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Who should get the Covid-19 vaccine first? The equality vs. equity debate, explained.



When we finally find a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, every nation in the world will want it. But for a while, there won’t be enough to go around. So who should get access to the first doses?

One way to answer that question is to say: The nations that discover the vaccine — or that can pay those who discover it — will get first dibs. All the other nations will just have to wait until more doses can be manufactured.

This is “vaccine nationalism,” where every nation just looks out for itself, prioritizing its citizens without regard to what happens to the citizens of lower-income countries that can’t afford to buy up doses. It’s a path that most ethicists think is wrong. It’s also the path the United States is currently on.

September 18 was the deadline for governments around the world to join the COVAX Facility, a unique financing mechanism that asks countries to pool their resources together so that humanity has a better shot at discovering a successful vaccine quickly. In return, all participating countries are promised that when that day comes, they’ll get equal access to the vaccine.

Some 156 countries signed agreements with COVAX, representing 64 percent of the global population. The US did not.

“Bad! Bad!” is how Ezekiel Emanuel, a medical ethics expert at the University of Pennsylvania, characterized America’s decision. “This is an opportunity for low- and middle-income countries to get a vaccine and not just have it as a rich boys’ club,” he told me.

Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, also bemoaned the decision. “It’s just incredibly shoot-yourself-in-the-foot,” on two levels, she said.

Economically, Faden argues, it’s in America’s self-interest to help ensure every other country’s population is vaccinated, because until the fear of Covid-19 dissipates, trade and travel won’t go back to normal. And health-wise, nobody is safe until everybody is safe. That’s because any Covid-19 vaccine we find is not going to be 100 percent effective. It can’t fully protect everyone from getting infected, so one infected traveler entering the US can still cause an outbreak.

For these moral and pragmatic reasons, ethicists generally reject vaccine nationalism (though some think it’s fine for a government to prioritize its citizens within certain limits). Instead, they say we should think about distributive justice, figuring out how to get lifesaving resources to every human being in a fair way.

But that unobjectionable-sounding notion actually obscures a key question, one that ethicists are now fiercely debating: When we say we want to distribute a vaccine fairly, do we care more about equality or about equity?

Equality would mean each country gets the same proportion of vaccine doses relative to its population size, and at the same rate. Equity would mean we drive more vaccine doses to the countries most in need.

The distinction between these two approaches — and which one wins out — will shape who gets a vaccine quickly and who’ll have to wait around, hoping they don’t get sick in the meantime. Let’s get clear on each approach, and understand why groups like the World Health Organization are pushing for equality right now, while some ethicists say that’s a mistake.

Why the WHO is focusing on equality

The WHO is one of three groups leading the COVAX Facility. The other two are Gavi, a public-private partnership that spearheads immunization efforts in developing countries, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, an international collaboration (formed as a Gates Foundation initiative after the West African Ebola epidemic) to make vaccines available quickly when outbreaks happen.

COVAX is kind of like a mutual fund, but for vaccines. It’s creating a diversified portfolio of vaccine candidates (currently, nine are in development and a further nine are under evaluation), the idea being that it’s better to back many candidates, knowing that some won’t pan out.

“Very few countries can do what the US is doing: We’re backing seven horses at this point, so we can create our own diversified portfolio,” Faden said. “But many countries don’t have the resources to do that for themselves. This is the answer to that problem.”

COVAX asks wealthier countries to fund the development and manufacturing of the vaccine candidates. Lower-income countries don’t have to pay; they’ll be supported through voluntary donations to a dedicated COVAX mechanism called the Advance Market Commitment. COVAX aims to buy and make available 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

If that happens, it’ll be a huge deal. COVAX’s effort to get countries to work with each other instead of against each other could save many lives worldwide. According to Gavi CEO Seth Berkley, it’s the biggest multilateral effort since the Paris climate agreement; certainly, it’s a big step in the right direction.

Here’s how the WHO says COVAX allocation should work: Once a safe and effective vaccine is discovered, there should be an initial phase where all participating countries get doses in proportion to their population, at the same rate. Essentially, 3 percent of every country’s population would get access to the vaccine before any country moves on to 4 or 5 percent. This proportional allocation would continue until every country has enough doses to vaccinate 20 percent of its population.

The WHO suggests the initial tranche of doses, aiming to cover 3 percent, would likely go to health care workers. The tranche covering 20 percent would likely go to high-risk adults, like older people and those with underlying conditions. (The WHO says 20 percent would be enough to cover these groups in most countries, though some countries have older populations and might need more. They can request enough doses for up to 50 percent of their population, but they won’t receive doses for more than 20 percent until all other countries have been offered that amount.)

Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, explained the rationale to a panel of reporters on September 15.

“What we’ve done in the Fair Allocation Framework, at least in the first phase, is to go with the principle of equality,” she said. “Because in this case, the disease has spread across the world. It has not spared any country, high-income or low-income, whereas diseases like TB and malaria disproportionately affect low- and middle- income countries.”

However, she said that after countries have received enough doses to vaccinate 20 percent of their populations, she expects to shift toward “more allocation to those countries which appear to be needing it much more than other countries” — that is, equity.

Pressed as to why COVAX doesn’t adopt an equity model right from the get-go, Swaminathan candidly explained that the reason is pragmatic: If wealthier countries are told they’ll have to wait in line for vaccine doses behind poorer countries, they may reject COVAX.

“There’s a big, big risk that if you propose a very idealistic model, you may be left with nothing,” she said. She recalled the 2009 swine flu pandemic, when wealthy countries like the US scooped up most doses of the H1N1 vaccine. Low-income countries couldn’t get access until later, by which point the acute phase of the pandemic was already over.

“That’s the historical reality. We are trying to create a new reality,” Swaminathan said. “But you cannot leave behind the high-income countries. To say to them, ‘You don’t have a big problem right now and therefore you don’t need the vaccine,’ may not be acceptable to them because the virus is there and waiting to spring back the moment people go back to normal. … Without their agreement, it’s not going to be successful.”

In other words, the WHO is conscious of the politics at play here.

Faden co-drafted the WHO’s Values Framework for vaccine allocation, which does list equity among its guiding principles, even though it wouldn’t kick in till later. “Look, there is a real-world problem,” she told me. “We currently live in a global order that is profoundly unjust. We need a strategy that appeals to and works for high-income countries. The COVAX Facility’s principle of simple equality for the first 20 percent is this strategic attempt to incentivize countries to get in — the kind that can pay.”

Why some ethicists say we should focus on equity

Other ethicists are pushing for a more idealistic framework, one that prioritizes equity from the start. Chief among them is Emanuel, the University of Pennsylvania expert. Even as he participates in several WHO working groups on Covid-19, he’s trying to get the international body and other players to rethink their model.

There’s a very obvious problem, he says, with the WHO’s approach: Two countries can have similar-size populations but very different Covid-19 case counts. Should they really both get enough doses to vaccinate 3 percent of their populations right off the bat? Or should we drive more help toward the country with the greatest disease burden, so we save as many lives as possible?

Emanuel explained the problem with the former approach via analogy. “Imagine you’re an ER doctor,” he told me. “You’re very busy, so you walk into the ER and say each person gets five minutes of time irrespective of how sick they are. That makes no sense.”

In an important paper published September 11 in Science, he and a diverse group of experts propose an alternative framework called the Fair Priority Model. (Though there are a couple of other proposals out there putting forward frameworks for vaccine distribution, this is the only one that offers as substantive a model as the WHO’s.)

The experts lay out a plan for distributing the vaccine in three phases. Positing that our main goal should be to avert premature deaths, they suggest using standard expected years of life lost (SEYLL) averted per dose as the criterion in phase one. They say we should give priority to countries that would reduce more SEYLL per dose.

In phase two, which aims to reduce pandemic-induced economic deprivation, they give priority to countries that would reduce more SEYLL and reduce more poverty. In phase three, which aims to end community spread, they give priority to countries with higher transmission rates.

This model offers a concrete way to reduce serious harms and prioritize disadvantaged people on an international scale. Emanuel said it’s more ethical than the WHO’s current approach.

“I wasn’t born yesterday. I understand that sometimes you can’t do exactly what’s ethical because you need to get people to the table,” he told me. “But political expediency is one thing and ethics is another thing. What I object to is claiming this [the WHO approach] is an ethical position. And they do claim that — they use the ethics language of ‘we’re being equitable’ and all this. But that’s not transparent; that’s actually false advertising.”

Some might object that Emanuel’s own proposal is not equitable to countries with more elderly citizens: Saving them will save fewer years of life (thus netting less SEYLL per dose), but older citizens are still morally valuable.

Emanuel told me that he’s heard this ageism critique “a million times” but that it’s ill-founded. (He has, it may be worth noting, idiosyncratic personal views about aging.) He noted that many surveys conducted around the world suggest that, all things being equal, the public prioritizes youth over older adults in the distribution of health resources. As a global society, we seem to value investing in youth, both because investing in them when they’re young yields greater dividends later on and because we don’t want to cheat them of the chance at significant life experiences — a deprivation that arguably constitutes a moral harm.

Emanuel contends that his group has arrived at the best way to enshrine three fundamental values: benefiting people and limiting harm, prioritizing the disadvantaged, and equal moral concern.

“We met every week, arguing, and we had a very diverse group,” he said. “You had utilitarians, you had people who are more Rawlsian, you had cosmopolitans who believe national borders are basically ethically irrelevant, and you had people who believe borders are very relevant. I think our position represents the best of ethics and a consensus about principles that transcends lots of different specific moral commitments.”

Ultimately, is this proposal better than the WHO’s? How you answer that depends somewhat on your specific moral commitments. From a utilitarian’s standpoint, for example, whichever proposal will do the best job at maximizing benefit and limiting harm to all people is the best approach. If the WHO’s realpolitik enables it to get more paying countries into the COVAX Facility, thus eventually enabling more vaccines for people who couldn’t otherwise afford them, it might actually be the most ethical model.

Either way, COVAX is now in business, and its multilateral, cooperative approach comes as a welcome counterpoint to the vaccine nationalism we’ve seen in other quarters. For countries that have signed agreements with the facility, the next step is to cough up the cash: Payments are due October 9. This money will hopefully accelerate the development and manufacturing of the vaccine we’re all awaiting.

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



(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.

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.

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



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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