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This couple travels around the world naked

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(CNN) — At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Nick and Lins De Corte were stuck in Mexico, unable to get flights back to Europe as borders closed and travel restrictions heightened.

“We were three months in, I would say, semi-lockdown,” recalls Nick. “But it wasn’t that bad,” says his partner Lins. “We had a nude beach.”

Thirty-something Belgian couple Nick and Lins are naturists. They travel the world unclothed wherever possible, documenting their adventures on their blog, Naked Wanderings, and a corresponding Instagram account.

They’ve scuba-dived sans-clothes off the island of Utila, in Honduras, drunk beers in the buff in Portugal and hiked nude through the Amazon rainforest.

After three months stuck in the stunning surrounds of Zipolite, Oaxaca, the couple made it back to Europe in July. Since then, they’ve been traveling around France — “because the options are so big in France, there are so many naturist places.”

The De Cortes are both from the city of Ghent in Belgium, where they met and got together about 12 years ago.

“Quite soon after, we discovered naturism, it was pretty much by coincidence,” says Nick.

The couple went to a spa center in Belgium, where nudity was compulsory.

“We went there, it was a great experience. We went there again and again, and after several times, we started exploring other options — with social nudity, with naturism — and that’s how we discovered naturist clubs, naturist campgrounds, activities, events, and just rolled more and more into naturism,” Nick tells CNN Travel.

A few years on, they started their blog. The aim, the couple says, was to debunk some of the myths surrounding naturism.

“There are two main preconceptions,” says Nick. “One is that it’s related to sex — lots of people don’t understand that people can be naked together without any sexual intention. That’s one big misconception. And the other one is that it’s for old people.”

Debunking the myths

Nick and Lins travel the world, visiting naturist resorts including DeAnza Springs, in California in the US, pictured.

Nick and Lins travel the world, visiting naturist resorts including DeAnza Springs, in California in the US, pictured.

Courtesy Naked Wanderings

The couple’s internet presence aimed both to showcase their fun adventures, and provide information on the naturist lifestyle, and nude-friendly resorts across the world.

Nick and Lins quickly became aware they’d pinpointed a gap in the market. Sure, there were plenty of travel Instagram influencers posing against backdrops of stunning scenery.

But all of them had their clothes on.

Lins says a highlight of their adventures so far was a stunning beach in Colombia, in Tayrona National Park.

“There is nothing there. There’s just the National Park and you can spend the night there,” says Lins. “You have to hike for a couple of hours to reach the beach. But once you’re there, it’s beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve ever seen.”

Nick, meanwhile, spotlights the nude beaches of Portugal and all the options afforded by France’s activist naturist scene.

Making connections and meeting like-minded naturists from across the world is also important to the couple.

Travel blogging has become their full-time occupation, although there have been some difficulties along the way.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have strict nudity rules, and Nick and Lins’ posts always skirt the boundaries of what’s allowed.

Clever cropping and artfully-placed objects usually allow them to get away with it, but their original Instagram account was shut down last year and they’ve since had to rebuild from scratch.

Nick and Lins' photos always skirt the boundaries of social media nudity rules. They took this photo at naturist campsite Terme d'Astor, France.

Nick and Lins’ photos always skirt the boundaries of social media nudity rules. They took this photo at naturist campsite Terme d’Astor, France.

Courtesy Naked Wanderings

Still, they say they never had any hesitations about sharing their lives online.

“In the beginning people asked us, ‘How are you ever going to find a job again? Your naked butt has been in the newspapers.’ But whatever, if somebody doesn’t want to give us a job just because of that, it’s probably not a company where we want to work,” says Nick.

Nick and Lins add that they’re currently working on founding a social media platform for naturists.

Naturism during the pandemic

The couple enjoy visiting naturist beaches, including this one at Bagheera in Corsica.

The couple enjoy visiting naturist beaches, including this one at Bagheera in Corsica.

Courtesy Naked Wanderings

Earlier in the pandemic, there were reports of a growing interest in naturism, as more people were confined to their homes, working and socializing virtually.

In June, British Naturism’s commercial manager Andrew Welch told CNN Travel there had been a rise in naturism over the course of the UK’s lockdown.

Meanwhile in France, Laurent Luft, president of the Association des Naturistes de Paris (ANP), the French capital’s naturist group that dates back to 1953, echoed this sentiment.

“People have been following our videos [and] sent emails saying, ‘You’ve inspired us to give it a go,'” he said.

“When you’re feeling confined and closed in and imprisoned, if at least you can take off your clothes that is some way to free yourself a little,” added Luft. “So, even in our tiny little Parisian apartments with no gardens and sometimes no balcony or anything, we still have that possibility.”

Camping at Domaine de la sablière in France.

Camping at Domaine de la sablière in France.

Courtesy Naked Wanderings

Nick and Lins say their travel blog has seen increased engagement during the lockdown, but they’re wary about putting this down to a growing interest.

“I would rather say it’s because people who are already naturists have much more time to connect,” says Nick.

The couple adds that the pandemic hasn’t been easy for the naturism community — a big part of the movement is being naked in a group, which has become trickier in the wake of the pandemic.

In their home country of Belgium, says Nick, the one designated nude beach closed, in order to give other beachgoers more space to social distance.

Lins took this photo paddle boarding at Bagheera naturist resort in Corsica.

Lins took this photo paddle boarding at Bagheera naturist resort in Corsica.

Courtesy Naked Wanderings

And while spas and leisure centers have reopened, numbers are significantly reduced and pre-booking is key. It’s harder to be spontaneous now, says Nick and Lins, although they know this isn’t unique to the naturism community.

Once they’re able to safely travel again, next on their list are naturist-friendly spots in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The pair are also keen to check out a few new nudist resorts opening in Thailand.

While they enjoy sharing their adventures online to followers, they reiterate that they “don’t think that everybody should become a naturist.”

“It’s really a personal choice,” says Nick. “But it bothers us a little bit when people have such misconceptions about naturism, without even giving it a try. And that’s something we like to keep telling people: ‘Just try it.'”

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

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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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Classic toy tie-up: Etch A Sketch maker to acquire Rubik’s Cube

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Spin Master Corp., the company behind the Etch A Sketch and Paw Patrol brands, has agreed to acquire Rubik’s Brand Ltd. for about $50 million, tying together two of the world’s most iconic toy brands.

The merger comes at a boom time for classic toymakers, as parents turn to familiar products to entertain kids stuck in lockdown. Like sales of Uno, Monopoly and Barbie dolls, Rubik’s Cube purchases have spiked during the pandemic, according to the puzzle maker’s chief executive officer, Christoph Bettin. He expects sales to jump 15% to 20% in 2020, compared with a normal year, when people purchase between 5 million and 10 million cubes.

By acquiring Rubik’s, Toronto-based Spin Master can better compete with its larger rivals, Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. All three companies have pivoted to become less reliant on actual product sales, diversifying into television shows, films and broader entertainment properties based on their toys. Spin Master CEO Anton Rabie said he wouldn’t rule out films or TV shows based on Rubik’s Cubes, but he was focused for now on creating more cube-solving competitions and crossmarketing it with the company’s other products, like the Perplexus.

“Whoever you are, it really has a broad appeal from a consumer standpoint,” Rabie said in an interview. “It’s actually going to become the crown jewel; it will be the most important part of our portfolio worldwide.”

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik created the Rubik’s Cube in 1974, a solid block featuring squares with colored stickers that users could twist and turn without it falling apart. It gained popularity in the 1980s and has remained one of the best-selling toys of all time, spawning spinoff versions, international competitions of puzzle solvers, books and documentaries.

The toy has been particularly well-suited to pandemic conditions. During lockdowns, parents have sought to give kids puzzles that boost problem-solving skills useful in math and science careers. Normally, toys tied to major film franchises are among the most popular products headed into the holidays, but studios have delayed the release of major new movies because of coronavirus. So classic products are experiencing a mini-renaissance.

“The whole pandemic has really increased games and puzzles,” Rabie said. “But whether the pandemic existed or didn’t exist, we’d still buy Rubik’s. It’s had such steady sales for decades.”

Rubik’s CEO Bettin said it was the right time to sell the company, with the founding families behind it ready to move on. London-based Rubik’s Brand was formed out of a partnership between Erno Rubik and the late entrepreneur Tom Kremer, while private equity firm Bancroft Investment holds a minority stake in the company.

Early on, Bettin felt Spin Master was the right home for the puzzle toy, he said. Spin Master, which was started by a group of three friends in 1994, has expanded through the purchase of well-known brands, including Erector sets and Etch A Sketch. Rabie says he works to honor the “legacy” of those products, which Bettin cited as a key reason to sell the brand to Spin Master over larger companies that were interested.

“It was important for us to not be lost in the crowd, and to be sufficiently important and cared for,” Bettin said. “And there’s a balance between being with someone large enough to invest, and agile enough to ensure you are key part of their plans.”

Spin Master won’t own Rubik’s Cubes in time for the holiday season – the transaction is expected to close on Jan. 4. At that time, the company will move Rubik’s operations from a small office in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood to Spin Master’s new games operations center in Long Island.

Some of Rubik’s Brand’s 10 employees will be part of the transition, but they won’t stay permanently, Bettin said.

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