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‘I just want my husband’s remains to be returned to us’

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This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

Stanley Jungco had only ever been to sea on a fishing boat once before, and he had vowed to his sisters that he would never go again.

But in September 2018, tempted by the promise of a monthly salary of $380, the 24-year-old went back to sea as crew on a Chinese-owned trawler.

The money would be enough for him to buy back the land his father had pawned and buy some for himself too. He could settle down and marry his girlfriend. One more trip would be the difference between a life spent jumping from one odd job to another, and stability.

Five months ago, Jungco had an accident on board and later died from complications. Worse, as a result of restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic, his body remains in a mortuary in the southern Chinese province of Fuzhou.

“My mother didn’t want him to go, but he was determined to work and help our family,” his sister Rica Jungco told Al Jazeera.

The Philippines is at the centre of a maritime crisis that has left thousands of seafarers locked down in their ships and exiled from home. The island archipelago, which has a maritime history dating back to the Galleon Trade during Spanish colonial rule, supplies about a quarter of the world’s 1.2 million seafarers. Last year, they sent home some $6.14bn in remittances.

Sealed borders and ports closed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have kept some 300,000 seafarers quarantined on their ships, with little to no chance of being replaced by a fresh crew, according to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF).

Stanley Jungo, 25, had an accident on board a deep-sea fishing vessel when a steel bar hit his thigh in April. He ignored the injury but it got worse and six weeks later he was dead. His body remains in a mortuary in southern China [Martin San Diego/Al Jazeera]

And if anyone dies, varying country health protocols on the repatriation of remains, discontinued flights and inter-governmental bureaucracy means families are facing heartbreaking obstacles to claiming the remains of their loved ones.

A long time at sea

Debbie and Raul Calopez’s 11-year marriage was mostly long distance. She worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong and Lebanon while Raul stayed at home to raise their two children.

Debbie was still in Lebanon finishing her contract when Raul boarded the 7874 Fu Yuan Yu, a Chinese fishing vessel bound for the Atlantic Ocean, in March 2019.  “He called me from the airport, told me he loved me and promised that when he came back, our family would finally be complete,” she said.

That day would never come.

On December 31, 2019, while hauling in their catch, Raul fainted, hitting his head on a steel pipe as he fell to the floor.  In a handwritten letter penned by crew members, Raul complained of a headache and body pains after the accident.  The men took turns looking after him during their breaks, but he became weaker.

“We tried to ask for medical assistance, but the captain wouldn’t listen. They gave us medicine, but it was in Chinese characters we couldn’t understand,” said Jesus Gaboni, one of Raul’s crewmates.

On January 19, Raul finally got medical attention, but by then it was too late. A few hours later, he was dead.

Jesus Gaboni, left, with other Filipino crew on board their fishing vessel. The man on the right, Raul Calopez, got sick onboard and eventually died. Gaboni helped store Calopez’s body in the ship’s freezer where it remains today [Martin San Diego/Al Jazeera]

Gaboni and the other men took his body, wrapped it in a blanket and buried it in the ship’s freezer. But as the pandemic accelerated, first in China and then around the world, the 7874 Fu Yuan Yu was stranded in China.

The crew members managed to return to the Philippines when travel restrictions were eased in July. They were transferred to another boat with crew from other company vessels stranded by the pandemic but, in the confusion, Raul’s body was left behind – in the freezer of the 7874.

After the crew disembarked,  the ship went back to sea.

According to correspondence between Debbie and the Philippine Embassy in Chile, the vessel’s location on the high seas blurs country jurisdictions and accountabilities, complicating the repatriation of Raul’s remains. The vessel may possibly dock in October and Raul’s body may finally be retrieved. By then, it will have been almost a year since his death.

“It’s been so long already. I just want my husband’s remains to be returned to us. Then we can all be together again, like he promised,” Debbie said.

Global Maritime Crew and Global Offshore & Marine Manpower Solution, the manpower agencies that recruited most of the crew for the Fu Yuan Yu vessels, could not be reached for comment.

Most dangerous job in the world

Seafaring is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Migrants on deep-sea fishing boats spend months at a time on the high seas, working in the most perilous conditions and at risk of physical abuse in a situation some have likened to slavery.

Jesus Gaboni at home in the Philippines. He was the more senior of the Filipino crew and moved Raul Calopez’s body to the ship’s freezer after he died. It is still there, and the boat is back on the high seas [Martin San Diego/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera interviewed dozens of migrants.

They spoke of a life dictated by the availability of the catch – hauling in squid, fish and crab, cleaning and freezing it at all hours of the day and night.

“Commercial fishing is largely unregulated and unsupervised. It is practically lawless,” said Rossen Karavatchev, ITF Fisheries Section Coordinator.

Among the major countries operating commercial fishing vessels, only Thailand has ratified the Work in Fishing Convention, which sets international standards for the safety and protection of crew, while South Africa is the only country in the world that allows port inspection of fishing vessels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned ships into virtual floating prisons, with some sailors now spending between 17 and 21 months at sea. The average contract is about 11.

“Getting sick and the chances of dying on board are much more than before. If you get sick on board, sorry. You can’t get medical assistance and you can’t get out. If you die, you may be thrown into the sea for a sea burial,” added Karavatchev.

About a quarter of the world’s seafarers come from the Philippines [Martin San Diego/Al Jazeera]

The International Labour Organization estimates about 41,000 people working on trawlers are migrants, mostly from Southeast Asia. However, this number could be as high as 100,000 as many people are undocumented or trafficked into sailing in international waters.

As Marla de Asis, a researcher at the Scalabrini Migration Center in Manila put it, “Once seafarers are on board, who gets to check on how they are doing?”

‘He was our baby’

After Jungco set sail on his fateful voyage – to the rich fishing grounds of the southern Atlantic – his family did not hear from him for more than a year.

It was only in April, when Jungco’s ship docked in Peru and he finally had access to a mobile signal, that they could speak.

He told his sisters that he was on his way home and that his ship would meet up with other fishing vessels off the coast of China en route to the Philippines. What Jungco did not tell them was that he had had an accident a few days before. The crew was dismantling fishing rigs and other gear in preparation for going home when a steel bar slammed into his thigh.

Jungco’s crewmates were making similar calls to their own families, frantically trying to get updates over a patchy mobile signal.  By then, news of the COVID-19 virus had reached every corner of the globe – except the deep seas.

They had heard scraps of information from the English their Chinese captain mustered, but the crew could not believe it. They thought the pandemic was an excuse to keep them from going home.

When their boat docked in China, Jungco texted his sisters again on June 1. He told them they had been prohibited from disembarking and had been forced to stay on board.

Jungco’s crewmates wrote up the details of his final moments on board the deep-sea shipping vessel, His family hope they will soon get him home [Martin San Diego/Al Jazeera]

By that time, Jungco’s condition had deteriorated. His left thigh had turned purple and was swollen. Video footage taken by crew members shows him lying in his bunk bed, visibly weak and having difficulty breathing.

The next message the sisters received was on June 6, from a crew member. Jungco had died.

“He was our baby, our youngest,” sobbed Rosalie Jungco-Pacheco, Jungco’s sister who spoke to Al Jazeera via phone from their hometown in the central Philippines. The cause of his death has not yet been determined.

The oldest in the family of 11 children, Rosalie is 18 years older than Jungco. “When he was growing up, I was the one who would brush his teeth and bathe him. It hurts so much to think of how much he suffered without any of us beside him,” she said.

When travel restrictions eased in July, the crew was allowed to sail back to the Philippines but Jungco’s body was left behind. Through updates from the Philippine Embassy in China, Rica and Rosalie were able to confirm that he had been taken to a mortuary in Fuzhou.

“Repatriating seafarers, in particular, is made more challenging due to docking and disembarkation restrictions for vessels set by local authorities and the severely limited number of flights,” the Department of Foreign Affairs – Manila (DFA) said in a statement.

The DFA has been working with various governments to assist stranded seafarers all over the world, its latest data shows that more than 66,000 seafarers affected by the pandemic have been brought home.

A bittersweet goodbye

Last July, Ann-Ann Geraldino stood at Pier 15 of the Manila Port Area as the crew of various Fu Yuan Yu fishing vessels that had been stuck in China as a result of the pandemic finally disembarked.

Stanley Jungco, 25, died on a Chinese-owned deep-sea fishing vessel on June 6. His family are still waiting for his body, which remains in a mortuary in southern China, to be returned [Martin San Diego/Al Jazeera]

She was there to collect the remains of her brother, Felix Mark Guial, who was on board the Fu Yuan Yu  7886. Her husband held her hand and her brother-in-law was at her side. A government official and a doctor in hazmat suits stood behind them to witness his body being handed over by the port authorities.

The details are scant, but Geraldino said he suffered a stomach ache while onboard and never got better. She is certain that COVID-19 was not the cause of death. Nonetheless, health protocols mandated cremation and they went straight from the dock to a funeral home.

“Our parents call him Ar-Ar. All of us 10 kids have repeating nicknames. But we siblings call him “ears” or “rat” because of his protruding ears,” said Geraldino.

It was bittersweet, she said, when she received her brother’s ashes.

“It’s very painful especially for his partner and young kids, but at least my brother is home. I hope the other families get to have their last good-bye, too.”

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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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