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Little Richard Made Millions. It All Went to His Label

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Unpaid Royalties is a series about the myriad ways that the music industry exploits Black artists—and what’s being done to change them. Read more here.

Three years before Little Richard signed the record deal that would change his life, his father was murdered. Richard had 12 brothers and sisters, and as the eldest boy who wasn’t off fighting in the Korean War, it fell on him to provide for his siblings and his mother. He was 19 years old.

He found work washing dishes at a Greyhound bus station in his hometown of Macon, Georgia, and scrounged up extra cash playing shows at hole-in-the-wall clubs throughout the Southeast. But no matter how many dishes he washed, no matter how many shows he played, he couldn’t earn enough money to support his family.

“You know you’re poor when you have to make a fire and you ain’t got no wood,” Richard later told his biographer. “I’ve seen people pull wood off their houses to make a fire in the house. That’s poor. And I was one of the people pulling wood off the house.”

His only hope, he thought, was to make a hit song, and he was desperate for a chance to record. He sent a demo to Specialty Records—one of the few labels working with Black artists in the early 1950s—and called them nearly every week for a year, begging them for studio time. In 1955, the label finally relented. Richard recorded five songs, four of which most people have never heard of. But one would go on to change the course of music history, laying the foundation for what later became known as rock ‘n’ roll: “Tutti Frutti.”

A week and a half after it was released, “Tutti Frutti” had sold 200,000 copies; by 1968, it had sold more than 3 million, and Little Richard had become a superstar. Over the years, the song made millions of dollars for Specialty’s owner, a white man named Art Rupe—but Richard received only a fraction of the proceeds. Rupe bought “Tutti Frutti” for $50, and paid Richard half a cent for every copy it sold. According to Richard’s biographer, an unknown white artist in those days typically made ten times that much.

“If you wanted to record, you signed on their terms or you didn’t record,” Richard later told his biographer. “It didn’t matter how many records you sold if you were Black…. The very thought of it is sickening to me now. [Art Rupe] made millions and he should owe me millions.”

Fast forward 65 years, and that kind of egregious exploitation of a Black artist might seem unthinkable. But according to Black label executives, entertainment attorneys, and music business professors who spoke with VICE, not much has changed. All too often, major labels prey on young, poor Black artists, offering them lopsided record deals in which the company owns their music in perpetuity. In exchange, they’re given cash advances that account for a fraction of what their music will ultimately bring in, and a minuscule percentage of the royalties their music earns.

“If you go back to the 50s, it’s the exact same character sketch today: African-American, poor, looking for a way out of their circumstances, and using their talent as a way out,” said Eric Holt, an assistant professor of music business at Belmont. “That is easy to exploit: ‘Let’s give them a little bit, and they don’t even know the value of what they’re selling us for this little bit.'”

Vince Phillips—an entertainment attorney with more than two decades of experience in hip-hop, who’s represented Lil Baby, Kevin Gates, NBA YoungBoy, and Lil Keed—said he’s witnessed that kind of exploitation firsthand. If a major label knows a Black artist needs to earn money quickly, Phillips said, they’ll use that knowledge to pressure them into signing a bad contract.

“Sometimes artists are in situations where they have to take a deal,” Phillips said. “If you are in a really bad, really desperate situation, and there is money there, and there is opportunity, and you need to get out of a particular circumstance, [labels] will say, ‘Look, we don’t know if this guy’s even going to be around. We’re taking a bigger risk because he’s got these court matters coming, or we’re taking a bigger risk because of this or that.’ They’re looking at the lifestyle and using that as the basis to say, ‘This is a take-it-or-leave-it moment.’ And many times an artist might say, ‘I need this. Let’s just go.'”

Black artists aren’t the only ones who get trapped in inequitable deals, and it’s certainly possible for a label to take advantage of a poor, under-resourced white artist in the same way. But according to Tonya Butler, a former entertainment attorney and label executive and the current chair of Berklee’s music business program, it’s much more common for a Black artist to get locked into a bad deal than a white one.

“Anybody can get a bad deal—but because of the inequities in education, and the economic disparity that exists, Black artists and brown artists are more susceptible to getting a bad deal,” Butler said. “They often come from low-income circumstances, and they lack the necessary education and resources to find out more. I liken it to COVID: Everybody can get it, but Black and brown people are affected more intensely than others because of systemic inequities.”

What a bad deal looks like has changed since Little Richard’s era; where the abuses of the past were flagrant, these days, they’re buried in lengthy contracts, hidden in legal language the average person would find impossible to understand. To negotiate a good deal with a major label, an artist needs to retain a sharp, experienced attorney. But according to Chuck Wilson, the founder and CEO of the independent hip-hop label Babygrande, Black artists don’t tend to secure great representation—at least not at the rate their white counterparts do. They may not have the money to hire a stellar music attorney, the connections to find one, or, as is the case for many young and inexperienced artists, the wherewithal to know they need to seek one out to begin with.

“When you walk in the door, who’s your team? As an artist, what access did you have to the best and brightest around you? That’s the systemic part,” Wilson said. “I’ve signed many white artists. These guys walk in the door with bell-ringing names. And then [for] a Black artist with minimal resources, it can range from a local family law person saying ‘I’ll read that for you’ to lower-caliber lawyers.”

If artists sign a contract without proper representation, there’s no limit to how badly a label can rip them off, and there’s no single, set example of what a bad deal looks like. But arguably the most exploitative agreement an artist can sign—and one Black artists often find themselves trapped in, according to the industry veterans who spoke to VICE—is a royalty deal tilted far in a major label’s favor.

“So much of what we see in the record industry today came from the 50s.”

On the most basic level, under these agreements, any original master recordings you produce while under that contract are owned by your label in perpetuity—something that hasn’t changed since Little Richard’s heyday. In exchange for your masters, the label gives you a cash advance, part of which goes straight into your bank account, and part of which covers the cost of recording. Once your music is released, you begin the process of paying that advance back. You do that with the earnings from your releases—but you’re only entitled to a percentage of those earnings, at a royalty rate set by the label.

Let’s say a label gives you a $1 million advance to make an album, and a 10 percent royalty rate on your masters. Once your album has generated $1 million, whether that’s through streams or sales, only 10 percent of that—$100,000—is yours, and it goes directly towards paying back your advance. Your album would have to net $10 million before you’ve managed to pay back your advance. Then, and only then, will you begin to see royalty money hit your bank account.

To Butler, the concept of a label owning your masters in perpetuity is fundamentally flawed.

“Technically, the label is owning something that you paid for,” Butler said. “In how many industries do you pay for something that you don’t own? Only music. When my bank loans me money to buy a house, they own the house—but once I pay them back, I own the house. That does not happen in music. Once you pay the label back, they still own it.”

Low-rate royalty deals are bad enough on their own. But hard-to-spot, confusingly phrased stipulations in record contracts can make them even more egregious than they appear at first blush. In some cases, labels will carve out “deductions” on royalties based on a variety of factors, from the format by which your music is consumed to the territory where it’s accessed. For example: A small sub-paragraph on page 43 of a contract might state that for all proceeds generated in Europe, an artist is only entitled to 70 percent of their “agreed-upon” royalty rate. If an artist’s royalty rate is set at 10 percent, in the case of that deduction, it might quietly drop down to 7 percent for a large share of their earnings. That’s just one of countless subtle, hidden provisions that might be tucked into a bad contract, Butler said.

“So much of what we see in the record industry today came from the 50s, and it is very standard language,” Butler said. “They still include things like packaging deductions, where they take a deduction for packaging up the CD. They’re not even releasing your music on CD anymore! Or they’ll hold some of your royalties just in case there are returns from the store. There aren’t any returns, because there aren’t any CDs! So why are you still holding my royalties?”

There’s no question that whether through predatory dealmaking, blatantly unfair contracts, or hidden clauses, Black artists are exploited by major labels. But it’s difficult to say for certain that they’re taken advantage of more frequently than their white counterparts. To prove that, we’d need evidence, and to get that evidence, we’d need to see contracts—but major label contracts are kept confidential. As long as labels refuse to make them public, the alleged discrimination at the heart of the music industry remains just that: alleged.

“That evidence is impossible to get to,” Wilson said. “Why? Because all of the lawyers at the labels are under confidentiality agreements. All those deals are sealed under wraps, and no one can do a proper analysis or historical trace on ‘What was AC/DC getting at the same time Run D.M.C. was poppin’?’ We don’t know. That analysis has never been done.”

“We can say that because of systemic reasons, Black artists are getting worse deals—but we need to be able to see the extent to which that is true.”

Without access to contracts, the only window we have into how record companies may be exploiting Black artists today comes when those artists publicly air their frustrations with their labels. During a 2017 appearance on The Breakfast Club, Tyga claimed that his former label, Cash Money, swindled him out of $12 million by supplying him with the same lawyer that was representing the record company. Back in March, Megan Thee Stallion sued her label, 1501 Certified Entertainment, claiming that after locking her into an unfair contract when she was 20 years old, the company has refused to renegotiate it. Lil Uzi Vert, Rich Homie Quan, Mase, and countless other Black artists have cried foul about what they say are exploitative deals—but because we can’t dissect their contracts, there’s no way to confirm those allegations for sure.

According to Butler, the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC)—formed in June to address systemic inequality in the music industry—is working to get its hands on as many major-label record contracts as it can. From there, BMAC can begin to compile data on contract discrepancies between Black and white artists, diagnosing any inequities that might exist and pinpointing ways to address them. But until that happens, any solutions aimed at giving Black artists a fairer shake when it comes to major label deals would all be based on guesswork.

“We can say that because of systemic reasons, Black artists are getting worse deals—but we need to be able to see the extent to which that is true,” Butler said. “Only data will provide that information. Without real data, we’re just speculating, and that’s why we can’t pinpoint a response, or an answer, or a solution. It’s buried in the true cause.”

Butler, Wilson, Holt, and Phillips all agreed that Black artists are better positioned in the music industry now than ever before. Hip-hop is the most popular genre in America, and Black artists dominate it. Social media and music distribution platforms like SoundCloud have eliminated barriers to entry that were once insurmountable, allowing musicians to build a following and release their music without a record company’s help. And information—on what a bad record deal looks like, or who the top lawyers in the music business are, or whether it’s better to sign with an indie or a major—is readily available to anyone who seeks it. Black artists have leverage. The problem, Butler said, is that sometimes, they don’t know how to use it.

“I see artists today as having power, but not recognizing their power,” Butler said. “You don’t recognize that you do have the power to negotiate, or the power that everyone has, which is just to say no, and to walk away and do it on your own. Little Richard couldn’t walk away and do it on his own. And if you don’t recognize your power, you may as well be Little Richard.”

Later in life, Richard sued Art Rupe and Specialty Records, seeking upwards of $100 million for what he claimed were decades worth of unpaid royalties. The lawsuit was ultimately settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. He spent his final years in Tennessee, living at the Hilton in downtown Nashville with his adopted son, Danny Penniman. The two of them were close; over the years, Penniman told Rolling Stone, his father had spoken often about how badly he’d been ripped off by Specialty, and how bitter he was that—despite his wild success—he’d never been paid the money he was due. But by the time he died in May of 2020, Penniman said, Richard had resigned himself to the fact that he would never get what he was owed.

“He came to the reality of what it was: That’s his life,” Penniman said. “In the later years, he was at peace with it.”

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

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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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