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Self-Mutilations and Hunger Strikes: The Mental Health Crisis Inside French Migrant Detention Centres

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On a Saturday afternoon, three kilometres away from Charles de Gaulle airport at the edge of Paris, a self-service phone rings in one of the telephone booths at the Mesnil-Amelot migrant detention centre.

A man picks up the phone and, in a monotone voice, introduces himself.  “Hello, I’m Khalid*, a detainee here,” he says in a perfect French accent.

Once he learns I’m a journalist, other detainees crowd around the receiver and start shouting.

“We’re kept like animals here,” Khalid yells.

“At this point, animals have more rights than us,” shouts Moussa, another detainee in the background.

“We’re desperate,” cries Nicolae when the phone is passed on to him.

When things start to quieten down, Khalid gets back the receiver. “I’ll answer any questions you have,” he tells me, “we all will.”

A black wrought-iron gate marks the entrance to the centre where the detainees are speaking from. The compound is surrounded by green fences topped with barbed wired, marking out a small courtyard. On top of tall metal pillars, bundles of CCTV cameras watch over the communal spaces from multiple angles.

The conditions in the centre have grave implications for the mental health of detainees – and, in the absence of regular psychiatrists, things are getting worse every day.

La Cimade, which operates on the premises of the Mesnil-Amelot detention centre, is the biggest association in France that provides legal and political support to migrants.

“The situation of confinement has an impact on the psychological health of the people that goes beyond the period of detention,” says Louise Lecaudey, a legal advisor for La Cimade who works at Mesnil-Amelot.

Migrant detention centres like Mesnil-Amelot are places where foreigners subject to deportation can be legally kept pending their forced removal. Detention is decided by the local authority, then possibly extended by a judge, when the immediate departure of the foreigner from France is impossible. Detainees aren’t charged with a crime. Their detention only serves administrative purposes, and, as the law requires, should be applied only if authorities determine a risk of flight.

Although France has regulations in place that prevent the detention of vulnerable people, over 45,000 are detained each year in the 24 centres peppered around the country, many with pre-existing mental health issues.

Detention has a direct effect on the mental health of detainees, many of whom attempt suicide, self-mutilate or go on hunger strike during their time at the centre or even after.

France has one of Europe’s oldest – and largest – administrative migrant detention regimes. Since 1981, the year it adopted its first immigration detention law, the country has passed some 30 immigration laws. But there’s a European body of law – the Dublin Regulations – that currently governs, together with national laws, the conditions for asylum claims, administrative detention and immigration.

Last Wednesday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen announced that the Commission will present new migration laws on the 23rd of September that will replace the existing Dublin Regulations. Established in 1990, and reformed twice since then, the Dublin Regulations determine, among other things, that the EU country in which migrants first arrive is responsible for examining their asylum claims.

The way they are now, EU migration laws often place migrants like Khalid, Moussa and Nicolae in detention, pending their deportation to the first country they made an asylum claim or to their native country, where many were persecuted or tortured. This way, the current EU migrations laws disproportionately place responsibility to provide asylum on countries like Italy and Greece, where most asylum seekers first enter Europe.

With stronger migration laws, the EU could change the experience of seeking asylum for hundreds of thousands of migrants like the ones detained at Mesnil-Amelot.

These much-awaited reforms came in the wake of a fire that destroyed a big migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

France retained – until recently – one of the lowest time limits on detention among EU member states: 45 days. But a 2018 law extended the period of detention to 90 days and decreased the time frame in which an applicant can claim asylum, from 120 to 90 days.

According to La Cimade’s Lecaudey, after the law that extended the period of detention to 90 days came into practice at the start of 2019, the impact on people’s mental health has been apparent: increased stress related to the idea of spending three months in detention, an increased number of suicide attempts and acts of self-mutilation.

Mesnil-Amelot can hold up to 240 people at once and is comprised of two centres: one for men, and one for women, children and families. According to the most recent data, 2018 saw more than 2,800 people passing through the centre, with an average detention period of 18 days. Each building at Mesnil-Amelot is equipped to house 20 people, all of whom share two showers and four toilets. But, in reality, the number of detainees is far higher.

Camille Martel, a graduate student who has conducted research in partnership with La Cimade at Mesnil-Amelot, confessed that the sanitary facilities struck her the most.

Marie Scotto, who worked with Martel at the centre, recalls detainees telling her about a TV room they appropriated as a place for prayer. According to them, once the guards noticed, rows of benches were screwed to the ground, leaving no room for those who wanted to practice their religion.

Books are only provided in a few languages and need to be paid for. There are no facilities for sports and detainees are often left with nothing to do pending their deportation. The lack of activities and services, together with the absence of privacy and free space, puts increasing psychological strain on detainees.

“I don’t see the difference between this and a prison,” says Damien Carême, a French MEP who visited the centre.

On the 24th of June 2019, when the situation became dire, La Cimade and 21 other associations sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior. It noted that “psychiatric disorders cannot be treated in these places, which on the contrary, aggravate them”.

Less than two weeks later, two detainees attempted to commit suicide at the Mesnil-Amelot detention centre. Under treatment for psychiatric disorders, one of the men swallowed medication he had been hoarding for several days.

The other detainee, who was in the centre for almost three months, swallowed a nail clipper and 15 dominoes. Several months before, he had already tried to end his life by throwing himself in the Seine. A week after the two events, three men threatened to throw themselves off the roof of a building.

After these events, La Cimade chose to withdraw their workers from the centre for three weeks to protect their own mental health – the first time since their work began there in 1984. They eventually returned but withdrew again in December after they barely saved a detainee who tried to strangle himself in their office using the cable of a lamp. While such incidents were prevalent before the new migration law came into force, Lecaudey explains, their number increased significantly after. When the extension of the detention period was announced, the administration of Mesnil-Amelot decided to build an additional isolation room.

This room contains a thin yellow mattress spread on a concrete block, serving as a bed, just two steps away from a toilet sealed to the floor. The hollow cube of concrete has no natural light or view of the outside. It is used for the confinement of detainees who have seizures, panic attacks or become violent due to their psychological conditions.

In the cramped room, detainees have no contact with anyone for several days – including their families or lawyers. The practice is often used in the centre as “treatment” for detainees with severe psychological issues or for those who have attempted suicide.

The Contrôleur Général des Lieux de Privation de Liberté, an independent public body in charge of checking all the places where people are deprived of liberty, has deemed the isolation rooms to constitute inhumane and degrading treatment – a violation of international law.

While the use of such punitive measures is common at Mesnil-Amelot, the detention centre is one of the only ones in France that is required to provide, at least twice a week, psychiatric and psychological services for detainees.

But, according to Lecaudey, who works in the centre every day, weeks or even months can pass before anyone shows up. Without a psychiatrist on call, medicine can’t be distributed, and mental health disorders are often left untreated.

“In prison, where there were criminals, conditions were much better than in here,” says Moussa, one of the detainees, over the crackling phone. “There are no medical services, no psychologist, nothing, there’s nothing here. We have no rights.”

La Cimade employees often end up providing detainees with psychological services, in the absence of a qualified medic provided by the administration of the centre.

Because detainees arrive and leave the centre every day, a medical follow-up is near impossible. The medical staff do not have access to files that show the medical history of those monitored outside the centre. Because of this, the detention acts as a break in the monitoring of the mental health of detainees.

Early in the morning on the 5th of March, Nicolae, one of the detainees who spoke to me on the phone, was picked up by authorities and taken to Mesnil-Amelot over an expired residency permit. He was detained at the centre for 24 days when we spoke. For eight of those, he was on hunger strike.

“I’m scared, we live in execrable conditions with people who have serious mental illnesses and psychological issues,” he explains, “they shouldn’t be here, none of us should.”

Christina Alexopoulos, a pro-bono psychologist who often visits detainees at Mesnil-Amelot, believes that the detention centre can traumatise people with no history of psychological disorders.

“If they aren’t traumatised, they become it,” Alexopoulos says. “The conditions there are that bad.”

“The people I saw there were in a state of absolute despair. The conditions are dehumanising, it’s no wonder they feel like animals,” she adds.

The psychologist explains how traumatising experiences, like torture or past instances of violence, are often rekindled by their detention. This often leads to detainees reproducing violence during their incarceration, creating an unsafe environment for everyone, according to her.

La Cimade and many other civil society movements and organisations have been calling for the abolition of detention centres, but French authorities have recently announced the construction of three new ones.

“This just shows our lack of respect for human rights. We are capable of building detention centres but not welcoming centres,” says MEP Carême, who works with immigration associations in France.

“It revolts me, it is truly pitiful,” he adds.

Nicolae left the detention centre one week after our initial conversation. His wife, who used the little resources they had to get legal counsel and get him out of the centre, confessed to me she’s never been happier to see him. “I know my experience doesn’t compare to his, but mentally, it was very hard for me too,” she said.

Not all are as lucky as Nicolae. While EU bureaucrats are nailing in the last details of the new pan-European migration law, many detainees still wait to hear if they’ll be put on flights back to countries some of them haven’t lived in for 15 years.

“I can only thank God I got out of there,” Nicolae said, “I hope no one has to experience what it means to be locked up in there.”

*Names have been changed to protect their idenity.

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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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