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The growing concerns over Trump and a peaceful transition, explained

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At the end of Tuesday night’s chaotic first presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked President Trump if he would “pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified.” The president’s answer was, worryingly, not an automatic yes.

“If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with it,” Trump said, referencing unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud from his camp.

This comes on the heels of his refusal last week to commit to a peaceful transition of power when asked at a press conference — “we’ll have to see what happens,” Trump said — and recent reporting suggesting that the Trump campaign is planning aggressive challenges to election results in battleground states. Taken together, this news has brought what had been brewing worries about a constitutional meltdown this November to a boil.

Questions like “How far is he willing to go to win?” and “Will he go if he loses?” were once seen as far-fetched hypotheticals pondered by experts and pundits; now, a month out from the election, they have become mainstream concerns.

Trump’s has a long history of attacking the integrity of America’s elections. He chalked up his 2016 popular vote defeat to the fact that “millions of people voted illegally.” In 2018, he accused Democrats of trying to steal the Florida Senate and gubernatorial elections using “massively infected” ballots. And earlier this year, he claimed that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged” — repeatedly arguing, with no evidence, that Joe Biden and the Democrats will use fraudulent mail-in ballots to steal the election.

Trump’s focus on mail-in ballots is pernicious — and intentional. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many, many more Americans are planning on casting their ballots by mail. And polls have shown that Democrats are likelier to vote by mail than Republicans. One can easily imagine a scenario where the battleground states take quite a long time to count their mail-in ballots — and if those tilt the outcome toward Biden, Trump voters will be primed to see the results as tainted.

Beyond casting doubt on the legitimacy of a Trump defeat, talk of fraud also lays the groundwork for Trump and his allies to interfere with the electoral process itself. Such attempts can take many forms: lawsuits even more brazenly political than Bush v. Gore; convincing Republican state legislators in battleground states to override the vote count and send Trump supporters to the Electoral College; or quite simply refusing to leave the White House on January 20 and hoping the military will take his side.

Which leaves us with a question: How worried should we be?

The general sense among experts on American politics is that the nightmare scenarios — an outright stolen election, each party attempting to inaugurate a different president on January 20, or clashes between armed supporters of each side — are only plausible if the election is close, and even then they remain unlikely.

“Unless there’s a catastrophic failure on Election Day … then the election only goes into overtime if the election is close enough to litigate in a state that is essential to the electoral college outcome. That’s unlikely if the polls are even close to accurate,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine and author of the recent book Election Meltdown, tells me.

But Trump’s 2016 win and the emergence of a global pandemic earlier this year were both “unlikely,” too. If we’ve learned anything from the past few years of politics, it’s that this kind of low-probability, high-impact event can happen — and needs to be planned for if the worst is to be avoided.

“In my mind, the worst-case scenario is the possibility of dueling inaugurations … a situation where we’re facing the end of the republic as we know,” says Franita Tolson, an election law expert at the University of Southern California.

Trump’s various options for stealing the election

The two most distinctive features of the 2020 election are the coronavirus pandemic and a president that’s unlike any other who has held office before him. These factors combine in a particularly dangerous way, creating the conditions for a constitutional crisis on November 3.

Covid-19 has obviously caused a massive increase in mail-in ballots. A CNN survey published on September 25 found that states already had plans to mail at least 71 million absentee ballots to voters — a figure about 50 percent higher than the number of absentee ballots cast in the entire 2016 election.

Trump has long been hostile to mail-in ballots (despite using them himself), treating remote voting as a fraudulent Democratic tool for stealing elections. In 2020, there is an unusually high partisan split in mail-in voting, as the president’s rhetoric seems to be dissuading Republicans from voting remotely. If Biden wins in a close election, mail-in ballots — which can take longer to count than day-of ballots — will almost certainly be the decisive factor in his victory.

Though there is virtually no evidence for Trump’s claim that mail-in ballots are vehicles for fraud — a point that veteran Republican attorney Ben Ginsberg recently conceded in a Washington Post op-ed — this has not stopped Trump or Republican Party leaders from claiming that fraud is endemic.

These are the conditions under which the 2020 election could melt down. If Trump continues to insist that mail-in votes are fraudulent, and the institutional GOP continues to support his claims, they have options under the American legal and political system to challenge the results — and potentially flip them.

The first and most straightforward tool are lawsuits. As of September 29, over 300 Covid-19-related election lawsuits had been filed across the country. In Pennsylvania, the Trump team has already won a state Supreme Court case on “naked ballots” — mail-in ballots sent in without a secrecy envelope — that could lead to thousands of votes being discarded.

In the event of an election where mail-in ballots are the decisive factor, it’s easy to imagine the Trump camp filing a series of lawsuits aimed at blocking the counting or disqualifying mailed ballots. In such a scenario, the election will be decided not by voters but by the Supreme Court — as it was in 2000. Today, Bush v. Gore is seen by many experts as less an exercise in legal reasoning than in power, a 5-4 partisan split in which Republican justices elevated their candidate for essentially political reasons. There’s a reason no Supreme Court ruling has ever cited Bush v. Gore as a precedent: The justices themselves described it as a one-off.

US Supreme Court Begins New Hand Count Hearing
Gore and Bush supporters face off during a protest on December 11, 2000, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Newsmakers

Fears of Supreme Court meddling in 2020 don’t come out of nowhere: Trump has been musing about this very thing out loud. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine Justices,” he said last week. And some Court observers believe that, if Trump’s Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, she’d be likely to take his side in election-related litigation.

“Thomas, Alito, and honestly probably Barrett are out of reach,” says Leah Litman, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Michigan. “Kavanaugh worked on the Bush recount litigation.”

Another option for the Trump campaign runs through Republican-controlled state governments.

The Electoral College is an exceptionally strange institution, designed in the 18th century around fears that people would make bad decisions and elevate dangerous leaders. To that end, the framers put in a fail-safe around presidential elections: People would not directly elect the president. Instead, the people would vote — and then, based on that vote, elected officials at the state level would designate which party’s representatives would be sent to the Electoral College and then actually chose the president.

But there’s nothing in this system that compels governors and state legislatures — the relevant law is unclear on how delegate selection works, but USC’s Tolson tells me that governors should in theory have the final say — to pick electors who will actually vote for the person whom the state board of election certifies as the winner. Again, this is consistent with the overall design of the Electoral College: the framers wanted an out in case the people voted for a demagogue.

It’s grimly ironic, then, that a demagogue is preparing to use this system to hold on to power if he loses. According to Barton Gellman’s reporting in the Atlantic, the Trump campaign is laying the groundwork for convincing Republican-controlled state legislatures in battleground states — like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — to attempt to override the voters in the event of a narrow defeat.

“The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,’ ” one Trump legal adviser told Gellman.

The key words there are “think” and “accurate.” This entire strategy depends on Trump convincing a critical mass of Republicans — voters, national politicians, and state elected officials — that mail-in voting is a vehicle for fraud, and that legislatures can bypass official vote counts and Democratic governors to coronate Trump. In this sense, the legal strategy and state-override strategy work hand-in-hand: The more court decisions by Republican-appointed jurists cast doubt on the legitimacy of absentee ballots, the more cover Trump and his local allies will have to act to discount or overrule them.

“The idea is to throw so much muck into the process and cast so much doubt on who is the actual winner in one of those swing states because of supposed massive voter fraud and uncertainty about the rules for absentee ballots that some other actor besides the voter will decide the winner of the election,” UCI’s Hasen writes in Slate.

These strategies are, needless to say, flagrantly undemocratic and tantamount to a kind of legal coup. Democrats would almost certainly contest them; if they refuse to accept a Supreme Court ruling as binding, or if they get (for example) Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor to send a competing slate of Biden electors to the Electoral College, there is no mechanism for forcing either side to back down.

In this scenario — or one where Trump loses the key court cases and refuses to accept their results — you could end up with some truly terrifying possibilities.

“It’s possible to imagine, come January 20 [Inauguration Day], that we don’t have a president,” Lawrence Douglas, a professor at Amherst College, tells Vox:

By the terms of the 20th Amendment, Trump ceases to be president at noon on January 20 and [Mike] Pence likewise ceases to be vice president. At this point, by the terms of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could become acting president, but only if she resigns her House seat.

But what if Trump continues to insist that he has been reelected and is the rightful president? Imagine if, come January 20, Trump stages his own inauguration ceremony with Clarence Thomas issuing the oath of office. Then we might have Nancy Pelosi and Trump both claiming to be the commander in chief.

With political factions deadlocked, disagreeing on both who should be in office and what procedures should decide on the result, there is no rule that can be used to resolve this dispute. We would be in a situation like Venezuela today, where two different elected leaders — Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó — claim to be the rightful president.

In Venezuela, Maduro rules because the army backs him: In constitutional crises, force is always the deciding factor of last resort. It should be impossible to imagine this kind of situation in the United States.

But increasingly, it’s not.

These nightmare scenarios are unlikely — but not impossible

You, reader, may be very scared right now.

But let’s take a deep breath and think a little more calmly about this. The good news is that experts like Hasen and Litman believe these nightmare scenarios to be fairly unlikely.

The first and most obvious reason is that they seem to depend on a close election: Trump will almost certainly try to cast doubt on the legitimacy on any loss, even a decisive one, but it’ll be much harder for him to build political support for actually overturning the results if they’re crystal clear.

And currently, the polls are not all that close.

As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight’s national poll average has Biden up by 7.1 points — a significant national lead that, unlike the Clinton-Trump contest, has been relatively consistent for the entirety of the campaign. RealClearPolitics’ average of the six most important swing states (Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona) has Biden leading in all of them, some by large margins. Biden also recently pulled ahead in Ohio, a state many observers had chalked up to Trump, and is within striking distance in the previously red strongholds of Texas and Georgia.

Joe Biden Accepts Party’s Nomination For President In Delaware During Virtual DNC
Biden’s acceptance speech at the 2020 DNC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

This is not to say that a Biden win is a certainty. Rather, it’s to say that the best evidence we have points toward a healthy Biden victory as the likeliest scenario. And if Biden wins Florida, which permits counting absentee ballots before election night, and hence will likely have a full tally on November 3, the election would likely be called quickly — which could make it hard for Trump to claim that Democrats are winning through some kind of fraud.

Second, Trump’s strategy depends on courts going along with him for purely partisan reasons. They might not.

“I do think that the chief justice has internalized the lesson of 2000,” Tolson says. “It is entirely possible he questions whether [Bush v. Gore] was worth the legitimacy of the court, which was in question for a number of years after the decision.

Given the clear fact of the matter — that mail-in ballot fraud is astonishingly rare — any court ruling throwing out enough of them to swing the election to Trump could be even more brazenly partisan than Bush v. Gore. Chief Justice John Roberts has shown himself to be deeply sensitive to public opinion; while skepticism is certainly called for when it comes to this Supreme Court weighing in on the election, a 5-4 ruling in favor of Trump is not a foregone conclusion, especially if Trump keeps telegraphing that he expects the Supreme Court to keep him in power.

“If we have something like Bush v. Gore, then the Court dividing along party/ideological lines is quite possible. [But] I think Chief Justice Roberts would try like hell to avoid such an outcome,” Hasen tells me.

There’s some encouraging evidence from an August case on absentee voting, Republican National Committee v. Common Cause Rhode Island. In this case, justices upheld Rhode Island officials’ decision to waive a state requirement that absentee ballots be validated by two witnesses or a notary by a 6-3 margin — with Roberts and Trump appointee Kavanaugh siding with the liberals.

“The Rhode Island decision,” my colleague Ian Millhiser writes, “suggests that the Supreme Court will not act entirely as a rubber stamp for the Republican Party when the GOP asks the Court to limit voting rights.”

Third, Trump’s strategies all depend on full institutional cooperation from the Republican Party, which is hardly a guarantee. After Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power on Wednesday, the Senate passed a unanimous resolution reaffirming a “commitment to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power.” Prominent Republicans, including Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Liz Cheney, tweeted criticisms of Trump’s comments. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell distanced himself from the president:

McConnell’s tweet matters, mealy-mouthed as it may be. Given that he’s the most important (and ruthless) Republican leader in the country, aside from the president himself, for him to even suggest that there is such a thing as “too far” is putting Trump on a kind of notice.

The president needs the full weight of the GOP behind him to pull off any kind of election theft scheme. If a few key Republicans break ranks, at either the state and the national level, some pathways (like state electors overriding local vote counts) could actually be blocked. The more significant the internal dissent becomes, the harder it is for Trump to rally the party faithful in support of his procedural shenanigans.

Finally, the international comparisons are reassuring.

In the political science literature on democracy, one of the central ideas is the notion of “democratic consolidation” — the process by which a country’s commitment to the basic rules and norms of democracy become broadly accepted by the general population that its replacement with authoritarianism is seen as unthinkable.

The United States has long been seen as a paradigmatic consolidated democracy, with all the features scholars typically associate with solid democratic foundations: an extremely high GDP per capita, a professionalized military (that has already pushed back on Trump’s attempt to politicize them during the summer protests), an independent judiciary, a generally accepted written constitution, and a long history of peaceful power transitions. There’s just never been a country like the contemporary United States that has had a complete breakdown of the electoral process of the sort we’re currently contemplating.

For all these reasons, the odds of Trump actually trying one of these election theft scenarios and getting away with it are very low.

Let’s not forget that it’s 2020

If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, implausible is not the same as impossible.

You can imagine a systematic polling error that narrows the election considerably; it happened in 2016.

You can imagine the Supreme Court ruling in a deeply political way: just look at Bush v. Gore.

You can imagine Republicans going along with one of Trump’s election-rigging schemes: Think of all the unacceptable things, like the Ukraine scandal or the botched Covid-19 response, that they’ve aided and abetted.

And you can imagine American institutions failing even if it’s novel by international standards. Democracy has only been a major feature of human political life for the past few centuries, a relatively short period in our species’ history. It’s possible that whatever we think we know about it, and despite the fact that “rules” of political behavior seem ironclad in recent history, our system just hasn’t been tested under the right circumstances.

Pro-Trump demonstrators in Portland.
John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

When thinking about the possibility of an election meltdown, then, the best way to think about it is like any other rare-but-hugely-significant event. And life during the pandemic — itself an unlikely but extremely consequential event — is full of useful analogies here.

If you’re in an area with little community spread, you probably won’t infect your aging parents by visiting them. But the potential consequences, killing your parents, would be unimaginably bad. Therefore, many of us still take extra precautions — sitting further away, staying outdoors for the most part, wearing a more heavy-duty mask, self-isolating for two weeks and getting tested prior to the visit.

American democracy now needs this kind of emergency precaution. Both the Biden campaign and Democratic-aligned groups are setting them up, creating legal teams to fight Trump’s delegitimization of ballots and organizational infrastructure to gin up public opposition to a stolen election.

But ordinary citizens have a role to play here, too. As I’ve spent the past few weeks reporting on the increasing threats to American democracy, one thing experts have consistently told me is that the most important safeguard for democracy is citizen participation.

“The first thing everybody can do is you can call your senator, your member of Congress, your state legislator, your governor, and insist [upholding] basic democratic principles,” Nils Gilman, the vice president of programs at the Berggruen Institute think tank, tells me. “The second thing we need is for people to be prepared to take to the streets in nonviolent protest if that doesn’t happen.”

The American political system is rotting for two basic reasons: an outdated Constitution that allows for minority rule, and a Republican Party that follows a demagogue willing to exploit these constitutional flaws to cement its own power. We wouldn’t be in this situation if Republicans hadn’t embraced anti-democratic politics long before Trump; we have no guarantees that Election Day will mark some kind of turnabout.

“I’m a constitutional law scholar. I would love to be able to say these issues are complicated, and both sides have points: that is the academic thing to do,” Litman tells me. “But the reality is that when one side is not committed to making elections more democratic and counting ballots, that’s a threat to democracy. It just is.”

If Republicans aren’t prepared to check Trump, Americans need to be ready to do it on their own. The fact that the system is being pushed to the breaking point doesn’t mean it’s become irreparable. Sketching doomsday scenarios shouldn’t be demobilizing; it should galvanize action.

The more we as a nation prepare for the worst-case scenarios, the less likely they become — we hope.


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

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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.

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


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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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