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Trump broke the press. Here’s how to fix it.

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Last Friday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was confronted by a CBS reporter as he stepped off a plane. “What is your response to the New York Post story about your son, sir?”

To his credit, Biden dismissed the question, but that’s not really the point. The story the reporter was referencing, which was peddled to the Post by Rudy Giuliani, is absolute bullshit. The staff journalist who wrote the story even reportedly refused to put his name on the byline out of concerns that it was bogus and unreliable.

If any of this reminds you of Hillary Clinton’s fake email scandal in 2016, it should. Then, as now, the goal of people like Giuliani was to get the press to cover a story not in order to convince people that it’s true, but to amplify a false narrative and divert attention — and maybe drive the public to exhaustion. It’s a strategy that Steve Bannon colorfully dubbed “flooding the zone with shit.”

I’ve written about this problem more than once (here and here) and yet I still struggle to come up with viable solutions. The pattern is always the same: Trump, or operators working on his behalf, flood the zone with shit and the media responds as it always does: it covers the story. Even though much of the coverage is skeptical, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent argued, the mere fact that stories are printed with the words “Biden” and “emails” means the zone-flooding approach succeeded.

In general, the press has handled the Biden story much better than it handled the Clinton story in 2016, which suggests some lessons were learned. But I still worry that the attention — even to debunk it — nonetheless gives such a story oxygen, allowing the right to muddy the waters and confuse voters.

So what, exactly, is the media supposed to do?

I reached out to Jay Rosen, a media critic and professor at NYU and one of the sharpest analysts of political journalism in the social media age, to talk about the media’s dilemma. We discussed why he thinks the prevailing model of journalism has been hacked, why the press has been either unwilling or unable to adapt, and some practical steps journalists can take to deal with the realities of this new media ecosystem.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

The model is broken

Sean Illing

You wrote recently that Trump has exposed the weaknesses in “the journalist’s code.” What does that mean?

Jay Rosen

There’s a code that tells journalists what’s newsworthy. You won’t see it written down except maybe in a journalism professor’s research. But it includes timeliness, conflict, anything totally unexpected, anything seemingly consequential, anything that involves a charismatic person whose human interest looms large in the news, and so on.

Trump has hacked the newsworthiness code by being newsworthy in the traditional sense every day, many times a day. He dominates the public conversation. He overwhelms journalists trying to process all this news. He exhausts the patience of the public. And he throws off so many false or misleading statements that he breaks the controls or checks on that as well.

If, as a journalist, you continue with the traditional newsworthiness code, you will participate in this method, which Steve Bannon accurately described. “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media.” Trump governs by fighting with the news media. “And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” Which overwhelms many codes that journalists have for how to do their work.

Sean Illing

I’m glad you brought up Trump’s “flood the zone” strategy, because that’s really what we’re talking about here. And let’s use the first presidential debate as an example. Trump did what he always does: overwhelmed the moderator and Biden with a barrage of lies and outrageous claims, and the press responded as it always does, namely by fact-checking Trump.

But I think you and I both agree that Trump’s playing a totally different game. He’s not trying to win in the marketplace of ideas. He’s dumping bullshit into the public sphere and watching the press fumble all over itself while trying to debunk a hurricane of falsehoods.

Why does this keep working over and over again?

Jay Rosen

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, has said many times that before Trump, presidents, Democratic and Republican, reacted in the same way when they were successfully fact-checked by the press. They would change the claim to make it kind-of sort-of factual, or they would take it out of the stump speech, because they didn’t want to suffer the penalty of being described as untruthful. And this was true across parties.

Trump not only doesn’t do that, but he frequently doubles and triples down on a false statement, or makes it part of his stump speech, like the claim that Biden is trying to destroy protections for preexisting conditions.

But that’s not the only thing. Attempts by the press to serve as a “check” on his lying only help Trump prove the culture-war proposition: “They’re trying to take me down because they hate you.” Glenn Kessler put out a book this year about 20,000 lies and distortions that Donald Trump has passed across that system. Well, if the fact-check is supposed to be a check on the tendencies of public figures to exaggerate or slip in falsehoods, it’s obviously not working. The press just hasn’t figured out how to build new routines on the wreckage of the old.

That’s one part of the answer. Another part of the answer is that “flood the zone” is a propaganda method. It’s crude but well-suited to an age of media abundance.

In the Russian setting, it’s called the firehose of falsehood. The most important feature is the constant production of falsehoods in every channel, every platform — mixed with a little truth. Another key feature is that you don’t care if the truth claims are contradictory. There’s no need to be consistent. You use every tool you can. You throw out multiple crappy arguments rather than make one good one.

One of the goals of this method is to overwhelm and dishearten people rather than persuade them. It’s about driving them from the public arena, getting them to give up on efforts to know the truth. The firehose of falsehood is very hard to oppose. It’s difficult to know what to do in response.

Steve Bannon surrounded by journalists with microphones.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in Rome on March 25, 2019. In an earlier interview with journalist Michael Lewis, Bannon said, “The Democrats don’t matter; the real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”
Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis/Getty Images

Sean Illing

Is Trump so extreme in his nihilism and bullshit artistry that the press just isn’t capable of dealing with him? And I want to be clear and say that there’s nothing new about bullshit in politics, but I do think Trump is different.

Jay Rosen

I would agree that the producers of news aren’t capable of dealing with Trump within their present rules and formulas. One of the odd things about the news system as it stands is that there’s no emergency switch. To fix this you would have to call a halt to regular journalism, suspend your routines. You would have to, for example, tear apart the Sunday shows and start again with different premises. And there’s no appetite for that.

I have tried to write about that very thing just to make it sound a little bit more possible. But it would take something like that to match the phenomena, and our journalists aren’t very good at coming up with new practices on the fly. They will assimilate critiques over a long period of time and occasionally change their behavior. People think it doesn’t happen, but it does — slowly.

A good example would be the change in the way the news media deals with mass shooting situations, where they kind of listened to the critique that if you glorify these people, you get more shooters. So there have been changes in how they handle that. They don’t use photographs of the shooters as much. They’re aware that centering the story on these people is unfair to the victims. But that took 10 years or so.

We don’t have 10 years. We don’t have 10 days at this point.

The press has an agenda. Own it.

Sean Illing

This is probably a good place to push this conversation in the direction of solutions. One thing you’ve said over and over again is that journalists have to abandon what you call “the savvy style,” and part of the problem is that reporters have this delusion that they’re merely spectators when, in fact, they’re actors in the process. By that I mean the actions they take, the things they choose to focus on, impacts the very events they claim to be just covering.

Why is this such a crucial distinction?

Jay Rosen

When you look at the American news sphere as it stands, two big things influence political journalism. One is extremely well-known: commercial pressures. We can call it ratings. We can call it clicks. We can call it the industry of attention. All these are names for the same thing, which is using news to generate an audience, and then selling that audience. And, of course, Trump assists with that. That’s why the words of Les Moonves, the former CEO of CBS, are so revealing: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

But even after we allow for that, there is still within the media system a good deal of autonomy and room for maneuver, where journalists can do what they think is important, even though they are parts of a commercial operation.

And here, I think, political journalists took a wrong turn. At some time in the ’70s and the ’80s, they began to look at politics as a game of insiders. They sought to explain to an audience that was itself sort of fascinated by politics — the political junkies, as they are sometimes called — how that game worked and who the masters of it were. This gave us political journalism as a savvy analysis of who was up, who was down, who’s winning or likely to win, the horse race, the spin, the strategy — all of that.

I call it the savvy style in political journalism. It kind of reduced the audience for politics to the junkies who wanted that and responded well to it.

Sean Illing

Why do you think the American press has been unwilling or unable to adapt?

Jay Rosen

If we asked members of the press, responsible people like, say, Dean Baquet, the editor of the New York Times, or others in positions similar to his, or those on the front lines like [the Times’s] Peter Baker, they would say they have adapted. And if you asked them, “What do you mean by that?” they would say things like, “Well, we’re a little more likely to call a lie a lie.” Dean Baquet would point to the various far-reaching, big investigations of Donald Trump that they’ve done for five years, and to his taxes especially. “See? We’ve been tough on him.”

They would say they’re more skeptical than they were at the beginning. They’re less likely to run with his latest tweets. They think they have adapted. That’s important to understand, because their metric is any departure from normal news judgment, whereas people like you and I are comparing what they continue to do to the phenomenon of Donald Trump. And that’s a different scale.

As an institution, the American press has a thin tradition of self-reflection. Part of the reason is it’s hardly an institution at all. It’s a collection of newsrooms that kind of operate in a similar way, but there’s no council that unites it. There’s no CEO of the press. If a Martian landed and said, “Take me to the media’s headquarters,” where would you take them?

After these major crashes in which the news media failed the public in very visible ways, like the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, or the 2016 election, there’s no 9/11 Commission to figure out what happened. There’s no panel that can synthesize what went wrong.

President Donald Trump participates in the first debate against Joe Biden at Case Western Reserve University on September 29, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sean Illing

I thought this latest Hunter Biden nonsense story from the Post showed that the media at least learned a few lessons from 2016 and handled this much better than the Hillary story in 2016.

Do you see progress there?

Jay Rosen

Yes, I do. There was more restraint. Of course, the fact that Rudy Giuliani was involved helped a lot. Still, I think there has been some serious reflection about document hacks with obscure actors involved, and the dangers of running with material like that. I know for a fact that some journalists participated in scenario-planning around that possibility, so maybe that had some effect.

Sean Illing

A journalism that’s equal to the scale of the Trump problem will be seen as inherently biased by a lot of people, which I’m fine with, but it seems like a real problem. The editor of the New York Times, for example, wants to serve the entire country, but how does he do that? You can sort of see this in the conservative response to Savannah Guthrie’s handling of the town hall. It’s bullshit, obviously, but half the country thought she was unfair. If you’re running a paper or a network, what’s your response to this challenge?

Jay Rosen

The key is in your phrase, “seen as inherently biased by a lot of people.” If we start with perception, there can be no answer. When the goal is to be seen as without bias you wind up with the view from nowhere, and all the dysfunction that comes with it: working the refs, “both sides do it,” a focus on the horse race because it feels non-ideological, and so on. To continue with that model because you’re afraid of being called biased is defeatist.

But you’re right: Dean Baquet wants the Times to be a paper that serves the entire country, Republicans and Democrats. What’s actually achievable, however, is a newsroom that serves everyone in the country — Democrats and Republican — who shares with Times journalists a certain baseline reality and evidentiary standard. That’s all you can get. Today this group includes a minority of Republicans. That cohort could shrink. Trump has tried to shrink it. Over time it could grow. It could disappear altogether. Margaret Sullivan, media writer for the Washington Post, uses the phrase the “reality-based press” for what I believe is the same idea.

Social media guidelines currently on the books at the New York Times say, “If our journalists are perceived as biased… that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom.” This kind of thinking cannot work. If the perception of critics can shape rule-making in his newsroom, then Baquet has surrendered power to enemies of the Times, who will always perceive bias because it is basic to their interests to do so.

Sean Illing

One last thing I will say, and it’s something you’ve suggested before, which is that we need a better answer to the question, “What does it mean to succeed at election coverage?” As it stands, success is some unholy combination of clicks or ratings and predicting winners. That’s the approach to journalism that has to die, and I guess the question is then what will replace it?

Jay Rosen

I have two answers to that. One is sort of leaning into the light, and one is leaning into the dark.

I’ve been advocating for a long time for a citizens agenda approach to election coverage. It puts the electorate in the center of the story, rather than the candidates. The protagonists are the voters struggling to get their concerns addressed by the system, including the media system, but also the candidates. It begins by asking the people you’re trying to inform, “What do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes?” Another way to put the question would be, “What do you want this campaign to be about?” By asking lots of people those questions and getting a really good sense of their answers, you generate a priority list that can keep you from getting blown away by a hurricane of lies, or by the inside game of polls and tactics.

In the citizens agenda model, you “win” when you gain an accurate sense of what people want the campaign to be about, and when you successfully pressure the candidates to address those things people told you they want the campaign to be about. At the local level during this cycle, there are, here and there, public radio stations and local newspapers, that are doing it. So there is an alternative out there. It’s weak compared to the status quo. But it’s real, and it does begin in a different place and overhaul the entire contraption.

The other answer is darker because I think this is where we are going. The Republican Party has become a counter-majoritarian party. It can only win elections by making it harder to vote, and by making it harder to understand what the party is all about. The conflict with honest journalism is structural, not just a matter of broken practices or bad actors. And I believe the people who report on politics in the United States are going to have to confront that reality, whether Trump wins or loses.

If our journalists continue in the assumption that we have a normal system where there is a contest for power between roughly similar parties with different philosophies, then every day of operation they will be distorting the picture more and more. Can that go on indefinitely? I don’t know, but it seems to me that we’re headed for a crash.


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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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