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We Are Collectively Losing Touch With Reality and It’s Extremely Obvious

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Wednesday morning, the New York Post published what it said was a “smoking gun” email that proved Hunter Biden introduced his dad, Joe Biden, to a Ukrainian energy executive in 2015. The specifics of this story are among the most bizarre that have been reported in an extremely bizarre year, and have already proven to be conspiracy candy to an incredibly Online populous that is increasingly losing its connection to a shared reality.

The apparent provenance of this email and other files was a water-damaged laptop that Hunter or someone else dropped off at a repair shop called The Mac Shop in Wilmington, Delaware, where the Bidens famously live. According to the New York Post, someone at the shop repaired the laptop, rifled through its contents, found some mildly interesting emails and photos of Hunter Biden allegedly doing crack “while engaged in a sex act,” and gave the files to the FBI and later Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer Robert Costello. Trump’s former far-right adviser told the New York Post about the files, which were then provided to the paper by Giuliani.

This is a possible series of events, but it’s also a series of events that requires a large number of coincidences and questionable behavior by multiple people involved, many of which have been recurring characters in the relentlessly stupid and cruel Trump saga. This is also happening in a news ecosystem and country where there was a documented, coordinated disinformation campaign involving the leaking of emails of a presidential candidate during the last election cycle. Trump has already made this his new, main line of attack and is already teasing further leaks.

Taken in this context, these coincidences and bizarre series of events have led various people to speculate that the release of these emails is a Russian psy-op, a hacking campaign, or some other conspiracy. Twitter banned links to the New York Post article, citing its hacked information policy, but also citing a lack of authoritative reporting as to the origins of the files in the Post story, which has triggered both the Streisand Effect, further conspiracy theories, and allegations of censorship from most every major Republican politician, including Trump.

At the moment, no reporting including our own has turned up evidence to contradict the Post, and The Daily Beast has published an interview with the repair shop owner, which is also bizarre, but lines up with the Post’s story.

Here is an attempt to explain what is going on here (along with some stray thoughts), based on what has been publicly reported thus far.

What happened:

  • Hunter Biden (or someone else) drops off a water-damaged MacBook Pro at The Mac Shop in Wilmington, Delaware.
  • The owner of the shop, John Paul Mac Isaac (yes there’s a “Mac” in his name according to his LinkedIn and Facebook accounts) fixes the laptop. He attempts to contact Biden (his name is listed on a receipt), but Biden apparently doesn’t pay or respond.
  • According to the Post, after attempting to contact Biden after he didn’t pick up the laptop or pay for service, Isaac searched through the hard drive’s contents, which is taboo in the in the independent repair industry.
  • Isaac contacts the FBI, who, for reasons that are currently unclear, subpoena the hard drive’s contents.
  • After being subpoenaed, the employee makes a copy of the hard drive and gives a copy of it to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
  • Giuliani gives files to the New York Post, which runs a story.
  • Twitter bans links to the story, citing its hacked materials policy.
  • This starts a new uproar about a social media giant blocking reporting from a conservative outlet for reasons that are not well-articulated.

Why almost none of this actually matters and you should go outside and stare into the sun:

The email published by the New York Post is, according to the article, the “smoking gun” that the newspaper and conservatives say proves that Joe Biden is compromised by his son Hunter, who used access to his father to help the Ukranian energy company Burisma. Hunter served on the board of Burisma from 2014 to 2019. In the 2015 email, an adviser to Burisma thanks Hunter for inviting him to meet Biden, a meeting Biden already said didn’t take place.

“Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as ‘not legitimate’ and political by a GOP colleague have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official U.S. policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing,” the Biden campaign told Politico’s Natasha Bertrand.

What exactly the email proves is unclear, unproven, and exhausting to get into because there is contemporaneous evidence disproving said theories. This is a storyline you may remember from late last year and early this year, in which Donald Trump was impeached for imploring the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden in return for aid that had been promised to the country by Congress.

Like many conspiracy theories from conservatives, this is an attempt to take a relatively small bad thing that a Democrat (maybe!) did and blow it out of proportion in order to distract from Trump’s rampant, provable corruption. You may remember this tactic from “But her emails,” the circa 2016 scandal regarding the Hillary Clinton campaign’s hacked and leaked emails. In this case we are talking about a single stolen email that references a meeting that may or may not have happened in 2015 between Joe Biden and a Ukrainian businessman that the Biden campaign has adamantly denied, contrasted with a President and administration that has overseen the deaths of more than 210,000 Americans in a pandemic, separated families at the border, has a massive ongoing tax scandal, actively uses the Presidency to make money at his hotels and golf courses, has involved his entire family in the administration, etc. “Burisma” has become a conservative buzzword that signals you know all about the real scandals, kind of like “Benghazi” or “Uranium One.”

To be clear, it’s not really good that Joe Biden’s son has a kind-of-weird relationship with a big energy country in a foreign country, but this election is a choice between two people and this situation is considerably less concerning than Trump’s various larks.

Fucked up and/or weird shit about this story (negligence-related):

The New York Post failed to keep the apparent source of its documents anonymous, so we know the repair shop in question is The Mac Shop in Wilmington, Delaware. The source of the documents took iPhone photos of a subpoena they say they got from the FBI, and both the source and the Post failed to delete metadata that indicated the photos were taken with an iPhone at GPS coordinates that correspond with The Mac Shop. The Post also failed to redact all mentions of the Mac Shop in a receipt it posted along with the story.

The Post also left Hunter Biden’s phone number and email address exposed.

Fucked up and/or weird shit about this story (creepy-related):

Reporters showed up at The Mac Shop Wednesday, and owner John Paul Isaac gave a bizarre interview in which he contradicted himself several times, according to audio of the interview published by the Daily Beast. Isaac couldn’t explain the timeline of what happened with the device and computer, and also explained that he thought he would be murdered. He referenced the Seth Rich murder conspiracy, in which a fringe of the right believes that Hillary Clinton ordered a DNC staffer killed for various incoherent reasons. “I think there’s a history in this country of people with political motives doing horrible things, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of that,” Isaac says in a recording of the interview published by the Daily Beast.

When reached for comment by Motherboard, The Mac Shop repeatedly declined to comment.

What is very bad and also strange is that an employee for the shop rifled extensively through a customer’s files, which allegedly included a video of him having sex with a woman. This is at worst a crime (depending on the protections on the computer and how they were circumvented, whether Biden had actually ghosted, the types of files shared, etc), and at best a massive invasion of privacy that is not tolerated in the repair industry.

“You go through and look at the data if you are doing data recovery, but only enough to know that you did a successful data recovery,” Louis Rossmann, owner of Rossmann Repair Group in New York City and a well-known YouTuber who partially specializes in data recovery, told Motherboard. “Usually when a data recovery is done, opening 1 or 2 or 5 files on different parts of the drive to see that your recovery worked, so you don’t make an ass of yourself when you do your initial presentation to the customer, is customary. Usually for data recovery, 1 or 2 files are opened just to make sure we got something usable, then we contact the customer for a remote session where they may view the data themselves and determine if it’s a successful recovery. At that point, they come to pick up. You are looking just quickly enough to see that the data has a chance of being a successful recovery and is not a botchery – looking for longer than a second, you might see things you just… can’t unsee.”

“I am not reading details, or focusing on pictures, or looking at parts of the PDF. I am just looking to see that what loads on the screen is not a totally corrupt mess,” he added. “For myself – I would demand complete sanctity of data privacy. I do not want people looking through my data, under any circumstances, besides the basic cursory glance to see that a file opens so they know they did a successful recovery. I offer this same courtesy to all of my customers, and intend to into the future.”

The vast majority of independent repair professionals, including Rossmann, say they take data privacy extremely seriously. Rossmann said the moment privacy is violated, “my business reputation goes down the toilet and no one will trust ever bringing a device here again.”

Fucked up and/or weird shit about this story (FBI-related):

It is not at all clear why the FBI apparently subpoenaed this hard drive, which belonged to a private citizen and the son of the sitting President’s political rival. The FBI declined to comment for this story.

Fucked up and/or weird shit about this story (alleged FBI incompetence that does not pass the smell test-related):

Isaac claims that the FBI contacted him twice to ask for “tech support” with the laptop, one time to ask what kind of cable to buy for powering the laptop.

Another curio that’s pretty weird!:

One of the authors of the New York Post article, Emma-Jo Morris, has an Instagram page full of photos of herself with various Trumpworld characters, including Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The New York Post is a notably conservative-leaning paper, but Morris is openly championing the Trump administration in her posts, which has led some to wonder whether this story was planted by the Trump administration.

Twitter does what it’s best at—making it worse:

Twitter decided to ban anyone from linking to the New York Post article, citing its hacked data policy. It is not clear that this data was specifically hacked, though it was certainly stolen and meets the spirit of the rule, which is not very uniformly enforced and which basically says that you cannot link to hacked or stolen information. This is an evolution from 2016, when many people were linking to and writing about hacked DNC and Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta’s emails. There is no carve-out in Twitter’s policy for articles from news organizations.

Twitter, unable to understand how its actions often make somewhat unpleasant situations much worse, banned the article and played into an additional conspiracy theory that it is biased against conservatives and has thus made the NY Post article an ARTICLE THE LIBERAL MEDIA AND SILICON VALLEY IS CENSORING AND SUPPRESSING.

And so now Twitter’s censorship of this link has turned into its OWN shitshow, which has gotten Senate attention from various cynical lawmakers. Sen. Josh Hawley has already issued four statements about the incident. One that demands that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explain himself, another which asks Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg what the deal is with this article being shared on Facebook, and a third in which he demands the Federal Election Commission investigate Twitter and Facebook for “in-kind contributions” to the Joe Biden campaign. Late Wednesday night, he and Senate Republicans demanded that Dorsey and Zuckerberg testify “regarding censorship of NY Post story.”

Trump has also been tweeting about this censorship relentlessly and will surely continue to do so.

Will we ever stop hearing about this story?

Probably not until the election! And given how we’ve seen other exhausting “scandals” live on in the hearts and minds of conservative media and conspiracy theorists, probably not after that, either. Another great time to have a great time on the internet.

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

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(CNN) —  

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

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

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

Coffee

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

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

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

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

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

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

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

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

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

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

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

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

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

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

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

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

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

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

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

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

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

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

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

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

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

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

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

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

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

Beauty

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

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

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

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

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

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

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

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

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

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

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

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

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

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

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

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

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

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

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

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

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

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

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

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

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

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

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

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

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

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

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

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

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

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

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

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

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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

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Open Sourced logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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