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Trump was supposed to change the GOP. But the GOP changed him.

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President Trump waves a fist to the camera on the first day of the Republican National Convention. | David T. Foster III/Getty Images

How the Republican Party turned Donald Trump into one of their own.

The Republican National Convention is normally an event to showcase what the party is: the policy platform it stands on, the values it supports. Not this year. No, this year the convention was about President Donald Trump and his own ambitions, the culmination of a five-year creep from Trump the populist to Trump the Republican.

“From the moment I left my former life behind, and a good life it was, I have done nothing but fight for you,” he said in a lengthy nomination acceptance speech that made mention of 401Ks and “record stock markets.”

Five years ago, Trump launched a populist campaign, seemingly bucking the idea that the GOP is the “Party of No.” Trump wasn’t running as a conservative, a fact that led to much condemnation from conservative corners during his march to the nomination in 2016. But it turned out that Republican voters didn’t care. They liked his philosophy of “Yes.” They were fired up to hear that he would build a wall, he would provide health care to everyone, he alone could — and would — fix America.

Since then, we’ve learned that Trump’s rejection of conservatism on the trail and call for action didn’t represent a true zeal for populism, or policy at all. Trump didn’t deliver on his big promises — his administration has left more people uninsured than under President Barack Obama and there’s still no wall. The most glaring example: the GOP’s decision to push off deciding on a new platform until 2024, rather than this week at the convention. As National Review put it in an editorial, “the campaign statement appears to suggest that the platform is Trump himself.”

 Travis Dove/Pool/Getty Images
Delegates and RNC staff listen as President Trump speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention.

Trump is not enthusiastic about implementing popular policies, or really thinking or engaging on policy at all. Even when his administration has implemented policy, he has seemed confused, checked out, or even at odds with his own administration’s positions or actions — including on a massive tax cut package, agency-level deregulation, installation of judges, and the response to Covid-19.

Trump, it turns out, is extremely enthusiastic about Trump and other people who are enthusiastic about him, regardless of whether they are hardline conservatives or conspiracy theorists, rather than Republicans in line with his populist rhetoric. He is extremely enthusiastic about attacking those who are not enthusiastic about Trump. The result is that Trump functions as an opposition leader, defining himself and the Republican Party not by a set of policies but by their opposition to those who oppose Trump. Meaning, most importantly, the left.

The limits of “No”

National Review founder William F. Buckley wrote in the magazine’s mission statement in 1955 that the point of the National Review — and, I’d argue, conservatism — is to stand “athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Or, as the 18th-century conservative thinker Edmund Burke put it in 1756, “The great error of our nature is not to know where to stop.” While progressives want to do things — make progress, hence the term “progressive” — conservatives want to conserve things as they are, or ideally, as they once were. If progressives are doers, conservatives want to stop them from doing.

The GOP is indeed a governing party, said Steven Teles, a professor of political science and senior fellow at the market-oriented think tank Niskanen Center. But, he says, it is one that has traditionally focused on its core organized constituencies — business conservatives and social conservatives — not necessarily on working-class voters.

“Its core business constituencies want tax cuts and deregulation, and Republicans have in fact passed tax cuts and done a lot of administrative deregulation,” Teles said. “Both business and social conservatives want major changes to the courts, and the Republican Party has been very effective at actually nominating judges and pushing them through the Senate.”

“You may dislike that mode of governance, but in many ways the Republican Party is governing now fairly effectively, in the sense that it has gotten used to governing in the last few decades.”

But this mode of governance isn’t based on setting policies. It’s based on curtailing them.

However, while conservatives at the highest echelons of the party might embrace the spirit of opposition, Republican voters did not. While Republican politicians and think tanks rejected government-provided health care, Republican voters didn’t. In the view of Trump-supportive conservatives, top conservative thinkers spent a great deal of energy making arguments on behalf of a form of conservatism that only appealed to other top conservative thinkers. And to them, Trump alone could see it.

“The most stunning piece of information Trump supplied was not his defeat of Hillary, a possible one-off,” said Andrew Klavan, a conservative novelist and podcaster at the conservative website Daily Wire. “It was Trump’s easy defeat of 16 other Republican candidates, ranging from [John] Kasich to [Sen. Ted] Cruz. Clearly, the GOP was not listening. They really thought Jeb had it locked up.”

Tim Carney, a conservative writer at the Washington Examiner, agreed, saying, “Trump saw that the market opportunity was in populism,” and adding, “The working-class white voter was low-hanging fruit in 2016 because Democratic and Republican establishments ignored them.”

“Those voters need government to actually do things for them”

Even before the pandemic, there was comparatively little Republican voter support for cutting federal spending on health care and education. Before “Infrastructure Week” became a long-running joke, it was a Trump campaign promise, one with high levels of support from Republican voters. And that hasn’t changed — according to Fox News polling conducted earlier this month, 57 percent of Americans want more assistance from the federal government, not less.

Teles told me, “The problem is that the Republican Party’s actual voters — as well as those they aspire to attract — have shifted in a working-class direction. And those voters need government to actually do things for them. They need something like a coherent program for driving economic growth, they need new systems of social insurance, and they need a functioning public health system that would allow them to go to work. All of that requires a kind of planning and implementation capacity, and a relationship between a large base of technical expertise and networks of officials across government to drive change, that does not exist.”

RNC internal documents obtained by the Washington Examiner and released this week show that the GOP is well aware of its voters’ discontent. As detailed by writer Joseph Simonson, voters who switched from Obama to Trump in the Rust Belt “favor stronger social safety nets and hawkishness on trade, rather than typical GOP orthodoxies such as lower tax rates and an easier regulatory environment for businesses. That is not to say these voters oppose those things, but the rhetorical obsession from GOP donors and members of the party do little to excite one-time Trump voters.”

RNC internals found that Trump started losing some of the 8.2 million Obama-Trump voters because they didn’t care about tax cuts and typical GOP talking points. The type that were on full display during last night’s GOP convention. https://t.co/U7Qz8Ms3lD pic.twitter.com/ShIvt0zuWM

— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) August 25, 2020

But Klavan added the specific populism of Trump was largely a creation of others. “Trump is a gut politician. He perceives himself as a guy who fixes things when they’re broken. He said as much at the first National Prayer Breakfast after his election. Insofar as he has a philosophy, it is largely supplied by observers assembling his instinctive actions into a coherent intellectual whole.”

That “coherent intellectual whole,” however, was a projection. Conservative radio host and writer Erick Erickson agreed with Klavan that the Trump team had attempted to form his ideas into a concrete ideology of sorts, but said, “Those who would direct and help shape him cannot agree.” He added, “The result is word salad ideology.”

Trump is the new metric of conservatism — a conservatism based on “not being the left”

Geoffrey Kabaservice, director of political studies at the Niskanen Center, told me it was true that “the GOP by 2016 had run out of ideas that went any deeper than zombie Reaganism plus slightly chastened neoconservatism, and this void did seem to have been noticed by disgruntled Republican voters and Donald Trump.”

But rather than replace “zombie Reaganism” with a genuine populist effort — a real Infrastructure Week, for one — Trump, even with total control of Congress, demurred. It was too hard to get social conservatives, free-market libertarian conservatives, budget hawks, and foreign policy doves on board with the same domestic policies. Instead, he passed a deeply unpopular tax cut and yelled at people on Twitter. And in 2020, he’s focusing on “suburban housewives” and a capital gains tax cut that would likely benefit the wealthiest Americans. As Carney told me, “The shift from courting ex-factory workers to courting suburban housewives is notable, and it’s revealing. Donald Trump is a performer and a salesman.”

Kabaservice told me, “Trump’s populist message that Americans are #winning represents a kind of effort to compensate for the unpopularity of the conservative Republican program. Maybe his approval rating would have risen well above the mid-40s if he had pursued a more genuinely populist program.”

And rather than herald the entrance of a new class of populist leaders into the Republican Party, Trump’s victory has ushered a host of candidates into the GOP who share one important characteristic: They like him, and so he likes them — whether or not they support conspiracy theories that argue actors and actresses are taking part in pedophilic cannibal rituals or that reflect school shooting trutherism.

And so four years on, we’ve returned to the Party of No, not just to liberal policies but to the idea of liberalism itself. Donald Trump might not have launched a populist project, but now he serves a critical purpose: a bulwark against the left. In 2020, the opposition party is not the one out of power, but the one desperately holding onto it. As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in National Review this week, “The one thing [the GOP] can do, beyond passing tax cuts, is deprive progressives of unified control of government and civil society.”

An opposition party that holds the White House and the Senate

Rather than serve as a source of new ideas himself, Trump now serves as a dam of sorts, holding back progressivism. As Carney told me, “the idea that ‘they’re coming after us, but Trump is in the way,’ resonates with the standard working-class voter and with the religious conservative. Is it prudent in the long run to attach ourselves to such a man? I don’t think so. But in the short run, he does function, like Constantine, as a protector of a minority hated by the elites.”

This mirrors what I heard during the impeachment hearings from social conservatives like writer Rod Dreher:

The idea that Trump is a bulwark against the excesses of the left, or, as Dreher told me, a “kind of katechon — a force that holds back something much worse,” is a common sentiment among conservative voters, if not among elected members of the Republican Party. While Trump might be, in their view, uncouth, unfair, even immoral and a hindrance to the growth of the conservative movement, they view the left as the real threat, a threat only Trump has seemed able to stand up against.

And to many Trump-supportive conservatives, the impulse to fight on Trump’s behalf against his critics on the left and in the media is intimately tied to their own sense that they themselves are constantly targeted in unfair ways by those same forces.

As conservative writer Ben Shapiro told me in 2018, serving as an opposition party is easier than creating coalition-wide agreement. “This is one of the hazards of a coalition built on being anti-left,” he said. “As opposed to agreeing on central principles, there is still massive disagreement on what you actually do with the car once you [catch it].”

In a New York Times op-ed on August 22, Ross Douthat wrote that the future of the GOP could be one in which Republicans exist purely as not-liberals. “The lesson that Republicans might take from the Trump era is that so long as much of the country fears a liberalism that’s increasingly beholden to the left, Republicans can win their share of elections just on the promise to not be Democrats, to hold off liberal hegemony ‘simply by existing.’”

Record for most mentions of opponent’s name in acceptance: 8 by Bush 1992; Trump’s text has 41 mentions of Biden’s name. Other than Bush, most mentions was 2. Also 14 mentions of Democrats. Very unusual.

— George Condon (@georgecondon) August 28, 2020

New polling indicates Republican voters might feel the same: Even if Trump wins, his efforts should center not on furthering conservatism but on stopping Democrats.

From @CBSNews polling: 9 in 10 GOP voters say Trump is advancing policy goals they want & first goal is stopping Dems’ agenda. 3 in 4 voters think this should be a high priority if Trump is re-elected, more than lowering taxes, controlling coronavirus or reforming health care pic.twitter.com/llZOGNe8r7

— Sarah Ewall-Wice (@EwallWice) August 25, 2020

And TownHall.com writer Kurt Schlichter argued candidates like Laura Loomer might do the same, essentially stating that while Loomer might not be ideal, she’s not a Democrat.

Yes Fredocons, you sure do have a long list of things Laura Loomer allegedly said that are supposed to freak us out, but none of them include taking my 1st or 2nd Amendment rights away.

Her Democrat opponent wants to do that.

So shove your fussy outrage.

— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) August 19, 2020

The Trumpification of the Republican Party was not the remaking of the Republican Party into a populist outfit. Instead, it was the reshaping of Trump into a mainline Republican, one who values the “beautiful boaters” over working-class voters whose politics were more heterodox than any observer realized back in 2016. The desire for populism he observed was real, but he didn’t believe in it. As one conservative pundit told me, while he exploited a vacuum in conservative thought, “what’s so sad is that he never fulfilled or developed it.”


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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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