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The case for Senate Democrats to boycott Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, briefly explained

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Multiple Senate Democrats are already refusing meetings with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and there’s now a growing call for them to take another step to question the legitimacy of the process: boycott the confirmation hearing.

“I think that boycotting the hearing should continue to be on the table,” Demand Justice chief counsel Chris Kang tells Vox. “I think the takeaway is that this is an illegitimate process.”

Demand Justice, a progressive group dedicated to combating Trump’s remaking of the federal judiciary, is among those urging Senate Democrats to consider this option as Republicans try to rush through a confirmation for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the coming weeks. As the Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane report, however, it’s a move that could also backfire and enable Republicans to simply advance her nomination even more quickly, with little fanfare.

But much like lawmakers’ decisions not to meet with Barrett, the idea is that such an act would highlight how abnormal the current process is, particularly since a recent hearing with Justice Brett Kavanaugh didn’t deter many Republicans from voting the same way they would have otherwise.

“If the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh did not change any votes, neither will these hearings,” writes Adam Jentleson, a former deputy chief of staff to former Sen. Harry Reid, in a New York Times op-ed.

Senate Republicans, after all, are moving ahead with this nomination despite the impending election and claims they made in 2016 about not confirming a judge during an election year.

Demand Justice is dedicated to opposing Barrett and pushing Senate Democrats to consider a wide range of tactics as they navigate the Supreme Court fight in the short term and the long term.

The procedural tactics available to Democrats, admittedly, are “probably not as robust as people think” in the near term, Kang said.

In an interview with Vox, Kang laid out what these options include, how Demand Justice is pressing lawmakers before the hearings, and what Democrats should consider (court-packing) if they retake the upper chamber and White House. Read the conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, below.

Li Zhou

Let’s start with the short term. Could you talk about the procedural tools that Senate Democrats have to oppose the Supreme Court nomination right now?

Chris Kang

So I think that the literal procedural tools are still to be determined and probably not as robust as people think.

I do think that there are some things like objections to unanimous consent agreements that will be deployed closer to the time of a floor vote, and not something that necessarily make sense now. [Note: Because the Senate largely runs on unanimous consent, if one senator objects to an action that’s taking place, they are able to delay it from happening and slow the chamber’s productivity.]

But I think what we’re really looking for from Senate Democrats more than specific parliamentary tactics is how are Democrats going to show that this is an illegitimate process, that this is an illegitimate nominee. And so there are some things that there’s no question Democrats can do, like not taking courtesy meetings.

I think that boycotting the hearing should continue to be on the table.

Li Zhou

What do you see as the takeaway, if Democrats go that route of boycotting the hearing altogether?

Chris Kang

I think the takeaway is that this is an illegitimate process, it’s not a legitimate [nomination], and it shouldn’t be dignified as such.

I think there are some competing arguments for what Democrats could gain through a committee process or a committee hearing. But I think a lot of those run through the idea that this is business as usual. And so again, I know that boycotting is a high bar to ask and … candidly, I don’t expect that to happen. But I think that it should continue to be on the table. I think all options should be on the table for how they’re going to think about highlighting this sham process and this illegitimate nominee.

And so I think that has to be something; they have to show up in some way.

I don’t think the Democrats can just show up and question a nominee as if it were normal. So you know, if you’re not going to boycott the hearing, fine, but then show up in a different way. And let’s highlight to the American people just what’s at stake and how this is different.

Li Zhou

What is your response to concerns that Democrats would be missing an opportunity to question Judge Amy Coney Barrett and make their case against her if they boycott the hearing?

Chris Kang

A nomination so close to the election is simply illegitimate, and Democrats should consider all options to highlight that.

For example, [Senate Minority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer is refusing to meet with Barrett. Others, including Senators Merkley, Hirono, Blumenthal, and Gillibrand are refusing as well, and this is the kind of demonstration we need.

Boycotting the hearing could cut either way, but if Democrats do attend, we’ll be looking to them to show that this is not a normal hearing or business as usual.

Li Zhou

At this point, do you think that Senate Democrats should more explicitly commit to court-packing?

Chris Kang

I don’t know if Senate Democrats as a caucus need to do that per se. I will say that they have to start looking ahead.

I mean, right now, our focus is on stopping this nomination, and building the voice and the power to demonstrate to Senate Republicans what is at stake here for them. But at the end of the day, if we are not successful, I definitely think Democrats need to be thinking about what is the logical response when Republicans steal two Supreme Court seats in the span of four years and completely undermine our democracy and the legitimacy of the institution itself.

And so from our perspective, we think that Supreme Court expansion is the only way to restore balance. And it absolutely should be on the table. I think that Leader Schumer has done a good job of making clear that all options are on the table. I think that that will continue to be the posture right now.

But I understand if not every member wants to make this about — this debate should not be about court expansion — this debate should be about the Republicans pushing through a nominee who’s about to strike down the Affordable Care Act. So I think that just as that is Demand Justice’s message in this fight, I understand that that will likely be the Senate Democrats’ message in this fight. But I do think that the specter of court expansion has to be something that more and more Democrats will be forced to think about more seriously in the weeks to come.

Li Zhou

Could you talk a little bit more about some of the implications of court-packing? We talk about it a lot in terms of how it would change the makeup of the court, but could you walk through some of the other potential benefits?

Chris Kang

I will say the part about the makeup of the court is an important one, because I do think, at its core, we’re talking about restoring balance to the court, and I realize balance may be in the eye of the beholder. But we’re at a point now where the Supreme Court looks like it’s an anti-democratic institution. The Democratic presidential candidates have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and yet Republican appointees have been the majority on the Supreme Court for more than 50 years now.

But then also … the caseload for the Supreme Court has gone down dramatically over time, and I do think that it’ll be important for the courts to think about, like, why is that? What is driving that? And would having additional justices help the court resolve some of these important legal disputes that it currently isn’t? I do think that adding more justices would be important.

I also think there’s nothing magical about nine. I’ve never seen any study, any analysis, any theory about why nine is the right number. Look at the other appellate courts throughout the country. And, you know, all of them but one has more than nine members. I think that there’s no reason not to have more justices who also could bring, I think the other thing I would say is like bringing a diversity of perspectives to the court I think is incredibly important. Like the number of prosecutors on the Supreme Court, I think, is four. But I do know that there has not been a Supreme Court justice who’s represented criminal defendants since Thurgood Marshall retired.

That is a critically important aspect of the court as you think about this moment in criminal justice reform and police reform, as you think about how the Supreme Court refuses to take up issues like qualified immunity and how it considers other racial justice issues.

Having more balanced professional experience would be important, and then also, obviously, the Supreme Court does not look anything like our country. And so I think having more seats will also provide an opportunity to bring more racial and gender diversity to the court. And again, the perspectives of more Americans on the court.

It’s a democratic institution and it should reflect the people that it serves. I think that that is one of the sort of undersold problems with President Trump’s judicial nominees, that he is undermining the legitimacy of an entire branch of government when his appointees are the least racially diverse in a generation, and still don’t come anywhere close to gender parity.

Li Zhou

I know you said nine is not necessarily a magical number. If court-packing were to move forward, what number of justices do you think would be the right number?

Chris Kang

In my opinion, I think 13 is the right number if they’re going to move forward with essentially stealing another seat from the next Democratic president.

I guess we could wait and see. I think this whole conversation is predicated, of course, on former Vice President Joe Biden becoming president. So if that’s the case, then this is a seat that by all precedent should be filled by him, and so the idea that Republicans would have stolen two seats in four years I think requires two seats to be added for each of those. And so that’s why I think the right answer is 13.

Li Zhou

What do you make of the argument that if Democrats move forward with this that, down the line, you’re going to see Republicans effectively do the same?

Chris Kang

To that, I would say that Republicans already have done it.

Republicans changed the size of the Supreme Court in 2016 to eight, and then they changed it again to 9 in 2017, all in an exercise of raw political power. And so I do think that it’s possible that Republicans might retaliate in turn. But I also don’t know that the possible threat shouldn’t be enough to stop Democrats from doing what’s necessary now.

And it sort of again, I mean, necessary in terms of restoring legitimacy to the Supreme Court. Especially injecting the raw partisan politics into the Supreme Court right now, I would suspect, makes Chief Justice Roberts very nervous, as somebody who tries to — I don’t think he’s right in this — but he projects that there are no Trump judges and no Obama judges. And yet here we are, in the midst of the closing weeks of an election season, I mean, votes are actually already being cast, watching Donald Trump and Republicans ram through a nominee to put on his court.

The whole specter of the legitimacy of the court is under a cloud. And I think that Democrats have to respond, I think that the Democrats, if Republicans are going to cheat or steal, I don’t think that Democrats can just let that go and hope it doesn’t happen again.

It’s happened now twice in four years, and there has to be some response, there has to be something to deter, or else it will keep happening again. So I think that that argument is somewhat overstated. I also will say, like, a big, big picture, as you think about what Supreme Court reform could look like, the other thing that we’ve talked about is term limits.

And if you had term limits, that would have the potential of lowering the temperature on a lot of this, and really having a chance to sort of take away the politicization and sort of the political timing a lot of justices make when it comes to retiring, so that could be a longer-term solution.

Li Zhou

Between term limits and adding more justices to the court, do you see one of those as being, just from a legislative perspective, more of a first step and more of an accessible thing for lawmakers to do?

Chris Kang

Well, I think that the one thing that is clear is that Congress has the power to change the number of seats on the Supreme Court. It’s done it seven times in history. And so from that perspective, I think that it’s easier.

I think that there are term-limit proposals that can be done in legislation. But I think there’s some people who don’t. I think that that may be a different question that Congress will have to consider as it figures out which proposal to implement and how to proceed with that.

Li Zhou

On either of those, I’m wondering if you think ultimately that Senate Democrats will have the political will to get something done and the numbers to do it, given the fact that some of the potential newcomers might end up taking more moderate stances.

Chris Kang

I will say that I think it’s far too early to consider the political feasibility of this. We haven’t seen just how badly this could turn out for Republicans going so far against the will and the views of their constituents.

So one, this could have a bigger difference in terms of the outcome in November. But two, we’re talking about all of this in a hypothetical. I think that if a nominee actually were rammed through, I think the politics start to change.

If that justice then becomes the deciding vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act, I think the politics change. I think that we can’t project too much based on the sentiment right now, about what’s possible. But I do think this conversation is already sort of taking off in a different direction.

We have the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee talking about this as the next step, and he’s somebody who has the power to set the agenda and legislation. I think that this political conversation is only beginning.


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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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