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These destinations were overwhelmed by tourists. Here’s how they’re doing now

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(CNN) — Overtourism was the travel buzzword of 2019, as destinations around the globe, from the hiking trails of Machu Picchu to the canals of Venice, battled the impact of throngs of visitors.

Amid all the planning, predicting and projecting, there’s one thing these destinations couldn’t envisage: the travel industry grinding to a screeching halt as Covid-19 spread across the world.

Travel bans, quarantines and nationwide lockdowns have forced most travelers to stay home, and destinations that previously struggled with too many tourists have been left reeling.

But is overtourism truly over for good? CNN Travel checked in with locals and officials from some of the world’s most popular tourist spots to find out what it’s like on the ground in these once-bustling destinations.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik-Covid-Tourists

Tourists in Dubrovnik in July 2020.

IVAN VUKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images

A sea of terracotta red roofs, a fortress-like Old Town and an association with one of the most popular TV series of the 2010s led the Croatian capital of Dubrovnik to witness a surge in tourism numbers in recent years.

Alongside travelers who flew in for long weekends, Dubrovnik also saw footfall from thousands of cruise ship passengers who disembarked for the day, flooding the city’s Old Town and leaving by nightfall.

Over the past couple of years, mayor Mato Franković and other city officials vowed to get the situation under control, as the city featured in “Game of Thrones” became increasingly packed.

New regulations came into place in 2019 to restrict the number of cruise ships in the city’s old port to just two at a time, the result of a partnership with the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

A ban on new outdoor restaurants was also proposed, and 80% of the city’s souvenir shops were shuttered.

As 2020 began, officials questioned whether such new rules would make an impact.

Then in March, the pandemic hit Europe. Croatia closed its borders and the tourists stopped coming.

When Dubrovnik left lockdown in early summer and tourism tentatively restarted, the tourists returning to Dubrovnik were mostly Croatians on staycations. It wasn’t until flights started up again in the summer that international visitors began to return.

But it wasn’t to last — Covid numbers began to rise again and tourism declined once more.

“The UK put us on the red list, and then it went all down again. The airlines just one by one cut the number of flights,” Dubrovnik’s deputy mayor Jelka Tepšić tells CNN Travel. “Without flights and without the UK market, Dubrovnik has very low tourist figures.”

Local tour guide Ivan Vukovic says it’s been strange to see Dubrovnik so quiet, even though he’s enjoyed the break from large crowds.

“The atmosphere this summer is the atmosphere like in the 90s, when the war was going on, only the grenades were not flying all over our heads,” he tells CNN Travel.

The city may have grown from the ashes of war into a thriving tourism destination — perhaps too thriving, in many locals’ eyes — but now the question is whether it can use the catastrophe of Covid-19 as a chance to reset.

“The atmosphere this summer is the atmosphere like in the 90s, when the war was going on, only the grenades were not flying all over our heads”

Ivan Vukovic, Dubrovnik tour guide

Tepšić says the cruise rules — and Dubrovnik’s other overtourism restrictions — will not be relaxed when international flights recommence and the city encourages visitors to return.

Dubrovnik wants to make it clear to future visitors that the city takes both overtourism — and the virus — seriously.

“At the entrance of the Old City, we have a big banner warning people to wear masks, to keep distance, to wash hands, use the sanitizers etc. and beside those rules, we have the Respect the City program rules as well,” says Tepšić.

Unlike most European destinations, Croatia is permitting Americans to visit — as long as they present a negative Covid-19 PCR test that’s no older than 48 hours. A lack of flights makes this difficult for the average American to take advantage of, but some elite travelers with access to private jets are making the most of it.

Luxury tourism, says Tepšić, is something the city will continue to focus on going forward.

That said, city officials and those in the private sector are keen for all kinds of visitors to return — they just want a more sustainable, focused future.

The aim, says tour guide Vukovic, isn’t a return to overtourism — it’s “some kind of ‘normal’ tourism, if possible.”

Barcelona, Spain

A Barcelona restaurant sits empty on July 27, 2020.

A Barcelona restaurant sits empty on July 27, 2020.

Cesc Maymo/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

The Catalan city of Barcelona, with its soaring Gaudi spires, sandy beach and al fresco bars, has been a tourism hotspot since the 1992 Olympic diving competition showcased the city’s beauty to international audiences.

Today, tourism generates between 12 to 14% of the city’s GDP and 9% of overall employment, says Xavier Marcé, Barcelona City Council’s councilor for Tourism and Creative Industries.

But in recent years, city officials and locals, worn down by overtourism, have started re-examining this reliance on holiday business.

The pandemic has served to further reinforce the importance of creating spaces in the city center that can be enjoyed by locals as well as tourists, Marcé tells CNN Travel.

The restaurants and businesses in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, he explains.

Prior to Covid-19, Barcelona had introduced a series of measures designed to combat some of the throes of overtourism.

The city clamped down on vacation rentals, introduced a tourism tax and encouraged travelers to visit neighborhoods outside the overcrowded old town.

Marcé says Barcelona will “maintain its firmness intact” when it comes to these management strategies.

There are no plans to change the way the city clamps down on illegal rentals or tourist behavior — “although logically, the decrease in activity has led to a reduction in incidents in these areas,” adds the councilor.

Following the end of its strict lockdown, Barcelona only had a brief window in which international travelers could easily visit, before Spain found itself on other countries’ quarantine lists.

By September, international tourism was down by 77%.

Today, the city, like others in Europe, is struggling to quash a fresh surge of Covid-19 cases, and a nighttime curfew is in place to try to stop rising figures.

Marcé says he isn’t worried about tourism failing to recover in the future, but he emphasizes the importance of avoiding the pitfalls of the past.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu covid

Machu Picchu has been largely off limits to visitors since the beginning of the pandemic.

PERCY HURTADO/AFP via Getty Images

The famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is atop many travelers’ bucket lists, thanks to those soaring views of archaeological wonders framed by verdant mountains.

But for much of 2020, Peru’s most famous landmark was out of bounds.

The South American country went into a strict lockdown on March 15, which lasted through June.

In the summer, it was announced that Machu Picchu would open to domestic tourism, but this failed to materialize as Covid cases in Peru rose.

Sarah Miginiac, general manager for South America at adventure company G Adventures, who lives in Peru, tells CNN Travel that tourism operators have been working closely with Peru’s Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Environment to establish new protocols to keep visitors to Machu Picchu Covid-secure — and ensure tourist numbers remain under control.

Since then, tourists must pre-book tickets that are valid for up to four hours. Under this system 5,000 people can complete the trek per day.

When Machu Picchu reopens, this number will be cut further in order to ensure social distancing.

“The new rule is that there’s going to be only 75 persons allowed in Machu Picchu at a time,” says Miginiac. “The size of the group is going to be a maximum of seven people, plus a guide — we’re going from over 5,000 to only 675 per day.”

Ensuring travelers return to Machu Picchu in a more sustainable way is also key, with Miginiac suggesting that the current restrictions on visitor numbers could provide an opportunity to promote other beautiful, lesser known destinations within Peru.

Venice, Italy

A couple takes a selfie in Venice's normally bustling St. Mark's Square on October 3, 2020.

A couple takes a selfie in Venice’s normally bustling St. Mark’s Square on October 3, 2020.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

A visit to the Italian city has long been a popular city break, but as tourist numbers have soared over the past decade, locals have increasingly fought back — protesting the cruise ships in the city’s lagoon and vocalizing worries that Venice could become a theme-park-version of itself.

Various regulations and new rules designed to handle the influx of visitors have been introduced over the years — including bans on new hotels and city center fast food spots. A steep access fee for day-trippers on popular dates was set to launch in July 2020, but ultimately postponed.

On top of its overtourism woes, last year the Italian city battled catastrophic floods.

Northern Italy became one of the first European regions to feel the brunt of Covid-19 in late February.

Venice went into lockdown and so began months with no tourists.

When international borders reopened in the summer, visitor numbers were nowhere near comparable to previous years.

For some locals, it was the bizarre culmination of what they’d been dreaming of for years — just in terrible circumstances.

“Everyday life is a lot more pleasant without the congestion created by the crowds of tourists that came in large groups”

Jane da Mosto, Venice resident

“Everyday life is a lot more pleasant without the congestion created by the crowds of tourists that came in large groups,” says Venetian Jane da Mosto, co-founder and executive director at We Are Here Venice, a non-profit association that’s been campaigning for several years to reclaim Venice for locals.

As in Dubrovnik, cruise ships became a moot point as the industry shut down.

Pre-Covid, an estimated 32,000 cruise ship passengers visited Venice per day and many campaigners were actively discussing their impact on the city.

Fewer tourists means “the beauty of the city, it’s architecture, water and views is much more evident,” da Mosto tells CNN Travel.

“But it has come at an enormous cost – a lot of people are out of work, shops aren’t selling much and the cultural sector has been drastically affected,” she adds.

Expert view: Tourism will bounce back

A woman walks along Kuta Beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on August 15, 2020.

A woman walks along Kuta Beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on August 15, 2020.

SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

Many other destinations around the word — from historic cities like Amsterdam and Prague to beauty spots like Thailand’s Maya Bay and the beaches of Bali, Indonesia — have also suffered the consequences of too many tourists in recent years.

Now, they too are suffering the consequences of a lack of visitors.

And while overtourism might have wreaked havoc on destinations, the phenomenon also followed some predictable patterns: a destination became popular, people flocked there, the destination struggled to cope, solutions — some effective, some less so — were proposed.

Covid-19, however, is not particularly predictable, at least not in the long term.

This, says Tony Johnston, head of tourism at the Althone Institute of Technology in Ireland, makes planning for the future difficult.

“The [tourism] industry is an industry which has traditionally relied on very stable and very predictable models of growth,” he tells CNN Travel. “And that’s just been completely removed.

“Nobody knows how the next six months, 12 months or even longer-term future is going to look — so it’s very difficult for policymakers to plan, and very difficult for the commercial side of the industry to plan.”

Johnston posits that no matter a destination’s intentions now, when and if the Covid threat is mitigated, it’ll be difficult for planners and policy makers to juggle pressure from industry lobby to bring tourists back quickly, while avoiding a return to the overtouristed problems of the past.

That said, there will be some travelers who will remain unwilling or unable to travel again, whether due to health concerns or considerations of their carbon footprint.

Still, there’s a reason these destinations were overtouristed to begin with — a lot of people want to visit them.

That’s not likely to change irrevocably, even if numbers take a while to stabilize. After all, if you’ve never visited Venice, living through a global pandemic might make you wonder why you never got around to it.

“Bucket list travel locations are going to be one of the things that stimulate the recovery, for sure, people will want to do things immediately, once they have an opportunity to do so,” suggests Johnston.

The tourism industry is “very volatile, but very, very resilient, and very adaptable,” he adds.

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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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