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#EndSARS isn’t just about police brutality. It’s about the future of Nigeria.

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Tamunoteim Princewill didn’t expect to see a gun pointed at his face.

As his bus entered the Nigerian capital of Abuja in September 2019, members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) — a federal police unit formed to thwart crime — signaled for it to pull over. An officer demanded money before letting the vehicle pass the arbitrary checkpoint, a practice so common that bus drivers often carry extra cash on them, just in case.

But the driver refused to pay, claiming he had nothing to give. Irate, the officer and his colleagues banged on the bus as some hopped on. One SARS officer, looking for his unjust reward, found Princewill listening to music on his phone and snatched it out of his hand. The 22-year-old complained, saying he’d done nothing wrong.

That’s when Princewill found himself staring down the barrel of a rifle, barked at to be quiet. “I’d seen guns at a distance, but for the first time it was right in my face,” he told me. “A simple pull and I would’ve been gone, far away from home.”

After the officer rummaged through the phone, seemingly finding nothing to his liking, he chucked it over the side of the bridge. Princewill tried to get off the bus to retrieve it, only to have more SARS members point their guns and command him back to his seat.

Ultimately, the police unit coaxed about $25 from the driver before letting the bus go on its way, with passengers — including Princewill — visibly shaken but unharmed. “It took me several months to forget and save enough to get a new phone,” he said. Still, he recognized, it could’ve gone so much worse. “Others have been less fortunate. I know people who have been killed or robbed of so much more.”

It’s this perpetual, decades-long abuse of authority that has thousands of young Nigerians demanding that their government #EndSARS.

For weeks, they have filled the nation’s streets and social media with calls for greater accountability, better governance, and a more equitable society. Despite having enough wealth to improve lives in Africa’s most populous country, the Nigerian state has neglected their needs, experts say, and in many cases made daily existence worse.

It’s why SARS has become the focal point of Nigerians’ anger. The unit’s officers don’t get paid a lot of money, whereas the country’s growing middle class is flush with cash for the taking. SARS officers rob citizens of their possessions, lining their own pockets and enriching their superiors who benefit from such a scheme. In the worst cases, as in the October video that launched the current uprising, SARS officers extrajudicially kill the very Nigerians they’ve sworn to protect.

Now, with global celebrities and US presidential candidates watching, Nigerians aim to do something about it.

“What the protesters have done is they’ve shown the effectiveness of the silent majority to push for change,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), a think tank in Abuja. “A new political movement has emerged, whether the ruling class likes it or not, and a new generation of political leaders has been born.”

Standing in their way is President Muhammadu Buhari, who would rather quash the movement than listen to its demands. In statement after statement, he’s expressed a desire for order instead of reform. Last week, Nigerian security forces fired on demonstrators in the city of Lagos, killing at least 12 people.

“What the government did is lay down a marker: We can kill you and get away with it,” said Matthew Page, a former US intelligence official focused on Nigeria.

The standoff, then, isn’t just about the future of a single police unit. It’s a fight — fueled by a sense of indignation among the nation’s youth — for the future of the country.

“Every generation in Nigeria has had a defining moment in their political consciousness,” said Amaka Anku, who leads the Africa section for the consulting firm Eurasia Group. “This is theirs.”

SARS stagnated as Nigeria developed

To understand the Nigerian public’s animosity toward SARS, you need to understand its rot.

Formed in 1984, the semi-autonomous tactical police team aimed to curb a national upswell in robberies, kidnappings, carjackings, and more. Officers, who roam around in plain clothes and unmarked cars, became particularly ubiquitous in the 1990s amid an uptick in those crimes. And when Nigeria years later had a problem with internet fraudsters known as “Yahoo boys,” who used their ill-gotten money to buy cars and laptops, SARS targeted anyone who seemed to be richer than they should be.

Officers learned during this time that they could take people’s possessions and money with impunity, experts said.

Nigeria’s forces became one of the most corrupt in the world. “It’s run like a pyramid scheme: lower levels have to kick money up the hierarchy to keep their positions,” said Page. “There’s a whole stream of corruption that runs from the bottom and goes to the top.”

Even so, the public generally turned a blind eye to that behavior because they appreciated the harsh crackdown on criminals. At the time, it was quite literally the price worth paying for security.

But then Nigeria changed.

#EndSARS protesters occupy Ibadan-Lagos Expressway on October 12.
Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The crime rates of the 1990s dropped (though not dramatically). Economic growth rates rose, driven in part by a thriving technology sector that fueled an emerging middle class. Information technology and telecommunications grew from about 1 percent of national GDP in 2001 to roughly 10 percent in 2018, and it’s slightly higher than that now.

As a result, the number of young Nigerians — people under 24 years of age make up about 60 percent of the population — wearing Silicon Valley-style hoodies with cars and laptops grew, too.

SARS, though, had an inculcated culture of profiling and targeting those kinds of people. The unit, experts said, broadly suspected youthful Nigerians with a middle-class living standard of obtaining it illicitly. “If SARS see you as a young person who is successful with a nice car, they will harass you and extort money from you,” an activist told BBC News two weeks ago.

That led to a shift in the public’s relations with the officers. “Now it’s my friends who are in the tech sector getting harassed and getting killed,” Anku said, explaining the general sentiment now. “There’s more of a public consciousness” about what’s going on.

And what’s going on is grim. The human rights group Amnesty International found that SARS perpetrated “at least 82 cases of torture, ill treatment and extra-judicial execution” from January 2017 to May 2020. Not everyone has had negative encounters with the force, but “everybody knows somebody who has had a bad experience with SARS,” CDD’s Hassan told me.

It’s gotten so bad that experts and Nigerian citizens told me few actually want to call the police when something goes wrong. In most cases, the police won’t take care of the situation. What they might do, though, is shake you down for money.

That feeling of distrust is why activists started the #EndSARS campaign in 2017, focusing their attention on one particularly egregious police unit to make a broader point. Nigeria’s government repeatedly promised to disband SARS, but never followed through.

That inaction kept public anger toward SARS and the government at a simmer for three years. But this month, it heated up to a raging boil.

#EndSARS goes from an online grievance to a worldwide phenomenon

On October 3, a video surfaced online allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in southern Nigeria. Even though the person who tweeted the video had only about 800 followers at the time, their tweet got about 10,000 retweets. Others simply linked to the video, but typed in #EndSARS.

Nigerians had had personal encounters with SARS and seen horrifying videos like this before, but the timing — in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US — and sheer brutality of the images brought tons of attention to the video. “It kind of galvanized the people,” Hassan told me, “and the more people spoke out, the more everyone could align with the grievance.”

Five days later, the public’s grievances moved from the internet to Nigeria’s streets. Thousands rallied in major urban areas, with some in Lagos — the African continent’s most populous city — holding signs demanding “respect for human rights” and “a more equal society.” It was less peaceful in the capital Abuja, as police dispersed a few dozen protesters with tear gas.

Soon celebrities, encouraged by activists online, lent their support to the movement and called for SARS to be disbanded. Among them was John Boyega, the British-Nigerian actor famous for starring in the last three Star Wars films, as well as popular Nigerian musicians Davido and Wizkid.

The online pressure and street demonstrations had an impact: On October 11, Nigeria’s government said it would disband SARS “WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT.”

But there were two problems with that. First, as Boyega’s tweet noted, Abuja had promised this before — four times, in fact, since 2017. Second, none of the corrupt SARS officers would be fired. They’d just be relocated to other divisions and teams within Nigeria’s federal police force.

Anger at the tepid changes only grew when the head of police on October 14 announced that SARS would no longer exist, but the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team would carry out its duties. In other words, the mistreatment of Nigerian citizens by its police would continue, just by other officers.

Demonstrators weren’t satisfied, and protests have continued since, even in defiance of government-imposed curfews. “Nigerians want their daily experience with the police to tangibly change,” said Page, now at the Chatham House think tank in the UK. “If the institutions don’t function properly, then what’s the point” of those reforms?

Especially if they don’t meet the actual requests of the movement. #EndSARS leaders released their “five demands” of the government on October 11, which include disbanding the unit, but also releasing activists from jail, prosecuting poor police conduct, evaluating and retraining officers, and increasing the salary for agents.

Courtesy of an #EndSARS protester.

But if you ask Nigeria’s government, it’s already done enough. It did pass the 2020 Police Act this year, which, among other things, promises a pay raise for officers. That, in addition to replacing SARS with SWAT, should mollify the crowds, in the government’s view.

It explains why Buhari, Nigeria’s president, feels less of a need to cave to more demands, and more of a need to quash the protests. Quickly.

“Law and order” versus #EndSARS

Experts say Buhari is completely out of touch with the movement he’s up against. He comes from the country’s north, a Muslim-majority region that’s heavily securitized due to its problems with terrorism. But the protests are centered in the richer Christian-majority south and its big cities, which is why he has trouble understanding the plight of the people there.

“Buhari is very narrow minded. He’s not a guy with a capacity to understand a lot beyond his narrow worldview,” said the Eurasia Group’s Anku. “He doesn’t understand the frustration or the context.”

But it’s not just his mental inflexibility, Page said, it’s also how he leads. “This is much more about his imperious and monarchical style of ruling Nigeria,” he told me. “He’s not one to listen to these kinds of complaints and find them valid … he resents that people are questioning how he or any of his cohort run the country.”

Buhari’s forceful response to the protests is a case in point. On October 15, Nigeria’s army put out a statement warning “all subversive elements and troublemakers” that the nation’s forces would “defend the country and her democracy at all cost.” The military “is ready to fully support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order and deal with any situation decisively,” the statement said.

Security forces followed through on that threat five days later. Videos on social media appeared to show gunfire and wounded people at Lagos’s Lekki toll gate. Reports indicate about 12 people died in the altercation, with many more hurt. It’s to date the deadliest incident since the uprising.

The next day Buhari said he would seek justice for the victims and their families and that his administration would quickly adopt more police reforms.

Activists and experts, though, didn’t buy it.

Page told me that, as of now, there’s no evidence looting and property destruction has happened at the direction of #EndSARS protesters. But elites with ties to the government have likely sponsored gangs to wreak havoc, setting stores and cars on fire while posing as activists.

That would gave the government an excuse to crack down hard on the movement.

Buhari made that play quite explicit in a Thursday address to the nation. “I must warn those who have hijacked and misdirected the initial, genuine, and well-intended protest of some of our youths in parts of the country, against the excesses of some members of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad,” he said. Because of the violence, “I therefore call on our youths to discontinue protest.”

His words weren’t taken as a sign of willingness to compromise. “The tone and body language of the president in his speech was shockingly harsh, lacking in empathy, and condescending,” Bolarinwa Durojaiye, a Nigerian technology entrepreneur who sides with the protesters, told me. “This administration clearly does not feel more accountable.”

He has a point: Despite condemnations from the United Nations and African Union, Buhari isn’t backing down.

With little chance of deposing Buhari with street protests alone, an uncomfortable question arises: Has #EndSARS failed?

#EndSARS may be winding down, but it’s not going away

In the course of reporting this story, I asked multiple factions within the #EndSARS movement for comment. One, which I won’t name because they declined to comment on the record, explained that “due to recent events, we will be taking [some] downtime.”

It’s pretty clear what the spokesperson was conveying: The government’s use of violence has made activists wary about pushing too hard right now.

It’s a sentiment the Feminist Coalition, one of the pro-movement groups, made evident in a Thursday statement. “The past two weeks have been tough for many Nigerians, most especially the last two days,” they said. “Many lives have been lost and properties destroyed at the height of what started as peaceful marches for the end to police brutality.”

They continued: “Following the President’s address, we hereby encourage all young Nigerians to stay safe, stay home, and observe the mandated curfew in your state.”

Experts said they expect fewer scenes of packed streets in the days ahead. That was always a possible outcome, noted the Eurasia Group’s Anku, since the calls for dismantling SARS didn’t spread to the entirety of the country. They centered mostly in the south’s large cities. “This is a sudden phenomenon,” she said. “It’s not enough of a movement.”

But what might happen, she added, is that #EndSARS could turn into an organized political force ahead of the 2023 presidential election. With enough momentum, Nigeria’s youth could defeat a Buhari-aligned politician (he can’t run for a third term) with someone willing to improve the relationship between the government and its people.

“It’s really not just a protest about SARS,” CDD’s Hassan told me. “It’s really about governance.”

It’s why experts believe both the government and activists may step back from a broader confrontation to regroup. There’s a political fight to win, after all.

But the overlying issue — police brutality in Nigeria — still isn’t solved. If another horrifying video surfaces or the police or military kill more people in the weeks ahead, “that may reignite the now seething base of protesters,” said Page.

And if that happens, it won’t just be a political struggle over the next few years. It could be a lethal one, too.


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

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(CNN) —  

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

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

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

Coffee

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

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

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

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

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

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

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

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

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

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

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

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

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

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

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

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

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

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

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

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

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

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

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

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

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

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

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

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

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

Beauty

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

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

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

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

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

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

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

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

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

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

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

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

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

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

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

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

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

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

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

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

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

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

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

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

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

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

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

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

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

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

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

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

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

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

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

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

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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

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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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