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How the Senate’s most endangered Democrat thinks he can win, again



Sen. Doug Jones is redefining what it means to be a Southern Democrat. Whether he can continue to do so after November is an open question.

Jones is easily the most endangered Senate Democrat on the ballot this year, just for the fact that he represents Alabama — a state where President Donald Trump still enjoys his highest net approval rating in the country. Jones surprised the political world by winning a 2017 special election, but many political observers think it’s a foregone conclusion that he will lose his reelection. Still, Jones says don’t count him out just yet.

“There’s a lot that I know that they don’t,” he told Vox in a recent interview.

Jones and his campaign admit he’s the underdog in the race against Republican and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, but they think the competition is closer than public polls suggest. Whereas an August Morning Consult poll showed Jones 17 points behind Tuberville, the Jones campaign’s internal polling suggests the Democrat is just a few points behind.

“Does it bother us that the same punditry is saying Alabama, no way?” Jones campaign adviser Joe Trippi told Vox. “Yeah, we’ve heard that before.”

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) reads a copy of The Hill newspaper prior to a news conference, February 15, 2018, in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

To have a shot at winning, Jones needs more than the unprecedented African American turnout that boosted him in 2017; he’ll also need about one-third of white voters. With more registered Republicans than Democrats in Alabama, he’ll also need to pull in crossover voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and will probably vote for the president again in 2020 — including suburban women.

Jones’s surprise win three years ago “gave Democrats in the Deep South some hope,” Cook Political Report Senate editor Jessica Taylor told Vox.

Both Republican and Democratic strategists in Alabama told Vox that Jones is running a highly organized campaign this time, while Tuberville has little presence in the state — largely running an ad-based campaign emphasizing his closeness to Trump (Tuberville’s campaign didn’t respond to Vox’s request for comment). While Republicans in the state expect Tuberville to prevail, some think Jones could keep the margins close.

“I think it’s going to be a close election and Republicans need to take it seriously,” Alabama Republican strategist Chris Brown told Vox.

The fact we’re even talking about a Democratic incumbent having an electoral path in Alabama, of all places, tells you this is an unusual election year. Look no further than the raft of newly competitive Senate races in the South: North Carolina is hotly contested, both Georgia races are up for grabs, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is facing an increasingly stiff challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison. And even though few expect the Senate races in Alabama’s neighboring states Louisiana and Mississippi to flip blue, there are dynamic Democratic candidates in both races.

“I think Democrats for too long … let Republicans define them on a lot of social issues,” Jones told Vox. “Republicans in the South have been great about exploiting the divisions and Democrats have let them do it. No more.”

What Jones needs to build on from 2017 to win in 2020

Everything went right for Doug Jones in the 2017 special election.

As the campaign of former Alabama judge Roy Moore imploded after four women accused him of preying on them when they were teenagers, Jones was quietly running a campaign focused on jobs and Medicaid expansion. Jones eschewed the national spotlight, but the anti-Moore sentiment in the state and the potential of electing a Democrat were enough to help him build a grassroots army powered by Black women.

During the special election, 98 percent of Black women — compared to 93 percent of Black men, 34 percent of white women, and 26 percent of white men — backed Jones over Moore. That overwhelming support, combined with depressed Republican turnout, helped Jones secure a narrow and shocking victory for Democrats, who hadn’t won a Senate seat in Alabama for 25 years.

“We know what we did to turn out those voters in 2017,” Trippi said. “There was no party ‘get out the vote’ apparatus; it was built by the Jones campaign.”

Then-senatorial candidate Doug Jones takes a picture with voters outside of a polling station in Bessemer, Alabama, on December 12, 2017.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even with those numbers, Jones notched just a 1.7-point win over Moore. He needs those same numbers in a high-turnout presidential election year. No one doubts Trump will win Alabama again in 2020, but Democrats in the state say they think the 2017 election showed Trump isn’t quite as popular as he used to be. Trump’s approval rating in the state hovering in the high to mid-50s, according to recent polls — a slight dip from 62 percent approval in 2016. Jones hopes some voters who pull the lever for Trump in 2020 stick with him, too.

“Obviously Biden’s not going to win the race, but we’re pretty sure this is going to be mid-teens, not a blowout like Hillary,” said Jones’s campaign pollster Paul Maslin, of the Montgomery-based ALG Research. “No one denies it’s a conservative state, no one denies Trump’s going to win, but it was a conservative state in 2017. It’s all pointing to a very close election.”

Republicans scoff at that idea.

“That’s the sound of staffers who need to motivate themselves to go to work every morning,” a Republican strategist told Vox.

Tommy Tuberville certainly doesn’t carry the political baggage that Moore does. He still has liabilities; the Jones campaign plans to hammer Tuberville over accusations of fraud stemming from a shuttered hedge fund he once co-owned. Tuberville was largely absent from in-person campaigning in the GOP primary and the general election and has a paltry $551,285 cash on hand, compared to more than $8 million in Jones’s war chest.

“They have a strategy; I’m not sure Tuberville does,” a Republican consultant in Alabama told Vox. “Tuberville doesn’t really campaign. He’s not showing up anywhere. He’s going to win this race with virtually no grassroots campaign.”

Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville speaks to his supporters after he defeated Jeff Sessions in the Republican primary for US Senate on July 14, 2020, in Montgomery, Alabama.

Political observers in the state say they’re seeing similar energy to 2017, with Trump’s reelection bid firing up both Republican and Democratic bases. Jones is running a field strategy focused on boosting turnout in Jefferson County (encompassing Birmingham and its suburbs) and suburban areas around the state including outside Huntsville.

“The organizations on the ground seem just as engaged, and so we could see a form of Trump effect, where the heightened awareness of the importance of the coming presidential elections brings out Black voters in large numbers,” University of Alabama political science professor Utz McKnight told Vox.

Black women organizers, who helped turn out a staggering number of voters in 2017, are once again set to play a pivotal role. Organizer and Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson says the pandemic hasn’t dampened efforts to reach voters. With nationwide protests against racism and police brutality toward Black Americans, Tyson sees a heightened sense of urgency this cycle.

“They are shooting down Black men like life isn’t important to anybody but white people,” says Tyson. “The next bullet is going to be for your son, for your daughter, for your grandson. So what are you going to do?”

Much like in 2017, Tyson’s group, Black Women’s Roundtable, and several others are going door to door to make sure Alabamians are committed to voting this fall and aware of the requirements for mail-in balloting. Tyson’s group is focused on what’s known as Alabama’s “Black Belt,” a series of counties in the center of the state where the majority of constituents are Black.

“The only difference is that we wear masks,” Tyson told Vox of voter outreach this time around, adding that efforts this year have focused heavily on making sure people have the resources they need to vote by mail. “We are supplying the stamps; we are supplying the envelopes.”

Even though Democrats and Republicans in the state agree the race will be closer than expected, some Democrats in the state think Jones’s chances are ultimately dim. Even if Jones does everything right, Alabama is still tough political terrain.

“I think he would need those Roy Moore-type revelations; you would need Donald Trump to completely collapse,” said an Alabama Democratic operative.

Doug Jones isn’t your average Southern Democrat

The main Republican attack on Jones is that he’s a Democrat in a red state. Jones would agree.

“I think Democrats didn’t compete in the South for so, so long — trying to be Republican light or whatever you call it,” he told Vox. “We had a solid Democratic South in name only. It was never solid Democrat, it was a bunch of different factions of something called the Democratic Party.”

After his 2017 election win, Jones has stubbornly made his own way in the Senate. He certainly touts his bipartisan work with Republicans, including the Military Widow’s Tax Elimination Act, the Automotive Jobs Act, and the POWER Act. But Jones hasn’t gone out of his way to try to take Trump-friendly votes, voting against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and voting to convict the president during the Senate’s February impeachment trial.

“I have votes that come to me on the floor of the Senate that Mitch McConnell picks for me, and some of those are tougher votes than others,” Jones said. “I think people tend to see this as a loyalty test for either Democrats or Republicans, and I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t pick and choose battles.”

Compared to more conservative members of the Senate Democratic caucus like Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), who vote in line with Trump’s position about 52 percent of the time, Jones votes with Trump about 35 percent of the time, according to a vote tracker from FiveThirtyEight.

“I think of Manchin at least on cultural issues, is center/center right,” said Alabama Democratic strategist Zac McCrary. “Jones is certainly in his own way moderate and bipartisan, but certainly is not leaning into some of those things. He’s going to be the senator he wanted. He’s not going to twist himself into a pretzel; he’s going to do his own thing.”

Sen.Doug Jones (D-AL) sits in a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on new coronavirus tests on May 7, 2020, in Washington DC.
Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

Republicans are trying to turn this against Jones, painting him as anti-Trump in a state where the president remains politically popular. Some Republicans in the state rejected the idea that Trump’s support among voters there has softened, saying the president remains as popular as ever.

“I think they’re all coming home to Trump,” said Brown, the Alabama Republican strategist. The president’s message around law and order amid protests and uprisings this summer is “solidifying stuff behind Trump.”

As this summer has seen waves of protests against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Jones cut his first campaign ad saying, “Black lives matter.”

Jones had built a strong base of support among Black voters in 2017, in part because he has a strong record on racial justice. He is a longtime civil rights attorney who in 2001 and 2002 prosecuted two members of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four Black girls. And in 2018, a bill he co-sponsored with Sen. Ted Cruz aimed at forcing more records to be released in civil rights cold cases.

“Doug will always be a hero of mine for finishing what I couldn’t finish,” said former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley, who prosecuted Klansman and 1963 church bomber Robert Chambliss in 1977, but wasn’t able to convict the other men involved in the plot. “The biggest regret about my time in office — even though we convicted Chambliss — there were the other killers of those little girls out there free, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.”

Jones’s history on the case helped energize turnout among Black voters in 2017. He has made an emphasis on racial justice a centerpiece of his reelection campaign and co-sponsored the Justice In Policing Act, though there’s a push for him — and Democratic lawmakers writ large — to do more.

“Black women are realists. We’re practical. In Alabama, to have a Democrat in the Senate is important. We are far more likely to have a candidate to listen to those issues, so he gets the support based on that,” said Lecia Brooks, of the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund. She notes, however, that Jones hasn’t offered the kind of transformative leadership she was looking for. ”There were great hopes that he would use that time wisely, rather than convince Republicans he was a safe Democrat,” she said.

Supporters of Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Doug Jones wait for results of election night during a watch party on December 12, 2017, in Birmingham, Alabama.
AP Photo/John Bazemore

Jones sees the South as a changed place since the segregated 1950s and ’60s he saw as a kid. But he also thinks progress on racial justice has slid back in recent years, with violent clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia; police killings of unarmed Black men; and a sitting president who has repeatedly used racist language.

“I grew up in a segregated South, and we are so far removed from the South of the 1950s and early ’60s. But clearly, we have a long way to go,” Jones said. “We assumed — especially with the election of Barack Obama — that things were just better and things would continue to get better. And actually, things started getting worse. It’s hard to measure how far we’ve come, especially since we’ve slid back a good bit, but we clearly have a long ways to go.”

Jones also sees himself as a new kind of Democrat from the Deep South.

“I quite frankly reject the term ‘Southern Democrats’ to some extent because of the connotation” with segregationist Democrats of the past, Jones said. “We’re Democrats in the South, and the connotation earlier I think has gone away.”

There’s a new kind of Democratic wave in the South

Jones’s 2017 special election win was one of the first glimmers of hope for Democrats after a Republican sweep in the 2016 presidential election. But it also has ushered in a new generation of Democratic candidates in the South.

Southern states that used to be reliably Republican are starting to change. Swift demographic change and suburban voters who used to vote Republican but have been turned off by Trump are turning the South into a real battleground.

This year alone, there are four Senate races that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates either toss-up or Lean Republican: North Carolina, South Carolina, and the two Georgia races. Democrats are also contesting Texas and Kentucky, and two Black candidates in Mississippi and Louisiana could narrow the race in states that are currently rated Solid Republican.

Republicans are watching the changing map with trepidation.

“The fact we’re even talking about a competitive race in Georgia tells you the impact of demographic change on American politics,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told Vox. “Normally, a few years ago we would never even be talking about Senate races in Texas or Georgia or North Carolina even being competitive. And now they’re certainly on the list of states to watch, which shows you the kind of change that’s occurred in the voting electorate in those states.”

Jones also sees these demographics, but he also thinks it’s the result of Democratic candidates like him not trying to fit themselves into a conservative box.

“We need to be the party that looks out for the little guy, the party that is not anti-business by any stretch. … But we need to make sure that everybody has access to good health care,” Jones said.

Whether these changes are enough to save Jones in 2020 is yet to be seen. But even if Democrats lose his seat in Alabama, they’re gaining ground in the South that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

“Alabama is Republican today, but so was Georgia 10 years ago,” the Republican consultant in Alabama said.

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



(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.

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.

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



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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