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‘The Bachelor’ Romanticizes Toxic Behavior, and It Has Dangerous Outcomes

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Colton Underwood’s 2019 season of The Bachelor seemed like it would have an unconventional ending from the get-go. A boyish runner-up from Becca Kufrin’s season of The Bachelorette, Underwood, now 28, was introverted, emotional, and, as host Chris Harrison pointed out many times, a virgin; producers framed him as a Nice Guy who kept coming in last. So when Underwood broke convention and ended his season not by proposing, but by jumping a fence and fleeing from the set after getting dumped by Cassie Randolph, one of his final four picks, producers relished the dramatic moment. When Underwood went after Randolph despite her insistence that she couldn’t give him the fairy tale ending he deserved and the two ended up beginning a relationship regardless, the show stamped his season a success story, albeit one that didn’t end with a Neil Lane ring.

Producers may have relished Underwood’s melodramatic behavior on the show, but they probably didn’t foresee how his relationship with Randolph would proceed—and eventually end again—once the cameras stopped rolling.

On September 11, Randolph, 25, filed a restraining order against Underwood, whom she claimed has been “stalking and harassing” her since their breakup this past spring, alleging that the behavior of the ex-Bachelor (now her ex-boyfriend) took a dark turn after the show, leading to obsessive harassment and stalking. Per the restraining order, Randolph claims that Underwood “sent her unsettling text messages, repeatedly called her, and placed a tracking device on her vehicle,” as well as lurked outside her apartment in Los Angeles and her parents’ house in Huntington Beach, Calif. On one occasion, Randolph’s brother and friends caught the former Bachelor standing outside her bedroom window at her parents’ home at 2 a.m. And according to court documents, Underwood also incessantly called or texted Randolph’s friends and family; sent messages to Randolph from different phone numbers, some making it evident he was following her; and claimed he was also being harassed by a stranger over text, only to admit he’d been sending the messages to himself. Reports surfaced this week that the court granted Randolph’s request, and as a result, Underwood has been ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from Randolph’s home, car, and work, as well as her parent’s home.

The evidence is deeply concerning, but looking back at Underwood’s time on The Bachelor and beyond, there have long been signs of his volatile and obsessive behavior. And the series’ treatment of his reactive conduct as romantic sweeping gestures has only served to perpetuate abusive relationship standards.

When the former football player—who has also dated Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale—jumped a fence and disappeared for two hours following Randolph’s decision to leave the show, he became one of the franchise’s most infamous Bachelors. Touted as one of the most dramatic moments in the show’s history, the incident took place after Randolph admitted she was confused, wasn’t “in love” with him and wanted to end their relationship, as Underwood grew more and more visibly upset. Once she’d left the Portuguese hotel where the crew was shooting, a furious Underwood pushed a camera out of his way, threw a piece of recording equipment, ripped off his microphone, and then scaled the fence and ran off into the night. The scene was teased ad nauseam leading up to the season and throughout, with seemingly endless replays of Underwood’s impressive leap, as well as Harrison marveling, “He just jumped the fucking fence,” and producers waving flashlights, searching for their leading man in the dark Portuguese countryside.

After the fence incident (and the public rejection), Underwood immediately quit the show, tearfully telling Harrison, “Every time I put myself out there, I get fucking rejected,” though he later assured Harrison that he believed Randolph really loved him. He was going to fight for her, he told producers, and he flew to California to reunite with Randolph. He refused to take no for an answer, and eventually convinced Randolph to date him without the engagement that usually comes at the end of each season.

As their relationship developed off-camera, Underwood went on to write a memoir and vehemently criticized producers in various interviews, accusing them of interfering in his and Randolph’s relationship. During one interview on a 2019 episode of NPR’s This American Life, he said that he believed producers flew Randolph’s dad out to Portugal to convince her to break up with him.

“I was thinking I just got screwed,” Underwood told This American Life producer Emanuele Berry. “I was thinking that that wasn’t her doing… If I feel like my relationship’s going to be messed with or toyed with at all, I’m going to be done. Especially at this point, I’ve completely fallen in love… I mean, I had nothing to lose at that point besides the girl and the woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

After their breakup in May, Underwood had less flattering things to say about Randolph, first criticizing her appearance on the special The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons Ever, where she addressed the breakup and admitted to being worried about upsetting him. He then appeared on the Reality Steve podcast to say he warned Randolph about going on the show and to double down on his anger toward producers. “You have Chris Harrison pointing questions saying, ‘I sense you don’t want to make Colton mad’, or ‘you’re afraid you’re going to upset Colton,'” he told reality television blogger Reality Steve. “It’s like, ‘No, Chris. I literally talked to her the morning of that interview. We’re good.’ Stop worrying about me or painting me to be this controlling or angry person. I’m not angry. If there’s anybody I’m upset about or upset with, it’s you guys.” He admitted on the podcast to distancing himself from the franchise for mental health reasons.

Underwood’s anger might be warranted, given the notoriously manipulative behavior of reality television show producers. But knowing what we know now, and looking back at the red flags Underwood exhibited on the show and in public, it’s pretty clear that there has been a pattern of alarming behavior on his part as well. And while Underwood is wholly accountable for his off-camera behavior, producers do deserve criticism when it comes to their framing and enabling of the relationship, which has clearly ended in toxicity.

During the reunion for Underwood’s season, Harrison gushed to the then-couple, “Now you know he jumped a fence for you and ran away… but apparently he ran into your arms.” While she first appears uncomfortable discussing the fence jump, Randolph responds, “I’m glad that he did, too. I feel like the luckiest girl.” Producers spun the bright red flag that was Underwood’s on-camera outburst into a gesture of passion. That positive reinforcement for his off-the-wall action may have seemed justifiable at the time, but reads differently after hearing that Underwood continued pushing boundaries—tracking Randolph’s car and bombarding her with harassing texts. What should we make of those behaviors if we’re supposed to believe they’re a sign of his undying love?

“This is what the producers want,” said Maureen Curtis, the vice president of the Criminal Justice Program at Safe Horizon, a victim’s assistance program. “They don’t want just benign, everyday relationships. They want to see actions that are going to get them good ratings. So it wouldn’t surprise me that producers would encourage behavior like this. And maybe they didn’t realize where it would lead to.”

Curtis has worked with countless stalking victims in her 35-year career, and she told VICE that the behavior laid out in the court documents—as well as Underwood’s regular blaming of producers, Randolph, and others, for his actions—is “classic stalker behavior” and “common behavior in abusive relationships.” “It’s not taking responsibility for their own actions, for their own behavior, that potentially lead to the end of the relationship,” she said.

Curtis explained that a high percentage of stalking behavior occurs where there was an intimate relationship, and often that behavior was occurring during the relationship as well. The problem is exacerbated by our society’s romanticization of this type of toxic fixation and jealousy, which is dismissed as ‘lovers’ quarrels’ or shows of affection. This portrayal creates real-life danger for stalking victims, who are often blamed for their abusive partner’s behavior. One look at Underwood’s Instagram comments shows many of his fans defending and supporting his behavior, even with clear evidence of his harassment of Randolph.

“People around [victims] are not taking it seriously, including sometimes the criminal justice system,” said Curtis. “It’s only in the past 10 years that stalking has become a crime and recognized as criminal behavior, but it’s still one of the most underreported crimes.”

From reality TV to rom-coms, the media’s portrayal of stalking behavior in relationships is treated as romantic time and time again. This disturbing pattern is especially excused for male characters, and is intrinsically rooted in the misogynistic notion that women should be “won over.” Take Crazy, Stupid Love, in which a kid who won’t stop pestering his older babysitter is supposed to be a cute joke, even if he has ‘future creep’ written all over him. Or, there’s Think Like a Man, which is practically a guide to being a patriarchal shithead that women must accept. Even a modicum of critical observation can reveal these tropes to be coercive, manipulative, or abusive

“As a society, we often support and sometimes condone what is abusive behavior and romanticize it, and equate it with love,” said Curtis.

Rosara Torrisi, a sex and relationship therapist and the director of the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy, agrees. “Since the advent of storytelling, there’s been a media influence on the way we think of as a good relationship,” she told VICE. “But in terms of this kind of behavior, we really truly have romanticized obsessive, manipulative, power control types of relationships and behaviors…[people get] lured into a relationship with somebody like that, but then at some point when they’re trying to realize where did that turn into [something bad] they can maybe then recognize the danger of it…The idea that dating and relationships, and the communication, the hearts and love and passion and sex and pleasure, is a game is also problematic.”

Torrisi explained that the cat-and-mouse aspect of dating shows like The Bachelor, in which the titular character often wavers between wanting to be with someone and not, “can be really confusing.” Producer interference only makes this process worse, and in Underwood’s view, was to blame for keeping him from Randolph. While Randolph initially seemed uncertain about Underwood (with or without producer meddling), the producers’ actions likely fueled her confusion, and the context of meeting on a reality show clearly damaged the relationship from the get-go.

“That’s, in a way, the purpose of a restraining order,” said Torrisi. “It’s like, This is real. I’m not just like making TV and I’m not getting a bunch of likes and sponsorships on Instagram. I really want you to leave me alone. And hopefully this will help with that.”

Contestants go through a psychological screening and background process before appearing on the show, but there have been enough instances of troubling behavior from contestants over the years to suggest that those handling such an important task have done so irresponsibly, so much so that critics and viewers now continuously criticize how unethical those choices have often proven. On Jojo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette, she contended with belligerent, meat-chomping Chad Johnson, who routinely antagonized his rivals for Fletcher’s affections, even threatening physical violence and ripping one contestant’s shirt after an uncomfortable joke. Last year, Johnson, who made the jump from reality TV to a porn career, tracked down Fletcher’s and her now-fiancé Jordan Rogers’ house and had sex with a woman outside of their home in a car, filming the entire disturbing incident. He wrote in an Instagram post, “I always told Jordan I’d find him… So I went to his house and I video’d exactly what happened for my website. Now every time Jordan and JoJo step foot inside their house they’ll think of me.” The series has often glorified—or at least sought ratings from—an unhealthy and imbalanced power dynamic between the lead and contestants, encouraging competition between parties as long as it makes good television. Hell, encouraging anything as long as it makes good television.

Producers and the network are placing contestants in danger by not just inviting people onto the show who exhibit threatening behavior, but keeping them on and playing up that behavior for drama. Those on the receiving end of their aggression may feel uncomfortable or fearful, but producers and viewers reward them with adoration or notoriety.

Underwood has spoken openly about his mental health issues. There’s plenty of evidence within the texts sent to Randolph that he’s dealing with overwhelming emotional turmoil. “For people who aren’t just kind of people out to hurt people,” said Torrisi, “this often comes from a place of confusion and despair, wanting the other person to understand them… but it wouldn’t be her job to help him find the closure to help him him through his stages of recognizing this is what’s happening, my relationship with the person is ending.

“Once [an action] crosses that line where it’s now abusive behavior, that person needs to take responsibility for what they’re doing, and as a society [we need to as well], and a producer also needs to take some responsibility,” added Curtis. “I think that’s why it’s bigger than the producers. It’s really all of us in society, we need to look at ourselves and how we probably play into this.”

Alex Zaragoza is a senior staff writer at VICE.

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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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