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An Amazon warehouse. Photo: Grant Hindsley/AFP/Getty

Amazon has kicked off the holiday shopping season with an aggressive shot over the bow of its competitors — free shipping, including for non-Prime members.

Why it matters: After capturing half of all U.S. online holiday sales last year, Amazon is now plotting how it can lure even more customers in what's expected to be a $720 billion shopping bonanza this holiday season, per the National Retail Federation.

  • This is "yet another example of the steps retail heavyweights such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. will take to continue to expand market share, and they will use every weapon in their arsenal to accomplish this," Moody's analyst Charlie O'Shea said in a note.
  • O'Shea tells Axios: "Amazon's primary advantage continues to be a profit-agnostic shareholder base, which allows it to invest in virtually any area, at almost any cost, with no negative impact on its share price. This is an advantage that no other retailer enjoys."

The details: Amazon will waive the $25 minimum purchase that its non-Prime members must meet for free shipping. The deal lasts through the busy season.

  • The move is an easy way to get new people to try Amazon as Prime membership growth slows, says James Thomson, a former Amazon executive who now consults for retailers that sell on its platform.

Go deeper: The decline of Black Friday

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Mapped: The world's most and least corrupt countries

Expand chart
Data: Transparency International; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

The most corrupt governments in the world are in South Sudan, Syria and Somalia, according to Transparency International's annual index, while the "cleanest" are in Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.

  • Breaking it down: The U.S. is 27th, China 66th, India 85th, Brazil 96th and Russia 136th. Scroll over the map to see each country's ranking.

Crypto leads to massive surge in online scams

Expand chart
Reproduced from FTC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Bogus cryptocurrency investments led to an unprecedented increase in online scams last year, according to new data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Why it matters: Cryptocurrency is an easy target because while it's surging in popularity, there's still a lot of confusion about how it works.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
3 hours ago - Health

New clues emerge on long COVID

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The presence of certain autoantibodies or high amounts of coronavirus RNA in the blood could be indicators a patient has a higher chance of developing long COVID, according to a new study in the journal Cell.

  • Other factors include a person having Type 2 diabetes or the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus.