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3 Days as an Indoor Server at a Private Social Club in NYC

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The inside line on life on the job.

Balancing a budding creative career with a job that pays the bills is practically standard for young people looking to “break in” to the entertainment industry. Robert, 25*, knows his struggle is one that other working actors have dealt with in the past—but the addition of a global pandemic has made an already intense hustle even more difficult. Robert lives alone in New York City, and works as a server in a members-only social club for artists (he’s compared it to SoHo House).

Though he spent the spring with his parents in Texas, he returned to Manhattan when the social club reopened, curtailing his unemployment benefits whether he felt safe at work or not. “I have a lot of friends that will still work in service, but have opted out of returning to the job,” Robert told VICE. “I’m kind of like, _‘OK, cool. How do you pay for your life?_’”

Now, he’s pushing through the return to indoor dining, struggling to keep up his energy, and battling germaphobia while smiling at the people whose tables he’s waiting. Here’s what a weekend in his life looks like right now:

I’m lucky to work at a member’s club because it’s a bunch of rich and boozy artists, people that just have exorbitant amounts of wealth. At the beginning of the pandemic, our members provided us with money via a relief fund when the club was still closed. But now when I’m at work, even though it’s nice to see these people again, it doesn’t feel the same. It’s not as fun as it was, before.

I’m surprised at how many of our members came back, because a lot of them are older: late 40s, 50s, some are in their 60s or 70s. I’m just like, you have a lot of faith in me as a person, and in all of the staffers. You’re really trusting us to practice safety measures. We do temperature checks; we have a hand-washing station where you push on this little pedal to wash your hands; we have hand sanitizer at every table; and since we’re not open to the public, and even guests have to sign in, if there was an outbreak we could do contact tracing.

But, even if they get sick, even if they have to miss work or something bad happens, our members are wealthy enough to have access to healthcare, facilities, and resources in order to help themselves. A lot of us staff members don’t have that.

Because of COVID-19, we don’t really act like a member’s club anymore. We act more like a restaurant. I still talk to members, but at the same time, I’m keeping my distance and wearing a mask. Today, I worked the morning shift, and then I worked until the evening, from 11 a.m. until I got off, around 9 p.m. The morning was somewhat slow, but in the evening, it was very, very busy. We had constant reservations, and people were waiting in line for their tables. The past few weeks, we haven’t had a ton of indoor dining. We’ve started to allow it and have the 25 percent occupancy. This evening, we had three tables inside, while our outside area and roof were packed.

Generally, there’s only one or two servers on an evening shift, and only one in the morning. Even though it can be busy, I like working alone because I feel like everything’s in my control. But in the evening, it’s me, a bartender, a barback, and another server, which adds a little more uncertainty. I’m a bit of a germaphobe, and I’ve been concerned about this for a bit, so I try go above and beyond, switching out trays as much as possible, not using the same bathroom that customers do, washing my hands even when it adds to the time it takes to serve a table—my own proper practices.

I generally bring my own masks. I bring multiple ones that I switch throughout my shifts, probably three or four times every time I work. The club actually made these custom masks, which are beige and made out of tote bag material, with our emblem on them. But they gave us one and they were like, “Oh, and if you lose it, you have to pay $20 for a new one.” And it’s like, OK, cool. I work multiple shifts a week and I have one mask—No!

When I’m serving now, I feel like I’m having to use my body much more to make up for the fact that small, simple cues like a smile are off the table. I have to physically engage, nod my head, change my posture, in order to tell people that yes, I understand what you’re saying. Even during normal times, being a worker in the service industry can feel dehumanizing. When you wear a mask that covers most of your face, I think it honestly makes it even easier for people to disregard you as a human being. Instead, you’re just seen as this blank face and body, walking through the space in order to help people.

Something else that’s been hard is that big, loaded question when I approach a table with a member who knows me by name and says, “Hey, how are you doing? It’s been a while!” It takes every part of me to not be like, “Honestly, I’m crying every night. I’m very sad. I’m very stressed. And I don’t want to be here.”

Today was incredibly stressful. It was really bad weather, so no one was outdoors and it was packed inside the club. It was like a precursor to what I think a lot of the winter will be because it was just downpouring all day, so everyone wanted to stack up inside. It wasn’t 25 percent occupancy. I think people have stopped caring, and not just customers—also my managers. During the day, we had people on our first floor lounge area hanging out, we had people on the second floor, in our club room eating. At night, it was so crowded that we even had one couple on a date that asked in the middle of dinner, “Ah, sorry, we just don’t feel safe here. Is it possible for the two of us to go upstairs to the third floor and eat in the salon room instead?”

Inside, I was like, eye roll—well, if you don’t feel safe, don’t come in. But they’d already started their meal, and I want money, so I said, “Yes, sure, but I’m only one server. I’m not gonna check up on you guys every five or 10 minutes, it may be a moment. If you need something, run down.” Basically, I told them I’m running from the kitchen in the basement, to the first floor, to the second floor, to them up the third floor—between four fucking floors. But then, throughout the evening, they’re like, “Aw, where were you? We haven’t seen you in like 15 minutes!” Again, it’s multiple floors, and I’m literally running up and down.

While it was a great, busy day and I made a good amount of money, I definitely had thoughts like, Mmm, it’s starting. This is going to be a spreader day. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be.  I hope people that are coming in, are practicing safe things elsewhere in their life, but if they’re comfortable enough to dine indoors, I can’t imagine them being cautious in other parts of life.

Even as I was walking home tonight, I saw other places had people inside hanging out too, and to me, it looked like more than 25 percent occupancy. It’s hard to fault some establishments, especially when it’s like a mom-and-pop kind of business, that haven’t been able to get proper loans or grants in order to stay open safely. They’re gonna do what they need to do in order to survive.

I think there’s a world in which indoor dining could work, if only you took your mask off for a moment to sip a drink, or put a slice of food in your mouth. In China, people are indoor dining, but you see pictures and everyone in the restaurant is wearing a mask. In America, people get drunk and they forget. When people sit at their table here, it seems like they immediately think, Oh, well, I’m safe now. It’s like, no, this thing is it’s spreading through the air, and it can linger in the air for a bit, especially when we’re indoors.

I’m pretty certain I’m not gonna be in New York in the winter. I’m just gonna stay with my parents and use all the money I’ve saved up to cover rent here, and be on unemployment again.

I’m an actor, and during the pandemic it has been extremely difficult to pursue work in the entertainment industry. I went to school for acting, I met agents and I have a manager who sends me out for gigs and reps me, and I’m incredibly grateful to be in that position. But I’ve just been very stressed and tired from working my day job in the service industry. I’m burnt out.

Yesterday, when I was working, I got an email around 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. in the afternoon to do a voiceover gig for a Spotify thing, where I played a Taylor Swift fan. I didn’t get home until 11 p.m., but I needed to send my recording in by 9 a.m. I immediately got home, and I was like Oh my God, I have to do this now_._ I was tired, my head just wasn’t right, but I had to do it anyway. I really believe that acting is a craft, you have to work on it constantly. Sure, some actors can wing it, but I do think, to do a great work, you have to really put in the time and effort. Right now, I’m so overwhelmed that it’s almost impossible to get into the headspace I need to be in to put out good work.

This year, even though I haven’t booked a single Screen Actors Guild gig, I still had to join the union. At the end of last December, I booked this insurance commercial for New York Life, and I was really excited because it was going to be really cool, but I was a must-join at that point because I’ve done so many side projects. I had to pay $3,000 in order to join the union, and while I think unions are great, now I’m only able to apply for SAG jobs.

There have also been issues within our union when it comes to payment, like for our healthcare plan: It used to be $200 or $300 a quarter. Now it’s going up to $700 a quarter, and you have to have done more projects in order to qualify to pay that fee. We as actors aren’t working as much right now, and yet you’re gonna make it harder for us to get healthcare?

Today is my day off from working at the social club, but even on my off day, I’m on another deadline for voice acting. What I have to send in by tomorrow morning at 9a.m. is a commercial for a Maryland Lottery thing. All day today I’m gonna have to memorize the script and get ready to record, even though I’m tired and just want to sleep in more.

How acting works during the pandemic is so different. We’re not going into different casting offices around New York, it’s a lot more self-tapes, clips we record ourselves and send in to casting directors. If you make it past the first round with a self-tape, then there are Zoom callbacks, where the clients and casting directors and a director all tune in to watch the performance, and they can give you notes from there.

Now, I feel like not only am I the actor, where I have to be present, show up, and have my lines memorized and be ready to work. I also have to focus on my lighting, I have to focus on my sound quality, I have to focus on the picture I’m creating. I feel like we are now being given a lot more responsibilities in order to prepare. I’ve had to invest in a ring light and a tripod and a foldable backdrop just to shoot this stuff.

I’ve heard some other actors say, “Oh, well, I love Zoom callbacks, because it feels like a lot more in my control. I feel like I’m able to take all day to set up my set”—quote, unquote “set”—it’s in your bedroom. But for me, time is limited because I’m still working. I’m jealous of friends that can choose not to work, who are financially secure enough to just ride out this pandemic for a year or two and focus on acting.

I’m supporting myself, and there’s other things I have to do throughout my day. So taking an hour or two to set up and make sure the lighting is good isn’t always an option for me. If I get home late at work and I see that I have an audition, well, it’s nighttime, so there’s no sunlight for me to work off of. Even on an off day like this, I have to do my laundry, I have to do my dishes, I have to go to the grocery store.

For people that rely on their bodies in order to make money, there’s that extra layer to the fear of COVID-19. You hear it all the time in and out of school—you have to make sure your instrument is always warmed up and safe. If you’re someone that works on Broadway, and you need to be able to sing, and be in shows eight times a week. Even if you just have a little bit of damage to your lungs, or you have slightly less air capacity, that’s a big deal! But I can’t just take a lot of time off and be OK. I can’t just stay at home, relax, and do whatever I need to in order to stay healthy.

Follow Katie Way 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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