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How racism amplifies Covid-19 risk for everyone

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The concentration of over 223,000 US Covid-19 casualties in vulnerable Black and brown communities, while unconscionable, has not been a surprise. Systems like policing and low-wage labor trap a disproportionate number of people from these communities in unsafe interactions. People of color are more likely to be stopped, arrested, and jailed. They are also more likely to work in low-wage jobs classified as essential, without the ability to take time off, get adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), or avoid exposure to people who refuse to wear masks.

Those elements, combined with other socioeconomic factors such as segregated housing and lack of health care, suggest that Black and brown Americans will contract and die from Covid-19 at much higher rates than their white peers. Even as we continue to learn how exactly the virus infects and kills some but not others, the data confirm those fears. This summer, the Brookings Institution think tank found that racial disparities in Covid-19 deaths persist across “all age categories.”

What we did not know — and what our response has not reflected — is how those disparities are not just tragic outcomes but drivers of infection and death. As experts in social psychology, data science, sociology, statistical inference, and public safety, we constructed a new model that illustrates how the racial disparities in our essential systems amplify the risk of infection for everyone, including those who may have imagined themselves as separate from the people behind the climbing casualty figures.

In short: Racial inequities are engines driving Covid-19 in the United States. As case numbers and hospitalizations spike across the country, our inability to protect ourselves and each other is directly tied to our inability to reckon with injustice.

Disaster in the synthetic city

To determine the magnitude of infections driven by racial inequity, our team used the best available real-world data to build a fictional metro area of 5 million people and simulate the virus’s spread. (You can read more about the model and its assumptions here.)

That allowed us to determine what percentage involved people who comprise three “essential” systems with large racial disparities: 1) police officers and the people who they come into contact with, 2) people returning home from jail and prisons (known as “churn”), and 3) frontline, low-wage workers with no option but to keep showing up.

Our simulation tracked the spread of the virus across a 40-day period. We assumed a police response similar to early, real-life epicenters such as New York and Seattle. A stay-at-home order went into effect 28 days after Covid-19 began to spread, residents largely followed social distancing guidelines (though not masks, per early guidance), and nonessential business closed. Then we looked at the spread of the virus 12 days after the lockdown began.

The results were staggering. At the end of our 40-day period, our three populations accounted for roughly 69 percent of new infections across the entire metro area. Policing and jail/prison churn accounted for 16 percent of the total spread; essential, low-wage work accounted for an additional 53 percent.

Notably, policing and churn contributed to infection rates even among those who had a greater ability to shelter in place. They accounted for 24 percent of the spread among Black residents who could likely stay put, and 17 percent of spread among similar white residents. That means Black people who had not been involved in the criminal justice system were still 40 percent more likely than their white peers to contract the illness from someone who had been.

Given the potent national conversation around disparities faced by Black residents, we focused our analysis on how they contribute to the virus’s spread. But the same dynamic holds for any minority group overrepresented in our three populations.

Because most cases go undetected — especially true in the early days of the pandemic — confirmed case numbers offer a poor picture of the virus’s actual spread. And even with enhanced contact-tracing efforts, case numbers offer almost no sense of how the virus spreads. Our model creates a more complete picture by using the best available data on the virus’s behavior to simulate the spread rather than relying on deeply problematic testing reports and contact tracing.

It uses US national averages for racial breakdowns in each population using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, FBI, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, and assumptions consistent with the latest science on transmission and recovery. Our rates are based on actual averages that account for “superspreader” events, reflecting their observed role in the virus’s overall spread. We pulled call data from police departments to estimate the number of officer-civilian interactions, and used Bureau of Justice Statistics reports to estimate the daily churn through jails and prisons.

Accounting for reasonable variation across cities, we estimate that over the initial 40-day time span, policing and jail/prison churn accounted for between 13 and 18 percent of new infections in most US metro areas. Essential, low-wage work accounted for an additional 50 to 56 percent.

A grocery store cashier wears a face mask and gloves in Miami Beach, Florida.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lesson? Inequities in these populations don’t just mean higher transmission in these communities. They fuel the spread of Covid-19 across entire regions, even in the presence of restrictive public health precautions that people follow. Because of racial inequities, people of every age, socioeconomic status, and race are contracting the virus and dying far more often than they had to.

When essential systems become engines of misery

Because of the racial inequities we have built into our essential systems, they have become combustion engines of misery. The virus flows freely in high-risk areas like holding cells, police encounters, low-wage workplaces, and public transit. The pistons of residential segregation, generational poverty, and targeted disinvestment along racial lines apply pressure. Covid-19 explodes outward.

Consider what our model says about the magnitude of the spread in a city like Chicago. As early as April 2, 12 days after the statewide stay-at-home order was issued, Chicago had 5,336 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Assuming that 1 in 10 actual cases is confirmed, that translated to roughly 53,000 actual infections.

Now, imagine an alternate reality in which the city recognized and was able to treat its essential systems as drivers of the virus’s spread right away. Police would only have made physical contact when there was no alternative. People in jails could have socially distanced, received frequent testing, and effectively quarantined in the event of infections. Every essential worker would be equipped with PPE and have the ability to socially distance, including on commutes and while at work.

Our model suggests these measures could have led to roughly 36,400 fewer community infections — a majority of the area’s 53,000 early infections. Not only would that have saved lives in the immediate term, but reduced the number of infections that dramatically could have flattened the curve early on.

Recent spikes have shown how vulnerable people who lack the ability to social distance can spread the virus across the country, from meat-packing plants and nursing homes to low-income apartments. The demography and geography look different, but there’s a common theme: The inequality undergirding our stratified society is putting us all at risk.

Our deadly choices, past and present

The inequities that have trapped the nation in this Covid-19 nightmare are not preordained. There is nothing inherently different about Black or brown people that makes these populations more likely to end up handcuffed on the street, moving in and out of a jail, or working a low-wage job. There’s no genetic condition that makes them more likely to be exposed to Covid-19.

Deliberate policy choices, past and present, drive these disparities. We choose to deny full-time workers a living wage, health care, and the right to take time off. We choose to house incarcerated people in a “pod” without the ability to urinate in private, much less socially distance. We choose to use policing as a default response to generations of discrimination and neglect.

A security guard patrols outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center on May 9, 2020, in Otay Mesa, California.
Sandy Huffaker/AFP

The virus afflicts vulnerable people because, first, our policy choices afflicted them. Now, we have numbers to show how our indifference affects everyone else, too.

Any serious effort to fight this disease has to treat inequity as a driver of infection and death for everyone, rather than an unfortunate consequence for other people. In the short term, we cannot rip out essential systems that force the most vulnerable into the most high-risk interactions. But we can start to address underlying factors that make people more vulnerable, and make their interactions less frequent and dangerous.

When it comes to law enforcement, some of the most meaningful actions are within the purview of individual departments. They can reduce interactions by suspending traffic enforcement, prioritizing incidents that pose imminent harm over low-level offenses, and issuing warnings in lieu of citations or arrests. Individual officers can keep their physical distance and avoid detaining people — and especially booking them into jail. Because churn and police interactions account for roughly one in four cases among Black people outside of those populations, changes in public safety systems would disproportionately save Black lives.

Our model also demonstrates the urgency of effective PPE for essential workers and those they encounter. Along with health care professionals and law enforcement officers, low-wage, essential workers are the PPE for our society. Our safety depends on these populations having PPE, frequent testing, and the ability to self-quarantine if infected. A June study suggests that universal mask-wearing among essential workers and those they interact with could cut the spread dramatically, perhaps blunting the resurgence we’re currently seeing.

Those protections are the bare minimum. Essential workers need higher wages, food, and housing that does not depend on their next paycheck, and quality, affordable care if they do get sick. These are not priorities we can turn to when the pandemic is past — they are a crucial part of defeating it. Putting people in charge of their health, and in a secure enough financial position to actually follow health guidance, will make us all safer.

How to shut down the engine

To protect ourselves from Covid-19, Americans need to reject the idea that the most vulnerable people are somehow isolated, whether those people live in cities, are older, Black, or earn less than a living wage. Covid-19 threatens these groups more than others, and yet all face a greater threat because of their vulnerability.

If individual responsibility could fix this — the default position of more than a few governors in the face of rising Covid-19 numbers — it already would have. We fail to protect the people facing the largest threat — and then prioritize blame over prevention in our response.

The constant stream of bad news and dire warnings, coupled with a sense of hopelessness, can make systemic change feel impossible. We long for normalcy. But simply outlasting this pandemic will not mean we have dealt with the problems that made it so deadly.

Covid-19 is telling us, in the starkest possible terms, that the burdens of the most vulnerable — and racism specifically — pose a collective threat. Science is telling us the cost of our inaction. We can only defeat this pandemic by accepting those essential truths, and making the choices to shut down the engines of misery for good.

Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Center for Policing Equity and a professor of African American Studies and Psychology at Yale University.

Dr. Amelia M. Haviland is the Anna Loomis McCandless Professor of Statistics and Health Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Tracey Lloyd is vice president of science at the Center for Policing Equity.

Mikaela Meyer is a doctoral student at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy and the Department of Statistics & Data Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

Rachel Warren is a data scientist and Masters In Information (MIMS) student at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley.


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

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(CNN) —  

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

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

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

Coffee

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

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

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

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

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

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

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

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

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

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

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

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

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

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

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

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

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

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

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

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

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

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

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

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

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

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

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

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

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

Beauty

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

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

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

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

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

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

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

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

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

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

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

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

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

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

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

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

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

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

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

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

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

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

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

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

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

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

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

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

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

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

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

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

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

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

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

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

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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

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Open Sourced logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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