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How the Emerald Ash Borer is threatening a Native-American tradition

Suzanne Greenlaw doesn’t like chainsaws. She moves quickly through the chest-high ostrich ferns, frilly leaves heavy with rain, as the orange saw sputters and then chokes. “She gets all freaked out,” says Gabriel Frey, laughing as he yanks the starting cord again with one heavily muscled arm, the saw whirring to life. Putting the bar to a trunk of shaggy, gray-tinged bark, he begins to cut, the grinding sound of the saw echoing through the damp, green-lit stand.

The felled tree is one of three that Frey and Greenlaw carefully picked out of the woods on the cool, damp July day in far northern Maine. Plenty of logs are hauled out of the forest there, in Aroostook County, which is home to a chunk of the North Maine Woods, a 3.5 million-acre expanse of commercial timberland. But Frey and Greenlaw, and the stand of gray-barked trees, are part of a tradition that’s far older than any timber camp or lumber mill. The trees are Fraxinus nigra, commonly known as black ash or brown ash, which have forever been at the hearts of the lives of Maine’s indigenous tribes.

Greenlaw, a Maliseet forestry scientist working on her PhD at the University of Maine, is at the forefront of the effort to protect the state’s brown ash. The trees are at risk of being wiped out by the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that has been killing ash trees in North America for the better part of 20 years. With the help of Frey, a renowned Passamaquoddy basket maker, as well as the broader Wabanaki basket-making community, the married couple is fighting to preserve the rich tradition the tree supports.

Suzanne Greenlaw does geographic information systems (GIS) research on culturally important brown ash trees in Maine as part of her doctoral degree.

First pounded with the back of an axe into splints, then carefully shaved and cut into strips, brown ash provides the primary material used to weave baskets among the Wabanaki tribes that live across land that is today Maine and Canada’s Maritime provinces. From the utilitarian backpack-like basket made of plain-woven ash to more complexly woven and decorated “fancy” baskets, there’s an extensive tradition of basketry shared by the five Wabanaki tribes (four of which are federally recognized in Maine: Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot). The importance of these baskets throughout the tribes’ histories makes the tree what Darren Ranco calls a cultural keystone species. “It’s very central to the culture,” says Ranco, a professor of anthropology at the University of Maine and a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Wabanaki origin stories tell of the mythic hero Glooscap shooting an arrow into a brown ash tree, and the Wabanaki people pouring out into the world from the hole in the trunk. More recently, after Wabanaki tribes were forced off their land under European colonization, basketmaking was a means of both economic independence and resistance to assimilation. Until around the 1960s, the potato farming and fishing industries had an extensive need for baskets used in both harvesting and processing, and “fancy” baskets were sold to wealthy summer tourists in places like Bar Harbor and Kennebunk. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a full-time basket maker in nearly every Penobscot and Passamaquoddy household, and the craft was passed down through families, helping to maintain both native languages and familial structures. As Ranco says, “there aren’t that many species that have all of these impacts on the culture.”

It’s a tradition, however, that will soon be forever changed — and quite possibly erased altogether — as the invasive ash borer arrives in Maine, continuing its destructive spread across thirty states in the Midwest and Northeast, as well as adjoining parts of southern Canada.

Native to northern Asia and eastern Russia, the diminutive, jewel-like borer was first documented in Michigan in 2002, and likely arrived some years earlier after hitching a ride on wooden shipping material. The beetles lay their eggs on the bark of ash trees where, after hatching, larvae will bore their way into the trunk, chewing looping tunnels through the wood before digging out chambers where they will mature into their adult form. Then, adult borers will chew their way back out of the trunk, leaving the host tree threaded with damaging channels. Forest Service research conducted in the Midwest has found that a borer infestation can effectively wipe out an otherwise healthy stand of ash in as little as six years. The borer has already killed tens of millions of ash trees across a swath of the United States and southern Canada, and threatens to destroy as many as 9 billion as it continues to spread — far more than the 4 billion American chestnut trees that were decimated by blight in the early 20th century, significantly remaking the ecology of Eastern forests.

Earlier this year, ash borers were found near Madawaska, Maine, less than 100 miles away from the stand where Frey harvested trees.

Despite its outsized cultural significance for Wabanaki tribes, brown ash is not a common tree in Maine, and does not have the same economic value in the timber industry as white ash, which is used in manufacturing baseball bats, axe hafts and other tool handles, flooring and cabinetry, and as firewood. Ash species comprise about 5 percent of Maine’s hardwood forest overall, and 2 percent or less are brown ash; only about a fifth of those trees are fit for making baskets. With the forest cover in Maine now returned to pre-settlement levels (at 90 percent woods, it is the most forested state in the country) the prospect of finding brown ash among all of the oaks, maples, birches, spruces, cedars, pines, and other trees can be a challenge. But if there is going to be any kind of concerted effort to protect culturally and economically important stands of brown ash, the locations of those trees need to be known in the first place. Greenlaw is developing a tool that will help forestry managers do just that.

As she walks through the ferns alongside the river, dressed in a light, navy blue rain jacket and heavy rubber boots, Greenlaw explains how this stand of brown ash and others like it inform the geographic information systems (GIS) map she is developing. “I did a study looking at four locations and did a bunch of measurements: vegetation, canopy, soil, and whatever,” she says, in order to try to define — in Western-science terms — the habitat that results in basket-quality ash. She found that only one factor, soil type, was statistically significant. Brown ash often grows in swamps, but those trees tend to yield wood that is unsuitable for weaving. The well-drained soils of a floodplain are more likely to result in trees that are good for basketry: straight, supple, and relatively free of knots. A fact that, while confirmed by Greenlaw’s research, was already well-understood by ash harvesters and weavers. That’s why she incorporates a lot more data than just soil type into the tool she’s building. “I don’t use only what is statistically significant in my model. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Greenlaw says.

Gabriel Freyis a 13th-generation Passamaquoddy basket maker (he can track 13, could be more). “Basketmaking in our culture goes back to our creation story.”

“It really involves combining Western forestry science with indigenous forestry science. It’s not just looking for the tallest tree or finding the most trees in a particular location,” says Ranco, who sits on Greenlaw’s dissertation committee and is part of the Ash Task Force, a group comprised of natural resource managers, basket makers, and forestry scientists working to combat the borer. “When we say ‘basket-quality ash’ that means a very particular thing for the basketmaking community,” Ranco says. In addition to the tree itself being relatively straight, the fibers in each growth ring generally need to be smooth and straight in order to yield strips suitable for weaving.

Greenlaw takes a lot of different factors into account as she works to develop a Western-science understanding of where such ash trees grow. It’s well understood among ash harvesters that a tree will be brittle if it grows too close to cedar, for example, so she has a layer on her GIS map for hardwood companion species, allowing her to avoid that association on a landscape scale. Layered over Landsat satellite images of hardwood and mixed hardwood forests across Maine, Greenlaw can locate places where these various determining factors — soil type, distance to a river, stand age, and flow accumulation (the way water runs downhill) — all overlap, pointing to possible locations of basket-quality trees. The tool, which is still being refined, is becoming increasingly effective, but it only helps point the user toward ideal ash habitat, not actual ash. Once, Greenlaw trudged into the woods in search of a new ash stand, and found nothing but red maple.

It’s a trial-and-error process in part because that’s the nature of research, but also because there isn’t much in the scientific literature to build upon. “There’s not a whole lot of research for native cultural materials. We have to begin from the beginning,” Greenlaw says. “It’s not like they can go to the Forest Service and say, ‘Can you give me a tool for this sort of cultural knowledge?’”

There aren’t any known areas of brown ash on Penobscot land like the stand Greenlaw and Frey visited, at least not according to Russ Roy, the forest manager for the Penobscot Nation. “If you’re standing there and can see ten good stems, that’s a pretty nice spot,” he says. Currently, the tribe’s foresters come across brown ash mostly by chance. “We find them when we’re flagging out a stop line for a harvest” of other timber, he says, “and we’ll make a note of them.” But with 100,000 acres in the tribe’s trust land, he’d like to be more targeted when looking for ash. “What soils are we looking at, topography, riparian zones,” Roy asks, “where should we be looking besides where we are already seeing it?”

“The choices through assimilation were either to assimilate or lose all of your cultural connections, or you find a way to keep your traditions going,” Frey says. “Basketmaking in the communities was a tool of rebellion against oppression.”

Knowing where existing stands are located is still guarded within the basketmaking community. Harvesters are protective of ash stands, and there are concerns within the basketmaking community that Greenlaw’s mapping efforts will make public the closely held locations of trees upon which they rely. Because of those sensitivities, she requests that The Verge not name the river, give specific details about the location of the ash stand, or show the detailed maps that she’s working on.

Greenlaw hopes that her tool will narrow the search for brown ash stands for people within the community. The hope is that the tool will help the Penobscot and other tribal forestry departments continue ongoing efforts to bank seeds from basket-quality trees, as well as build an inventory of ash stands so that more direct interventions can be implemented if and when the borers arrive. With more than 300,000 acres of tribal land within Maine, there could very well be brown ash stands out there that are unknown both to harvesters and natural-resource managers. Greenlaw wants the tribes — as well as private forestry companies, land trusts, and managers of federal lands like the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument — to know where they have brown ash so they can make informed decisions when the time comes.

Going back to 2002, the primary means of attempting to control the borer’s spread has been selective harvesting: dense stands of ash are thinned out with the hopes that the borer will not spread between the more isolated trees. That has not proven to be the case. Individual ash can also be girdled to make a so-called trap tree: the bark is removed all the way around the trunk, drawing borers in the vicinity with the promise of exposed sapwood. The tree is then cut and burned while the borers are overwintering inside.

Other control options include introducing a species of parasitic wasps that is native to the ash borer’s historic range, which could have unintended consequences. Another option is the targeted use of insecticide in high-value trees or stands.

“If you found an area that had good quality brown ash, would it make sense to inject it [with insecticide] to keep those trees going? I don’t think anyone has come to a definitive answer to that,” Roy says. “It’s a potential option. I don’t know if we’ve gotten to the point where we can say it’s the option.”

When the emerald ash borer was found in far northern Maine, it came as a surprise. The bug needs a clear line of ash trees to move from point A to point B, and it was expected that the borer would first move into southern Maine (where it has now also been documented), which borders already infested portions of New Hampshire. Despite laws against bringing firewood from out of state, and various public education campaigns focused on not moving firewood great distances within Maine’s borders, it’s suspected that a cord of ash driven up to camp from some infested area in the south brought the bug to Aroostook County. Quarantines are now in place in both northern and southern Maine to try to slow the ash borer’s spread, but the insect was recently documented in Portland as well. It’s only a matter of time before it spreads throughout the state. With the inevitability of emerald ash borers, some in the basketmaking community are more focused on how to prepare for a future without brown ash.

“I harvest twice what I am going to use,” says Jeremy Frey, Gabriel’s brother, who was the first basket maker to ever win best in show at the renowned Santa Fe Indian Market. “I do that because I know that we can’t stop them.” Jeremy believes that brown ash will be gone in 15 years, and he hopes that he’ll have stockpiled as much as a decade’s worth of material by then.

“It’s thousands of years of native technology gone — gone,” Jeremy says of the threat. The prospect of losing everything that brown ash represents makes him upset and depressed, even if he knows that as an individual artist, he will continue to make his work with one material or another.

A recent exhibition at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, which specializes in Wabanaki art, highlighted both ash conservation efforts and alternative materials basket makers are exploring. The show, which Ranco helped curate, featured baskets made with felted wool, silk, newspaper, and plastic.

Jeremy showed work at a Santa Fe gallery during the Indian Market this summer, where he sold a piece made half with ash and half with birch bark — a style, he says, that’s designed to introduce his collectors to a new material that will invariably feature more heavily in his work. “By the time the ash is gone,” he says, “I’ll have two lines: one with ash, and one without.”

Passamaquoddy basket maker Gabriel Frey.

Gabriel Frey hand-hauls harvested ash trees from the Maine forest.

The woods alongside the river in Aroostook County are punctuated with the slowly decomposing tops of felled trees that were previously harvested for basketmaking. Above roughly the eight-foot mark, where the trunk of an immature brown ash opens into the crown, the wood is too knotty to use for basketmaking. It’s the kind of ingrained practice that looks odd, if not wasteful, to outsiders, but is part of the indigenous knowledge base that has helped maintain the stand for generations.

“You’ll see them all through here. You’ll see like mature ash, younger ash,” Gabriel says, pointing out trees of varied thickness. “I’m checking this one,” he says, notching a promising-looking trunk with two sharp hits of a hatchet, the small wedge of wood revealing the growth rings inside. The bone-white strips that Gabriel uses to make his refined, leather-accented pack baskets each represent a year’s worth of growth. “My history with this stand is that it has really thick rings, generally,” he says, pointing out the width with the hatchet’s edge.

Gabriel’s baskets — which his grandfather, a carpenter, taught him to make — have begun to earn a similar degree of recognition to Jeremy’s. This year, he was picked as a United States Artist fellow in traditional arts, which comes with a $50,000 award, and he also earned a second-place ribbon in the basketry category at Santa Fe. Although he still has a day job working as a massage therapist, his career as an artist is ascending, even as the ash borer looms.

“He sees himself as a carrier of culture, making his grandfather’s baskets,” Jeremy says of his brother’s work. “He does add a contemporary feel to it, but the base skeleton to it is our family tradition that goes back thousands of years.”

Watching him inspect, notch, and fell the trees, which he then carries out of the woods and up a steep, muddy embankment on his shoulder, it’s easy to understand why, for Gabriel, basketmaking and brown ash are inseparable. The baskets aren’t just a reflection of the brown ash and its unique properties, but of the places where it grows, and the culture that has both developed from brown ash and is determined to protect it. Frey feels he cannot weave without them.

After pounding and soaking the ash, the material is further prepared by stripping it to consistent and unified specifications.

Gabriel Frey works on a “Mac-pack,” a leather-lined basket with a custom design that includes a herringbone weave detail.

Greenlaw recently won a $10,000 grant from the Forest Service (with cost-sharing through the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to run her model on tribal land across Maine. In doing so, she will be working with natural resource managers from the tribes, the basketmaking and harvester communities (not all basket makers cut and process their own ash like the Frey brothers do), as well as Wabanaki high school students.

First, Greenlaw will run her model, and check what it finds against the expertise of those in the community who know where ash is harvested. After cross-referencing the scientific data with the indigenous knowledge and getting the best sense of where basket-quality trees may be found, it will be time to go into the woods to inventory trees with the help of the native students.

Then, when the time comes, it will be up to the tribes to decide how to protect the trees. They will be able to make informed decisions when supplied with a better understanding of how much basket-quality ash they have, as well as resources like a field manual for ash inventory and protection developed by Tyler Everett, a master’s degree candidate at University of Maine.

“If foresters say, ‘We don’t have a whole lot of brown ash,’ I don’t put a lot of stock in that because they aren’t in areas where brown ash grows,” Greenlaw says. High-value timber species are generally found in upland habitats, away from the floodplains and moving water where basket trees thrive. Basket makers, Greenlaw says, “don’t use a whole lot of materials to get what we need. It’s not like we clear out a whole stand. Once you know where a good stand is, you can cut it one year and then come back in a few years and cut again.” It’s not one and done.

Every ash tree in Maine cannot be saved from the borer. Instead, Greenlaw is trying to give basket trees a fighting chance to survive — so that basket makers can continue to come back to places like the banks of the river we visited and cut again.

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Facebook experiments with an Instagram-style ‘Favorite’ friends feature

Facebook is developing a new feature for Messenger which would allow you to share content to a limited circle of close friends. The feature, currently under development under the name “Favorites,” was first discovered by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, before its existence was confirmed to TechCrunch by Facebook directly. It’s a similar approach to Instagram’s “Close Friends” feature, which the Facebook owned network rolled out last year.

Facebook’s Favorites would let you manually designate certain friends to be in your inner circle. Then, whenever you have a Story or camera post you’d like to share using Messenger, you could send it to this list. It’s a middle ground between letting all your friends see content that’s posted on your Facebook Story, or else sending it privately to individuals via direct message. However, unlike Instagram, Facebook says the feature isn’t a way of restricting who sees your actual Facebook Story.

Favorites appears to be an attempt to encourage people to share more on Facebook, without worrying about a ballooning list of casual acquaintances accumulated over the years. It’s a problem that we were writing about way back in 2014 and, if my own Facebook friends list is any indication, the problem has only gotten worse in the years since.

The feature also aligns with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s attempts to pivot the company’s social networks into a more privacy-focused communications platform that’s the digital equivalent of a living room rather than a town square.

Facebook already has a similar feature called Friend Lists, that lets you sort your Facebook friends into Close Friends, Acquaintances, and Restricted. However, Favorites looks like it could offer a simpler approach, with just a single list of preferred friends to cultivate, similar to Instagram’s approach.

Facebook’s new Favorites feature is currently in the prototyping stage, and it’s early enough that the company hasn’t even officially started testing it internally. That means it could change a lot before it sees an official release, if it ever gets released at all.

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Peak Design refreshes its line of camera bags, introduces two new models

Peak Design has announced an overhaul of its entire camera-focused bag lineup, called the Everyday Line V2. The new bags are similar to the immensely popular prior models, but with improvements made to both design and materials, based on feedback from customers of the earlier versions. In addition, Peak Design is expanding its lineup with a new backpack and tote bag, which join the existing Everyday Backpack and Everyday Tote. All of the new designs and bags are available to order direct from the company starting today, November 25th.

The company says that it has made improvements to the zippers on all of its bags to increase durability. The new “UltraZips” are claimed to have twenty times the tear strength compared to standard zippers. The designs have also been enhanced with more rounded profiles and streamlined seams, and the magnetic latch closures on the Everyday Backpack and Everyday Messenger have been tweaked, as well.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2
Image: Peak Design

Perhaps the most significant change in materials is the switch to softer, more pliable straps, which Peak Design says was made in response to customer feedback that the older straps were too stiff. In addition, the material on the inside of the backpacks has been strengthened to resist wear, which was a common complaint on the first versions of the bags.

The entire line is available in six different colors, including new navy and cream color options. The dark grey charcoal color way has been updated with leather accents, similar to the light gray color that has become a bit of a trademark for Peak Design.

New to the lineup is the Everyday Backpack Zip, a riff on the Everyday Backpack that replaces the magnetic latch closure system with a single 270-degree zipper. The Everyday Zip maintains the ability to quickly access camera gear from either side of the bag without having to fully take it off, and it includes the customizable flexible dividers to accommodate a variety of different loads. The Zip is available in 15 liter and 20 liter capacities for $189.95 and $219.95, respectively.

The other fully new bag is the Everyday Totepack, a 20-liter tote bag that can convert to a backpack thanks to stowable straps. Like the Everyday Backpack line, the Totepack has both top access and side access panels to make grabbing camera gear as quick and easy as possible. It’s available in either black or cream colors for $179.95.

I’ve had a chance to spend about a week using the new 20-liter Everyday Zip as my daily bag, for both camera loads and typical commute carries. It’s very similar to the 20-liter version of the Everyday Backpack, right down to the turtle-shell-like profile it provides when worn. The new straps are more comfortable than the stiff-as-cardboard prior versions, and they don’t cut into my shoulders quite as much as before. But they are still thinner than I’d prefer and aren’t as comfortable as beefier straps, especially when the bag is fully loaded up. Additionally, the Zip had the same tendency to roll over onto its face when I set it down on the ground, just like the Everyday Backpack.

Peak Design says that a 15-inch laptop can fit in the 20-liter model (the 15-liter bag is rated to carry a 13-inch laptop), but much like the 20-liter Everyday Backpack, jamming a large computer in the back of the Zip can be challenging. There’s a separate slot for a tablet or documents in the laptop compartment, but I had trouble fitting both an iPad Pro and Surface Pro X — two rather thin computers — at the same time. If you do need to carry a lot of equipment on a regular basis, the 20-liter Zip might not have enough capacity.

Overall, the improvements made to the line’s design and materials should be appreciated by the many fans of Peak Design’s prior Everyday bags. In the three years since the first Everyday bags were announced, you can see them being worn everywhere, and the new versions are likely to be just as popular.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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Best Black Friday game deals: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC

It’s tough to keep track of all the gaming deals that will kick off on Black Friday. That’s sort of a good problem to have; it means that there’s no shortage of deals on consoles, games, and accessories for the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One X and S. If you’re a PC gamer, we’ve pulled together the best deals on PC gaming components happening before or on Black Friday.

We’re tracking all of the deals that we know about below by platform so you can easily find the best deal on exactly what you’re looking for over the holidays. Keep in mind that some of these deals start on different dates. We’ll be updating this post to add new deals and strike through outdated offers.

Deals on PlayStation 4 consoles, games, and accessories

Sony’s PS4 Pro console is now $100 off at a variety of retailers, making it $299.99. This deal is happening at Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and GameStop (starting on Black Friday), to name a few. Each retailer has certain bundles or console colors available, so check each out before you take the plunge.

The PS4 Slim console with 1TB of storage will be $199 (usually $299), and it will include three games with the purchase: The Last of Us Remastered, God of War, and Horizon Zero Dawn. Best Buy (starting 11/24), Target, and Walmart (starting 11/24) will each honor this deal.

DualShock 4 controllers (for PS4, and supported officially by Android 10 and iOS 13 devices) are $39.99 at Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Best Buy. GameStop will sell them on Black Friday for $38.99, a dollar cheaper than other retailers.

PlayStation Plus one-year subscriptions are 25 percent off at the PlayStation Store, as well as at Amazon, bringing it down to $44.99. That’s $15 off, a solid deal if you’re going to renew anyway.

Sony’s PlayStation Store is hosting a Black Friday sale on games. If you’re alright with digital games instead of discs, check it out for big savings on the latest games.

  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare is $38 at Walmart right now
  • Borderlands 3 will be $30 at Walmart
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 will be $30 at Walmart and GameStop

Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Deals on Xbox One consoles, games, and accessories

Microsoft’s 4K-ready Xbox One X will be $349 at several retailers, a $150 discount that amounts to the biggest drop in price we’ve seen yet for this console. Better yet, you might be able to find a game or two (or a controller) tossed in as a freebie with your purchase.

Here’s the best deal: the Xbox One X console comes bundled with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for $349 at Best Buy (includes a $30 gift card on 11/24 only), Walmart, Microsoft Store.

All standalone Xbox One X consoles are $349 at Best Buy, Walmart, and Microsoft Store. If you purchase one at Target on Black Friday, it will include a $40 gift card and Gears 5. At Costco, the console includes an extra wireless controller with purchase.

If you don’t want to spend as much, the Xbox One S starts at $149 on Black Friday. Several console bundles will be available for $199, which is still a great deal, especially if you’re after one of the Xbox One S models that has a 4K Blu-ray disc drive.

Here’s the best deal: the Xbox One S console comes bundled with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for $199 at Walmart, Best Buy, and Microsoft Store.

Xbox One S 1TB All-Digital (disc-less) console costs $149 (usually $249), and it will come with Sea of Thieves, Minecraft, and Fortnite. Starting on 11/24, you’ll be able to find this deal at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Microsoft Store.

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Xbox One controllers (for use with an Xbox One console, Windows 10 PC, as well as select games on Android 10 and iOS 13 devices) cost $39.99 at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and Microsoft Store. That’s $20 off of the regular price.

  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare is $38 at Walmart right now
  • Borderlands 3 will be $30 at Walmart
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 will be $30 at Walmart and GameStop

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Deals on Nintendo Switch consoles, games, and accessories

During Black Friday 2019, you won’t find price cuts on the new Nintendo Switch Lite or the revised Switch with improved battery life. That leaves us with the original launch version of the console, which is what you’ll get with this holiday’s bundle.

The Nintendo Switch costs $299 and includes Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with purchase at Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. GameStop will include a $25 gift card with purchase.

GameStop announced that it will sell the Nintendo Switch Lite for $199.99, and it will include a $25 gift card with purchase. This is the only deal on the Switch Lite to speak of, so far at least.

Switch Joy-Con pairs (gray and neon red and blue) will be $59 (usually $79). These rarely see a discount, so pick up a set to have a few extra controllers on hand at Best Buy and Target.

The Genki USB-C adapter that allows for easy connectivity with your Bluetooth headphones will be $39.99 starting on Black Friday and through Cyber Monday (usually $49.99).

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge


The Sega Genesis Mini is $49.99 at Target. It’s usually $79.99.

As the latest gaming platform to hit the market, I wasn’t expecting there to be a deal on Stadia just yet. However, the Google Store announced that for Black Friday, its Stadia Premiere Edition bundle (usually costs $129; combines a controller, Chromecast Ultra, and three months of Stadia Pro) will come included with a three-pack of Nest Wifi networking devices (one router, two points) for $398. (By itself, it normally costs $348.)

You’ll need a solid Wi-Fi signal to enjoy some cloud gaming, and while this deal hasn’t started yet, there’s currently no other way to get this big of a discount on Stadia.

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Amazon’s Black Friday deals on Ring doorbells, Fire TV Cube, and more, are live

This story is part of a group of stories called

Good Deals

Only the best deals on Verge-approved gadgets get the Good Deals stamp of approval, so if you’re looking for a deal on your next gadget or gift from major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and more, this is the place to be.

Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.

Amazon has shared a long list of its devices that are cheaper for Black Friday. If you’ve been looking for a deal on a tablet, Kindle e-reader, smart security camera, Echo speaker, or smart display, these might appeal to you.

Like the other major retailers, Amazon usually goes big for the shopping season, so you can expect even more deals once Black Friday and Cyber Monday arrive. We’ll be monitoring this page to ensure that pricing is accurate.

Amazon’s latest Fire HD 10 tablet charges via USB-C, a first for the company.

Happening now:

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Starting on November 27th:

Starting on November 28th:

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Tesla has already received 146,000 pre-orders for its divisive Cybertruck

Two days after its big (and slightly botched) unveiling, the Cybertruck is already racking up a lot of interest. Tesla has received 146,000 preorders for the electric pickup truck, Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday. And with customers dropping $100 refundable deposits for each preorder, that’s a cool $14.6 million for Tesla’s bank account in just 48 hours.

Tesla is offering three versions of the truck: single motor rear-wheel drive with 250 miles of range for $39,900; dual motor all-wheel drive with 300 miles of range for $49,900; and tri motor all-wheel drive with 500 miles of range for $69,900. Musk said that 42 percent of preorders are dual motor, 41 percent tri motor, and 17 percent single motor.

“With no advertising & no paid endorsement,” Musk said in a follow up tweet.

Customers preordering the Cybertruck will have to wait a while before the boxy pickup pulls into their driveways, though. Production on the single and dual-motor versions won’t begin until late 2021, while the tri-motor truck won’t roll off the assembly line until late 2022.

Tesla uses preorders for its forthcoming vehicles to generate excitement and provide a short-term revenue infusion, which helps provide a cushion for the cash-strapped automaker. And Musk likes to tout preorder numbers as a way to juice even more sales. For example, the company received 276,000 preorders for the Model 3 a few days after its unveiling in 2016; two days later that number grew to 325,000.

To be sure, Tesla doesn’t always release its preorder numbers. The company has yet to reveal how many customers have put down deposits for the Model Y, its electric crossover that it revealed last March.

The Cybertruck is no Model 3 or Model Y, but the respectable number of preorders indicates that Tesla still has its fair share of early adopters. That said, the Blade Runner-inspired design of the truck has been wildly polarizing, with social media spilling over with jokes at the truck’s expense.

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Black Friday noise-canceling headphone deals: Sony, Bose, and more

Noise-canceling headphones are some of the best gadgets around, and today’s models are truly incredible: wireless, comfortable, and capable of turning the nosiest subway car or airplane into blissful silence.

The good news is that on Black Friday, you’ll be able to pick up some of the best headphones around for big discounts. Here are the best deals we’ve seen so far to help you cut out the noise:

Sony WH-1000X M3 for $278.00 (usually $349.99). Sony’s headphones are some of the best around when it comes to both noise cancellation and comfort. This price matches the lowest they’ve ever been, making it a great time to pick up a pair.

This deal is live right now at Amazon, as well as at Best Buy, and it will likely pop up at other retailers closer to Black Friday.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II will be $279.99 (usually $349.99). Bose has newer headphones in the form of the Noise Canceling Headphones 700, but the QC35 IIs are nearly as good, with top-notch noise cancellation, great sound, and support for both Google Assistant and Alexa. And the price puts them neck and neck with Sony’s 1000X M3 model, meaning that you’ll have your pick of the top noise-canceling headphones.

Jabra Elite 85h for $249.99 (usually $299.99). Jabra’s over-ear, noise-canceling headphones offer excellent battery, as well as handy automatic pausing when you remove them. One of their biggest flaws is the price, so this Black Friday deal at Amazon makes them easier to recommend.

Beats Studio 3 for $199.99 (usually $349.99). The flagship Beats headphones offer the iconic style that the brand is known for, along with active noise cancellation. They’re not quite as good at blocking out noise as some of the other headphones here, but they do have a big advantage: Apple’s W1 wireless chip that makes pairing them to an iPhone or Mac a snap.

They’re confirmed to be available at Best Buy, and they will likely appear at other retailers, too.

Sennheiser PXC 550 for $199.95 (usually $349.95). Sennheiser isn’t as big of name when it comes to noise-canceling headphones as Sony or Bose, but the company is well-regarded when it comes to sound quality. The $199.95 isn’t the lowest price we’ve ever seen on the PXC 550s, but if you want brand-name headphones with noise cancellation at a low price, it’s worth considering.

They’re available at Amazon and Best Buy.

Apple AirPods Pro — TBD. One of the hottest holiday items around, there’s a good chance we’ll see some discounts on Apple’s noise-canceling AirPods Pro. Odds are, it won’t be the biggest deal in the world, but if you’re looking to save a few bucks on some of the best truly wireless headphones around, check back here soon.

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Black Friday Apple deals: iPhone 11, Apple Watch, AirPods, and more

The best Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for Apple products aren’t usually found at the company’s own stores, but at several other retailers. Best Buy, Target, Amazon, B&H Photo, and Walmart each are hosting some noteworthy deals on Apple products.

We’re seeing the best-ever pricing on the new seventh-generation iPad, the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4 smartwatch, AirPods, and Apple’s new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. If you missed out on getting a good deal on the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro, you’ll have another chance. More deals are on the way, and we’ll be tracking them all below.


The latest iteration of the AirPods, both with and without the wireless charging case, are discounted at several retailers for Black Friday. At their most affordable, you can usually expect to pay $159.99, but Best Buy and Walmart each sell them for $139.99 right now.

If you want to be able to pop them onto your wireless charger, the model that includes a case that supports your wire-free lifestyle is usually $199.99, but costs $164.99 right now at Best Buy. It’s just a little more at Target, $169.99.

So far, there aren’t any deals on the Apple AirPods Pro, but we’re keeping a close eye on all retailers and will update this page if that changes.


We’re seeing the biggest deals so far on the seventh-generation iPad, which is great because it recently released. As for why you should pick the new iPad over the sixth-generation model, it comes down to a little extra RAM, a bigger screen (10.2 inches versus 9.7 inches), and a Smart Connector port. Otherwise, you’ll find the same processor inside.

The seventh-gen iPad with 32GB of storage costs $249.99 right now at Staples. It’s $279.99 (usually $329.99) right now at Best Buy, and Amazon. It will go down to $249.99 at Target on Black Friday. If you want more storage, the 128GB model is $379.99 (usually $429.99) at Amazon, Best Buy.


We aren’t seeing deals on the unlocked iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or Pro Max. However, several retailers will be discounted them via activation with carriers.

Starting on Thanksgiving Day, if you’re looking for a discount on an iPhone 11 Pro, you may be able to buy one for as little as $499 (roughly half off), but only if you activate a new line with an installment plan on Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, and also trade in your old phone. How much you pay overall will depend on how much trade-in value your phone has. After activating it and trading in your old phone, the final cost for the iPhone 11 after your installment plan is paid off will be $199.

Over at Target, the iPhone deals kick off on Black Friday and last through Sunday. You can get a $200 gift card when you activate either the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max with Verizon or AT&T. Target will also offer a $200 gift card for the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, which cost less per month than the iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Apple Watch

Apple’s Series 3 and Series 4 smartwatches are seeing big discounts during Black Friday, and for the first time, prices are getting closer to the $150 mark. Right now, the Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm, GPS) is $169.99 at Walmart, and as part of the store’s Black Friday doorbusters, it will go down to $129.99, but don’t expect that price to last very long. The LTE-connected version of the 38mm Series 3 is $199.99 at Walmart. The 42mm version of that watch with GPS connectivity is $199.99 at Walmart.

If you want the Series 4, which has a similar look to the newer Series 5, Best Buy is selling the 40mm GPS version for $299 (usually $349). The LTE-connected Series 4 watch with 40mm sizing is $349 at Best Buy.

The larger 44mm model is $329 (normally $379) at Best Buy, and the LTE-connected version of this size costs $379 (usually $479) at Best Buy.

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge


The 2019 MacBook Air with a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD storage, and a True Tone display that matches its color temperature with the available light in the room is $200 off at Best Buy right now. If you want to double the storage to 256GB, that model is also $200 off at Best Buy, down to $1,099.99.

The latest 13.3-inch MacBook Pro is $200 off at Best Buy, too. Prices start at $1,099.99 for the model with a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD storage, and a Touch Bar. If you want to double the storage, it costs $1,299 (usually $1,499.99).

We’ve seen some deals on the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, but those aren’t live anymore. We’ll update this post should they re-appear.

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No Players Online review: like playing original Quake alone on a haunted server

It can be difficult to find time to finish a video game, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly column Short Play we suggest video games that can be started and finished in a weekend.

In the early days of online multiplayer gaming, there wasn’t the now-ubiquitous matchmaking that automatically connects you with other players. Instead, in games like the original Quake, Unreal Tournament, or Counter-Strike, you would be presented with a list of servers; some of those might be empty, requiring you to wait around inside an empty level for someone else to show up. No Players Online turns this moment into the perfect fodder for a creepy interactive short story.

The conceit of No Players Online seems to be that you’ve found a VHS recording of an unfinished Quake-era online competitive first-person shooter. This VHS conceit is a bit of a mixed metaphor given that you are playing the game, not watching someone else play it. However, it works as a design choice, as it helps to sell the game as being retro, thanks in part to the VHS video scan lines and artifacting.

Somehow the game still has some live servers, despite no one playing on any of them. You’re able to then pick any of the servers to join, at which point you are dropped into the map of a capture-the-flag-style match as you wait for another player to join you. But it is pretty clear that you are the only person playing this game. So instead of just standing around, you inevitably explore the map.

The map feels perfectly contemporary with the homemade maps in games like Quake. It has something of a simple mirrored layout, one that’s designed for closer to medium-range engagements with other players. There are some blind corners in tightly enclosed funnel points near the flags, and the map is otherwise fairly open with few obstructions blocking your line of sight, while also offering some slight differences in elevation.

Warning: there are spoilers after this point.

Being by yourself in a map isn’t a particularly scary experience. It isn’t until after you grab the other team’s flag that the real game starts to show itself. As you make your way back to your team’s flag, things are different. It suddenly doesn’t feel like what you already walked through, and things seem just enough out of place to be concerning. It’s a simple technique, but an effective one as it begins to signal that you aren’t in control of this space. The suspense and unease builds, which is only further compounded by the music that suddenly starts playing from the strangely out of place gramophone.

The tight hallways and blind turns begin to feel claustrophobic, while the open areas begin to make you feel exposed, offering no hiding places from whatever might be watching. Then you get a notification that someone else has joined the server.

On an old FPS game server, this sort of moment could give you a sense of unease, as previously you had free rein of the level. You may have been expecting someone to join, even waiting for it, but someone suddenly appearing felt like an intrusion of a space over which you had control. This was compounded by you also not knowing where the other person was, or what they might be doing.

While there is a certain predictable way a player will behave during a match — given that you have specific objectives to complete — in this sort of pre-match space, you don’t have any objectives or guideposts to help you predict how they’ll behave. You could end up circling each other endlessly, or they might be waiting to ambush you around a blind corner, or they might just be hiding somewhere watching you freak out.

It’s this feeling that No Players Online captures really in the back half, which goes from just brief flashes of you maybe seeing something, to moments where you aren’t able to look away as whatever it is haunting the game comes at you. This escalation is what No Players Online does best. It starts small by changing things slightly to give you a sense of unease, and slowly builds from there to make things progressively more frightening. The ending can feel a bit abrupt, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. That sense of dread continues even after you stop playing.

No Players Online was created by Adam Pype & Viktor Kraus. You can get it on Itch.io for pay what you want (Windows and Linux). It takes about 15 minutes to finish.

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Hulu is down, appears to be a major outage – TechCrunch

Hulu is currently down.

We’re not sure why, and neither does Hulu. A stream of tweets complaining about the outage surfaced Sunday morning on the U.S. east coast, but it seems like a global outage. In response, Hulu’s Twitter support didn’t seem to know either, instead telling frustrated users that it’s looking into it.


For what it’s worth and in my many experiences covering cybersecurity, the chance that this is anything other than someone tripping over a cable or accidentally pushing out production code to the wrong pipe is extremely slim. Hulu will be back. When? No idea, but these things never take too long.

We’ve reached out for comment but we haven’t heard back yet. Stay tuned for more. (Or listen to our Original Content podcast instead.)

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