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We Talk With 5 Women Inside the ICE Facility Accused of Performing Staggering Numbers of Hysterectomies

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The moment she removed the bandages from her operation, A. realized, to her surprise and horror, that her belly button was gone.

A. was being held in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia when she was told she needed gynecological surgery to remove ovarian cysts. VICE News has agreed to withhold her name.

The procedure was never fully explained to her, she says in an interview with VICE News. Even now, she has lingering questions about what really happened, including why the procedure involved turning her once-protruding belly button into an indentation.

“This is not what I signed up for,” A. recalls thinking.

A. is among five women who say they underwent gynecological surgery they either didn’t want or did not fully understand while detained at the Irwin County Detention Center, which is run by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections and houses immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

These accounts follow the release of a bombshell whistleblower complaint last Monday that alleges a pattern of “jarring medical neglect” and confusing medical care at the Irwin facility, as well as a disproportionately high number of hysterectomies. The whistleblower, an Irwin nurse named Dawn Wooten, suggested that one doctor had performed several hysterectomies on women who did not know why they received them.

VICE News has reviewed medical records for three of the five women whose accounts are shared in this story. Those records link their procedures to a local gynecologist named Dr. Mahendra Amin. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“We are aware of the whistleblower’s allegations as they relate to Dr. Amin, and vehemently deny them,” Amin’s lawyer, Scott Grubman, wrote in an emailed statement to VICE News. “Dr. Amin is a highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia.”

Grubman declined to answer a list of specific questions for this article. VICE News did not verify allegations that widespread hysterectomies occurred at Irwin.

Wooten’s complaint has set off an investigative scramble among immigration lawyers, journalists, and members of Congress to get to the bottom of what really happened.

A spokesperson for LaSalle Corrections declined to answer a list of questions for this story, citing company policy. “We can assure you the allegations are being investigated by an independent office and we are confident once the facts are made public our commitment to the highest quality care will be evident,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Also, the negligence, reckless disregard and malicious intent of others to advance a purely political agenda will be clear.”

In a statement, ICE Acting Director Tony H. Pham said the allegations in “the whistleblower complaint raise some very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly.”

“As a former prosecutor, individuals found to have violated our policies and procedures should be held accountable,” Pham said. “If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees.”

“We are not an experiment”

A. says she initially sought medical help for menstrual bleeding and pain while detained at Irwin. After an ultrasound, she says she was told she had three ovarian cysts, including one the size of a golf ball, and needed an emergency procedure.

“They said they were going to pop the cyst and drain it, and that was it,” A. recalls.

She says she only learned on the morning of her operation, from a male nurse, that she would need to be put under anesthesia for surgery.

“And then I’m like, ‘Wait, I’m having a surgery?’” she says. “No one ever asked me if that’s what I wanted.”

After awakening from the procedure, A. says she was surprised to find surgical wounds on her bikini line and around her pelvis. A. provided VICE News with photos of her torso from before and after her operation.

Medical records reviewed by VICE News confirm that A. had a procedure known as a D&C, or dilation and curettage, which involves dilating the cervix and scraping the uterine lining. A doctor who spoke to VICE News said that such a procedure, which is performed transvaginally, would not account for her deformed belly button or other surgical wounds. But the records may be incomplete.

After the surgery, A. complained numerous times to Irwin staffers about pain and excessive bleeding, to the point that she had to change her pad about every half-hour, the records show. She wasn’t given antibiotics until weeks later.

“I was basically taking care of it myself,” she says. A. went back to Amin’s practice twice in the six months following the surgery, according to her medical records.

Mileidy Cardentey Fernandez, a 39-year-old woman from Cuba who remains detained inside the Irwin facility, also says she had a gynecological procedure that she doesn’t understand.

Cardentey tells VICE News she requested medical attention after realizing her period was late and was told that an examination revealed cysts on her ovaries.

She says that she was initially told that she’d be given pills that would dissolve the cysts — but that she never got the pills. After a follow-up, she recalls, a doctor told her that the cysts had grown, and that the solution was to have surgery.

She says she wasn’t given a consent form to sign and that the medical staff spoke to her in English, a language she doesn’t speak well — leaving her with only a hazy understanding of her operation. Cardentey says that in response to her request for a translator, a young woman was brought in who spoke some Spanish. But she says this woman didn’t explain the surgery.

Cardentey was told she’d have just one incision, but instead she says she woke up with three. She was told something about removing a tumor from her “left tube,” she says, but she’s unsure what that meant.

She says she’s still in pain from her operation. (A doctor briefed on the case by VICE News said this could be a normal side effect, although they would need more information to be sure.) And despite requesting her full medical records multiple times, Cardentey says she still hasn’t received them.

“We are not an experiment,” Cardenetey told VICE News in a phone call from Irwin. “We are women that have human rights.” Cardentey fears what might happen to her, because she’s speaking up while she’s still detained at Irwin.

“I am scared,” she says. “I know that the battle that awaits me inside the facility isn’t going to be easy.”

Cardentey still has her hospital bracelet, according to her lawyer Alexis Ruiz, which lists the date of her procedure, Aug. 14, 2020, and her doctor’s name: Amin.

Partial medical records reviewed by VICE News indicate that Cardentey was scheduled for an appointment with Amin, on Aug. 4, 2020. The records don’t cover an appointment on Aug. 14th, or the details of any surgical procedure.

Maria, a 53-year-old woman who was detained at Irwin before being deported to El Salvador in April 2018, has also struggled to get a hold of her medical records, according to her lawyer, Benjamin Osorio.

Maria, who speaks Spanish, underwent three surgeries while she was detained at Irwin. None were fully explained in her native language, Osorio says.

After one surgery, Maria woke up with 16 stitches in her abdomen; a fellow detainee told her that her uterus had been removed, her lawyer says. VICE News was unable to obtain Maria’s medical records, and could not determine the identity of her surgeon.

Osorio also represents another former Irwin detainee who, he says, was diagnosed with cancer. Osorio says this woman had two procedures: In July 2019, she had a D&C. About a month later, she received a hysterectomy, her lawyer says. VICE News was not able to review the woman’s medical records, but Osorio says that Amin performed the hysterectomy.

“She felt like she was coerced and pressured. She felt like she didn’t have an option,” Osorio says, adding that his client wasn’t presented with any alternative treatments. “It just seemed like, ‘This is what we’re doing, you don’t have a choice.’”

Pauline Binam, 30, the first woman to go public with claims about her experience in Irwin, was released from an ICE detention facility on Saturday.

In 2019, after nearly two years in ICE custody, Binam was diagnosed with ovarian cysts, according to her lawyer, Van Huynh, and her sister, Nicole. Binam was told she needed a D&C, her lawyer and sister say. After the procedure, the doctor who performed the operation told Binam that he’d removed one of her fallopian tubes because it was “clogged,” Huynh says.

“She is ‘bothered’ by the fact that she went into surgery expecting a D&C and ended up having a salpingectomy,” a doctor wrote of Binam in a psychiatric progress note reviewed by VICE News. The note was written just five days after her surgery.

During a follow-up appointment, Huynh says, the doctor told Binam a different story: He’d removed the fallopian tube because it was tied with the other tube. Binam hasn’t had a period since, according to Huynh.

Binam, an immigrant from Cameroon, arrived in the United States when she was just two years old, according to her lawyer and sister. Earlier this year, Binam was transferred from Irwin County Detention Center to another facility in Texas. On Wednesday, just two days after the whistleblower complaint was filed, she was set to be deported to Cameroon.

Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, demanded that ICE halt Binam’s deportation, and on Saturday hailed her release on Twitter.

Investigations at Irwin

Now, members of Congress say they’re determined to find out what happened at the facility. The chairs of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform have requested an emergency investigation into the whistleblower complaint, which was submitted to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. More than 170 members of Congress have also separately called for an investigation.

In his statement, Pham, the ICE acting director, said he welcomed investigations into the matter. According to ICE data, two people at the Irwin County Detention Center have been referred to medical providers for hysterectomies since 2018.

Amin, the doctor linked to some of the surgeries uncovered by VICE News, confirmed to the Intercept last week that he had performed procedures on women detained at Irwin. He said that he had only performed “one or two” hysterectomies over the last two or three years, but he did not clarify whether those hysterectomies were performed on women at Irwin.

Amin is not a board-certified OB-GYN, according to a Daily Beast report that cited representatives of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Board of Medical Specialties. He reportedly completed medical school in India and a residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey.

Board certification is a voluntary process generally meant to enhance a specialist’s standing beyond simply being licensed by the state. The Daily Beast also reported that Amin “appears to maintain an active license with the Georgia Composite Medical Board.”

Prism reported that Amin is viewed as a “pillar of the community” in Douglas, Georgia, where he’s practiced obstetrics and gynecology for decades. Local residents have created a Facebook page to post positive testimonials from people who say they were his patients.

In 2013, state and federal authorities sued Amin, the Hospital Authority of Irwin County, and several other co-defendants for allegedly submitting false claims to Medicare and Medicaid. The defendants agreed to pay $520,000 to settle the claims in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. There was no determination of liability.

According to a statement from Amin’s attorney, Grubman, Amin anticipates that a full airing of the situation will show he did nothing wrong. Grubman pointed to a Washington Post article in which “one of the whistleblower’s attorneys expressly acknowledged that she did not speak to any of the women directly and that she ‘included the allegations in the report with the intention of triggering an investigation into whether or not the claims were true.’”

“We look forward to all of the facts coming out and are confident that, once they do, Dr. Amin will be cleared of any wrongdoing,” Grubman wrote.

COVER: Dawn Wooten, a nurse at Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga., speaks at a Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 news conference in Atlanta protesting conditions at the immigration jail. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File)

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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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