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Exclusive: 18 Ways to Spend That $50 Gift Card – CNET

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18 Ways to Spend That $50 Gift Card     - CNET

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This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

If you still have unused gift cards or if you happen to be the lucky recipient of a gift card for your birthday, an anniversary, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or something in between, chances are that you have a few ideas in mind for how to spend it. But in case you’re unsure what to buy, we have some great ideas for you that totally beat socks or towels. These are also awesome gift ideas for a friend or loved one for any upcoming celebrations.

And if you’re looking for modern tech, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to find a great gift or addition to your home. Even with inflation, there are plenty of inexpensive gadgets out there, and great deals floating around that bring some pricier gifts down to under $50. The trick is knowing what’s not only a good value but what can be useful, too. Here are a handful of the best gifts under $50 to treat yourself or someone you love right now.

Amazon

The JBL Bluetooth speaker that received the biggest improvements for 2021 is among the company’s smallest. The JBL Go 3 has a completely new look — it’s now covered in durable fabric instead of having the naked plastic design of its Go predecessors — and that new design, coupled with surprisingly decent sound for its small size, makes the Go 3 one of the top micro Bluetooth speakers out there.

Available in multiple color options, it has an IP67 water-resistance rating (it can be dunked in water and is dust-proof). Plus, the battery life is rated at up to five hours.

Weighted blankets have become a popular item that people use to sleep better. They hug your body and distribute weighted glass beads evenly in small pockets. This blanket is breathable and machine-washable in a cleaning bag on the gentle cycle. 

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Sony

These aren’t the latest and greatest headphones on the market right now, but for under $50, they still boast some impressive specs. They feature a 30mm driver and a swivel design for superior comfort and easy packing. And with lightning fast USB-C charging, they can deliver up to 35 hours of continuous music on a single charge.

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Here’s a gift that anyone who’s susceptible to losing things will appreciate. Apple’s new-for-2021 AirTags accessories work with any Apple device and use the company’s FindMy network — the same one used to locate lost iPhones. Attach them to keys, a backpack or just about anything else. It’s $29 for one and $116 for four, and if you buy through Apple, you can get free customized engraving, too.

Read our Apple AirTags hands-on.

 

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Known for its value headphones and earbuds, JLab has released a pair of on-ear headphones with an integrated boom microphone — it can be rotated up when just listening to music — and multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect them to your phone and computer simultaneously. I’m more partial to the Jabra Elite 45h, which list for $100 but usually sell for around $75. But if you don’t want to spend quite that much, the Go Work is a solid pair of headphones, and headset, for its modest price. They’re also comfortable to wear, with a lightweight design. You won’t mistake these for premium headphones but the build quality seems fine. 

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Battery life is rated at up to 45 hours at moderate volume levels, and you can mute calls using the multifunction button (an LED lights up at the end of the boom mic when the call is muted). I wouldn’t call the sound quality for music listening and the headset performance stellar, but it’s good, particularly for the price. For music listening, there’s ample bass and clarity and a cable is included for wired use. The headphones charge via USB-C. Bottom line: This is a solid gift for anyone who spends some or all of their time working remotely.

Amazon

Anker’s 10,000-mAh Power Bank is relatively slim for the size of the battery and includes one each USB-C port and USB-A ports with quick-charging features (up to 18 watts). You can also wirelessly charge the latest smartphones that have wireless charging capabilities, and the battery turns into a wireless charging pad if you plug it into a power adapter, which isn’t included. The battery will charge as your phone does in that setup. 

It’s currently $50, but sometimes a clip-and-save coupon can bring the price down. 

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I was a fan of the original Earfun Free buds, and now there’s an upgraded version called the Earfun Free 2. They’re not a huge upgrade, but like the originals they fit my ears well and deliver decent bang for the buck with strong sound — it has just a touch of treble and bass boost (there’s plenty of bass) — and extra features such as wireless charging.

Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels, and these buds are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. These are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip that includes support for the aptX audio codec if you’re using a compatible device (certain Android smartphones support that protocol).

They are listed at $50, but be sure to select the instant coupon for an extra 20% off at checkout

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Roku

These days, it’s nearly impossible to get a TV without a bunch of “smart” streaming apps built in. But that’s not true of older TVs, and even newer ones don’t have all the top new services and simply don’t offer the faster performance of a dedicated video streaming box that plugs into an HDMI port. For under $50, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K (2021) boasts access to just about every online video service you can think of, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and hundreds more, at resolutions up to 4K. The Streaming Stick 4K Plus comes bundled with a step-up voice-enabled remote for $20 more.

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I was a fan of Creative’s original Sound Blaster Jam headphones that came out in 2015 and had a decidedly retro look and feel, as well as good sound for the money. Now these headphones are available in a 2.0 version with some key upgrades, including Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C charging, improved call quality and multipoint Bluetooth pairing that allows you to pair them to two devices simultaneously. Battery life is rated at up to 22 hours.

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Biolite’s TraveLight 135 is a multifunction portable — and wearable — LED light that can be used as a flashlight (bright white light), bike light (with a flashing red light) and even a power bank for charging your phone. It fits easily into a pocket and is a good safety item for anyone who hikes, bikes or camps. 

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Tribit’s StormBox Micro lists for slightly more than $50, but often dips below the $50 mark, so I’m including it on this list. It’s one of the best sounding pocket-size Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested, with bigger bass and volume than most other tiny speakers. 

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Aside from its great design, Bose’s SoundLink Micro stood out because it was able to deliver more bass than every Bluetooth speaker in its size class, and it also managed to limit distortion at higher volumes. And it’s the Tribit’s bass and overall volume level for its tiny size that allows it to stand out. 

It’s IP67-rated so it’s dust-proof and water-resistant (it can be fully submerged in shallow water for a short time) and has up to eight hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. Like other speakers in this category, this Bluetooth model has an integrated strap so you can clip it to your backpack or bike’s handlebars.

Read our Tribit StormBox Micro review.

 

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This one isn’t a fun gift, but it’s the type of thing they’ll use every day. This wall wart is one of the better values out there, with dual USB-C PD (power delivery) ports, a USB-A and a total of 65 watts of power. That will allow you to charge most devices, including some larger USB-C laptops. It uses GaN technology, which helps reduce the size of the charger, and the plug is foldable. 

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If you’re looking to gift a solid set of true wireless earbuds without spending a fortune, the EarFree Free Pro are a solid choice. They offer active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2. Rated for seven hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function on, or about six hours with it, they’re IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

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They sound very good for the money, with relatively clean, balanced sound and bass that has some kick to it — they’re pretty open-sounding. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have little fins that help keep them securely in your ears, and they’re fairly discreet-looking.

Don’t expect them to cancel noise as well as the AirPods Pro, but they do provide some decent muffling. It’s worth noting that you can use either the left or right earbud independently, and there’s a low-latency mode for video watching (and presumably gaming). Call quality was decent, too — callers said they heard some background noise, but it wasn’t intrusive and they could hear my voice well. The touch controls were responsive.

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Mophie’s magnetic power bank is similar to Anker’s PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless ($54) but has a more refined design. Like the Anker, this isn’t an official Apple MagSafe accessory, but it magnetically adheres to the back of your iPhone 12 or 13 series or a MagSafe case — yes, it sticks nicely — and is svelte for 5,000-mAh battery. It can also be used with other phones that support wireless charging, as it comes with a stick-on magnet. 

Wireless charging speeds are limited to 7.5 watts for iPhones, but if you need a faster charge you can connect a USB-C to Lightning cable to bump the speed up to 12 watts. This has enough juice to fully charge an iPhone 13 or 13 Pro once, but it’ll fall a little short of a full charge with an iPhone 13 Pro Max.

While it’s a bit pricey at $50, it’s half the price of Apple’s option. First-time buyers on Zagg.com can get 20% off if you sign up for the Zagg newsletter and it’s also available on Amazon for under $50.

Lego

Legos aren’t just for kids by any means, with more and more kits geared toward adults popping up every day. Case in point: this model of the Batman cowl worn by the caped crusader of Gotham City. This $50 kit is 410 pieces altogether and comes with a study mount and information plaque to display with the finished product. A great gift for the comic book nerd in your life.

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Splurges Under $100

The following items are some of our favorite splurges at the moment, and often you will find these items discounted at close to or under $50. So keep your eye out for deals and decide if you’re willing to put a little bit of cash with that gift card to grab one of these indulgent finds, which could be a great option as a gift or for yourself.

David Carnoy/CNET

Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds and most, including the TWS 330NB, are great values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, they feature very good sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls). 

They fit my ears well — they’re essentially AirPods Pro clones — and while the touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android (you can set the level of touch sensitivity). They have an IP54 rating, which means they’re splash- and dust-proof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off, at moderate volume levels. That’s only OK, but you do get an additional two charges in the charging case. Note there can be considerable variation in how much the different colors cost.

Amazon

This bundle includes the all-new Echo Show 5 and the new Blink Mini indoor camera at a great savings. What’s great is that you can view that camera from the Echo Show 5 (and your phone), making it a perfect combo.

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Exclusive: Best Car Insurance for Military and Veterans for July 2022 – CNET – TalkOfNews.com

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Best Car Insurance for Military and Veterans for July 2022     - CNET

#Car #Insurance #Military #Veterans #July #CNET

If you’re an active-duty military member or a veteran (or sometimes their family members), there are a couple of good places to check for car insurance. Some companies offer discounts for vets while other auto insurance carriers create policies specifically for them. Military members and vets may have access to a variety of cheaper car insurance options that aren’t available to the general public, often with rates hundreds of dollars below the national average. 

Car insurance companies that exclusively cover service members and veterans — whether you’re a sailor, Marine, soldier, airman, Coast Guardsman, National Guard member or reservist — provide a pricing scale that larger insurers typically can’t match. Eligibility for the families of service members or veterans will depend on the carrier. 

If you fall into any of these categories, it’s still critical to compare rates and policies. “Current and former military [personnel] should shop for insurance just like everyone else,” said Dan Karr, CEO of ValChoice, an independent platform for insurance analytics and ratings. The way a provider handles claims should also be an important consideration when researching insurance policies, Karr added.

Here are some of our top car insurance company picks for military members, veterans and their families. 

Best car insurance companies for members of the military and veterans

USAA

Active-duty military service members, veterans and their immediate family members are eligible to apply for United Services Automobile Association insurance. If you fall into one of these categories, you may find yourself eligible for cheaper rates than you might find elsewhere. Customers who switch their auto insurance policies to USAA saved $725 on average per year, according to USAA’s website. Moreover, USAA’s average annual premium for full coverage is among the most competitive, coming in at $1,209 compared to $1,771 for the national average, according to Bankrate.

The company has been around since 1922, when 25 US Army officers decided to insure each other’s vehicles. Today, the insurance company serves millions; the insurer’s low car insurance rates are a big draw, but USAA’s high customer satisfaction scores from J.D. Power surveys are also alluring. Its overall customer satisfaction score averages to 884 across US regions; higher than the industry average of 834. 

The bottom line: USAA is a worthy option to look into if you’re eligible to buy a policy. 

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Geico doesn’t quite match USAA’s rates: The company’s average annual premium for full coverage sits at $1,297 compared to USAA’s $1,225, according to Bankrate. Nonetheless, Geico’s rates fall well below the $1,674 national average, and its military discount makes for a good insurance choice if you’re active or retired military.

All active-duty and retired personnel, as well as members of the National Guard or Military Reserves, are eligible for up to 15% off their total insurance rate premium. Moreover, Geico offers an additional Emergency Deployment Discount to customers who deploy into a military base in imminent danger pay areas, as designated by the Department of Defense. The company has a special customer service team dedicated to military assistance, as well as a toll-free line dedicated to serving military customers — 1-800-MILITARY. 

Check out our full review of Geico Auto Insurance.

Armed Forces Insurance

Armed Forces Insurance has deep roots — it was founded in 1887 by military leaders — and while it’s not as well-known as USAA, it’s been around longer and has broader eligibility requirements, making it easier for more people to qualify for coverage.

AFI expands its coverage beyond active-duty and retired service members — and their children and spouses — to the Department of Defense civilian employees, officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Public Health Service. If you fall into one of those groups (or have in the past), AFI may be worth a look.

However, one of the most glaring differences between AFI and USAA is reflected in the companies’ customer satisfaction and ratings. While USAA routinely scores high in customer satisfaction, feedback on AFI is more divided. AM Best has given AFI a B+ financial strength rating compared to USAA’s A++. Moreover, AFI receives more than 3.5 times the complaints compared to the national industry average, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners,

Other carriers with notable discounts


Arbella

Arbella is a regional insurance company offering car, home and business insurance policies in the New England area, though its auto policies are only offered in Massachusetts and Connecticut. If you live in either of these states, Abrella is worth exploring because the company offers up to a 10% discount for any active-duty service member deployed more than 100 miles away from your vehicle.

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Farmers

Farmers extends its “Affinity discount” for military customers who are active duty, active reserve, retired or honorably discharged veterans. Pair this discount with others from Farmers’ robust list, including good payer (history of paying in full, on time), multicar and ePolicy discounts, and you’re well on your way to bringing your annual premiums down.

Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual is another insurer that offers a robust set of discounts, including one that extends to active, retired and reserve members of the US armed forces. Though Liberty Mutual’s average annual premium for full coverage sits a bit higher than the national average using the military discount along with homeowner, bundling multicar, good student or early shopper discounts can help make its policies more affordable. 

Best car insurance for military and veterans, compared

Company Benefits A.M. Best Financial Strength Rating*
USAA Family coverage, low rates, award-winning service and coverage. A++
Geico Military personnel, emergency deployment, dedicated hotline for military customers. A++
Armed Forces Insurance Department of Defense civilian employees and NOAA and PHS commissioned officers eligible. B+

*A.M. Best financial strength rating scale runs from D (lowest) to A++ (highest).

FAQs

What is the best car insurance for military members?

The best carrier will differ for everyone, depending on your specific situation, how much coverage and what kinds of coverage you want. According to our research, USAA and Geico offer among the most competitive rates out there for service members, and they both cover a wide range of coverage options and discounts to help formulate a policy that fits your needs and budget.

Whichever auto insurer you choose, your military service may potentially mean savings. For that reason, it’s important to always check your eligibility and inquire about the rates and discounts that service members, veterans and their families can get.

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What should you do when applying for car insurance as a service member or veteran?

  • Look for quotes from a variety of insurance companies. Make sure to include companies that offer military discounts, as well as those that only serve the military.
  • Choose the plan that makes the most sense for you, based on eligible car insurance discounts, the company’s customer service rating, auto claims satisfaction, coverage options and the final price.
  • Gather documented proof of your identity and military service such as your military ID or DD-214 (or the service of your family member, along with proof of relation).
  • Submit the appropriate documents to your insurer of choice, then wait for final approval.

How can you save on car insurance as a veteran?

Some carriers only serve members of the military, such as USAA and AFI. These insurers generally have competitive rates compared to other mainstream carriers available to the general public. If USAA and AFI don’t serve your needs, mainstream carriers like Geico, Liberty Mutual and Farmers also offer discounts for military members. If you pair a low premium rate with a variety of discounts, including a military discount, you may be able to bring your annual premiums down substantially and save on car insurance in the long run.

How do you get a military discount on car insurance? What documents do you need to show you’re eligible?

The requirements to receive a military discount differ from insurer to insurer. For example, while Geico simply gives all active-duty military and retired personnel up to a 15% discount, Arbella will only apply up to a 10% discount if you’re an active-duty military member that is deployed more than 100 miles away from your vehicle. You’ll want to check what each insurer’s parameters are for qualifying for a military discount. 

That said, the documents to prove your eligibility for military discounts are similar across the board. You’ll likely need to show one or more of the following documents:

  • DD-214
  • NGB-22
  • Military orders if you are actively serving
  • Academy appointment letter or ROTC contract
  • Discharge certificate
  • Letters or statements showing membership in an eligible military group, such as the Navy League of the United States or the Armed Forces Benefit Association.

CNET reviews insurance carriers and products by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each category. For auto insurance, we examine average annual premium rates for full coverage, consumer complaints, collision repair scores, the carrier’s financial strength, auto claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction. For this list, we also investigated available discounts for military members, veterans and their families. Our data comes from a multitude of sources. 

Auto insurance rates come from Bankrate, which gathers data using Quadrant Information Services. We also use both J.D. Power annual surveys that collect data on customer auto claims satisfaction and overall customer satisfaction.

Consumer complaints are taken from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which collects consumer complaints across states, indexing complaints on a scale that takes into account the industry average. We collect the financial strength rating of each carrier from the A.M. Best Rating.

Last, we collected collision repair scores from the Crash Network Insurer Report Card, which collects data from collision repair professionals, including mechanics, to gauge the quality of collision claims service from insurance carriers.

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More car insurance advice:

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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Exclusive: Hyundai shares first look at the much-awaited Ioniq 6 electric sedan – TalkOfNews.com

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Hyundai shares first look at the much-awaited Ioniq 6 electric sedan

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Forward-looking: Hyundai is slowly climbing in EV market share in the US and Europe, and it has grand ambitions to capture seven percent of the global EV market by 2030. While a full reveal is scheduled for next month, the South Korean automaker is already teasing everyone with a first look at the much-awaited Ioniq 6 all-electric sedan.

Not too long ago, Hyundai was in talks with Apple to build an electric car. The South Korean automaker seemed interested in lending its expertise to the Cupertino giant, which had long been rumored to be working on a self-driving car. However, those discussions quickly fell apart as Apple executives were worried about information leaks. Similarly, Hyundai executives remained divided on whether or not they saw Apple as a great fit for a potential partnership.

Earlier this year, Hyundai stopped research and development on combustion engines, adding to a growing list of companies committed to going all-electric in the coming years. During its 2022 CEO Investor Day forum, the Hyundai Motor Group presented its bold electrification roadmap through 2030 that includes no less than 17 new battery-powered electric vehicles.

Today, Hyundai offered the first look at its upcoming all-electric sedan, the Ioniq 6. It looks a lot like the Prophecy concept EV it showcased back in 2020, and as noted by Top Gear, it seems to be inspired by classic, streamlined designs from the 1920s and 1930s, such as the Stout Scarab or the Tatra 87.

Details are scarce now, as Hyundai wants to make a full reveal on July 14. Still, the company did tease an ultra-low drag coefficient of just 0.21, which is among the lowest you can get with most cars on the market today. That’s thanks to the streamlined design with a low nose and active air flaps, among other things.

The Ioniq 6 shares the same E-GMP platform as the Ioniq 5 crossover, which is rated for up to 315 miles on a single charge, and since the Ioniq 5 is a smaller, low-drag car, it will not only be cheaper but might also offer more range.

The cocoon-shaped interior features sustainable materials, and a couple of touchscreens give it a futuristic look. However, Hyundai design chief Sangyup Lee told Ars Technica the company opted for physical buttons for things like audio and climate controls.

“The touchscreen is great when this car is [in] stationary condition, but when you’re moving, touchscreens can be dangerous. So we always think about the right balance, user experience, and the buttons and the combination with the voice activation together. In the future, obviously, voice activation is going to play the major role versus touchscreen, but this is still in transition. For us, anything that relates to the safety, we use hardware. Anything not related to safety will use a touch interface.”

Production of the Ioniq 6 is expected to start next month in South Korea. In the meantime, Hyundai is also spending $10 billion to accelerate electrification and autonomous vehicle development in the US, $5.5 billion of which will go towards building a battery manufacturing facility in Georgia.

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Exclusive: Substack CEO says he’s ‘very sorry’ about laying off 13 people – TalkOfNews.com

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Substack CEO says he’s ‘very sorry’ about laying off 13 people

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Substack is the latest tech company to announce layoffs, with the company’s CEO Chris Best tweeting on Wednesday that he’s letting 13 workers go. According to Axios, that’s around 14 percent of Substack’s workforce. In his letter and follow-up tweets, Best cites “market conditions” as the reason behind the layoffs.

He also admits that the move may be a surprise to some employees. “Not so long ago, I told you all that our plan was to grow the team and not do layoffs,” he says, also noting that the company is “still hiring for specific key roles” and has money saved. However, Best says that the company needs to change tactics, as it could be facing “an extended period” where the economy goes from bad to worse. He says that the layoffs are one of several changes the company has made to make sure it’s in “a strong financial position.”

According to The New York Times, some of the employees laid off were involved in human resources and writer support. The report also says that Substack recently halted efforts to secure funding from investors, but that its revenue is still growing.

In April, Substack faced a minor controversy around its hiring efforts when its vice president of communications tweeted a hiring link while noting a specific type of employee she said the company didn’t want. “If you’re a Twitter employee who’s considering resigning because you’re worried about Elon Musk pushing for less regulated speech… please do not come work here,” she said. The company has historically said that it places a lot of importance on free speech.

Substack is far from the only company laying off a significant percentage of its workers in the past month or two. Companies like Tesla, Netflix, Klarna, Better.com, and Cameo have all cut jobs, as have several large crypto firms.


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