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Every year, some tiny and independent video game developer studios like hold their own with the big leagues by making hit games that achieve commercial success or at least critical acclaim. Ben Esposito's latest, Neon White, is a campy twist on the first-person shooter genre. It's nominated for “Best Indie” and “Best Action” game at Thursday’s Game Awards, an Oscars-like event for the video game industry. How long these “indie” studios can flourish is up for debate as the gaming industry undergoes increasing consolidation. That's symbolized by Xbox-maker Microsoft’s pending $69 billion takeover of giant game publisher Activision Blizzard.

    False earthquake alerts have gone off on Android smartphones in Iran as the country continues to grapple with nationwide protests. The deputy chief of Iran’s cyber police told Iranian state television on Wednesday that only Android phones received the fake alert. He blamed testing at state-owned service provider Iran Mobile Communications Co. for the alert. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency meanwhile described the incident as a hack and said: “This message is fake; do not leave your homes.” The two conflicting accounts of the event could not be immediately reconciled.

      Tesla has launched sales in Thailand, offering its popular Model 3 and Model Y at prices aimed at competing with rivals like China's BYD. The company staged a glitzy showcase of its plans Wednesday at Bangkok's Siam Paragon mall. Online purchases have begun, with plans to deliver vehicles to buyers in the first quarter of next year. Southeast Asia's market of more than 600 million consumers is increasingly a focus for automakers looking to expand sales, especially of electric vehicles. Still, Thailand remains mainly a land of gasoline, diesel and LPG-fueled vehicles, even as a nationwide network of charging stations expands.

        Dissident Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is taking heart from recent public protests in China over the authorities’ strict COVID-19 policy. But he doesn’t see them bringing about any significant political change. He tells The Associated Press in an interview at his home in Portugal he doesn't think that’s possible. He acknowledges that the recent unrest in several Chinese cities that has questioned Beijing’s authority — going so far as to demand President Xi Jinping’s resignation in what have been the boldest protests in decades — is “a big deal.” But he says it is unlikely to go further.

          The Food and Drug Administration is slowing its use of a pathway that expedites the approval of promising drugs. The downturn comes as the agency's accelerated approval program comes under new scrutiny from Congress, government watchdogs and key agency leaders. Increasingly, the FDA is asking drugmakers to remove unproven uses from older drugs that haven't delivered on early results. And drugmakers seeking accelerated approval for new medicines are facing tougher hurdles at the agency. Legislation pending in Congress would codify those standards. Many experts support the measures as a way to claw back unproven drug uses after a recent boom in accelerated approvals.

          As temperatures drop outside, bring warmth into your home with cozy winter decorations. Use our collection of winter decor ideas to make your home feel warm and inviting this season. Showcasing plush fabrics, cool colors and comfy furnishings, these wintry designs will last you all the way to spring.

          Chinese leader Xi Jinping will be arriving to Saudi Arabia to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab nations crucial to his country’s energy supplies as Beijing tries to revive an economy battered by strict coronavirus measures. Saudi and Chinese flags flew  on Wednesday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, ahead of the visit. Gulf Arab states are trying to recalibrate their foreign policy as the United States turns its attention to elsewhere in the world. Russia’s war on Ukraine — and the West’s hardening stance on Moscow — also has left the Arab states wanting to cement ties with China.

          China has rolled back rules on isolating people with COVID-19 and dropped virus test requirements for some public places. That is a dramatic change to a strategy that confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign. The move adds to earlier easing that fueled hopes Beijing was scrapping its “zero COVID” strategy. Experts warn that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated and the health care system strengthened. China is the last major country still trying to stamp out transmission of the virus while many nations switch to trying to live with it.

          World shares have fallen, with Hong Kong’s benchmark down more than 3%, even as Beijing announced it was drastically scaling back its “zero-COVID” policies. Oil prices also dropped. The declines followed a retreat on Wall Street, driven by fears the Federal Reserve will need to keep the brakes on the U.S. economy to get inflation under control, risking a sharp recession. China reported its imports and exports fell in November as global demand weakened and anti-virus controls weighed on the second-largest economy. The S&P 500 fell 1.4% Tuesday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 2% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1%.

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          With the holiday season in full swing, you may be planning to travel a long distance to spend the holidays with family and friends. When it comes to taking your pet along, you may wonder if flying is the best option.  Flying is definitely a quick and seemingly simple way to get you and your pet to where you’re going.  Instead of spending hours driving, you and your furry sidekick will spend a lot less actual travel time when you are on a plane.  However, like all travel methods, flying does pose some potential obstacles and risks to take into consideration.

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