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Resistance Band Workouts Are All Over Instagram and TikTok. Do They Work?




Sick of clean eating, perfect gym outfits, and chiseled abs? A Swole Woman is here to help you be healthy, enjoy carbs, and get jacked.

Hey Casey! I have very much enjoyed reading your columns (ever since the Hairpin, RIP). I am curious about your thoughts on resistance bands; are they for real? They seem fake. If they’re useful, what’s the best way of using them? –Micah

While I am deeply tempted to make a call on the fake/real spectrum, I think first we need to talk about what it is that we are actually talking about. Then we’re going to talk about what is reasonable to expect from these products, and then I’m going to talk about how I was using them at home when all the gyms were closed, in a way that I actually sort of liked and it felt Effective Enough. 

I’m not really sure where resistance bands came from, but I can say for sure that they weren’t a thing when I was a kid. By the time 2014 or so rolled around, most fitness YouTubers were doing supplemental workout movements with them (also known as “accessories”; if you aren’t sure how those are different from “any movement at the gym at all,” start here). They would do them either after they lifted heavier weights, as endurance-building or isolation movements, or, occasionally, before they lifted heavier weights as warm-up “activation” movements to try and get certain muscles firing before challenging them with harder movements.

Resistance band stuff was particularly popular in pursuit of, as we often say in this industry, “building the booty.” This usually looked like X-band walks, side steps, kickbacks, the now infamous-”donkey kicks” and “fire hydrants” popularized by Jen Selter, and hip abductions. Like I said: moves for your butt, and for a change of pace, some more moves for your butt. 

These were mostly done with the tissue-thin, wider, shorter types of resistance bands. I have done these moves; like everyone else, I, too, want a butt, and am afflicted with chronically underactive glutes that make any usage of my butt muscles, which I need for deadlifts and squats, a struggle.

Do you have a question about working out, eating, health, or why you shouldn’t be afraid of lifting heavy weights? Send it to swole.woman@vice.com, follow @swolewoman on Instagram, and check out the Swole Woman Starter Pack for an intro to getting started with lifting.

This wasn’t resistance bands’ only use. The larger, heavier (and more expensive) “super” bands were also occasionally used to create variations for different heavy lifts. Lifters would loop them around their barbells while deadlifting to add more resistance at the top, or around a pull-up bar to loop their knee or foot through to make it a little easier to do pull-ups in volume. This last one I am a big fan of, because it makes me feel like I can do a lot of pull-ups even though I cannot. Anyway, the term “resistance band” can refer to either of these types.

Fast forward to the last six months, and everyone and their mom is selling an at-home resistance band workout on Instagram or TikTok, not to mention the resistance bands you purportedly need for doing those workouts. Invariably, these people are in really good shape, some of them even ripped for the gods. These workouts have become popular to sell because resistance bands, at least the short, thin, wide ones, are pretty cheap, and they frame up easily as at-home workouts that look more interesting, at least, than the standard “at home bodyweight strength training workouts” or “high intensity interval workouts.” Plus, you get to purchase something.

These workouts often make lots of promises, such as “getting a peach emoji butt.” So what is fair to expect from your new set of rubber bands that appear to be keeping the trainers selling the workouts in such good shape? 

Resistance bands workouts qualify as exercise

Are they workouts? Sure; any kind of moving can be a workout. The moves that people are doing in the resistance band workouts, done without any resistance bands, are also workouts. Witness this workout from the olden days of 2016, where a fitness influencer is doing a bunch of moves that to which people are lately adding resistance bands, mostly without resistance bands. If you don’t work out much in general, or even if you do, these moves with or without resistance bands will make you sweat, and if you haven’t worked out in a while, will probably make you sore. 

Other things that are workouts: Jazzercise, step aerobics, Tae Bo, P90x, Pilates, Zumba, Sweatin’ to the Oldies with Richard Simmons. There’s always something new on the horizon of working out to imply fresh promises of a transformational experience. However,

Resistance bands probably won’t be the transformational experience that fitfluencers want you to believe

Resistance bands alone probably won’t change your body shape or composition significantly; just adding a resistance band won’t change a movement from one that is “moving around, creating sweat” to one that build strength or significant muscle size, for any body part, including your butt. I don’t want to say never, but, they just don’t make many movements meaningfully more challenging, especially not the ones that tend to be marketed to people who are new to working out.

As with any kind of working out, if you keep a caloric deficit (a responsible one, not a self-harm one), the workout may cause you to lose body fat, if kept up for a significant length of time and if you have body fat to lose. But as far as getting a “peach emoji butt”—no.

Building muscle involves lifting heavy weights at SOME point in your life. This means lifting weights as heavy as you can for a few reps for a few very basic movements, eating to repair that muscle so it’s even stronger the next time, and then lifting a few more pounds for the same number of reps at the next session, and keeping up this process of progressive overload as you get stronger.

Eventually, once you’re strong, you can bulk using these newly heavy weights you can lift, eating extra food to build up the size of your muscles, if you want. THIS is how people get bigger anything, whether it’s arms or butts or legs; not by doing some bodyweight squats with resistance bands that add the same 15lbs of resistance to the sides of your knees. 

(As a technical note: While the classic bro wisdom is that sets of 6-15 reps are best for building muscle size, newer research shows that we may be able to build muscle with a greater variety of rep ranges, anywhere from a few to 30+ reps, as long as it gets you close to “failure,” or a couple reps out from not being able to do any more. But people new to strength-building get strong quickly, and doing the same little weights over and over won’t keep them moving. Also, all things being equal, between falling asleep doing 30 reps and doing 5-15 reps and being done with that set, I know which one I’d pick. Don’t be afraid of hard-enough movements and heavy-enough weights for that, in my opinion.) 

If there is anyone in your social media feeds who is honest-to-god maintaining their very lean and muscular physique through resistance bands (and even that’s doubtful; their full-size gym is probably just out of frame where they have the camera set up to film their Resistance Band Workout for a Peach Emoji Butt), I would bet real money that they are only able to do that because they have lifted heavy weights before, and it is easier to maintain strength or muscularity than it is to build it in the first place. If they are openly claiming to have gotten super-jacked from just resistance bands, again, probably they have trained really hard to build muscle, and muscle comes back more easily with relatively less stimulus once it’s been built the first time.

If that’s not also you, you can’t remotely expect similar results. The dots your brain is connecting by seeing this very fit person do a resistance-band curtsy lunges are exciting, and almost certainly the person selling the program and the resistance bands knows that. But those dots are also misleading, or at least skipping over several important steps in the process. 

Why does this matter, you might ask; can’t I simply have fun working out with my little rubber bands? I do not aim to stand in the way of anyone having fun; have all the fun you like. I love fun as well! Huge fun-haver and -enjoyer. But I sense that these workouts are sold less on the prospect of “something new and fun to try” than “empty promises of a totally transformed body by just moving around a little bit extra.” I maintain that if more people tried proper lifting, they would find it barely any harder than the average HIIT workout, and they’d sweat a lot less, probably, and get to experience the resulting benefits of feeling like basically a mobile and capable human being more quickly.  

The problem facing us all, of course, is that gyms are not reliably available right now, due to the pandemic, and many of us are stuck working out at home. I’ve further heard from many people that in places where gyms are open, mask rules are not being enforced in gyms because states allow exceptions for when the mask “interferes with activity” or in the case of “heavy exertion.” This is simply bonkers and makes no sense; you can very easily wear a mask throughout a whole workout and the peace of mind is worth the very minor possibility that anyone has to shave a few pounds off their heaviest reps for the time being. Everyone needs to relax. 

Still, there are smart ways to use resistance bands at home

First of all, if we’re investing in these guys, I highly recommend getting some of the stronger super bands, so you can get more resistance bang for your band buck. These are also less likely to snap violently and unexpectedly, potentially hurting you. If you want bands that go anywhere on your body, they should be the fabric-reinforced kind, not straight-up rubber.

Super-bands can be used for lots of different things. In the highlight above, you can see how I combined them  with an old piece of piping from a hammock that never came to fruition, and by anchoring the super band on a fence and looping the band around the piece of pipe, I could to do things like bigger core movements like overhead presses, rows, as well as bicep curls and tricep pushdowns (technically you can hold the band in your hands to do these, and while you will see instructors do this in the video, frankly, it hurts and you will get sick of it) for 3-5 sets of 10-15. If you get a pull-up bar, which is highly recommended because there’s few good ways to do pulling motions at home without weights, you can loop a band around the bar to support your dead hangs, scapular pull-ups, negatives, or regular pull-ups (depending what’s appropriate for your level of experience with pull-up stuff). 

For lower body stuff, in the grand tradition of booty-building, I saved resistance bands for finishing movements at the end of workouts, because they are not the harder meat-and-potatoes movements; they are for when my big muscles are already sort of tired. A super band can add some resistance to those core pieces of my workout, like deadlifts with a suitcase full of books for 3-5 sets of 10-15. But the important part was doing sufficiently challenging movements: For instance, I get way more out of single-leg squats to a chair as practice for doing a pistol squat than, say, body weight squats with a little band added to them.

After those harder movements, I might then do hip abductions with a resistance band or hip thrusts or glute bridges or clamshells at the end, for similar reps and sets.

I am calling resistance band stuff “just a workout,” but that said, I actually did get more out of my few months working at home than “just a workout,” because it gave me time to work on my technique and activation. Now that I’m back to lifting, I notice a difference in how I move. But I already have a lot of practice with lifting heavy and some sense of what I needed to work on; I was never going to get enough weight and volume out of resistance bands ~ alone ~ to really either get stronger or change a lot about how I look, especially completely from scratch. I did get stronger doing some movements, like those single-leg squats to a chair or box or pull-ups or push-ups (ugh), but I didn’t need resistance bands for them. 

But I’m on record as saying, whatever is getting you through right now, healthwise, do it. If you can afford the resistance bands and want to try something different, go for it; just be reasonable about your expectations.

Disclaimer: Casey Johnston is not a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, personal trainer, physiotherapist, psychotherapist, doctor, or lawyer; she is simply someone who has done a lot of, and read a lot about, lifting weights.

You can read past Ask A Swole Woman columns at The Hairpin and at SELF and follow A Swole Woman on Instagram. Got a question for her? Email swole.woman@vice.com.


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



(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.

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.

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



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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