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ByteDance gets another extension from US government for TikTok sale

ByteDance gets another extension from US government for TikTok sale

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Trump administration has once again extended the deadline for ByteDance to sell video sharing platform TikTok’s business in the US, Reuters reported. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has given China-based ByteDance until December 4th to either sell or spin out its US business, according to a court filing. CFIUS reportedly granted the extension “to allow time to review a revised submission” that it recently received.

President Trump said in August that TikTok and its parent company were a national security risk to the US, and issued the initial order requiring TikTok to sell its US business. Trump’s order would have blocked all US transactions with ByteDance.

In September, the US Commerce Department issued an order to block downloads of TikTok in the US. The president then said he had approved “in concept” a deal with Oracle and Walmart that called for creating a new US-based entity, TikTok Global.

That deal has yet to receive final approval, however, and TikTok said earlier this month it had received “no substantive feedback” from the Trump administration for some time. The government then issued a notice November 13th that set the new deadline for the deal for November 27th.

However, the government is still bound by an injunction issued by a federal court in Pennsylvania on October 30th. The Commerce Department issued an unpublished rule saying the agency is complying with the terms of that judge’s ruling. Its prohibition of TikTok transactions “has been enjoined and will not go into effect, pending further legal developments.”

TikTok did not immediately reply to a request for comment Saturday.

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh dies at 46

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh dies at 46

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh
Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos has died, the company confirmed Saturday. Hsieh retired from the Las Vegas-based company in August, after 20 years at the helm. Under his leadership, Zappos became known for its customer service and employee-focused company culture. Hsieh wrote a best-selling autobiography titled “Delivering Happiness” that detailed his philosophy.

Amazon acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009, and kept Hsieh on as CEO. He said in 2010 he had decided to sell to the e-commerce giant because Amazon recognized “the uniqueness of Zappos’s culture and Amazon’s duty to protect it. We think of Amazon as a giant consulting company that we can hire if we want—for instance, if we need help redesigning our warehouse systems.”

According to CNN, Hsieh, 46, died from injuries he suffered at a house fire in Connecticut where he was visiting family.

“Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, as his mantra was of ‘Delivering Happiness’ to others,” Zappos CEO Kedar Deshpande wrote in a blog post. “His spirit will forever be a part of Zappos, and we will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he was so passionate about.”

Come up With the Perfect Plans in the Best Strategy Games Out Right Now

Come up With the Perfect Plans in the Best Strategy Games Out Right Now

Screenshots of Civilization VI and Wargroove
Firaxis Games, Chucklefish

Pretty much every game you play will have you make decisions about how to tackle a situation or what loadout will ensure victory—but some games take that idea to the extreme. The strategy genre is full of brain-testing titles loved by players young and old. And whether you’re a veteran of the genre or someone who’s interested in learning, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the best strategy games out right now.

Civilization VI (PC/Switch/PS4/Xbox/Android/iOS)

Civilization is one of the better-known strategy series out there, and the newest entry, Civilization VI, is a fantastic game for both experienced fans of the genre and new players. The game operates on a tile-based map, with each turn allowing players to move units, complete tasks, and interact with the other players or NPCs on the map. With a large cast of diverse historical civilizations, each with their own perks, there’s plenty of experimentation to be had here, and the game does a good job of walking new players through the various mechanics.

Civilization VI does support online multiplayer (on consoles and PC, not mobile) but it is unfortunately not cross-platform. Civilization VI is available on PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox, Android, and iOS.

Into the Breach (PC/Switch)

In this single-player, rogue-like, you’ll need to manage a small squad of mechs as you take down alien creatures trying to take over the world. Each unit has a unique role to play, and as you progress, you’ll unlock even more mechs and abilities to take down the opposition. Each time you die, you’ll need to restart the game, but the experience and skill gained after each demise will help you progress further into the game every run.

Into the Breach is available on PC and Switch.

XCOM 2 (PC/Switch/PS4/Xbox)

XCOM is an award-winning strategy series, with XCOM 2 bringing the iconic gameplay to modern systems with fantastic visuals. Aliens are attacking the planet, so you must build up your unique band of resistance fighters to take them out. It’s turn-based combat, but taking into account your gear, the landscape, and the enemies you’re fighting is critical to victory. This certainly isn’t a walk in the park, but discovering the strategies to victory is a consistently rewarding experience.

XCOM 2 features online multiplayer, but there’s no crossplay between systems. XCOM 2 is available on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox.

Crusader Kings III (PC)

The Crusader Kings franchise is back, bringing with it great real-time strategy action, along with deep and meaningful role-playing mechanics. You get to make choices about your avatar, ranging from their history to personal desires, and it all affects your campaign. You can guide a dynasty throughout the centuries, but don’t worry—while Crusader Kings III places a large focus on role-playing, the core elements of the real-time strategy genre are still there and are as strong as ever. Whether you’re playing this to conquer Europe or simply to build up a grand character, you’re gonna have a good time.

Crusader Kings supports online multiplayer and is only available on PC.

Total War: Three Kingdoms (PC)

The Total War series is well known for its unique mix of turn-based movement and real-time battles. Three Kingdoms ventures off to ancient China to deliver a unique setting and collection of units to battle with. You’ll need to be smart with how you move your armies throughout the map, and ensure that you have the best mixture of units possible to see your attacks and defenses through to the end. From how your units charge into battle to the type of horse your general is riding, there’s plenty to take into account in this title.

Total War: Three Kingdoms supports online multiplayer and is only available on PC.

Stellaris (PC/PS4/Xbox)

Time to take to the stars in Stellaris. This game takes place on a grand scale, as you’ll be traversing between various planets and systems with plenty of role-playing elements to decide how you’ll play and win. You can create your own civilization and backstory with the game’s fairly robust customizer and decide exactly how you want your campaign to go. Whether you’re interested in ruling the galaxy or exploring the deepest parts of space, Stellaris gives you the tools and options you need to make that happen.

Stellaris supports online multiplayer but features no crossplay. It’s also available on PC, PS4, and Xbox.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)

Fans love the Fire Emblem series for mixing strategic turn-based combat with fantasy story-telling, and Three Houses lives up to that expectation. In a new direction for the series, you control a teacher responsible for training the various characters in the game. These are the very same characters you’ll be controlling on the battlefield, so you’re going to want to make sure they’re well-educated. As you progress through the story the game continually throws new challenges at you as you continue to level up your students and expand your armies.

Wargroove (PC/Switch/PS4/Xbox)

If you’ve played some of the older Fire Emblem titles on the GameBoy Advance or even the Advance War series, then you’ll feel right at home in Wargroove. In this pixelated adventure, you’ll get to lead the various factions to victory by managing units and capturing strategic points on the map. The story mode does a great job of teaching you the mechanics that you can take into the online multiplayer modes. From the expertly designed gameplay to the charming pixel art, Wargroove is a pleasant game through and through.

Wargrooove is available for purchase on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox. Multiplayer in Wargroove is cross-platform between PC, Switch, and Xbox users—unfortunately, PS4 can’t join in.

Frostpunk (PC/PS4/Xbox)

Taking a step away from the war-based nature of most of the games on this list, Frostpunk is instead a city-builder where you must make some difficult choices for your city to survive. Living in a frozen world, your main goal is to keep the central furnace of your city alive whatever the cost.

This is a rather gritty game and you’ll have to make sacrifices for the city to continue on—but be careful, because your citizens can overthrow you if they’re not happy with your decisions. With so much to keep track of and a unique visual style, Frostpunk is sure to be a game that eats up your brain for a good long while.

Frostpunk is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox.

Disgaea 5 (PC/Switch/PS4)

To wrap up this list, we’ll be taking a look at the interesting mix of standard RPG gameplay and strategy-based combat that is the Disgaea series—more specifically, Disgaea 5, as it’s the latest entry. There’s plenty to customize about the units you take into battle, with hundreds of items available to augment them. With hundreds of hours’ worth of content, layer upon layer of mechanical depth, and an insane number of choices to make both before and during battles, Disgaea 5 is a deep game that’s sure to absorb hardcore fans of the genre for a long time.

Disgaea 5 is available on PC, Switch, and PS4.

Samsung may have just spilled the beans on how its next earbuds won’t be beans

Samsung may have just spilled the beans on how its next earbuds won’t be beans

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

We kind of loved the beans. The Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-like shape made sense! But though it originally seemed like Samsung was in on the joke — the company called them beans internally, and even printed the word on the circuitry — Samsung’s next earbuds may take a take a different tack.

Today, Indonesia’s telecommunications certification authority has revealed the company has a new “Galaxy Buds Pro” set of earbuds waiting in the wings (via MySmartPrice), and SamMobile may have already revealed what to expect: a source says they’ll be a set of sealed in-ear buds with the same design as the earlier Galaxy Buds , only now with active noise cancellation and “an improved Ambient mode” to let you hear more of your surroundings.

 Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge
Here’s where the Galaxy Buds Pro appear in Indonesia’s SDPPI database.

That makes a lot of sense, since the bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live was an attempt to offer a comfortable open-air fit to begin with, and they only primarily suffered because Samsung could only offer so much audio quality (and noise cancellation) without having an in-ear seal. The Galaxy Buds Pro could theoretically be more effective at both, with an improved ambient mode letting you still get one of the benefits of open-air audio.

We’ll expect them to go head to head with Apple’s AirPods Pro, probably alongside an upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21 slate of phones. We’re expecting those to be announced in January, so the buds will probably arrive then as well. As MySmartPrice points out, they appear to have cleared several different regulatory authorities now, so they probably aren’t far off.

Alto’s Adventure and Odyssey quietly arrive on Nintendo Switch, on sale for $7.49

Alto’s Adventure and Odyssey quietly arrive on Nintendo Switch, on sale for $7.49

In early August, we learned the lovely Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey would come to Nintendo Switch, but we didn’t know exactly when. It turns out yesterday (Thanksgiving) was the day! You can now pick up The Alto Collection from the Nintendo eShop for $7.49, a temporary 25 percent launch discount over what will become its standard $9.99 price.

(Check out the video above to get a pretty good sense of what the games are like; we called Alto’s Adventure “the next great iPad game” in our review way back in 2015.)

Originally, you’d control Alto and his snowboarding / sandboarding friends by simply tapping the iPhone, iPad or Android touchscreen to jump and perform tricks, but the games now have full controller support as well. You’ve also been able to pick them up on PS4, Xbox One, and the Epic Game Store since August, if Switch isn’t your platform.

This 98-inch Samsung TV is $50,000 off for Black Friday and yes that’s a comma not a period

This 98-inch Samsung TV is $50,000 off for Black Friday and yes that’s a comma not a period

The Verge would greatly appreciate it if you bought a certain Samsung TV today. We make some of our money from affiliate revenue, and Black Friday in particular helps pay some of the bills! And today only, this particular TV is fifty thousand dollars off. That should make it easy for you, right?

You think it’s a typo? Some pricing error, maybe a scam where you’ll owe the full amount when all’s said and done? Nope! It’s just that the 98-inch Q900 normally costs $100,000, and Samsung is making it a win-win for everyone (particularly us!) by offering it half-off.

Wait, you’re telling me you don’t have $50,000 for a new TV? How are you going to afford a 98-inch 8K television with that kind of thinking? You can’t, of course: at the bargain price of $50,000, Samsung has finally undercut Sony’s rival 98-inch 8K TV, which costs $60,000. If you want to cover more of your wall in beautiful pixels than your neighbors, you’re going to have to step up!

OK, OK, I get it, you want something more your speed. We’re not all made of money! 88 inches will have to do, yes. You get your LG OLED screen, 8K resolution, just $29,996.99. Did I mention you can clip a $1,500 coupon and present it at checkout? In our experience, that’s definitely what people do when they buy $30,000 TV sets.

What a savings!

Now, in all seriousness: here are the best Black Friday deals we’ve actually found on TVs.

‘I was told I don’t have the right brain’: Read the NYT’s damning report on Coinbase

‘I was told I don’t have the right brain’: Read the NYT’s damning report on Coinbase

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Two days ago, Coinbase did something we rarely see a company do: it gave the world a heads-up that The New York Times would soon publish “a negative story” about how “several Black employees had negative experiences at Coinbase over the last few years.”

Well, Nathaniel Popper’s NYT story is now here, and that description looks like the understatement of the week: twenty-three current and former employees went on the record to help produce a thoroughly damning report about systemic racial discrimination at the company. It includes passages like this:

One Black employee said her manager suggested in front of colleagues that she was dealing drugs and carrying a gun, trading on racist stereotypes. Another said a co-worker at a recruiting meeting broadly described Black employees as less capable.

You should read the NYT report in its entirety — but given that Coinbase is trying to downplay this as a few scattered incidents, here are a few numbers to chew on as you go in:

  • The NYT says three quarters of the company’s Black employees fled the company in late 2018 and early 2019
  • “At least” 11 of those 15 employees told HR about racism and discrimination; Coinbase says it only received three “official” reports, whatever that means
  • Two named members of Coinbase’s diversity team have left the company, one of whom resigned with the words: “Why stay and put effort into this work if it’s just tokenized into recruiting points and not actually improving the sense of belonging and psychological safety”
  • 60 additional employees took buyouts following CEO Brian Armstrong’s controversial memo about how Coinbase would not engage in workplace activism
  • One Coinbase recruiter suggested she was pushed to find staff that looked like the company’s existing white and Asian staffers, saying “I was told I don’t have the right brain for this”

This June, a number of Coinbase engineers walked out after Armstrong refused to issue a company statement in support of Black Lives Matter following George Floyd’s death. He tweeted one out from his own account later, though.

Again, you can read the full damning report at The New York Times.

Watch AOC play Among Us on Twitch tonight

Watch AOC play Among Us on Twitch tonight

After making a huge splash in her Twitch debut last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) plans to join the streaming platform again tonight to play Among Us with MP Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, and two other Twitch streamers. The stream, hosted by Singh, is set to begin at 7PM ET on Friday.

Ocasio-Cortez’s first time playing Among Us on Twitch was a massive hit, peaking at 435,000 viewers at one point during the match on October 20th. She played with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as well as Twitch streamers Pokimane, HasanAbi, and more, to get out the vote, with the stream becoming one of the 20 most-viewed of all time.

Now, Ocasio-Cortez will take on Singh and Twitch streamer Northernlion, and she’ll be joined again by HasanAbi. “Canadian Members of Parliament & US Members of Congress venting each other into space. What could go wrong?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted yesterday.

Before her last match, Ocasio-Cortez said she had never played Among Us before, but seemed to take to the game pretty well when chosen as the impostor. Now with some experience under her belt, crewmates should watch their backs.

Holiday 2020: Gifts You Can Send Remotely, No Shipping Needed

Holiday 2020: Gifts You Can Send Remotely, No Shipping Needed

Screenshots of Disney  Home Page, Steam Storefront, and Spotify Home Page.
Disney, Steam, Spotify

Shipping items during the holiday season is hardly predictable. If you didn’t get your orders in early then you may be dealing with late shipments or items being out of stock. But why deal with all that? After all, there are plenty of useful or entertaining gifts you can purchase for your friends and family that are completely digital—no shipping or hassle required.

A Gift Card

$100 Visa Gift Card

This is a pretty obvious one, but when it comes to remote gifts, a gift card is one of your best options. Most stores offer these in both digital and physical formats, but sites like Amazon and Walmart are definitely the safer bets since they sell pretty much everything. There’s also the Visa gift cards, which can be used anywhere Visa cards are accepted.

A Streaming Service

Disney  Advertisement on blue gradient.

There’s a seemingly endless amount of content available between the various streaming services, and they all want to make it as easy as possible for you to gift subscriptions to people you know. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, YouTube Premium, Disney , Spotify, Audible, or CBS All Access, all you need to do is purchase one of their digital gift card codes and you’re all set to gift however much you want.

Netflix is the safest bet for most people—no one matches it for content variety alongside original shows and movies. Hulu is also a general great choice, with Disney and CBS All Access offering much more focused libraries. YouTube Premium is a good option if you know some frequent YouTube viewers, as it removes ads and also allows you to download videos to view offline—it also grants access to YouTube Music Premium.

Spotify and Audible are different from the rest of the pack, both focusing on audio content. Although it’s pretty easy to figure out which you should get, just ask yourself: “Would the person I’m shopping for prefer tons of audiobooks or tons of music?” If it’s the former, Audible is the route to go down, with Spotify being a fantastic gift for music lovers.

Digital Games

Steam storefront homepage

When purchasing most modern titles from websites (like Amazon), you should see the option to purchase a digital copy of that game. You’ll receive a code, which can then be input into the respective platform’s storefront to be redeemed, and you’re done. It’s a simple way to gift games without needlessly picking up a physical copy.

However, if you’re shopping for someone who uses an Xbox or Steam specifically, you can gift games through those platforms. All you need to do is have the person you’re shopping for added as a friend, go to purchase the game, and then choose the “gift” option. Steam even allows you to include a short message with your gift.

And the Console Subscriptions to go With Them

Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Logos
Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft

All three major console manufacturers—Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo—have come up with subscription services for their systems. One common similarity between all of these is online play—you can’t play games over the internet on these consoles without these subscriptions. That’s the main thing that pushes people towards these subscriptions, but each has its own unique features.

Both Nintendo’s and Sony’s are pretty straightforward. You can purchase gift card codes for either—it’s as simple as that. And if the person already has an active subscription to the service, these cards will simply stack to add more time.

Nintendo Switch Online mainly offers classic NES and SNES games, with online multiplayer as a reward for subscribers, while Sony has monthly free titles (such as the recently released Bugsnaxand a collection of PS4 games available for subscribers with a PS5. But at the end of the day, both are mainly focused on opening the doors of online-play to members.

Xbox Live Gold operates under a similar system: There’s only one tier to purchase, and getting a gift card for it just adds credit to the user’s current subscription. However, one thing you should be aware of is the Xbox Game Pass—Microsoft’s subscription service that allows users to access a library of about 100 games for a monthly fee.

If you purchase Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you’ll be gifting access to both Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold at the same time. Of course, Game Pass Ultimate is more expensive than straight-up Xbox Live Gold, but it’s a much better deal given the vast catalog of included games.

Amazon Prime Subscription

Amazon Prime Logo on orange backdrop

Amazon Prime is a wide-reaching subscription that offers a lot more than you may be aware of. The main benefits are definitely the free two-day shipping for various products, access to the Amazon Prime Video streaming service, and the various sales that are exclusive to Prime members. If the person you’re shopping for does a decent amount of online shopping, the fast shipping will be enough to justify the subscription alone—the other stuff is just a nice bonus to have and makes Prime a very useful gift.

International coalition of activists launches protest against Amazon

International coalition of activists launches protest against Amazon

The “Make Amazon Pay” logo projected onto Amazon’s campus in Hyderabad, India. | Image: Make Amazon Pay campaign

An international group of climate activists and Amazon warehouse workers have launched an online campaign called “Make Amazon Pay,” calling on the tech giant to provide better working conditions for its employees and to reduce its expanding carbon footprint. The protests come just as the New York Times reports that the Seattle-based company has been on a hiring spree this year, expanding its global workforce.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with CEO Jeff Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth,” the campaign states on its website. “Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and faced threats and intimidation if they spoke out for their rights to a fair wage.”

Launched on Black Friday, the campaign provides a list of demands for Amazon, which include raising pay for workers in Amazon’s warehouses, extending paid sick leave, and allowing workers to organize in unions. The campaign also tasks Amazon with “committing to zero emissions by 2030” and paying back society by “ending partnerships with police forces and immigration authorities that are institutionally racist” and “paying taxes in full, in the countries where the real economic activity takes place.”

The campaign lists a wide variety of international partners, including Progressive International, Amazon Workers International, 350.org, Greenpeace, and more. And the organization has planned a number of demonstrations in countries around the world. “Today there’s a global day of action with strikes, protests, and stunts across five continents,” James Schneider, the communications director for Progressive International, tells The Verge.

The first demonstration got underway with a strike in Sydney, Australia, he says. Stunts — some in person and some online — are planned to take place in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Germany, Poland, Spain, Luxembourg, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States, and more. Organizers have projected the “Make Amazon Pay” slogan on Amazon buildings in London, Berlin, and Hyderabad. A hashtag of #MakeAmazonPay is listed on the campaign’s website, and those who support the initiative can sign a petition on the site to “tell Jeff Bezos directly.”

“We’re asking people to add their name to those common demands and to donate to the strike funds for Amazon workers,” Schneider says. “So, today is just the start of the campaign. We aim to build the strike fund to enable further strikes and protests following this day of action.”

The Make Amazon pay campaign comes at the end of a dynamic year for Amazon. The pandemic created an increased demand for Amazon’s online shopping services, pushing the company to greatly expand its workforce in 2020. Amazon now employees more than 1.2 million employees around the world, after adding 427,300 workers between January and October, according to the New York Times.

At the onset of the pandemic, Amazon workers staged protests in an attempt to get the company to take COVID-19 seriously. In October, Amazon revealed that 19,816 of its front-line workers have contracted the virus. On Thanksgiving, Amazon said it would provide holiday bonuses for its employees, with full-time workers receiving $300 and part-time workers receiving $150.

“The pandemic has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet,” the coalition says on its website. “Amazon takes too much and gives back too little. It is time to Make Amazon Pay.”