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US election news: Early voting begins in four states

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  • Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigned in Minnesota, which Trump lost by a slim margin in 2016.
  • In-person early voting began in four states, including Minnesota. 
  • Biden released a new TV advertisement about Trump’s alleged insults of military veterans. 
  • Trump tried to capitalise on his Middle East deal by touting it in a new TV advertisement.

17:10 ET – Long lines at Virginia, Minnesota polling places

Lines of voters stretched from polling places in Virginia and Minnesota as early voting started in four states, the first of the 2020 presidential election.

The longest lines were found in Virginia, where voters previously needed a reason to cast an early ballot. In the state’s Fairfax County, where reports showed lines stretching for hours, election workers scrambled to open an additional voting room at the county government centre.

Ed O’Keefe of CBS News tweeted that “dozens” of socially-distanced voters cast ballots in the first 45 minutes of early voting in Duluth, Minnesota.

South Dakota and Wyoming also saw their first day of early voting on Friday. Ballots can be cast through November 3.

18:55 ET – Former president Obama calls for election volunteers

Former US president Barack Obama is encouraging people to volunteer as poll workers during early voting and Election Day on November 3.

In a tweet, he said volunteering “can help your community and make sure this election runs fairly and safely”.

18:50 ET – In new radio ad, Trump tries to appeal to Black voters

President Trump’s campaign launched a new radio ad today that seeks to appeal to Black voters.

The ad, which features former National Football League (NFL) player Jack Brewer, touts what Trump says is his strong record of uplifting Black communities – and targets his Democratic rival Joe Biden as someone who has made “empty promises”.

The urban ad is part of a multi-state buy in the US states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

A recent poll shows Biden by far outperforming Trump among Black voters ahead of November 3, with 78 percent support. Whether Black Americans will be energised to come out in large numbers to vote remains uncertain, however, and could potentially define the outcome of the 2020 election.

18:15 ET – ‘That’s their problem’:  Kushner draws fire for cold remarks, COVID handling

Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is getting ripped on social media for remarks he reportedly made in March to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, business executives and venture capitalists who were offering to help secure PPE for essential workers.

“The federal government is not going to lead this response… It’s up to the states to figure out what they want to do,” Kushner said, according to a new report in Vanity Fair magazine.

Just as New York City was getting hit with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation, Kushner dismissed concerns about nurses using garbage bags for protection.

“Cuomo didn’t pound the phones hard enough to get PPE for his state… His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem,” Kushner reportedly said.

17:30 ET – Trump ‘did not like’ FBI director’s testimony to Congress about Russian election interference

President Trump said FBI Director Chris Wray should have focused more on China in his testimony to Congress on Thursday.

Asked by reporters at the White House whether he is considering replacing Wray, Trump said: “We’re looking at a lot of different things. And I did not like his answers yesterday and I’m not sure he liked them either. I’m sure he probably would agree with me.”

Under questioning by House Democrats, Wray had acknowledged on Thursday that Russia is waging a disinformation campaign aimed at denigrating Trump’s political opponent Joe Biden. Trump has sought to push the idea that China and Iran prefer Biden over him.

Donald Trump WH departure to Minnesota

 President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for campaign travel to Minnesota from the White House. [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

16:50 ET – Biden slams Trump as elitist, offers pro-union, worker platform in Duluth, Minnesota

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden criticised President Trump for going along with Republican tax cuts for the rich and policies that helped Wall Street while ignoring the plight of American workers despite his promises.

“The only real power for workers in America is union power. You are the folks who keep the barbarians on the other side of the gate, making sure that people can make a decent living,” Biden said in a campaign speech at a carpenters union hall in Duluth, Minnesota.

“And folks, here like everywhere else, times are hard. Unemployment is way up due to the pandemic,” Biden said, outlining proposals to create jobs through infrastructure spending and clean energy investments.

The unemployment rate in Minnesota was 7.4 percent in August, down from a pandemic high of 9.9 percent in May, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It had been 2.9 percent in March before the virus outbreak.

Joe Biden at carpenters union hall Duluth Minn

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden elbow bumps a union official after speaking at a campaign event at a United Brotherhood of Carpenters training center near Duluth, Minnesota, on Friday. [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters] 

16:05 ET – Early voters in Minneapolis cite urgency, concerns about mail

Early voters in Minnesota said they were anxious to get a jump on the process and avoid potential crowds on Election Day.

“I just wanted to come get it done,” said Jason Miller, 33, a painter who was in line in Minneapolis to cast a vote for Biden. He said he could not wait to cast a vote against Trump, the Reuters news agency reported.

“I was a little inspired to come here the first day,” he said. “In fact, probably three-and-a-half years ago I thought I would be here the first day I could.”

Steve O’Rourke, 65, who came with a son who has to leave the country on a work trip, said he decided to vote early in person rather than by mail partly out of concern whether a mail-in vote would be counted.

15:45 ET – Trump says “in many cases” he knows better than his experts

“Yeah, I think in many cases I do,” President Trump said at a White House news conference when asked by a reporter why he so often does not trust his administration’s experts or thinks he knows better than they do.

Trump this week has publicly contradicted Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the timing of the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Trump said Wednesday that Redfield “had made a mistake” in stating that a coronavirus vaccine would not be available until next year. Trump is insisting one will be available in October, before the election.

The president also clashed with FBI Director Chris Wray who testified to Congress on Thursday that Russia is waging a disinformation campaign to help Trump get re-elected by denigrating Joe Biden.

15:15 ET – Trump announces $13 bn US grant to rebuild Puerto Rico

“Today my administration is making the largest emergency relief award in history to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and educational system,” President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference.

“We’re awarding $13 bn to permanently repair, replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines that should have been done many years ago,” said Trump who sought to blame his Democratic rival Joe Biden for the decline in Puerto Rico’s economy.

“I am the best thing that has ever happened to Puerto Rico. Biden was a disaster. It’s not even close,” he said.

Biden has criticised Trump in Florida, a battleground state in the presidential election, for failing to help Puerto Rico rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. An estimated 40,000 Puerto Ricans settled in Florida after the storm adding to the state’s population of 1.1 million Puerto Ricans.

Donald Trump presser

President Donald Trump announced $13 bn in federal aid to Puerto Rico during a news conference at the White House on Friday in Washington. [Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

14:45 ET – Democrat in South Carolina Senate race scores fundraising gain

South Carolina Democratic senatorial candidate Jaime Harrison’s campaign has marked two back-to-back fundraising days of $1 mn apiece, bringing his total fundraising to over $30 mn.

It’s a staggering sum, unheard of for a Democrat competing in this conservative state, and matches what the Republican incumbent, Senator Lindsey Graham, has raised in his pursuit of a fourth term. It dwarfs the $10 million figure Harrison previously told The Associated Press he thought necessary to win.

The influx of cash for Harrison — a Democratic National Committee associate chair and former state party chair – followed a Quinnipiac University poll that showed him tied with Graham.

The money is providing a rare opportunity to blanket the airwaves in a place where Democrats have not won a statewide contest in 15 years, bolstering the party in its fight to win back a US Senate majority.

Jaime Harrison

With control of the US Senate in play, South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison has raised a total $30 mn allowing his campaign to buy significant television advertising in his bid to unseat Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham. [File: Meg Kinnard/AP Photo]

14:30 ET – Kamala Harris gets super-hero treatment in comic book

Kamala Harris is getting her own comic book, chronicling her path from childhood to her historic nomination as US vice president.

“Female Force: Kamala Harris,” part of Tidalwave Productions’ Political Power series, is set for release on October 21, a day after she turns 56, less than two weeks before the November 3 election, the Reuters news service reported.

The publisher on its website describes Harris as “full of grit and determination,” and says that her “no-nonsense approach and bi-racial heritage have made her a popular member of the Democratic party.”

Kamala Harris in Philadelphia

Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris, will be featured in a comic book series. [Michael Perez/AP Photo]

13:45 ET – House Democrats demand emergency probe into whether AG Barr is trying to influence the election

Democrat committee chairs in the House of Representatives have asked the Department of Justice Inspector General to open an emergency investigation into whether Attorney General Bill Barr is improperly pushing political prosecutions to help President Trump get re-elected.

“Under longstanding DOJ policy, the Attorney General is expected to refrain from commenting on an ongoing investigation,” House committee chairs Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff, Carolyn Maloney and Zoe Lofgren said in a letter to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“Attorney General Barr has signaled repeatedly that he is likely to allow DOJ to take prosecutorial actions, make public disclosures, and even issue reports before the presidential election in November,” the letter said.

AG Bill Barr with Donald Trump

 Attorney General Bill Barr has been accused by Democrats of politicising Department of Justice investigations to help President Trump. [Leah Millis/Reuters]

13:00 ET – New AP poll shows more Biden voters seek to vote early

A majority of President Donald Trump’s supporters plan to cast their ballot on Election Day, while about half of Joe Biden’s backers plan to vote by mail, a sign of a growing partisan divide over how best to conduct elections in the United States.

Fifty-four percent of voters say they will vote before polls open on Election Day. In 2016, roughly 42 percent of voters did so, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Overall, 39 percent of registered voters say they will vote by mail this election, well above the 21 percent who  normally do so.

The rise is skewed toward backers of the former vice president, 53 percent of whom plan to vote by mail. Fifty-seven percent of Trump’s supporters say they’ll vote in person on November 3.

12:00 ET – Pro-Trump super PAC announces new $25 mn ad buy attacking Biden on foreign policy

Preserve America, a political advocacy group backing President Trump, has announced plans to spend $25 mn on television advertisements in seven battleground states featuring military veterans criticising Democratic presidential nominee on foreign policy.

The group already spent $30 mn on ads in the past two weeks against Biden in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa and Georgia. Preserve America is headed by Republican strategist Chris LaCivita who was behind the damaging ‘Swift Boat’ attack ads that helped defeat 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

[embedded content]  

11:30 ET – Early voting starts in Minnesota, Virginia, South Dakota and Wyoming 

Lines of people formed at county registrar offices in Northern Virginia as early voting began in four states including Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2016, tweeted a picture of himself voting in person.

10:30 ET – Trump and Biden head to Minnesota

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican president since Richard Nixon in 1972, yet Trump surprisingly came within 1.5 percent of beating Hillary Clinton there in 2016.

Trump and his campaign believe they have a chance to flip that reliably Democratic state this year and he is travelling to Bemidji in the less-Democratic northern part of the state for a campaign rally today. For his part, Biden will also head to northern Minnesota today for a campaign event in Duluth.

Al Jazeera Online’s William Roberts has more on why Minnesota might be fertile ground for Trump.

Another reason they are in Minnesota: Today is the first day of in-person early voting in there and in three other states – the first states to start in-person voting in advance of the November 3 election. Even though mail-in voting is getting most of the focus during the pandemic, in-person early voting has been an increasingly popular voting method in recent years. 

10:00 ET – Trump highlights UAE-Bahrain-Israel deals in new advertisement

Donald Trump’s campaign released a new TV advertisement declaring the president accomplished the impossible: The UAE-Bahrain-Israel normalisation deals.

[embedded content]

“They said it couldn’t be done. But President Trump did it,” the advertisement says before mentioning his Nobel Peace Prize nomination (he is one of 318 total nominations in 2020).

Clearly Trump sees the deals he helped broker as a major selling point to voters. Al Jazeera Online’s Political Editor Steve Chaggaris writes that it is probably wishful thinking.

09:30 ET – Biden advertisement slams Trump’s alleged military vets comments

Trump’s opponents have been making a big deal about a report that the president allegedly referred to those who died in war as “losers” and “suckers”. Now, Joe Biden’s campaign is running an advertisement about those comments.

[embedded content]

The TV advertisement features an Air Force veteran who notified families when loved ones died during military service. “These military families suffer,” he says. “And those spouses are not suckers. And those children are not losers.”

Trump has vociferously denied the specific allegations in the report, however, he has made widely-covered public comments in recent years denigrating veterans.


 

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. William Roberts and Steve Chaggaris will update you throughout the day.

Read all the updates from yesterday (September 17), including coverage of Biden’s Pennsylvania town hall and Trump’s late Wisconsin rally, here.

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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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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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