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Amazon raises Prime membership fee

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon announced Thursday that it would raise its annual shipping fee by 25 percent, right up to — but not over — the psychologically important $99 level. It had originally said it would increase the fee as high as $119, which prompted grumblings among some customers that they might rebel.

A retailer raising a fee would not usually be news, but Amazon has built its considerable reputation on delivering value. This is the first time it has raised the fee for Amazon Prime in the nine years of the program’s existence. In January, when the company first announced a prospective increase, it noted that fuel costs and other expenses had risen considerably over that time.

Amazon Prime members get unlimited orders from the company delivered free in two days as well as video benefits. Customers who do not use Amazon Prime either pay a shipping fee or, if their order is above $35, get free shipping stretched over more days. Amazon is estimated to have 25 million Prime members,

The company delivered the news in a brief message to Prime customers and made no further comment. The increase will take effect for renewals on April 17, and on Thursday for new Prime customers.

For customers in states where Amazon now collects sales tax, including California and New York, the cost of Prime will move over $100.

—David Streitfel, The New York Times

Senate reaches deal on restoring jobless aid

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday reached an agreement to pay for an extension of an unemployment assistance program that expired in December, leaving more than one

The deal, which came after months of fitful negotiations, solves a problem on only one side of the Capitol, however. Getting the $10 billion measure through the Republican-controlled House will be another battle altogether.

Senators who described the deal said it would provide five months’ worth of unemployment assistance, including the 2 1/2 months that have lapsed since the program expired. The cost would be paid for in part by extending certain fees levied by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as by temporarily changing the way corporations fund their pensions.

—Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times

Zuckerberg complains over government spying

Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, has complained to President Barack Obama about the continuing revelations that the U.S. government has secretly spied on the activities of some of his company’s 1.2 billion users.

Zuckerberg spoke with the president Wednesday following the most recent news report on the National Security Agency’s surveillance tactics. The account, published in The Intercept from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, described how government computers sometimes masqueraded as Facebook servers in order to send malicious software to infect the machines of Facebook users. The documents say the process was automated so the NSA could target millions of people for the attacks.

In a post Thursday to users of the social network, Zuckerberg said he was “confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government.”

—Vindu Goel, The New York Times