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It’s time to end presidential debates — forever



Last Friday, the Commission on Presidential Debates officially canceled the second presidential debate of the 2020 general election, originally scheduled for Thursday, October 15. The cancellation was caused by President Trump’s refusal to debate remotely (despite his positive test for Covid-19). According to Newton Minow, a member of the debate commission and one of the negotiators behind the first televised debates in 1960, the cancellation’s real victim was American democracy.

“In seven decades of televised presidential debates, this is the first debate to be canceled,” he told the New York Times. “The loser is the American voter.”

Minow is being a bit cute here. In 1964, 1968, and 1972, debates were not canceled — because they were not held at all. And while there is little doubt that the 1960 debates he helped negotiate for John F. Kennedy were a watershed moment for television as a medium and for popular democracy more generally, they happened 60 years ago. Telecommunications has changed dramatically, and so has politics.

Plenty of observers called for canceling the remaining debates after the embarrassing first confrontation between Trump and Joe Biden. (They almost got their wish — after being canceled, the second debate ended up being replaced by dueling Thursday town halls.) But I would argue that we should give up on presidential debates, period. Debates can still provide useful information on Senate or governor’s candidates, or in primary elections. But there is no reason to think, in 2020, that televised debates between major-party presidential nominees provide any real value to voters.

“I don’t have any more information than when I started watching,” undecided voter Ellen Christensen told the New York Times after the first presidential debate. She’s right: She didn’t get new information. Instead, she got a lot of falsehoods, in large part because Trump has learned that it is easy to overwhelm the system by repeating falsehoods too quickly to debunk them, that the costs of spreading misinformation are minimal and the benefits immense.

It is obvious why Trump likes a system where he can claim “there aren’t 100 million people with preexisting conditions” when there are, or that he has “given big incentives” for electric cars when he hasn’t, that Biden wants to “take out the cows” when Biden obviously does not want to outlaw cows, and that “young children” are not vulnerable to Covid-19 when they are — all without getting called or corrected on it by the moderator (Biden sometimes tried, to little avail). It’s less clear why any of the rest of us should tolerate such a system.

Debates don’t appear to change many minds

The argument against debates is simple. Debates are only a good use of time if they provide useful, new information to voters that they either would not or could not obtain through other means.

But there is not much reason to think they provide that kind of information, or at least a substantial amount of it.

The simplest way to see if debates are providing useful information is to test if they change voters’ preferences. This is a tricky matter: Debates take place in a busy fall campaign season, which means political scientists have a hard time untangling the effects of debates from the effects of campaign ads, news coverage, and so forth. Moreover, the vast majority of viewers are already decided — in a recent poll, only 6 percent of likely voters planning to watch the first debate even claimed to be undecided — and measuring the effects on the tiny share who are undecided is difficult.

But with that caveat, the bulk of the political science literature has not found much evidence that debates substantially influence the outcomes of presidential elections.

Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien’s 2012 book The Timeline of Presidential Elections compiled evidence on the effect of general election presidential debates from 1960 to 2008, and they indeed found that in general, not many voters are up for grabs by the fall when debates take place; in 2004 and 2008, the most recent elections in their sample, opinions of voters had hardened even earlier, by the summer. That puts a relatively low upper bound on how influential debates could be: Even if they explained all the variation in candidate support across the fall campaign, they wouldn’t be explaining much, because there wasn’t much variation to explain. (Note that this analysis does not cover primary debates, which take place earlier in an election cycle, are much more numerous, and probably have different effects.)

In any case, Erikson and Wlezien find that except for the 1976 election, “vote intentions the week after the debates closely matched those the week before the debates.” In other words, it’s hard to detect much change in overall voter opinion attributable to the debates. (Even the apparent exception of 1976 is a bit ambiguous: Jimmy Carter had a large lead over Gerald Ford going into the fall, which declined steadily until Election Day, with the debates not appearing to speed up or interrupt the decline that began before them.)

“It is clear that debates do not have major impact to the same degree as party conventions,” Erikson and Wlezien conclude carefully. So allow me to be blunter: Their data appears consistent with studies that came before that showed small effects from presidential debates on voter choice. There’s not much reason to conclude, from the data they present, that debates have a major impact at all.

The 2012 election appeared to be an exception to this finding at first, as Mitt Romney was widely viewed as having won the first debate and then saw a modest bump in polling afterward. But as political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck note in their book on the 2013 election, The Gamble, the overall effect of the debates that year was quite minor.

One reason is that Barack Obama did pretty well in debates two and three, undoing some of the damage from the first debate. But Sides and Vavreck also detail evidence that Romney’s bump after the first debate was illusory, the result of response bias: Because Romney was thought to have done well, Romney supporters were more likely, and Obama supporters less likely, to answer pollsters afterward. Indeed, a YouGov poll that interviewed and then reinterviewed the same 25,000 people before and after the first debate found almost no change in voter preferences. Another large-scale panel survey found the same thing.

“The sum total of the debate season, then, was to create a tighter race but not put Romney in the driver’s seat,” Sides and Vavreck conclude. “This was consistent with history and the academic literature: debates have moved the polls but rarely determined the winner of the election.” Even in our recent, super-close elections, the debate effects have been too muted to turn the outcome. When Erikson and Wlezien updated their book for 2012, they agreed, writing, “The 2012 debates seem to have had some effect on preferences, but it was small and short-term.”

2016 is a much trickier year to unpack: The period of the debates also saw a controversy over Alicia Machado (a former Miss Universe whom Trump bullied for her weight and ethnicity), the release of the notorious Access Hollywood tape wherein Trump bragged about sexual assault, accusations that Trump had in fact forcibly touched or kissed multiple women, the WikiLeaks release of hacked private emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, and the abandonment of Trump by House Speaker Paul Ryan and former nominee John McCain. When all that is happening at the same time, and then the debates are followed up by the FBI director resurrecting an investigation into one of the candidates, it’s next to impossible to isolate the effect of individual factors like debate performance.

Sides, Vavreck, and co-author Michael Tesler find in their book on 2016, Identity Crisis, that the first debate and the Machado controversy led to a “sharp drop in the percentage of voters who rated [Trump] favorably.” They find the second debate had a muted impact, but that after the third debate, “Republican voters who had soured on Trump after the first debate and release of the Access Hollywood tape returned to him.”

They do not credit this return to his debate performance, which was not viewed as exceptionally good at the time, but to the tendency of partisans to return to their candidate, the failure of a critical mass of Republican establishment figures to reject Trump or endorse Clinton, and several other factors. It doesn’t add up to a compelling case that debates were decisive, either.

“Raw polls at 50 days out, on Sept 19, one full week before the first debate, had Clinton at 51.7 percent; on October 26, one week after the last debate, the share was 52.4 percent,” Wlezien notes in an email. “There is even less movement — a 0.4 percent drop in Clinton share — of house-adjusted poll averages.”

“‘Winning’ debates is overrated,” Erikson concluded in an email to me. “Ask John Kerry or Hillary Clinton.”

Will 2020 break this streak? I suppose it’s possible, but the evidence is lacking so far. The Economist’s poll average, which corrects for polls that don’t weight by party and thus can avoid the kind of non-response bias described above, found that Biden was averaging 53.9 percent of the two-party vote on September 29, the day of the first debate, and … 54.2 percent on October 15. That’s a net gain of 0.3 points. And given everything else that has happened, especially Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, it’s hard to even credit that minimal shift to the debate.

There’s no reason to think debates generate new, previously unavailable information

The finding that debates don’t really matter is not, on its own, proof that debates are useless. Maybe individual voters’ opinions are moved by them in a durable way that influences their eventual vote, and the movements simply cancel each other out. You could mount an argument that the debates are thus informing voters even if this does not have an ultimate effect on vote shares.

This does not look super-likely when you dig into particular cases. Indeed, debates instead can be a tool for entrenching polarization and bringing voters in line with their preferred candidates’ views — seems to be the case.

Political scientist Gabriel Lenz has analyzed the effects of Social Security-centric debates in the 2000 general election and found that they “did not cause voters to switch their support to whichever candidate agreed with their own position on that issue.” Instead, Lenz found that the debates led voters — specifically voters who learned the candidates’ issue positions for the first time — to adopt their preferred candidates’ positions. Gore supporters came to love Gore’s idea of keeping excess Social Security/Medicare revenue in a “lockbox,” and Bush supporters came to love Bush’s idea of investing some Social Security taxes in the stock market.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing — some of these voters presumably changed their minds because they trusted Bush or Gore, and changing your opinion to account for learning the views of someone you trust is very rational behavior.

But that phenomenon is clearly not the rationale offered for presidential debates. They’re supposed to help voters make up their minds — advocates and researchers Diana Carlin and Mitchell McKinney argue “the debates could be crucial shaping new voters’ choices and deciding the outcome” — not help parties convince their bases to adopt their candidates’ positions on important issues.

And insofar as the latter is a valuable service, it does not seem like the job of news organizations, but of the parties themselves. ABC News shouldn’t have to invest its money and resources to help the Republican Party rally supporters around Trump’s ideas, or to help the Democratic Party rally supporters around Biden’s.

This still leaves the theoretical possibility that there are some voters who change their minds due to debates, but whose votes cancel each other out so there’s little net effect. This, I would argue, is only valuable insofar as these voters are gaining new, accurate information about the candidates.

There’s just no reason to think that happens. General election candidates have many, many avenues through which to distribute their platforms to the public, including many more than existed at the advent of television debates in 1960. The campaigns post their platforms online, they explain them in depth to a wide number of news outlets (including online outlets without the word limits that newspapers and magazines labored under), and if voters miss an article, they can simply Google it. Primary debates, where issue disagreements between candidates are minimal and most voters are undecided, probably give voters useful information. The same likely can’t be said of general election debates.

Debates might offer some value in creating a single, focusing event that lets low-information voters get back up to speed. But for them to serve that purpose, the information would need to be accurate, and the 2020 debates to date are excellent illustrations of candidates’ abilities to lie without being interrupted by moderators.

Vice President Mike Pence, for instance, was able to claim without correction or interruption that Biden and Kamala Harris want to “abolish fossil fuels and ban fracking” (they do not) and that the White House event that produced a cluster of Covid-19 cases was outdoors (the reception was indoors). The co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates has gone so far as to say that fact-checking isn’t the moderator’s job. Someone tuning in to the vice presidential debate and hearing that Biden wants to ban fracking is not actually gaining useful, true information about the candidates.

If we want another kind of central, focusing event, something like single-candidate town halls with the individual candidates and — this is key — a moderator who is equipped to fact-check, or perhaps a simulation where the candidates both attempt to complete a modeled national security crisis, would be far likelier to produce useful information for voters.

We do not have as rigorous social science for the proposition that debates do not lead viewers to have more accurate information about the candidates as we do for the proposition that debates don’t swing many votes. But the content of the debates themselves, and the existence of numerous accurate sources of information on the candidates, strongly suggest to me that debates, even ones between relatively responsible candidates like Romney and Obama, do not improve public understanding of the issues discussed.

So the question then is: If debates do not surface information voters cannot get elsewhere, and they cost a ton of money and effort to put on, and they can be a means to propagate misinformation, and they do not influence the ultimate vote totals … why do we insist on continuing to hold them?

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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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