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The power of smell: Learning to feel through scent

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On our first family holiday to the Blue Mountains, we were surrounded by thick bush. Early mornings smelled of eucalyptus oil from the gum trees. It was winter and cold, but I delighted in running through the rooms with my brother, pulling on the long cords hanging down from the high ceilings to turn the lights on and off. My joy did not last.

In the disinfectant soaked emergency room, the doctors marvelled at my stoicism. At only four years old, I stuck out my tongue unbidden and breathed in for the stethoscope, despite lung-wrenching bursts of asthma that had me gasping for air. I made no other sound. Right from the start, crying from fear or pain, or crying for any reason really, was actively discouraged. Snot and mucous blocked my already overburdened sinuses, making me worse. I was always an obedient child.

When I was young, I often fell sick. I was allergic to cow’s milk since birth and then to almost anything I touched, ingested or smelled. Sunshine makes me sneeze, and I get headaches from even the most expensive of perfumes worn by people standing a considerable distance away. My sense of taste has been diminished along with the ability to recognise and name every flavour in the food on my plate.

But despite, or perhaps because of, the damage, my sense of smell has been enhanced.

Lavender

Standing in our kitchen at home one day, aged eight, an intense aroma of lavender enveloped the room. When I inhaled deeply, it flooded my senses, and the solid countertops, cupboards and floors around me vanished from sight.

I remember nothing else, just an aide-memoire, a photo of me as a toddler sitting on the veranda at my grandmother’s house. It is black and white, but I know my hair was bright blonde back then. I had been caught in the act of falling over or awkwardly sitting down the way babies do when they are dressed in baggy overalls on top of voluminous cloth nappies.

As I look at this much smaller, much younger me, my nostrils fill with bouquets of lavender once more. It grew in great whorls along my grandmother’s driveway, and she made sachets of it to put in the drawers with her clothes.

That day in the kitchen grandmother came to say goodbye. Lavender is happiness mixed with melancholy and longing.

Jasmine and cigars

My parents fought a lot before they separated that same year. I perceived that the noise they made was not good, but I was too young to understand the content.

In summer, the house was permeated with the heady scent of jasmine. A vine grew around the railings on the terrace outside and when mum was happy, she would cut long tendrils of it and arrange it in three white elliptical vases. They fitted together to make a whole, in a way we as a family never did.

Most days she spent a lot of time in bed, curtains drawn. Dad worked and played hard, and was not in the house very often and when he was, the home became a battlefield with me the unwilling spectator. Yet the waft of a smouldering cigar still takes me back to sitting on his lap, content.

Pepper

Dinner times were sacred in that house. Mum was half English, so we sat up at the table and asked before we got down.

Serviettes were made of paper and only used when we had a takeaway, but napkins were nice and always made of cloth. The soup should be spooned away from the body, and the special round-headed spoons should never be confused with the oval-headed ones laid out for dessert.

Mum was big on rules. But it did not stop the fights between my older brother and sister. The tang of pepper always hits me like the shaker one of them threw at the other. I cannot remember who raised their arm, missed their target and got me square in the forehead instead. Dead centre. The lid came off, releasing the contents, making my eyes sting, and my nose run uncontrollably. Pepper still makes me sneeze but not as much as then. Its spice is tinged with threat.

Silver polish

At everyday meals we used the ordinary cutlery, keeping the silver set for best. Polishing it was one of the many chores I was given.

The silver polish, a pink semi-unguent liquid emanating forcefully from a plastic bottle, was unlike other chemical concoctions because it left my olfactory nerve in peace.

The repetition of applying the polish, rubbing it in and going over and over the surface until the black grease from handling was replaced by a brilliant sheen, was seductively hypnotic.

The non-stop chattering, as my mind tried to process life events and determine their meaning, stopped, and I just was. Calm.

In my teenage years, I did as my mother instructed and used my brain to question and challenge at every turn. Her method for dealing with this was to remain suspended in a palpable seething silence for weeks at a time.

When she did unleash, every moment of self-doubt, intimate secret joy, fear or concern I had confessed, in fact any daughterly intimacy I shared, no matter how insignificant, could and would be used to punish, torment and hurt me.

I learned early on that showing a reaction, any at all, was ill-advised.

By the time I was 18, I no longer gave her any ammunition, even about events as momentous as losing my virginity. How I longed to tell her, just to experience the thrill of knocking her off balance, if only for a moment.

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

My memory paintbox

Looking back at my childhood is like viewing an incomplete painting. I can make out scattered, isolated instances of happiness, but on the whole, the canvas is largely blank.

My memory paintbox holds no fine brushes to define outlines or rich colour palette to fill in the hues. It only contains an automatic self-defence mechanism that blurs all the details when it comes to my emotions.

If voices are raised and feelings aired, a red cloud blankets my brain. Whole sentences and single words are obscured or even replaced by another from the same lexicon, similar but not equally exact in meaning. Nuance disables my comprehension. A few minutes after the fact, I cannot remember clearly what was said to me or what I myself said. Even innocuous titbits like what I was wearing, elude me.

Just thinking of initiating discussions about what makes me unhappy or facing conflict head-on suffocates me. I fight against intense panic and dread, and fail to understand what it is I am feeling, let alone know whether it is appropriate or not.

Throughout, my olfactory memory bank overflows. Like a dog distracted by high-pitched sounds, when I pick up a scent, I become completely obsessed by something no one else can discern. Crinkling my nostrils I have to sniff incessantly until I am able to identify what it is I can smell.

Blood

My first all-consuming, life-changing love was with a married man whose wife left him in spirit when she had a one night stand, years before she left him in person.

He and I lived together for two years, although I spent the last six months mustering up the willpower to leave him. I was 22 by then and cried a lot in the shower and constantly changed my mind.

Afterwards, we remained friends, good ones, joking about how we would grow old and disgraceful together. At least I would, he was already known for being outspoken and rude.

Then one day he took the lid off a bottle of paint thinner and drank it all down. He was not found for two weeks.

When I went round to his house a week later, the metallic stench of blood still lingered and clung to every corner of every room. It registered so pungently with my nasal cilia that I could taste it on my tongue. I sometimes notice a diluted version when I am at the dentist, or sucking a paper cut on my finger. Brackish and full of loss.

Sandalwood

I dropped out of university and went to London and hitch-hiked, bussed and ferried around Europe. For a whole year, I was free, from my family, my mother and my incomprehensible emotion-laden memories. I drank more than was good for me, danced with strangers and reinvented myself.

“Love ’em and leave ’em” was my unoriginal creed and a trailing caress of sandalwood my calling card.

The pure oil was sold in tiny exotic tinted glass bottles at Portobello Market in London, by solemn Indian men dressed in dhoti, armoured against the cold in ancient furs or discarded army greatcoats.

For once, I was just like all the other women I hung around with – pretty, young and fragrant. Normal.

Damp, talc and hospital smells

My father spent the last six weeks of his life in a drab palliative care unit built in a gully, dense with eucalyptus trees.

The building never really saw the sun, so a pervasive trace of damp mingled with the everyday hospital odours, like microwaved meals drowned in white sauce, the antiseptic whiff of soap and the fetid presence of death.

It was summer, and I went to see dad every day. It was so hot I carefully slathered my face with thick sunscreen each morning for the long walk down the hill, and back up again.

I took care to dress well, with matching handbag, shoes and lipstick to accentuate the smile on my face my father loved to see until the day he stopped talking.

Dad had always been a smart dresser and used the same brand of talc day in, day out. I can smell him shaking the light floury spots of white powder all over his shoulders from a time when I first started to retain memories. The red squeeze bottle standing sentry next to his hospital bed ran out the same day he was declared to be actively dying.

Substituting smells for feelings

I used to get great satisfaction in working out what it was I could smell. It substituted perfectly for needing to know what I felt. Acknowledging an emotion, perceiving a sentiment, or just identifying a memory as an expression of feeling a particular way is something I had never been able to completely articulate or comprehend.

When dad died, that began to change. After his death, if by chance I breathed in a waft of his talcum powder emanating from a passing stranger, I always looked up and smiled, expecting to see him. Of course I never did, but I relished the fragrance because it marked his presence, confirmed that he once was.

In contrast, I despised the sickly perfume of the sunscreen I wore to the hospital, and will not willingly choose to use it again. At first, it was because it served to remind me of my father’s absence. All the attendant feelings that accompanied the weeks he lay dying were listed in its ingredients. I was afraid if I rubbed it onto my skin again, those emotions would engulf me, just like the red fog that shuts down my brain during arguments.

However, the olfactory memories of my father sparked by the talc and the sunscreen are equally zoetic. They represent the whole of my father’s being and the total of my experience of his life and death. The negative emotions they evoke are as necessary and essential as the positive.

Without large, frightening, and overwhelming emotional episodes, times of joyous, delirious excitement and pleasure have no meaning. They need a context in which to take form, otherwise life is bereft of connotation and nothing more than an objective description of events.

Now, when I deliberately reach for a different brand of sunscreen, it is because I like the smell, and no longer a way to avoid identifying and dealing with how I feel.

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

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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