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An American lynching: ‘I could hear their screams’

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Monroe, Georgia – A Confederate monument – a musket-strapped soldier perched atop a marble base – stands tall in the grounds of the historic Walton County courthouse in the city of Monroe, about an hour east of Atlanta, Georgia.

Erected more than 100 years ago, it is situated in the centre of the city’s downtown business district, whose blocks of quaint red brick buildings eventually give way to residential neighbourhoods where “Trump-Pence 2020” signs pierce freshly-cut lawns and Confederate flags flutter in the breeze.

Beyond the neatly-aligned homes are miles of vibrant green fields, once used as cotton plantations, and beyond those, down a short dirt road, is a small cemetery, with an old, white church at its entrance.

Among the wooden crosses, tombs and gravestones sits the shared headstone of siblings George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm.

The lives of 28-year-old George and 20-year-old Dorothy, along with those of their spouses, Mae Murray Dorsey, 24, and Roger Malcolm, 24, were cut short 74 years ago in the United States’s last documented mass lynching.

Their lives ended by the Moore’s Ford Bridge, a few miles from downtown Monroe, in a remote backwoods, but their story is one that can be traced back through the country’s violent past and forward to its troubled present.

The shared gravestone of George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

‘I could feel their spirits’

Fifty-nine-year-old Patrice Dorsey’s mother was a cousin of George and Dorothy.

She refers to the Moore’s Ford Bridge, which traverses the Apalachee River and cuts through secluded forests of pine trees, brush and thickets, as the “killing fields”.

She first visited it over a decade ago.

“My heart just sank and tears came to my eyes,” she recalls. “I could feel their spirits there and I could hear their screams.”

“I felt so sad for what had happened to them.”

On July 14, 1946, Roger Malcolm, a Black sharecropper, was arrested for allegedly stabbing Barnette Hester, a white man who owned the farm Roger and his wife Dorothy were living on, during an argument. According to Anthony Pitch, an author and historian who dedicated the last six years of his life to uncovering the truth about the case, Roger had suspected for some time that Dorothy and Barnette were having a relationship.

Loy Harrison, a white landowner who employed Dorothy’s family, including her brother George and his wife Mae, agreed to bail Roger out in exchange for him working on sawmill operations he was starting at his farm.

On July 25, as Hester remained in hospital, Harrison arrived at the jail and paid a $600 bond to get Roger released. He was accompanied by Dorothy, who is said to have been seven months pregnant, George, and Mae.

According to Pitch, the FBI later learned that in Walton County a Black man was “never bonded out of jail while a white man’s life was in danger,” and that “prior approval” for his release would have had to have come from “interested” parties.

The re-enactment of the Moore’s Ford lynching, 74 years after the murders took place [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

Harrison, who according to an FBI report had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), never explained why he decided to take the longest route home from the jail, driving the couples toward Moore’s Ford Bridge, which links Walton and Oconee counties.

But as Harrison’s Pontiac sedan made its way over the wooden bridge, it was ambushed by a large group of white men. The mob, of about 20 to 25 people, hauled Roger and George, a World War II veteran, out of the vehicle, bound their wrists with rope and dragged them through the underbrush to the banks of the Apalachee River.

According to Harrison’s statement to the FBI, Dorothy and Mae started screaming, and one of them yelled out the name of a man she recognised from the mob – a name Harrison said he could not recall.

The mob responded by dragging the women from the car and down to the river bank.

At some point, a 10-foot-long (three-metre) rope was tightly bound around Roger’s neck.

Harrison said he heard the mob say, “One, two, three,” which, according to Pitch, some believed to be a ritual that preceded executions carried out by the KKK.

The two young couples were executed in three volleys of gunfire. The coroner’s report estimated that at least 60 shots had been fired at close range.

‘Blood and terror’

It was an act of collective violence like that inflicted upon thousands of African Americans throughout US history.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a rights group that has done extensive research on the history of lynching in the US, has documented 4,084 “racial terror” lynchings in 12 Southern states between 1877 and 1950, and at least 300 lynchings in other states during the same period.

Kiara Boone, the EJI’s deputy director of community education, explains that these numbers are most likely an “undercount”. According to the group’s data, lynchings in the US peaked between 1880 and 1940. Georgia was among the states with the highest number.

According to the EJI, Southern white communities used lynchings to assert “their racial dominance over the region’s political and economic resources – a dominance first achieved through slavery would now be restored through blood and terror”.

African Americans who had been arrested for an alleged crime against a white person were often kidnapped from jail by white mobs, with the collusion of local sheriffs, and lynched. The country’s criminal justice system was deemed “too good” for Black people, Boone says, and led to scores being killed without a trial or investigation.

Hundreds more were killed for non-criminal offences – such as protesting against mistreatment or violating various “Black codes” implemented to maintain racial hierarchies in the South.

Crowds of white people, at times numbering in the thousands, would gather for public lynchings, which could involve prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment and burning of the Black victims. The EJI describes these as “carnival-like events,” in which men, women and children would participate.

Following the lynchings, the spectators would excitedly grab “souvenirs” – pieces of rope, bloodied clothes, and body parts of the victims. Photographs of the lynchings, along with images of the mutilated and charred corpses, would be distributed.

A scene from the lynching re-enactment; the Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,084 ‘racial terror’ lynchings in 12 Southern states between 1877 and 1950, and at least 300 more in other states during the same period [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

‘Message crimes’

Lynchings were “message crimes,” explains Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund who has written a book on the subject.

“They were meant to send a message to Black communities about the boundaries of citizenship and their ability to be full citizens in this country – and that message was delivered through this particular form of terrorism.”

These lynchings were carried out by “ordinary people,” she says.

“Of course the KKK was involved in lynchings, but what made it more terrifying was the role of ordinary people – the people in the crowd who egged it on or actively participated. It could be the local pharmacist, elected officials, members of the high school football team, or law students who were present and watched the show.”

Lynchings were not just aimed at individuals, Ifill explains, but were commonly accompanied by “racial pogroms”. White people “marauded through towns and burned down Black businesses, causing tremendous property damage, and assaulted and beat up Black people they found along the way” – often accompanied by local police.

The EJI has documented how, in response to “routinely fabricated” allegations of sexual transgressions against white women, white mobs would “target entire Black communities with violent, public and sexualized acts,” including “the widespread rape of Black women, sometimes in front of their families; and genital mutilation and castration”.

It was a tool to keep “Black people in their place” to ensure racial subordination and white supremacy following the abolition of slavery, Ifill explains.

The re-enactment is organised by the Moore’s Ford Movement, which was first spearheaded by Dr Martin Luther King Jr when he was a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

This collective violence against Black communities was also aimed at controlling the political or voting rights of African Americans.

In 1946, the year that the Dorseys and Malcolms were gunned down at Moore’s Ford Bridge, a contentious Democratic primary election for governor was under way in Georgia. Earlier that year, the US Supreme Court had ruled that the all-white Democratic primaries were unconstitutional; the 1946 elections were the first to be held in Georgia without a statewide ban on Black voting.

Eugene Talmadge, a gubernatorial candidate and well-known white supremacist, faced tough competition in the elections and escalated his inflammatory rhetoric against the Black community. It has been suggested that Talmadge’s campaign to incite violence against Black citizens to keep them from the voting booths contributed to the lynching in Monroe.

Talmadge, who is considered one of the most “racially polarising figures in Georgia history” and whose statue still stands on the grounds of Georgia’s state capitol, allegedly met with the brother of Barnette Hester in front of the Walton County courthouse shortly before the murders and offered immunity to anyone who would “take care” of Roger.

According to an FBI memo, the Monroe assistant police chief, who witnessed the meeting, believed Talmadge’s promise of immunity was intended to secure the support of the Hester family in the upcoming election.

About a week before the Dorseys and Malcolms were slaughtered, Maceo Snipes, also a World War II veteran, made the bold decision to become the first African American to cast a vote in the July 17 primary in Taylor County, located about two hours from Monroe.

The following day, four white men, rumoured to be members of the local Klan chapter, arrived at Snipes’s grandfather’s farmhouse, where he was having dinner with his mother, called him outside and shot him in the back.

With the help of his mother, Snipes walked for three miles to a relative’s home, from where he was driven to a nearby hospital. Despite desperately needing a blood transfusion, Snipes was told by doctors that there was no “Black blood” available at the hospital.

Two days later, he died from his injuries.

A flier with an image of Maceo Snipes on it, held by his great granddaughter [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

An FBI investigation

The bodies of George and Mae Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcolm were left unattended, rotting by the banks of the river for almost two days. During the night, white Monroe residents trickled down to the crime scene and foraged for pieces of rope, bullets and teeth.

Their murders prompted national outrage, says Laura Wexler, who authored a book on the case – partly because George Dorsey was a veteran who had served in North Africa and the Pacific.

According to Joe Bell, a lawyer currently petitioning the US Supreme Court to unseal grand jury transcripts from the case, protests erupted across the country and thousands of telegrams were sent to the White House demanding accountability for the lynching.

What followed was the “most extensive federal lynching investigation in the history of the nation at the time,” Wexler explains. President Harry Truman sent in the FBI, which interrogated almost 3,000 Black and white residents of Walton County during the months-long investigation.

Over 16 days in December of that year, more than 100 people testified in front of a grand jury. But despite the unprecedented time and resources put into the case, not a single resident of Walton County was indicted.

According to the EJI, out of all the lynchings committed since 1900, only one percent resulted in a perpetrator being convicted of a criminal offence.

‘Veil of silence’

Despite the widespread attention the lynching received, Hope Dorsey, Patrice’s sister, knew little about her relatives, George and Dorothy.

“There’s been some murmurs of what happened [in the family],” says the 52-year-old who lives in North Carolina. “But we never saw anything that confirmed it.”

“My mum didn’t want to talk about it because she was scared about what might happen. They left this town [Monroe] and never came back.”

Hope Dorsey, a relative of George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

Following lynchings, a hushed silence permeated Black and white communities.

“White people had a pact between them and understood that they were not going to tell what they knew and Black people were too afraid to speak because of fears of retaliation and reprisal,” Ifill explains.

There were times, she says, when the family of a lynching victim was too fearful to even collect the remains of their loved ones. “There’s no real place for the family to process the horror of what has happened to them or their loved one because the most important thing is to be silent and to be safe from reprisals,” she says.

Families were “living in absolute terror” and white people involved in lynchings lived in “perpetual fear that Black people might be planning something against them,” Ifill adds. “So you have this veil of silence that falls down within these affected families because they cannot speak their pain publicly.”

Scattered

The Dorsey and Malcolm families fled Monroe following the lynching, eventually becoming scattered across various states, including Ohio and North Carolina. The breakup of Black families and entire communities was repeated throughout the South during this era.

After lynchings “it was not uncommon to see the relatives or descendants of the person who was lynched flee the community or for the entire Black community to leave,” Boone explains. “It’s not a coincidence that a lot of these cities today [sites of violence against Black communities] are now majority white spaces.”

Between 1916 and 1970, more than six million African Americans relocated from the rural South to cities in the North, West and Midwest. The Great Migration, as it is known, is often framed as being driven primarily by the search for economic opportunities outside of the South, where about 90 percent of the African American population had lived.

But “a key role in the migration of [Black] people from the deep South was in response to racial terror lynchings and violence,” says Boone. “And when you’re forced to flee your home that carries with it a loss of income, property and resources that you can’t carry with you. And it often breaks up the family ties.”

As African Americans fled the South and flooded into cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York and Oakland, they were not welcomed as refugees or internally displaced people fleeing rampant and horrendous violence back home, but instead “faced job, housing and education discrimination that were perpetuated through realtors and local governments, and bolstered by federal legislation,” Boone explains.

A scene from the re-enactment, which brings together the Dorsey and Malcolm families [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

‘Saying their names’

It was only when Patrice – sometimes referred to as the “historian of the [Dorsey] family” – saw an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show in the 1990s that she understood the significance of the whispers she had overheard in her family.

On the show was Clinton Adams, a former Monroe resident who had come forward to the FBI, claiming to have witnessed the lynching as a 10-year-old child hiding in the woods.

“They were showing the Malcolms and Dorseys in their caskets. They were showing the whole story of my family,” Patrice, who lives in North Carolina, recalls, her voice still reflecting the shock she felt then. “That’s when it really sunk in. I remember tears coming to my eyes. I couldn’t believe I was looking at my relatives.”

Patrice began piecing together her family’s story and went in search of her long lost relatives, separated decades earlier when they had fled Monroe in fear.

But it was not until 2005, when the Moore’s Ford Movement – first spearheaded by Dr Martin Luther King Jr when he was still a student at Atlanta’s Morehouse College – began organising an annual re-enactment of the lynching that the estranged families started to find each other.

According to Tyrone Brooks, a veteran of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and chairman of the Moore’s Ford Movement, the re-enactments, which are held every year on July 25 – the anniversary of the lynching – are aimed at making “sure America never forgets that lynchings were a common strategy to suppress, intimidate and kill people in this country – and we won’t allow America to hide from this past.”

For the Dorseys and Malcolms, the re-enactments also serve as a family reunion.

At this year’s re-enactment, conversations between relatives of the victims – some of whom were meeting each other for the first time – twisted around long and complicated family trees, as they searched for their common ancestry.

“The more we talk about what happened to our ancestors, the more the word gets out,” Hope explains. “Now Dorseys from Baltimore and Detroit to Louisiana and Alabama are responding to [the re-enactment], finding each other, and getting to know one another.”

“The lynching broke up our family, but in our fight for recognition and remembering what happened here in Monroe, we’re coming back together finally,” she says. “We’re saying their names and we want the world to hear it and we want the world to know what happened here.”

“Our family coming back together feels like closure to us,” she reflects. “We’ve been absent for so long, but now we’re here and even teaching the young generations about what happened to the Dorseys and Malcolms and remembering the violence they faced. I feel like now since their family is here, they can finally rest peacefully because we won’t let the world forget them.”

‘Another trophy for their wall’

Joseph Dorsey’s father was the brother of George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm.

“I would hear my father talking about it. He would bring it up now and then,” the 72-year-old recalls. “But it was mostly when he was drinking, so we didn’t pay much attention. I think that pain stayed with him throughout his life.”

Joseph, who lives in Georgia, says it was not until he grew older that he started to reflect more on his father’s stories about the murders. “I started to see all that stuff for myself. They tell you which doors you can walk through and which bathrooms and water fountains you can use,” he says of segregation.

“We lived through all that so our uncle’s story was something that we, ourselves, were living through.”

George’s brother Joseph Dorsey, who is the nephew of George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

Joseph’s brother, 69-year-old George, who was named after his slain uncle, did not know about his relatives’ murders until he was at least in his 40s, “if not older,” he says, adding that he had not met his father until he was 13 years old.

The first time George visited his aunt and uncle’s gravesite was in 1999, when the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee arranged for George Dorsey to receive military honours, which included a flyover by a World War II plane, during a ceremony in Monroe.

“We’re lucky we even know their names,” George says. “They’re many [Black] people who were killed and never identified. No one knows what happened to them or who they were.”

According to the EJI, hundreds of lynching victims’ names are still unknown because newspaper reports at the time failed to publish them.

“It’s awful sometimes how life is,” says George, who also resides in Georgia. “But what’s done is done and that’s how I look at it. They just kill Black people like deer and there’s nothing anyone’s going to do about it. It’s just another trophy for their wall. And it will keep going on that way because they keep getting away with it.”

“Justice will only come when he [Jesus Christ] comes back,” he reflects. “That’s when we’ll see some justice. On judgement day all of those people will get it. And if justice comes before then it will shock me to death.”

George Dorsey, named after his uncle who was killed in the Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

‘A lot of fear’

Several miles from the gravestone of George and Dorothy lies another tombstone, propped atop the more recently dug grave of Lynn McKinley Jackson, a 23-year-old army private and native of Monroe, whose decomposing body was found hanging from a pine tree in the woods outside Social Circle, a city in Walton County, in 1981.

A few months after his body was found, a jury ruled Jackson’s death a suicide, even though he would have had to climb a pine tree, with no branches, for 20 feet (six metres) straight to reach the branch he was found hanging from. Many residents and activists are convinced he was killed.

Jackson’s hanging remains still cast a shadow over Walton County, where street signs continue to bear the names of some of those suspected of having fired the bullets into the Dorseys and Malcolms more than seven decades ago.

“These lynchings tell us why our current reality is the way it is,” says 30-year-old BreAnn Robinson, a resident of Monroe and one of the founders of FORM, a local group established last year to push for reconciliation and transformative justice in Monroe.

“You can clearly see where the Black community starts and ends and where the white community starts and ends,” she explains. “There’s a clear line drawn and you can see the different socioeconomic statuses between the white and Black communities very clearly.”

“Growing up here, there was a lot of fear,” Robinson adds.

In Monroe, African Americans make up about 42 percent of the population, but there are only two Black city council members and all but one of the businesses in Monroe’s brick-layered downtown business district are white-owned, says Robinson.

The grave of Lynn McKinley Jackson [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

A ‘direct descendant of lynching’

But it is not just in Monroe that the legacy of lynching continues to reverberate; communities across the US are haunted by it.

According to Boone, the criminal justice system replaced the white vigilantes as a central tool for suppressing the civil, political and economic rights of Black people.

In response to the worsening public image of Southern states, law enforcement and elected state officials began negotiating with the white mobs to hold state-sanctioned public executions as a way of mitigating the violence while still appeasing the white mobs, Boone says.

According to the EJI, northern states had abolished public executions by 1850, but some Southern states continued the practice until 1938, and at times succeeded in forcing public hangings even where it was illegal.

As early as the 1920s, the EJI says Southern legislators “shifted to capital punishment so that the legal and ostensibly unbiased court proceedings could serve the same purpose as vigilante violence: satisfying the lust for revenge”.

By 1915 court-ordered executions outnumbered lynchings in Southern states for the first time, while two-thirds of those executed in the 1930s were Black, according to the EJI. Although the African American population of the South fell to 22 percent between 1910 and 1950, Black people still constituted 75 percent of those executed in the South during that period.

Todd and Hope Dorsey stand outside the First African Baptist church in Monroe; their mother is the cousin of George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

The EJI considers the death penalty in the US to be a “direct descendant of lynching”. While only 13 percent of the country’s population is African American, more than 42 percent of those on death row and 34 percent of those executed are Black. In Georgia, someone convicted of killing a white person is 17 times more likely to be executed than someone convicted of killing a Black person.

“The states with the highest numbers of documented racial terror lynchings are also the states with the highest number of death sentences and executions today,” says Boone.

“These systems are rooted in the myths of racial differences and the idea that Black people are inferior, dangerous or criminal,” she explains. “These myths were created to justify centuries of enslavement, where Black people were treated as property and looked at as less than human. And that’s something that has lived on for generations.”

The case of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death earlier this year while jogging in his neighbourhood outside Brunswick, Georgia, sent a terrifying, but all-too-familiar, tremor through Black communities. Two white men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, who killed Arbery after pursuing him in their pickup truck, were not arrested until months after the murder – and then only after a video of the incident went viral and national outrage erupted.

From police killings to vigilantism, “all of that is anchored in this history of racism and how we devalue and dehumanise Black people, and the lack of accountability that we continue to see when violence is carried out on Black people in this country,” says Boone.

‘The root of all of this’

Despite being raised in Walton County, Robinson did not learn of the mass lynching that took place there until 2017, when she stumbled upon a flier for the annual re-enactment. “I was so shocked,” she recalls. “I was raised here. I went to school here and studied history here. My family is from here. And I had never heard about it.”

“It was a big eye-opener for me. There was a huge investigation, even the president got involved. And no one decided that we should be taught this? It showed me that those in power do not care about the Black community.”

“I then decided to dig deeper, learn more, and understand why this veil of oppression is still hanging over this city,” she adds. “And what I’ve learned is that a lot of those individuals who were part of the lynching, their families owned a lot of land and they had a lot of power. And all of these families are still in power to this day.”

According to Robinson, most of the Black community in Monroe “still doesn’t like to talk about the Moore’s Ford lynching because they’re still scared”. But some white residents, who are descendants of suspected lynchers, have stepped forward to participate in FORM’s activities. “They feel ashamed for what their relatives did and they want to say this isn’t who they are,” she explains.

Robinson, along with the rest of FORM’s members, is advocating for the removal of Walton County’s Confederate monument and the erection of a central memorial for the Dorseys and Malcolms, as well as for July 25 to be declared a city-wide day of mourning. Activists around the country have also advocated for reparations for families affected by lynchings.

“This is our history and justice still hasn’t been served,” Robinson reflects. “Think about all the families who still haven’t received justice for their children brutally killed by police or white vigilantes. These lynchings are the root of all this. If we let this history die, then they win. And since it’s not written in our history books, it’s our responsibility to make sure this country doesn’t forget.”

Boone believes that efforts to document or memorialise victims of lynchings are “a way of adding to the work of truth-telling, which is desperately needed in this country”.

“Our goal should be about truth and justice. We need to really recognise and confront the truth of our past,” she explains.

Todd Dorsey stands next to the white church at the cemetery where George Dorsey and Dorothy Malcolm were buried [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

The EJI opened The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery Alabama in 2018, along with the country’s first national memorial to the thousands of African Americans killed by white mobs during the era of lynching.

Todd Dorsey, Patrice and Hope’s brother, is still waiting for the day he feels closure for the massacre of his relatives on Moore’s Ford Bridge.

“We need something, even if it’s an official recognition or an apology,” the 60-year-old says. “These were human beings and we want that to be recognised. There are memorials for Confederate soldiers and even the names of those men who killed them are still on Monroe’s street signs, but our relatives’ names are only written in the cemeteries.

“But we’re still here,” he adds. “We’re the remnants. We’re the seeds of our ancestors. Back then, people were too scared to speak, but now we’re here and we’ll always fight until we get justice for them.”

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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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