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Here are the smart home deals we’re expecting on Prime Day

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It’s safe to say that we’re expecting Prime Day to be filled with deals on smart home gadgets that work both inside and outside. In fact, it will likely be the biggest category of tech seeing discounts; that goes for Amazon-made devices, like a Ring or Blink camera, but also for third-party devices from Arlo, Kasa, Belkin, Wemo and iRobot.

In order to take advantage of the deals, you’ll need an Amazon Prime subscription. If you’re new to Prime, you can take advantage of a 30-day free trial, and if not, Amazon Prime is $12.99 a month or $119 for the year. Not only do you get access to these deals, but you get free two-day shipping on select items, and Prime Video and Prime Music access are just some of the standout features.

Once you’ve confirmed that you’re a Prime member, savings galore on smart home products await. The deals and discounts have already begun, though you can anticipate a ton more when Prime Day officially kicks off on October 13 at midnight PT. Let’s break down what to expect.

Echo devices are already discounted

PHOTO: Amazon

As usual for Prime Day, Amazon-made devices are seeing major discounts. Currently, the previous 3rd-Generation Echo Dot, which we found provided a balanced (albeit not so loud) audio experience, is just $39.99 from $49.99. That’s a good deal, but we’re expecting it to drop even lower when the sale starts. Meanwhile, the Echo Dot Kids Edition, which can grow with your child to eventually become a fully enabled Alexa smart speaker, is $34.99 from $69.99 in blue or rainbow colorways.

But really, any Echo is a great way to start a smart home or expand your current setup. The Echo Dot and the Echo Flex are probably the easiest (and least expensive) ways to bring Alexa into your home. You’ll just need a power adapter and a surface to place the Echo Dot upon, or just an outlet to plug the Echo Flex into. Both give you full access to Alexa and allow you to listen to music, ask questions, check the weather, hear what’s going on in the news and control other devices.

The Echo Show 5 pairs Alexa with a 5.5-inch display and more robust sound over the Echo Dot, and now, it’s on sale for $44.99 from $89.99. We expect the previous-gen Echo Show and current Echo Show 8 to join in on the savings during Prime Day.

A smart speaker designed for music, the Echo Studio is not only the loudest but delivers seriously impressive sound. It normally retails for $199.99, though we’re hoping for a Prime Day discount. Or opt for an Alexa-enabled smart speaker that’s not made by Amazon, like a Sonos One, Sonos Move or Bose Home Speaker, many of which support Google and Apple AirPlay 2 as well. Here’s a breakdown of speakers we’re hoping to see on sale during Prime Day.

Smart plugs should go on sale

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

We’d be remiss not to mention arguably the simplest smart home product: a connected wall plug. Smart plugs can be turned on and off from anywhere, and in some cases, they allow you to monitor your energy usage.

Amazon’s own smart plug works only with the Alexa ecosystem, but Wemo’s plugs work with Alexa, Google and even Apple’s HomeKit platform. Last year, Amazon’s Smart Plug dropped to just $5 from $24.99, and the Wemo models — the Smart Plug ($24.99) and the Mini Smart Plug ($34.99) — will also likely be on sale.

Alexa-controllable devices will be marked down

PHOTO: iRobot

There’s never been a shortage of Alexa-controllable devices, and we’re expecting many of them to see steep discounts.

Amazon is teasing up to 33% off iRobot devices. The entry-level iRobot Roomba E5 is just $299.99 from $379.99 and fully supports Alexa voice commands. That means you can ask Alexa to start vacuuming while you hang out on the couch. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, the iRobot Roomba i7+, which should be about $200 off its usual $799 price, will empty itself into its base.

The myQ Smart Garage Hub by Chamberlain is a retrofit device for existing garage doors that adds in smart controls via a companion app. Plus, you can link myQ with Alexa for voice commands. We’re expecting deeper discounts on Prime Day, though it’s already on sale for $36.99 from $39.98.

Smart thermostats are one of the most useful additions to a home, and chances are you can handle the install by yourself. Choose from top brands like Nest, Ecobee and Honeywell, all of which should have models on sale for Prime Day.

Finally, the connected or smart lighting category has exploded recently with bulbs, strips and even fixtures. We’re expecting discounts on Vocolinc, Ring, Philips Hue, Lutron and Sylvania across various lighting gadgets. Here are a few top devices to watch.

  • Ring A19 Smart LED Bulb ($14.99; amazon.com)
  • Philips Hue White and Color 2-Pack A19 ($89.99; amazon.com)
  • Lutron Caseta Smart Start Kit ($99.95; amazon.com)

Save on security and monitoring

In the realm of cameras and alarm systems, many top choices integrate directly with Alexa, Google and Apple HomeKit. Amazon’s Ring or Blink are no-brainer picks when it comes to monitoring your home, and you can already start saving on several models.

Right now, Blink’s Indoor Mini Camera is $24.95 from Amazon. It’s a no-frills HD camera that can be placed on any surface with the included stand or mounted to a wall. It supports a live view and can even monitor for motion to record.

Ring’s Indoor Camera takes up a bit more space, but offers slightly better video quality — both recorded and live streaming. Its normal price is $59.99, and we expect that to drop in both the black and white colors. Ring also makes a bunch of doorbell models that replace your classic ringer. Many of them can run either on electrical power or via the included battery pack. Here are a few others to monitor:

Arlo’s line of smart cameras is also seeing steep discounts, with more expected on October 13 and 14. A two-pack of the Arlo Pro 3 cameras with a hub is $100 off at $399.99. These cameras stream and record in full 2K resolution with HDR for excellent picture quality and run on batteries that can last around three months and are fully weatherproof. Meanwhile, the Pro 3 Floodlight Cam, which encases the Pro 3 with a bright LED light around it, is currently $30.99 off at $219.99.

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Polish court allows stricter abortion law, sparking outcry

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Chief justice says existing legislation that allowed abortion of malformed fetuses was ‘incompatible’ with the constitution.

Poland’s constitutional court has struck down a provision of the country’s abortion law allowing Europe’s most strict legislation to be further tightened and provoking an outcry from rights groups.

Chief justice Julia Przylebska said in a ruling on Thursday existing legislation, which allows for the abortion of malformed fetuses, was “incompatible” with the constitution.

The verdict, which is final and cannot be appealed, drew immediate condemnation from the Council of Europe, whose Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it “a sad day for #WomensRights”.

“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in #Poland amounts to a ban & violates #HumanRights,” Mijatovic tweeted.

“Today’s ruling … means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford & even greater ordeal for all others.”

Since 1993, Poland has only allowed abortions in case of rape or incest, a threat to the mother’s life or a deformed fetus.

Now the court ruling could pave the way for legislators from the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party to approve draft legislation that would ban pregnancy terminations in the case of fetuses with congenital birth defects.

Many Polish women bridled when PiS backed the bill originating as a popular petition earlier this year, prompting conservative legislators to refer the matter to the constitutional court.

The tribunal, whose main role is to ensure any law complies with the constitution, underwent government reforms in 2016 that led critics to contend it is stacked with PiS allies.

Police separate pro-choice activists, right, carrying a poster saying ‘We are not incubators’ from anti-abortion rights protesters, left, in front of Poland’s constitutional court in Warsaw [Wojtek Radwanski/AFP]

‘Blood on your hands’

Former liberal Polish Prime Minister and PiS critic Donald Tusk called the timing of the abortion issue “political wickedness”.

“Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical,” the head of the European People’s Party tweeted.

The NGO Action Democracy, which had gathered more than 210,000 signatures against the stricter law, issued a statement saying the court delivered “a shameful, political verdict dictated by right-wing fundamentalists”.

Leftist legislator Barbara Nowacka blamed the devoutly Catholic country’s bishops, telling them at a news conference in parliament: “You have blood on your hands.”

PiS-allied President Andrzej Duda has said if approved by the parliament he would sign the draft legislation into law.

On Thursday, his spokesman Blazej Spychalski said “the president’s views on this matter are well-known and haven’t changed. We’re satisfied that the constitutional court sided with life”, he was quoted by the Polish news agency PAP as saying.

The country of 38 million people sees fewer than 2,000 legal abortions a year, but women’s groups estimate up to 200,000 procedures are performed illegally or abroad.

An attempt by the PiS government to tighten the abortion law in 2016 was scrapped following nationwide protests by tens of thousands of women dressed in black.

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American Voter: Matthew Pinna

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US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Matthew Pinna

[Courtesy of Matthew Pinna]

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: Cook County, Illinois 

Voted in 2016 for: N/A

Will Vote in 2020 for: Donald Trump

Top Election Issue: The Economy 

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“Yes, I will be voting this upcoming election. I really don’t feel an overwhelming compulsion to vote, but I do believe voting should be something one does as a member of a democracy – it’s a civic duty. But I also wouldn’t feel bad if someone decided not to vote. It’s their choice.”

What is your number one issue?

“I would say the economy. As a senior in college, I would say the job market is one of the most pressing things on my mind as well as my fellow classmates’. And so, ensuring that there’s an economy out there after I graduate – as well as for my parents – it’s very important for me.”

Who will you be voting for?

“I’ll be voting for Donald Trump in the upcoming election.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“Economically I would say that I favour his [policies]. I like what he’s done with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – I felt that was one of the crowning achievements of his four years, and I feel like four more years of Trump would bring in similar economic gains that we’ve seen under that act.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“I would say I’m happy, in terms of how it’s doing economically. I would say in terms of civility, certainly, our country seems to be a bit divided. But I would also note that a lot of that appears to be the work of the media or whatnot, because as a person who goes to school with a variety of people of all different walks of life, as a person who attended Marine Corps Officer Candidate School this summer, I got to see a bunch of people of all different backgrounds, and everyone does get along. It’s just those rare examples that are seen on the media that tend to be blown out of proportion and made to seem as if they’re indicative of our entire culture.”

What would you like to see change?

“I’ll speak towards Trump and say that I would like to see some more ‘presidential behaviour’. I would say [that] during the first four years … or especially as he entered office, I was a fan of his unorthodox methods. But now that he’s become a more established figure within politics, it would be nice to see some decorum and some measured calmness when it comes to handling issues, especially like the coronavirus epidemic.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I don’t think so, no. At the end of the day, we’re still America, and we’re still good people who still want to do right by our families. And at the end of the day, that’s still going to be there, regardless of who’s in office.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“I’d say [my] biggest concern for America would be foreign policy-wise when it comes to looking at China. I would say China’s growth as an economic power, as well as military power, is probably the most concerning thing for America to keep an eye on. And I think [China] and not Russia, should be the focus of our foreign policy efforts.

“Not entirely dissimilar to the Cold War, you have two competing ideologies here – one more, although communist in name, that appears to [have] elements [of a] significantly more authoritarian government – and especially when you compare that with our more civil rights, freedom-based system we have here. Those two ideologies certainly clash and we’re already seeing conflicts in the China Sea … So we’re coming to some sort of a head, it seems, and it’s only a matter of time I feel before something happens.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?

“I would say an important aspect of the election is really looking at, less so much the Republican Party, but more so looking at what this implication means for the Democratic Party going forward. Especially in the primaries, [we] saw a significant split in ideology – on one hand, you have Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, you have Joe Biden, who essentially is the definition of establishment when it comes to his ties with the Obama administration and his long-lasting tenure with the party.

“Seeing what happens this election, whether he wins or loses, is going to have some pretty severe ramifications for the makeup of the party going forward. And I would just say to people to keep an eye out – in the nascent and progressive wing of the party – and see what happens with that. What I see is an ongoing power struggle between the establishment and the progressives.”

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How Chris Pratt became the internet’s least favorite Chris

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The Avengers are assembling to protect Chris Pratt from the ignominy of being declared the worst of the Hollywood Chrises.

Hollywood Chris discourse has been a staple of online conversation since 2014, when Pratt joined the Chrises Hemsworth and Evans under the Marvel umbrella as the lead of Guardians of the Galaxy, becoming the studio’s third blue-eyed, blond-haired action star named Chris. (At the time, Chris Pine was only a borderline Chris, best known for playing Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek, but he carved out a permanent spot for himself on the roster of Hollywood Chrises after his role in 2017’s Wonder Woman.) The internet did what the internet does and started ranking the Chrises, and it hasn’t really stopped since.

And over what I would conservatively estimate as the 59.8 trillion times the Chrises have been ranked, a loose consensus has formed on the parts of social media where media and entertainment people hang out: The top three shift around in the rankings based mostly on which one has released a movie most recently, but consistently, Chris Pratt is the worst one. Also, you can sometimes get away with acting like a visionary if you suggest a different Chris should join the roster. (Most people go for Chris Messina or Christine Baranski, but I stand by my pick of Kristen Stewart.)

So when producer Amy Berg posted a picture of the Four Hollywood Chrises to Twitter on October 17, with the instructions, “One has to go,” the internet went on doing what the internet does. It picked Pratt to go, overwhelmingly, with more than 10,000 replies.

“Pratt was banished from Chris Island years ago,” declared one respondent.

“I hate his hypocrisy of playing the nice guy while supporting a homophobic cult,” said another, referring to Pratt’s membership in Zoe Church, which reportedly has anti-LGBTQ views. “It’s one or the other. You don’t get to fund my abuse while telling me you want me as a fan.”

Declaring Chris Pratt to be the Chris Who’s Gotta Go in 2020 — the apocalyptic year of plague and riots 2020 — is a fairly ice cold take. That’s why so many people have the take: It’s been established as the obvious conventional wisdom. So by all rights, Berg’s tweet should have done what all other Chris discourse does by now and generate a mild chuckle from a few people before quietly fading away.

Instead, Berg’s Chris tweet trended internationally. It made the news, and multiple A-list celebrities made public statements avowing their support for Pratt and their disdain for those heartless internet bullies who have invoked the laws of Gotta Go to tell Chris Pratt he Gotta Get.

So now, just weeks before the election, here we all are caring about the Chris Discourse again.

Why not. Quarantine’s made us do weirder things. Let’s do this.

How Chris Pratt went from Best Chris to Worst Chris

It might be difficult to remember now, but there was a time around 2014 when Chris Pratt was a popular choice for Best Chris.

He had all that comedy cred from his years on Parks and Rec, but then he transformed himself into a buff action star! He was so goofy and fun as Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy! He said such nice stuff about his then-wife, Anna Faris! He was so charming in interviews, and he even French-braided that one girl’s hair. What was not to like?

But gradually, the bloom seemed to come off the Chris Pratt rose. He’s been a Hollywood Chris since 2014, but around 2016, he began sliding inexorably from Best Chris to Worst Chris.

Was it the roles he was taking? Starlord is fun, but he’s kind of a douche. And then there was Passengers, the space romance Pratt starred in opposite Jennifer Lawrence that seemed like a sure thing until early reviews started to suggest that his character was coming off as kind of a creep. Was it his personal life, and the mysterious divorce from Faris? Was it the resurfaced story from 2011 about how he tried to rehome his elderly cat on Twitter? Was it the story of the time he flashed Amy Poehler as a joke on Parks and Rec?

It was all of those things, probably, but more than anything else, it was politics.

Pratt’s political affiliation is a mystery. He rarely talks about politics in public, and public records show him donating to both Democrats and Republicans. Certainly he has never gone so far as to endorse Donald Trump. But as he’s grown more famous, he’s used more and more signifiers of conservatism in public.

In 2017, he gave an interview about how Hollywood doesn’t tell enough stories about the working class. In 2019, he was photographed wearing a Gadsden flag, the one with the “don’t tread on me” logo over a snake that’s become beloved of the Tea Party and is used by far-right militias. He posts on social media about how much he loves the cops. Observing fans began to wonder if he was maybe a Trump supporter (he’s never publicly discussed it).

And sometime between 2014, when Pratt told Esquire he didn’t identify with any religious denomination, and 2019, Pratt joined Zoe Church, an evangelical church for the beautiful and cool in LA. Which, as the actor Ellen Page has pointed out on Twitter, is also a church that seems to have issues with the LGBTQ community.

“If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed,” Page tweeted after Pratt discussed his membership on a talk show in 2019.

Pratt responded defensively, writing on Instagram that Zoe Church “opens their doors to absolutely everyone.” The church does not have an official position on any LGBTQ-related issues. But as CNN reported, Zoe Church’s church’s pastor, Chad Veach, produced a film that refers to “same-sex attraction” as one form of “sexual brokenness,” comparing it to a pornography addiction. And as Laura Turner wrote for Vox of celeb-friendly evangelical churches like Zoe Church, “It isn’t much more forward-thinking than the churches our parents grew up in. It just looks a little cooler.”

Zoe Church appears to espouse teachings that make life harder for LGBTQ people, by suggesting that queerness is a choice or a problem that can and should be reversed or fixed. And Pratt, as one of the church’s most high-profile celebrity members, helps it spread those teachings. Regardless of what Pratt’s personal beliefs are, that’s harmful.

So for those who hang out on social media and track things like the fortunes of the Chrises — and who are also interested in progressive issues — the narrative was set: Chris Pratt belonged to an anti-LGBTQ church, he was culturally conservative enough to seem like he maybe could be a Trump supporter too, and he was henceforth the Worst Chris. By 2019, the debate was settled.

This kind of internet discourse traditionally has little effect on the actual careers of actors, and they can generally ignore it safely. But in 2020, the celebrity world has decided to weigh in on what the internet thinks of their good friend Chris Pratt.

Here are celebrities caring about which Chris is best, for some reason

This latest round of Chris Pratt controversy appears to have started when Pratt’s wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, weighed in on an E! Instagram post aggregating Berg’s tweet. Schwarzenegger decried the tweet as an example of “meanness and bullying,” and soon Pratt’s celebrity friends were following suit, including some of the biggest names in the MCU.

Politically minded Mark Ruffalo (a.k.a. the Hulk) — who has previously endorsed Bernie Sanders for president and called for George W. Bush to be “brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War” — declared Pratt “as solid a man as there is” and urged his followers not to be distracted but to focus on the election. (Is there a conspiracy theory going that the Pratt wars are a Russian disinformation campaign? Because I feel like Ruffalo’s tweet would be grist for that particular mill if so.) Iron Man himself joined in, as Robert Downey Jr. put up a hashtag-heavy Instagram post declaring Pratt to be his “#brother” and urging the haters to delete their accounts. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn called Pratt “the best dude in the world.” And Guardians of the Galaxy costar Zoe Saldana quoted Tupac in her support of Pratt.

In the larger scheme of things, Ruffalo is probably correct that Chris Pratt’s place in the internet Chris discourse is an incredibly pointless thing to care about. That is why it is fun for normal people to bicker about it, and why celebrities don’t usually waste their time on it. And lots of us could probably all agree that it’s nice-ish-ranging-to-fine that Pratt’s friends and colleagues want to support him, pretty bad that Pratt promotes a church that seems harmful to the LGBTQ community, and downright embarrassing for everyone that a bunch of celebs would be so unchill as to care what Twitter says about who’s cool or not, and then move on with our lives.

But there is one weird wrinkle to this story that I’d like to spend a little time on.

MCU actresses get harassed online all the time. Where is all this support then?

Pratt is not the first MCU actor to become a target of social media hate. But he is the first one to get the “Avengers assemble!” solidarity treatment from his co-stars.

When Brie Larson was cast as Captain Marvel, she was subjected to years of hatred and an attempted boycott because she is a feminist in public. Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson received a similar treatment for saying she hoped Hollywood sets could become more diverse. And it might be the case that A-list actors don’t want to engage with the misogynist set that harassed Larson and Thompson, but consider the lefties criticizing Pratt to be “their sort” and hence more game for chastising — still, Scarlett Johansson can barely get through an interview without saying something so cringe that Twitter starts clowning on her.

Did Robert Downey Jr. issue them hashtags of support? Was Mark Ruffalo posting political tweets in their favor? Where were the Oscar winners and A-listers offering their female co-stars public encouragement any of those times? Oscar nominee Don Cheadle was there for Brie Larson. But where was everybody else?

Look, of course it makes celebrities look weak and petty to get all het up about Chris Discourse now — Now! In 2020! At least three years after the Chris Discourse stopped being interesting! — but whatever, staying home all the time because of the pandemic is boring, the election is looming, and everyone is saying things they’ll regret later on social media.

And yet it is a glaring fact that not one of these Marvel movie stars who jumped to Chris Pratt’s defense this week has previously appeared inclined to lend the enormous weight of their public support to the actresses they work with when they felt the sting of public backlash and harassment. And because those actresses are women in public, they’ve faced a lot more backlash and harassment than Pratt has. Meanwhile, the reason this situation began in the first place is that Pratt does not appear to care about the way his church pastor talks about LGBTQ people, meaning that he is lending the enormous weight of his support to an organization that’s been accused of harming a vulnerable community.

The whole thing is shaping up to be another example of how rarely American pop culture treats women and people of color as full human beings worthy of empathy and compassion — and of how, in contrast, our biggest pop culture artifacts and the people who make them seem ever ready to empathize with straight white men. Especially when the straight white men have blond hair, blue eyes, and the name Chris.

Anyway, Pine is the best Chris.


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