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22 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Into Your Own Weird, Perfect Holiday

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22 Ways to Invent Your Own Thanksgiving Traditions This Year

Collage by Cathryn Virginia

happy-holidsays-details-01

“Happy” “Holidays” 2020 is a series about feeling connected and vaguely festive during the coronavirus pandemic.

This November will mark the first year that I won’t begrudgingly appear in a Thanksgiving variety show put on by “the kids.” (“Kids” meaning, like: If you’re actively a grandchild, you’re expected to participate, even if you’ve smoked cigarettes for a decade and have the crow’s feet to prove it.) Acts include fortune-telling, musical numbers, stand-up, and “commercial breaks” that are in fact even more performances, as there’s no escape to be found here. It’s always goony, uncomfortable, done for the sake of older relatives, and sort of nice even though it sort of sucks—which is also the way I’d describe Thanksgiving, as a day.

This isn’t the only Thanksgiving tradition I’ll break with as I skip this year’s out-of-state dinner because of the pandemic. (That’s not all bad. I’ll also dodge the rule that men and boys can’t sit until every woman and girl is settled in front of her turkey-shaped placemat.) Instead, like a lot of other people, I’ll figure out how to spend the day outside of my family’s framework.

So: What… to do here? Maybe you’re also trying to sort out what to do about not traveling or hosting. Maybe you didn’t do that to begin with and have the day to yourself again, or are missing Friendsgiving. (Maybe you’re cramming people together despite the pandemic, in which case, go read something else, and I sincerely wish you good luck and good health, even if I think you should reserve your bravado for rewards greater than supermarket pie, hair-raising political rhetoric, and a dry cough.)

If you can’t be near as many, or any, of the people that make this holiday represent anything other than stolen land, consider putting together your own new traditions. Rites and rituals make everything meaningless feel less so, which is why we bother with them. Someone has to come up with them first, though, and you don’t have to stick to the ones you know this year! You’re grown; do whatever you want; fuck a variety show! (Sincerely: I will miss my talented cousins very much, and I deeply regret that I won’t hear “Shut Up and Dance With Me” as I’ve never heard it before—and that’s “played haltingly on a recorder”–style, baby.) Here are some thoughts on making up what constitutes a “holiday” for yourself this time around—and maybe coming away with newfound traditions to carry into the future.


  1. Use the interactive map Native Land to learn more about the Indigenous peoples who lived wherever you’re spending your day. With care, use this to guide a land or territorial acknowledgement, which recognizes the Indigenous and people and history that came before, and were often violently removed or displaced, from North America. Here’s a guide from Chelsea Vowel about doing this with the intention of really learning about and honoring the people who came before you.

  1. “Awareness” is almost never enough on its own. Donate to causes in support of Indigenous and First Nations peoples and communities, like The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, American Indian College Fund, and Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits.

  1. Whatever your own meal looks like: Set aside part of your budget for others’ dinners if you can. You can provide 10 meals per dollar through Feeding America. If you’re having a small get-together, No Kid Hungry offers a how-to guide to hosting a Friendsgiving donation drive. If you have a few nonperishables you’re not using or can start a collection in your area for cans and boxed food, see what your food bank or shelter can and can’t use. If you want to do a specific Thanksgiving-themed drop, again, check with pantries and shelters about what they need, but a lot of places often ask for boxed macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, canned green beans and cranberry sauce, and so on. Many places will welcome baby food.

  1. Pay someone’s delinquent water bill if you have the means, and, either way, share the link so that people who aren’t aware of the Detroit Water Project can see if it’s something they’re able to do.

  1. Find a way to adjust the worst dish someone always insists is their specialty in order to make it actually good for once. I don’t want to talk about which one I dislike, in case someone I’m related to reads this… but, look, it’s whatever the hell that “pear appetizer” is supposed to be. It’s yogurt on a few sliced pears? Thinking back a sec here—could it actually be true that Grammy called this “fruit nachos?” Why am I eating Dannon on Thanksgiving, dog? If we decide to interpret this loosely—pulling back the focus to “pear appetizer,” if (definitely) not “fruit nachos”—I can both honor my late grandmother and not have to gruesomely pretend a raisin is a black bean for  the sake of whimsy and politeness. I could make gorgonzola-and-walnut salad, prosciutto-wrapped pears, or pear and brie toasts. Find your version of this and text a picture to your muse if you can, being all like, “Not exactly your green beans—what could be!—but I wanted to have you at the table somehow this year.” That’s an appropriately Thanksgiving-ish tone to strike: a little judgmental, yet ultimately warm.

  1. Imagine how sick sandwiches made of leftovers could be if they were constructed first, out of their fresher, first-generation components. Actually, just do that—cut right to the chase and make them for the main course on the day itself. Necessity and desire will allow you to leave a little bit for leftover-leftover sandwiches, too, then compare your findings about which is superior. My assemblage goes: sourdough slice, gravy layer, mashed-potato binding-agent layer, poultry, stuffing, then the same in reverse as you finish the stack. This is about what you like, though, so go ahead and put cranberry sauce on it if you want, ya freak.

  1. One of my ex-boyfriends famously equipped his city Thanksgivings with soup dumplings and Popeyes biscuits in addition to the requisite green bean casseroles, etc. Whatever we think of him now: That’s so stylish! Follow his lead, if in only this one way, by introducing an incongruous, perfect menu item to a traditional holiday spread, whatever that usually means for you. The key here is to keep the variable count low, which will make both the wild card(s) and the regular-style food you serve seem more special and complementary. If you normally enjoy a Sichuanese feast, maybe add pigs in a blanket. If you are more inclined toward jollof, do a li’l bit of a crepe, or something. In any event: Flamin’ Hots should obviously be the new salami river in your cheese plate. 

  1. If you have food delivered, parsimony is NEVER the wave, and especially on an eating-based holiday. Send the deliveryperson off with a 100 percent tip and a to-go plate (ask, first, if they don’t eat certain things; customize accordingly). If you pick up takeout, tip 100 percent and bring a holiday offering of some kind. (HAHA at “of some kind”—I clearly mean a bottle!)

  1. Are you aware that Baskin-Robbins sells a turkey-shaped ice cream cake? I got one once and had them write THE FUTURE IS HERE on it in lime green icing script, and it was too chic for words. (It wasn’t Thanksgiving. I consider it an incredible tip to share with you that you can get any of their holiday-motif cakes at any point during the year.)

  1. Watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Obviously! If we can’t make sojourns of our own, we can remember everything that’s nightmarish about Thanksgiving-clogged treks homeward by way of this classic.

  1. Play street baseball with a friend using decorative gourds as the balls. They have enough heft to pitch well, but will still explode satisfyingly, and you can do this at a decent distance from other people, unlike football.

  1. If the idea of joyously smashing things instills you with the festive spirit: There’s no official law against having a piñata on Thanksgiving. Fill it with decorative gourds (for baseball after!!), candy corn, and airplane liquor bottles.

  1. Have a one-person pie contest, aka make two pies and pit them against each other. For each person who you’re spending the day with and can add to the fray, add another two pies. If you are doing this with others, it’s fine—and even preferable—to overlap, in terms of who makes what sort. It gives you an even sharper opportunity to clown them, or to… learn how to make a better pie with dignity and acceptance, should your pie be the grim pie.

  1. Set the table by making commemorative decorations that you’ll be able to use long into the future, like, “Those were from that really weird year when we had to figure out our own holiday and made these for the table, and it ended up being a great time.” I’m going to hand-dye napkins, which is really easy with some Rit dye and 100 percent cotton cloths or cut-up kitchen towels. (Make a few extra sets of six and you’ll also have plenty of holiday gifts handled.)

  1. Assign a dress code for yourself and whoever’s around—or assign each other outfit challenges. In the former case, I’d want to look like “pastel avant-garde,” and in the latter, I’d make my partner dress as “Music Teacher Who Loves Being a Music Teacher,” for fun and sport.

  1. Send texts to the people who feel most like family to you expressing gratitude, or, if that’s a bit much for you, one of those horrible horny-emoji  chain text-messages. You know—it has like, an ear of corn as a D. Not my style, but I think a lot of people like them!

  1. Make and send end-of-year care packages. Or drop some off to elderly neighbors. I recommend candles, cookies, little tiny succulents, and the aforementioned dyed napkins.

  1. Observe a low-stakes saying-of-grace, which doesn’t have to be religious in any way if that’s not your bag. Keep things lo-fi and quotidian, gratitude-wise, because I think we often elide day-to-day/ambient/cultural things to fall all over ourselves about stuff like the people we love (boo), this beautiful meal (hiss), etc. Like, that rocks, but how boring! I’m glad I live in a world where I get to interact with pinball, Scottie Pippin’s salad days/bone structure, this remarkable Twitter account called Old School Flyers that collects and posts the bills for old hip hop shows (how does it have under 4,000 followers?), the whole fact of cashmere. What are the smallest things you can honor? I’m doing my best airport-book voice right now: Tiny enrichments are what moor us through Fuck Times like these. Good to take stock of that, feel anchored in it.

  1. Reach out to the older people in your life and have them tell you about the most memorable Thanksgiving of their lives. Who started a dramatic food fight? Who dropped the turkey? Who accidentally revealed a family secret? (Shoutout to the time one relative looked a beat too long at another’s phone over her shoulder and the latter had a meltdown so vile that I chose to escape by canoe.) If it’s applicable: Help bad things turn, as they can sometimes naturally do, into funny-ass legends that are just… another part of how it goes sometimes. Things to be taken in stride, or even grinned at, from a distance.

  1. Take a few minutes to have a nice drunk Zoom with The Cousins and hear about what they’re thankful for, or hoping for, this year.

  1. I’ve never known how, exactly, Arlo Guthrie’s 18-minute anti-war banger “Alice’s Restaurant” became the semi-official song of this holiday. I LOVE it, though, and have always delighted in the alternative-radio ritual of playing the whole-ass thing, even though it hogs airtime, on Thanksgiving Day. Listen to it, for the first time or the many-eth. I also think any longish song can and should take its place, if you just believe. I recommend “Outer Nothingness” by Sun Ra, or the nice, elongated dissolution of “New Grass” by Talk Talk—”errant days filled me,” so pretty and sort of on the nose. Still, though… “Alice’s Restaurant.” It’s so good for the purposes of yelling the lyrics at people; the song all but teaches them to you as you go! “You can get anything you want!”

  1. Understand, as you undertake any of these or other holiday-architecting weirdo pursuits: You’re allowed to use them as you go from now on. Make them good ones—for once, or for keeps.

Amy Rose Spiegel is the author of two books about having sex and otherwise feeling decent. Follow her on Twitter.

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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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