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5 winners and 3 losers from the dueling Trump-Biden town halls

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Dueling town halls between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden created a stark contrast between the two candidates — but probably not the one the president wanted.

This is all because Trump refused to do Thursday’s planned virtual town hall debate due to his Covid-19 diagnosis, so Biden decided to schedule a solo town hall on ABC at 8 pm Eastern. Trump, looking to counterprogram Biden, convinced NBC to schedule his own town hall at the same time — hoping to win the ratings war and come out looking stronger than Biden.

Trump may regret that strategy; he faced hard questions from voters and NBC host Savannah Guthrie on issues ranging from wearing masks to electoral fraud to Trump’s refusal to disavow extremist groups, eliciting a series of responses that ranged from blatantly false (claiming masks don’t really work) to the dangerously absurd (suggesting some parts of the Qanon conspiracy theory might actually be true).

Meanwhile, Biden’s town hall was calm, polite, and packed with policy substance. Biden laid out plans for how he would get Covid-19 under control and reorient the economy toward being more equitable for lower-income Americans — two things Trump has not accomplished. For voters yearning for a return to some sense of normalcy, Biden hit all the right notes.

The night-and-day contrast served to highlight the core differences between the two options in front of the American people: continuing the reality TV maelstrom of the Trump presidency or a shift to a Biden presidency, where politics returns to being boring, and maybe even calm.

What follows is our attempt to figure out who benefited from the events and their striking contrasts — and who came out looking just a little bit worse.

Winner: Joe Biden

Biden’s town hall made a big case for the return of boring normalcy in the White House. Even though it may not have made for the most riveting television, it could well work in his favor.

Biden’s town hall harked back to the days when Americans didn’t have to worry about what the president was doing — or tweeting — every day. As Trump was being asked why he wouldn’t wear a mask at the NBC town hall, Biden was talking about how he has started wearing two masks, and talked about his plan for implementing mask-wearing around the country.

“We’re in a situation where we have 210,000 plus people dead and what’s he doing? Nothing. He’s still not wearing masks,” Biden said of Trump. “It is the presidential responsibility to lead. And he didn’t do that.”

Joe Biden brought notes to his town hall and answered questions from voters with a calm preparedness.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

While Trump’s recent Covid-19 diagnosis signaled the president’s failure to contain the coronavirus in his own White House, Biden finally got to explain — uninterrupted — how he would coordinate a federal response to stop the virus’s spread around the United States. He even brought notes.

Talking to the American people directly about Covid-19 and the havoc it has wreaked on millions of people’s lives was Biden’s strong suit in the first debate. The town hall format seemed to benefit him even more. Biden seemed sharp and prepared — talking about commonsense virus control tactics like wearing masks and making sure schools had good air ventilation.

“We need more teachers in our schools to be able to open, smaller pods,” Biden. “We need ventilation systems changed. There’s a lot of things we know now.”

Just recognizing that there’s a way to make schools safer for students to return could be a welcome answer to millions of overworked, stressed parents who are trying to juggle working from home and overseeing their kids’ remote schooling at the same time.

Pollsters have found a consistent theme among voters who dislike Trump and favor Biden: They’re tired of the daily chaos of the past four years — whether it’s the revolving door for White House chiefs of staff or Trump catching Covid-19 himself.

If a comparably boring town hall means America can go back to the days where the country doesn’t have to worry about what the president is tweeting, that’s a win for Biden.

—Ella Nilsen

Loser: Donald Trump

Trump wouldn’t say whether he was tested for coronavirus before the first debate with Biden. He couldn’t defend his refusal to require mask use at his rallies. He tried to downplay broadcasting a wild conspiracy theory that Biden tried to have members of Seal Team 6 killed by saying “that was a retweet, I do a lot of retweets.” He suggested parts of the QAnon conspiracy theory could be true, saying “I don’t know” when Guthrie asked him whether he believes the Democratic Party is run by a cult of satanic pedophiles.

That may sound like a list of the lowlights from the night. But it was all in the first 15 minutes of the event.

President Trump dodged many of Savannah Guthrie’s questions during his town hall event.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

You could call this “Trump being Trump,” and you’d probably be right. But the difference is that, this time around, Trump was facing questions from ordinary Americans whom he couldn’t talk over and a host who was unafraid to follow up repeatedly and fact-check the president in real time. This format made it much harder for Trump to ignore questions through his patented combination of lying, bluster, and deflection — forcing him to engage on his own record, the area where’s at his weakest.

Take this health care exchange, for example. After a question about making health care affordable and accessible, Guthrie followed him by asking Trump about his administration’s plans to replace Obamacare — and the glaring contradiction between its claim to protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions and its argument, in court, that all of Obamacare (including said coverage) is unconstitutional.

Here’s the end of the exchange:

GUTHRIE: You’ve been in office almost four years. You had both houses of Congress, Senate and House, in Republican hands. And there is not a replacement yet.

TRUMP: That’s right. I’m sorry. But if you look, we had both houses and what did we do? We got rid of the individual mandate.

GUTHRIE: The promise was repeal and replace.

TRUMP: Look, look, we should be on the same side. I want it very simple. I’m going to put it very simple. We would like to terminate it and we would like to replace it with something that’s much less expensive and much better. We will always protect people with preexisting conditions.

GUTHRIE: But if you’re successful in court in November, the preexisting conditions, that promise will be gone.

TRUMP: If we don’t succeed, we are running the remnants of whatever is left because we took it apart. We are running the remnants of whatever is left much better than the previous administration, which ran it very badly. We would like to have new health care, much better and much less expensive.

Trump is unable to explain why he couldn’t come up with a better health care plan when his party controlled all three branches of government. His answer to the question about preexisting conditions is gibberish, largely because there is no good answer.

If the town hall format brought out Biden’s strengths — his ability to empathize with voters, his long experience with and knowledge about policymaking — it brought out Trump’s weaknesses in the same areas. His event served to remind us that his presidency has been four years of chaos and conflict, with too little in the way of substance done to help ordinary Americans in an especially difficult time in our history.

Trump is trailing badly in the polls, and he desperately needed a strong performance to try to turn things around. This seems, if anything, more likely to make that hole a bit deeper.

Zack Beauchamp

Winner: Substance

There were a few moments in Thursday’s ABC town hall where Biden sounded a bit like the progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a onetime rival for the Democratic nomination.

If Biden’s audience was looking for wonky statistics on issues from the economy to climate change, the former vice president had them.

Biden came prepared for his town hall with notes, at one point casually throwing around statistics about the British Thermal Unit as it pertains to wind and solar power and talking about pelletizing chicken and cow manure to take out the methane that contributes to climate change from big agriculture.

“Electric vehicles will save billions of gallons of oil … [and create] 1 million automobile jobs,” Biden said. “But we’re lagging. We’re not investing. We’re not doing the research.”

Joe Biden answered questions with in-depth answers on topics ranging from the economic recovery to the racial wealth gap.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Discussing a longstanding racial wealth gap, Biden recognized the fact that even as the economy has slowly recovered over the summer, the economic picture looks far bleaker for Black and brown workers. The most recent overall unemployment rate is 7.9 percent. But when you break it down along racial lines, the story on what’s happening is quite different: White unemployment is 7 percent, while Black unemployment is 12.1 percent and Hispanic unemployment is 10.3 percent.

“[Trump] talks about a V-shaped recovery; it’s a K-shaped recovery,” Biden said, pointing to the theory that those with means in America are bouncing back quite easily, while everyone else is suffering. “If you are on the top, you’re going to do very well. If you’re on the bottom, in the middle or the bottom, your income is coming down.”

At one point, Biden had a mea culpa about his 1994 crime law — one of the more controversial parts of his Senate history that contributed to mass incarceration in the 1990s and following decades.

After host George Stephanopoulos asked whether it was a mistake to support it, Biden simply responded, “Yes, it was.”

But Biden also tried to deflect blame away from the law’s original drafting, saying the worst effects of the crime bill came from state and local police departments implementing it themselves.

“Here’s where the mistake came: The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally,” Biden said. “What happened? They eliminated the funding for community policing.”

While Biden has adamantly come out against defunding the police and maintained that “most cops don’t like bad cops,” he told Stephanopoulos he wants more reforms and additional resources going to community policing and strengthening mental health resources.

Even if viewers may have disagreed with some of Biden’s stances, the nominee came prepared and showed off his policy chops.

—EN

Winner: FOMO

This election is a choice between two candidates. To actually decide whom they want to vote for, voters typically need to be informed about both candidates’ views and positions. But tonight, voters had to choose between the Biden town hall or the Trump town hall.

It was a real-time example of FOMO (fear of missing out) in action. If you were on social media during the town halls, you might have seen people talking about the town hall that you weren’t watching. But you couldn’t contribute to the conversation because you couldn’t tune in.

Joe Biden with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Trump with NBC’s Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Only in this case, the stakes are very high. This isn’t missing a movie’s opening day or brunch with your friends. It’s missing the kind of event that voters genuinely rely on to inform their decisions about who will run the most powerful country in the world. That’s particularly true in this case, because tonight’s main political event was supposed to be a debate between Biden and Trump.

It didn’t have to be this way. The debate could have been held virtually, given Trump’s recent coronavirus infection, but the Trump campaign rejected the idea of a virtual debate. The town halls could have been scheduled at different days or times, but Trump reportedly wanted to beat Biden in the ratings in a direct, same-hour matchup.

So we got a mess of FOMO. Americans — and especially any remaining undecided voters — were left less informed as a result.

—German Lopez

Winner: Savannah Guthrie

Savannah Guthrie is a lead anchor on the Today show for a reason — and on Thursday night, it showed.

NBC got a lot of flak for programming a Trump town hall at the same time as the Biden event on ABC, especially given that it was the president who dropped out of the originally scheduled debate in the first place. Guthrie’s quick line of questioning, pushback, and real-time fact-checking of the president probably made the White House wish they had just done the debate.

Savannah Guthrie pushed back on President Trump throughout the evening event.
Evan Vucci/AP

Guthrie, who has co-anchored Today since 2012, opened the night reminding the audience why the event was happening in the first place — the president got Covid-19 and refused to participate in a virtual debate proposed for safety reasons, causing this dueling town hall mess in the first place.

And then she got to the questions. Were you tested the day of the last presidential debate in Cleveland, which took place just two days before Trump’s positive Covid-19 test? How often are you tested? Why did you hold the event honoring Supreme Court nominee at the White House without precautions? Shouldn’t you have known better? Are you blaming grieving military families for giving you Covid-19? Why did it take you two days to denounce white supremacy?

Then Guthrie asked the president about QAnon. In asking her question, she reminded him what it was — the dangerous conspiracy theory spreading across the internet that claims Democrats are behind a pedophilia ring that Trump is the savior of.

“Can you just once and for all state that this is completely not true and disavow QAnon in its entirety?” she asked. “I know nothing about QAnon,” he said. “I just told you,” she responded.

Guthrie also asked the president about something he retweeted suggesting that Biden had a Navy SEAL team killed to cover up the fake death of Osama bin Laden.

“That was a retweet, that was an opinion of somebody,” Trump said.

“You’re the president; you’re not someone’s crazy uncle where you just retweet whatever,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie stepped into a tough spot on Thursday, and in that spot, she seized on the chance to ask questions that really matter to the American people — and press on their behalf to get answers.

—ES

Winner: QAnon

Guthrie gave Trump as many opportunities as she could to denounce the online conspiracy theory about a Satanic pedophilia ring run by global elites.

He wouldn’t do it.

“I don’t know anything about QAnon,” Trump said at first.

Guthrie pointed out she’d just explained the theory in brief: Prominent Democrats are satanic pedophiles and Trump is going to save the world from them.

So would Trump denounce QAnon? Quite the opposite.

“Let me just tell you what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia and I agree with that,” Trump said. “I do agree with that.”

Guthrie pressed: “But there’s not a satanic cult.”

“I don’t know that,” the president said. “And neither do you know that.”

The rest of the short version of QAnon is that a top-level official — “Q” — is leaking a top-level state secret on the internet. Its believers thrive on tiny hints they claim they detect in official statements and social media posts by Trump and his confidants.

Now they had the president in front of a huge TV audience, saying that what he did know about QAnon, he agreed with.

—Dylan Scott

Loser: The individual mandate

The mandate has taken a beating lately, both from Trump and from health policy wonks.

At his town hall, the president defaulted to his favorite answer when a journalist or anybody points out he has not released a comprehensive health care plan in case the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare early next year and millions of people could be at risk of losing health coverage.

When asked by a voter who buys her own health insurance about what his health care plan would be, Trump instead talked about his most significant legislative achievement on health care. As part of their tax bill, Republicans eliminated Obamacare’s financial penalty for failing to carry health insurance that was established by the 2010 health care law. (They had also, of course, failed to repeal and replace Obamacare earlier the same year.)

“We got rid of the individual mandate on Obamacare, which was the worst part of Obamacare, and now you could actually say it’s not Obamacare because that’s how big it was,” the president said.

President Trump called the individual mandate the “worst part of Obamacare.”
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Trump is right about one thing: The mandate was very unpopular. It makes sense for him politically to highlight how he got rid of it.

But he’s wrong about something else: Ending the mandate may not actually be that big of a deal in terms of how Obamacare functions.

A consensus has been forming among health policy experts that the mandate wasn’t as crucial to the law’s markets as its authors thought it would be, because the actual size of the financial penalty was relatively small. More than 80 percent of the people who buy private insurance on the marketplaces get federal tax credits, which makes their premiums more affordable. Obamacare’s enrollment has declined only slightly since the mandate was repealed, from 12.2 million in 2017 to 11.4 million in 2020.

Yet Republican state officials, supported by the Justice Department, are suing to overturn the law in its entirety because the mandate is now gone. (To get into the weeds, read Vox’s Ian Millhiser.) Those millions of Americans who buy insurance on the marketplaces, and more than 12 million people covered by Medicaid expansion, could lose insurance unless there is a plan to cover them in that scenario.

“I want to give great health care,” the president said Thursday night, sounding much like he did four years ago. The rest is still TBD.

—DS

Loser: Trump’s purported toughness

If there’s anything we’ve been told over the past five years about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s “tough.” But responses to Trump’s performance in Thursday night’s town hall conversation with Guthrie from conservative media figures seemed to imply otherwise. They focused not on Trump’s answers, but on how “bullied” he was by Guthrie for asking him moderately difficult questions.

Trump is the president of the United States, and presumably would have the capacity to answer tough questions about his handling of the coronavirus and other issues (not to mention he had mocked Guthrie earlier Thursday during a rally).

And yet Fox News host and occasional Trump rally guest Sean Hannity introduced his show Thursday night saying, “NBC fake news did their best to ambush President Trump at tonight’s town hall,” and describing Guthrie as Biden’s surrogate.

The Trump campaign mirrored that language in a statement, again calling Guthrie a “Biden surrogate” and adding, “President Trump masterfully handled Guthrie’s attacks and interacted warmly and effectively with the voters in the room.”

Trump’s allies, in the face of his performance, focused on working the refs — the media. The rule for interviewing Donald Trump is very clear: He can be mean to you, but you have to be nice to him, obsequiously so, no matter what he says or does.

But this was Trump’s choice. As he said about the decision to do the town hall: “They asked me if I’d do it, and I figured what the hell? We’ll get a free hour of television.”

He did indeed. And now some of his biggest allies are very upset about it.

—Jane Coaston


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World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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