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No, Trump hasn’t been the best president for Black America since Lincoln

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At last week’s NBC town hall event, President Donald Trump leaned in to the camera to recite a statement that has become a fixture of his reelection campaign: “I have done more for the African American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

Over the past year, Trump has shouted this from the lectern at campaign rallies and from the balcony at the White House as a play to Black voters, a countermessage to his racist rhetoric. The phrase has morphed over time, starting in the fall of 2019 as something more restrained — “We’ve done more for African Americans in three years than the broken Washington establishment has done in more than 30 years” — and rising to the bold “No president has done more for our Black community” this year.

In June, Trump tweeted a similar statement bragging about what he has done for Black Americans. It came just days after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police officers, setting off unrest and protests for Black lives across the country. He had not actually addressed the reason for millions of people marching in the streets — the institutional racism in policing.

The tone-deaf display continued earlier this month, when in his first address since announcing he had tested positive for the coronavirus, Trump confidently shouted the claim to hundreds of Black and Latinx voters standing on the White House South Lawn: “Nobody can dispute it. Nobody can dispute it. It’s true. Nobody can dispute it.” The very fact that the president encouraged Black people to assemble in his name just days after his diagnosis, forgoing social distancing and despite the devastation the virus has wrought on Black and Latinx communities, one could argue undermined his message.

While Trump may be confident in his claim of having done the most for Black Americans, his record begs to differ. He has repeatedly cited his efforts on criminal justice reform and the economy as the reasons he’s been the best president for Black America since Lincoln — who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved people in the Confederacy and clearing the way for the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery across the US — but rarely does Trump put his supposed “wins” in context. For example, Trump often tries to take credit for a decline in violent crime, though the downward trend predates him by many years.

Trump’s “since Lincoln” bit is also untrue on its face: Ulysses S. Grant created the Department of Justice and pushed for the prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan; Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Justice Department pushed for poll tax repeal; Harry S. Truman desegregated the military; Lyndon B. Johnson through Great Society legislation signed the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act, and desegregated hospitals in the South through the Social Security Act Amendments of 1965; and Barack Obama, the first Black president, passed the Affordable Care Act, which has reduced racial disparities in health care.

Trump, meanwhile, has wholly disregarded how his strategy and policies don’t help Black communities — from his rhetoric that sows division to his inaction in addressing the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 1 in 1,000 Black people in the US.

Here’s a look at what Trump has and hasn’t done for Black communities and why his campaign’s recently released plan for Black America is a vague last-ditch effort to lock in Black voters.

Trump passed a significant criminal justice reform measure, but his administration has worked to undo it

Standing before hundreds of Black and brown supporters earlier this month, Trump said that America has reached a “historic reduction of violent crime” during his presidency. “We signed a landmark criminal justice reform bill that nobody thought was possible to think about. I did that. I did that. I got that done,” he said.

In December 2018, Trump did indeed sign the First Step Act, which made “the most substantial changes in a generation” to “tough on crime” laws that increased the federal prison population by 700 percent since 1970.

Since Trump signed the measure into law, more than 3,000 people have been released from federal prison due to the law’s “good time credits,” which provide early release for well-behaved inmates; hundreds have been released into the elderly home confinement pilot program, which places older federal inmates in home confinement before the end of their prison term; and more than 2,000 people — 91 percent of whom are Black — received sentencing reductions because the First Step Act retroactively applied the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (a law Obama passed), reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine charges.

While these changes are substantial, many have pointed to the areas where the act fails — and why Trump can’t take full credit for the initiative.

As Catherine Kim reported for Vox, Trump’s Justice Department, under Attorney General Bill Barr’s direction, has “attempted to block hundreds of eligible beneficiaries” from being released and has tried to send those who have been released back behind bars, according to the Sentencing Project. “The department has tried to freeze applications or re-incarcerate former inmates by setting higher standards for their release,” Kim wrote.

Moreover, Trump has failed to mention how the bill was the “culmination of several years of congressional debate” over how to reduce the size of the federal prison population and maintain public safety, according to the Congressional Research Service. The law is basically a scaled-down iteration of the Sentencing and Reform Corrections Act that was introduced in Congress in 2015.

Proponents of the law have also pointed out that its effects on the size of the federal prison system will ultimately be minimal. Vox’s German Lopez reported:

The law may let thousands of federal inmates out early, but, as Stanford drug policy expert Keith Humphreys noted in the Washington Post, more than 1,700 people are released from prison every day already — so the First Step Act in one sense only equates to adding a few more days of typical releases to the year.

While much of what Trump has touted did not originate with him, this summer he had the opportunity to create his own criminal justice agenda when protests swept the country over the police shootings of Black Americans like Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old killed in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, and Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old who survived after police shot him in the back several times in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Instead, Trump claimed that the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is a symbol of hate and responded to the unrest by celebrating law enforcement, directing them to meet the protesters with force and violence.

Trump’s dismissal of the Black Lives Matter movement’s repeated calls for police and criminal justice reform, coupled with his “law and order” rhetoric — rhetoric that incites violence and that has long been racist — counters the police reform efforts he touts. In June, Trump signed an executive order that called for more training for police officers and the establishment of a national database of police misconduct, among other actions — all steps that fall far short of the transformative changes that activists have called for.

Early on, Trump made his tone clear when he tweeted, “When the looting starts the shooting starts,” focusing on the small number of people ransacking property and giving very little attention to the families burdened by police violence.

Trump has also tried to take credit for the reduction in violent crime nationwide, but he inherited the downward trend that has been in effect since 2000. Trump has tried to argue that because he expresses support for and honors police officers — supposedly unlike Obama — criminals have been less inclined to commit crimes. Yet researchers haven’t been able to establish a link between rises in homicides and “disrespect for the police.” According to economists at the Brennan Center, by claiming that he is responsible for lower crime rates, Trump is promoting dangerous misconceptions about the relationship between crime and policing.

Black employment gains before the pandemic were real — but not the result of Trump’s presidential term

Trump has repeatedly patted himself on the back for achieving “the lowest Black and Hispanic unemployment rate in the history of our country.”

Before the pandemic hit, the unemployment rate for Black Americans reached an all-time low (since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track in 1972) at 5.9 percent in May 2018. But as many have pointed out, the decline in the Black unemployment rate began during President Obama’s presidency.

Even as the overall unemployment rate dropped after a sharp rise in March, the Black unemployment rate remained higher. White Americans have had found work more quickly overall, and the employment gap has persisted, even as further economic relief from the government remains nowhere in sight. The continued failure to contain the coronavirus epidemic makes a full recovery even more difficult.

Trump also chooses not to mention the kinds of jobs that Black Americans occupy. A Brookings Institution report found that Black Americans are overrepresented in low-wage, undervalued “essential” jobs in which they’re more likely to die due to factors like the coronavirus.

According to an Associated Press fact-check, household median income was higher for Black people before Trump took office. Furthermore, Trump’s focus on the unemployment rate ignores other economic hardships that Black people face, like low rates of Black homeownership and low Black male labor force participation rates, according to the New York Times.

In the same breath, Trump has often celebrated the “opportunity zones” provisions included in the 2017 tax bill that he signed into law. While opportunity zones are supposed to encourage investment in high-need communities, according to a 2019 New York Times report, the program has mostly just benefited wealthy Americans making the investments, and haven’t been proven to help underresourced communities. The early beneficiaries of the tax breaks are billionaires and Trump family members for “high-end apartment buildings and hotels, storage facilities that employ only a handful of workers, and student housing in bustling college towns,” according to the report.

Trump’s claims on poverty don’t tell the full story of racial disparity

Relatedly, Trump cites declining poverty rates before the pandemic as proof of his success. “Last year, Black and Hispanic American poverty reached the lowest ever in the history of our country,” Trump said at the White House event earlier this month.

According to census data, Trump’s claim is correct but ignores the major disparities that remain. According to the data, the US poverty rate was 10.5 percent in 2019, the lowest since 1959, when data was first collected and released on this scale, with an 18.8 percent poverty rate for Black people and a 15.7 percent poverty rate for Hispanics.

Despite these historic lows, Black and Hispanic people are overrepresented in the poverty population relative to their representation in the overall population. According to the data, Black people represented 13.2 percent of the total population in the United States but 23.8 percent of the poverty group — almost two times greater than their portion of the general population. Hispanics comprised 18.7 percent of the total population but 28.1 percent of the population in poverty — 1.5 times more than their share of the population.

Experts are torn about whether Trump should be credited with the declines in poverty — which may be reversed without further economic stimulus. Trump has taken credit for the number of people who have stopped receiving food stamps under his presidency — in February, he claimed that 7 million people stopped receiving assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Experts say the decline in food stamp enrollment is due to “improving employment opportunities and pay increases,” with enrollment decreases beginning in 2014 and 2015 under Obama, according to the New York Times. But there could also be another reason for the decline in SNAP assistance: Trump has tightened eligibility requirements. In March, it was estimated that 700,000 people would be kicked off food stamps because of the administration’s new strict work requirement. A federal judge recently struck down that requirement, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.”

The mechanism for funding HBCUs has very little to do with Trump

Trump has also repeatedly mentioned how his administration has funded historically Black colleges and universities. “They couldn’t get funded. Nobody was funding them for years and years and decades, nobody was funding them,” Trump said.

This is simply untrue: Under Obama, the federal government invested more than $4 billion in HBCUs over seven years.

And while federal funding for HBCUs has been renewed under Trump’s presidency, Trump has not publicly acknowledged that the renewal is the result of congressional appropriations.

“Congress does all this work and presents it to him in the budget, and he can choose to sign it. This year, he held off on signing some significant STEM funding, making HBCUs beg for it,” Rutgers professor and leading HBCU authority Marybeth Gasman told the Washington Post. “Trump has promised all kinds of things to HBCUs and has followed through on little. Under Trump, the White House Initiative for HBCUs was moved to the White House and is quite quiet compared to the work under President Obama’s administration.”

Trump is making a last-ditch effort to hold his ground with Black voters

In 2016, Trump won just 8 percent of Black voters. The same holds true in 2020 — his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, leads Trump with Black voters, 83 percent to 8 percent, a 75-point margin, according to CNN. However, Trump’s support among Black voters ages 18 to 44 has jumped from 10 percent in 2016 to 21 percent this year, according to FiveThirtyEight, “while older Black voters look as if they’ll vote for Biden by margins similar to Clinton’s in 2016.”

“Black voters remain an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning constituency, but a notable reduction in their support could still be a problem for Biden,” according to the publication.

In a last-ditch effort to attract more Black voters, Trump unveiled his “Platinum Plan” for Black Americans mere weeks before the election. It includes proposals to designate the Ku Klux Klan and antifa as terrorist organizations, make lynching a hate crime, recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and increase investments in Black communities by supporting Black homeownership, small businesses, and job creation. The plan is vague — it lists what Trump would seek to accomplish but doesn’t explain how he’d get there. (For comparison, Biden’s Lift Every Voice Plan, though far from perfect in the eyes of progressives, explains the steps a Biden-Harris administration would implement to support Black Americans.)

But if voters are still unclear about what Trump has done for Black Americans, no data is as stark as coronavirus data. From willfully misleading the public on the virus to dismantling the government’s pandemic response team, Trump could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths early on. Instead, his inaction has left thousands of Black Americans dead, with the coronavirus killing them at twice the rate of white people.

Since contracting the coronavirus, Trump has further downplayed the severity of the disease, tweeting, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” dismissing the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost loved ones to the disease, many whose family members could not receive the kind of care and treatment the president did.

Whatever economic gains Black Americans experienced in the early years of his term have also been undone in the pandemic, especially since more than 90 percent of Black businesses that applied for loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program were denied. Forty percent of Black-owned small businesses have since closed, according to a Brookings Institution report.

Ultimately, the idea of “who’s done more for Black people” homogenizes Black communities — stripping them of their diverse identities and backgrounds — and makes elected officials accountable during election season only.

In 2016, Trump made his pitch to Black Americans, asking, “What the hell do you have to lose?” With the way the past four years have played out, it’s clear they had a lot to lose — and stand to lose a lot more.


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

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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