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Fitness studios moved outside to stay afloat. Now winter is coming.

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In the shadow of the Vessel, the sky-scraping copper honeycomb structure in New York City’s Hudson Yards, is a huge tent full of bikes that go nowhere. In the parking lot of the Beverly Center, the famed Los Angeles shopping center, there’s a blocked-off section peppered with treadmills and benches. And this summer, the Southampton Arts Center’s west lawn was transformed into a dance-workout space.

These outdoor gyms are the new normal of group fitness.

Because companies like SoulCycle, Barry’s, and the up-and-coming dance-inspired workout Forward Space haven’t been allowed to reopen in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, those companies (and many others, from CrossFit boxes to local Planets Fitness) brought the workouts outside.

“I feel very safe working out outside,” Anna Lev, a devotee of Forward Space told me. She says her trainers “have created a really safe environment for everyone.”

Before the pandemic, Lev was going to Forward Space classes with Rachel, her favorite teacher, every day. The pandemic put a stop to that. But when Forward Space opened its Southampton outdoor space for the summer, Lev would make the trek from her home in the Rockaways to Southampton every Saturday to take two classes. If she stayed out East, she’d go every day they’re held, Thursday to Monday.

Lev’s devotion and fidelity to Forward Space isn’t unique. Outdoor classes at Barry’s and SoulCycle have been selling out and provide revenue for the companies. Fitness companies, like restaurants and bars, have pivoted to survive, and moving classes outdoors has been a public health strategy to cope with a pandemic that forced everyone into lockdown. Being outside is safer.

But in embracing outdoor exercise, both enthusiasts and the trainers they love found only a temporary relief. In the coming months, temperatures will drop, the weather will sour, and winter will be in full effect. Fitness enthusiasts may have to go back to square one. Boutique fitness studios have to start over, too, figuring out how to make money while their doors still aren’t open. And with all the improvisations and compromises, both sides have to deal with the reality that the future is not in their control.

Why fitness studios have to go outside

People in gym clothes work out in a parking lot.
F45 Training moved its classes outdoors into the parking lot during the coronavirus shutdown.
Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The big motivation behind these outdoor classes is the health of clients.

“Teaching safe and spacious sweat sessions outside has been truly incredible and an absolute gift,” Kristin Sudeikis, the founder of Forward Space, told me. “Being outside certainly provided an element of safety and we also appreciated giving cues during class to look up to the sky, from the sternum up, to take in the sun and the wind … I had intuited that at some point — and this was pre-Covid — that we would create outdoor sweat sessions similar to that of a music festival vibe, and here we are.”

But the moves outside go a bit deeper than that and are more connected to how health policy and lawmakers define “safety.” Back in March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom were among the first to put their states in lockdown and shut down gyms, which were seen as high-risk because of the lack of social distancing and factors like heavy breathing and lots of shared-surface contact. Now, as we know more about the virus and spread, gyms are reopening or have reopened — many of which had to implement new capacity and social distancing rules.

Going outside, social distancing, eliminating shared equipment, and instituting measures like cleaning and temperature checks are all measures that make clients, according to current research, safer than they would be if fitness studios continued to operate the way they had pre-pandemic.

“We managed to rework the foundations of how we program sessions to adapt everything to body weight,” Lauren Vickers, F45 Training athletics team manager, told me, explaining how the company adapted to taking its exercise programs outside. Those programs usually involved equipment like weights and kettlebells, and cardio equipment like bikes or rowers.

Vickers and the team at F45 pointed out that without consistent, across-the-board rules about outside fitness, they’ve had to work within different restrictions — something they’ve figured out by keeping things simple.

Members can bring their own equipment if they wish to add progressions, but essentially you just need a towel and a water bottle and you’re ready to go,” Vickers told me.

As Vickers told me, the problem for fitness studios is that in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, they still haven’t been given the green light to open. Even though they provide essentially the same fitness service, companies like Forward Space and Barry’s aren’t considered gyms and are often subject to a different set of rules.

The argument is that boutique fitness classes — often taking place in rooms full of sweaty, heavy-breathing people — might present a higher risk of transmission. All the things that make group fitness successful — people gathering, socializing, yelling, being in an enclosed studio — are things that make it high risk.

One notable study from South Korea reported fitness dance classes that infected 112 people over 24 days, and the fear is that something similar could happen in these boutique fitness classes. More recently, 74 people were infected over a week at a Canadian spin studio earlier this month — the studio had followed rules like cutting capacity and distancing bikes but it did not require riders to wear masks.

To curb potential outbreaks, rules regarding fitness studios were adjusted accordingly. For example, while gyms in New York City were allowed to open their doors, New York City’s health department and Mayor Bill de Blasio were given discretion to keep those establishments closed, which they did.

By taking classes outside and maintaining social distancing rules, boutique fitness companies keep their clients safer — research has shown that outdoor transmission risk is lower than indoor — but also can bypass city mandates about indoor fitness classes.

For fitness companies, it’s also provided some much-needed cash.

The health shutdowns across the country gutted the group fitness industry. Companies bled expenses and continued to pay rent. Even in reopening, they aren’t making the same money that they used to because of capacity measures and health directives. Companies like Rowgatta shut down their physical spaces, and Flywheel went out of business. Others like Solidcore laid off more than 90 percent of their staff. SoulCycle also furloughed a majority of its instructors.

Group fitness companies innovated by going online. But online workouts in your living room don’t quite replicate the real-life experience. Outdoor classes are closer to that pre-pandemic workout adventure, and are a revenue stream for studios and companies that can’t yet open.

“Outdoors is definitely a big contributor to the business,” Chris Hudson, chief curriculum lead at Barry’s, told me. “The concept has allowed us to safely offer Barry’s classes in markets such as Los Angeles and Mexico City where our studios remain closed.”

But, as that popular show once said: Winter is coming

People take a yoga class at Pier 16.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

The biggest question among people who aren’t group fitness enthusiasts about group fitness enthusiasts is: Why? Why not just exercise on your own? Why not just bike outside or go to a gym if you want to work out?

“I’d say, to each his or her own,” Lev told me. “Some people only want to work out at home [or at the gym]. I will say that Forward Space is the only thing that has ever gotten me to work out at home. That’s it, that’s the truth.”

As Lev told me, she just doesn’t respond as well to the gym or working out alone. The idea of going back to the gym “bores her to death.” Working out with a group of people motivates her in a way that working out solo doesn’t. And being able to work out outside with her favorite program and with her favorite teachers has been a blessing for her fitness and her mental health.

“Returning to in-person classes has taken away the quarantine isolation cloud for me, so I don’t want to lose that,” she said.

Sarah Luetto, an attorney in Los Angeles, goes to Barry’s outdoor classes as a way to mix up her routine but also as a way to exercise while still keeping her health in mind. Like Lev, she was going to fitness classes multiple times per week, but those classes shifted online during the pandemic. She’s been taking Barry’s classes at the Beverly Center, whose parking area has been outfitted as an “outdoor” Barry’s location with social distancing and cleaning measures implemented.

“I think it’s a good alternative for people like me who are not ready to do indoor [classes] and hope they keep the option available even when studios reopen indoor in the LA area,” she told me. “I like that they clean the room halfway through class and hope that protocol continues. I’m still taking online classes a few days a week, but it has been nice to have the modified studio experience in person and see some of my Barry’s friends in real life.”

The question for Luetto, Lev, and the fitness programs they enjoy is whether these outdoor classes will continue as the weather gets colder and working out outdoors becomes tougher.

Sudeikis said the outdoor Forward Space classes, which ended on September 21, prompted an increase in demand and made her think about offering a “handful” of outdoor classes in New York City. She also mentioned that she’s looking to offer outdoor classes in other cities throughout 2020 and into 2021.

But the main strategy for Sudeikis and Forward Space is investing in more virtual classes. She said they launched new eight- and 24-minute classes and are thinking of ways to expand their virtual offerings like making their live classes more interactive. “We are passionately committed as teachers, creators, coaches, and team members to be doing and creating everything we can right now to keep all moving and dancing for the people’s overall mental, physical and emotional health,” she said.

Hudson said Barry’s will continue to offer its classes as long as it can. That seems to be good news for Luetto in Los Angeles, where it stays warmer longer. Hudson, like Sudeikis, also mentioned the company’s desire to be innovative and that they will follow the safety rules in each city.

“We strive to offer a premium and safe experience in all our offerings, abiding by all local government mandates,” Hudson said.

The X-factor that will determine the future group fitness classes is how well the virus is contained. In New York City, flare-ups of the virus have prompted school and business closures in hot spots. Indoor dining is still in a touch-and-go stage. It’s hard to see allowing indoor fitness classes if schools and restaurants — which are considered more essential — still aren’t fully open. On the other side of that equation, people might be reluctant to go back to indoor fitness classes, even if they’re open, until they feel safe.

It’s all a moving target at this point.

“I think every person should decide what their risk is and what they are okay with.” Lev said, explaining that she is trying to be positive about the future of Forward Space. “And I would be okay with going to class. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that it will be sooner than later. Because there’s nothing like it.”


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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.

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

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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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