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Technology

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For many online retailers, Cyber Monday is likely to be the peak shopping day of the year. To handle the onslaught of orders, Amazon has begun rolling out a new robot army.

The Amazon order-fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., is more than a million square feet — or 28 football fields, if you prefer — filled with orange and yellow bins flying this way and that on conveyor belts. Chances are, if you ordered a bunch of items in the San Francisco Bay Area recently, Amazon put that box together here.

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?

Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.

There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,

And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,

All of us are familiar with the sound a smartphone makes when an email or text has arrived. Our somewhat Pavlovian response is to pick up the device, see who the message is from and read it.

In Germany, a growing number of these emails come from the boss contacting employees after work. That's not healthy, say experts on work-related stress, including psychologist Gerdamarie Schmitz in Berlin, who is feeling the technological encroachment herself.

This week, a 3-D printer fabricated a part for itself. Normally, that wouldn't make headlines — except that it happened in space.

"It's a history-making moment for us because it's the first time ever that we're talking about transitioning from launching every part we might need in space from Earth, to actually being able to email a file, a design to space and make that part on demand," says Niki Werkheiser, the project manager for the International Space Station 3-D Printer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Around this time every year, retailers gird their loins and prepare to slash prices for the holiday shopping season. For many stores, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are opportunities to clear old stock (at a mild loss) and trigger a surge of spending that carries on well into December. Deals on toys, televisions and tablets are meant to pull you into stores, where you're likely to splurge on other things like towels ... or perhaps a new cellphone.

About three hours southeast of Dallas, there's a city that's been hit by almost every disaster you could imagine including earthquakes, hurricanes and even bombs. It's appropriately called Disaster City.

It's a training site for first responders, but the facility is looking ahead to a different kind of disaster — infectious diseases like Ebola, and robots may play a key role.

One of the first things you see when you enter Disaster City is an enormous pile of rubble.

Australian cricket player Phillip Hughes died this week in Sydney after he was struck on the back of the neck by a bounced pitch that's an ordinary and routine part of cricket.

Mr. Hughes was 25, an accomplished and admired player. There's been an outpouring of grief in Australia and around the world over his death. Cricket fans from India and Pakistan to New Zealand have observed a minute of silence before a match, and worn black armbands. Cricket fans have put out cricket bats in tribute. Rory McIlroy, the great Irish golfer, played with a black ribbon in his cap.

It may have been the fire hydrants that certified Ben Wellington as the king of New York's "open data" movement.

The University of Texas Southwestern class of 2014 is celebrating graduation. Class vice president Amy Ho has shed her scrubs for heels and a black dress. She says with modern technology, med school really wasn't too hard.

"If you want to do the whole thing by video stream, you can," she says. "I would wake up at 10 a.m., work out for an hour or so, get some lunch and then video stream for 6 hours and then go to happy hour. It actually was not that bad."

After Michael Brown was shot dead in August, his mother, Leslie McSpadden, said, "My son was sweet. He didn't mean any harm to anybody." He was, she said, "a gentle giant."

A recent dinner with my friends went something like this:

"Wait, who is going to take a Snapchat of all of us when our drinks arrive?"

"Oh no, I can't! My phone is dying."

"Guys, this is such a stereotypical millennial conversation. I am totally tweeting about this."

So I guess I understand why older folk fret that youngsters these days are losing out on authentic social connections because of social media.

If you're traveling this holiday season, you'll inevitably be doing a lot of standing around.

Whether it's standing in an airport security line or waiting at a crowded gate, it would be nice to take a load off in the midst of the travel rush. Better yet, pulling a "seat" out of your back pocket sounds pretty convenient.

The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.

When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.

Getting interviewed by Jana Rich provides the warm yet affirming sensation of being in a nurturing therapist's office. She leans forward across the light-wood conference table, clasps her hands together and asks: Why did you move across the country for that job? What is it you really wanted to do? And what about that other dream? Occasionally she interrupts, as though examining storytelling abilities as much as professional narrative, to clarify and to draw the interviewee out.

Politicians from Jeb Bush to President Obama like to hype the revolutionary power and cost-effectiveness of digital learning, but a new study suggests, in many cases, it is neither more powerful nor cheaper than old-fashioned teaching.

The New York Times has named former top NPR executive Kinsey Wilson to help its digital news efforts.

Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet appointed Wilson to be one of his top deputies in the newly created role of editor for innovation and strategy, the newspaper announced Tuesday morning.

As the holiday buying season approaches, retailers remain open to the same attack — called a "point of sale" attack — that hit Target and Home Depot, security experts say. Those analysts say that retailers have their fingers crossed, hoping they're not next.

And leading companies are keeping very tight-lipped about what, if anything, they're doing to protect customers.

Is This Store Hackerproof?

It's easy to spot a scratched face on a watch. It's much harder to tell if the checkout machine that you swipe to pay for that watch is defective.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now for some seriously wasteful purchases, emphasis on the waste.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A big shift happened in news and information over the past few years: The people who write news and information no longer control the distribution of it. Technology companies do.

Specifically it's Facebook and Twitter — the large social platforms created in Silicon Valley.

Tech companies lobbies all the time — for tax reform, patent reform. But usually, it's in the form of big checks and quiet back room meetings.

Immigration was different — the issue where business leaders decided to ally with Latino community groups and labor unions. And now that President Obama has issued an executive action, the tech sector is sorting out its next steps.

Love Song Goes Quiet

For a while, it seemed, Silicon Valley and Washington DC were singing each other a love song.

For veterans like Katherine Keleher, Facebook can be a nightmare.

When a photo of the 25-year-old former Marine was posted to "Just the Tip, of the Spear" last fall, she was so nervous she couldn't bear to look and asked a friend to check the page for her. The group's name, abbreviated JTTOTS, plays off of innuendo and the Marine Corps moniker as the Tip of the Spear.

What would you give to watch someone else play what's arguably the world's worst video game — for nearly a week?

It turns out, people have given millions, as part of a fundraiser called Desert Bus for Hope.

Uber's public-relations nightmare dominated the week's technology news. A senior executive at the ride-sharing firm suggested that Uber should dig up dirt about media critics of the company. The comments came after Uber faced negative press over a promotion in France featuring scantily clad female drivers.

For Joel Bowman, decades of bike commuting started feeling like hard work. So the 66-year-old Atlanta resident recently switched to an electric bicycle, and now when he rides Bowman feels like the wind is at his back.

An e-bike looks a lot like a regular bike, but with an integrated electric motor, and it doesn't burn gasoline like an old-fashioned moped. As you pedal, an e-bike gives you a powered boost when you need it.

They are getting more popular in Europe, but in the United States, e-bikes still have to overcome the stigma of being just a toy for old people.

Months after a Supreme Court decision shattered its business model, the streaming service Aereo has filed for bankruptcy.

"The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty," the company's founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said in a statement. "And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."

"Text neck," the posture formed by leaning over a cellphone while reading and texting, is a big problem, according to the author of a newly published study in the National Library of Medicine.

Kenneth K. Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, says the bad posture can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on the upper spine — sometimes for several hours a day, depending on how often people look at their devices.

It's a question we've all wrestled with: Which emails should be saved and which ones should be deleted?

The Central Intelligence Agency thinks it's found the answer, at least as far as its thousands of employees and contractors are concerned: Sooner or later, the spy agency would destroy every email except those in the accounts of its top 22 officials.

It's now up to the National Archives — the ultimate repository of all the records preserved by federal agencies — to sign off on the CIA's proposal.

How Well Do Your Apps Protect Your Privacy?

Nov 20, 2014

When you open up your Skype app to make a call, it's probably no surprise that it's accessing your phone's call history. But would you expect your Nike+ Running app to collect that information too?

If you're like most people, the answer is no.

That's why the Nike+ Running app gets a B on PrivacyGrade, a site for people to figure out what information their apps might be collecting. Right now it only looks at Android apps, but the site already lists hundreds of them from Google Maps to Instagram to WebMD.

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