotate inward. Avoid arching your lower back. Press the front of your right hip forward to release your right hip flexors.

Hold for three long, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

One-arm doorframe stretch

This stretch provides relief of tension in your chest muscles and the front of your shoulders that come from slumping in a seated position.

Standing and facing an open doorway, place a forearm on the doorframe with your elbow bent to 90 degrees at shoulder height. Your upper arm should be parallel with the floor. Rotate your body away from your arm until you feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Hold for three long, deep breaths, keeping your back neutral and lower ribs down. Repeat on the other side.

As a variation, if you have a narrow enough doorway, you can stretch both sides at once by placing both forearms on either side of the doorframe. Instead of rotating your body, step one foot through the doorway until you feel a stretch.

Supported windmill twist

This exercise relieves the upper-body rigidity caused by a static sitting posture. The twisting motion, coordinated with your breathing, promotes mobility of your rib cage and thoracic spine while opening up the chest, side waist muscles and low back.

Standing and facing a desk or counter, sit back slightly into a shallow squat position, then hinge from your hips to bend over and place your left forearm down on the desk or countertop.

Keeping your knees bent with your hips and low-back neutral, inhale as you reach your right arm forward and rotate from your shoulder, mid-back and rib cage to twist open to the right, reaching your hand upward.

Hold for three breaths, using your respiration to facilitate the twist. Focus your inhalations on the open side of your rib cage (the side you’re turning to) and exhalations on the opposite side, where you can use side waist muscles to internally rotate your ribs and enable further rotation of your rib cage and mid back.

Unwind and practice the rotation to the left from the same starting position with your right forearm down.

Wall angels

Wall Angels, also known as scapula (shoulder blade) wall slides work to strengthen your back muscles to counteract the overactive muscles in the front of your body that pull you into a slouched position while seated.

Stand with your back against a wall, keeping your feet hip distance about 6 to 8 inches from the wall. Bend your knees slightly to use some leverage from your legs and core to help push your entire back into the wall with your lower back as flat as possible. Rest the back of your head against the wall, directing your gaze forward.

Raise your arms up to shoulder height, bending your elbows to 90 degrees with your shoulders, elbows and backs of your hands against the wall. Inhale as you slide your hands and elbows up the wall until you start to feel like it’s difficult to maintain the touch points of your back, head, shoulders, elbows and hands against the wall. Exhale as you slide your arms back to 90 degrees.

Repeat this motion through five long, deep breaths. With every exhale, concentrate on moving your lower ribs in, back and down while also pulling the base of your shoulder blades down.

Even though this exercise may feel difficult and awkward to hold, making you think you aren’t accomplishing much, you should find that when you move away from the wall you’ll notice an increased freedom of shoulder movement, reduced thorax stiffness and increased rib mobility.

Breathing bridge

This positional breathing exercise strengthens your diaphragm, core and glutes while releasing your hip flexors to establish an optimal rib cage and pelvis position for better overall posture.

This is the starting position all of my athletes use to train their breathing and set their posture.

Begin on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip distance apart. Place a foam yoga block, foam roller or rolled towel between your legs to engage your inner thighs and avoid your hips externally rotating and knees splaying out. Place your hands on your lower ribs so you can feel them moving in and out horizontally with each phase of your breath.

You want to avoid upward movement of your rib cage while breathing, and you shouldn’t feel any stress or tension in your jaw, neck or shoulders.

Exhale fully, drawing your lower ribs in toward each other, feeling your core turn on and your ribcage move downward. At the end of that exhale, without breathing in yet, tuck your tailbone, flattening your low back and lifting your hips approximately 3 or 4 inches off the floor.

Avoid arching your low back. Maintaining the bridge posture, inhale, trying to expand your ribs out to the sides.

Hold this position using the strength of your core and glutes, taking five long, deep breaths, focused on horizontal rib movement. Repeat for a total of two sets of five breaths.

Adding these five simple exercises to your daily routine will help improve your posture, reduce neck pain and backaches and boost your overall health and wellness.

Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”


Try this couch workout and feel better about binge-watching TV

By Dana Santas, CNN

If you’ve been spending hours on your couch lately, you’re not alone.

From “Tiger King” to “Ozark,” binge-watching has been a common couch-based activity during our safer-at-home circumstances. But too much sedentary time is not good for our physical or mental health.

Try this total-body couch workout to get your body moving through all three planes of motion: sagittal (forward/backward), frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotating), as well as fundamental movements: squat, hinge, push and pull.

Set up your space

This is truly a couch-based workout; no special fitness equipment is needed — just your couch and two pillows. If you don’t have throw pillows, you can use bed pillows. Additionally, you may want to have a towel to place over your couch in case you start to get sweaty.

In the pictures, I’m on my sectional, but all the exercises in this workout can be done on almost any style couch. You don’t need an overabundance of room around or in front of your couch to do these exercises, but be prepared to move a coffee table or end table a few inches out of the way, if necessary, to safely and effectively perform the exercises.

If you are concerned about stability, have a chair handy nearby as support for the exercises that call for balance.

Important note: Always consult your physician before starting any new exercise program. Use caution and stop if you feel any pain, weakness or lightheadedness.

Get your body ready

It’s always best to warm up to prep your body for exercise. Use the three stretches below to release tension and increase blood flow in your legs, hips and upper body. If you have a foam roller, you can also roll out those areas before stretching.

Because you’re trying to get your body ready for increased muscle activation and movement, avoid holding any of the stretches too long. According to numerous studies, including a 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, static stretches of more than 30 seconds have been shown to create an immediate, albeit temporary, decrease in muscle strength and power. So, only take two or three breaths in each stretch, holding it for no more than 30 seconds.

Pigeon stretch

This position stretches out your glute muscles and opens up your hip joint.

Place a throw pillow on the floor directly in front of the couch. Facing the couch, bend over and place your hands shoulders-distance apart on the cushion for support. Lift your right leg, bending your knee to 90 degrees while rotating from your hip, to place your right foot next to your left hand, so your shin can lay sideways on top of the couch.

The more parallel your shin is to the front of the couch the deeper you will feel the stretch. To further deepen the stretch, keep supporting yourself with your hands as you bend your knee back down toward the pillow on the floor. Only let your knee rest on the pillow, if you can do so without pain.

Repeat on the other side.

As with any exercise or stretch, listen to your body. You control the intensity of this hip-opening exercise with the depth of your back knee and angle of your front shin. It’s important to keep the stretch in your hip and avoid trying to rotate from your knee. You should not feel any knee pain. If you do, back off on the intensity of the stretch until there is no pain.

Quad stretch

This stretch releases the muscles in the front of your legs and hip.

Place a pillow on the floor directly in front of your couch. Standing in front of the pillow, facing away from your couch, bend one knee upward and put the top of your foot on the couch with the other leg out in front.

Keeping your torso upright, bend your forward knee as you would in a lunge, allowing your back knee to naturally bend toward the pillow. Try to shift your weight back into your hips as you lower down to elicit a stretch. Repeat with the other leg.

If you feel really tight and unstable in this position, move a coffee table or chair in front of you to hold for support.

Windmill twist

This move loosens up multiple areas at once, including your back, chest, shoulders and backs of your legs.

Standing in front of your couch, facing it, bend down into a squat position, placing both forearms on the couch. Inhale as you reach your right arm forward and up, rotating from your shoulder, mid back and rib cage to twist open to the right. At the same time, straighten your right leg only.

You should experience a stretch in the back of your leg and across your right low back. Unwind back to standing and repeat the movement with rotation to the left.

The workout

Do three to five rounds of the exercises below, in the order listed.

Between rounds, take at least a minute of rest and drink plenty of water.

Elevated push-up: 8 to 10 reps

This pushing exercise works your core, chest, shoulders and backs of your arms.

Place your hands directly under your shoulders on either an arm of your couch or the front of it, depending on your couch style and exercise-intensity preference. The more elevated your arms are, the easier the exercise.

Straighten your legs behind you, staying up on your toes with your feet hip-distance apart, in a diagonal plank position. Keeping your core tight and back straight, inhale as you bend your elbows to lower yourself toward the couch.

Keep your elbows in toward the sides of your body for a military-style push-up that engages the backs of your arms (triceps). Exhale as you push back to the plank position.

For a more difficult variation, try reversing your position, putting your feet up on the couch and hands on the floor.

Elevated hip bridge: 10 to 20 reps

This hinging exercise trains the backs of your legs, glutes and core.

Lie down in front of your couch, perpendicular to it. Place your heels up on it, hip-distance apart, with your knees bent and hips, back and head on the floor. Put a folded pillow between your knees. If it’s more comfortable for your head and neck, place another pillow behind your head.

Exhale as you drive through your heels to lift your hips and back up off the floor in a bridge position. Do not arch your back! You should feel the muscle activation in your hamstrings and glutes (backs of legs and butt) — not your lower back. Return your hips back to the floor.

For an added challenge, instead of holding a pillow between your legs, try a single-leg variation with only one heel on the couch while keeping the other leg lifted and straight. Repeat on the other side.

Twisting pillow touch: 10 to 20 alternating reps

This rotating exercise activates your core muscles, especially your side waist (obliques), while increasing your mid-back mobility.

Sit on the edge of your couch and place a pillow between your knees. This will help stabilize your lower body so you can rotate more effectively from your mid back.

Hold the pillow in front of you at chest height and exhale as your rotate to the side and touch the pillow to the couch seat as far behind you as you can reach. Return to center, as you inhale, then exhale and twist to the opposite side.

Single-leg box squat: 5 to 10 reps per side

This squatting exercise strengthens your glutes, legs and core while also improving your balance.

Stand slightly in front of your couch, facing forward, just as you would when you’re about to sit down on it. Center your weight on one leg while you lift the other. As you bend on your standing leg to sit back toward the couch, extend the opposite leg straight out in front of you. Let your bottom graze the couch, without putting your full body weight into it. Exhale as you press through your foot on the ground to come back up to standing. Repeat on the other side.

If you have difficulty with balance in this exercise, do it as a regular squat with both feet on the ground or try holding a coffee table or chair for support.

Prone horizontal arm raise: 10 to 15 reps per side

This lateral raise is considered a pulling exercise that works your upper and mid back while opening your chest.

Lying face down on your couch, let your outside arm hang off the side. Bend your inside arm so you can rest your forehead on the top of your forearm. Keeping your outside arm straight, raise it up to shoulder height then lower it toward the floor, using a slow and controlled motion.

If necessary, move other furniture out of your arm’s path. Repeat on the other side.

Side-lying hip raise: 10 to 15 reps per side

This lateral leg-raising movement works your outer hip.

Lying on your side on the couch, facing forward, bend your bottom leg about 30 to 45 degrees. Prop yourself up on your bottom elbow, holding your head in your hand. Use your top arm to hold the front edge of the couch for support.

Extend your top leg straight out in front of you, positioned somewhere between your opposite knee and hip, depending on how tight your leg feels. Internally rotate your hip to point your toes down and lead with your heel as you raise your leg up above hip height and then lower down below the front of the couch.

Similar to the previous arm-raising exercise, practice each repetition with a slow and controlled movement. If necessary, move other furniture out of your leg’s path.

Repeat on the other side.

Cool down and stretch out

Repeat the three stretches from the warm up, holding each one for a few extra breaths as you relax and cool down.

Now that you have moved, strengthened and stretched out your body, you can feel guilt-free relaxing comfortably on your couch, remote in hand.

Dana Santas, known as the “Mobility Maker,” is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach in professional sports, and is the author of the book “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”