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141 Tory MPs – Including Boris Johnson – Failed to Attend Anti-Sexual Harassment Training

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Exclusive FOI data obtained by VICE reveals that 160 MPs – including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and 15 Cabinet ministers including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick – have failed to attend the House of Commons’ anti-bullying and anti-sexual harassment training session.

The Valuing Everyone sessions, delivered by training company Challenge Consultancy, is open to everyone working in Parliament. The House of Commons press office explains that it is designed to “ensure everyone can recognise bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct and feels confident taking action to tackle and prevent it”.

Anti-bullying and anti-sexual harassment training was introduced in 2018 as a direct response to the Pestminster scandal as part of a series of recommendations made as a result of Dame Laura Cox’s inquiry into bullying and harassment in Parliament, and was made mandatory for the entire new intake of MPs after the 2019 election.

Pestminster – as it became known – unfolded in Westminster when the #MeToo movement crossed the pond to the UK in 2017. MPs were outed for watching porn on their computers and asking staffers to buy sex toys. Ministers resigned. One politician – Charlie Elphicke, the former Conservative MP for Deal – clung on to his seat even after being charged for sexual assault. (He was convicted of two assaults in July after stepping down in December 2019.)

Little appears to have changed in the three years since the scandal. Ex-Tory MP Andrew Griffiths admitted to sending thousands of sexts to two constituents and former Labour-turned-Independent MP Jared O’Mara admitted to sexual harassing a junior member of staff.

More recently, Labour MP Mike Hill is being investigated by Parliament after accusations of sexual harassment and assault, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has apologised and been suspended from his party after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting his wife, Conservative MP Rob Roberts has admitted to inappropriate behaviour towards junior staff and an unnamed Tory MP has been arrested on suspicion of rape – and that’s just in 2020 so far. (Hill has denied these allegations.)

In light of these stories, it would make sense for all MPs to spare, say, three paltry hours thinking about how to stamp out bullying and harassment in their workplace. After all, the 2019 Conservative manifesto did promise to “protect people from physical attack or harassment whether for their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability”.

However, at the time of publication, 141 Conservative MPs had not taken part in the training – more than a third of the party’s numbers in Parliament. By contrast, only seven out of 202 Labour MPs have yet to attend a session.

Ironically, Dame Cox’s report decried a ‘‘we’re all much too busy’ approach to allocating sufficient time to training” and insisted that “training will be essential if the new [anti-harassment and anti-bullying] scheme is to work, and there has to be a commitment to training at the most senior levels”.

After VICE approached the Cabinet Office for comment, all Cabinet ministers were promptly booked to attend, including Boris Johnson, who will now do so on 27th August.

The 160 MPs who have not yet attended are made up of:

  • 141 Conservatives (including 15 Cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Boris Johnson)
  • 7 Labour MPs
  • 5 DUP MPs
  • 4 SNP MPs
  • 2 SDLP MPs
  • 1 Independent MP

Now, this doesn’t mean that all the above MPs have never tried to get onto the training. Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary and Women and Equalities Minister, and Gareth Johnson, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth office, were booked in but had to pull out due to ministerial commitments.

Forty-seven out of the 160 MPs were scheduled to attend by March, but lockdown meant in-person sessions were cancelled. MPs have since been given an opportunity to re-book an online training session, the House of Commons tells VICE, but these 47 politicians have not yet done this. They comprise:

  • 45 Conservatives, including six Cabinet ministers (Alok Sharma, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Brandon Lewis, George Eustice, Grant Shapps and Oliver Dowden)
  • 2 SNP MPs (John Nicolson and Pete Wishart)

Another 39 out of the 160 MPs had signed up to attend by 22nd July, when Parliament went into summer recess. These are made up of:

  • 25 Conservatives, including one Cabinet minister (Gavin Williamson)
  • 7 Labour MPs (Jeremy Corbyn, Ellie Reeves, Ian Mearns, John Spellar, Lucy Powell, Wayne David, Neil Coyle)
  • 4 DUP MPs (Carla Lockhart, Jim Shannon, Gavin Robinson, Gregory Campbell)
  • 2 SDLP MPs (Colum Eastwood, Claire Hanna)
  • 1 SNP MP (Owen Thompson)

Finally, there are 72 MPs who were not booked in March or by 22nd July. They comprise:

  • 69 Conservative MPs including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and seven Cabinet ministers (Suella Braverman, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Steve Barclay, Robert Buckland, Robert Jenrick, Ben Wallace)
  • 1 SNP MP (Angus Brendan MacNeil)
  • 1 DUP MP (Sammy Wilson)
  • 1 Independent MP (Dr Julian Lewis)

This is what those 72 MPs had to say when VICE approached them for comment and asked why they hadn’t signed up. All MPs in this list are Conservative unless otherwise stated.

MPs WHO ARE NOT GOING TO THE TRAINING AT ALL

Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire: “The training needs to be allocated, there needs to be a range of training from beginners to more experienced people and each have refreshers on employment law practices. I don’t think sitting for three hours [learning] about how to value people will make someone who doesn’t value people, value people. I don’t see it as a useful allocation of my time. No-one’s ever left my employment since I’ve been an MP.”

Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset: A staffer informed VICE that the office  was unaware of the training and he has not responded to requests for comment.

Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim: “I would ask you to please stop pestering my staff with emails. All the information you require regarding the report you are interested is contained in the FCO [sic] response which you have obtained from the House of Commons.”

Nadhim Zahawi, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry and MP for Stratford-on-Avon: “I spent years building businesses outside of politics made up of great people who are motivated and well supported. I pride myself on doing the same with my parliamentary team and I know they would all confirm this.”

MPs WHO ARE TOO BUSY TO ATTEND

Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby: A spokesperson said: “Sorry, no Robert is flat out at the moment with constituent cases and Parliament committees.”

Dr Julian Lewis, Independent MP for New Forest East: “No, he probably hasn’t attended, it’s been rather a turbulent time.”

Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham: “Due to current diary pressures, Mr Loughton has asked me to relay his regrets on this occasion.”

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton: “We have been super busy with the general election and then COVID (not being in Parliament etc). We will book this in for the autumn when we get back from summer recess.”

MPs WHO WANT TO GO WITH EACH OTHER

Karen Bradley, MP for Staffordshire Moorelands: “The Valuing Everyone initiative is a vital means to bring about and sustain the cultural change which we all want to see in the House of Commons,” Bradley told VICE in a statement.

As the chair of the Procedure Committee, which works to improve parliamentary processes, she says she was keen to arrange a group training session after a suggestion by the Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

She adds: “I am keen to undertake the training with the Committee as soon as possible. Consistently upholding the principles behind the Valuing Everyone initiative is of course as important as receiving the training: bullying and harassment has no place in Parliament.”

Only two other MPs from Bradley’s 17-strong committee have not attended, including Jack Brereton, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, who had not replied to comment for this piece, and Sir Christoper Chope, MP for Christchurch, who told VICE that he was one of the 47 MPs who was bumped off of the list due to the coronavirus lockdown.

MPs WHO BOOKED ONTO THE TRAINING ONLY AFTER VICE APPROACHED THEM FOR COMMENT

CABINET MINISTERS

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister and MP for Hillingdon and Uxbridge: A cabinet source tells VICE he’s booked to attend on 27th August. The House of Commons’ FOI team confirms that the Prime Minister was not booked to attend before 22nd July, but has subsequently booked to attend.

Suella Braverman, Attorney General and MP for Fareham: “I am booked in for training later this month.” This session was only made available to MPs in the last week of July, according to the House of Commons.

Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary and MP for West Suffolk: A spokesperson said: “Matt is committed to going to the Valuing Everyone training, but he is currently dealing with a global pandemic. He specifically wants you to know that he massively supports his staff.” He is now on a waiting list for a session.

Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary and MP for Esher and Walton: His special advisor says he is now booked to attend on 27th August, the same day as Boris Johnson. The House of Commons’ FOI team confirms that Raab was not booked to attend before 22nd July, but has subsequently booked to attend.

The following Cabinet ministers did not provide comment but are, the Cabinet Office assures VICE, now booked to attend:

  • Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and MP for North East Cambridgeshire
  • Robert Buckland, Justice Secretary and MP for South Swindon
  • Robert Jenrick, Housing and Communities Secretary and MP for Newark
  • Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary and MP for Wyre and Preston North

These MPs are also now booked to attend a Valuing Everyone session after VICE approached them for comment:

  • Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe
  • Angus Brendan MacNeil, SNP MP for MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar
  • Paul Scully, MP for Sutton & Cheam
  • David Warburton, MP for Somerton and Frome

MPs WHO DID NOT WANT TO COMMENT

Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey: A spokesperson said: “Mr Henderson does not respond to national media. Please stop chasing him.”

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire: “I’m afraid Jesse will not be making any comment regarding this.”

THE MPs WITH OTHER REASONS FOR NOT ATTENDING

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster: “I have not completed the training as I have only recently returned from maternity leave and the pre-recess slots had gone. I’ll look out for the publication of autumn dates.”

Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and MP for Bury St Edmunds: VICE tried multiple times to contact her but was unable to put this to her.

AND ALL THE REST

According to the House of Commons’ FOI data, the following 46 MPs were neither bumped off of the training due to coronavirus – nor had they signed up by the last day of the summer term in Parliament. None responded to requests for comment.

  1. Kemi Badenoch, MP for Saffron Walden
  2. Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen
  3. Steve Brine, MP for Winchester
  4. Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton
  5. James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk
  6. Sir Bill Cash, MP for Stone
  7. James Cleverly, MP for Braintree
  8. Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire
  9. Stephen Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay
  10. Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset
  11. Iain Duncan-Smith, MP for Chingford and Wood Green
  12. Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield
  13. Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay
  14. George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk
  15. Nick Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton
  16. Sir John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings
  17. Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire
  18. Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry
  19. James Heappey, MP for Wells
  20. Simon Hoare, MP for North Dorset
  21. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham
  22. Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey
  23. Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove
  24. Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire
  25. Pauline Latham, MP for Mid Derbyshire
  26. Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough
  27. Andrew Lewer, MP for Northampton South
  28. Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke
  29. Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet
  30. Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch
  31. Kit Malthouse, MP for North West Hampshire
  32. Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth South
  33. David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale
  34. Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough
  35. Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South
  36. John Redwood, MP for Wokingham
  37. Mark Menzies, MP for Fylde
  38. Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell
  39. Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood
  40. Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripton
  41. Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham
  42. Sir Robert Syms, MP for Poole
  43. Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness
  44. Sir Desmond Swayne, MP for New Forest West
  45. Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester
  46. Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes

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

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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