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Recode Daily: ‘I don’t think Amazon understands how close they are to blowing themselves up.’


An Amazon revolt could be brewing as the tech giant exerts more control over brands. In the last few months, Amazon has applied intense pressure to consumer brands across different product categories — seizing more control over what, where and how they can sell their goods. Amazon is telling brands — like PopSockets — that neither they nor their distributors can sell directly to customers as an independent seller on the platform for third-party merchants known as the Amazon Marketplace. The power move is believed to be a prelude to a new internal system that Amazon has yet to launch called One Vendor. ”I don’t think Amazon understands how close they are to blowing themselves up,” one analyst warned. [Jason Del Rey / Recode]

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Stocks climbed immediately yesterday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made remarks that eased investor worries about an aggressive increase in interest rates. After Powell’s midday comment that interest rates are “just below” a range of estimates of the so-called neutral level, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 600 points, or 2.5 percent, erasing its November tumble; the S&P 500 climbed 61.62 points, or 2.3 percent; and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 208.89 points, or 2.9 percent. All three indexes are up more than 4.2 percent for the week, the first time since Nov. 1 that the market benchmarks climbed in three consecutive sessions. Meanwhile President Donald Trump will have a high-stakes meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 economic summit in Buenos Aires this weekend; Trump is threatening tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods unless they can strike a deal on revised terms of trade. [Amrith Ramkumar and Nick Timiraos / The Wall Street Journal]

Microsoft won a $480 million contract from the U.S. Army to supply as many as 100,000 HoloLens augmented-reality headsets for military training and combat purposes, beating out rival Magic Leap, which has been focused on the barely-existent consumer market. The Army’s version of the headset will vary from their consumer-grade counterparts by including night vision and thermal sensing, and the ability to measure vital signs like breathing and “readiness,” monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection. The tech industry’s cooperation with the U.S. military and law enforcement has become increasingly tense over the last year, with employees at companies like Google and Amazon pushing back against government contracts. [Joshua Brustein / Bloomberg]

Google is expanding its previously gated Project Fi wireless service to support Apple’s iPhones, along with the majority of Android devices. The tech giant is also dropping “Project” from the name, simplifying it to Google Fi. The three-year-old cell service includes Google’s straightforward pricing of $20 for unlimited talk and text and $10 per gigabyte of data used, up to 6GB; it’s free after that, but speeds get heavily throttled at 15GB. It also includes international data coverage in 170 countries, spam protection and more features, some of which will only be available to phones designed for Google Fi, which include Pixel 3, 3 XL, 2 XL, Moto G6, LG G7, LG V35 and Moto X. [AJ Dellinger / Engadget]

Facebook is launching its mobile-only “Today In” local-news aggregator in 400 small to medium-size U.S. cities; the company has been testing the feature, which it claims includes “misinformation filters,” since January. Facebook is also testing Local Alerts with 100 local government and first-responder Pages that can be issued to inform citizens about urgent issues or emergencies, such as where to take shelter from a hurricane. And Instagram rolled out a tool that describes photos for visually impaired viewers, either automatically using AI object recognition technology or by reading custom “alt text” descriptions added by users.[Josh Constine / TechCrunch]

Meanwhile, a failed Facebook deal may have hastened the demise of the news site Mic.com. The millennial-focused media company is in talks to sell to Bustle Digital Group, another publisher that targets millennial readers. One factor: a $5 million Facebook video deal was not renewed, scaring away other potential acquirers and investors. If the acquisition goes through, Bustle would likely only retain half of Mic’s staff, at most. [Peter Kafka / Recode]

Most U.S. teens believe that social media is actually good for them, according to a report from Pew Research Center. Seriously: 81 percent of teens — who grew up with smartphones and social media — said it makes them feel more connected to friends, 71 percent said it helps them show their creative side, 69 percent said it helps them make friends and with a more diverse group of people and 68 percent feel like they have people who support them through tough times. (And no, this wasn’t secretly funded by Facebook.) [Katie Notopoulos / BuzzFeed News]

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