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The PS3 and Vita Are Being Buried Alive

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I love my Vita.

Sure, the back touchscreen never worked well, and the shoulder buttons always felt a little too wobbly. But after years of avoiding video games, it was the impulse purchase one chilly, drizzling day that reminded me why I loved video games to begin with. It felt good in my hands, and even if it never fit in anything but my most pouchy of hoodies—I carried it everywhere.

I played games, listened to music, watched YouTube, hell—I even tweeted from it.

The Vita was where I finally played visual novels all the way through, exhaustively. I found what happened to the world of Wizardry-likes outside of Etrian Odyssey. I revisited the PlayStation (with L2 and R2 remapped to the front screen). I finally played From Software’s Shadow Tower. Even my partner loved it, obliterating indie game after indie game.

We learned its quirks and workarounds. We made concessions to the proprietary memory card, the bulky power cable that didn’t fit in the soft case. We even made peace with the unusability of the Vita PSN store (using the website to purchase, sort my library, and push games to the handheld).

Even when I’m more at home on my PS4 or PC these days, my original Vita still works. It’s charged and ready to go at a moment’s notice. It still plays games, even if Sony has abandoned the YouTube and Twitter apps on the device over time.

But this week, Sony pushed an update to the PSN store that seriously hinders how I use the Vita. And not just it, but my PS3.

All of our Vitas and PS3s.

The PS5 is coming, the console that Sony will hitch it’s stock price on for the next 6 or so years. Maybe less, maybe more. So the PSN web store is getting “upgraded” to pave the way for their new console.

No more buying games or managing your downloads from the more efficient and user-friendly website. Now PS3 and Vita users will be forced to work exclusively through their consoles.

You’re extra screwed if you own a PlayStation Portable. Those are getting cleared out of the web store too, and after losing their console-based store in 2016, now the only option will be to make purchases and downloads from the PS3 or Vita. It’s honestly pretty shameful.

If that was it, it would be enough. But it won’t end there. With Sony, it never does. This isn’t the first time Sony’s tinkered with these consoles in a way that limited the original promise either. We’ve been here before. After all, remember when the PS3 could play PS2 games?

That was the promise at launch. The original 20 and 60gb versions both had hardware emulation for the Playstation 2 in November 2006. By October of 2007. These SKUs lingered on in Japan for another year, but then backwards compatibility on a hardware level was dead going forward.

Hope surged in June of 2009 with Sony patenting software emulation for PS2 games. But speaking to Kotaku in August, Sony Computer Entertainment of America’s director of marketing John Koller, said “Now that we’re at a point where we’re three years into the lifecycle of the PS3…there are so many PS3 disc-based games that are available that we think — and noticed this from our research — that most consumers that are purchasing the PS3 cite PS3 games as a primary [reason].” The PS3 Slim wouldn’t feature backwards compatibility at all.

Three years into the PS3 lifecycle and the dreams of everyone who traded in their PS2s to buy PS3s were as dead as many of those launch models

This foreshadowed a trend in Sony’s thinking. Three years ago, Sony’s head of global sales, Jim Ryan made headlines by saying, of PS1 and PS2 games, “they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?

Sure, plenty of consumers only care about the newest, blockbuster games. The ones that maximize the latest technology Sony and Microsoft can squeeze into their “little” $600 boxes. We like the New. We’ve been conditioned to like the New. To be dazzled by “progress.” Even to see the old, as Ryan does—inferior, unworthy.

We’ll ignore the fact that retro and throwback games featuring visuals modeled after PS1 games (and earlier) are popular with consumers and developers alike. That lo-fi and physical media carry a cache of tangible, practical cool. Or that Sony is absolutely aware of the vocal demand for backwards compatibility (and that Microsoft, GoG, and Steam have all shown the success of historical games catalogs). Jim Ryan is pushing an ideology here as much as he’s trying to directly sell. It’s a laser targeted bit of marketing bullshit designed to do two things:

First, it’s hiding the fact that Sony doesn’t care about the margins on old games. If we assume they get the industry standard of 30% for platform royalties—30% of $5 or $10 isn’t the kind of money Sony wakes up for. Especially not the small numbers old games tend to sell. Every person buying a PS5 will likely buy Demon’s Souls 5. At $70, that’s a shitton of money. But the original Demon’s Souls on PS3? It’s an embarrassment to shareholders having something old and at a bargain price on their ecommerce portal.

But the other thing Jim Ryan is doing here is programming consumers. It’s low-key conditioning. “See that mountain? You can climb it.” has become jokingly synonymous with Bethesda’s approach to open world design, consumers of Bethesda games have come to expect it or something like it.

“See those old games? They’re trash,” is what Sony hopes their consumers will come to believe. Because the more they bake “Newer, Better, More Expensive” into their own personal worldview—the better for Sony’s ongoing sales of new hardware and especially first-party games.

Money is boring. Capitalism is boring. They’re not interesting arguments, and yet it’s crucial we talk about them because if we don’t we can’t fracture these marketing mythologies and understand what is really being communicated to us.

Take the famous E3 of 2013 where then-President of SIE Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida did a skit with former Vice President of Publisher and Developer Relations at Sony Interactive Entertainment, Adam Boyes. Microsoft had fumbled badly about how used games would work with the Xbox One. And Sony saw a prime business opportunity to turn public opinion in their favor overnight.

How do you trade used games on the PS4? You simply hand your buddy the game. Done. This was a win for Consumer Rights. The crowd went wild. Yoshida was a Real One. He truly cared about The Gamers.

Except…He didn’t. Arguably no one at Sony did. This was pure marketing bullshit. Expensively concocted to obfuscate the fact that Sony had stopped caring about the margins on used games, and had figured out a workaround for making money on all games that would become the standard—digital delivery and DLC. Discs would fall by the wayside, PS+ subscriptions would become mandatory for multiplayer (with the carrot of monthly “free” games). And if consumers desperately wanted physical media, then they’d still have to pay full price for DLC. All the DLC.

But in that moment, consumers believed that Sony was in their corner, that Sony was their friend. They weren’t then. They aren’t now. This is all part of a mass-marketed fiction designed to sell more consoles, just like the fake, mass-market marketing campaigns called “console wars” which Warcraft-like created opposing factions of consumers to do direct-to-consumer marketing for them.

When the PS3 came out, backwards compatibility was a major selling point for an anemic launch (this has been Microsoft’s game for a while now too). After all, Sony was trying to get consumers to drop $600 on a yet-unproven console. And PS2 trade-in credit was tempting, but it’d lock you out of your old games.

Sony’s decision to shove the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer inside the PS3 eased this choice for many consumers. This wasn’t Sony making a play for historical preservation or thinking of your personal archives. That’s the story they wanted to tell. It made them seem cool and enticing when their launch lineup didn’t. This was never going to be a long-term option.

Console manufacturers aren’t invested in so-called “legacy content.” The margins are slim, the interest is substantially lower than the mass market interest in New Shit.

And we’ve basically accepted this. Sony doesn’t need to include backwards compatibility to sell PS5s. The bid didn’t work with the PS3 in the end. And full price remasters of old games have proven much more profitable on the PS4 than the slim sales numbers of so-called “legacy content” ever could.

The only reason the PS4 is getting backwards compatibility is because Demon’s Souls alone isn’t going to move new consoles on its own, and bringing the recent generation over is much easier between these two generations. Sony learned the lesson from the PS3 that having a complicated architecture is like having weird parents—no one wants to come to your house to play.

But it won’t last. Eventually even the PS4 will be cut loose, too. Shareholders don’t get excited seeing old games sold cheap on their websites. Hardware will get deprecated, it will stop functioning, and then our options to play those games will become even more limited.

All these games, more or less exist. They will continue existing unaltered until the last PS3 dies beyond repair and the Blu-Rays erode beyond salvation. Without Sony taking a vested interest and a firm commitment to backwards compatibility, preservation, and allowing consumers access to these games—the best we can hope for is the work of emulator developers and the people who create ROMs and ISOs outside of approved channels to maintain even some semblance of what these games were.

Because when access is shut off in official channels—and it always will be, in the end, because capitalism is a consumptive process that’s at odds with longevity and preservation—the only option to preserve and archive these works is through unofficial, often extralegal, channels.

Right now, I’m in the middle of playing Digital Devil Story: Megami Tense_i. The first one. Never released outside of Japan. It’s the beginning point for the later _Shin Megami Tensei franchise, that gave birth to the now runaway, global hit sub-franchise Persona.

It’s clunky, old. The sprites are hazy reduced suggestions of what they would come to look like. They have very limited animation, if they’re animated at all. It’s ugly, it’s antique, it’s beautiful.

I can only do this because of emulation. The reverse engineering prowess of the emulator developers who pulled apart the Famicom and allowed modern PC hardware to communicate in its language. Also the exhausting work of a translator turning coded Japanese script into English. I had to patch it to play it. But if you’re doing a historical look at a franchise, you have to do the history. Atlus, Namco, Nintendo—they don’t have a monetary interest in this game. It isn’t financially worth it to them, if they even preserved the source code or art assets.

Maintaining archives, even privately-held corporate ones, costs more than it’s worth in quarterly earnings calls. But for an art form to grow and have a history—this has to be a decision based on principle. The value in preservation is the preservation itself.

Historical preservation of games only gets us so far though. For critics and academics, it’s useful to at least have some version of its original context somewhere. The record of existence, playable only at a museum or in an archive. This is existence. But access is once again limited. You have to go to these places.

Right now, my PS3 is on the floor of my living room. It’s waiting to be hooked up, so I can revisit Boletaria in some way (itself a hollowed, disconnected version because Sony shut off the servers last year). It doesn’t fit nicely on the bookcase. The PS4, Switch, and TV take up all the reasonable amount of space.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much longer for this world it is anyway. It sounds like a diseased geriatric doing a stress test. It’s slow, much slower than it used to be, even with a new hard drive and refreshed Blu-ray drive. What is repairable, has been. When it goes, the only available option is to replace more parts (best case) or find a whole new one (a proposition that has already become more expensive since Sony announced zero backwards compatibility and the web shop shutdown).

Or I can pay $70 for the New Demon’s Souls after paying $600 for a PlayStation 5. But the original vision of the game? The one that garnered a cult following, launched an even bigger franchise, and spawned a genre with countless imitations? For me, and millions of other consumers now and in the future—that’s gone.

All those bloodstains and glowing messages, and ones that could be? Lost forever.

With the disconnection of the PS3 and Vita from the website, Sony is sending a clear statement of intent. They don’t care about these consoles anymore. They’re too old to be viable for them. Eventually, as we saw with the Wii, or Wii U, and 3DS (in Latin America and the Caribbean) stores, they will be gone entirely.

The bottom line must be preserved. Never the games that originally built it.

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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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