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Best streaming sticks and devices of 2021




CNN
—  

While current TVs come preloaded with a smart interface, many are clunky, don’t offer the latest streaming services, and can lag months behind on updates to the services they do offer. The solution? Streaming sticks and boxes. These plug-and-play devices can enhance even the smartest TV and provide up-to-date access to the services you’re looking for. To help you find the best ones, we’ve spent countless hours with the top streaming boxes and sticks on the market, from Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

Best overall streaming device

The Roku Ultra is fast, responsive, delivers the widest variety of streaming services through up-to-date apps and lets you find everything easily with universal search, for a reasonable price.

The upgrade pick

You pay more for Apple TV 4K, but Apple users will enjoy the ease of control and added ability to game and access the full App Store for that extra money. It’s the complete package with the best remote we’ve ever used.

Best budget buy

With a full operating system, a remote (yes, that’s worth a callout) and support for multiple video standards, the Chromecast with Google TV delivers a tremendous amount of value at $49.99.

Jason Cipriani/CNN

We previously named the 2019 version of the Roku Ultra CNN Underscored’s best overall streaming device. With the 2020 version of the Ultra, Roku took another winning approach and made it even more attractive. From the moment you switch it on, the Roku Ultra presents one of the most seamless experiences of any streaming device we tested.

It was easier and quicker to locate preferred apps and services and to move those used most to a higher spot for even quicker access compared to other devices we tested. We were able to open Netflix, select “Parks and Recreation” and be in the world of Pawnee, Indiana, in about 10 seconds flat.

That swiftness is thanks to its quad-core processor and improved Wi-Fi, which makes the Ultra noticeably faster than other streaming devices we tested. Comparatively, the Roku Premiere takes a handful of seconds to open up an app and a few more seconds to start a stream.

Roku Ultra automatically upscales content to the highest resolution your TV can handle, up to 4K, and calibrates it to make sure it’s optimized for your screen. So if you’re streaming 720p content on a 1080p TV, it will upscale to that resolution, or if you have a 4K TV, it will deliver it at a full 4K resolution.

Content looks great, and with the addition of Dolby Vision HDR, the 2020 Ultra makes it look even better. In action titles, such as “Fast & Furious” and “Star Wars,” we didn’t experience any skips in fast scenes, and colors were vibrant but not overexposed. We previously knocked the Ultra a few points due to the lack of Dolby Vision, but with Dolby Vision joining Dolby Atmos on the Ultra, we have no more complaints.

Roku has access to some of the most popular streaming services: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, AT&T TV, Philo, Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video are all supported

The cherry on top is the included remote, which provides a simple layout with navigation buttons, voice functionality and volume controls. There’s a headphone jack built right in for personal listening (earbuds are even included in the box), and it has a speaker built in so you can ping the remote if it gets misplaced or lost in the couch cushions.

If you’re looking for a streaming box that’s fast, responsive and future-proofed with features, the latest Roku Ultra delivers at a reasonable price point of $99.99.

Apple TV 4K

Jacob Krol/CNN

Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV 4K kicks things up a notch compared to the Roku Ultra, adding gaming and countless additional apps to the menu. It’s ideal for anyone in the Apple ecosystem and who subscribes to their many services.

The upgraded 2021 model of the Apple TV 4K looks identical to its predecessor. It’s the same small block with a white LED indicator on the front and power, HDMI, optical and ethernet connectors on the back. The big change is a fast chip, inside is the Apple-made A12 Bionic in place of the A12; it proved faster during most everyday tasks in our testing, providing a fluid experience with near-instantaneous responsiveness — tvOS and the respective apps fly.

It can handle having multiple streaming services open all at once (much like how you can multitask between different apps on the iPad). You can quickly switch between Netflix and opt to open Disney+ without experiencing any slowdowns. At times, other devices we tested experienced delays when going back to the home screen, but happens instantly on the Apple TV 4K.

The big and welcomed change is the all-new Siri Remote. It’s a solid aluminum remote with a click wheel reminiscent of the iPod; you can click and hold or just touch it to control the interface. It’s much easier to navigate around the user interface. In supported apps you can even use the wheel to scroll back and forth through content. Quite handy. You also get dedicated buttons for back, play or pause, mute, the TV app, and volume. Apple’s also finally included a power button that can turn on or off your entire TV setup.

The Apple TV 4K works flawlessly for anyone within the Apple ecosystem, via an interface that will be familiar to anyone with an iPad or iPhone.. For instance, when you need to fill in a text field (like a password or search box), you’ll get a notification on your iPhone that allows you to use that keyboard to type on your TV screen. It’s leagues better than locating and selecting one letter at a time with a TV remote. It can also autofill an email field for you, and you can access your iCloud Keychain to auto-complete logins to services. It worked like a charm when we tried it on Netflix.

The Apple TV 4K supports all of the major streaming services. Via the App Store, you can find: Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Sling TV, HBO Max, Peacock, YouTube, AT&T TV, Philo and tons of others. Countless gaming titles available through Apple Arcade, while Fitness+ subscribers will be right at home with an app that displays workout metrics from the connected Apple Watch right on the big screen. You’ll also find other core apps, including Facebook’s Apple TV app, which focuses on Facebook Watch.

You can also cast content with AirPlay or AirPlay 2 from your iOS, iPadOS, macOS and watchOS devices — everything from viewing photos or videos from your iPhone to a YouTube video and even mirroring your display.

Like the Roku Ultra, Apple TV 4K will auto-scale content up to 4K Ultra High Definition, and it also supports HDR, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. If you currently have a 1080p HD TV, the TV 4K will present content at that resolution and calibrate it for your TV panel. There are minute differences between the calibrations Apple takes versus Roku, but in the end you’re getting an accurate, clear and vibrant experience with Apple TV 4K. It goes a step further but future-proofing with support for high-frame-rate content. It makes a difference currently in the Red Bull app, but you’ll need a TV capable. Don’t upgrade just for this.

You pay more for Apple TV 4K, but Apple users will enjoy the ease of control and added ability to game and access the full App Store for that extra money. At $179.95, it’s not the cheapest streaming device option, but it is the complete package with the best remote we’ve ever used.

Jacob Krol/CNN

With a full operating system, a remote (yes, that’s worth a callout) and support for multiple video standards, the Chromecast with Google TV delivers a tremendous amount of value at $49.99. And on top of all that, you also have the ability to cast content straight from your phone.

Unlike the Fire TV Stick 4K (our previous budget pick), you don’t have a clunky software experience that pushes the content you want lower. With Google TV, the software running on Chromecast, it’s pretty clean and puts your preferred content upfront.

The interface features six main categories: For You, Live, Movies, Shows, Apps and Library. Many of these are self-explanatory, but the real kicker here is that Google serves up recommendations from a plethora of services all in one spot. That means under For You, you’ll see suggested content that’s live on YouTube TV, a classic from Netflix and even new titles on HBO Max or Peacock. So no clicking around to find content you want within different apps.

Under the Apps section is where you can find your streaming services and download the respective apps. All the big players and even smaller ones are here — like Netflix, Hulu, Plex, and countless others. The latest streaming services on the block, HBO Max and Peacock, both work out of the box on the Chromecast. That bests Amazon’s Fire TV platform and even Roku, which both only have one or the other. For some, that’s reason enough to opt for the Chromecast. The only big one missing here would be AppleTV+. YouTube is of course front and center, along with YouTube TV. The latter is Google’s cord-cutting solution and if you use the platform, this is the streamer for you. It’s integrated directly into all the categories and has a dedicated guide found under the Live section. It will even place your favorite shows, as they’re airing, in the respective content recommendation tabs. On a Roku or the Apple TV, it’s just another app and doesn’t offer deep integration throughout.

Choosing content is as simple as selecting the tile and the Chromecast starting the stream. It all happens very swiftly and the performance of this smaller dongle is on-par with that of the Roku Ultra.

And rounding out the Chromecast with Google TV is the Google Assistant. You can ask for any query or question your brain can think of — and that extends to TV content. You can ask for a specific show or movie, and it pulls up a page about the title, including multiple ways to stream it.

After countless hours of binging content –— ahem, we mean testing — we can safely declare the Chromecast with Google TV to be the best budget play at just $49.99. You’d be hard pressed to get more value from the Fire TV Stick 4K (which is the same price), and this performs better than cheaper options from Amazon or Roku.

While some of these are sticks and others are boxes, the core use case is to stream content to your TV. And we crafted categories that best reflect that core premise.

Under the Ease of Setup category, we focused on what came in the box and the process for getting the device working. In some cases, it was as simple as plugging it in and connecting to Wi-Fi; for others, we held a device nearby for fast pairing.

Performance tackled more areas, notably the ecosystem, quality across watching the content and available apps and services.

On the quality perspective, we calibrated each streaming device for the TV and then checked out the upscaling. Most importantly, we ensured that it reached 4K UHD or 4K Ultra High Definition as well as checked out the supported standards.

In terms of the build, we looked at the outside and the overall quality of the design. Did the materials live up to the price point? Was space wasted? And what did the controls and ergonomics of the remote mean for the user experience?

We tested all of these streamers with a range of TVs: a 55-inch TCL 6-Series, a 55-inch LG CX55, a 65-inch Sony A8H, a 65-inch TCL 8-Series, a 55-inch Vizio V-Series, a 65-inch Vizio M-Series and a 75-inch Vizio P-Series. Additionally, for the network, we tested hardwired and wirelessly with a FiOS Gigabit connection. We also tried 4G LTE and 5G hot spots from AT&T and T-Mobile for Wi-Fi streamers.

Apple TV ($144; amazon.com)

The standard Apple TV tested nearly as well as the upgraded Apple TV 4K. It has a slightly slower processor but still runs tvOS, offers deep integration to the Apple ecosystem and uses the Siri TV remote. But we think it makes more sense to opt for the Apple TV 4K, as it future-proofs you.

Fire TV Stick ($39.99; amazon.com)

The non-4K Fire TV Stick is nearly identical to the 4K Fire TV Stick. What’s the big difference? It only supports up to 1080p HD streaming and lacks Dolby Atmos audio. It has the same processor, and in our testing it performed nearly the same. But for $10 more, you’re better off opting for the 4K variant to truly future-proof your TV.

Google Chromecast ($29.99; target.com)

The Chromecast has come a long way, and the current one is quite nice. It still just plugs into the back of your TV and allows you to cast via the “Google Cast” standard to your TV. It doesn’t provide an interface, so you need to use an Android device, iPhone, iPad or laptop to control the experience. To some degree, it’s nice, since you don’t need to re-sign in and can open the Netflix app, hit the Cast icon and send it to the big screen. At $29.99, it’s cheap, and if you’re sold on Google Cast, it’s a good option, but it’s only 1080p HD.

Google Chromecast Ultra ($69; bhphotovideo.com)

As we said, the Achilles’ heel to a degree of a Chromecast was 1080p HD and that it doesn’t have an interface. For $69, the Chromecast Ultra solves part of that. The Ultra supports up to 4K UHD and more than 2,000 services. But for that price, you can score the Roku Ultra, which is a full-fledged streaming box that doesn’t simply rely on your connected phone.

Fire TV Cube ($119.99; amazon.com)

We really enjoyed our time with the Fire TV Cube, but to a degree, it feels like it’s trying to be too much. The premise? It combines an Alexa smart speaker with a Fire TV streaming device. It’s a square box that’s taller than most streaming devices and has the classic blue light strip on the front. You can ask Alexa to turn on the TV, but it doesn’t offer full voice control. Performance-wise, it’s fast and it meets the quality standards with 4K UHD and HDR support.

Roku Express ($24.99, originally $29.99; amazon.com)

This is Roku’s entry-level device, which is affordable at $30, but for $10 more, you can get the Streaming Stick+, which is faster, has a voice remote and features 4K UHD streaming. It’s just better by every stretch of the imagination. Although the Express comes with an HDMI cord, we think you’re better off with the Streaming Stick+.

Roku Premiere ($39.99; roku.com)

The Roku Premiere is kind of like an enhanced Roku Express that adds 4K support and keeps the non-voice remote. You also get an HDMI cable, but it’s not as fast as the Streaming Stick+.

Roku Streaming Stick+ ($39, originally $49.99; amazon.com)

Yes, Roku’s Streaming Stick+ is faster than our budget pick and gets a more feature-filled remote. We really like the built-in volume controls but found that voice control wasn’t critical to the core streaming experience. Especially when price was a key focus. If you don’t mind the unique design and a more basic remote, the Roku Premiere still delivers 4K support at an even cheaper price.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:



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Future

Dow Falls Nearly 900 Points, Oil Drops as Delta Variant Sends Investors Into Bonds


Stocks, oil prices and government-bond yields slid Monday as anxiety mounted over the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant and its potential impact on the global economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 876 points, or 2.5%, in afternoon trading, putting the index on track for its worst one-day drop in point terms since October.

The S&P 500 fell 2%, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 1.3%. Monday’s losses marked an acceleration after U.S. stock indexes retreated last week, snapping a three-week winning streak.

Investors sheltered in the safety of government bonds. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell to 1.182%—its lowest level since February—from 1.30% Friday. Bond yields fall when bond prices climb.

Oil prices fell after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and a Russia-led group of big producers agreed to raise production. Futures on Brent crude, the international benchmark, tumbled 6.7% to $68.68 a barrel, their lowest level in more than six weeks.

The moves were reminiscent of trading patterns that prevailed in the early days of the pandemic. Investors sold shares of companies directly affected by restrictions on movement and business, while buying government bonds and stocks that stood to benefit from renewed lockdowns.

American Airlines Group,


AAL -4.51%

United Airlines

and cruise operator

Carnival

were all down at least 4.5%. Energy producers

Marathon Oil

and

Occidental Petroleum


OXY -5.09%

both tumbled more than 5%.

Stocks that climbed included supermarket-chain

Kroger,


KR 3.71%

which rose 3.4%, and online-crafts marketplace

Etsy,


ETSY 2.80%

which was up 2.8%.

Surging cases of the coronavirus in many parts of the world, including highly vaccinated countries such as the U.K., have prompted investors to dial down their expectations of economic growth in the coming months. Last week, some of California’s most populous counties either reimposed mask mandates or recommended wearing masks indoors to fight the Delta variant.

“The emergence of this more highly transmissible Delta variant…has brought into the question the sustainability of this reopening and the recovery,” said

Candice Bangsund,

a portfolio manager at Fiera Capital. Still, she said the variant would delay rather than derail a big pickup in economic activity and called the selloff a chance to scoop up shares of energy producers, industrial firms and financial companies.

The inflation rate reached a 13-year high recently, triggering a debate about whether the U.S. is entering an inflationary period similar to the 1970s.

Despite Monday’s selloff, the S&P 500 is up more than 12% this year and closed at a record just one week ago.

“The market has been due for a pause or pullback or, dare I say it, a correction,” said Hans Olsen, chief investment officer of Fiduciary Trust.

Some investors also are concerned that rising prices will pinch consumption and prompt central banks to withdraw stimulus, creating an environment of lower growth and higher inflation in which stocks tend to struggle.

Inflation accelerated to a 13-year high in the U.S. in June. Some evidence suggests that the price increases have started to knock consumers’ confidence in their ability to keep spending. For much of 2021, business reopenings, rising vaccination rates and government pandemic aid have helped propel rapid gains in consumer spending, the economy’s main driver.

“What you’re seeing is a sense that the consumer is starting to be affected quite significantly” by the jump in prices, said

Sebastien Galy,

senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

All 11 sectors of the S&P 500 dropped Monday. Energy and financials were the worst-performing groups.

One bright spot was

Five9,


FIVN 6.13%

which jumped 4.8% on news that

Zoom Video Communications


ZM -2.43%

plans to buy the provider of cloud-based customer-service software in a deal valuing the firm at $14.7 billion. Zoom shares shed 4.1%.

The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the U.S. officially climbed out of a recession in April 2020. The pandemic-driven recession was two months long, making it the shortest on record, according to the bureau, the official arbiter of U.S. recession dates.

Looking ahead, investors will be monitoring corporate earnings this week for signs of how companies are faring amid the revival of economic activity. Air carriers American and United are among the hundreds of companies set to report quarterly results this week, along with

Intel,


INTC -1.08%

Netflix


NFLX -0.15%

and

Chipotle Mexican Grill.


CMG -1.45%

Overseas, major stock markets retreated amid fears of the Delta variant. The Stoxx Europe 600 slid 2.3%, dragged down by shares of travel, leisure and commodities companies, as well as banks.

In Asia, technology giants

Alibaba

and

Tencent

weighed on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, which fell 1.8%.

Surging Covid-19 cases in many parts of the world have prompted investors to dial down economic growth expectations.



Photo:

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 1.3%. More athletes and staff members attending the Tokyo Olympics have tested positive, while cases are surging in Indonesia. Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, is under lockdown because of a Delta outbreak.

David Chao, a market strategist at Invesco, said the spread of the Delta variant across Asia, coupled with low vaccination rates and expectations of additional social-distancing measures, has “taken wind out of the sail for many investors expecting an economic rebound” in the region.

Mr. Chao said he expected investors to continue to pull funds out of Asian stocks and shift them to shares in developed markets with high inoculation rates, such as the U.S. and U.K.

Write to Joe Wallace at [email protected], Alexander Osipovich at [email protected] and Frances Yoon at [email protected]

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8



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Asian markets skid on jitters over future U.S. Fed action


BANGKOK —
Asian markets skidded on Monday, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 index down 3.4%, after a sell-off Friday on Wall Street gave the S&P 500 its worst weekly loss since February.

Investors are still recalibrating their moves after the Federal Reserve’s signal last week that it may raise current ultra-low rates sooner than had been expected. That gave the Dow Jones Industrial Average its worst weekly loss since last October.

Part of the Fed’s mission is to keep prices under control. The fear is that burgeoning inflation may prompt central banks to dial back the lavish support that has lifted markets to new highs after they plunged at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Until its latest policy meeting, last week, the Fed had indicated it viewed recent price hikes as transient and would let the recovering economy run hot. Now it’s forecasting raising interest rates twice in 2023.

“The shift to an earlier timeline for a rate hike, accompanied with an upward revision in core inflation forecast to 3%, seems to suggest that the Fed may still be concerned about inflationary pressures to some extent as opposed to its previous stance of letting inflation run wild,” Yeap Jun Rong of IG said in a commentary.

South Korea reported its exports rose nearly 30% in the first 20 days of June in the latest indication that the region’s recovery is steaming ahead despite lingering outbreaks of infections in many places.

The Nikkei gave up 983 points to 27,980.87 and the Kospi in Seoul lost 1.3% to 3,227.92. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also lost 1.3%, to 28,427.13. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 declined 1.7% to 7,243.50 and the Shanghai Composite index declined 0.3%, to 3,514.61.

On Friday, the S&P 500 fell 1.3% to 4,166.45 in a broad retreat, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.6%, to 33,290.08. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.9% to 14,030.38.

The Fed also has begun talks about slowing its US$120 billion of monthly bond purchases, which are helping to keep mortgages and other longer-term borrowing cheap. But the Fed’s chair has said such a tapering is still likely a ways away.

Markets were spooked after St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said Friday on CNBC that his personal prediction was that the first rate increase may come as soon as next year.

It’s an acknowledgment that a rebounding economy with near-record prices for homes and stocks may not need super low rates much longer. A recent burst of inflation may also be upping the pressure. But any pullback in Fed support would be a big change for markets, which have been feasting on ultra-low rates for more than a year.

The Dow industrials lost 3.5% last week. The Nasdaq composite, which has more high-growth tech stocks, dipped a much more modest 0.3%.

Still, the major U.S. stock indexes remain relatively close to their record highs, as the economy continues to leap out of the recession caused by the pandemic. The S&P 500 is only about 2% below its all-time high set on Monday, and the Dow is within 5% of its record set last month.

A measure of nervousness in the stock market, known as the VIX, rose Friday but is only back to where it was about a month ago.

The 10-year Treasury yield eased to 1.40% on Monday from 1.43% late Friday.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil rose 45 cents to $72.09 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 60 cents to $71.64 on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 35 cents to $73.86 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was at 109.83 Japanese yen, down from 110.27 on Friday. The euro was unchanged at $1.1861.





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News

Microsoft executive says workers slept in data centers during lockdown


System administrator Alexander Landmann carries a server in the computer centre of Deutsche Bahn in Berlin on Oct. 22, 2020.

Britta Pedersen | picture alliance | Getty Images

Microsoft employees slept in the software company’s data centers during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, an executive said on Wednesday.

While many top technology companies directed their employees to work from home after Covid showed up in the U.S. in 2020, some employees were so important that they had to work on site. That was the case for a select few who worked at the locations containing the servers for online services like Microsoft Teams, as well as public-cloud infrastructure powering third-party customers’ applications.

“I heard amazing stories about people actually sleeping in data centers,” Kristen Roby Dimlow, corporate vice president for total rewards, performance and human resources business insights, said during a conversation with Morgan Stanley analysts Josh Baer and Mark Carlucci. “In certain countries there was huge lockdown, and so we would have our own employees choose to sleep in the data center because they were worried they’d get stuck at a roadblock, trying to go home.”

Generally data centers are not places where people sleep. Aisles can be hot from air coming off of servers, and cold because of air conditioning to prevent machines from overheating. A Microsoft spokesperson would not say where employees slept in data centers or how many did it.

The company changed several aspects of work at its data centers because of the pandemic, Noelle Walsh, corporate vice president for the company’s Cloud Operations and Innovation group, said in an interview with CNBC in April.

Employees were allowed to work from home if they felt anxious about coming to data centers, Walsh said. If people didn’t want to take the bus, the company provided transportation to and from data centers and even allowed people to stay in hotels, she said.

“We had to in some cases go to shift work, day and night, to get the work done within the same schedule,” Walsh said.

WATCH: Why data centers were the top real estate sector of 2020



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Future

Suitors Circling Selfridges Test Future of Post-Pandemic Retail


More than a year into the pandemic that’s dramatically changed consumer habits, one of the most prized retail assets in the U.K. is potentially coming up for sale, testing the appetite for physical outlets in an era of online shopping.

Selfridges & Co. Ltd., the luxury emporium best known for its giant department store on London’s Oxford Street, may be on the block with a 4 billion pound ($5.64 billion) price tag following an unsolicited approach, according to people familiar with the discussion. The current owner, the Canadian Weston family, has hired Credit Suisse to advise on the overture from an unidentified buyer, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations aren’t yet public.

The department store is among the most famous in the world, eclipsed in London only by Harrods. While other brands have struggled or closed down entirely, Selfridges was able to withstand the downturn in recent years with its blend of cutting-edge fashion and a broad range — the shoe department is among the largest in the world and the rooftop terrace is a popular gourmet destination. A considerable part of the asset’s value lies in the real estate, which spans a large section of Oxford Street, London’s most popular shopping mile.

But the Weston clan also prides itself in its longterm approach to investments. Since gaining control of Selfridges 18 years ago, the family has invested heavily in the store. The store has outlets in Manchester and Birmingham, where Selfridges occupies a windowless space-age building vaguely reminiscent of a giant silver slug. Besides, the timing of a sale may not be ideal, said Peter Williams, the former chief executive officer of Selfridges who ran the business before the sale to the Westons.

“Oxford Street and Central London will be the last to recover from Covid because of the lack of tourists so why would you sell it now?” Williams said. “If I was in their shoes I would bat away any approach quickly as it can be a distraction and doesn’t help the running of the business. Particularly right now when everyone is working so hard to bring physical retail back to life.”

Spokesmen for Selfridges and Credit Suisse both declined to comment on the potential sale.

Expansion Drive

Founded in 1908 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the retailer came under control of Canadian businessman Galen Weston in 2003 for almost 600 million pounds. The group has since expanded to other department store chains, including Arnotts and Brown Thomas in Ireland, Holt Renfrew in Canada and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands. The holdings outside the U.K. and Ireland wouldn’t be included in the proposed sale, the people said.

Assessing the value of the real estate will be

Photographer: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

a key part of any possible sale. A chance to own the 540,000 square foot (50,168 square meters) Beaux Arts store on Oxford Street is an attractive proposition. But it’s also become a location increasingly surrounded by vacant neighbors. Rival department stores on the U.K.’s busiest shopping street including Debenhams and House of Fraser have closed, while John Lewis is pursuing plans to convert part of its store into offices.

About 9.4% of retail space in London’s West End is now vacant, causing rents for the best central London stores to plunge by about 14% in the year through March, according to research published by U.K. property agent Savills Plc. Oxford Street rents are down almost 18% in the period, the broker’s data show. That’s hit investor demand for stores in London’s tourist heartlands, with deals in the first quarter down by almost 46% from a year earlier.

Active Owners



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Reviews

Corps: Appeal Review for Alaska Mine Could Take Over a Year | Alaska News


By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it could take more than a year to weigh an appeal by a developer seeking to build a copper and gold mine in a region that supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

The corps’ Pacific Ocean Division in Hawaii is handling the appeal by the Pebble Limited Partnership, which was denied approval of a key permit for the project in Alaska‘s Bristol Bay region by the corps’ Alaska District.

A November decision signed by the district commander determined the proposed Pebble mine was “contrary to the public interest.”

The Pebble partnership in January filed an appeal request.

Photos You Should See – May 2021

But the corps’ Pacific Ocean Division indicated Thursday that the administrative record in the case had just been received from the Alaska District. The record contains documents surrounding the permit decision that will be considered in deciding on the appeal, the statement from the Pacific division said.

The statement said the “volume and complexity of the information to consider for this particular appeal far surpasses that of an average appeal.” The national average over the past decade for completing a regulatory review is about a year, but in this case, the process is expected to take longer, the statement said.

“The Pacific Ocean Division remains committed to maintaining an administrative appeal process that is independent, objective, fair and efficient,” according to the statement.

Luciano Vera, a spokesperson for the corps’ Pacific Ocean Division, said the appeal in this case was made to a level above the Alaska District, which is why the division is handling the matter.

If the appeal is deemed to have merit, the matter would be sent back to the Alaska District for reconsideration, which could result in the same decision or a different decision on the permit application, Vera said by email. If the appeal is deemed to be without merit, the original permit decision would stand, the email says.

Mike Heatwole, a Pebble spokesperson, said the schedule is up to the corps, “and we will work with them as they advance the appeal.”

The proposed mine has been the subject of heated debate for years.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed, but never finalized, restrictions on development in the Bristol Bay region. The agency in 2019, during the Trump administration, withdrew the proposal, calling it outdated and preemptively issued.

Leaders of the Pebble partnership had seen as favorable to the project an environmental review from the corps that was released several months before the November rejection.

The corps, in that review, stated that under normal operations, the alternatives it looked at “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”

John Shively, CEO of the Pebble partnership, said the conclusions reached in the November decision were not supported by the environmental review.

Joe Biden, as a candidate for president last year, said if elected, he would work to stop the project. Former President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those who also spoke in opposition last year to the project.

Pebble opponents have said they want permanent measures implemented that would make the Bristol Bay region off limits to large-scale mining.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Twitter verification process open for first time since 2017


Twitter CEO and Co Founder, Jack Dorsey addresses students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), on November 12, 2018 in New Delhi, India.

Amal KS | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

Twitter on Thursday reopened its verification application process to the public for the first time since putting it on pause in November 2017.

The company is rolling out a new process to apply for verification, which adds a checkmark to an account’s Twitter profile that signals the authenticity of an account to other users.

To apply for verification, an account must have a profile that includes a picture and a confirmed email address or phone number. The user must have been active on the service within the last six months with a record of adhering to the company’s rules.

Additionally, accounts must fall into one of six categories Twitter will consider for verification. Those categories are:

  • Government
  • Companies, brands and organizations
  • News organizations and journalists
  • Entertainment
  • Sports and gaming
  • Activists, organizers and other influential individuals

The company said it will add more categories, like scientists, academics and religious leaders, later this year.

The verification application will roll out gradually to users over the next few weeks. It will exist within the account settings tab of the service.

Users who are approved will see the verification icon automatically. Those who are rejected can reapply 30 days after receiving Twitter’s decision.

The new application process comes after the company paused verifications in November 2017 after receiving criticism for its decision to verify Jason Kessler. He was one of the organizers behind the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in the death of one woman.



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Hardware

Everydays True Value Hardware Donates Supplies To JHS | News, Sports, Jobs



JHS Principal Dana Williams accepts donations from Steve Columbare, Everydays True Value owner, for the school.

Everydays True Value Hardware on Foote Avenue recently donated free health and safety products to Jamestown High School through The True Value Foundation’s Educational Heroes Safety Campaign.

The donation included hand sanitizer and germicidal cleaner.

“We are very thankful for Everydays True Value’s donation to JHS,” said Dana Williams, Jamestown High School principal. “These supplies will be used for our students and staff. We can’t thank Everydays True Value Hardware enough for choosing JHS to receive this generous donation.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, True Value Manufacturing retooled its EasyCare paint production facility to produce FDA-approved hand sanitizer and other essential cleaning products to meet unprecedented nationwide consumer demand for health and cleaning essentials. In August of last year, the True Value Foundation decided to go even further to address the growing public need for these products as schools reopened by launching the Educational Heroes Safety campaign. JHS also benefited from True Value’s generosity last September with a donation of hand sanitizer, N-95 masks and cleaning supplies.

“Everydays True Value Hardware is pleased to be providing these health and safety supplies to JHS,” said Steve Columbare, owner of Everydays True Value Hardware on Foote Avenue. “The True Value Foundation is focused on helping youth succeed with tools and resources to achieve their potential. Our children’s greatest assets are their educators and school staff. To ensure that our children get their best educational experience under these trying circumstances, everything possible needs to be done to keep our educators, school staff and children safe. Working together, True Value Foundation, True Value retailers, and the True Value Corporation will keep our front line educational heroes safe and your students learning.”



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News

Target will temporarily stop selling Pokémon and sports trading cards in stores due to safety concerns


Last week, a Target in Wisconsin was locked down after a man was physically assaulted by four others over sports trading cards.

“The safety of our guests and our team is our top priority,” Target said in a statement to CNN. “Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve decided to temporarily suspend the sale of MLB, NFL, NBA and Pokémon trading cards within our stores, effective May 14.”

The cards will still be available online, the company said.

The value of trading cards has skyrocketed in recent months during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In December 2020, a rare Charizard Pokémon card — with minimum bid set at $50,000 — sold for $360,000 through Goldin Auctions. Another sold for almost $400,000 earlier this year, and the auction house told CNN they’ve seen an increase in value over the course of the pandemic.

Sports cards have seen a similar rise.

In early February, a Michael Jordan rookie basketball card in pristine condition sold for a record $738,000 at an auction run by Goldin Auctions. The exact same item went for nearly $215,000 just weeks before.

“There’s never been a time like this in the history of the business,” Ken Goldin, founder and CEO of Goldin Auctions, told CNN in February.

Walmart said it continues to sell trading cards in stores, and a spokesperson told CNN that the retailer has seen an increase in customer demand for them.

“We are determining what, if any, changes are needed to meet customer demand while ensuring a safe and enjoyable shopping experience,” a spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

Prior to Target’s latest move, the store limited card purchases to just one item a day, saying that guests were lining up overnight to get their hands on trading cards, CNN affiliate WISN reported.

Target did not say when it would begin selling the cards in stores again.

CNN’s Julia Horowitz contributed to this report.



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Future

Ant Group Explores Future Without Chinese Billionaire Jack Ma


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