Vaccine roll-out, workplace activism, and Apple Fitness+

Vaccine deliveries.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

US begins distributing vaccines. The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in all 50 states today. High-risk healthcare workers will be the first to receive the drug, as the US death toll nears 300,000.

Bahrain becomes second country to approve Chinese vaccines. Regulators cleared Sinopharm Group’s Covid-19 vaccine for mass distribution. The China-made drug, which has been found to have an 86% efficacy rate, had previously only been approved for emergency use in a few countries.

Germany goes into hard lockdown over Christmas. Holiday festivities in Germany will be much simpler this year, as non-essential shops and schools close due to a recent spike in Covid-19 cases. Affected businesses are eligible to receive up to €500,000 ($605,000) in government aid.

Brexit talks extend. The UK and the EU have given themselves an extension to resolve a critical trade deal. The two parties are currently deadlocked on fishing rights and fair competition.

Pro-Trump marches turned violent. A man was shot and four police officers were injured in Olympia, Washington and four people were stabbed in Washington, DC. The skirmishes occurred at pro-Trump rallies across the country, as supporters gathered to protest a Supreme Court ruling that declined to overturn election results.

Indian workers ransack an iPhone plant. Over 100 people were arrested for smashing furniture and setting a car on fire at the Wistron Infocomm factory in Bangalore, India. Enraged workers complained that the Taiwanese company has not paid them in four months and has even forced them to work overtime.

What to watch for

Today Apple is launching Fitness+, a streaming fitness service. For $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, Fitness+ will offer classes and workouts in yoga, cycling, dance, strength training, and more. But home fitness is a crowded market:

🚲 Hardware companies like Peloton, Variis, and Mirror combine streaming workouts with bikes, treadmills, and other exercise equipment.

🥇 Social fitness apps like Strava track your workouts and keep you motivated.

💪 Gyms have taken a hit during the pandemic but local fitness studios have in some cases built stronger relationships with customers.

📱Plenty of trainers offer at-home workouts on YouTube and Instagram.

⌚️ Apple is betting that its expansive ecosystem will allow it to surpass the competition. Fitness+ classes will be available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV and will integrate with the Apple Watch and Apple Music. It’s the same playbook the company used to compete with Spotify.

Charting AI research

Artificial intelligence, more than most other fields of research, is dominated by corporations. And no company is more dominant in AI than Alphabet, parent company of Google and its AI-focused sister lab DeepMind. Combined, the companies’ labs accounted for twice as much of the research published at AI conferences like NeurIPS as any other company or university.

Google has published more papers at a top AI conference than any other company or university.
Image: Quartz

But the past few weeks have provided a case study in the perils of turning so much AI research over to Big Tech firms. On Nov. 30, DeepMind announced a breakthrough in its protein-folding prediction model AlphaFold. The company drew criticism from academics because it made its claim without publishing its results in a peer-reviewed paper. Then on Dec. 3, renowned AI ethicist Timnit Gebru announced that Google had forced her out of her position as co-leader of the company’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team. Both stories raise questions of accountability, but because of the massive computational costs associated with training AI models, research gets concentrated in the hands of a small number of institutions.

The activist’s toolkit

Image for article titled Vaccine roll-out, workplace activism, and Apple Fitness+
Image: Illustration by Thomas White

Employee activists are transforming the workplace—and making companies better in the process. Quartz asked six employee activists at Whole Foods, Google, Facebook, and McDonald’s for their best advice for people who are considering becoming organizers themselves. Activists are sharing their best practices with burgeoning organizers, suggesting a wide range of practices such as:

💪 Hit employers where it hurts

🤝 Let employees come in on their own terms

⏰ Consider the timing

✦ Our field guide on The rise of employee activism has more advice for workers (and corporate leaders) who are trying to improve their organizations. Try Quartz membership for free for seven days.

Surprising discoveries

Electric airplanes are close to a commercial breakthrough. The newest models are called STOL, short for “short take-off and landing” aircrafts.

Treasure is washing up on the shore of a Venezuelan fishing village. The source remains a mystery.

People don’t hate video dates. Nearly 70% of singles who went on a virtual date say they’d continue to do so even after the pandemic.

The bubonic plague shaped Shakespeare’s tragedies. The Black Death reached Stratford-upon-Avon, the Bard’s hometown, in the year he was born.

Kenyan wildlife wardens moved two giraffes off a sinking island by barge. Rising water levels are threatening their habitat.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, virtual dating tips, and found treasures to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Anne Quito, Nicolás Rivero, Jackie Bischof, and Walter Frick.