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What it’s like to travel from the US to Hong Kong right now

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Hong Kong (CNN) — A few months ago, I boarded a plane from New York City (where I was visiting my partner and siblings) to Hong Kong (where I’m from).

The last time I was in the United States was in January; the first known local case of Covid-19 had just been detected in Seattle and the virus was beginning to spread across the West Coast. The World Health Organization hadn’t yet declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

By October 2020, the States passed a bleak milestone of recording more than 210,000 coronavirus-related deaths — the most in any country in the world.

Hong Kong is one of many places that have barred Americans from entering. But, as a Hong Kong resident, I was allowed to go home, under the condition that I would undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel. I had to choose a place from a list of 17 hotels pre-selected by the Hong Kong government — and pay out of pocket.
Hong Kong’s Department of Health has designated the US and other countries including Pakistan, India, South Africa, the UK and Russia “high risk.” Travelers coming in from these countries have to present a set of documents at arrival. These include a hotel booking, a nucleic acid test report showing that the passenger has tested negative for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before departure, a signed document issued by the laboratory administering the test, and a certificate from the clinic or laboratory proving that its respective government recognizes it.

Unlike in Hong Kong, where almost any health care provider can test and return results to patients in a few hours, finding a hospital or clinic with a similarly speedy turnaround in New York — let alone in the US as a whole — was trickier. Public hospitals in Hong Kong can test patients for $22.50; testing in private hospitals is more expensive ($300 but include detailed lab reports). Without health insurance, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test — the “gold standard of Covid-19 testing” and most popular among travelers — could cost up to $300 in the States.

After days of research — digging around on Google, calling clinics and relying on friends and family for information, I found a hospital that was familiar with the Hong Kong government’s requirements. I scheduled a virtual consultation with a doctor who gave me the green light to book a PCR test. This doctor would, later on, sign and stamp the documents for my flight home.

Karina Tsui, mask on, prepares to fly from the United States to Hong Kong.

Karina Tsui, mask on, prepares to fly from the United States to Hong Kong.

Karina Tsui

72 hours before flying

When I arrived for my test appointment at a Manhattan hospital, I was told to follow signs leading to a makeshift “testing center”. A nurse was there, anticipating my arrival, and explained how the procedure would pan out. She reassured me that I would get my results in 24 to 48 hours. Then, without much warning, she stuck a long cotton swab up my right nostril, wriggled it around for seven seconds and stored the sample in a plastic container.

I was in and out of the hospital in less than five minutes. Because I bought travel insurance from Atlas America ahead of time, I didn’t need to pay a cent. Twelve hours later, I received a report indicating that I had tested negative for SARS-COV-2.

Day of the flight

Terminal 8 at John F. Kennedy Airport was always a buzzing transit hub where business people, students and tourists congregated in preparation for long-haul journeys across the world. On the day of my flight home on August 31, the terminal was deserted.

At Cathay Pacific‘s check-in counter, there were more people behind the desks than in front. All Cathay staff members wore surgical masks; some had protective goggles on as well. A staff member greeted me before I could make my way to the counter to check my documents. I felt my chest tighten as I worried that I might’ve missed something and wouldn’t be allowed on the flight.

The Covid testing area at Hong Kong International Airport.

The Covid testing area at Hong Kong International Airport.

Karina Tsui

Since the pandemic started, Cathay Pacific has significantly reduced their flight count from the US to Hong Kong. I was scheduled to fly on the only direct flight to Hong Kong that day. Unlike most people I knew, who flew into Hong Kong and were transferred to the city’s Asia World-Expo Center for mandatory testing, passengers on my flight would make our way to Hong Kong International Airport’s Terminal 2 — a terminal that, before the pandemic, exclusively operated Asia-bound flights.

Members of Hong Kong’s Department of Health guided us through various stations where we would fill out forms, receive a wristband with a tracking device in it and conduct a self-test.

Since our flight arrived in the afternoon, we could wait for our test results in a government-subsidized hotel. Those arriving in the morning would have to wait for results at the airport — sometimes taking up to eight hours.

Boarding and flight experience

There were eight airport staff standing by the security checkpoint — although there were only two travelers passing through. Before Covid-19 caused disruption to travel, security screenings at JFK would typically take 20 to 30 minutes — this time, the whole process lasted less than three.

An eerie silence filled the halls leading to the boarding gates. I passed by duty-free shops clad with shutters. Only one or two coffee shops and bookstores were open. The sound of my footsteps echoed against the steel walls.

A member of the crew took our temperatures as we boarded the aircraft. I counted 13 passengers total, meaning that the Airbus 350-1000 was just at 3% capacity. With so few people on board, those of us in Economy class each had a row to ourselves. Just before takeoff, the captain announced that everyone would have to fill out a digital health declaration form.

On board, all flight attendants wore masks and protective glasses and kept a safe distance from passengers. Bathrooms were cleaned every hour, and bottles of water distributed just as frequently. All passengers were given the same two hot meals, plus there were the usual snacks — including my favorite, Cup Noodles — upon request.

Tsui sported a face shield for extra protection.

Tsui sported a face shield for extra protection.

Karina Tsui

Landing in Hong Kong

When we touched down in Hong Kong, I felt the same sense of relief and excitement as I always do when I come home, despite knowing that the next 14 days would bring about so much uncertainty.

At the airport, signs guided travelers from high-risk countries to a testing site at Terminal 2. Along the way, airport security staff checked health declaration forms, ensuring that all details like local ID card numbers, phone numbers and hotel quarantine addresses were properly filled out. Each passenger was given a personalized QR code to pass through each station efficiently.

A member of the Department of Health called my phone number to check if it was working — she told me it was so authorities could contact me during quarantine. Another staff member tagged me with a secure wristband with a tracker, the tracker would then connect to an app called “Stay At Home,” which I was asked to download on my phone.

Each person on my flight was given a self-test kit and instructed to go to a private booth to spit into a plastic container. We were given leaflets outlining step-by-step directions, from how to properly extract “deep throat saliva” (by making a “kuuragh” sound) to how to thoroughly sanitize and secure sample containers. After all passengers completed their tests, we picked up our checked luggage and were taken to a government-subsidized hotel for one night.

The hotel was clean, and we were given both dinner and breakfast for free. At 10 a.m. the next morning, I received a call from the Department of Health saying that I had tested negative for coronavirus and could make my own way to the hotel I booked for the remaining time of quarantine.

To my surprise, there were taxis lined up outside the quarantine hotel. Drivers didn’t seem to mind that we could potentially carry the virus. I took a taxi across the harbor to my hotel in Causeway Bay. Rolling down the car windows, I savored the final few moments “outside” — feeling the Hong Kong humidity and sunshine on my skin.

The view from Tsui's hotel room in Hong Kong.

The view from Tsui’s hotel room in Hong Kong.

Karina Tsui

At the hotel

My room at the Park Lane Hotel was 340 square feet and included all the usual amenities of a room at a four-star hotel — a flat-screen TV, a large desk, reading chair, a mini fridge (which was empty), water bottles, a bath and shower.

There was just enough space on either side of my bed to stretch out and exercise. I had a view of Victoria Park, the green lungs of the busy commercial district below me. Like many of the high-rise buildings around Hong Kong, my windows were locked for safety reasons.

Certain rules were nonnegotiable. For the duration of my quarantine, no one was allowed in or out of my room. Family and friends could drop off items, but they would have to leave them at reception for hotel staff to bring up. Everything from food and water to fresh sheets and towels were left outside my door — I was not allowed to have any interaction with anyone.

As part of the hotel package, I was sent breakfast and coffee every morning but otherwise, my meals were ordered via Deliveroo or dropped off at reception by family and friends.

For the first few days, as I was adjusting to jet lag, I spent early mornings watching the sunrise and seeing people slowly trickle into the park. There was a dance troupe rehearsing the same routine every morning, a group of older men practicing tai chi at the rear end of the park. Most schools were still closed, so children spent hours playing on the lawn in the afternoons.

This testing kit was sent to Tsui's room.

This testing kit was sent to Tsui’s room.

Karina Tsui

No place like home

Hong Kong was beginning to bounce back after the government imposed strict lockdown measures in response to a third wave of infections. Being confined and seeing the city from one perspective allowed me to take in moments that would otherwise go unnoticed. I felt lucky to be in the position I was in.

Throughout the two weeks, I made a conscious effort to stick to a routine — to move my body, stimulate my mind and stay in touch with the outside world through conversations with friends and family. I was sent coloring books and puzzles to keep me occupied during my down time. I listened to podcasts and slowly made my way through a few books.

But to say that the entire quarantine experience was as romantic as the quiet moments would minimize just how much the pandemic is a mental fight as it is physical. There were times when I felt like I lost control — not being able to prepare a meal for myself, for instance, or manage the portions of my food without being wasteful.

As per strict government regulations, all my food was sent to me in single-use plastic and as the days went by, I felt increasingly paranoid about how much waste I was producing. Every afternoon, I would receive a “wellness call” from the hotel manager, and while the check-in was much appreciated, even he couldn’t help me with my concerns for the environment.

Journaling was a cathartic and mindful way to blow off steam, as was talking to friends for hours and keeping up with writing and other creative projects. Two days before my release, I was sent another self-test kit and tested negative. I received a text from the Department of Health on my last day and, at 11:59 p.m., I was allowed out of my room. I saw a familiar face at the check-out counter — a woman who had been on my flight from New York what seemed like centuries ago.

I am the first of my friends in Hong Kong to go through the process of hotel quarantine, but as we approach the holiday season, I have no doubt that I won’t be the last. While it was difficult at times, I was lucky to be in a comfortable space and thanks to technology, I never felt like I was alone.

Despite the whirlwind process, I’m grateful that the Hong Kong government is taking extra precautions to keep residents safe. Even as we edge towards the precipice of a potential “fourth wave” of infections in Hong Kong, I feel that I’m in one of the safest places in the world.

Karina Tsui is an independent journalist covering politics and arts in Hong Kong. She was previously a reporter at Monocle.

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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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