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The exhausting failure of Netflix’s Rebecca



Rebecca, the 1938 gothic novel by Daphne du Maurier, has one of those perfect opening lines: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

As the first chapter continues, the narrator goes on to describe walking into the country house of Manderley: how it was once perfect and now is ruined, how it used to be hers to love and luxuriate in. Then she goes on to describe the small, sad life she lives now in exile, and you know something awful must have happened for her to end up here.

Gothic horror lives and dies by its elisions, by what cannot be said, and there is so much unspoken here. What’s left now is only a sense of lost luxury and decay and corruption, of a once-great house gone dark and moldering. You read the rest of Rebecca to find out what happened to Manderley, and you know that anything encountered after Manderley can only be a disappointment.

This is a story told by a sad, dry woman living a sad, dry life. Manderley, the object of her fetishistic obsession, is gone now. She will never be happy without it.

That sense of corrosive nostalgia is where du Maurier’s Rebecca starts, and an ideal adaptation of the novel would find a way to recreate that mood on film. (Hitchcock’s 1940 Rebecca does it beautifully, outside of the Hayes Code-mandated hash it makes of the ending.) But Netflix’s messy and disappointing new film adaptation of Rebecca, directed by Ben Wheatley, doesn’t come anywhere close to pulling it off.

Wheatley’s Rebecca begins with that perfect opening line, just as Hitchcock’s adaptation did before it. But unlike other versions of Rebecca, Wheatley’s comes back around to that opening line again at the very end of the film. And I’m going to spoil for you exactly how Wheatley reprises that line, because the way you feel about this choice will determine whether or not this Rebecca is a waste of your time.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” says Lily James in voiceover, as she plays our unnamed heroine frowning in her sleep. And then she wakes up, and this is what we hear as her voiceover continues:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. I dreamt of Mrs. Danvers, and of Rebecca.

But this morning I woke up and left the dead behind. And as I sit before the mirror in our stuffy little room in Cairo — just another stop on our quest to find a real home — I can see the woman I am now. And I know that I have made the right decision. To save the one thing worth walking through flames for. Love.

At the close of this speech, she turns to her husband, Maxim (Armie Hammer), who is shirtless and appears to be oiled for some reason, and swoons into his arms. And the camera fades to black.

It is undoubtedly healthy for this version of our narrator to stop obsessing over Manderley, leave the dead behind, and focus on love. And undoubtedly there is no reason you could not make a perfectly nice film about this version of her. She’s a plucky young woman with sound emotional boundaries and a kicky beret collection. She finds true love with a rich widower who hates shirts and then, after the tragic destruction of his country house, leaves everything behind to travel the world with him. Emily in Paris as a period piece, with a fire. Why not?

But for reasons that remain a mystery to me, Wheatley seems to be insisting that Emily in Cairo and Also It Is the ’40s must also be du Maurier’s Rebecca, at the same time. He’s made a film that wants to be a frothy, aspirational love story between two attractive and emotionally healthy people with great wardrobes — and also wants to be a piece of gothic horror about a terrible woman and her love for a great house.

The result fails to be either gothic, horrifying, or enjoyable frothy. Instead, Wheatley’s Rebecca seems destined to please no one.

This Rebecca is plagued by the desire to make its protagonists likable. That’s a losing battle.

A man and a woman stand on a balcony overlooking the sea. The man is walking away from the woman and frowning. The woman is gazing after him, looking troubled.
Lily James as Mrs. de Winter, Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter.
Kerry Brown/Netflix

The elision at the center of Rebecca, the absence around which its gothic horror is built, is the elision of Rebecca herself, Maxim’s mysteriously dead first wife. We never meet her on the page, but we get loving descriptions of all the petty detritus of her life: her hairbrush, her nightgown, her flowers, her stationery. Most of all there is Rebecca’s handwriting, with the bold and dashing R that the unnamed protagonist cannot help but compare to her own dull schoolgirl cursive. She sees that R everywhere, and every time she sees it she is reminded of her inferiority compared to Rebecca.

The protagonist has married Rebecca’s widower husband, rich and handsome Maxim de Winter, after Rebecca’s mysterious death. In du Maurier’s novel, the protagonist is a dull little thing, so self-effacing that she doesn’t even have a name. Still, she’s compelling to read, because she’s animated by both a ferocious desire to force everyone to like her and a miserable certainty that she is too awkward and gauche ever to do so successfully, so that her sentences seethe with frustrated rage. Critics usually call her the second Mrs. de Winter, and she wears the splendor of that moniker like a silk ball gown several sizes too big: It doesn’t fit her.

But from the first moment Lily James bounds across the screen with the easy confidence of those born beautiful, it becomes apparent Wheatley’s version of the second Mrs. de Winter will be different. This version of the character makes charmingly nerdy speeches about fun palm tree facts she has picked up from her extensive reading. She has evolved and well-adjusted motivations, such as her longing to travel and see the world and the depth and purity of her love for Maxim.

And when the second Mrs. de Winter strolls into Manderley with a jaunty blue beret perched on her Grace Kelly bob, it’s clear that if she upsets the order of things in this house, it won’t be because she’s too gauche and too awkward to know better. It’s because she is so fresh and modern that she is bringing this fusty old country house into the 20th century out of the sheer force of her adorable pluck.

Maxim, who whispers dolefully that all marriages must have their secrets and sleepwalks at night, is assuredly hiding something. But it can’t be anything all that dark in this version of the story. Hammer plays Maxim as a sort of stuffed shirt with broad shoulders: lovely to look at, covered in luxurious fabrics and wealth of all sorts, and far, far too dull to have any very compelling mysteries to plumb. He’s romantic enough to sweep the second Mrs. de Winter off her feet, but there’s not that much more there to him. He’s the sort of generic love interest that is that sweet young girl’s due.

Wheatley’s protagonists are, in a word, likable, and that seems to be the ethos animating this adaptation: Let’s make it likable, even if that means making it bland. Let’s give her a coherent if basic personality instead of leaving her a seething mass of neuroses. Let’s smooth out that bizarre power dynamic between Mrs. de Winter and Maxim, the one where it seems like he picked her up because he likes that she’s so profoundly insecure that he can dominate her emotionally the way he couldn’t Rebecca. Let’s make them have soft-focus sex on the beach in Monte Carlo, and hold hands and giggle like teenagers as they walk into Manderley. Let’s make this all unproblematic and easy to root for.

It is of course any director’s prerogative to make bold changes when adapting a classic, but worrying about the main characters’ likability strikes me as a truly bizarre focus to take when adapting Rebecca. That’s because the big plot twist in this story, which Wheatley leaves more or less intact, is that although the protagonist is worried that Maxim is still in love with Rebecca, he’s not. He actually murdered Rebecca in cold blood and is worried about covering up the murder. And when the second Mrs. de Winter learns this fact, she is ecstatic with relief.

“Maxim did not love Rebecca,” she thinks in du Maurier’s novel. “He had never loved her, never, never. They had never known one moment’s happiness together. Maxim was talking, and I listened to him, but his words meant nothing to me. I did not really care.”

In du Maurier’s Rebecca, these are not nice people. Their love story is not healthy or aspirational. The second Mrs. de Winter is a small and awful person who is eager to overlook a murder for a chance at emotional approval and material luxury. Maxim is icy and withholding, ready to kill one wife when she angers him and careful to select a second too riddled with anxiety to ever risk doing the same. They are very far from being likable, and that is what makes them interesting. The fact of their unlikability is part of what makes Rebecca a great novel.

Nevertheless, Wheatley rejiggers this gothic horror story at every opportunity to cast the most flattering possible light on his blandly likable stars. He reframes Rebecca’s death so that she comes right up to the point of pulling the trigger of the gun for Maxim, leaving him with as little responsibility as possible for the murder. In the criminal investigation that comprises the film’s final act, Maxim becomes the underdog, the dark horse it’s easy to root for. He’s the victim of a detective determined to humiliate him, who sneers in Maxim’s face that “no one’s above the law” while the second Mrs. de Winter pluckily works to cover up clues.

Du Maurier’s version, in contrast, has Maxim refusing to bother to cover up clues. He doesn’t need to, because the detective, who likes attending Manderley parties, goes out of his way to avoid casting any kind of suspicion on him. The implication there is that Maxim is above the law, because he is rich and socially powerful, and we live in a classist society.

Personally, I think that’s a much more interesting idea to examine than the idea that sometimes aristocrats should be allowed to get away with murdering their wives because it wasn’t really their fault but then mean detectives go after them anyway but luckily their industrious young wife solves everything in the end. But then, I am not Ben Wheatley!

Kristin Scott Thomas is an extraordinary Mrs. Danvers. But she can’t save this movie.

A woman in a dark suit stands in a dimly lit hallway in front of a door. Kerry Brown/Netflix

If there’s a shining bright spot in Wheatley’s Rebecca, it’s Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers, the Manderley housekeeper who was devoted to Rebecca. Thomas plays Mrs. Danvers with eyes as flinty as ice and her impeccable lipstick frozen in a permanent sneer, so when she says, “Welcome to Manderley,” to the second Mrs. de Winter, the clear subtext is, Die, bitch.

Mrs. Danvers is the only person in this movie who seems to think the story is gothic horror, and she is committed: rhapsodizing about dead Rebecca as she viciously tugs Rebecca’s hairbrush through the second Mrs. de Winter’s hair; murmuring like a snake in the second Mrs. de Winter’s ear about how she can’t hold a candle to Rebecca and it would be easier for everyone if she just jumped right on out the window.

Thomas carries so much intensity in her gaze that she could walk away with the movie easily even if she weren’t trying. And since she is in fact committed so hard and so gleefully that she might as well be holding the whole film at gunpoint and shouting, “This is a stickup,” well, the film’s hers before she finishes delivering her first line.

But even Mrs. Danvers can’t escape Wheatley’s commitment to making everyone as likable and boring as possible. She gets a whole speech to the second Mrs. de Winter that seems to be loosely aiming for the ethos of Greta Gerwig’s lovely Little Women adaptation, about how limited women’s choices are and how women who have chosen different paths to succeed in this difficult world must support each other. It turns out in the end to be part of her evil plot to humiliate Mrs. de Winter — but the entire idea of a Mrs. Danvers who would think in feminist terms, even to manipulate, is foreign to the character and to the genre. It feels ported in from that Emily in Old-Timey Cairo movie Wheatley is refusing to commit to, even though it’s clearly the movie he would prefer to make.

But that, in the end, is the big problem plaguing Rebecca. Ben Wheatley has no business making a gothic romantic horror movie if he is not interested in gothic romantic horror, and on the evidence of this film, he is not. So instead, he has made a Rebecca without purpose or soul, about two blandly nice people who commit and then cover up a murder but it’s okay because they’re nice, and then afterward they have dully nice sex in Egypt.

Wheatley’s Rebecca is a horror film that is resolutely sure there is nothing horrifying going on here at all, actually. And as soon as some enterprising Kristin Scott Thomas stan has put together a supercut of all of her scenes from this movie that you can easily play on YouTube, there will be no reason for anyone to watch this movie, ever.

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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.

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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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