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6 ballot measures that could change the criminal justice system

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This November, six ballot measures in five states will give voters a chance to make significant changes to their criminal justice systems.

In Oklahoma, voters could ban harsh sentencing enhancements that can keep people in prison longer for nonviolent crimes. In California, voters will consider three measures: one to affirm the end of cash bail, another to let people vote while on parole, and a third to roll back recent criminal justice reforms. In Nebraska and Utah, voters could prohibit slavery as a criminal punishment, including forced prison labor. And in Kentucky, voters could approve a controversial crime victims’ rights law.

Not all of these are for reform as many people think of it today. Some of the initiatives, particularly in California and Kentucky, have been criticized by activists seeking to end mass incarceration and the war on drugs.

But depending on how voters take these initiatives, they could continue the broader work of the past decade to reel back America’s punitive criminal justice system. Galvanized by Black Lives Matter, other civil rights causes, and the high financial costs of mass incarceration, lawmakers and the public have become increasingly critical of the system, which has made America the world’s leader in incarceration and spawned a vast network of consequences, from oppressive voting laws for people convicted of felonies to the continued use of forced labor as a criminal penalty.

Coupled with always-important local and state races for sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges, and local ballot initiatives, Election Day gives Americans a direct say in this system. It’s also at the local and state level that voters can make the highest impact on the justice system: The vast majority of the country’s 18,000 police agencies are run by towns, cities, counties, and states, and about 88 percent of people in prison are held at the state level.

There are a lot of criminal justice measures on the ballot in 2020, ranging from marijuana legalization to drug decriminalization to local police reforms. But here are six of this year’s biggest statewide measures and what they could do to change the system.

1) Oklahoma State Question 805: Sentencing reform for nonviolent crimes

Over the past decade and a half, American lawmakers have increasingly moved to reduce the country’s massive prison population — the largest incarcerated population in the world. As part of that, they’ve aimed to reduce penalties for nonviolent crimes in particular.

Oklahoma State Question 805 is a continuation of those efforts. Under current law, Oklahoma prosecutors and judges can use previous nonviolent felony convictions to impose a longer sentence for a defendant. That includes several more years or even up to life in prison.

The ballot measure would prohibit that for nonviolent offenses — with an exception for anyone who has ever been convicted of a violent felony. It would also retroactively apply to people who received longer sentences due to such an enhancement, potentially reducing their punishment.

Supporters claim that the measure would help reduce overly punitive prison sentences and cut Oklahoma’s prison population, which was the largest in the country — and the world — as of 2018. That would make the criminal justice system not only more fair, supporters argue, but also less expensive, since locking people up costs a lot of money.

Opponents claim that reducing prison sentences, particularly for people with criminal records, would lead to more crime — reducing the potential deterrent of a long prison sentence and letting would-be repeat offenders out sooner. They say the higher cost of incarceration is worth the public safety gains.

The research suggests that shorter prison sentences, relative to the US baseline, don’t lead to more crime. In 2017, David Roodman of the Open Philanthropy Project conducted an extensive review of the evidence on longer prison sentences. He concluded that “tougher sentences hardly deter crime, and that while imprisoning people temporarily stops them from committing crime outside prison walls, it also tends to increase their criminality after release. As a result, ‘tough-on-crime’ initiatives can reduce crime in the short run but cause offsetting harm in the long run.”

In short, longer prison sentences can actually make people more likely to commit crimes in the long term.

At the same time, locking people up for long periods of time is very costly. There’s the actual financial cost of putting people in prison, which the Prison Policy Initiative estimated at $182 billion a year for the US in 2017. There’s also the social cost of people being ripped away from their families and communities; as one example, the New York Times calculated in 2015 that for every 100 Black women not in jail or prison in America, there are only 83 Black men — what amounts to 1.5 million “missing” men who can’t be there for their kids, family, or community while incarcerated.

It’s these costs that have driven reformers, now in Oklahoma, to cut back on mass incarceration.

It’s unclear what the initiative’s chances of passing are, due to a lack of good polling on it. But Oklahoma voters in 2016 approved two criminal justice reform measures — in the same year they voted for President Donald Trump — so there’s a history of voters there taking up reform.

2) California Proposition 25: A referendum on ending cash bail

In 2018, California lawmakers passed SB 10 to abolish cash bail. But within months, state activists gathered the signatures for a referendum on SB 10 before it could take effect — leaving it to voters to decide the future of cash bail in California with Proposition 25.

Right now, California courts can require defendants to pay to get out of jail, with a promise that they’ll get their money back when their trials are over. SB 10 would seek to replace that with a risk assessment system: Defendants would be released or kept in jail, depending on an evaluation of their risk to public safety and for returning to court.

Advocates argue that the new system would cut back racial and economic disparities, because the financial cost of cash bail today disproportionately impacts poor people — particularly low-income people of color — who have to stay in jail if they can’t afford to pay.

But critics claim that abolishing cash bail would let people released from jail commit more crimes, leading to an increase in crime. Bail bonds agents also oppose the measures, fearing that the reforms will put them out of business.

Other states, including New York (to some controversy), have already taken steps to reform and even abolish their bail systems.

In places that previously adopted cash bail reforms, they seem to be going well. In New Jersey, 2016 reforms led to a drop in the pretrial jail population of more than 40 percent, with defendants spending around 40 percent less time awaiting trial in jail. Almost 90 percent of defendants showed up at court appearances, and roughly a quarter of people awaiting trial committed new crimes — both of which were similar to the rates before the changed system. Overall, crime actually dropped in New Jersey after the reform’s passage.

But New Jersey’s system is also financially strained, showing the high potential costs of running a pretrial assessment system.

Now California voters will decide if they want to take similar steps. Right now, it looks like the issue could go either way, with one poll on the issue showing supporters of ending cash bail ahead but a whopping 29 percent of voters undecided.

3) California Proposition 17: Parolees seek the vote in California

On Proposition 17, Californians will decide if people on parole should be allowed to vote.

As it stands, California lets people vote even while they’re on one form of legal supervision after a crime: probation. But if they’re released early from prison and put on parole, they’re not allowed to vote.

Most states don’t let people vote while they’re in prison, on parole, or on probation. So California is already a bit more liberal on this issue than the majority of states. But reformers have tried to push the state — and the rest of the country — toward letting people vote after they complete their sentences. Some have pushed for letting people vote in prison, though only two states, Maine and Vermont, currently allow that.

A map of voting rights for people convicted of felonies.

California isn’t going that far, but merely removing one of these remaining categories of disenfranchisement: People in prison would still be unable to vote, but those released on parole would regain the right.

That could restore the right to vote to tens of thousands of Californians. According to the Sentencing Project, nearly 120,000 people this year will be disenfranchised while on parole in California.

Advocates of the change argue that people released from prison have already served the worst of their punishment. They’re being released on parole to reintegrate into society — and regaining the right to vote is a crucial element of doing that. And the experience of people on probation, which isn’t too different from parole, shows that this can work fine.

Opponents say that people convicted of felonies should lose their right to vote as part of their punishment. At the very least, people convicted of felonies shouldn’t regain the right to vote until they complete their sentences — including for prison, parole, and probation. With parole in particular, they claim that parole is an extension of prison time and some of the restrictions that prison entails.

The issue, then, comes down to a set of philosophical questions: Can someone at some point do something so terrible that they lose their right to vote? And if so, can they ever regain that right?

Where voters seem likely to stand is unclear right now, with no good polling on the issue in California.

4) California Proposition 20: Roll back criminal justice reforms

While much of the country, including California, works to reform its criminal justice system and make it less punitive, one ballot measure this year would actually roll back reforms.

California’s Proposition 20 would elevate several crimes, particularly types of theft and fraud, so they can also be charged as felonies, rather than only misdemeanors — in effect resulting in more prison time. It would also make several changes, such as classifying more crimes as “violent,” to make it harder for inmates to qualify for parole — keeping people in prison longer. And it would make it easier to lock people up for a probation violation — possibly resulting in more people in prison.

The measure largely targets reforms Californians have passed in recent years to reduce incarceration, which lawmakers and the public embraced after the courts, including the US Supreme Court, ruled that the state’s horribly overcrowded prisons amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The reform measures have been successful — cutting the state’s jail and prison population, all while crime continued to decrease throughout California.

A chart showing California’s falling crime trends. Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice

Supporters of Proposition 20, however, disagree with the reforms. They argue that the measure is necessary to crack down on crime — invoking many of the same arguments used by “tough on crime” advocates as they drove up incarceration in previous decades. They claim some of the crimes that are currently classified “nonviolent” under state law to allow parole are really violent or high-level offenses.

Opponents of the measure argue that it would move California’s criminal justice system backward. A report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice concluded that Proposition 20 would put thousands more people in jail or prison and cost the state $154 million to $457 million a year while failing to reduce crime further. It also found Proposition 20 “will particularly harm communities of color” — reflecting the racial disparities ingrained in the broader criminal justice system.

It’s really a representation of the broader fight about mass incarceration. Supporters of more incarceration, unshaken by the recent research disputing their claims, continue to push for a more punitive criminal justice system. Reformers, now on the defensive, insist more incarceration is costly and doesn’t actually make the public safer.

California voters will have a chance to decide which side they’re on this November. It’s not clear where voters stand now, due to a lack of good polling.

5) Nebraska Amendment 1 and Utah Amendment C: End slavery as a criminal punishment

America’s 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but it left a major exception: Slavery or involuntary servitude is allowed “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Some states have enshrined similar exceptions into their constitutions and laws, allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime. These exemptions are used to, for example, force prison inmates to work for no pay — which is still at times done by some prisons and jails.

Nebraska’s Amendment 1 and Utah’s Amendment C would change that, removing language in their state constitutions that allows slavery or involuntary servitude as forms of criminal punishment.

Supporters of the measures argue for them in moral terms. They say the ballot measures continue America’s long road toward righting its previous racial injustices, especially given that the criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates and penalizes Black people. The change could also help block the prison system from profiting off the labor of inmates — a profit motive that could incentivize the perpetuation of mass incarceration.

To the extent that work can benefit people who are incarcerated, supporters say, inmates can voluntarily opt in to it, with existing incentives that can reduce prison sentences based on good behavior and rehabilitation.

There’s no official opposition to either state’s ballot measure. But it’s unclear how likely either is to pass due to a lack of polling.

6) Kentucky Constitutional Amendment 1: Another push for Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law aims to ensure that crime victims — often defined to include not just the direct victims of crimes but also their family members — are heard and protected throughout the criminal trial process. Named after the murdered sister of Marsy’s Law for All founder Henry Nicholas, the law gives victims the right to be told about criminal proceedings, be present at proceedings, be heard at proceedings, and be protected from the accused, among other changes.

According to the campaign, the law was inspired by the murder of Marsy Ann Nicholas. After her death, her mother, Marcella Leach, ran into the accused murderer while he was out on bail. The family had not been notified he had been released on bail — causing “pain and suffering family members of murder victims so often endure,” the campaign said. That led Nicholas, the billionaire co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, to create Marsy’s Law and launch a national push for it.

So far, the measure has been approved in 11 states. Kentucky voters approved Marsy’s Law in 2018, but state courts invalidated the measure due to problems with the ballot language. Now it’s on the ballot again in Kentucky as Constitutional Amendment 1.

Some criminal justice reformers, however, are critical of Marsy’s Law. A blog post by the American Civil Liberties Union argued the measure undermines due process protections and may end up unworkable. For example, Marsy’s Law may force governments to deprive defendants of some of their rights in order to respect the newly delineated rights of victims — even as the defendant, who may be wrongly accused of a crime, is facing the most serious consequences.

Jeanne Hruska, political director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, wrote:

There are ways of guaranteeing victim’s rights without making constitutional mistakes. For instance, in New Hampshire, our comprehensive victims’ rights statute preempts conflict between rights by stating that victims’ rights shall be enforced “to the extent . . . they are not inconsistent with the constitutional or statutory rights of the accused.” This language recognizes that victims’ rights may come into conflict with defendants’ rights and that our justice system works only if defendants’ rights against the state are upheld.

Marsy’s Law has no comparable language.

It’s not that the ACLU and other criminal justice reformers oppose legally protecting victims’ rights. Many states, in fact, have crime victim protections that reformers don’t object to. It’s that, in their view, Marsy’s Law is not the right way to protect these victims.

There’s no recent, good polling on the topic in the state. But given that Kentucky voters already approved a similar measure in 2018, it seems likely to pass.


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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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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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