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Undecided voters explain themselves

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Ruth, a middle-aged software trainer in Florida, has voted Republican her entire life — but the 2020 election has her tied up in knots. Over the past four years, her dislike for Donald Trump on a personal level has become pretty strong. “I just think as a human being, he’s not a good person,” Ruth tells me, asking me not to quote some of the tougher language she uses to refer to the president.

In February, she changed her registration to the Democratic Party, initially liking Rep. Tulsi Gabbard before turning to Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the party’s presidential primary. But now, she’s not sure about Joe Biden. “I know how important Florida is, and I really feel a heavy burden that my vote is really important,” Ruth, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for privacy reasons, said. “I think I’ve always wanted to vote, but this feels extra-heavy this time.”

For a lot of people, the idea of being an undecided voter is almost unfathomable. How could someone be unsure, given the stakes of the election and how late it is in the game? But undecided voters exist, and they can matter. For example, voters in Wisconsin who decided in the last week of the 2016 election broke for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 59 percent to 30 percent, according to one exit poll, handing him 10 pivotal Electoral College votes.

In short, undecided voters “are important where elections are close,” said Michael Frias, the CEO of Catalist, a Democratic data firm.

Not all decided voters, however, are like Ruth. Yes, sometimes people have doubts about who to vote for; other times they’re not sure whether they want to vote at all. Some barely think about politics, while others aren’t really as undecided as they say. “These undecided voters are like hunting for unicorns. You can find them, but you don’t know if they’re actually partisan or not,” Frias added.

“The issue is that it’s not always clear what these people are undecided about, and it’s not always clear that they’re going to vote. It’s not necessarily always clear that anything in a campaign could really sway them,” said Yanna Krupnikov, associate professor of political science at Stony Brook University.

I spoke with nearly a dozen voters who are undecided (or have reported themselves as such to pollsters) in the 2020 presidential election about what they’re thinking, what their hang-ups are, and what they’re paying attention to. I also talked to experts about how undecided voters fit into the political landscape, in both elections in general and this one in particular.

William, a 27-year-old father of two in Missouri, said he wants Biden to win in November, but he’s just not sure he wants to actually vote for him, especially in a state that’s reliably Republican. He preferred Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I can’t tell you a single one of [Biden’s] policy agendas other than he’s not going to say mean things on Twitter,” William said.

Some of the voters I talked to were paying a decent amount of attention to politics, but many others weren’t — it just wasn’t a big factor in their everyday lives. And some had told pollsters they weren’t sure who they were voting for, but then in follow-up conversations acknowledged that wasn’t true: Two women said they were decided for Trump.

As for Ruth, she’s given herself a “homework assignment” in the days ahead of the election to read the platforms of both parties to try to decide. “I’m going to try to see if I can remove the personalities from the decision and vote for the platform,” she said.

Election separate and scan mail-in ballots in Orlando, Florida, on October 20.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

We’re looking at a lot less indecision this year than last time around

First things first: The number of undecided voters varies from election to election, and it looks like there are fewer undecided voters in 2020 than in 2016.

“People probably have a better understanding of their options this time,” said John Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

According to an analysis of undecided voters by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver in the aftermath of the 2016 election, about 13 percent of voters on Election Day 2016 were undecided or had planned to vote for third-party candidates; early in the campaign season, that number was as high as 20 percent. That percentage is unusually large: In 2012, about 4 percent of voters were undecided between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney by the time voting came around.

The 2020 election is looking more like 2012 than 2016: According to the polls, the vast majority of voters say they’ve made up their minds and won’t change their decision.

“That reduces the potential for a big swing toward one candidate toward the end, or late volatility,” said Dave Wasserman, House editor at the Cook Political Report.

Voters from both parties are generally more unified this year. A lot of the never-Trumpers have fallen in line, and Biden is more popular among Democrats in 2020 compared to Clinton in 2016.

This year, the undecided skew young and skew Hispanic, Wasserman said, and part of Trump’s campaigning — for example, running ads about Biden and the 1994 crime law — has been an effort to dissuade those voters from voting at all. The goal is to convince them there’s no real difference between the candidates.

Coleman said “the haters” — voters who have an unfavorable opinion of both candidates — are an important segment of potentially undecided voters. In 2016, that group broke for Trump. This time around, they’re leaning Biden. “It’s going to be more of a referendum on the president, and I think Biden can do a better job of consolidating the anti-Trump vote,” Coleman added.

Sam Evans, a 26-year Air Force veteran from Oregon, falls into “the haters” category. He deeply dislikes Trump but also said he’s “disgusted” by Democrats and doesn’t feel they fight hard enough for the issues he cares about. “I would have so much respect for the party if they would just fight in unison like the Republicans do,” Evans said. He wants Biden to win, but he’s doesn’t know if he’ll cast a vote for him: “I just don’t feel like he’s earned my vote. And I would never vote for Trump in a million years.”

It’s worth noting the difference between being undecided at the top of the ticket and being undecided in down-ballot races. As a general rule, indecision opens up a lot more as you get into congressional races, local races, and ballot measures.

“As you go down the ballot, where there’s less information and there’s more room for ambiguity, and people don’t have all the information and you don’t have the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on both sides animating each candidate and issue campaign, you do run into undecided voters,” Frias said.

Bill Fleming, a 27-year-old from Atlanta, said he’s voting third-party in the presidential race because he doesn’t believe there’s much of a difference between Trump and Biden in terms of how they’d govern. But he’s not sure where he’s casting his vote in the Georgia Senate races, which could easily require a runoff — and potentially two — in January.

Campaign signs seen in front of a library in Miami, Florida, on October 19.
Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP via Getty Images

Undecided voters are often late deciders — and we won’t know how much they mattered until after the election

For many people, they decided long ago who they’re voting for this election cycle. But that’s not the case for everyone — there’s a subset of voters still trying to choose between the candidates, or just weighing whether to vote at all.

That’s the case for Kami, 28, from Texas. Though she doesn’t pay close attention to politics, she does care about health care and leans toward Biden — but that could change. “I kind of have a feeling Trump kind of has something up his sleeve,” Kami said.

In 2016, Trump won big among voters who decided late in the game. Will that happen again this time? It’s unlikely, but anything is possible: “Undecideds break for change, and now Biden is the candidate of change,” Wasserman said.

But as was the case four years ago, we won’t really know how much undecided voters did or didn’t matter until the election is over. A lot of early voting is happening this year, which could limit a last-minute shift, but not eliminate it.

“We don’t yet know how close the election’s going to be. To say that [undecided voters] are not going to matter, we’d have to know how exactly they’re distributed across states,” Stony Brook University’s Krupnikov said.

When it comes down to it, there is much that pollsters and the media don’t know about undecided voters, who are by no means a monolithic group. Sometimes voters will tell someone conducting a survey that they haven’t made up their minds because they either feel like the decision is private, they don’t want to have to talk too much, or they want to talk about both candidates.

Kim Roberts, a 54-year-old voter from Florida, told pollsters she was undecided. When I called to follow up with her, she initially said she was leaning toward Trump, but after a while made it clear there wasn’t really a question in her mind. “I don’t believe that Joe Biden is running by himself. He’s not running alone,” Roberts said. She voted Democrat in all presidential elections before 2016, when she voted for Trump, and said this year she’s “probably going to circle the red bubble in” — in other words, vote straight Republican.

It’s a phenomenon often observed among independents: Just because people aren’t registered for a political party doesn’t mean they’re not partisan.

Being an undecided voter doesn’t mean the person will actually vote, either. Kami, from Texas, said she believes she’s going to vote in 2020 and “thinks” she’s registered. She didn’t vote in 2016 and doesn’t think she ever has. “I didn’t really think it was a big deal,” she said.

Residents wait in line to vote in in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 20.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“There’s no good in demeaning or belittling anyone in the political process”

There’s always disagreement in politics over what campaigns should focus on and whether they should prioritize turning out their base versus persuading other voters to support them. Some experts say parties should focus on energizing their supporters, while others say they should also look at swing voters and people they might be able to convince.

In 2019, Vox’s Matt Yglesias delved into how that argument was playing out on the left:

The truth … is while mobilization is unquestionably important to winning elections, so is flipping swing voters. Activists who want to push Democrats to the left while still winning can do so by identifying popular progressive ideas to run on. But the notion that there’s some mobilization strategy that will eliminate the need to cater to the median voter is a fantasy.

In other words, both turnout and persuasion may be crucial.

How can candidates and campaigns appeal to undecided people, if they can be appealed to at all? There aren’t a ton of easy answers. Many of the voters I spoke with said the anti-Trump message was loud and clear, but they felt like they weren’t really hearing a positive case for Biden — a sentiment backed up by a recent study that found specific pro-Biden messages were more effective in changing minds.

That was the case for Dwight Flakes, a 40-year-old Black man from Cleveland who said the Biden campaign’s overtures to Black voters felt superficial. “I get bothered by people who say, just vote for Joe Biden because we need to get Trump out of here,” he said. “Everybody is forgetting the type of stuff that got Trump into office in the first place. They’re forgetting stuff that’s happening on the ground.”

Flakes told me he thinks Trump talks like an “idiot” but that he isn’t going to vote for Biden just to oppose the president. “Joe Biden’s call is that he can work with people on the other side. When is he going to understand that they don’t give two shits about working with Joe Biden?” Flakes said.

He believes he could be persuaded to vote for Biden, though whether that’s a significant possibility is hard to say. He said he’s never voted at the top of the ticket.

For people who are tuned into politics and hyped up about the 2020 election, it’s easy to develop some animosity toward undecided voters — some people even claim they don’t exist, or they’re all lying for attention. And to some extent, those types of sentiments are understandable.

“I think that for people for whom the stakes are really high and who care about politics a lot, the level of anger with people who seem checked out is really natural,” Krupnikov said. “I think that for other people, life might be so difficult that they can’t follow politics.”

And sometimes, people do become overwhelmed by it, or just feel like whatever they do won’t make a difference. In a recent Vice News/Ipsos poll of voters ages 18 to 30, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they believe American democracy is “broken,” and two-thirds said political parties and politicians “don’t care about people like them.” Over 80 percent said they were still likely to vote, but it’s the type of sentiment that’s worth paying attention to, perhaps especially if you’re the type of person who cares about politics deeply.

“If someone’s worldview and set of experiences has led them to the place where they really think the system is broken and they really don’t see the difference, that also says something,” Frias said. “There’s no good in demeaning or belittling anyone in the political process.”

You never know what could ultimately make up someone’s mind, either. When I started reporting for this story, I came across Sarah, a Wisconsin woman in her 30s who had her ballot at home but wasn’t sure who to vote for. By the time I got her on the phone, she had decided and mailed it in. She had seen a Facebook post that helped her make up her mind, which read something like this: “A vote is not a valentine, you aren’t confessing your love for the candidate. It’s a chess move for the world you want to live in.”

She wouldn’t say which candidate she picked.


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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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