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Amazon will soon lose the biggest reason to pay for Prime

Prime could lose some of its uniqueness this year.

Customers love Amazon’s Prime membership program, which offers myriad benefits. But the most important is its chief perk: unlimited free two-day shipping.

Members still overwhelmingly cite the perk as the most important of the subscription, according to a recent survey of 1,160 Prime members by The Diffusion Group.

According to the report, 79% of members say free shipping is the most important part of Prime. The second most popular response, by far, was Prime Video, with 11% saying it’s the biggest perk.

Read more: There’s still just one real reason why people pay for Amazon Prime

Amazon is able to offer free two-day shipping on over 100 million items because of the company’s vast network of warehouses spread around the US. Amazon spreads its inventory around in these warehouses, which lowers the cost of speedy shipping to most any address.

Amazon’s Prime shipping offering is unique because of how consistent it is and how many millions of items that it sells, either directly or through third-party sellers using the Fulfillment by Amazon or Seller Fulfilled Prime programs.

Amazon has been sitting pretty in this position for a while. But now the rest of retail is catching up.

More 2-day shipping to come

Business Insider/Dennis Green

Walmart, which by most metrics is Amazon’s biggest competitor online, debuted free two-day shipping without a membership in 2017. The catch: Orders must total more than $35 to qualify.

But Walmart still needs to add more selection to its free two-day shipping offering to keep up with Amazon. It does offer millions of items, but not quite the 100 million items that Amazon boasts.

Walmart carries only a little over half — about 55% — of Amazon’s 1 million best-selling products, Cowen said in a report to investors in October. Amazon’s top 1 million products account for about 80% of sales on its website, Cowen said, which represents a weakness for Walmart.

Read more: Walmart still has a big wea kness in its battle against Amazon

Walmart management agreed that the gap of assortment between Walmart.com and Amazon.com is still too large, Cowen said, adding that Walmart called expanding assortment a “top priority.”

One of the ways Walmart is doing that is allowing third-party merchants to sell on Walmart.com with a green two-day shipping badge. The initiative started in October, and the retailer said it hoped to expand it over the coming months. Previously, only items sold directly by Walmart were given the green tag.

Not all merchants are equipped to handle the grueling demands of two-day shipping, though, especially without massive warehouses spread throughout the country. But companies like Deliverr, which partners with large merchants like Walmart, are sprouting up.

Read more: Walmart is offering free 2-day shipping on ‘millions more’ items — and it reveals a key advantage over Amazon

Deliverr uses a network of leased space in warehouses around the country to mimic the services of Amazon, according to cofounder Michael Krakaris.

He says that in 2019, “more parity [will] come to the space, where a retailer now can offer free two-day shipping anywhere they sell” through outside companies like Deliverr, Krakaris said.

He said his business with Walmart is “really rapidly scaling,” and he estimates that 30% of Walmart’s third-party sellers use Deliverr.

The result: millions more items listed on Walmart with a free two-day shipping option, which can help it compete with Amazon and its services that allow third parties to sell with a Prime tag. Customers purchase items that ship quickly much more often than items that ship with a standard or unknown shipping speed.

Sellers can use Deliverr to list products for two-day shipping on Walmart, Shopify, and eBay. If the model is ultimately successful, it could lead to a proliferation of two-day shipping offerings among the merchants that account for the roughly half of online sales that aren’t captured by Amazon.

Read more: A survey found that Amazon Prime membership is soaring to new heights, but one trend should worry the company

Amazon probably realizes this is a potential weakness for its Prime membership, and that its lead in offering two-day shipping won’t last forever. That is likely a driver in its adding things to Prime, like original content for Prime Video and Prime discounts at Whole Foods, which have been costly to implement and maintain.

Time will tell whether Amazon will be able to persuade its over 100 million US Prime customers to stay.

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NFL community honors legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

NFL players took to social media on Monday to honor the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

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NFL community honors legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

NFL players took to social media on Monday to honor the life and legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

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Tsitsipas backs up Federer upset with gritty win over Bautista Agut at Australian Open

Updated

January 22, 2019 17:49:18

Stefanos Tsitsipas had less than 48 hours to back up from his stunning win over Roger Federer before beating the plucky Roberto Bautista Agut in a four-set struggle to move through to the Australian Open semi-finals.

Key points:

  • Stefnaos Tsitsipas is through to his first semi-final at a major
  • Tsitsipas and Roberto Bautista Agut were on court for over three hours
  • Bautista Agut had played three five-set matches before facing Tsitsipas

Greece’s Tsitipas may not have gone the distance on the scoreboard, but he was still pushed to the brink by Bautista Agut in hot conditions on Rod Laver Arena, winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) in three hours and 15 minutes in the fourth-round match.

The 20-year-old’s victory could set up a blockbuster semi-final against Rafael Nadal, who is meeting a player riding a wave of confidence in the quarter-finals, the unseeded American Frances Tiafoe.

“It all feels like a fairytale almost,” Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview.

“I am just living the dream. Living what I have been working hard for.”

Backing up after the emotional high of his victory over Federer was never going to be easy for Tsitsipas, as the 20-time major singles champion could attest.

Federer was 19 at Wimbledon in 2001 when he claimed the scalp of world number one and defending champion Pete Sampras in four sets in the last 16.

It was considered at the time Federer’s win would be a changing of the guard moment, as many have suggested about Sunday night’s result, yet the Swiss crashed out in his next match to Tim Henman and did not win his first major for another two years.

The physical toll from beating Federer would have played on Tsitsipas’s mind, as he did not leave Melbourne Park until around 2:00am on Monday after having to fulfil media commitments in the wake of his triumph.

But credit needs to be given to the 22nd seed Bautista Agut, who played three five-set matches in the opening four rounds and had to overcome fatigue himself in preparing to face Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas was never going to have it all his own way, as Bautista Agut always promised to be a difficult opponent, having beaten sixth seed and last year’s runner-up, Marin Cilic, in the fourth round.

He had to contend with the heat, which hit 30 degrees, as much as Tsitsipas and his superb fitness held him in good stead.

Bautista Agut troubles Tsitsipas early

The signs were not positive early on for Tsitsipas, who was broken by Bautista Agut in the opening game of the match, dropping serve when he lost four straight points to the Spaniard.

Throughout the set the 14th seed’s radar was off, with his single-handed backhand failing to find the sweet spots as it was able to do against Federer.

But he broke back to level the set at 4-4 and clinched another break of the Bautista Agut serve to take out the first set in 49 minutes.

If Tsitsipas thought the second set would be any easier, Bautista Agut had other ideas, breaking serve in the third game for a 2-1 lead.

Facing two break points, Tsitsipas employed a backhand slice drop shot but Bautista Agut displayed excellent court coverage to race to the net and come up with the winner.

Bautista Agut, who survived five-setters against Cilic, Andy Murray and Australia’s John Millman, was showing he could dictate points from both the baseline and the net against Tsitsipas and he wrapped up the second set without dropping serve.

As the mercury rose inside Rod Laver Arena, both players traded breaks in the third until Tsitsipas earned a set point on the Bautista Agut serve when leading 5-4.

He needed three set points before he closed the deal, doing so with a scrambling backhand slice that caught the line.

Games went on serve in the fourth set, however Tsitsipas had a match point at 6-5 with Bautista Agut serving, only for the Spanish 30-year-old to rebound and force the tiebreak.

Tsitsipas got on top early in the tiebreak, racking up four match points before converting on the first and falling to the court on his back in celebration.

Topics:

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tennis,

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First posted

January 22, 2019 16:42:14

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‘My daddy’s home’: The first days out of prison for a man released from a life sentence

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By Jon Schuppe

Hours before a federal jury was to decide his fate on a crack cocaine charge, Edward Douglas saw five of his nine children off to school outside Chicago. He gave one money for a field trip and told them all he loved them.

“I’ll see you later,” Douglas said.

He made that promise on Feb. 27, 2003, the day the jury convicted him. He repeated the promise four months later after he was sentenced to life in prison, even though it seemed futile.

Earlier this month, after nearly 16 years behind bars, he finally fulfilled it.

On Jan. 10, a federal judge ordered Douglas released from prison. He’s one of the first inmates freed under a new federal law that eases drug sentences for federal inmates, including many, like Douglas, serving decades for selling small amounts of crack.

Edward Douglas hugs his longtime friend, Art Lewis. The friends hadn’t seen each other since Douglas’ conviction.Sebastian Hidalgo / for NBC News

His two sisters picked him up at the federal penitentiary in Pekin, Illinois, that afternoon, after dark. He stepped through the prison doors in a shirt, sweatpants and gym shoes. His sisters saw him from their car and began running to him. He hurried them back. “We can do all the hugging and kissing in the car,” he told them. “Let’s get off this property.”

They drove three hours to his mother’s home on Chicago’s South Side, stopping once, for chicken at Popeyes. After receiving word, several of his children, including some he’d last seen on the morning he was convicted, drove to the house together. They burst inside and swarmed him.

“They all came in at the same time, kids, grandkids, and they couldn’t all hug me at the same time so they took their time, crying,” Douglas, 55, recalled. “It was an experience I will take to my grave.”

‘I knew I couldn’t do life’

Douglas is leading the way for thousands of federal inmates who in the coming weeks and months are expected to petition for early release under the landmark law, called the First Step Act.

The measure, passed in December, is the result of a rare bipartisan effort by Congress to change the federal government’s harsh drug sentencing statutes. It eases mandatory-minimum prison sentences for drug offenders and gives well-behaved inmates incentives to earn “good time” credits toward early release. It also makes retroactive a 2010 law that decreased penalties for crack.

That provision makes about 2,660 federal inmates who were sentenced for crack-related crimes before 2010 eligible for early release, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent federal agency. A small segment, perhaps a few dozen, are like Douglas, given life terms for selling small amounts of crack because they fell under the federal “three strikes” law for repeat offenders.

Douglas, then a maintenance worker for the Chicago Transit Authority, was arrested in 2001 for selling 140 grams of crack to a federal informant in central Illinois. He had never been to prison, but he did have two prior convictions for possessing small amounts of drugs. When Douglas refused to plead guilty to the crack charge, prosecutors sought a life sentence under the “three strikes” statute. Believing he would beat the charge, Douglas went to trial and was convicted.

For as long as he could, Douglas kept the full truth of his punishment from his children. He never revealed his life sentence, instead telling them he’d be home soon, while leaving the timeline vague. They didn’t press him. Eventually, the kids moved with family members from Chicago to Mississippi, keeping in touch in phone calls, birthday notes, Christmas cards. He ended them all by saying he’d see them later.

“I couldn’t do no life sentence,” he recalled thinking. “I had kids, a mother. I didn’t know how long I was going to be in there, but I knew I couldn’t do life.”

Then he told himself: “I need to go to the library to figure out my way out of here.”

‘My daddy’s home’

Douglas filed multiple appeals and applied for clemency from President Barack Obama, failing each time. He had few options left when MiAngel Cody, a founder of The Decarceration Collective, a Chicago-based legal firm that works to undo America’s reliance on mass imprisonment, came across his file in 2017. Cody was reading stacks of court cases looking for compelling stories and was taken by the seeming unfairness of Douglas’s sentence.

Cody was also drawn to the letters she found from his mother, Vera Douglas, begging in vain for the judge to reconsider the sentence and set her son free.

“I know there is some bad in all of us but your Honor, there is not enough bad for my son to do life in prison,” she wrote in 2006.

Vera Douglas served as her son’s steadiest connection to his life before prison. They rarely went more than a couple of days without speaking by phone, and she made the three-hour drive from Chicago to Pekin several times a year until health problems forced her to stop in 2017.

After Cody found Edward Douglas’ case, she called Vera, who put her in touch with her son. Cody offered to represent him for free.

The Decarceration Collective also put his story on its website as part of a larger campaign to advocate for the release of people serving life sentences in federal prison. As the First Step Act gained momentum in Congress in 2018, the lawyers hoped Douglas’ story would be noticed by lawmakers considering whether to support the bill.

Congress passed the First Step Act on Dec. 20, and President Trump signed it the next day. On Jan. 7, Douglas’ lawyers filed a motion for his release. Prosecutors said they wouldn’t fight it, and a judge ordered him released three days later.

Douglas’ children — who ranged from toddlers to teenagers when he was sent away — are now 17 to 30. Over time, they gradually realized the full truth of their father’s life sentence, though they never confronted him about it. Now the father they’d known mainly through phone calls and letters has finally showed up in person.

“I was in that child’s mindset: ‘My daddy’s home,’” one of his daughters, Shanice Douglas, 24, recalled of the reunion this month. “Nothing else really mattered.”

Shanice Douglas at her boyfriend’s home in Chicago on Jan. 20, 2019.Sebastian Hidalgo / for NBC News

Another daughter, Shanitha Douglas, 29, said her family’s faith sustained their belief that Douglas would one day come home.

“God says every man will be free, and he felt he was one of those men,” Shanitha said.

Vera Douglas, a Christian minister, said that when her son walked into her home, she “jumped into his arms and lay my head on his shoulder and cried like a baby.” For days afterward, the joy would suddenly rush over her.

“I just sit up and think about it and I just cry,” she said.

‘Other guys are waiting’

The homecoming, while ecstatic, also marked the start of another difficult journey.

Douglas left prison with nothing but the clothes he was wearing. His family helped him get a cellphone and showed him how to make a call. Then Douglas set about navigating a familiar but changed city. Returning to the South Side, he saw that towering housing projects had been leveled and replaced by townhouses. And he saw construction of the Obama Presidential Center, named for the black president who’d come and gone from office while Douglas was imprisoned.

Edward Douglas waits for a bus on his way to meet longtime friends.Sebastian Hidalgo / for NBC News

He immediately began collecting the tools needed to rebuild his life: birth certificate, social security card and state identification card; underwear, socks and a winter coat; street clothes in any color but prison gray and tan. He checked in with a probation officer. He planned trips to courthouses to pay off old traffic fines, the first step toward getting a driver’s license. He ventured onto a city bus, where he struggled to use electronic passes issued by the Chicago Transit Authority. (He hopes to eventually return to work there.) At one point, unable to figure out his cellphone, he asked a transit worker for the nearest pay phone, which didn’t exist.

“I don’t know, I’m just coming home from the penitentiary,” he explained.

He carries the emotional scars of prison, uneasy in crowds, nervous about who is behind him in a restaurant. He remains angry about how long he spent locked up, time missed with his children.

But he knows he is fortunate.

He thinks of the inmates he left behind, men who cheered his release and asked him not to forget them. Some are also petitioning for release under the First Step Act.

“This is not just about me,” Douglas said. “I was one of the first ones to get it, but other guys are waiting to get it. It’s the fact that people took the time to fight for this. And I’m not going to mess that up.”

CORRECTION (Jan. 21, 2019, 2:08 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the group that represented Edward Douglas. It is The Decarceration Collective, not The Decarceration Project.

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Giuliani says Trump ‘never spoke’ with Michael Cohen about his testimony, a day after asking ‘so what?’

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s top attorney, said Monday that Trump did not talk to his former lawyer, Michael Cohen about Cohen’s testimony to Congress.

Speaking to the New York Daily News, Giuliani said Trump “never” spoke with Cohen, and he had confirmed that point with ex-lead counsel John Dowd, among other former members of the president’s legal team.

“The president never spoke with Cohen about the congressional testimony,” Giuliani told the Daily News in a report published a day after he said he “didn’t know” about the matter.

Giuliani added that the president’s legal team had contact with conversed with Cohen’s lawyers, and possibly Cohen himself, head of his September 2017 testimony to the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The day before, Giuliani told CNN host Jake Tapper that he wasn’t sure about the matter, and cast doubt on the significance of potential contact, saying “so what?”

“I don’t know if it happened or didn’t happen,” Giuliani said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “So what if he talked to him about it?”

Trump’s contact with Cohen re-entered the spotlight after a bombshell BuzzFeed News report published Friday said Trump had directed Cohen to lie in his testimony, which Democratic lawmakers pointed to as ground for impeachment, if the report’s claims were true.

Giuliani, along with Vice President Mike Pence, waved off the report over the weekend, saying he was “100 percent” sure Trump hadn’t directed Cohen to lie.

Cohen has admitted lying to Congress about multiple aspects of the Moscow Trump Tower deal, including the timeline of discussions inside the Trump Organization and the extent of his relationships and communication with Russian government officials, and the involvement of multiple Trump family members in pushing the deal through.

Cohen’s plea indicated that Trump was not being truthful when he denied any financial interests in Russia during his 2016 campaign,according to reporting from Business Insider’s Sonam Sheth. Additional concerns were raised when it was reported the Trump Organization wanted to give Russian President Vladimir Putin the penthouse in the building.

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