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Gutted Hawaii tourism industry preps for new arrivals



Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) — Honolulu is a town synonymous with Waikiki Beach, a stretch of sand so crowded it seems impossible to find an empty patch to sit, with tourists bobbing in and out of shops and restaurants that line Kalakaua Avenue having the tropical beach vacation travelers wait their entire lives to fulfill.

However, since March, stores and restaurants have shuttered and a once-bustling Waikiki sits like a ghost town, almost unrecognizable save the cerulean blue water and iconic skyline.

The mandatory quarantine for arrivals to Hawaii went into effect March 26.

But that is about to change with the launch of a pre-travel coronavirus testing program that the local government hopes will help kick-start the decimated economy by welcoming back trans-Pacific travelers.

An empty Waikiki Beach awaits the arrival of tourists with the state's pre-travel testing program, set to launch October 15, 2020.

An empty Waikiki Beach awaits the arrival of tourists with the state’s pre-travel testing program, set to launch October 15, 2020.

The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

A different Hawaii

Beginning on October 15, Hawaii’s pre-arrival testing program will allow tourists to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine with a negative Covid test.

But travelers may not recognize the Hawaii that greets them. Mask mandates, temperature checks, closures, and contact tracing requirements are just a few of the measures 2020 arrivals should anticipate at touchdown.

With tourism’s much-anticipated rebirth on the horizon, the state has made it clear that travelers are expected to abide by local governance, which includes wearing a mask or facial covering when in public and following physical distancing guidelines.

In Hawaii, a mask or facial covering is required in public.

In Hawaii, a mask or facial covering is required in public.

Hawaii Tourism Authority

“Visitors will likely notice that beaches and parks are less crowded than normal. Most will be open with restrictions, which vary by county,” Lei-Ann Field, of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, told CNN.

While local businesses have tried to restructure in an effort to meet the state’s mandates and remain operational, the allure of a truly tranquil, all-access trip may not be a 2020 reality for travelers.

Tiered reopening

Oahu remains in Tier 1 of a tightly sanctioned four tier reopening strategy, which mandates social gatherings, including beach trips and hikes, are limited to five people, and restaurants, retailers and partially enclosed attractions, like the zoo and botanical gardens, can only operate at 50% capacity.

Ala Moana Center, the largest open-air shopping center in the world, and International Marketplace, two favored destinations for both tourists and residents, feature signs instructing visitors to wear mandated facial coverings and access to common seating areas is restricted in accordance with state mandates.

Stores that have been able to remain open feature lines out the door trying to comply with limited occupancy mandates, while other storefronts are dark, unable to balance the economic cost of reopening.

Covid-19, and the resulting impact on tourism, has resulted in a loss of 95% of Kōloa Rum Company's Hawaii-generated revenue and 50% of employees remain on furlough.

Covid-19, and the resulting impact on tourism, has resulted in a loss of 95% of Kōloa Rum Company’s Hawaii-generated revenue and 50% of employees remain on furlough.

Kōloa Rum Company

In this phase, helicopter tours, short-term rentals, bars and nightclubs all remain closed, thereby removing only-accessible-by-helicopter views of the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Valley or Molokai’s sea cliffs from any itineraries.

Luaus have closed their doors until further notice and popular outdoor destinations for tourists like Mauna Kea Summit, Diamond Head State Monument, Hanauma Bay State Park and Iao Valley State Monument remain closed.

On Kauai, Kōloa Rum Company’s tasting room has sat empty since March, something the company doesn’t see changing for at least another month.

“The earliest possible reopening date is November 15, however, this will depend on visitor arrivals, hotel occupancy rates and guidance from local government and health officials,” Kōloa Rum CEO Bob Gunther said.

“We will not reopen until we are confident that we have the protocols and procedures in place that will protect our employees and customers and provide for an enjoyable shopping experience.”

Pre-travel program

Though the launch of the pre-travel program has been pushed back multiple times by Governor David Ige, industry professionals remain cautiously optimistic.

“The industry approaches October 15 with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and work and preparation that has gone forward to make this happen,” said John DeFries, CEO of Hawaii Tourism Authority.

To dispel confusion about how the state will balance the impending arrival of tourists with necessary safety precautions, officials encourage prospective visitors to monitor HawaiiCovid19.com for the most up-to-date information regarding entry protocols.

“The pre-travel testing program is a multi-tiered approach executed by government and the private sector and combines our pre-travel test program, airport health screening, airline and hotel safety protocols, improved contact tracing and other safety measures that can bring trans-Pacific travelers back to the Islands in a safe and measured way,” Ige said in an October 7 press conference held at the airport.

“There are thousands of moving parts and things are continually changing each and every day.”

Hawaii Pre-travel Test flow chart

Hawaii Pre-travel Test flow chart


Travelers heading to the Hawaiian Islands must first create a profile on Safe Travels, which helps the state track and enforce quarantine rules for visitors who wish to arrive without pre-travel testing.

The new program requires individuals to complete a pre-travel Covid test within 72 hours of travel. Passengers who present a negative Covid result will not be subject to the state’s 14-day quarantine program.

Only nucleic acid amplification tests are approved and must be processed by licensed laboratories and trusted partners that have been designated by the state. Neither antibody nor antigen tests will be accepted by the state, although individual islands may implement their own protocols. Travelers are responsible for the cost of the test and children under five do not need to be tested.

But the program doesn’t come without caveats. The state plans to implement a secondary surveillance testing program where 10% of incoming visitors will be selected and tested at random at the airport and each island will be handling the arrival of visitors differently.

The Island of Hawaii will require an antigen test for all visitors upon arrival, and both Maui and Kauai are considering similar options. If the rapid-response antigen test given to arrivals comes back positive, travelers will then be required to take a PCR test and quarantine until the results return.

“We had hoped for ‘sandwich’ testing, where visitors would be tested before departure and after arrival in Hawaii in order to keep Hawaii a citadel safe from Covid,” said Peter Merriman, a chef and restaurateur with locations across the Islands. “But it turns out we don’t have enough testing capacity so just a single pre-travel test is required.”

Limited island-hopping

The initiative allows for some inter-island travel. Maui and Kauai Counties, for instance, will allow travelers who present negative pre-travel Covid tests to visit even after vacationing in another island.

Travelers going between Oahu, Kauai and Maui Counties can avoid the 14-day quarantine if their pre-travel test is negative.

While the Road to Hana in Maui is open, facilities along the way may be limited.

While the Road to Hana in Maui is open, facilities along the way may be limited.

Sergi Reboredo/VW PICS/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

“We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we assess the best solution to keep our community and travelers safe and healthy,” said Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, an emergency medicine physician, in an e-mailed statement.

Early reports this summer touted Hawaii as a coronavirus success story and the state made plans for a modest reopening for residents. When virus numbers rose to alarming heights, local government instated another shutdown and Hawaii quickly became a cautionary tale on containment, as the tourism industry plunged further into chaos.

Subsequent flip-flopping on shutdown mandates, coupled with Governor Ige’s delayed reopening plan, has led to mass layoffs across the hospitality industry within the state.

Hawaiian Airlines was forced to slash their workforce, citing a demand for air travel at 90% less than 2019, and the company has announced the suspension of ‘Ohana service, which offered passenger flights between Molokai and Lanai, beginning November 1, creating fewer route options between islands.

Closed — for now or forever

Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center, a popular themed park and museum that explores the heritage of the Pacific Islands, reported a 30% reduction in workforce, stating the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s prediction of tourism not returning to 2019 levels until 2025 as a determining factor, and remains closed.
Beach party luaus, like this one on Hawaii Island, won't be happening for now.

Beach party luaus, like this one on Hawaii Island, won’t be happening for now.


After more than 50 years of service, landmark restaurants like Top of Waikiki and Dillingham Saimin have closed permanently, while others have temporarily shuttered until tourism revenues return.

Nate Gyotoku works as the executive director of a non-profit in Honolulu and is used to traveling home to Hilo on the Island of Hawaii once a month to see friends and family, a situation that is not uncommon to residents, but which is now impossible because of the state’s restrictions on much inter-island travel.

Despite hesitations from a health safety perspective, Gyotoku feels reopening to tourism is necessary.

“I think we have to reopen for tourism in some way, because it is such a big part of our economy,” he said. “I’m kind of apprehensive, because of having more people coming in from a safety perspective, but people need to get back to work.”

Gyotoku admitted that although welcoming tourists back is necessary, it presents a sustainability issue that has plagued the chain of islands in recent years with overtourism.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” he said, referencing the Islands’ fragile ecosystems and the strain an influx of visitors puts on locations with finite resources. “I would rather keep Hawaii as a premier destination like it used to be where a visitor who comes spends more money, but it’s fewer visitors versus what we are trending toward, which is more tourists spending less.”

Welcome back

Hotel Wailea's owner Jonathan McManus says they are ready to welcome back visitors and cites their open-air dining and connection to nature as part of the property's safety plans.

Hotel Wailea’s owner Jonathan McManus says they are ready to welcome back visitors and cites their open-air dining and connection to nature as part of the property’s safety plans.

Hotel Wailea

Jonathan McManus, owner of Hotel Wailea in Maui, agreed, adding that hotel properties like his have used this time to confidently welcome back visitors.

There are direct flights into Maui, Kauai and the Island of Hawaii from the mainland US, and these arrivals are covered under the pre-travel testing program.

“We have gone through every inch of the property to ensure all of our amenities, dining and experiences have safety and well-being in mind, and are naturally distant,” McManus shared.

“Welcoming back tourists in a sustainable, low-impact manner is critical to securing our future for the islands and will ensure we can continue to share the best of what Hawaii has to offer for future generations.”

While coronavirus may have gutted a once booming tourism industry in the Islands, leaving residents to pick up the pieces, the aloha spirit is alive and well.

“The people who live in Hawaii have embraced mask wearing and the spirit of aloha inherently includes concern for one another’s well-being,” Merriman said. “We hope visitors to Hawaii will adopt that same approach in order to keep everyone safe.”

Kait Hanson is a freelance writer and photographer based in Honolulu, Hawaii.


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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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