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Where Bernie Sanders’s online army goes now

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Sen. Bernie Sanders is all but certain to never run for president again. So what happens to the massive army that formed around him across two presidential campaigns to render him the most formidable force in online campaigning and fundraising on the left?

Sanders’s mantra was “not me, us,” and now, the “us” is taking up his mantle.

Sanders has served as the North Star for progressives in recent years, but his exit from the presidential race does not mean the energy behind him disappeared. Now, his supporters, volunteers, and even staff are branching off to focus on advancing an array of progressive issues, many of which Sanders helped bring to the forefront of the political conversation in America, such as Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal.

“It was never Bernie’s army,” said Tyson Brody, former research director for the Sanders campaign. “It was the army that got behind Bernie.”

And post-Bernie, you can see that army appearing in a lot of places.

Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) embrace of the Green New Deal drew him support from internet-savvy organizers and volunteers, demonstrating it’s not just Sanders who can capture meme magic on the left. The climate-focused Sunrise Movement, which officially launched in 2017 with a plan to back candidates focused on combating climate change, is emerging as an increasingly powerful force on the left, making hundreds of thousands of calls for progressive congressional challengers, such as Jamaal Bowman and Charles Booker.

Sunrise and other youth activist groups, many of which credit Sanders as an inspiration, have launched a collective effort to organize young people before and after the election to push for progressive change. And the Working Families Party, which backed Elizabeth Warren in 2020 and Sanders in 2016, has launched a “people’s charter” policy framework for rebuilding the country after November, and key progressive leaders and groups have signed it.

Sunrise Movement protesters holding signs.
Members of the Sunrise Movement gather outside of the DNC headquarters in New York City on August 13, 2019, to pressure members to vote for a climate change debate.
Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

After suspending his presidential bid in April, Sanders has also leveraged his platform to get Joe Biden elected president and to draw attention to down-ballot races and causes Sanders cares about. And he is already positioning himself to continue to push his priorities forward once the election is over.

In recent weeks, I spoke with 20 organizers, leaders, and strategists on the left about what’s happening in the online progressive movements that formed to support Sanders’s presidential bids and where they believe things are headed. What emerged is a picture of a policy-driven, tech-savvy cohort with enormous energy that doesn’t begin or end with Sanders. It may lack some cohesion, but that’s not necessarily a significant weakness.

“For a lot of [progressive activists], we haven’t had a chance to conceptualize an organizing ethos that is not structured around a presidential candidate,” said Mattias Lehman, digital director of Sunrise. After all, before there was Sanders, there was Barack Obama. “It feels very freeing. It allows us to move into a lot of political organizing that is outside the realm of presidential politics.”

When Bernie said, “Not me, us,” he meant it

Sanders’s campaign committee, dubbed Friends of Bernie Sanders, has gotten smaller, but it continues to operate. Its goal is to keep his base and volunteers engaged and put his platform to use — and it’s an important one, given not only Sanders’s stature but also the fact that the pandemic has pushed politics even more online.

No one else on the left — not even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is still building out her operation — really rivals his reach. Much of AOC’s online influence is less formal and is still based on her ability to fire off a viral tweet or shoot an Instagram Live video from home. According to data from social media content tracker NewsWhip, Sanders’s posts on Facebook have generated tens of millions more interactions on Facebook than Ocasio-Cortez over the past month, and he posts much more often than she does.

And as a prominent presidential candidate before his exit from the race, Sanders and his campaign committee has still vastly outraised Ocasio-Cortez.

Sanders has reactivated his campaign’s volunteer Slack, which has tens of thousands of people in it and was an important place for it to engage volunteers during the primary, and he’s invited representatives from different campaigns and groups to the channel to recruit volunteers for their own causes. His volunteers are also texting voters on behalf of local candidates.

“We don’t want to lose all that great energy that went into electing Bernie,” said Georgia Parke, digital communications director and press secretary for the campaign committee.

Sanders has endorsed many candidates and groups, including Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Ilhan Omar, AOC, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, and tapped into his grassroots fundraising network to help many of them raise money.

Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez field questions from audience members at a climate crisis summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 9, 2019.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

“The reality is he still has a huge audience; he still has a huge amount of followers on social media. So there’s no reason not to use that audience and continue to engage them with content that goes along with the senator’s message,” said Armand Aviram, a senior media producer for Sanders.

Those who work with Sanders say he is still closely involved in his digital operation. In late September, Sanders hosted a live stream event focused on races in Texas. It featured former presidential candidates and Texas politicians Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro as well as four local candidates — three for Congress, one for district attorney. His team continues to push out videos about President Trump, health care, and a variety of other controversial issues that engage people. “For the same reason that Trump does well on social media, Bernie can do things that lend themselves well to a viral video,” Aviram said.

“It’s never one cycle, it’s never one campaign, and the fact that we didn’t win does not mean that we’re not going to stop trying to help people and to use the tools and the stuff that we have available to us online to keep pushing these policies and make a better future and a better life for people,” Parke said. “Every campaign we ran, there were thousands more people who were waking up to politics for the first time, getting active for the first time, donating for the first time — and there’s so much value in that.”

For some outside groups dedicated to Sanders’s White House run, like a grassroots Slack channel called Connect With Bernie and an online group called the People for Bernie Sanders, the road ahead is less clear. Both have lost active members and some steam since Sanders lost the primary this spring.

“We keep on saying to ourselves that we need to talk about what’s going to happen after the election. It’s weird to have such a successful page named after a candidate who’s never running for president again. Do we want to be a successful publishing page on social media? Or do we want to be a political operation that has goals that we can point to?” said Charles Lenchner, one of the co-founders of People for Bernie.

Other campaigns have been able to pick up where Sanders left off

Presidential campaigns and primaries in particular tend to suck all of the air out of the room when it comes to political attention. But once the 2020 Democratic presidential primary ended, there were still a lot of engaged, energized people backing Sanders who were looking for a place to direct their attention.

“I don’t think that you have an online following that is engaged that just disappears overnight,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at progressive pollster Data for Progress. “The question would be who can come around and pick them up — either encourage them to start doing more coalition work or just direct their frustration at the party in productive ways.”

Waleed Shahid, communications director at Justice Democrats, a group that backs progressive primary candidates in an effort to pull the Democratic Party further left, said he believes that candidates such as Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush ousted incumbents in their primaries in part because of momentum from Sanders’s campaign. (Sanders also endorsed both candidates.) That is likely true for candidates who had primaries in the spring and summer, including Mondaire Jones, who won his congressional primary in New York.

“A lot of people felt heartbroken when [Bernie] dropped out and sort of looked to other candidates that shared his values, and I think a lot of those folks were excited to use that energy and passion to support someone who they saw as having a similar message,” said Hannah Nayowith, Jones’s campaign manager.

In Ed Markey, young progressives found another old white guy to love

The figure who has best been able to tap into the progressive energy once directed at Sanders’s campaign is Sen. Ed Markey. The 74-year-old Massachusetts Democrat faced a tough primary challenge from Joe Kennedy this election cycle, and for much of the race, he was expected to lose — until the kids stepped in to help.

“For most of these young people, they knew Ed Markey and thought he was cool because he was AOC’s friend,” Joe Walsh, Markey’s campaign manager, explained. Markey introduced the Green New Deal in the Senate, and while his record isn’t perfectly progressive, he leaned into the parts of it that are and embraced progressive policies during the primary.

Soon, Markey had a cohort of stans who believe it’s cool to support the milkman’s son from Massachusetts. One group, Students for Markey, focused more on field outreach. Another group — a Twitter account called @edsreplyguys — got to work on making Markey relatable through memes. “Because we were unaffiliated, we had a lot of freedom to post what we wanted, whenever we wanted,” said Emerson Toomey, one of the college students behind the account.

Were these grassroots, online-organizing supporters the only reason Markey won? Of course not. But it did help resuscitate his campaign. And the efforts can also provide a blueprint for candidates going forward. These young, engaged progressives care about policy, such as climate and health care, and if politicians are willing to commit to what they care about, they’ll back them up.

“The secret is there are actually a lot of Ed Markeys in Congress, and if you can get people to embrace the progressive side of themselves that they’ve been told for 30 years they shouldn’t show to people … then the progressive movement doesn’t just have to elect the AOCs and the Jamaal Bowmans,” said Josh Miller-Lewis, the former digital communications director for Sanders. “You can actually grow much faster by electing the Ed Markeys of the world.”

Markey shows that politicians don’t have to be pure in their political history to gain progressive groups’ trust. They just need to be committed — and it doesn’t hurt if they can go viral, as Markey did days before the Massachusetts primary.

“Their litmus test, if you will, is a level of fearlessness that they feel. Are you willing to say the thing that other people are not?” Walsh said.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey at a press conference unveiling their Green New Deal resolution on Capitol Hill on February 7, 2019.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

To be sure, political campaigns are not the only places that some of the post-Sanders attention and work are going. Democratic Socialists of America, which saw an increase in membership after the 2016 election, has added members in 2020 as well. And there are newer organizations, such as Sunrise and Justice Democrats, eager to take up the mantle. Some people I spoke with also observed that the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted over the summer absorbed progressive energy as well.

The protests were a particularly important way for people of color to channel their focus, many of whom had long been organizing for racial justice. “Things felt very dismal for a little while, and having a non-electoral cause to organize around, again, after having those roots initially, I think for a lot of people was very grounding,” Lehman, from Sunrise, said.

“I thought he would have won, and I still do.”

Bernie Sanders wasn’t the beginning of the American left, and he won’t be the end of it. But his two presidential campaigns leveraged the power of the internet to help change the political conversation in the US. He, along with Elizabeth Warren, built an enormous platform that helped train a new generation of activists and inspired fellow politicians who will take the lead, such as Ocasio-Cortez.

“The way I look at it, four years ago, there was only Bernie Sanders, and now there is a whole array of progressive leaders,” said Stevie O’Hanlon, a spokesperson for Sunrise. “When Sunrise was started, there was no AOC, there was no Rashida [Tlaib], there was no Jamaal Bowman. Ed Markey was not talking about socialism. I don’t see [Sanders’s failure] as a loss; I see it as a huge step forward for the left because now we have dozens and dozens of leaders in Congress and all over the country who are ready to carry the torch forward.”

New York congressional candidate Jamaal Bowman greets supporters in Yonkers, New York, on June 23.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Of course, this wasn’t possible without some battles — tensions between Sanders and Warren in the 2020 presidential primaries divided some progressives online.

But after both candidates ended their bids, most of their supporters have set aside their conflicts.

“Some of that beef is way more of a beef with the online left than the offline left. You might see more of that on Twitter than actually exists with people who are always doing organizing,” Shahid said.

The “people’s charter” put forth by the Working Families Party, which backed Warren in the primary, has been signed onto by Sunrise, which backed Sanders. “We have different strategies, we have different bases, but at the end of the day, it’s going to take all of us to get anything that we want achieved on every level of office in this country,” said Nelini Stamp, national organizing director for WFP. “That means us coming together, and it also means us pushing forward.”

None of this is to say that the post-Sanders left isn’t fractious, or that there isn’t disagreement. Despite the “Bernie or bust” trope of “Bernie bros” who in 2016 supposedly wouldn’t vote for anyone but Sanders, in 2020, the vast majority of Sanders supporters are backing Biden. Admittedly, for some, it’s more of an anti-Trump sentiment than it is pro-Joe.

“There’s a danger that one part of this online coalition is going to go into an even more fringe direction, but I think by and large, the mass of people … are still there, still have the same beliefs,” said Bhaskar Sunkara, publisher of socialist magazine Jacobin.

While online progressives may no longer have a specific person they’re organizing around, they do have policies, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. They are policies Sanders helped put front and center in American politics.

The historic movement Sanders built came close to capturing the Democratic nomination for the White House, even though he ultimately failed.

“It shows both the powers and limitations of being an extremely popular online candidate,” Brody said. “I think it carried Bernie a long way. It did for a lot of us, but it didn’t, obviously, carry us over the top.”

Bernie Sanders on Capitol Hill on October 20.
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Shahid compared the Sanders left to the Barry Goldwater right in 1964 — the Arizona senator lost his race back then, but the ideas and people who came out of his campaign shaped the Republican Party in the years to come. “Over time, these organizers and strategists and operatives will become a greater and greater influence in the party because the future of the party looks a lot more like AOC than it does Joe Biden,” Shahid said.

Take, for example, Aidan King, who was working at a Vermont vineyard in 2013 when he cofounded the Sanders for President channel on Reddit. The subreddit became a powerhouse of grassroots support for Sanders and raised millions of dollars for his campaign. King, who has no formal political training, is now a professional digital strategist. He worked for Sanders’s campaign in 2016 and 2020, and he is now the digital lead of electoral campaigns for Greenpeace.

“It was never just about [Sanders]. He was never going to pretend and claim that if he got elected, he could wave a magic wand and get rid of all the country’s problems,” King says. “It was more about showing disenfranchised people and cynical people — and I was one of them — … that ‘Hey, no, it can be better, things can be good, we can force progress if we fight hard enough.’”

To be sure, not everyone is staying in it — David Frederick, who founded the Sanders for President subreddit with King, has basically quit social media since the primary.

“I’d already been demoralized, and by the time this came around, the level of toxicity that was coming at me was coming out of me, too,” Frederick said. “I sleep much better now.”

King acknowledged it might be better for his mental and physical health if he took a break from electoral politics.

“I thought he would have won, and I still do. I don’t know; it is what it is,” King said at the end of our conversation. “If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll pick a winning ticket one of these days.”


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World

All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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