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The battle for Latino voters in Arizona and Florida, explained

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In early September, Democrats picked up signs of a worrying new weakness in Joe Biden’s coalition: Latino voters.

Nationally, Trump was polling 2 points higher among Latinos than he did in 2016. A series of polls released in September suggested that he and Biden were neck-and-neck among Latino voters in Florida, where Trump had been trying to woo conservative Cuban Americans and Venezuelans. And it seemed that a subset of Latino men were gravitating toward Trump in Arizona.

The Latino vote in America often defies simple explanations. But these gains for Trump, while small, could be the difference between winning and losing in tight contests — not just in Florida and Arizona, but in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

It was clear that the Biden campaign had “work to do” with Latinos, senior adviser Symone Sanders said on September 13. Democrats sounded the alarm in the media, again and again.

“It seems like the Latino vote is not being taken seriously,” Chuck Rocha, a former senior campaign adviser for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, told Vox at the time. “Latino organizations are still not being funded to get out the vote and to maximize our input. Why are we spending 99 cents of every dollar on white suburban voters and not on Black or brown voters?”

Cubans for Biden gather in Miramar, Florida on October 13.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Trump arrives for a rally with Latino supporters in Phoenix, Arizona on September 14.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

As Biden’s poll numbers have improved, he’s caught up at least somewhat among Hispanics (a term that is often used interchangeably with “Latino” but refers specifically to anyone who descended from Spanish-speaking populations, as opposed to people of Latin American origin, including non-Spanish speakers).

Biden now has support of 63 percent of Latinos nationally, according to an October 14 Latino Decisions poll — roughly on par with Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016, though still short of the 71 percent of their support for President Barack Obama in 2012. (Some other surveys have shown a persistent gap for Biden compared to Hillary Clinton’s Latino support.) Recent polls also signal that he’s also gaining ground among Arizona and Florida Latinos specifically but still isn’t quite where Democratic pollsters hoped he would be.

Any erosion should be concerning for Democrats. Latinos are the nation’s largest and fastest-growing contingent of nonwhite voters, and the Democratic coalition has historically depended on their overwhelming support.

To take Florida — Trump’s adopted home and a historical bellwether of who has won presidential contests — Democrats need to run up big margins in diverse, heavily Latino districts from Palm Beach to Miami, where Biden has been underperforming compared to previous candidates. As in previous years, Florida is the narrowest contest nationwide, but with 29 electoral votes at stake and a robust infrastructure to handle mail-in ballots, it could be a source of clarity about the winner on election night.

Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes, is another top prize for Trump and a state that the Republican candidate has carried every year but one since 1952. But large Latino populations of predominantly Mexican origin in districts encompassing Tucson, Phoenix, and Maricopa County could help flip the state, if Biden can inspire them to show up in the numbers necessary and overcome an apparent weakness among Latino men in particular.

“If we allow a narrative to take shape that somehow the issues of concern to this growing community are not prioritized, then we risk backsliding in the years to come,” Julián Castro, who ran against Biden in the primary, told the Washington Post.

Trump sought to pick up Latino votes as Biden delayed outreach

During the primaries, Biden had a poor showing among Latinos relative to Sanders, especially in states where Latinos make up a large portion of the electorate, including California, Nevada, and Texas.

Critics of Biden’s strategy argued he had neglected the Latino vote, failing to advertise early and often in Spanish-language media, show up for in-person outreach in Latino communities, or deliver a major address speaking to the concerns of Latino voters directly. And Biden’s Latino outreach efforts were slow even after he secured the nomination, ramping up only in late August.

By then, the Trump campaign had spent months investing heavily in eroding Biden’s margins in Florida, casting him as a socialist and capitalizing on the fears of Latinos from failed socialist regimes. (Biden has run as a center-left moderate, and even Sanders’s brand of democratic socialism has little relationship to the regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.)

Among a subset of Latinos — whose political leanings vary across gender, generation, country of origin, and how long they have lived in the US — Trump might be an attractive option. Latinos don’t reliably back Democrats in the kinds of overwhelming numbers that Black voters do, and a significant proportion of Latinos (about a third right now) identify as Republicans.

In Florida, Latinos’ political leanings are particularly diverse, with populations hailing from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Mexico and from other parts of Latin America. Democrats have struggled to make inroads among the Cuban American community, which has historically leaned more Republican than Latinos from other countries of origin, embittered by John F. Kennedy’s withdrawal of support for an operation against dictator Fidel Castro at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs decades ago.

What’s more, disinformation campaigns have permeated Florida Latinos’ WhatsApp chats, Facebook feeds, and radio programs, falsely claiming, for example, that Biden has a pedophilia problem. Trump’s Spanish-language ads, which began airing in Florida as early as June, liken Biden to ruthless Latin American caudillos like Castro and Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.

One 30-second ad, narrated by a Cuban actress, paints Biden and the Democrats as extremists, playing images of Cuban refugee flights, a 2015 photo of Biden with Maduro in Brazil, and a red flag emblazoned with an image of Che Guevara, the communist Cuban revolutionary:

[embedded content]

Trump has pursued policies designed to keep Venezuelan refugees out of the US. But the ad portrays him as an ally of Latinos for earning the support of the CEO of Goya Foods, the nation’s largest Hispanic-owned food company, which Democrats consequently sought to boycott.

“We sacrificed so much to be free and respected,” the narrator says in Spanish. “Joe Biden and the Democrats are too extreme. … [He] is too weak to defend us.”

Biden was still fighting that narrative in early October, saying, “I’m the guy who ran against a socialist” at a campaign event in Miami on October 5. But for some voters, the characterization has stuck:

Biden’s September crisis among Latino voters in Florida might have been overstated. The former vice president trailed in three polls in the state, but by less than the margin of error. And the Latino sample size of each poll was also relatively small, which could have distorted the results. Casting a wide net is particularly necessary in Florida in order to accurately capture voters of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Mexican descent and from other parts of Latin America.

So it’s possible the polls had overstated the depths of Biden’s crisis among Latinos, Michael Jones-Correa, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

“I think the polling in Florida on Latinos has not been great,” he said. “I wouldn’t put a huge amount of weight on it.”

Another September 4 poll by the Democratic firm Equis Research showed Biden with a 16-point lead, and veteran Florida Democratic political strategist Steven Schale told the Washington Post he found that poll credible.

On September 15, Biden made his first visit of the general election to Florida with the mission of making his case to Latino voters. He criticized Trump’s policies on immigration, his abandonment of Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and his failures to protect workers from the coronavirus, which has killed a disproportionate number of Latinos nationwide. He made subsequent visits to the state on October 5 and 13, stopping in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

More recent Florida polls show Biden leading among Latinos — earning 52 percent support in a September 28 Univision poll, 58 percent in an October 5 New York Times-Siena College poll, and 55 percent in an October 14 Latino Decisions poll. But he’s still trailing Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory among Hispanics: She won 62 percent of Hispanics but still lost the state, according to exit polls. College-educated Hispanics in the state appear to be an enduring weak spot for the former vice president.

Carlos Odio, the co-founder of Equis, said in a press call that Biden still might win the state if he can do as well with white voters as he was polling during the summer, regardless of his performance with Latino voters, according to his firm’s simulations. But if Biden doesn’t maintain those numbers with white voters, his path to victory would substantially narrow without robust support from Latinos, including Cuban Americans, who backed him 52 percent to 35 in the Latino Decisions poll.

“He needs to get over the 60 percent threshold of [total] Latino support,” Odio said. “To get there, he will need to maximize his support among non-Cuban Hispanic voters, even if he earns a high level of support from Cubans.”

Latinos could help Biden flip Arizona — but older men are a soft spot

Biden is counting on Latino support to win in Arizona this year, aiming to win 70 percent of the Latino vote — the same percentage that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona in decades, won in her 2018 race.

Most Latinos in Arizona are of Mexican descent, and Trump has openly derided Mexicans while pursuing immigration policies designed to keep them out of the US.

On the campaign trail in 2016, he claimed the US needed to keep out “bad hombres” from Mexico, suggested that Mexicans were overwhelmingly criminals, and promised his supporters that he would build a “big, beautiful wall” across the entire southern border. And in the years since the 2016 election, racial justice has become a top motivating issue for young Latino voters generally.

But Trump has nevertheless tried to make inroads among Latinos in Arizona, making five trips to Phoenix over the course of the 2020 campaign to make his case. His supporters cite his business policies, from reducing corporate taxes to deregulation, and conservative social values, including his opposition to abortion, as reasons they are drawn to him.

In September, a trend emerged in Arizona that didn’t bode well for Biden: Trump’s support among Latinos has actually grown by 8 percent since 2019, and the most significant boost has come from Latino men under the age of 50, a mid-September Equis poll found.

Trump also appears to have generated particular interest among some young Latino men. Rocha, who led Sanders’s Latino outreach efforts, told Vox in early September that he had observed in focus groups commissioned by Nuestro PAC, a Democratic super PAC focused on Latino outreach, that Latino men were a “soft spot.”

“They just weren’t as convinced [as women] about Joe Biden,” he said. “Some of this ‘law and order’ stuff, about having safe streets for your kids and your family, works with Latino men. Not a majority of them. Not even 30 percent. But he [Trump] only needs to skim off 4 or 5 percent of Latino men, and it changes the entire electorate.”

Trump’s allure among these men is rooted in his machismo. As the New York Times’s Jennifer Medina writes, they may be drawn to him because he is “forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.”

That’s not entirely surprising: Across nearly every demographic group, Trump performs better among men than he does among women. The gender gap among voters outside the Latino community is actually higher than it is within the Latino community, Jones-Correa said.

“There is a gender gap,” he said. “But it’s a bit more muted than within the general public. I wouldn’t overemphasize the gender gap here as something more profound for the Latino community.”

Still, Biden is currently performing well among white voters in the state — but he still needs Latinos to win, Odio said.

Biden has a 4-point edge on average in Arizona as of October 6, and a Biden also has a sizable lead among Latinos, who backed him 62-29 percent in the Equis poll.

That’s roughly on par with Clinton’s performance in 2016, but still short of the campaign’s goal.

“We are urging folks not to be complacent, but … to push for those levels now, so that we don’t find that it’s too late in October,” Odio said.

Biden is pushing to win in Florida and Arizona

Latinos tend to remain undecided for longer than other ethnic groups. That could be to Biden’s advantage as his campaign has substantially ramped up its outreach efforts in the Latino community, particularly in Florida, in the final weeks before Election Day.

“Progressives consistently get in this boat where we’re a month away from Election Day and there’s a sudden realization that we’ve got to spend big in Florida,” Tory Gavito, president of the Democratic donor group Way to Win, said. “It’s a historic pattern within the Democratic establishment.”

Biden has also hired a slew of new campaign staffers in Florida and in Arizona to support his outreach efforts, including a veteran political operative who handled Spanish-language media for Democrat Andrew Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial run in Florida. And his campaign, which had a record fundraising bump in September, has been pouring money into reaching out to voters virtually in the interest of protecting campaign staff and the public amid the pandemic. (Trump, on the other hand, has hosted indoor rallies.)

“I’m starting to see in the data that more people are reporting they’re being contacted, and more people are reporting seeing and hearing positive news about Biden, so I don’t think we’re behind any sort of marker,” Matt Barreto, the co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions and a pollster for the Biden campaign, said.

The campaign says being unable to canvass in person amid the pandemic hasn’t put Biden at a significant disadvantage among young Latinos, who are accessible online.

“Our population is exceptionally young,” Barreto said. “It’s a population that’s already in social media, in digital, on texting. And so for a high percentage of people, this is a natural transition for the campaign — to be able to continue that sort of outreach in a medium where lots of Latinos are already living.”

Among older Latinos and immigrants, the campaign is also seeing high rates of television viewership, Barreto said. Biden has consequently outspent Trump in Spanish-language television ads in recent months by a margin of $6.7 million to $4.9 million across heavily Latino cities including Miami, Orlando, and Phoenix. He has also topped Trump’s Spanish-language radio ads, investing about $885,000 compared to Trump’s $32,500.

His messaging is consistent, but delivered in different accents designed to microtarget Latino populations across the country: In Phoenix, it’s a Mexican accent, whereas in Miami, it’s Cuban.

One ad, titled “A Good Plan,” says the president has mishandled the ongoing pandemic, in which Latinos have suffered immensely, and if elected, Biden would deliver much-needed aid to their communities:

[embedded content]

Biden surrogates are also pouring dollars into ads targeting Latinos. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg underwrote a $13.4 million ad buy in Florida with Priorities USA Action and Latino Victory Fund designed to air in both Spanish and English. Priorities USA and People for the American Way also announced smaller, six-figure buys in Arizona media markets.

“President Trump has fueled division in our country including through his relentless attacks on the Hispanic community,” Bloomberg said in a statement at the time. “I’m supporting Latino Victory Fund and Priorities USA Action to persuade and mobilize as many voters as possible and make sure that Hispanic voices are heard — and their votes counted.”

Indeed, there’s no question that the investment in the Latino vote has been substantial over the past month. It has resulted in what appears to be significant growth in his support among Latinos, though still not quite reaching the thresholds that would put Biden in safe territory.

There may still be a window of opportunity for Biden to sway more voters at this late stage, but it’s not clear whether continuing to inundate them with more TV and radio ads will make a difference.

Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic strategist who produced ads for President Barack Obama in 2012, has questioned whether that strategy will continue to pay dividends for Biden.

“If we are not there already, we are quickly approaching the point of diminishing returns,” Amandi told Politico.

And given that many Floridians have already received their first mail-in ballots, Biden is running out of time to change their minds. He is nevertheless continuing to make his case.

“More than any other time, the Hispanic community, Latino community holds in the palm of their hand the destiny of this country,” Biden said during an event in Kissimmee, Florida, last month. “You can decide the direction of this country.”


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World

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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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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