Nov 24, 2018

Amazon's Black Friday walkout and other tech news this week

Black Friday sales in New York City. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

More than 50 million people traveled for Thanksgiving this year, which may account for the more than $1 billion spent in mobile transactions alone on Black Friday-related deals — the most spent via smartphones in the history of the holiday.

Catch up quick: Here are 5 more tech stories you may have missed this week. Stories range from Amazon staff in 3 European countries protesting on Black Friday to Apple trying to make veterans' health records available online to a behind-the-scenes look at products pushed by Instagram influencers.

Amazon staff in three European countries protest during Black Friday (CNBC)

  • Why it matters: A lot of money was moved this week by consumers who were prompted by sales, even before the retail holiday. But packages from Europe purchased in the U.K., Spain and Germany may hit a snag from workers who protested Amazon for having what they claimed are unfair working conditions.
  • 90% of workers at a logistics depot near Madrid also joined a walkout Friday.

Report: Apple in talks to make vets' health records available online

  • Why it matters, per Axios' Ina Fried: Apple is looking to provide patients with better access to their health records, and a deal with the Veterans' Affairs Department would give that effort a significant boost.
  • Apple first approached the VA about a potential deal back in 2017, a source told the Wall Street Journal.
  • An Apple representative was not immediately available for comment.

Amazon is teaching Alexa to speak like a newscaster

  • Why it matters: News consumption on smart speakers isn't picking up in the U.S., even though purchases and overall usage of smart speakers is increasing overall.
  • Amazon company is hoping Alexa's new voice, trained to detect patterns in recordings of broadcasters’ speech, will make it more pleasant for consumers to listen to news read out loud by a computer.

LinkedIn is testing its own "Stories" feature for college students

  • Why it matters, per Ina: LinkedIn wants to appeal to the 46 million college students and new grads on its network by giving them tools they're familiar with.
  • Student Voices could also become yet another spot where LinkedIn can place ads (a spokesperson says the company is currently focused on understanding how people use the features).

Behind the products that Instagram influencers push on your feeds (Wired)

  • Why it matters: Brands are fully embracing the power of advertising through Instagram influencers, who are part of a multibillion-dollar industry.
  • And it works — many users see those influencers as experts and authentic friends rather than advertisers who are being paid by the companies they feature.

Editor’s note: This piece was corrected to show that more than 50 million people traveled for Thanksgiving (not half a billion people).

Go deeper

U.S.-led coalition in Iraq withdraws from 3rd base this month

A soldier stands guard at the Qayyarah airbase in southern Mosul on March 26. Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United States-led coalition in Iraq withdrew from K-1 Air Base in the northern part of the country on Sunday, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the third site that coalition forces have left this month as the U.S. gathers troops in Baghdad and at Ain al-Asad Air Base.

Go deeperArrow10 mins ago - World

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 679,977 — Total deaths: 31,734 — Total recoveries: 145,625.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 124,686 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per CDC, those residents should "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska issues a stay-at-home order — New York tries to nearly triple hospital capacity in less than a month and moved presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's initial handling of the virus balk at call for U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

The year of the protest meets the year of the lockdown

Hong Kong demonstrators protest a government ban on face masks in October. Photo by Laurel Chor/Getty Images

The year of the mass uprising has collided with the year of the coronavirus lockdown, leaving protest movements around the world stalled. 

The big picture: The enduring images of 2019 are of protest — from Hong Kong to Khartoum, across the Middle East and through much of Latin America. Seemingly overnight, though, social distancing has made such mass demonstrations almost unthinkable.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World