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New York Times to Staff: You Can Only Trash Colleagues If You Have a Column

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Last weekend, Bret Stephens, the New York Times opinion columnist best known as a climate-change denier who dabbles in race science and has a penchant for using his power to try and intimidate and silence others, regurgitated months-old and increasingly politically-motivated criticism of a year-old journalism project. The characteristically unoriginal column would have been unnecessary in any event, offering as it did no fresh perspective or new information; what stood out about it was that its subject, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, was the creation of his own Times colleagues.

In a staff meeting yesterday, Times assistant managing editor Carolyn Ryan attempted to explain why the Times published the column, which elicited a since-deleted rebuke from the paper’s union, reportedly made Nikole Hannah-Jones, who led the 1619 project, “livid,” and prompted executive editor Dean Baquet to “reject” the bulk of Stephens’s column. Ryan was asked about the paper’s position on publishing pieces critical of coworkers, given that there is a clear policy against criticizing colleagues on Twitter and in Slack. According to a recording obtained by VICE News, Ryan said there is nothing “quite as particularly stinging” as being criticized by one’s own publication. Echoing Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s comments from the weekend, she said we “want to be a publication where there is this vigorous exchange,” calling it a “healthy thing.” She went on to invoke Maureen Dowd’s 2005 column about Judith Miller’s shoddy and shady reporting as a precedent for Stephens’ column.

Do you work at the New York Times? We’d love to hear from you. Contact the writer at laura.wagner@vice.com or laura.wags@protonmail.com.

In an email, Ryan said that she was not drawing a parallel between the 1619 Project, a widely praised examination of the brutal legacy of American slavery, and Miller’s reporting, widely reviled and deeply flawed work that provided cover for the United States to invade Iraq, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Ryan wrote in the email that she mentioned Dowd’s column when “talking about the wide latitude we have historically given to columnists at the NYT to weigh in on anything they want, and at times (though it is rare) that has included writing about other colleagues’ work.”

In the meeting, Ryan also addressed the discrepancy in who gets to write about what and how at the New York Times.

“I think writing, reporting, and having edited an op-ed is quite different from Slack and Twitter and some of the ad-hoc interactions and almost kind of, not passive-aggressive, but kind of subtweeting behavior that we don’t really like to see,” she said.

“On these forums we are creating and nurturing and we expect a culture of respect, and if you’re talking about your colleges they’re still your colleagues and you have to approach that with respect and we don’t want people personally attacking one another on Slack. It’s just not who we are, it’s not the kind of workplace that we want to have. And we are thinking more deeply and developing some more guidelines to make this more clear, because we do get questions like this and it’s a really important area in terms of what kind of a company we are, and we will have more detail on that in the next few weeks to a month, but I think they’re very different and I continue to think that we have to interact and behave in a way where we are conveying respect for our colleague at all times.”

VICE News asked Ryan how staffers who don’t conveniently have an opinion column are supposed to participate in this vigorous exchange if they are banned from doing so publicly on Twitter and privately in Slack. VICE News also asked why it is that Stephens can make sweeping accusations about Hannah-Jones “simplifying [complexity] out of existence through the adoption of some ideological orthodoxy” in the pages of the Times, but a staffer writing on Twitter or Slack that Stephens, say, produced boring and contemptuous columns due to his own ideological orthodoxy would be “behavior that we don’t really like to see.”

In response, Ryan reiterated her remarks from the staff meeting and said that “our columnists are recruited and employed, essentially, to weigh in on a range of issues of public debate—that is their role and their job.” Staffers who weren’t hired to fill this role, it appears, should simply stay quiet.

Before it became another fertile battleground in the culture wars, the 1619 Project was a singular reframing of American history. The central idea of the project—which grew to include, among other things, 10 essays by mostly Black writers and artists, a podcast, and a school curriculum—was that the founding of the country is best understood not as the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but as the arrival of a ship, carrying enslaved people, in Virginia in 1619. The premise of the project is as straightforward as it is elegant: The country that we live in now would not have existed without the enslaved people who were brought here in chains 400 years ago. As the text accompanying Hannah-Jones’ opening essay read:

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from the New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Stephens’ main issue with the project is seemingly that it exists. Among the links to fringe websites and confusing claims that there are no contradictions between the Founders’ ideals of liberty and equality and the fact that they owned human beings, his column makes a central criticism: The project, which aims to reframe the country’s history, in fact reframed the country’s history. He wrote:

Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded. And we’re supposed to report and comment on the political and cultural issues of the day, not become the issue itself.

As fresh concerns make clear, on these points — and for all of its virtues, buzz, spinoffs and a Pulitzer Prize — the 1619 Project has failed.

Stephens wasn’t the first—and won’t be the last—person to criticize the 1619 Project. Everyone from President Trump, who has attacked the project as part of his bizarre campaign against critical race theory, to the World Socialist Website, which described it as “one component of a deliberate effort to inject racial politics into the heart of the 2020 elections and foment divisions among the working class,” has done so. Stephens’s myopic and ahistorical view of when “journalists are at their best” aside, what made his critique stand out was simply that he was a Times columnist accusing Times colleagues of having “failed” in the pages of the New York Times. Why there was space for him to do so is the interesting question.

Among the many criticisms of the 1619 Project have been some perfectly legitimate ones. In December, five historians wrote a letter to the Times outlining their problems with the project’s historical analysis. Chief among them was a line from Hannah-Jones’s introductory essay in which she asserted that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery” at a time when “Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution.” This, it’s been argued, is not accurate, and after initially defending it, in March, the _Times_—generally loath to admit fault of any kind—updated the story and added a clarification.

Also in December, however, the Times was quietly amending another, more central statement of the project’s thesis. The phrase “understanding 1619 as our true founding” was deleted from the paragraph of text accompanying Hannah-Jones’s essay quoted above. It now reads as follows:

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

The deletion of the phrase—clearly understood by anyone reading the project in good faith as not locating the legal founding of the United States in 1619 but as locating the birth of the nation there, the way one could locate it in 1607 or 1789 or 1865—was not noted or addressed by the Times. When discovered by Quillette last month, the deletion gave rise to a torrent of largely bad-faith criticism that amounted to accusing Hannah-Jones and the Times of essentially walking back the thesis of the project. (Stephens joined in the chorus in his own column, in which he presented Hannah-Jones’ statement that the obviously metaphorical claim that the country was founded in 1619 was obviously metaphorical as somehow damning.) Silverstein gave the following explanation, which raises more questions than it answers, to the Washington Post, which published a report this week called “How the 1619 Project took over 2020”:

Silverstein explained that the altered words were from display text penned by a digital editor that they were “continually having to write and revise” for different platforms “to hone how we are rhetorically describing the project.”

He also acknowledged amending some of the prose in his own editor’s note: It had not initially appeared online, he said, and when they added it to the site in December, “we made a few small changes to improve it” — not to backpedal, but to thin out rhetoric that seemed in hindsight like “too much flourish.” The paper’s standards department agreed that no acknowledgement of the changes was necessary.

There was, of course, no need for the phrase to be removed, nor was there any need to “thin out rhetoric.” The point of the project was to present a different frame for understanding the history of the United States by placing American slavery at the center of the narrative. As Hannah-Jones pointed out on Twitter, these changes to the text didn’t and don’t drastically change the overall meaning and thrust of the project as a whole. She wrote, “Those who point to edits of digital blurbs but ignore the unchanged text of the actual project cannot be taken in good faith,” and this is true. There is, though, an argument to be made that the changes did serve to undermine the project, both on its own terms and because they provided an opening for further attacks on the project’s integrity. (Hannah-Jones did not respond to a request for comment; Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein referred VICE News to remarks he gave to the Post and did not answer follow-up questions.) Absent a real explanation for why the “true founding” phrase was removed, it’s best understood as the _Times_’ attempting to appease critics who won’t be appeased. This decision was part of what opened the door for Stephens to swoop in with his take.

Another part, though, was the Times‘ curious decision not to cover the story. The 1619 Project has, for mostly stupid reasons, been controversial: This week alone Vanity Fair, CNN, and the Washington Post all reported on it, while media ethics site Poynter published what it billed as “a deeper look into the controversy of The New York Times’ ‘1619 Project’” (but which turned out to simply be an aggregation of the Post‘s reporting). And in the past, when the Times has made the news, that news has been covered by the Times itself, especially if other outlets covered it.

For example, in 2018, when mau-mauers came for old tweets made by then newly-hired editorial board member Sarah Jeong, the Times covered the criticism as news, writing, “Times Stands By Editorial Board Member After Outcry Over Old Tweets.” Last summer, the Times covered the demotion of editor Jonathan Weisman following a series of racist tweets. And just recently, media columnist Ben Smith wrote about the questions surrounding the Times’ Caliphate podcast. As this recent Columbia Journalism Review story clearly lays out, the questions about Caliphate deal with poor reporting and factual inaccuracies, while concerns about the 1619 Project deal mostly with objections to placing Black people at the center of the American narrative; still, both have been hot topics of discussion and media coverage. The Times covered one as news. It left the other to Bret Stephens.

(Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoads Ha said, “Our newsroom is independent and free to pursue stories as they see fit.”)

The 1619 Project has not “warped, distorted, and defiled the American story,” as President Trump claims; Hannah-Jones isn’t a liar who seeks to stoke “racial divisions,” as the World Socialist Web Site argued; and the project certainly isn’t a “failure,” as Stephens inveighed, peering down from the Times’ opinion page. If there is a problem here, it’s the Times caving to bad-faith critics, and giving one a perch. It’s unfortunate for healthy and vigorous exchange that nearly no one at the Times would be allowed to say that.

Follow Laura Wagner 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.

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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