As the wildfires hit Molalla, Oregon, in early September, 29-year-old independent journalist Alissa Azar crouched in the weeds by the side of a gravel road. She angled her camera, searching for a shot that would include the people fleeing their homes, a fire warning sign, and the smoke rising up from the earth.
Then she heard voices. She looked up and saw three men. Although they were dressed casually, wearing t-shirts and jeans or shorts, they were armed. Two had their rifles trained on her and another had a firearm at his side, she said. They asked who she was and why she was in Molalla, a town 35 kilometres (22 miles) south of Portland and devastated by the wildfires sweeping across the state.
She explained she and two colleagues had come from Portland to document the fires, but the men did not seem to believe her. They repeated their questions, looking her up and down, she said, and demanded to know if she “knew about the looters and rioters” who had allegedly shown up in town.
Her colleagues attempted to ease the tensions.
“Get the f**** out of our town,” Azar said the men told them. As the reporters drove off, the men took photos of their vehicle and its registration plate.
Although Azar had heard of the rumours taking root as the fires spread, she had not “realised the severity” of the misinformation spreading online. “It 100 percent put all of us in danger of doing our jobs, but I understood that a bit after it had happened,” she reflected. “I just never even considered the idea that a wildfire could get political, you know?”
With wildfires raging across much of Oregon and California, scattered reports of arsonists quickly morphed into wild-eyed rumours that fanned out from the crevices of the internet, spreading across social media outlets and crawling onto the pages of several far-right news sites: Anti-fascists had deliberately lit the fires, the conspiracy theorists claimed, and now they hoped to loot the homes of evacuees. InfoWars, the website headed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, blamed “Democrat terrorists” for sparking the blazes. Gateway Pundit, a far-right website, claimed an “Antifa radical” had been arrested in connection with the wildfires, although it later removed the word Antifa. Fox News host Laura Ingraham joined the chorus, saying in a recent interview Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had failed to condemn “Antifa” for “intentionally setting” fires in California.
The claims drew so much attention the Molalla Police Department had to assure concerned locals there “has been no Antifa in town”, adding: “Please, folks, stay calm and use common sense.”
But the hoaxes continued. A three-hour drive south of Molalla, in Douglas County, emergency operators struggled to handle all the phone calls that came in. Worried residents wanted more information about a report – an unfounded claim sent viral in a Twitter post by failed Republican Senate candidate Paul Romero – that police had six anti-fascist activists in custody for supposedly setting fires. “This is not true,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Unfortunately, people are spreading this rumour and it is causing problems.”
A few days after Azar’s encounter with the vigilantes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Portland Division called the reports untrue. Worse still, the claims had interrupted emergency services. “Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control,” Loren Cannon, the FBI Special Agent in Charge, said in a statement posted on Twitter.
A far-right surge
Throughout the 2016 presidential election campaign and since Donald Trump came to office in January 2017, a resurgent far-right has sparked in response a revived anti-fascist movement. On August 12, 2017, thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, where they protested against the city’s decision to remove a Confederate statue. Throughout the day, the far-right protesters attacked locals and counterdemonstrators and clashed with anti-fascists. By the end of the day, a far-right marcher named James Alex Fields Jr had rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.
The far right enjoyed another surge during the November 2018 midterm election season, when Trump claimed a US-bound caravan of migrants and refugees constituted an “invasion” on the southern border with Mexico. Anti-immigrant protesters flooded the borderlands, while high-profile attacks by far-rightists included a foiled plot to send pipe bombs to several prominent Democrats and a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 worshippers.
Although the rhetoric over anti-fascists has turned increasingly fiery, research consistently suggests that far-right violence remains the most dominant domestic “terror” threat in the country. In June, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank, published a report that found that “right-wing terrorists perpetrated the majority – 57 percent – of all attacks and plots” between 1994 and 2020. It also found that “in 14 of the 21 years between 1994 and 2019 in which fatal terrorist attacks occurred, the majority of deaths resulted from right-wing attacks”.
Neither an organisation nor a group, Antifa is both an ideology and a decentralised movement that includes people from across the left – anarchists, communists, and socialists, among others – fighting back against the rise of the far right. Anti-fascists engage in a wide range of activism – public education, protests, and monitoring the far right, for instance – but it is the movement’s willingness to use direct confrontation and to damage property that has captured much of the public’s attention. “What’s overlooked is everything that people don’t see,” said Mark Bray, an historian and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. “What they see and what gets the headlines and becomes a media spectacle is confrontation, but that’s only a small percentage of what anti-fascists do.”
Bray explained that research, coalition-building, and other nonviolent tactics play an important role in the anti-fascist movement’s efforts to stop the far right from building a “coherent political movement”.
“At least in the US, the most effective tactic of anti-fascists in recent years has been doxing,” Bray added, referring to the practice of publicising the personal information of members of the far right online or elsewhere. In recent years, doxing has been used, in particular, against far-rightists who operate with pseudonyms or behind a cloak of anonymity online. “That kind of puts it in perspective … it just goes to show you that the tactic that’s been one of the most effective is a nonviolent tactic that relies on the social ostracisation of fascists,” said Bray.
In recent months, Trump and his right-wing political allies have dragged up old threats to designate the loosely-knit movement a “domestic terror” organisation. In June, Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, took to Twitter and called on the US government to “hunt down [Antifa] like we do those in the Middle East”. The following day, Senator Ted Cruz accused anti-fascists of carrying out a “terrorist assault” on the country.
With the threat of an escalated crackdown looming, right-wing politicians and many liberals alike have blamed Antifa for property destruction, looting and clashes with police during the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man. For years, conspiracy theorists have claimed Hungarian-American philanthropist and billionaire George Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, funds and orchestrates the anti-fascist movement, Black Lives Matter and others. In the past, right-wing media personalities like InfoWars’s Alex Jones and their followers have spread theories falsely claiming mass shooters were actually anti-fascist activists.
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a 52-year-old anti-fascist and founder of the One People’s Project, a non-profit that monitors far-right groups and individuals, sees something intentional – as well as sinister – in the constant claims that Antifa lurks behind everything from wildfires to mass shootings. “It’s gone beyond annoying. It’s not scaring us but it is making us very angry,” Jenkins explained by phone. “They’re basically trying to give a cover story for those who want to do us harm, and I don’t necessarily mean us as in Antifa – I mean us as a society.”
History of Red Scares
The hysteria is not without historical precedent. Since the early 20th century, through World War I and the Civil Rights Era, American politicians have hyped up the threat posed by leftists.
At about 6am on December 21, 1919, it was still dark when the USAT Buford nodded out of New York Harbor. The ship had recently made several trips to and from Europe, hauling American troops home as World War II came to an end. Now the vessel had a new purpose: To ship 249 immigrants believed to be communists and anarchists to the newly-founded Soviet Union. Nearly 200 of those on board the ship – dubbed the Soviet Ark by the press – had been swept up on November 7 as part of the Palmer Raids, a series of raids that led to the arrests of thousands of suspected left-wing immigrants – mostly Italians and Eastern European Jews. Hundreds of those detained were eventually deported. “Slowly the big city receded, wrapped in a milky veil,” Alexander Berkman, an anarchist writer who was on the Buford, later wrote of the departure. “The tall skyscrapers, their outlines dimmed, looked like fairy castles lit by winking stars and then all was swallowed in the distance.”
By the time the Palmer Raids ended, the authorities had arrested nearly 3,000 people and deported 549 of them. The raids marked the climax of the First Red Scare (1917-1920), a period during which the US government leveraged the feverish patriotism of WWI to sharpen widespread fears of a supposedly impending communist or anarchist revolution. American authorities clamped down on communists, anarchists, immigrants, striking workers and Black Americans, among others.
More than 20 years later, as WWII came to an end and the Cold War took root, the Second Red Scare saw a renewed hysteria over supposed communist infiltration of American society and the US government. As politicians like Joseph McCarthy and officials like FBI Director J Edgar Hoover fanned the flames of paranoia, hundreds were arrested and thousands lost their jobs thanks to blacklists targeting suspected leftists.
Today, anti-fascists, historians and watchdogs worry the tendency to see Antifa lurking around every corner is ushering in a new wave of political repression – one that has and could continue to claim lives.
For his part, Bray sees the present moment as a “variation of longer-standing Red Scares, and [the country’s history of] demonising communists, anarchists, Black Panthers, and radical environmentalists”.
scott crow of the Anarchist Agency, an Austin, Texas-based collective that seeks to amplify anarchist perspectives, said: “They’re connecting dots that aren’t connected, and that’s how people get killed. The right-wing media ecosystem has drummed up a red menace.”
In late July, US Attorney General William Barr testified during a House Judiciary Committee. He had been called to comment on law enforcement’s crackdown on protesters during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that had spanned much of the summer, but he placed a tunnel-eyed focus on anti-fascists and anarchists. “Antifa is heavily represented in the recent riots,” Barr said, which led many observers to point out that there was no evidence to support his claim.
A week later, Senator Ted Cruz chaired a committee focused on “how Antifa and other anarchists are hijacking peaceful protests and engaging in political violence that is not only criminal but antithetical to the First Amendment”, referring to the guarantee of freedom of speech. Among the witnesses called to testify were legislators from several states and Andy Ngo, a Portland-based journalist who describes himself as independent and objective but who has been accused of working with far-right groups in the past. Ngo, who last year made headlines when an anti-fascist punched him, has been criticised for sharing misleading and inaccurate information about anti-fascist demonstrators in his hometown. During the hearing, Ngo claimed Antifa is a “violent insurrectionary group”, describing Portland as the “canary in the coalmine”.
More recently, in mid-September, Barr reportedly instructed prosecutors to explore the option of charging protesters with sedition, a rarely used charge usually rolled out only for those who pose a serious impending threat to the government. In the past, the US has levied sedition charges at Puerto Rican nationalists, communists, white nationalists accused of plotting murders targeting public officials and others, and disparate groups accused of planning coordinated bombing campaigns. “Treating protest as a form of sedition won’t hold up in court, but that is clearly not the point here,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a legal advocacy nonprofit group, responded on Twitter. “Independent and ethical prosecutors should reject this administration’s authoritarian impulses.”
Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project against Hate and Extremism watchdog organisation, described the Antifa-focused hearings and the crackdown on protesters as a “dodge”.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “There’s no major left-wing threat out there destroying the country – but there is on the far right.”
In March, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based organisation that monitors hate groups, said the number of white nationalist groups in the US hit 155 last year, marking a 55 percent spike since 2017, the year Trump came to office.
Beirich pointed to the example of Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old vigilante who allegedly shot three people, two of them fatally, in August during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The demonstrations had broken out after a police officer shot and seriously injured Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. Trump later made comments in defence of Rittenhouse, who is facing multiple homicide charges. “He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like,” Trump weighed in. “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
For Beirich, the focus on anti-fascists and leftists, at a time when far-right groups are on the rise, is part of a strategy “attempting to undermine social justice movements [and] Black Lives Matter. It’s about attempting to delegitimise all the people who care about those issues as some kind of radical and violent”.
Beirich added: “There’s no Antifa headquarters, you’re not a card-carrying member of Antifa – it’s a disaggregate movement.”
A confused narrative
Since George Floyd’s death in May, demonstrators in Portland have protested every night. Skirmishes with police – including federal agents who had been deployed to the city – have seen clouds of tear gas, mass arrests, and more recently, some demonstrators hurling Molotov cocktails. Shane Burley, 36, a Portland-based journalist and expert on the far right, has covered the demonstrations for most of the summer. Although most have centred on police killings of Black Americans, Burley has covered a handful of recent anti-fascist counterdemonstrations against far-right groups rallying in the city. He believes the trend of calling every instance of unrest “Antifa” is worrying. “The narrative about it is so confused,” Burley said. “‘Antifa’ is the only word that they know for anything that is radical and leftwing; it’s just the blanket term they use to describe this stuff.”
On August 22, when Burley waded into the columns of far-right protesters at one demonstration in downtown Portland, he had a simple task in mind. He wanted to interview conspiracy theorists about their predilection for pinning the blame for most of the world’s ills on George Soros.
But it was not long before Burley’s work was derailed. People he recognised from previous far-right demonstrations as members of the far-right Patriot Prayer group urged others not to speak to him, he said, claiming he is a communist. Some carried firearms and large knives. He said a few shoved him with their shields. “At that point, I backed off because I was very aware that I didn’t have my helmet and stuff with me,” Burley said. That same day, far-right demonstrators clashed with anti-fascists and attacked reporters. Some sprayed Mace, while others beat journalists with shields and batons.
On the night of August 29, Burley arrived downtown after a caravan of hundreds of cars carrying Trump supporters rode through the area. Many carried weapons, while some pepper-sprayed counterdemonstrators from the beds of pickups. Trump flags and “Thin Blue Line” pro-police flags fluttered from vehicles. “There was definitely a feeling that something was sideways,” Burley recalled.
He did not yet know it, but a few blocks down the road, a confrontation was under way. Michael Reinoehl, a 48-year-old self-described anti-fascist, reportedly shot and killed 39-year-old Aaron Danielson, one of the pro-Trump caravan participants and a supporter of Patriot Prayer, which has been active in Portland and elsewhere in the northwest for years. On September 3, VICE broadcast an interview with Reinoehl in which he claimed he acted in self-defence and shot Danielson to prevent him killing “a friend of mine of colour”. That same day, Trump sent out a tweet questioning why Portland police had not arrested Reinoehl, whom he described as a “cold-blooded killer”. Minutes later, it was announced federal agents had shot and killed Reinoehl while attempting to arrest him near Olympia, Washington State. A witness later cast doubt on the US Marshals’ claim that officers had tried to “peacefully arrest” Reinoehl, saying instead that they opened fire without warning. Trump, for his part, called the deadly shooting “retribution” in an interview on Fox News.
As daily protests against police violence continue in Portland, far-right groups aim to continue their own protests throughout the coming weeks.
“For the time being, I think it’s going to keep escalating,” Burley said. “There’s no real sign that it’s not going to … My big fear is that someone else is going to get killed at one of these things.”
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
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.
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.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
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.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
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.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
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.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
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.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
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.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
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.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
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.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
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.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
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.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
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.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
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.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
1/4 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. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
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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