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How #SaveTheChildren is pulling American moms into QAnon

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The posts often beg followers to speak out, “get loud,” or wake up. Some feature bold text on a colorful background, matching the aesthetic of many Instagram slideshows this year. Others show photos of beloved children, laughing with their parents.

Some are posted by small accounts with few followers, while others have gotten more than 100,000 likes. But all share the same message: Child sex trafficking is out of control in the US and around the world, and no one is paying attention. And they end with the hashtag #SaveTheChildren.

The hashtag, which started to gain popularity this summer, seems hard to argue with. Ending human trafficking and protecting children, after all, are uncontroversial goals, barely even political.

But in reality, many say, QAnon adherents are trying, via the hashtag, to use the real issue of trafficking to spread their ideology — which includes the bizarre, untrue claim that liberals like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Chrissy Teigen are all part of a vast pedophile ring. While such outlandish theories may not be palatable for many, more general fears about child sex trafficking are easier to get behind. And so social media posts about saving the children have, for some, become a way “to launder QAnon into the mainstream,” as Whitney Phillips, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies and co-author of the book You Are Here: A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape, put it to Vox.

The QAnon movement — a growing network of conspiracy theories involving a supposed war between President Trump and a shadowy cabal of powerful liberals sometimes known as the “deep state” — got its start on message boards in 2017. It then gained followers on mainstream social networks like Facebook, and eventually garnered the support of far-right congressional candidates, and even Trump himself. And in the past year, the network has amplified and promoted the seemingly innocuous #SaveTheChildren to gain greater reach, and spread fear and suspicion around Democrats as well as support for Trump, as the election approaches.

And it might be working. The hashtag has spread far beyond the traditional reaches of QAnon, catching the attention of celebrities including Kelly Dodd of The Real Housewives of Orange County and sparking in-person rallies like one in August in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where marchers held signs with slogans like “Real men don’t buy kids.”

The celebrities and influencers using #SaveTheChildren may not even be aware of the QAnon connection; many have posted uncontroversial content about the problems of child abuse in the US and the world. But their posts have helped drive the popularity of the hashtag, pulling in people — like younger women and those who aren’t particularly politically engaged — who may be far outside QAnon’s orbit. And once those people start searching for #SaveTheChildren content, they may encounter more and more QAnon theories, perhaps eventually becoming believers themselves.

But the possible consequences go beyond outlandish beliefs about Hillary Clinton or Chrissy Teigen. By broadening the reach of QAnon, #SaveTheChildren could also broaden distrust of Democrats and the supposed “deep state,” giving Trump an excuse to challenge the results if he should lose the election in November. And even the most innocent uses of the hashtag could compromise the country’s ability to fight actual trafficking.

“When we dive into these conspiracy theories, we really miss and misunderstand that we can actually address this problem,” Kate D’Adamo, a consultant with the group Reframe Health and Justice, told Vox.

QAnon helped fuel the rise of the #SaveTheChildren hashtag

To understand the rise of #SaveTheChildren, it helps to know that QAnon has traded in conspiracy theories about child molestation from the very beginning. It goes back to Pizzagate, a completely false theory that emerged in 2016 that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair, John Podesta, operated a child sexual abuse ring in the basement of the DC pizzeria Comet Ping Pong (which does not have a basement).

QAnon didn’t gain traction until the following year, when someone eventually nicknamed “Q” started posting ominous, cryptic messages on 4chan about President Trump and a coming reckoning with high-level Democrats, as Vox’s Jane Coaston explains. But one of QAnon’s strengths has always been its ability to absorb a variety of conspiracy theories, and it soon incorporated Pizzagate into its network of beliefs.

“Suddenly, central to QAnon was this idea of these pedophiles and Satanists and child sacrifice, and that’s been basically at the core of it ever since,” Phillips said.

Today, the QAnon conspiracy landscape includes the idea that “a vast child trafficking ring” around the US and the world is “kidnapping children and torturing them to harvest a drug called adrenochrome,” which they claim has both psychedelic and healing properties, Annie Kelly, a PhD student who studies the far right and is the Britain correspondent for the podcast QAnon Anonymous, told Vox. Adrenochrome is a real chemical, but the QAnon idea that it could be used as a psychedelic drug comes largely from the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and is not supported by scientific evidence.

Another key tenet for many QAnon adherents is support for President Trump, who, according to the network’s ideology, is engaged in a battle with the liberal “deep state.” And while QAnon may have started as a fringe group of conspiracy theorists, it’s now been endorsed by 20 current congressional candidates, and by Trump himself, who said in an August interview, “I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.”

It’s hard to know exactly how many people buy into QAnon ideology, since the conspiracy theories are so various and shifting. But a recent analysis by Facebook found that together, some of the most popular QAnon groups and pages have more than 3 million members (though there may be some overlap between groups). And 47 percent of respondents in a recent Pew poll said they had at least heard of QAnon, compared with just 23 percent in March.

Still, QAnon has encountered problems as it grows, including social media platforms’ efforts to combat misinformation. Amid worldwide lockdowns earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook and other companies began cracking down on QAnon conspiracy theories, Kelly said. Adherents had to find new code words and ways of spreading their message.

That’s where #SaveTheChildren (and a related hashtag #SaveOurChildren) came in. Since QAnon is so decentralized, it can be hard to track exactly when and where a certain term or trend emerged. But the hashtags started to spike on Facebook in late July, according to the Tampa Bay Times. They gained popularity in QAnon groups before migrating outward to more mainstream conservative circles, and then going global. The spread may have been aided by the popularity of #Wayfairgate, another conspiracy theory-oriented hashtag making false allegations that the online furniture company Wayfair was involved in child trafficking.

Over the summer, Dodd and several other celebrities and influencers with large Instagram followings have posted about #SaveTheChildren. And the hashtag has, to some degree, become a real-world movement, with in-person rallies in cities from Los Angeles to Idaho Falls, Idaho.

That movement may be feeding on the anxiety parents are experiencing in a time when families are stuck at home with many schools remote or operating on a hybrid model, leaving parents (disproportionately moms) to balance work, child care, and the ever-present risk of Covid-19. “A lot of moms are freaked out about what might happen with their kids, and their kids not doing so great with the pandemic,” conspiracy theory researcher Mike Rothschild told Rolling Stone. “They’re too worried, too online, and have a lot of time on their hands.”

The hashtag could pull new people into the QAnon orbit

Some posts on the hashtags — and signs at the rallies — explicitly reference QAnon slogans like “dark to light” or “wwg1wga” (which stands for “where we go one, we go all”). But others are more generic calls to save children from sex trafficking. Many people using the hashtag or attending events may have no idea of the links between #SaveTheChildren and QAnon.

That’s one thing that makes #SaveTheChildren so concerning, conspiracy experts say. “Because it sounds so innocuous, and in fact it sounds like a valiant goal to aspire to, people who otherwise wouldn’t be looking for QAnon-related material could be exposed to those materials,” Phillips said. From there, because of the sheer volume of QAnon posts out there, and the way algorithms like those used by Google tend to direct people to more and more related content online, “people could get sucked into a rabbit hole before they even realize that that’s what’s happening,” she said.

In particular, #SaveTheChildren could pull more women into the QAnon fold. Women have always been involved with QAnon to some degree, as Kelly wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed — several of the congressional candidates who have expressed support for the ideology are female, for instance. But recently, #SaveTheChildren appears to have attracted a new demographic. At an August rally in London, Kelly noticed “lots more young women,” many of them dressed in a stylish, Instagram-ready aesthetic, she told Vox.

Indeed, Instagram influencers have been a big part of the hashtag’s spread, as E.J. Dickson reports at Rolling Stone. For example, model Helen Owen posted a picture of herself and her boyfriend in July with their mouths covered, holding a sign that read “Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Accompanying the picture were statistics about trafficking and the hashtag #SaveTheChildren.

There’s also been significant overlap between the rise of #SaveTheChildren and the growth during lockdown of anti-vaccination communities online, Kelly said — communities that are also often dominated by mothers. Of course, it’s unlikely that everyone who shares an influencer’s post about saving kids is going to become a full-fledged QAnon devotee. But in addition to younger women, #SaveTheChildren seems to be pulling in people who weren’t previously active in politics. At the London rally, “lots and lots of people said to me, this is the first protest I’ve ever been to,” Kelly said.

In the US, people who go to #SaveTheChildren rallies aren’t necessarily going to vote for Trump. But a broadening reach for QAnon could benefit him.

“You can see that Trump is leaning more and more explicitly on these narratives” in recent weeks, Phillips said. He’s started to use the phrase “deep state” specifically, tweeting that “the deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics” for Covid-19. And during the Republican National Convention, he and his surrogates referenced his supposed work fighting human trafficking, with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes calling him a “warrior” against the practice. Intentionally or not, such comments may have served as a dog whistle to QAnon and #SaveTheChildren adherents.

Trump’s embrace of a QAnon narrative “lays the groundwork for contesting the election,” Phillips said — if he loses, “he’s going to blame the deep state.” And among his supporters, “that’s going to activate a reluctance or refusal to accept the outcome of the election.”

So while calls to #SaveTheChildren may seem apolitical, they could actually help Trump construct a rationale — however irrational — to stay in power past November and incite more division.

It could hamper real efforts to fight trafficking

These calls could also hurt real-life efforts to help children — and adults — escape trafficking situations.

Obviously, conspiracy theories like Pizzagate paint a false picture of trafficking in America — Hillary Clinton is not using a DC pizza restaurant to traffic kids. But even more innocuous #SaveTheChildren posts can contain misinformation, like the idea that “300,000 American children are lured into the commercial sex trade every year,” that there are more missing children in the US than there have been deaths from Covid-19 worldwide, or that wearing a mask as a coronavirus precaution makes children more vulnerable to trafficking. All these claims are false.

There is actually no reliable data on how many people are trafficked in the US each year, D’Adamo, the Reframe Health and Justice consultant, said. And although the narrative of children being trafficked into sexual abuse gets the most attention, trafficking often takes the form of forced labor or wage theft. At the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, a Los Angeles-based organization, for example, the most common industry for reports of trafficking is agriculture, followed by domestic work, D’Adamo said. Sex work comes in third.

And contrary to the idea of a shadowy cabal plucking children from their families — or targeting children who are wearing masks — those at the greatest risk of being trafficked are “people who are already vulnerable, who are already experiencing different forms of social violence or state violence,” D’Adamo said. That can include people who are homeless or in unstable housing, youth in foster care, and LGBTQ+ youth who have been kicked out of their homes or otherwise neglected or abused by family. It can also include migrant young people who may be “dependent on someone acting as a caregiver” and who “don’t have a lot of other resources to go to,” she explained.

“We know exactly who gets exploited; it is not rich kids in the suburbs,” she said.

And spreading misinformation about trafficking can hamper real efforts to prevent it. “We treat it as this irrational stranger danger, there’s someone lurking around every corner, when that’s just not the case, and it means that we no longer pay attention to the very obvious things that lead to trafficking,” D’Adamo said.

Most of those factors — from threats to the safety of LGBTQ+ youth to anti-immigrant policies that threaten refugees and migrants — have grown worse, not better, under the Trump administration, despite claims that the president has been “a warrior against human trafficking.”

“Every single population that was vulnerable to trafficking has gotten worse over the last four years,” D’Adamo said. In fact, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, a coalition of anti-trafficking groups with a variety of ideologies, issued a statement in June raising a host of concerns about the US government’s approach, from increased barriers to obtaining visas for survivors to complicity by the Department of Homeland Security in labor trafficking inside immigration detention facilities.

The Trump administration disputes this view. “Immediately upon taking office, President Trump made combating the scourge of human trafficking one of his Administration’s top priorities,” assistant White House press secretary Karoline Leavitt told Vox in an email. “Over the last four years, the Trump Administration has provided unprecedented federal support to help human trafficking survivors and prosecute perpetrators of this heinous crime.”

But what people vulnerable to trafficking need right now — especially in a pandemic that has driven many further into poverty — is economic stability, D’Adamo said. Access to housing is crucial, as are labor protections, unemployment insurance, and other programs to make sure people’s needs are taken care of.

And none of that will happen if too many Americans buy into the narratives pushed by #SaveTheChildren and QAnon, D’Adamo said. “If we completely misunderstand how trafficking works, then we’re never actually going to address what could prevent it.”


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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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Open Sourced logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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