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7 People Talk About Job Hunting for Months During the Pandemic



7 People Talk About Job Hunting for Months During the Pandemic

Photo courtesy of William Nowak; photo courtesy of Ngozi; photo by Allison Greenlea


A series in which people across the U.S. offer firsthand perspectives about how social issues impact their real lives.

In September, unemployment in the U.S. fell below 10 percent for the first time since March 2020. Unfortunately, this still leaves tens of millions of people out of work, looking for jobs, and trying to collect unemployment. The crisis is far from over: 870,000 new claims were filed last week alone.

When the extra pandemic unemployment funds of $600 a week expired at the end of July, people faced even greater financial pressure to find work. The wrenching combination of smaller unemployment checks, fewer available jobs, and no second stimulus check in sight have all left American workers struggling to ensure they can pay for rent, food, and health care. 

VICE spoke to seven people around the country about what it’s like to still be unemployed and job hunting nearly seven months into the pandemic. 

Some names have been changed for professional and privacy reasons. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Ngozi, 25, Brooklyn, NY 


Photo courtesy of Ngozi

I was a receptionist at a global investment firm. I was laid off because everyone was moving to remote roles, which wasn’t possible for me since my job was front-facing. 

From the start, navigating job opportunities has felt pretty hopeless, especially as the death toll and unemployment numbers skyrocketed. I have an autoimmune condition, so becoming an “essential worker” isn’t an option for me. I did interviews and waited months to hear back about companies’ decisions—some places’ responses were constantly getting pushed back until I just never heard from them again. In one instance, I was in various stages of interviews over the course of three months for a job that I didn’t end up getting. 

My economic situation is not fantastic. I never received a stimulus check, and after having difficulty claiming my unemployment benefits, I haven’t been able to collect any funds since July. It was nearly impossible to talk to a human to get some help with figuring out either problem,  and all the sleuthing I did to figure out what’s going on at the NYS Department of Labor and IRS was taxing, mental health-wise. My unemployment checks will be held until NYSDOL assigns someone to help get that resolved, so I’m waiting. 

In the meantime, I’m sticking to a tight budget and leaning on my mom for a little bit of financial support for rent. I’ve been looking to get more creative and maybe become an independent accessibility consultant for companies rather than seek traditional employment.  I hate capitalism and would prefer to do other things I am good at and enjoy for pleasure. 

I was able to schedule a few career coaching sessions through some Black justice movement fam involved with BOLD. The organization also offered to pay for some online therapy sessions. My mental health has improved a bit, so I’ve had more capacity to apply for more jobs and interview with headhunters. I’ve been getting really good feedback on my resumé, and friends have been sending openings to positions I might actually enjoy, so I’m feeling more hopeful these days. 

Kaitlin Stevens, 27, Queens, NY


Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Stevens

I was a marketing associate at a small publisher and educational materials company. I got laid off in the second week of March since most of the company’s business relies on in-person sales at New York City public schools, which had closed due to COVID. I’ve been looking for jobs in the same field, specifically in young adult fiction. I apply whenever I see something relevant, which is typically one or two times a month. I haven’t heard back about anything since I started applying for jobs in April. My major frustration is knowing I’m qualified, but feeling like I can never get a foot in the door.

I’m living off of savings for the most part and taking freelance writing gigs as often as I can, often for less pay than I feel is fair. With my unemployment running out, the pressure to find something steadier is weighing on me. I’ve also been doing odd jobs here and there between writing gigs—I’m working an event for a wine company this week, as I have a background in doing that. It isn’t exactly the safest time to be working with people, but it puts money in my bank account. I’m also writing a YA novel and am planning to find an agent by the end of the year and start pitching the book by the top of next year. 

Photo by Lucas Michael

Clare Palo, 26, Brooklyn, NY 


Photo courtesy of Clare Palo

I was a social media editor at Vulture at New York magazine/Vox Media. I was laid off in mid-July, when my position was eliminated due to COVID-19 cuts and restructuring.

Since then, I’ve been applying and interviewing for jobs, and I’m getting pretty far in rounds of interviews. I’ve applied for about 40 jobs and had real interviews for 12. My biggest frustration has been the long interview process. On average, I’m doing four or five rounds, including phone calls, tests, and video calls, all of which takes several weeks, if not months. Interviewers are asking a lot of intense questions about why I was laid off, as if COVID-19 and an economic recession isn’t a good enough answer. 

The job market in media is grim. Layoffs have hit almost every single media company I’ve interviewed with. I’m not sure when the industry will bounce back, especially since ad sales, in-person sponsored events, and other revenue sources that fuel the industry are on hold until further notice. 

My economic situation is not great. Next week will mark two months without ever receiving unemployment benefits, and no one seems to have an answer as to why. The NYS Department of Labor has been completely unresponsive, and I’m out of ideas. I’m not sure how much longer I can go without having money in my bank account. I was laid off a week before I turned 26, making it impossible for me to go back on my family’s health insurance. Luckily, I have health insurance until the end of the year (due to New York‘s union negotiations). If I don’t get full-time work before then, I’ll join the long list of people applying for Medicaid. I’m continuing to apply and interview for jobs daily. I haven’t taken any time off from job-hunting at all. 

Anthony*, 40, San Francisco, CA 

I’m a substitute teacher in the SFUSD. I was laid off from my last full-time position in March. I was given a small amount of money by the district each month until the end of the semester.  

I’ve had job offers to be a private teacher/tutor, but none of the potential employers made me feel like my safety was a priority. I’d take a 100 percent outdoors private job if it were not a contractor position, with all equipment (educational materials, PPE, etc.) paid for or provided by the employer. I’d want a fair wage with all the benefits I would receive as an employee (breaks throughout the year, life insurance, sick leave, etc.). All these basics are what I have when I work for the SFUSD. I’m not going to compromise that for a dangerous job. 

None of the wealthy families seeking private teachers/tutors have offered me the combination of outdoor teaching space, materials, and employee status, the last of which seems to be the sticking point. If I want to go back to being an independent contractor risking my health and safety, I can just go back to driving a taxi. At least then I don’t have to deal with rich people telling me how to do my job. 

We’re hanging in there—my wife is working, and I’m collecting unemployment. There’s supposed to be an increase in available distance learning substitute teaching jobs, though I have yet to find one. I’m hopeful that in-person education will return by January, which will allow me to work full time again. I’m going to continue to solicit tutoring and teaching jobs that are safe for my family and me. 

Kitty Milford, 39, Syracuse, NY 


Photo courtesy of Kitty Milford

Before COVID hit, most of my income came from sex work: generally, full-service sex work, but also porn. I have autoimmune issues, so as soon as I became aware of COVID, I stopped seeing clients because I was at higher risk of getting sick. My fear is that there lots of sex workers will get sick because they were not able to take time off. 

The expectation that sex workers can just go online is extremely frustrating. Like a lot of sex workers, I can’t just switch: For starters, my kids are home all day. It’s also a completely different business model and market, which has become saturated, and celebrities are making OnlyFans accounts and fucking things up for actual sex workers.

I’ve fallen back on my most degrading side hustle: writing personal essays (lol). My spouse’s job is safe, but that’s only one income, and not quite enough to support six people. I was able to get unemployment beginning in May, which was so helpful, because we have four kids. Since the extra pandemic assistance ended, I’m only getting $182 a week. We’re running up our credit card debt! If we keep going like this, we’ll eventually max out our cards. 

In about a month, I think I’ll start seeing select clients again and make them take COVID tests first. Some won’t want to, but many will be happy to. Then I’ll just hope I don’t get sick. 

Erin, 24, Chantilly, VA

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I was working as a server when COVID hit. On March 15, the team received an email from corporate stating the entire chain of restaurants would be shut down until further notice. 

Job hunting has been the most humbling and frustrating thing. I was gearing up for a career change and moving from food service into my Big Girl Job search. I decided to apply for Foreign Services, and started looking into Department of State jobs. The process for applying to FS is a long one; I probably won’t see an offer for employment for another year. Recently, I dropped my resumé off to some restaurants in the area, as things in Virginia have started to open up again. I had some promising leads with a few, but no offers yet. 

Thankfully, my economic situation hasn’t been too gutting. I moved back home in May after I broke up with my ex and when COVID really started to get bad. Not having to pay for rent or utilities has helped a lot. I’ve been on unemployment since late April. Since my living expenses have decreased significantly, I’ve been putting all that money into savings. I’m super fortunate to have a stable place to rest my head and my family to support me.

For now, my plans for employment are continuing to apply for jobs with the Department of State and networking as much as I can. I’ve had time to reflect and reconnect with my personal creative endeavors, but I’m hesitant to do these things for profit because I’m afraid of tying the things that bring me joy to a paycheck. I don’t want capitalism to completely ruin the things I find solace in.

William Nowak, 30, Chicago, IL 


I was a full-time floor leader (essentially, a manager/supervisor) at Lush Cosmetics. At the end of March, I was furloughed. Come August, I was permanently terminated based on company decisions as businesses remained closed. My health insurance coverage ends after September.

After being terminated, I started applying to as many jobs as I could. I had an in-person interview with World Market for a management position and I was offered the job the same day. I took it. But the requirements of the job were not clearly represented when the offer was made; I was expected to do tasks that were extremely labor-intensive for a very small amount of pay. The store was also staffed with a pretty sizable amount of employees, making it difficult to socially distance. So I quit.

Brick-and-mortar retail is a dying industry, so it’s really hard to see a lasting future post-COVID. The only reason I’m still job hunting within the retail pool is because it’s where I’ve worked for the last 10 years. I graduated last year with a music business degree and was hoping to get into the live entertainment industry this year. But if there’s an industry that looks even bleaker than retail, it’s live entertainment. 

I’m receiving unemployment benefits, but without the additional $600, it’s not a livable amount of money. I’m fortunate enough to have family who help me out with groceries, bills, and rent, but it’s not sustainable to constantly ask for help. 

Unfortunately, my job search has been put on pause, as my laptop broke two weeks ago; it has my resumé and other important documents on it. It’ll cost $300–$400 to fix, which is an unimaginable amount of money right now. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll even be able to actively apply to jobs again. 

 Follow Reina Sultan on Twitter.


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



(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.

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.

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.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.

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



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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