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‘He was always your first fan’: Remembering COVID-19 victims

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A Melbourne bus driver with a passion for fun – and cricket – an Indonesian tax consultant who sewed her daughter’s wedding dress, a chef who defended workers’ rights in Italy, and an Indian-born American engineer who was always “first in the buffet line” – these are just some of the people the world has lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak is inflicting a heavy toll, with more than a million people dead since COVID-19 first emerged in central China late last year.

Victims of the contagious disease are often dying in isolation, without their families and friends by their side. And across the world, many of the bereaved are being robbed of the comfort and closure of funeral rites.

The people we have profiled here are from all walks of life, representing just a few of the faces and names behind the staggering death toll.

We would like to add more names to the list. If you know of anyone whose story you think we should tell, please get in touch with Zaheena Rasheed, rasheedz@aljazeera.net, or Kate Mayberry mayberryk@aljazeera.net.

Richard Proia, 66, United States

Richard Proia, a retired accountant from Rochester, New York, died on April 16 after 10 days on a ventilator. The father of two was 66 years old.

His daughter, Angelina Proia, said she started a support group on Facebook for people who had lost their loved ones to COVID-19, to help cope with the loss.

“Losing someone to COVID is so different – you have to deal with people calling it fake or not believing that so many people are dying,” the 34-year-old told Al Jazeera. “We all kind of get it, we get the frustration, the collective anger.”

With limitations on large gatherings, the family held a small physically distanced funeral that was arranged on video-conferencing app Zoom and attended in-person by around 10 people.

Retired accountant Richard Proia died in April, and his family had to hold his funeral over Zoom [Supplied]

Proia said it was tough not being able to grieve properly because of the restrictions.

“Even hugging my mother and my brother was a really big risk around the grave,” she said.

When asked about her fondest memory of her late father, Proia recalled their trips to the amusement parks and the zoo when he came to visit her in New York City.

“My father was like an 8-year-old in a 66-year-old man’s body,” she remembered fondly. “He loved life … Even when he was sad, he was happy, he had a smile on his face.”

Ramash Quasba, 67, United States

Ramash Quasba moved to the United States from India at the age of 26.

The 67-year-old retired engineer and father of two suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of COVID-19 complications and died on September 22 after being intubated for almost three weeks.

According to Hindu custom, he was cremated.

“It was a very difficult experience because I knew every single detail of what my dad was going through,” his daughter, Naeha Quasba, who is a primary care physician, said.

“My dad was very hardworking,” she told Al Jazeera. “He always pushed us hard to study and he was very proud of the achievements that me and my sister made academically and career-wise.”

Hailing from a cricket-loving nation, Ramash enjoyed watching the sport and spending time with his grandchildren.

“He loved food. We would always joke that he would be the first in the buffet line,” his 33-year-old daughter, Naeha, added, laughing.

“I’m just trying to focus on keeping his memory alive for my children. I’ve printed out some photographs of him with my kids and we keep his name in our prayers at night.”

Ramash Quasba moved from India to the United States when he was 26 and loved family, food and cricket [Supplied]

Neville Vaughan, 80, Australia

Neville Vaughan died on August 16, after contracting COVID-19 in an aged care facility in Melbourne, Australia. He was 80 years old and only one week away from his 81st birthday.

He had been married to his wife Margaret for 61 years, who his granddaughter Rebecca said “he adored.”

“He was a very family-oriented person,” Rebecca told Al Jazeera. “He always somehow made you laugh no matter what. He was a very happy and easy-go-lucky man who was always supportive and always proud of you no matter what.”

Rebecca described Neville as “the life of the party” and despite his age, even attended her 18th birthday party in February.

“That was the last time I saw him,” Rebecca said. “He was very happy and a little bit confused because of the dementia, but he was having a laugh and a joke with my family and my friends.”

Neville had five sons, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, and was known as a star cricketer in his younger days.

His love of cricket continued after his playing career ended, volunteering at local cricket clubs and encouraging his sons in the game. He was also a bus driver in Melbourne for many years.

Neville remained in community work in his old age, singing and performing in nursing homes. After being admitted to an aged care facility in October last year, he became popular with staff and other residents. He was a “social butterfly,” Rebecca said.

Due to the lockdown and restrictions that were imposed in Melbourne to combat the spread of COVID-19, Rebecca and other family members did not get the chance to see Neville before he passed away.

Rebecca is left with fond memories of her grandfather.

“He’d always take her to the park and push me on the equipment and always come to your soccer game.”

“He was always your first fan. Such a lovely guy.”

Neville Vaughn, pictured celebrating Christmas in 2019, was “the life and soul of the party” [Supplied]

Du Shengchang, 67, China

Piano teacher Du Shengchang died on February 15 from complications related to COVID-19. He was 67.

A Wuhan local, Du taught the piano his entire life. Among his students was his son, Du Qin.

Qin remembers his father as a strict man, who would pin him down by the piano every day after school. Du would then sit next to his son to make sure he hit every key correctly.

“I owe him a lifetime of gratitude for introducing me to music, and he is forever my first and my last piano teacher,” said Qin.

Du was also a loving father, Qin said, sending him homemade food during his time away at college in Shanghai. The well-sealed packages would often come with a note reminding Qin to stay healthy and keep practising the piano.

Du met his wife at the age of 19, while at college.

“According to the love story they told me, I’d call myself lucky if I could encounter half of the romance they did,” said Qin.

Then, last year, Du sold the piano that he had been using to teach piano and got a new Steinway & Sons, specifically for his son. Du wanted him to come back home and play a “mini-concert” for him. But the coronavirus meant Qin never got the chance.

Ali Behzad, 66, Iran

Ali Behzad was known as ‘Uncle Moustache’ among some close friends [Supplied]

Ali Behzad, a prominent Iranian journalist, died of COVID-19 after fighting the illness for 45 days. He was 66 years old.

“Uncle Moustache”, as he was called by some close friends, was known for an easy smile, his kindness and willingness to help others.

The veteran journalist began his career at the Kayhan newspaper in 1977. Considered the most conservative Iranian daily, Kayhan has been headed by a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader since the country’s 1979 revolution. Behzad worked at the paper’s culture desk for 17 years, rejecting several offers to head its current affairs section.

After leaving Kayhan, Behzad worked as the public relations manager of Behrouz, a large food industry company for 20 years. He wrote several books including the popular, Pioneers of Food Industries.

Ismy Latifah, 68, Indonesia

Ismy Latifah, a tax consultant, died in Indonesia in March [Supplied]

Ismy Latifah, 68, died from COVID-19 in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, on March 19.

Latifah is believed to have contracted the virus from her son, after he came into contact with Indonesia’s first confirmed local case at a dance in southern Jakarta.

A tax consultant, Latifah continued to advise her clients even after she retired, according to her daughter Eva Rahmi Salama. She also sewed her daughter’s wedding dress and was a good cook, said Salama, adding that she would miss her mother’s traditional dishes of “soto ayam” (a herbal chicken soup) and “nasi goreng” (fried rice).

Latifah’s parting words to her daughter were to look after the youngest of her two brothers, who is 25 years of age. She then kissed Salama’s hand and wished her success.

Taten Syamsir, 70, Indonesia

Salama also lost her father, 70-year-old Taten Syamsir to COVID-19. He died in Jakarta on March 21, only a few hours after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Salama said Syamsir, who had been separated from Latifah for about 20 years, apologised for “leaving us all at that time” and gripped her hand tightly during their last moments together.

She cried and said she “already forgave” him.

Giovanna Sigali, 71, Italy

Giovanna Sigali, known as Gianna, died from COVID-19 on March 27.

The 71-year-old died at a nursing home in the northern town of Chiari, half an hour away from Brescia and Bergamo, among two Italian towns most hard hit in the coronavirus outbreak.

The nursing home had closed doors to visitors in February to reduce the risk of infections, but “the coronavirus found its own way to get through taking away her life and the ones of many others,” said her niece, Elisa Arcari.

“Be it your birthday, name-day, or some sort of anniversary, I knew she would be the very first one to call,” said Arcari, her voice imbued with tenderness.

Sigali, born with cognitive disabilities, lived most of her life in Milan.

She moved back to Chiari in 2017, but continued to miss the big city. She was a great fan of AC Milan and had a special place for the team’s red-and-black scarf in her bedroom, among the many photos and teacups she kept there.

Always wearing a hat and a myriad of colourful bracelets, Sigali rigorously followed her daily routine, including breakfast at 9am, an unmissable date with the TV at 2pm to watch Il Segreto, her favourite Spanish soap opera, and endless card games of Gin Rummy.

“What I will miss the most? Her smile. I can’t remember her without a smile,” Arcari said.

Muhammad Ali, 64, Pakistan

Muhammad Ali [Supplied]

Muhammad Ali was a trader, travelling from Pakistan to Iran every few weeks to procure household goods that he would then sell in his home city of Quetta. He contracted the coronavirus following a trip to Iran and died of COVID-19 on March 22. He was 64.

He is survived by seven children. His wife died from a heart attack just a few days after his death, according to Ali’s 20-year-old son Ali Asghar.

“He was a straightforward person. He would go to work and come home. When he was in the hospital, he had no idea what coronavirus was. He just wanted to go home,” said Asghar.

“He was a softhearted man. When he would go to Iran, he’d be there for 15 days or so, and then in Pakistan, he’d spend most of his time at home.”

Traditionally, Muslim funeral prayers are offered in conjunction with one of the five daily prayers. For coronavirus patients in Pakistan, however, this is not the case. So Asghar said he drove his father’s body to a graveyard in the dead of night and buried him within hours.

Zhang Lifa, 67, China

Zhang Lifa saluting during the parade to mark 70 years of the People’s Republic of China last year [Supplied]

Zhang Lifa was born in the final days of World War II, just five years before the Chinese Civil War ended in the eastern province of Shandong.

The young Zhang grew up to become a soldier in the People’s Liberation Army where he worked in nuclear weapons development. He left the army in 1968 as the Cultural Revolution raged across China, but his service left him deaf in one ear and in poor health due to exposure to radiation.

After leaving the military, Zhang moved to Wuhan where he worked as a clerk at a local college and retired in 2000. The army veteran died on February 1 at the age of 76.

His son, Zhang Hai, thinks his father contracted the coronavirus while he was in hospital for surgery on a broken leg after having a fall in January.

Asked about his favourite memory of his father, Zhang Hai said it was a fairly recent one.

On October 1 last year, when China was celebrating its 70th anniversary, Zhang Lifa got to his feet to salute the flag during the playing of the country’s national anthem.

“The most important thing I learned from him is that he taught me to maintain my moral integrity, to always show love to others and to treasure life,” Zhang Hai said.

Claudio Musa, 79, Italy

An unstoppable worker, devoted to his family and “a real socialist” – this is how Claudio Musa’s niece remembers her uncle, who died of COVID-19 at a retirement home in Italy’s Cremona on March 17. He was 79 years old.

Musa had been a chef at Cremona’s hospital for his entire career. If needed, he would always go the extra mile by taking part-time jobs to be sure nothing was missing at home for his wife Rina and three children, Tiziana, Roberto and Nadia, the latter who died from cancer in 1999.

“He was firmly convinced that working was people’s expression of dignity,” said Bartoletti. And while he was mild-mannered, he was a fierce proponent of worker’s rights which he defended as a leading representative of the hospital’s union.

After his wife’s death in 2007, Musa dedicated his time to helping his son, Roberto, with his duties as a priest in San Daniele Po’s diocese, including cooking almost every summer for the children of the parish.

His career in kitchens and restaurants made him a great organiser, a skill he would use to turn his own family celebrations into festive events, said Bartoletti.

In his last years, Musa, who suffered from diabetes, moved into a nursing home. He was active and social at the Cremona home, quickly establishing a new entourage of friends, especially of women whose company he greatly enjoyed, his niece said.

Reporting by Ali MC in Australia, Saba Aziz in Canada, Shawn Yuan and Michael Standaert in China, Randy Mulyanto in Indonesia, Asad Hashim in Pakistan, Maysam Bizaer in Turkey and Virginia Pietromarchi in Qatar. 

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

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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