One among a sea of unfortunate consequences of the last four years is that ordinary people have heard of many political figures who once would have been relegated to the fringe. There’s Mike Cernovich, a self-styled provocateur and meme creator who is an InfoWars regular. There’s Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader who became especially notorious during the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. And there’s Lauren Southern, a YouTube personality and anti-immigrant activist who famously supported the “Defend Europe” group, which opposes search-and-rescue operations for refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.
These three individuals are the focus of White Noise, an excellent new documentary from Daniel Lombroso, a journalist at the Atlantic. The film paints a portrait of the past few years of their lives, but more than that, it subtly exposes how much of the internet-fueled alt-right is driven by a desire to get rich, become well-known, and draw acolytes. Lombroso spent several years tagging along with Cernovich, Spencer, and Southern, attending their events, letting them talk, and quietly allowing them to do the work of unraveling their own arguments.
I recently spoke with Lombroso about how he secured this access, what he learned, and how it’s changed him. Our conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How did you get connected with these subjects?
I started covering the alt-right as a reporter at the Atlantic way back in 2016, before the figures in the film were especially well known. It started with a series of short documentaries. I was actually the guy who caught a roomful of people breaking out into Nazi salutes [in 2016], which was a pivotal journalistic moment that solidified the alt-right as fundamentally a white nationalist — and potentially a neo-Nazi — movement.
So, I was covering the alt-right in short documentary form. I did a profile on Richard Spencer back before he was, you know, essentially synonymous with David Duke the way he is now.
Then I returned to my day job as a video producer at the Atlantic, covering all sorts of issues, but really carving out a niche around fundamentalism. I did a piece on far-right Christian media called Church Militant. I did a piece on Israeli settlers in the West Bank and spent two weeks there.
Then Charlottesville happened. It was eight months after the Nazi salute excerpt that went viral, and it was a pivotal moment for a million reasons. In the newsroom, we knew we had to do something deeper. So, I immediately circled up with Jeff Goldberg, the editor-in-chief [at the Atlantic], and Kasia [Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg], who ran Atlantic Studios. All of us had always wanted to do a feature. I think we didn’t know when it would happen or what it would be about, but right away when Charlottesville happened, and when Trump failed to disavow white nationalists, we knew that this had to be the story.
So that was three years ago, and it’s evident in the film that several years elapse from the beginning to the end. What was it like to stick with them for so long?
I spent three years reporting out the film, beginning with Richard, then meeting [Mike] Cernovich, and then eventually getting access to Lauren [Southern]. She was the hardest and actually took eight months to negotiate access to. And for me, she’s the most pivotal to the film. She is a female face of racism, and she embodies such blatant contradictions.
The Atlantic was really great about giving me space. I basically work alone as a reporter and a filmmaker, so I’m a one-man band. I shot the film and directed it and co-produced it.
I started by reporting and filming with maybe 20 or 30 subjects on the right. It became clear to me pretty quickly that I didn’t want to just amplify a fringe voice, someone who wasn’t relevant, and make them relevant by giving them the credibility of the Atlantic. I quickly decided, along with Jeff and Kasia, that it had to be these three figures, because they have followings in the millions and a tremendous amount of influence. Cernovich can start a meme from his laptop in Orange County, and a few days later, it’s coming out of [Sean] Hannity’s mouth on Fox News and then eventually the president’s mouth.
It was a slow burn. After Charlottesville, I spent two or three months all over the country. By October or November of , we were planning on those three [subjects]. And it took until May of the following year, eight months later, for Lauren to sign on.
From there, I just tracked their stories very closely. For Richard, it’s a little more than three years; with Mike and Lauren it’s more than two. At its core, White Noise is a “follow film.” To do that right, you need time. And thankfully the Atlantic gave me the space to do that.
This film struck me as a portrait of what it takes to be a grifter today, or at least it explains the social and financial rewards inherent in taking extreme positions on the internet.
They’re opportunists, they’re hucksters, and I would say it’s fair to say they’re grifters, too. It’s tricky, because they do believe what they say — Cernovich a little bit less than the other two, but they definitely believe it enough to say it.
But, they’re also in it for the fame and for the money. I think Cernovich is the most extreme example of this. He starts the film very comfortable using the term “alt-right.” When that term becomes a little bit more toxic after Charlottesville, he says, “Fuck the Nazis,” and gets away from them and re-brands. And then at the end of the film, you see he’s selling supplements and lifestyle regimens.
Lauren is really interesting. She knows what her package is. She is very articulate, and she can use her looks, and she’s very convincing — and on YouTube, that’s the sort of thing that works. It almost feels Stalin-esque, like old Russian propaganda stuff; if you look down the barrel of the lens and say something that’s convincing, it feels true. And she’s able to back it up with pseudo-science that’s usually not accurate.
Their motivations are so mixed, and at its core, that’s what the film seeks to expose. The real power of the alt-right is that they’re selling a narrative, that they understand life, and that if you feel lost or depressed but follow them, you’ll be connected to the great history of white civilization.
By allowing you to sit with the subjects for so long, the film lets you see how mixed their motivations really are. They have a vested interest. They want to be famous. They want to get rich. And they are constantly contradicting the things that they believe.
A challenge in this era seems to be figuring out how to write about these folks without aestheticizing them, without talking wonderingly about the “clean-cut” neo-Nazi. The film shows that a lot of what they’re doing is essentially leaning on an appealing aesthetic. They’re presenting a picture to people of who they could be. Are there special challenges in presenting that in film, which is a visual medium?
We didn’t want the film to glorify them in any way. That influenced everything from the scene selection to the shot selection. We had very spirited conversations about everything from the way we cover the subjects down to shot-level decisions. We screened for diverse audiences and built a really diverse team around the film.
What they’re doing is fundamentally aesthetic. They’re so obsessed with their appearance that it is obviously part of the story. I think it’s our responsibility as journalists to cover that ethically and responsibly, and to be highly critical. I think the film does that.
And you are missing the mark if you ignore it, because the appeal of the alt-right is to upper-middle-class, highly educated white kids in New York and LA. It’s hardly about the white nationalism. It’s about the community. It’s about a clique. It’s about the way you look and dress, and the way you say, “Hello” — all of their interesting codes of communication, different kinds of ways they communicate online but also in the physical sphere. That’s pretty fundamental to understanding the movement.
In the film, you see that in various ways. In the conference at the beginning, when Richard says, “Hail Trump!” — we really dwell on the fact that they’re young. He says, “Stand up if you’re under the age of 30,” and the whole room stands. Most of those kids went to college — I interviewed a lot of them — and they are educated. They have a very clear aesthetic. You might call it Hitlerjugend, 20th-century fascism, but it’s like suit and tie, and they all have a haircut that they call “the fashy.”
Lauren’s package is all about her image. I have a story on this; she’s very conscious of her image and she uses it. She very consciously uses it. She’s an intelligent person and knows how to be convincing, but she knows the package she’s selling and uses it to maximize her effect and her influence.
There are really dangerous ways to cover that. I mean, there was a botched profile early on — I don’t want to call out who wrote it — that really dwelled on Richard being a dapper white nationalist. We’ve seen all sorts of iterations of that. I think it just comes down to being very, very careful, from the shot selection to the way you talk about the subjects. But their aesthetic is really fundamental to the whole project, in the way it always has been for fascist movements.
So much about fascism is about the myths and legends that the look of it calls to mind.
Sometimes when I’m watching a documentary, I feel like I’m just reading a magazine article. So one thing I appreciate about White Noise is how skillfully you use the visual medium to reinforce and undercut what people are saying out loud, or to get at elements that you couldn’t easily capture in a piece of writing. I’ll never get over the look on Cernovich’s face when he is hawking skin care products.
Or in the car wash. He’s sitting, depressed, going through a car wash.
Are you looking for those images as you shoot?
When people watch a movie, they want to see a movie. What I’m really looking for are quiet, telling moments that don’t require dialogue. What destroys most Hollywood films is exposition, or saying something in dialogue that you would never say in real life, just to set up the audience. That’s the bane of everything I wanted to do. In the edit, I was trying to find ways to set up and say things that are very subtle.
I’m always looking for ways to let the subjects hang themselves. For instance, in one scene, Richard says very proudly, “I’m bigger than the movement” — which is insane for a million reasons. And then five minutes later in the film, which was the following day in real life, he gives a speech in a school of agriculture, and six people are there, maybe 10.
This is my first feature, but I’m always looking for visual ways to tell the story and to stay subtle. I think that’s ultimately a lot more powerful than a talking head or someone telling you, “This is a racist movement. Cernovich is a grifter.” I think it’s much more revealing when you just see him putting on facial serum and talking about how that’s his latest pivot.
There’s a bit where Lauren is watching a video of herself talking, and she’s sitting with another woman who is side-eyeing her the whole time. It felt like that scene encapsulates something else the film shows: the kind of bubble that your subjects built around themselves to elevate their importance. Richard’s statement is a good example of that. They know they’re influential, but they also have surrounded themselves with people who keep saying “You’re influential” to them.
Did you get a sense of that while following them around? Were there times where you were, like, “Wow, your sense of reality is so far from reality”?
Absolutely. There’s so much disinformation on the far right. People just casually joke about things like Pizzagate, which is just false. There’s not even a basement at Comet Pizza, where [according to the disproven Pizzagate conspiracy theory] there was allegedly a pedophilia ring in the basement.
But all of them have a sense of inflated importance. I think that’s because they very intentionally surround themselves with yes men, or with people who play to their ego.
Richard is the most obvious example. He’s constantly followed by mostly younger kids in their 20s, college kids or kids right out of college, who have this dated but modernized fascist aesthetic. On a typical day, especially when I’m not filming and just sitting with them, they’re pouring him whiskey and buying him dinner and they’re fulfilling his every command. He has the air of a cult leader.
With Lauren and Mike, it’s to a lesser extent. This might be surprising to people, but Mike is sort of a father figure to people in his sphere. In that alpha-male section of the alt-right, called “the manosphere” or whatever, people really trust Mike and turn to him for advice. So, when Lucian Wintrich — who we ultimately played down a little bit, he’s a far-right provocateur who started the “Twinks4Trump” meme — went through a breakup, Mike was one of his first calls. He wanted Mike’s advice. I think that’s what sets apart Mike from the other two characters: In his world, people really trust him, and that might be surprising.
Lauren is going through a transformation in the film, and ultimately, it’s an incomplete one. She’s always doubting herself. She gets her validation online, and I think the moment you mentioned is a really good example. Everything’s mediated through screens. She’s in Moscow, watching herself speaking in London through a screen, and then Brittany, who’s jealous of her, is side-eyeing her watching herself.
Lauren derives a lot of her confidence from comments, and she obsesses over negative comments and things that don’t go her way. That’s been hard for her, and continues to be hard for her. I think part of it is just that she was so young when she got into this, and this is all she knows. It’s all she’s ever known.
That attention bubble seems so warping. I had the feeling watching White Noise that I had watching the two documentaries about Steve Bannon that’ve come out in the last few years, or that I have every time I read one of those explosive interviews that Isaac Chotiner does at the New Yorker. I wonder, why on earth would these people talk to a journalist or filmmaker, or let cameras follow them around? What do you think is the character trait or quality that makes a person willing to have a filmmaker follow them around for a few years when they know that person is is not sympathetic to their views?
Part of it is narcissism, and that comes across pretty clearly in the film. The other is that I work really small. I shoot alone, I’m a one-man band, and that helps neutralize them. They’re all willing to sit and give a quote here and there. But it’s sort of a misconception that the alt-right wants attention — they’re happy to give you a quote here and there, or sit for an interview, as long as they’re in control. This sort of unvarnished, all-access thing was incredibly difficult to achieve. And I think part of the reason they did it was that I was genuinely curious, and I kept coming back.
But part of it was their narcissism. I think they thought that they could outsmart me, that if they only depict a positive part of their life — for instance, Cernovich’s sunny, southern California life — that could help redeem him or rewrite his public image.
Part of it, too, especially with Lauren — I’m a little bit older than her, but I’m around her age, and we grew up experiencing a lot of the same things. So there are enough reference points in common that, when you’re spending hundreds of hours off-camera just killing time in an airport or getting lunch, there’s enough to talk about to kind of get them to that place where they’re willing to open up.
In the film, you see many of the juiciest moments. But all documentary filmmakers know that you spend hours and hours to get people to that point. The three minutes of Russia in the film was a 10-day trip. It was that way across the board.
You said you covered fundamentalism in the past. Is there an overlap between fundamentalism and this topic?
There’s absolutely overlap. Extremism allows you to feel like you’re part of a historical narrative. You feel like you’re living for the past and for the future, that you’re part of something larger than your mundane, day-to-day, even boring experience.
I don’t mean to conflate these things because they are different, but you see that with far-right evangelicals. In the Church Militant piece, I interviewed a bunch of interns who were working at this far-right media company, and it was the same narrative. One of them said, “I was lost for years and years and years, wandering in the darkness, until I met Michael Voris,” the person who started Church Militant. It’s the same narrative.
With Israeli settlers — again, I don’t mean to conflate the situation there with white supremacy! — but there’s this feeling that in settling the West Bank they’re writing the next chapter of Jewish history. That’s a lot more fun, in a way, than just being a person who will die and everyone will forget you.
So, there is this gravitas to it. At its core, it’s the same appeal — a profoundly emotional or even metaphysical appeal.
So you spent three years in the alt-right’s world. How did the experience change the way you think about American politics?
I don’t know that I was ever naïve enough to think that we lived in a post-racial America, but I was probably a little bit more hopeful going into the project, and now I’m a lot more cynical about the whole thing. The film is an unsympathetic eulogy to the alt-right. You see the figures fall off at the end, but their ideas are now so clearly part of our discourse. They’re on Fox News every night. There are newer influencers coming up who are saying things a whole lot worse. Tucker Carlson is now the highest-rated person on broadcast TV and he’s saying things that I heard Richard say three or four years ago.
It’s been very depressing to see the scale of white nationalism and conspiracy in both American and especially European politics, and I just don’t see it going away. I think it’s wrong to think that if Trump loses the election, it’s done and it’s over, because even if a section of his base lost, they’re still there. There are still kids who are finding these videos on YouTube and being radicalized by them.
In the way we talked about radical Islam, for better or for worse, as being a defining issue of the late ’90s and early ’00s, I think white domestic terrorism and white nationalism are issues we’re going to be dealing with for a long time.
White Noise is available to digitally rent on platforms including Apple TV and Google Play; see the website for details.
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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
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.
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.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
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.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
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.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
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.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
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.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
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.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
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.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
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.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
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.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
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.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
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.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
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.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
1/4 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. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
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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