U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) referenced cancel culture while addressing the Republican National Convention on August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Is cancel culture a mob mentality, or a long overdue way of speaking truth to power?
The 2020 Republican National Convention kicked off with an evening of programming that seemed deeply fixated on one of the odder ideas to snowball its way into the zeitgeist: cancel culture.
Within the turbulent past five years, the idea that a person can be “canceled” — in other words, culturally blocked from having a prominent public platform or career — has become a polarizing topic of debate. The rise of “cancel culture” and the idea of canceling someone coincides with a familiar pattern: A celebrity or other public figure does or says something offensive. A public backlash, often fueled by politically progressive social media, ensues. Then come the calls to cancel the person — that is, to effectively end their career or revoke their cultural cachet, whether through boycotts of their work or disciplinary action from an employer.
The argument that this phenomenon has spun out of control loomed over the RNC during its first few days of programming. Prior to the first night of speakers, delegates voted for a number of resolutions in meetings that were closed to the press, one of which specifically targeted cancel culture — the “Resolution Upholding The First Amendment To The Constitution Of The United States Of America In The Response To The Coronavirus Pandemic And The Cancel Culture Movement.” The resolution described “cancel culture” as having “grown into erasing of history, encouraging lawlessness, muting citizens, and violating free exchange of ideas, thoughts, and speech.”
Then, during Monday night’s lineup, several speakers mentioned cancel culture. Former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle portrayed it as a culture of “elites … who blame America,” and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) stressed that Republicans “don’t give into cancel culture or the radical and factly baseless beliefs that things are worse today than in the 1860s or the 1960s.”
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley described cancel culture as “an important issue. [Trump] knows that political correctness and cancel culture are dangerous and just plain wrong,” she told viewers.
But despite the urgency of these speeches, actually ending someone’s career through the power of public backlash is easier said than done. Few entertainers or other public figures have truly been canceled — that is, they haven’t had their careers totally shut down by negative criticism on the internet.
For example, during 2020 alone, a number of people and institutions have faced public backlash for platforming anti-progressive values. Prominent journalists like New York Times food critic Alison Roman, former Times opinion writer Bari Weiss, and the Times opinion section itself all came under fire for racism and other issues. Food media empire Bon Appetit faces ongoing backlash over accusations the company fosters systemic racism; and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling faced intense criticism from her own fans after she began to voice transphobic beliefs.
But few of those people have since faced serious repercussions. Times opinion editor James Bennet resigned after publishing one of the most inflammatory opinion pieces in the paper’s recent history, after which Weiss left the paper of her own volition — but both he and Weiss were immediately embraced by prominent Republicans and moderates who saw them as cancel culture victims. Bon Appetit’s editor in chief resigned after he was caught posing in brownface, but the company has forged past the blowback with a new executive editor (who is both a woman of color and a former employee of Vox Media). Alison Roman was placed on a temporary hiatus from the Times following a controversial social media argument she had with Chrissy Teigen, but her popularity continues unabated and her latest cookbook is currently a #1 Amazon bestseller. And following her most recent transphobic screed in June, sales of Rowling’s books actually increased tremendously in her home country of Great Britain.
And though many of the most prominent examples of cancellation have arrived in the Me Too era, most of the men who have faced accusations have also dodged long-term consequences. After multiple women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him in 2017, Louis C.K.’s career hiatus lasted only around 10 months before he returned to stand-up comedy and performed dozens of sold-out, controversial shows. After high-profile documentaries exploring allegations of decades of sexual assault against each of them were released earlier this year, both R. Kelly and the late Michael Jackson saw increases in streams of their music, rather than decreases.
Continued support for those who have been canceled demonstrates that instead of costing someone their careers, attempting to cancel someone can encourage sympathy for the offender. Yet to hear Gillis and many others talk about cancel culture, you might think it’s some sort of “celebrity hunting season” — an unstoppable force descending to ruin the careers of anyone who dares to push society’s moral boundaries. This framing frequently portrays the offender as the victim of reckless vigilante justice.
“There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day,” comedian Norm MacDonald said in a 2018 interview, referring to canceled comedians like C.K. and Roseanne Barr. “Of course, people will go, ‘What about the victims?’ But you know what? The victims didn’t have to go through that.”
So which is it? Is cancel culture an important tool of social justice or a new form of merciless mob intimidation? If canceling someone usually doesn’t work, does cancel culture even exist? Or does the very idea of being canceled work to deter potentially bad behavior?
These questions have received more and more mainstream consideration over the past few years, as the idea of cancel culture itself has evolved from its humorous origins into a broader and more serious conversation about how to hold public figures accountable for bad behavior. And the conversation isn’t just about when and how public figures should lose their status and their livelihoods. It’s also about establishing new ethical and social norms and figuring out how to collectively respond when those norms are violated.
“Canceling” came out of the unlikeliest place: a misogynistic joke
Given how frequently it’s been used to repudiate sexism and misogyny, it’s ironic that the concept of “canceling” shares its DNA with a misogynistic joke. Possibly the first reference to canceling someone comes with the 1991 film New Jack City, in which Wesley Snipes plays a gangster named Nino Brown. In one scene, after his girlfriend breaks down because of all the violence he’s causing, he dumps her by saying, “Cancel that bitch. I’ll buy another one.” (We reportedly owe this witticism to screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper.)
Jump to 2010, when Lil Wayne referenced the film in a line from his song “I’m Single”: “Yeah, I’m single / n***a had to cancel that bitch like Nino.” This callback to the earlier sexist cancel joke probably helped the phrase percolate for a while.
But canceling seems to have gotten its first big boost into the zeitgeist from an episode of VH1’s reality show Love and Hip-Hop: New York that aired in December 2014, in which cast member Cisco Rosado tells his love interest Diamond Strawberry during a fight, “you’re canceled.” Even with zero context, it’s a hilarious moment:
The quote began to appear on social media shortly after the episode aired.
ima start telling people “you’re canceled, out my face”
— Scotty (@scotty2thotty_) December 23, 2014
You’re canceled. Nah I don’t think that’s gone catch on
— Makaela (@U_NeedMoore) December 23, 2014
From there, the idea of canceling began to disseminate from Black Twitter throughout 2015, used as a reaction to someone doing something you disapproved of — either jokingly or seriously.
Meg loves orange. She’s cancelled
— Jess (@jessstar4) October 21, 2015
As it caught on, however, the term began to evolve into a way of responding not just to friends or acquaintances, but also to celebrities or entities whose behavior offended you.
And even early on, canceling someone often involved boycotting them professionally, as the tweets below demonstrate:
Ok you’re cancelled like shit *deletes all memes of you from my camera roll* https://t.co/pLW3R2fhFz
— Arnesa. (@arrrnesa_xx) July 24, 2015
Travis Scott is homophobic trash. His music is cancelled… He’s cancelled guys!! If u still like him plz unfollow me
— yve. (@mads4pres) September 7, 2015
I was blasting fade by kanye and then I remembered he’s cancelled and changed
— malek (@offlinemalek) December 15, 2016
Even though these early examples are largely independent and distinct from one another, they contained the seeds of what cancel culture would become: a trend of communal calls to boycott a celebrity whose offensive behavior is perceived as going too far.
It’s common to compare cancel culture to “call-out culture” — but its real roots may lie in the civil rights movement
As cancel culture caught on, many members of the public, as well as the media, have frequently conflated it with other adjacent trends — especially “call-out culture.” Cancel culture can be seen as an extension of call-out culture: the natural escalation from pointing out a problem to calling for the head of the person who caused it.
Cancel culture and call-out culture are often confused not only with each other, but also with broader public shaming trends, as part of a collectivized narrative that all of these things are examples of trolling and harassment. The media sometimes refers to this idea as “outrage culture.”
But while these ideas seem interchangeable at a glance, they’re different in important ways. Call-out culture predates cancel culture as a concept, with online roots in early 2010s Tumblr fandom callout blogs, like Your Fave is Problematic, and spreading from there. Call-out culture is a term that arose within fandom, used by fans of all kinds deploying criticism of pop culture or public figures, in inherent opposition to toxic online harassment mobs like Gamergate. Meanwhile, cancel culture arose within black culture and appears to channel black empowerment movements as far back as the civil rights boycotts of the 1950s and ’60s.
“While the terminology of cancel culture may be new and most applicable to social media through Black Twitter, in particular, the concept of being canceled is not new to black culture,” Anne Charity Hudley, the chair of linguistics of African America for the University of California Santa Barbara, told Vox. Hudley, who studies black vernacular and the use of language in cultural conversations like this one, described canceling as “a survival skill as old as the Southern black use of the boycott.”
Charity Hudley pointed out that canceling someone is akin to a boycott, but of a person rather than a business. What’s more, it promotes the idea that black people should be empowered to reject the parts of pop culture that spread harmful ideas. “If you don’t have the ability to stop something through political means, what you can do is refuse to participate,” she said.
Thanks to social media, black culture in particular has become more widely recognized as the dominant driving force behind much of pop culture. Platforms like Twitter give a louder collective voice to black citizens and other marginalized groups who have traditionally been shunted to the edges of public conversations, while platforms like YouTube and Netflix help to diversify and expand the types of media and pop culture we consume. And in a society where cultural participation is increasingly democratized, the refusal to participate also becomes more important.
“Canceling is a way to acknowledge that you don’t have to have the power to change structural inequality,” Charity Hudley said. “You don’t even have to have the power to change all of public sentiment. But as an individual, you can still have power beyond measure.
“When you see people canceling Kanye, canceling other people, it’s a collective way of saying, ‘We elevated your social status, your economic prowess, [and] we’re not going to pay attention to you in the way that we once did. … ‘I may have no power, but the power I have is to [ignore] you.’”
Cancel culture, then, serves as a pop culture corrective for the sense of powerlessness that many people feel. But as it’s gained mainstream attention, cancel culture has also seemed to gain a more material power — at least in the eyes of the many people who’d like to, well, cancel it.
Very few canceled celebs actually suffer career setbacks. But witnessing cancel culture backlash seems to send some people into panic mode.
Some celebrities, whose crimes have encompassed allegations of rape and sexual assault and became impossible to ignore, like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Kevin Spacey, have effectively been canceled. Along with Roseanne Barr, who lost her hit TV show after a racist tweet, their offenses were serious enough to irreparably damage their careers, alongside a push to lessen their cultural influence. And though it’s still early for author J.K. Rowling, her very recent transphobic tweet was so upsetting to Harry Potter fans that large segments of the fandom started openly claiming that Rowling wasn’t the author of their beloved series at all; she was no longer part of the equation.
Rowling hasn’t responded to the outrage that fans of Harry Potter have expressed over her transphobic stance, but the level of publicity it has received has been damning. And tellingly, as of late December, Rowling has not returned to Twitter since the initial offending tweet. It’s impossible to truly ignore public scorn at the level that Rowling received. And therein lies cancel culture at its most powerful.
“I think it’s clear that a ‘cancel’ campaign is more effective if there is significant embarrassment [involved],” Catherine Squires, author of The Post-racial Mystique and a professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, told Vox in an email.
With that potential embarrassment, however, comes a high degree of alarm. A recent piece in Digiday about cancel culture’s effect on brands and businesses framed it as “mob rule,” with one anonymous PR executive declaring, “even good intentions get canceled.” In September, the New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu observed just how frequently media outlets have compared cancel culture to violent political uprisings, ranging from ethnocide to torture under dictatorial regimes.
This hyperbole might feel reasonable to someone faced with a social justice mob, but to proponents of cancel culture, it seems more like a disingenuous slippery slope that really only works to marginalize victims. For example: In 2018, feminist performance artist Emma Sulkowicz designed a protest performance in response to a New York Times article. The article, as she later explained to Teen Vogue, had asked museum directors if they would remove works by famed artist Chuck Close from their galleries, after Close was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment.
“I got so upset that survivors’ voices weren’t included in the conversation,” Sulkowicz said. “One museum director was like, ‘If we go down this road, our museum walls will be bare.’ And I thought, ‘Do you only show work by evil men?’”
The debate around cancel culture is partly about how we treat each other, and partly about frustration with the lack of real consequences for powerful people
All of this dramatic rhetoric from both sides of the debate shows how incendiary cancel culture has become. As ideological divides seem more and more insurmountable, the line between the personal and the political is vanishing for many people. Even though cancel culture seems to generate few lasting consequences for celebrities and their careers, some people seem to view it as part of a broader trend they find deeply disturbing: an inability to forgive and move on.
Aaron Rose, a corporate diversity and inclusion consultant, used to identify with progressives who participate in call-out and cancel culture. But now, he says, he’s focused on objectives like “conflict transformation,” motivated by the question of “how do we truly communicate [and] treat each other like humans?”
“Mainstream internet activism is a lot of calling out and blaming and shaming,” he told Vox in an email. “We have to get honest with ourselves about whether calling out and canceling gives us more than a short-term release of cathartic anger.”
Rose “used to think that those tactics created change,” he said, but eventually realized “that I was not seeing the true change I desired. … We were still sad and mad. And the bad people were still bad. And everyone was still traumatized.” He says he now wants to “create more stories of transformation rather than stories of punishment and excommunication.”
Loretta Ross is a self-identified liberal who’s come to hold a similar position. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, she wrote that as a black feminist, she finds cancel and call-out culture a “toxic” practice wherein “people attempt to expunge anyone with whom they do not perfectly agree, rather than remain focused on those who profit from discrimination and injustice.”
In Ross’s view, “most public shaming is horizontal” — that is, it’s not done to justifiably criticize people who are seriously dangerous, but to score brownie points against people who mean no harm. The people doing the canceling, she argues, “become the self-appointed guardians of political purity.”
But among proponents of canceling is a sense that any losses that the canceled person suffers are outweighed by a greater cultural need to change the behavior they’re embodying. “Forgive me if I care less about the comedian who made his own bed versus the people affected by the anti-queer climate he helped create,” wrote Esquire’s Michael Arceneaux in response to Hart’s homophobic comments in 2018.
“[W]hat people do when they invoke dog whistles like ‘cancel culture’ and ‘culture wars,’” Danielle Butler wrote for the Root in 2018, “is illustrate their discomfort with the kinds of people who now have a voice and their audacity to direct it towards figures with more visibility and power.”
But to progressives like Rose, rejecting cancel culture doesn’t have to mean rejecting the principles of social justice and the push for equality that fuels it. “This does not mean repressing our reactions or giving up on accountability,” he told Vox. “On the contrary, it means giving ourselves the space to truly honor our feelings of sadness and anger, while also not reacting in a way that implies that others are … incapable of compassion and change.”
To Rose, and for many opponents of cancel culture, the bottom line in the debate is a need to believe that other people can change, and treat them with according optimism. The difference between cancel culture and a more reconciliatory, transformational approach to a disagreement is “the difference between expecting amends and never letting a wound close,” he said. “Between expressing your rage and identifying with it forever.”
“I get that, but that’s a really middle-class, white privilege way of coming at this,” Charity Hudley countered when I summarized Rose’s viewpoint for her. “From my point of view, for black culture and cultures of people who are lower income and disenfranchised, this is the first time you do have a voice in those types of conversations.”
Charity Hudley’s point highlights what seems to many to be the bottom line in the conversation around cancel culture: For those who are doing the calling out or the canceling, the odds are still stacked against them. They’re still the ones without the social, political, or professional power to compel someone into meaningful atonement, to do much more than organize a collective boycott.
“I think that’s why people see [cancel culture] as a threat, or furthering the divide,” she said. “The divide was already there.”
As we head into a new decade, that divide seems to be widening and growing more visible. And it isn’t purely a divide between ideologies, but also between tactical approaches in navigating those ideological differences and dealing with wrongdoing. The view that a traditional approach — apology, atonement, and forgiveness — is no longer enough might be startling. But to those who think of cancel culture as an extension of civil rights activists’ push for meaningful change, it’s an important tool. And it’s clear that, controversial as cancel culture is, it is here to stay.
Correction: This article originally credited New Jack City screenwriter Thomas Lee Wright with writing the phrase “cancel that bitch.” Co-screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper has claimed credit for writing that scene.
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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
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.
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.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
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.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
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.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
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.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
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.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
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.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
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.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
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.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
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.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
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.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
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.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
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.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
1/4 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. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
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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