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How being rejected by my father a second time helped me heal

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I wanted to be a mother before I wanted anything else. An only child, adopted as a baby, I always knew I would have a litter of my own children. My tunnel vision persisted even as I went to college, travelled, and got a job: I was on this planet to have kids, my own biological kids.

My first pregnancy was a wakeup call, though. I spent the first trimester throwing up repeatedly, the second and third trimesters barely able to walk from escalating, undiagnosed symphysis pubis dysfunction. Stepping up, turning over in bed, even reaching for a glass in the cupboard led to sharp, knifing pain through my groin. Sleep was rare and anxiety set in quickly and established itself as my new normal.

Despite taking both Bradley Method and Hypnobirthing classes, I ended up stalled after 32 hours of labour. The unexpected caesarean section led to more vomiting, this time in response to the morphine. I called the nurse every five minutes, sobbing, begging for my son, who was still in the nursery because of a lowered body temperature.

Skin to skin

I lay in my empty room, still unable to walk, frantic for my baby.

Eventually, the nurse yelled at me. Eventually, she stopped answering the call button. Eventually, the hospital paediatrician called back at 6am, irritation raising the volume of his voice, as he informed me that my child was fine and that I needed to rest and give everyone a break.

At 7:30 that morning they brought my baby to me, bundled tight, eyes squeezed shut. I had not slept in two days, through 37 hours of labour and then surgery. Shadows darted through my peripheral vision, hallucinations from the exhaustion, and I refused to look at the new nurse on duty as she cleaned me up. Her bright smile meant nothing to me. Her warm praise of my son felt false and sinister.

I watched closely as she took his temperature and listened to his heart. She might take my baby at any time. No, I did not want to use the bathroom. No, I did not need her help. All I needed was my son, skin to skin against my chest.

She didn’t know, couldn’t understand, I thought. She had never given birth to me, after all.

 

That night I slept with him in my hospital bed, furtively cocooning him in between my arm and side. A light sleep, ready to wake and assure whoever came in that no, no I was not breaking the hospital rules by co-sleeping. No need to take him to the nursery. My husband, overwhelmed by his new role and stranger-to-him wife, visited for just a few hours at a time. We argued about my possessive behaviour when friends and family stopped by.

I spent those hospital days frantically trying to get my jaundiced newborn to nurse so the doctors would let us go home together. I panicked every time he unlatched, the anxiety from my pregnancy now hyper-focused on my son’s yellow skin, his flushed cheeks as he cried. I put him down only to change his diaper, then quickly pulled him back up into my arms. I let my mother hold him for 30 seconds and then snatched him back, angry at the hurt expression on her face. She did not know, could not understand, I thought. She had never given birth to me, after all. She had held me for the first time when I was four months old and I had never needed her like this.

adoption long read [Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

A wound

Fast forward eight years and my son was no longer a baby, yet still needed me so much. I rarely strayed from his side as he struggled with a profound mood disorder and a variety of comorbid diagnoses. He had inherited my anxiety, along with a confusing list of words and hints I had seen listed on the papers from my adoption agency, descriptions of my biological mother and her medical histories. No actual diagnoses, but clues, phrases like “angry young woman” and “drug use to compensate for parental abuse”.

I had met my biological father only a year earlier, and we had spent the last 12 months tiptoeing around each other, gently exploring the potential of a relationship. I had not been able to locate my birth mother, but what would it mean to have a connection to my biological father, a “real” family member, I wondered? Would it feel the way my children felt to me?

He told me about his own enduring anxiety about giving me up for adoption, about how his heart could unclench now that he had met me and realised that his choice had been the right one.

 

We discussed him introducing me to his son, my half-brother, and to his own brothers and sisters. He met my three children and my husband, invited us to meals and brought gifts. His kindness and gratitude put me at ease. He told me about his own enduring anxiety about giving me up for adoption, about how his heart could unclench now that he had met me and realised that his choice had been the right one.

He also told me horror stories about my biological mother. About mental illness that consumed her and left her barely able to live a functional life. About the damage she did to him and everyone around her with her behaviour, from verbal and physical abuse to sending Hell’s Angels to extort money from him.

He told me he wanted to do better, to help us to support my son as we navigated this new path of psychiatric visits and outpatient therapies. He offered his time and even his money, described his own family’s mental health struggles, putting our own into perspective. I thought I had another ally in this increasingly isolated world, and that began to heal something inside me I had not really understood was a wound.

Then, one day, out of the blue, he called to meet up for lunch at a cafe. He handed me a letter from my biological mother. She had written to him, made outrageous demands and accusations about me. She wanted my personal information and wanted to meet me.

“If you decide to do this, please don’t tell her anything about me,” he said.

“Okay, I understand,” I replied and we hugged goodbye.

That was the last time we spoke. He stopped asking to meet, stopped emailing, did not return my calls.

Rage and grief

But we were in crisis, soon to be facing a hospital stay for suicidality. I was terrified of losing my eight-year-old, separated from friends and family who did not understand the severity of our situation, who could not comprehend such a young child in such a desperate state. Or what that meant to me and my husband, as his parents.

I did not have the bandwidth to process getting dumped by my father right then.

Then he just ran, discarding me again, and I was supposed to accept that, to absolve him of any responsibility?

 

But that year, as we pushed through and survived the pain of multiple hospitalisations, scary medication trials, the inability to go to school – that disconnected feeling slowly transformed into anger. How dare he reject me a second time? He was the one who wanted to connect, to become a part of my family, to invite me into his own. Then he just ran, discarding me again, and I was supposed to accept that, to absolve him of any responsibility?

The anger snowballed to rage. It consumed me at first, then finally hardened, and eventually crumbled into grief. With no path towards resolution or closure, I faced this new, unfair pain head-on in all its complexity.

adoption long read - replacement [Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

A lingering ache

I knew that my biological parents were teenagers when they had me. Neither had the tools, maturity, or family support needed to parent a newborn. Their decision to give me up for adoption was, indeed, a good one. And my adopted parents were in their mid-twenties, both employed, both longing for a baby but unable to conceive.

But that fairy-tale scenario had never given me the peace it should have.

I continued to face many of the challenges that most adopted children face, despite the loving home I grew up in. Alison Gardner, a clinical psychologist in McLean, Virginia, describes one of the most profound difficulties that many adoptees experience.

“The research is pretty clear that the attachment process begins in utero and thus, when adoption happens, there is a real and experienced loss of one’s first attachment figure,” Gardner says. “How that loss is experienced, processed and coped with is very individualized and complicated.”

adoption long read [Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

I always felt that loss both as a child and adult, a sadness and sense of isolation that made no sense to me. Was I not loved? Did I not have family and friends who gave seemingly limitless affection and support?

I found myself anxious and depressed, choosing romantic partners whom I chased after for affection, begging for their time while they manipulated me and withheld warmth. When I did date people who treated me kindly, I responded argumentatively and manipulatively myself, sabotaging the relationships. Not realising what I was doing, I suffered greatly when my partners left me and the toxic back-and-forth behind. I repeated that pattern over and over until I met my husband, a person who had struggled in relationships, as well.

Nancy Verrier writes about something called “the primal wound” in her book The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. Her work is controversial, with mental health professionals, adoptees, and adopted parents quickly jumping in to say that each person’s experience is unique and cannot be generalised by large-scale theories. But her description of loss and abandonment, of the lingering ache and long-term effect of being separated from one’s mother at birth, rings true for me.

Distrust

Do adults who have been adopted feel differently about their children than non-adopted parents?

 

When I held my son in the hospital, I experienced a near-obsessive attachment to him immediately. Many mothers feel a strong bond like this, and it makes sense for survival. But do adults who have been adopted feel differently about their children than non-adopted parents? It is difficult to say definitively, though many professionals agree that there is a deep sense of gratitude and connection that occurs when adoptees have children. I, however, felt a profound distrust of the people around me, including my own husband – the father of this child I had given birth to. I had simply never known such a thing before, never trusted another person to love me and need me the way this tiny baby did.

That feeling never left, never lessened. Years later, as my son hit rock bottom, I found myself caring for him as if he was still a newborn, sacrificing myself beyond what was healthy, losing perspective, losing myself within the caregiving. I was nothing except a mother, providing for all three of my children, their needs trumping mine at every turn, even as I collapsed under the unrealistic expectations and burden that I, alone, imposed on myself.

Identity is an area that almost all adoptees grapple with at some point. In The Psychology of Adoption, David Brodzinsky writes about the research behind identity development in adoptees. He talks about issues that arise, such as a lack of belief in permanence, the insecurity that comes from not knowing your own genealogical history, and the difficulty of an entrenched “family romance”, where an adoptee has romanticised ideas about their biological family. He also discusses the grief involved when an adoptee searches for their biological family and is either blocked from contact or rejected after meeting.

Healing

adoption long read [Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

Once I emerged from survival mode with my son’s mental health crisis, once we were home and moving forward with treatment, I had the time and space to think about what had transpired with my biological father. With that came the anger, and then grief. The sense of loss, even stronger than before I had met him, almost sunk me.

What kept me from sinking was my real family: My husband, my adopted parents, the family and friends around me who showed up and offered love over and over again, even when I was at my most unlovable. My adopted parents have always been extremely involved as grandparents, but they stepped up even further when my son went into crisis. Even as they stumbled themselves, in pain as they watched their daughter and grandson hurting, they kept communication open. They put themselves out there for us, asked questions, apologised for missteps. My husband learned and grew with me through therapy and parenting behavioural work. Friends and unexpected family members, cousins, a sister-in-law, continued to connect as I withdrew in exhaustion and fear, bringing me back into the fold, forcing me to believe in the village rather than playing the role of supermom at my own expense.

My distrust and self-sabotaging behaviours had no place in the demanding world of parenting a high-need child. As I learned to accept help and to trust others, I also learned that I was worthy of help, trust, and love myself. I was worth fighting for, just as I fought for my son. These feelings of abandonment and loss were real – but acknowledging them allowed me to rise up out of that space and move forward.

Moving forward allowed me to exist as a person outside of motherhood, too.

The loss of my biological father for a second time opened a door towards understanding and healing in me. I could finally embrace and trust my adopted parents, my real parents. I could see my husband as a friend and equal, rather than an elevated romantic partner who soothed and validated me. I became a more balanced mother, regaining perspective as I learned to recognise my own identity outside of simply that of “parent”. All of the relationships in my life changed as I internalised this new understanding of who I was and where I came from. I became a whole person for the first time.

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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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