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Montana’s Senate race was supposed to be easy for Republicans. It’s a dead heat.



Few in Montana feel ready to predict how the high-stakes US Senate battle between Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock will play out.

It could be decided by just a few thousand votes.

“I think it’s too close to call right now,” said Montana pollster and University of Montana professor Sara Rinfret.

Montana is often miscast as reliably conservative; rather, the state is fiercely independent. Voters typically back Republican presidential candidates, but down-ballot races often are more competitive. Montana also has a history of sending Democrats to the Senate, a tradition cemented by Sen. Jon Tester’s narrow reelection win in 2018, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year for Senate Democrats in Republican-leaning states.

“I think most Montanans — and people in most states — are 60-70 percent in the middle,” former Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D) told Vox. “What most people really care about [is] are you trying to do what’s best for us?”

Daines may appear to have a built-in advantage, as the Republican incumbent in a state President Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016. But Bullock has a fighting chance because of his high popularity and name recognition in the state. With an approval rating of 60 percent, compared to 52 percent for Daines, Bullock is currently the state’s most popular elected official, according to a recent Montana State University poll. (Bullock’s campaign did not make him available for an interview, and Daines’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment).

Judge Amy Coney Barrett meets with Sen. Steve Daines as she prepares for her confirmation hearing on October 1.
Manuel Balce Ceneta-Pool/Getty Images

There are two schools of thought about how Democrats can win close races in 2020; by running as unapologetically progressive or trying to find common ground with Republicans. Bullock is certainly not embracing Trump, but he — much like Biden — is running on the idea that there still is attainable compromise between the two parties.

Bullock “makes sure compromise is part of the equation and not a dirty word,” Sen. Tester told Vox. “That’s simply not how it is in Washington.”

Perhaps the biggest sign of danger for Daines is Trump’s slipping approval rating in a state he won overwhelmingly four years ago. The Montana State University poll found the president has a 7-point lead over Joe Biden, compared to a 16-point polling lead over Hillary Clinton in October 2016. The latest polling result echoes a troubling national trend for Republican politicians.

“If you look at his performance in 2016, the big message here is this could be a problem for down-ballot races,” said MSU pollster and political science professor David Parker. “It could be that some of those Trump voters have moved into the Biden column … it could be a sign the base is dispirited. Either of those things is not good for Republicans in Montana.”

Why the race between Daines and Bullock is so tight

Save for one outlier poll finding Daines ahead by 9 points, most of the recent polling in the Montana Senate race shows a dead heat.

Public polling show Bullock and Daines essentially trading places, either one or two points ahead of the other candidate. The larger picture is that it’s a race with no clear frontrunner right now.

“You have two candidates who have been fixtures in Montana politics for years,” said Jessica Taylor, Senate editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report — who rates the Montana race as a toss-up. “Bullock was the only candidate who could put this into play. What is keeping him in it is certainly Trump is doing worse than he was in 2016 everywhere, but especially in Montana.”

Bullock is running on his record of bipartisan accomplishments in the state. Since being elected governor in 2012, Bullock passed major bills like Medicaid expansion, a dark money ban and an infrastructure bill — all working with a Republican-controlled state legislature. It’s the kind of bipartisan compromise that’s eluded Washington, DC, for years, and it also served as the foundation of Bullock’s pitch for his short-lived 2020 presidential run.

There’s a simple explanation for the difference between Washington and Montana: It’s all about who is in charge, according to Tester, Montana’s senior senator.

“Bullock was in a leadership role and he made it work,” he said. “Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to make it work, he wants it to be partisan.”

Democrats and Republicans working together is something of a necessity in Montana, where even the cities have a small-town feel. Knowing your neighbors goes a long way in a rural state.

“We had already built this level of human trust,” said Montana House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner. “Because we’re such a small state, we have an open-door policy with even the governor’s office. You learn to deal with people of a different values system no matter what, or you’re not going to get stuff done.”

Bullock and state Democrats have been able to forge agreements with a group of pragmatic Republicans in the state legislature known as the “Conservative Solutions Caucus.” This is a group more concerned about keeping the state’s rural hospitals open than the optics of putting tax dollars towards the state’s social safety net.

“Gov. Bullock’s never had a Democratic legislature,” said Pat Sweeney, a senior adviser at the Montana-based Western Organization of Resource Councils. “As governor, he’s really been able to work in a bipartisan manner in a state where the politics … have been so divisive and the divisions between Republicans and Democrats so sharp.”

Daines, the Republican incumbent, is a longtime state party leader. In Montana, Daines is viewed as a pretty affable and friendly guy; certainly not of the same ilk of Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Rep. Greg Gianforte, who drew backlash in 2017 after body-slamming a reporter who was trying to ask him a question. Daines is more “likable” and not “bombastic,” according to Taylor.

“He’s someone who stays under the radar, I’m not sure he evokes a lot of vitriol necessarily,” Taylor told Vox. Still, Daines has tethered himself closely to Trump throughout the last few years, taking a controversial vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. Montana expanded Medicaid through the ACA in 2015, giving nearly 100,000 Montanans access to health coverage. Daines’s vote would have stripped them of that coverage.

These days, Daines looks like he’s walking a tight-rope on health care.

“The experts are saying it’s highly unlikely they’ll overturn the ACA; that’s the consensus of many legal experts,” Daines said at a recent Senate debate, vowing to protect preexisting conditions despite voting multiple times to repeal or undermine the law. Daines has voted with Trump 86 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s vote tracker.

Sticking with Trump initially may have seemed smart for Daines, whose own approval rating is at 52 percent. But the president’s polling numbers in Montana could be giving the senator pause.

“It’s not like people dislike [Daines], his approval rating’s fine,” Parker said. “It’s just that Bullock is really well liked, and I’m not sure that people have a perception of Steve Daines beyond the fact he’s linked himself closely to Trump.”

How Democrats can win in Montana

Bullock is working in different terrain than many of his fellow Democratic challengers. Montana is a state with a lot of land but a relatively small population, home to about 1.1 million people.

Even so, Montana has its own versions of cities and suburbs; the state’s population skews somewhat older than in other states, but younger people who prioritize outdoor recreation and the state’s vast natural beauty are moving to cities like Bozeman and Missoula (home to Montana State University and the University of Montana, respectively). Turning out young voters and convincing independent voters was key to Tester’s 2018 victory, and Bullock must repeat that to win, according to Parker.

“[Bullock’s] got a huge lead among young voters, so do we see a boost in voter turnout like we saw in 2018 among young people, does that continue?” Parker asked.

Montana is 88 percent white, but it also has a sizable number of American Indians, with 12 tribal nations making up about 7 percent of the overall population. Native American voters tend to favor Democrats (save for the Crow tribe, whose leaders have endorsed Republican candidates in the past in part owing to coal reserves on their tribal lands). And because Montana Senate races are typically so close, Native American turnout can be a deciding factor.

“Democrats are never going to win in Montana with more than [a 3- to 4-point] margin,” a Democratic operative who was granted anonymity to speak freely told Vox this summer. “The difference when you have high turnout in the Native community and you convince them to vote for you — that’s the difference between winning and losing.”

Native American voting rights groups recently won a major victory in the courts, winning a lawsuit allowing them to collect absentee ballots of voters on reservations and drop them off at election offices. The state’s tribal nations have been hit hard by Covid-19, and many Native voters face longtime barriers to voting access, including longer driving times to their election offices. Allowing groups to collect ballots could boost turnout among Native voters.

“I think we’ll have a record-high turnout, I have hopes it will be higher than it’s ever been before,” said Marci McLean, executive director of Montana-based voting rights group Western Native Voice. “Based on the turnout in the primaries, the news, and the current leadership, I think people are coming to realize that the very least we can do is vote to make a change.”

Bullock will also need to pull in independents, including some disillusioned Republicans. But the tide has already shifted, with some longtime former Montana GOP leaders publicly backing Bullock.

“I’m deeply disappointed in Daines,” said Bob Brown, a former Republican Montana secretary of state and state senator. “I’ve known him for many years, and he’s always seemed to me to be a real straight arrow. It seems to me he’s become such a supplicant to Trump. I had spent many years in the Republican vineyard, but I couldn’t vote for Trump.”

Bullock could be part of a powerful Western Democratic bloc

Bullock is one of a handful of Democrats running competitive races in Western states. If they win, they could form a powerful new regional bloc in the Senate Democratic caucus.

It’s too early to tell whether these candidates will be elected, or how they will legislate in the Senate. But many have said their goal is to restore bipartisanship to Congress, and plan to go out of their way to work with Republicans.

“We are pragmatic. We are problem solvers, by nature,” Hickenlooper told Vox in a recent interview. “I’m old enough, I’m never going to get seniority, I’m not going to be fighting to be the chair of a committee. I’m going to be that foot soldier in the trenches that takes the time, weeknights, and weekends to build relationships with people in my party and the other party.”

Gov. Steve Bullock campaigns in Livingston, Montana on October 3.
William Campbell/Getty Images

Hickenlooper is one of four Democratic Senate candidates running in the Mountain West or the Southwest, along with Gov. Steve Bullock in Montana, former astronaut Mark Kelly in Arizona, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan in New Mexico. Lujan is expected to keep the New Mexico seat blue, and Hickenlooper and Kelly look to be the most likely Democratic challengers to flip Republican seats. Both Arizona and Colorado are rated Lean Democratic by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Bullock is running on a similar message as Hickenlooper who also worked with a Republican state legislature as governor. Both men briefly ran for president in 2020, touting the successful bipartisanship model of Mountain states and promising to bring such leadership to the White House. Now, they have the chance to bring this style of governing to the Senate.

Hickenlooper and Kelly may be slightly more favored to win their races than Bullock. But no matter the final number of Western Democrats elected to the Senate, more Democratic representation for states in the region is important, said Baucus, the powerful former senator and Senate Finance Committee chair.

“It’d be tremendous,” Baucus said. “I always thought Washington was too influenced by the Eastern seaboard. Frankly, it would add a little realism, a little objectivity to DC politics, which tends to be too much of an echo chamber.”

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The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.


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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.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.

Will you help keep Vox free for all?

The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.


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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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