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Young people have a stake in our future. Let them vote.

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Around the world, almost every country bars people under 18 from voting. The reasons vary — they won’t be informed enough, they don’t pay taxes yet, they can’t serve in the military yet, they tend too liberal, they tend too rebellious. Yet the rule persists, even though many 16- and 17-year-olds do pay taxes, even in the face of a generation of passionate, smart, and informed teenage activists, and even as it becomes obvious that our current political system is failing our children.

In the last year, there’ve been encouraging signs that we might rethink this. Democratic candidate Andrew Yang argued for a voting age of 16, and a bill proposing a voting age of 16 died in the US House in March 2019 with a majority of Democratic representatives supporting it.

In my state of California on November 3rd, voters will consider whether to let 17-year-olds vote in the primary if they will be old enough to vote in the general election, which 18 other states and Washington, DC, already allow.

Well, let’s do them one better: The United States should consider eradicating the voting age entirely and letting every American citizen who can successfully fill out a ballot be counted in our local, state, and national elections (and yes, this goes for felons too).

My colleague Matt Yglesias made the case for this five years ago. Since then, it’s only become more apparent that our current system is failing kids — and that they’re competent to fight for a better one.

Enfranchising 75 million American citizens is the right thing to do, and there’s some evidence suggesting it’ll lead to a more engaged, more informed electorate that can at last do right by some of its most vulnerable constituents.

The expanding voting-rights circle

American democracy got off to a rough start. At first, the vote was only extended to white land-owning men. Gradually, property requirements to vote were abolished, and then, with the Civil War, racial restrictions were struck from the books (though still enforced in practice). It was not until 1920 that the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, and not until the Civil Rights Movement that many Black Americans could meaningfully exercise their voting rights.

Many of these expansions of voting rights were bitterly opposed at the time. In hindsight, they are all clearly moral and necessary.

Decreasing the voting age to let more of our citizens have a vote isn’t a new idea. We’ve actually lowered the voting age before without any problems. The voting age in the United States was 21 for most of our history. By 1968, several states had lowered it to 18, 19, or 20, and in 1971 the 26th Amendment prohibited any state from setting the voting age higher than 18.

States may still set the voting age lower than 18 for state or local elections, and a few cities have taken steps in that direction: Takoma Park, Hyattsville, and Greenbelt in Maryland have lowered their voting age to 16, and Berkeley, California lets 16-year-olds vote in school board elections. Eighteen is the most common voting age elsewhere in the world, too, but a few countries — including Brazil and Austria — permit 16-year-olds to vote, and until 2007 the voting age in Iran was 15.

Each of these decreases in the voting age may have been controversial at the time, but they’re uncontroversial in hindsight. Virtually no one wants to go back to denying 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds the vote. And granting them the vote was simultaneously a reflection of their full citizenship and full personhood under U.S. law, and an instrument by which the law came to take their interests more seriously. When people become able to vote, politicians work harder to cater to them. Politicians working harder to cater to young people would be a good thing, given the devastating recent rise in child poverty.

4 reasons why we need to get rid of the voting age

There are a host of good reasons to give children the vote. Here are four I want to highlight:

1) The whole concept of a voting age is kinda unprincipled

The US Constitution holds that the right to vote cannot be abridged on the basis of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or age … if you’re older than 18. It’s an awkward exception we’ve carved out to the admirable general principle that just government requires fair and free elections in which everyone can participate.

We are signatories to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which demands that elections be held “by universal and equal suffrage.” We (and pretty much every other country) fall short of that in a lot of ways, but the 75 million Americans denied the right to vote because they are younger than 18 are definitely the largest group of people systematically excluded from the franchise.

The arguments against universal suffrage have taken a few forms. When women wanted the vote, for example, people argued that they weren’t as educated as men, weren’t as smart, and wouldn’t vote as well. They also argued that they’d just vote however their husbands told them, so there was no need for them to vote.

All of these arguments turned out to be false, but they’d be objectionable even if they were true. We’re founded on the principle that people, as people, deserve a voice in their government. What universal suffrage aspires to is a society where you get a voice not because you’re a member of the right group or rich enough or worthy enough, but just because you’re a person and a member of this society with a stake in its future.

So while I’d be happy about the voting age being lowered to 16 as some have proposed — and such a plan is far more realistic than mine — it still falls short of our obligations to our fellow citizens. The most principled democratic stance is that suffrage should be universal.

2) The case for democracy can’t rest on voters being rational informed agents. Indeed, there’s a strong case for democracy that doesn’t.

Research suggests that voters are not very informed. They don’t know the differences between candidate policy positions. They don’t even know what the executive can and can’t do. They don’t reliably vote for the candidate who they agree with more on the issues.

Does that mean that democracy is a failed experiment? Not at all. Democratic societies work surprisingly well, considering that voters don’t seem very informed. They are more peaceful than non-democratic societies, have better human rights records and stronger economies, and they are more likely to protect the environment. So somehow, this system — for all its frequent and costly flaws — does, actually, do better than any other system of government. The secret sauce of democracy must be something other than “informed voters rationally selecting the candidates most aligned with their nuanced policy views.”

In fact, much of what democracy does is secure buy-in from the population. There’s a strong relationship between satisfaction with democracy and political institutions and generalized social trust — and social trust is very important to functioning societies. Right now, young people express breathtaking cynicism about the U.S. democracy and whether our society cares about them. It’s worth some work to build democratic institutions they have more confidence in.

So, will adding some less-informed voters make democracy fall apart? Not likely. First, there are a lot more adults than kids — you can’t get elected just by carrying the kid demographic.

Second, a lot of people underestimate how informed kids can be. Like, I’m fairly embarrassed by the formulaic writing and lack of nuance in this 11-page essay on the New Deal and how it transformed the role of government that I wrote for the History Day competition when I was 12. But I think the person who wrote it would’ve been a pretty responsible voter, or at least no less capable than the average citizen. (And I don’t think I was unique, either, except in the educational opportunities I had access to.)

Third, if you want more informed voters, giving kids the opportunity to vote will also likely give them more motivation to learn about politics and engage seriously with it. In the long run, I’d expect that an electorate that nourishes its youngest participants ends up more informed.

3) Voting as kids will turn young people into better citizens and likely increase participation their whole lives

Young adults don’t vote much. Some researchers have looked into why not and found a mundane explanation: They lead unstable lives that our voting system accounts for poorly. Many young adults are in short-term housing situations, off at college or trade school, or in a first job or apartment. They are disproportionately more likely to move, and to not know where their polling place is, and to not be sure if they’re registered to vote. Navigating that bureaucracy for the first time, when you’re also navigating your degree or first job, lease, student loan repayments, etc., is daunting. Lots of people don’t succeed.

Researchers have found that voter turnout is a habitual behavior: The best predictor of whether you’ll do it in the future is whether you have a pattern of doing it. People who vote in the first three elections when they’re eligible will likely vote for the rest of their life. And the chaotic years from 18 to 21 are a terrible stage to acquire a new habitual behavior, because they’re full of so many life changes. If everyone registered to vote as kids and voted as kids, they’d have a decade or more of practice at their civic responsibility by age 18.

Realizing these benefits might require schools to actively work to help students register and, on the day of the election, helping them to vote. Schools are well-equipped to do that (many do it for fake mock elections in class anyway). But between schools and parents, children would have more supports in making it to the polls than young adults living alone in college or their first full-time jobs.

Lowering the voting age does seem to help (at least a little bit) to create a population of high-participation, civically engaged voters — or, at least, it did so when Austria tried it. In 2007 they became the first country in the EU to lower their voting age from 18 to 16. The 16- and 17-year-olds were more likely to turn out to vote than 18-21 year olds, and researchers found that they were no less informed and were as likely as older voters to make choices that reflected their values.

Takoma Park, Maryland, saw promising results too. Turnout among 16-17 year olds in the first city election after they were extended the franchise was nearly double turnout for voters 18 and up.

And research from Denmark suggests that parents whose children have a vote are themselves more likely to vote. The researchers studied this by comparing children who turned 18 just in time for the election to children who turned 18 a day too late. The parents of the newly minted voters were more likely to show up at the polls — likely because they wanted to take their child to the polls or model civic engagement.

Of course, this raises an important question: Did the last big change in voting age make our society more democratic? Someone who wanted to argue that the 26th Amendment strengthened our society might point out that there hasn’t been a wartime draft since, and that the socially liberal values younger people are more likely to hold have won some definitive cultural victories since then. But a critic could easily argue that our democracy doesn’t really seem to be stronger than ever and voter participation is no higher. On the whole, the evidence from the change in voting age from 21 to 18 is a mixed bag.

4) Kids have the same — or even a greater — stake in political issues that adults do

A frequent justification for denying kids the franchise is that voting should be attached to the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship. Kids mostly can’t open a bank account under their own name, work a job, or pay taxes. They can’t serve in the military. Therefore, they shouldn’t get to vote.

There’s a problem with this line of logic. First, it’s kind of perverse that the fact that kids are excluded from participation in many corners of society gets used as an excuse to exclude them from the civic sphere as well. Yes, kids typically can’t open bank accounts without their guardian’s approval. They can’t apply for benefits — even if they need them — and they don’t have the right to make many medical decisions for themselves.

That’s not a reason to give them even less of a voice in shaping the society that makes those decisions for them. Voting should not be a final responsibility you earn only once you’ve taken on all of the other responsibilities of society; it should be one of the first core rights you exercise as a member of society.

Second, kids shoulder the consequences of the decisions our politicians make. They’re the population most affected by food insecurity and by air pollution. In failing to address climate change, we’re damaging the world they will live in. We have made financial commitments that they’ll be on the hook to pay back, and we’ve started wars that they are only a few short years from being sent off to fight in. If you earn the right to vote alongside the burden of responsibility, we’ve burdened kids with responsibilities without extending the rights.

We typically don’t think about the fact that kids have very few rights as a moral issue. Why not? Perhaps because the people who are currently experiencing it get fewer platforms to talk about it, have less practice articulating their perspectives, and are stereotyped as bratty, entitled, and ignorant — especially if they complain about their lives. Perhaps that may be because we all lived through it and it can take time to notice that an experience that was universal in your life is actually harmful.

But the restrictions on the rights of children that are commonplace around the world often aren’t justified and often leave kids vulnerable. Giving them a vote would be a first step toward addressing that.

Two reasons why we shouldn’t do this, debunked

There’s a common counterargument to giving children the vote: Won’t a lot of parents use this to effectively just get their kids to vote the way they do? If their kid is going to vote for the “wrong” presidential campaign, won’t they scold or threaten them?

I think this will absolutely happen; it happens to adults. It happened to an adult friend of mine who turned 18 shortly before the 2016 election and whose parents bullied him into voting for their preferred candidate. It happens within marriages, too.

It’s obviously a problem when it happens, and in a world where kids voted, it would happen — no arguing that. But there’s something perverse about denying someone the right to vote to stop other people from denying them the right to vote.

And as my colleague Matt Yglesias argued, even if letting kids vote results in more influence for their parents, that doesn’t really seem like a terrible outcome: “A family of five contains more human beings than a family of two, so if the result of children voting were that the political system started giving more weight to the interests of five-person families than to the interests of two-person families, that would be a sensible outcome, not some shady sleight of hand.”

There’s another objection. Some people might say, “Okay, I’m with you for all of that, but surely kids younger than, say, 8, would just be filling in bubbles at random, right? Don’t we have to draw a line somewhere?”

As a political compromise, sure; a voting age of 12 might be more achievable than universal suffrage is. It is probably more pragmatic to draw a line somewhere. But I don’t think it’s necessary as a matter of principle. If everyone is allowed to vote, then very young kids will likely spoil their ballots (that is, they won’t be able to successfully indicate one and only one candidate for each office that they prefer, so their vote won’t be counted). At some point — a point that’s determined by the capabilities of each individual child — they’ll be able to fill out a ballot successfully. Of course, they should have access to the same accommodations as adults, like accessible voting machines with audio ballots if preferred.

I think this is more desirable than a law banning them from voting until they’re presumed competent to fill out a ballot. First, it’s fairer to young children who are capable of voting successfully; it doesn’t deny them rights because of the assumption they’re too unskilled to exercise them. Second, I think voting would be an exciting and meaningful exercise even for children too young to fill out their ballot validly, and it’s a great chance to develop the habit early — just like we have young children brush their teeth even though they’ll lose those teeth in a few years anyway.

I don’t expect that enfranchising all children will solve all our problems. There are some very real drawbacks here. I expect that enfranchising everyone will make the electorate less informed on average. I don’t have any idea whether it’d be a win for my preferred policies.

But I think the moral case for enfranchising children overwhelms these concerns. In a democracy, the default ought to be that the people can vote — even if we think they’re not very smart or not very informed or not worthy of the privilege. Much of the promise of democracy is that giving people power over their government is a good thing. Taking that seriously means extending the vote as far as we can.

Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, you’ll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and — to put it simply — getting better at doing good.

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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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