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Trump and Biden want you to believe they’re more anti-war than they are

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For the first time in years, the foreign policy fight in the 2020 US presidential election isn’t about which candidate would best win wars, but rather which would most quickly end them.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are both trying to position themselves as the leader who will finally extricate America from its “forever wars” and focus more on domestic issues. In essence, in what has turned into a “peace election,” they’re both pushing to be the “peace candidate” despite having track records that make it hard to claim such a title.

“I’m bringing our troops back from Afghanistan. I’m bringing our troops back from Iraq. We’re almost out of almost every place,” Trump said during an ABC News town hall last Tuesday — even though the total number of US troops abroad has slightly increased since his predecessor Barack Obama left office. Trump also referenced two normalization agreements between Arab Gulf nations and Israel the US helped broker, to convince voters his foreign policy brought about harmony without bloodshed.

Two days later, during a CNN town hall, Biden answered an Afghanistan War veteran who asked if the Democrat would bring US troops home from that 19-year-long conflict. “Yes, I would,” Biden replied, citing his opposition to troop increases during the Obama administration, though he said he’d keep a small counterterrorism force behind. Then he went after Trump: “This president is the one that has increased the number, not reduced the number” of soldiers in Afghanistan.

It’s clear why Trump and Biden are fiercely competing on this issue. A survey by the Eurasia Group Foundation this month found supporters of both candidates prefer they maintain “a focus on the domestic needs and the health of American democracy, while avoiding unnecessary intervention beyond the borders of the United States.”

After decades of war with little to show for it, Americans of all political stripes appear tired of the deadly, bloody, and costly misadventures — and the leaders of both parties have taken notice.

“No one should be surprised that candidates are fighting over this ground. It’s where most of the voters are,” said Matthew Duss, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s foreign policy adviser, who is also consulting Biden’s campaign on foreign policy. “There’s a real base for these ideas: a trans-partisan, restraint-oriented movement making its presence felt.”

The problem, though, is that both Trump and Biden are deeply flawed messengers here.

Trump, for example, must contend with the military’s Friday announcement that it would send about 100 more troops into Syria to defend against Russian provocations, even though that same day the president told reporters “we’re out of Syria.”

And Biden must still address why he would never again back a faulty war, like the one in Iraq, and why he doesn’t want to make drastic cuts to the defense budget.

Both candidates, then, aren’t exactly who they say they are. “This may be a peace election without a peace candidate,” said Stephen Wertheim, author of Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy.

Presidential candidates often promise peace and then reverse course

A peace election like 2020 is extremely rare, in part because foreign policy rarely features so prominently in the battle for voters. That’s also the case this time around, but the difference is the grand consensus on what to do about America’s wars: End them.

Experts told me there hasn’t been an election like this one in a long time. There was the election of 1940, when debate raged over America’s potential entrance into the European war, or 1968, when both candidates claimed they knew how to achieve peace in Vietnam. In both instances, the winning candidate had to appeal to voters worried about the nation embroiling itself in war, even if they ultimately didn’t live up to that promise.

In 1940, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought a third term against Republican Wendell Willkie. The nation debated whether or not it should send troops to fight in what would later be known as World War II, with most Americans opposed to the idea. Willkie presented himself as more anti-war than he was, putting FDR in a tight spot.

So on October 30, 1940 — a week before election day — the incumbent reiterated the bold vow he and others knew he couldn’t keep, but that he kept promising anyway: “I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again, and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” FDR boomed, receiving a large ovation from the Boston crowd.

After the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US entered the war in Europe at President Roosevelt’s direction. Fighting that war was the right call, in the end, but experts said it still hurt FDR’s credibility with some Americans who’d believed what he promised them.

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Nearly 30 years later, in 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon ran on an unabashedly hawkish anti-communist platform. But public opposition to the Vietnam War was growing in the US, particularly after the North Vietnamese forces’ shocking attacks in January 1968, known as the Tet Offensive, made it painfully clear that President Lyndon Johnson’s claims that the war was going well and that US troops might soon be able to withdraw were false.

By the spring of 1968, Nixon was running against Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, after Johnson had stunned the nation by announcing he would not run for reelection.

Humphrey was Johnson’s vice president, and was thus intimately involved in — and, in the eyes of some voters, tainted by — the Johnson administration’s escalation of the war in Vietnam. So in part to help boost Humphrey’s electoral chances, then, the Johnson administration initiated peace negotiations aimed at finally ending the Vietnam War.

Nixon now suddenly needed to somehow make himself look less like the anti-communist hawk he was known to be and more of a peacemaker. To do this, he pursued a two-pronged strategy: First, he met privately with journalists and told them in background and off-the-record briefings that, contrary to his more publicly hawkish statements, he had a plan to end the war. Second, he set about trying to secretly sabotage the Johnson administration peace talks.

He wasn’t actually planning to end the war if he won, but that didn’t matter. The rumor that Nixon had a “secret plan” to do so made its way to the public, just as he’d known it would.

After Nixon prolonged America’s involvement in Vietnam from the Oval Office, some voters felt duped because they’d bought the idea that he was the peace candidate — a sense of betrayal that contributed to the scale and staying power of years-long anti-war protests.

There’s been a recent change to that trajectory. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, presidential candidates had to detail how they would command the military to defeat terrorists and all other enemies abroad. While the elections featured war-weary skeptics of those endeavors, candidates still had to prove a desire to keep fighting.

Barack Obama rose to prominence partly due to his Iraq War opposition, yes. But what many forget is that, at the same time, he argued for sending more troops to Afghanistan. “For at least a year now, I have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three” in Afghanistan, then-Sen. Obama said during the 2008 presidential election. “I think one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq.”

Today, though, it seems the debate has shifted back to promising less war, not more of it. That’s why Trump and Biden are working overtime to make their cases stick, though they clearly have their work cut out for them.

Why Trump and Biden will struggle to be the peace candidate

If you take a quick look at Trump’s and Biden’s records, it becomes clear neither is — or may ever be — the peace candidate.

Under Trump’s watch, the US has dropped bombs at a record pace in Afghanistan; killed the leaders of ISIS and Iran’s elite forces; supported the Saudi-led war in Yemen despite bipartisan Congressional opposition; escalated US attacks on terrorist targets in Somalia without seriously investigating civilian casualties; and threatened military action in Venezuela and North Korea.

Meanwhile, Biden voted to invade Iraq and authorized airstrikes on Yugoslavia while in the Senate, and backed Obama’s failed interventions in Syria and Libya, though the former vice president later said he didn’t support the North African operation. He also told Stars and Stripes last week that he doesn’t foresee making any large cuts to the defense budget, despite its enormity.

Such previous actions and positions explain why Trump and Biden are having to work hard to look more dovish now. “Both candidates are particularly weak on this issue,” said Andrew Johnstone, co-editor of US Presidential Elections and Foreign Policy: Candidates, Campaigns, and Global Politics from FDR to Bill Clinton.

During Tuesday night’s ABC News town hall, for example, Trump played up the recent normalization-of-relations agreements between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel.

“You’ll have peace in the Middle East, and this is without war and without losing — and I’m talking about on both sides — but without losing our great, young soldiers,” Trump said. “Going there” — the region, he meant — “was the worst decision in the history of our country. We’ve spent $8 trillion and we’ve lost thousands of lives but really millions of lives because I view both sides.”

Trump is also touting his two nominations by right-leaning Scandinavian politicians for the Nobel Peace Prize — one for the Middle East deals and another for a new US-brokered pact between Serbia and Kosovo — though it’s unclear if he’ll win the award. What’s more, he’s promising to sign a new Iran nuclear deal in the first month of his second term instead of boasting that he’ll bomb the country.

Biden is also using any opportunity he gets to note his opposition to fighting new and old wars unless core US interests are at stake. “It’s past time to end the forever wars, which have cost us untold blood and treasure,” he said during a major foreign policy address in July 2019.

“We should bring the vast majority of our troops home — from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East — and narrowly focus our mission on al-Qaeda and ISIS. And we should end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” he continued. “Staying entrenched in unwinnable conflicts drains our capacity to lead on other issues that require our attention, and it prevents us from rebuilding the other instruments of American power.”

Biden later told the New York Times he’d “bring American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term. Any residual US military presence in Afghanistan would be focused only on counterterrorism operations.”

Both candidates have the space to say such things, not only because the public is disenchanted with years-long conflicts, but also because there just isn’t a new, clear war Americans want to fight. Unlike with the Nazis in World War II or al-Qaeda in 9/11, there’s no enemy the nation can get behind defeating.

Of course, Trump’s and Biden’s stances could shift over the next two months before the election, or especially during their presidencies. For instance, Johnstone, at the University of Leicester in the UK, warns that “if there was an actual attack on America or troops overseas, that might change things quite quickly.”

And Emma Ashford, a US foreign policy expert at the CATO Institute think tank, said that when it comes to China, “we’re going to see both sides try to one-up the other on hawkishness.”

Trump has blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic and launched a trade war with the country, while Biden’s team has spoken openly about denying Beijing further access to the South China Sea and about how his opponent “has sold all of us out to China in every way” — signaling an unwillingness to give Beijing an inch in relations with Washington. Neither stance “is quite the same as war,” Ashford notes, “but [they’re] certainly a more hawkish approach.”

The two questions that arise from all this, then, are 1) how much Americans value Trump’s and Biden’s “forever war” promises over their track records, and similarly 2) will voters even view the political fight as a peace election? If not, the candidates’ rhetoric may not be that important in the end.

Still, it’s noteworthy that, time after time, the Republican and the Democrat repeatedly say they will do whatever possible to end the wars America is already in and not initiate a new one. It’s certainly a change, and for many like Wertheim, now at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington, a welcome one.

“Trump and Biden seem to recognize the unpopularity of continued and new wars and are trying to appeal to public sentiment — rightly so,” he said.


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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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