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“We just don’t know what’s happening in our bodies”: Covid-19 long-haulers are still suffering

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On March 15, Melanie Montano woke up with a fever and chills. Her Covid-19 symptoms progressed quickly; she lost her sense of smell and taste and had trouble breathing.

Seven months later, she’s still struggling with fevers, brain fog, fatigue, and pain in her arms and legs. She’ll feel better some days, only to feel worse the next, in what she calls the “coronacoaster.”

With 8 million cases of Covid-19 now confirmed in the US, stories like Montano’s are becoming increasingly common. But you might not know it from listening to President Trump. In his first extended statement in October since his own diagnosis, he falsely implied that everyone infected with the coronavirus can expect a rapid and full recovery. “Now what happens is you get better,” he said. “That’s what happens, you get better.”

For many diagnosed with Covid-19, nothing could be further from the truth. Preliminary research suggests somewhere between 10 and 99 percent of people continue to have symptoms for at least two months after infection.

“When Trump says ‘don’t be afraid of it’ — I’ve been so angry in the last week, I’m just trying to calm down,” says Kate Meredith of Beverly, Massachusetts, who has been experiencing Covid-19 symptoms since mid-March.

President Trump removes his mask upon return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 5.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

To this day, Meredith has fevers four to five days a week. “I go up one flight of stairs and can’t breathe,” she says. She also now has tachycardia, a heart condition where standing up too quickly makes her heart rate jump to 140. Since March, she has been to the emergency room three times, and to the doctor 35 times. She still gets debilitating headaches almost daily, and has run out of her two and a half months of medical leave.

Meredith and Montano are among thousands of people who have continued to experience extended symptoms or suffered relapses after an initial coronavirus infection. As new information emerges about the many, varied impacts that can linger, patients are facing doubt from doctors, and structural failures that loom over an uncertain future.

What percentage of Covid-19 patients have persistent symptoms?

There have been a number of studies now trying to answer this question, but there isn’t consensus about the true prevalence of long-term Covid-19 symptoms. Much of the preliminary research has been limited to small numbers of patients, and many focus on hospitalized patients, obscuring what happens to milder cases.

For example, one study out of Wuhan, China, of 153 non-hospitalized confirmed coronavirus patients found that 22 percent of patients had experienced symptom relapse, and 11 percent of patients had symptoms for more than eight weeks. (It also found a whopping 77 percent of patients had neurological symptoms.)

Other research focusing on outcomes for severely ill Covid-19 patients who were hospitalized reports worse odds, like one study in Italy that found 87.4 percent of people had not totally recovered after 60 days. (That said, recovery from intensive care for any illness can take weeks or months; for example, only 33 percent of sepsis patients have returned to work within three months.) Of the 143 patients in the study, 55 percent still had three or more symptoms, like fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath, at day 60.

Members of the medical staff treat a patient with a helmet-based ventilator at a Covid-19 intensive care unit in Houston, Texas, on July 28.
Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Another study followed hospitalized patients for nearly twice as long, 111 days. They also found that 55 percent of patients continued to have fatigue, 42 percent had shortness of breath, and 34 percent reported loss of memory.

Yet another study of more than 112 hospitalized and 2,001 non-hospitalized patients in the Netherlands found that only 0.7 percent of people were symptom-free 79 days after their infection. (The most common symptoms were fatigue and difficulty breathing, although the number of symptoms people experienced decreased over time.)

Studies that include non-hospitalized patients can have limitations in how they find participants, and in their sample sizes. The COVID Symptom Study, for instance, has asked people to self-report their symptoms into an app after their diagnosis. Analyzing data from 4 million people in the US, UK, and Sweden, the researchers found that approximately 10 percent of people experience prolonged illness for more than three weeks after Covid-19. But many users have reported frustration with the app not including certain symptoms, or needing to answer questions daily that didn’t feel applicable, so user retention suffered.

The National Institutes of Health recently updated its Covid-19 guidelines to include a description of persistent symptoms. These state that neurologic and psychiatric symptoms have been reported in coronavirus patients, including high rates of anxiety and depression, particularly in younger patients. They add that patients may experience “headaches, vision changes, hearing loss, loss of taste or smell, impaired mobility, numbness in extremities, tremors, myalgia, memory loss, cognitive impairment, and mood changes for up to 3 months” after their initial illness.

No one has yet defined how long “long Covid” might last — many of the studies simply stopped tracking people after a set time. But research on other severe coronaviruses like SARS shows that 40 percent of previously hospitalized patients had chronic fatigue symptoms 3.5 years after their diagnosis. Clinicians and patients don’t know what this might mean for Covid-19 patients with persistent symptoms.

Leonard Jason, a professor of psychology at DePaul University and director for the Center for Community Research, is enrolling participants in two studies to try to help understand risk factors in both children and adults with long Covid. “There’s almost no questions that have been answered,” he says. “We really don’t know a lot.”

People with cardiac or lung problems may have sustained damage to their organs, but many people are also experiencing symptoms without good explanations, he says. “Some people stay ill, even when they seem okay” from clinical tests, he said. “That’s a massive challenge.”

Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a press conference that right now, long Covid is a risk “that you cannot quantify.” But, he said, it’s still a huge reason to stop the spread of the virus. “We need to avoid all Covid-19 infections, both in terms of reducing transmission but also in reducing the long-term health impacts of this disease.”

Who is most at risk of developing long Covid?

Long-term Covid-19 is not equally distributed among the population. Just like the initial viral severity, these lingering symptoms seem to hit those with certain risk factors more frequently.

The World Health Organization says that risk factors for persistent symptoms include high blood pressure, obesity, and mental health conditions. But many previously healthy and active people have also had long-term issues.

In one study of 139 hospitalized patients in Wuhan, the median age of those with persistent symptoms was 55, and half previously had one or more other conditions, like hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease. But the study only looked at patients with severe initial symptoms.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a telephone survey of 292 adults who’d tested positive for Covid-19 from April to June — including those with both mild and severe cases. They found that two weeks after their diagnosis, 35 percent of people weren’t back to normal, and between the ages of 18 and 34, 20 percent of people reported prolonged symptoms. About half were women, and Hispanic and Black people were overrepresented.

To truly answer the question of who is most at risk, scientists will need to do longitudinal studies tracking large groups of Covid-19 patients with both mild and severe symptoms, for months or even years. These studies would ideally include biologic samples over time as well as self-reported symptoms and medical histories. Then they’ll need to use analysis methods to eliminate confounding factors in order to identify what might put people at risk.

Members of the Montana National Guard conduct community surveillance testing for Covid-19 in Livingston, Montana, on September 20.
William Campbell/Getty Images

Although the little research there has been on long Covid has focused on adults, children can also have persistent symptoms. For example, Courtney — a mother in Calgary, Canada, who asked that she and her son be identified by their middle names for the sake of her children’s privacy — can recite the dates and details of her son’s ordeal by heart. “I’ve told this story so many times because we’ve been in and out of the hospital for months,” she says.

All three of her young children got sick with Covid-19 in early February. One of her 1.5-year-old twins, Alexander, got better — only to get a high fever and full-body rash about a month later.

Although he wasn’t able to get a Covid-19 test, his infectious disease team and pediatrician now both believe Alexander actually had MIS-C, a rare but severe condition associated with the coronavirus — or possibly long Covid. Since April, he’s been hospitalized three times and to the ER twice more, and continues to have persistent skin lesions, conjunctivitis, and chronic fatigue. He has nightmares from the trauma of visiting the hospital at least once a week for eight months.

“He wakes up screaming, ‘No, no, ow, ow,’” Courtney says. No one can tell her when he might improve. “Just because we don’t have the data that Covid-19 negatively affects babies and children doesn’t mean they are somehow immune.”

Kate Meredith’s daughter also got Covid-19, two weeks after Meredith did. While she initially had a mild case, seven months later she continues to have extreme fatigue and tachycardia. On her first day of in-person classes this fall, she fell asleep. “How do you explain that to teachers?” Meredith asks.

There’s currently little conclusive data on how many children may suffer from persistent symptoms, in part because it’s a population that frequently have mild or no symptoms — making initial testing and later complications like MIS-C more difficult to diagnose.

Jason, who is studying children’s risk factors for long Covid, says, “If kids don’t recover from an illness, that’s really significant,” adding that long-Covid children will need lots of additional support. “You have to be very concerned that these kids don’t end up continuing a downward cycle of loss and stress.”

Long-Covid patients navigate doubt and difficulty in the medical system

Because symptoms can be varied, long-Covid patients have also had to seek out multiple medical specialists who may not communicate much with one another.

For example, Meredith still has neurological, pulmonary, and cardiac symptoms. “Should I go see a neurologist?” she asks. “All these smaller symptoms require so much specialized attention.” Even with a positive test, she’s encountered doubt in the doctors she’s turned to.

“Obviously this is uncharted territory for a lot of doctors,” she says. “We just don’t know what’s happening in our bodies.”

Many with long-term symptoms are also having trouble proving they ever had Covid-19, since many have been unable to get a test, due to testing scarcity.

When Matt Kuzelka got sick in March, he struggled to find somewhere to get tested, while trying to isolate himself from his wife and three kids in their small Brooklyn apartment. When he was finally able to find an opening at a testing center in Manhattan, he asked the center how he was supposed to travel there. “They said, ‘You can take the subway or Uber,’” he recounts, “but I knew I had it. I was like, ‘What about the driver?’ and they said, he’s just going to have to take his chances.’” Kuzelka ultimately decided not to take the risk of exposing anyone else.

Seven months later, he’s having trouble navigating the additional medical care he now needs, like cardiac MRIs. “It’s been harder to navigate the world of health care needs, because I don’t have a positive Covid test.”

For others, their struggle has been complicated by deeper systemic issues. Montano, who has asthma, needed a doctor’s referral in order to get tested in New Jersey in March. But her now ex-primary care physician initially refused to give her one. “He thought I was being theatrical and told me to take a nap,” she says. Less than a week later, Montano was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where she was initially put on supplemental oxygen — but rather than being admitted, she was sent home to her elderly mother without any additional treatment.

Montano, who describes herself as a light-skinned mixed-race woman, describes a feeling of helplessness in trying to get medical care. “You don’t want to be too vocal, you don’t want to overstep with your family, there’s this facade you want to uphold to save face, and also you have to admit that you’re just human. But how do you admit you’re just human when you’re treated less than human?” she says. In addition to being disproportionately exposed to the virus, Montano says, “Black and Latino communities don’t get treated as timely or as well.”

“I’m still not sure what the future entails”

To try to help patients get more coordinated care, several post-Covid care clinics have popped up around the country; one at Mount Sinai initially required a positive Covid-19 test, although it has since opened its criteria. Their waitlist for new patients is now at least six weeks, according to Gothamist.

While patients wait, there’s the added economic and family stress of being sick for so long. “It’s just been this surreal extended medical nightmare for both of us,” Meredith says, adding, “I haven’t even looked at all the bills yet; it terrifies me.” She’s a single mom, and when she was really ill, her daughter — whom at one point Meredith had to leave at home alone as she drove herself to the ER — asked, “What happens if you die?”

“I downplayed it, but I’ve been worried about my future. If I were to have debilitating symptoms, would I have a job left? Would I be able to take care of her?” Meredith pauses. “I’m still not sure what the future entails.”

Because the truth is that because this is an entirely new illness, no one can tell long-Covid patients if they will return to their normal selves, or how long that might take to happen. This makes moving forward into a life shaped by their disease more difficult.

Especially without a visible illness, Jason says, “Our society does not value people who are sick. If you don’t have a credible, understood illness, you’re basically falling out of the mainstream, and in a very vulnerable situation.”

Lois Parshley is a freelance investigative journalist. Follow her Covid-19 reporting on Twitter @loisparshley.


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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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