Vaccine roll-out, workplace activism, washed-up treasures

Vaccine deliveries.

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Here’s what you need to know

Brexit talks are dragging on. The UK and the EU have given themselves an extension to resolve a critical trade deal. The two parties are currently deadlocked and “very far apart” on key issues.

Germany goes into lockdown for Christmas. Non-essential shops and schools close from Wednesday due to a new wave in coronavirus cases. Affected businesses are eligible to receive up to €500,000 ($605,000) in government aid.

The 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 and White House staffers will be among the first to receive the drug, as the US death toll nears 300,000. Separately, US lawmakers are expected to present a $908 billion pandemic relief bill.

Pro-Trump marches turned violent. Stabbings and gunfire broke out as supporters of the US president in Washington state and Washington, DC protested the results of the presidential election.

Russian hackers breached multiple US government agencies. The commerce department and the treasury are among those that were targeted in a widespread cyber-espionage campaign suspected to be linked to Moscow.

John le Carré died, aged 89. The British author famous for his spy novels and Cold War thrillers passed away due to pneumonia. Born David John Moore Cornwell, he wrote his first three novels while working as a spy.

Indian workers ransacked an iPhone plant. Over 100 people were arrested for smashing furniture and setting a car on fire over claims of unpaid wages at the Taiwanese-run Wistron Infocomm factory.

China fined Alibaba and Tencent. Market regulators said the two tech giants failed to properly report deals for anti-trust reviews, in a move that signals more regulatory challenges.

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, washed-up treasures
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 may have 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 Mary Hui, Alex Ossola, Tripti Lahiri, Anne Quito, Walter Frick.