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Lifestyle

Superhero Products, Books, and Apps for Forming New Habits


In partnership with our friends at Avocado Green Mattress

Forming healthy habits can be an exercise in patience. It takes time to get a new behavior right, and
then you have to get it right more than a few times before it becomes automatic. Having appealing tools can make
things easier: It’s shocking what a good motivator—whether that’s words of wisdom or a ridiculous indulgence—can do.

We’ve rounded up some of the products, apps, and books that have helped us optimize our own habits
in four different categories: sleep, meditation, waste reduction, and productivity.

SLEEP

  1. A good night’s sleep is all about consistent habits: Get some exercise during the day, make
    sure you have a mattress and pillow that are right for you, avoid screens for a couple hours before bed,
    limit your caffeine and alcohol intake, and turn down around the same time every night (among other sleep tips). Some of these
    are easier said than stuck to.

    The ultimate kick-starter for good sleep hygiene is a bed that you can’t wait to tuck yourself into—and
    which makes all those sleep rituals feel totally worth it. Take this one we made in collaboration with
    Avocado: It’s fully customized by you and made to order in Los Angeles, where it’s crafted over hundreds of
    hours with twenty-nine layers of ethically sourced, certified-organic materials. So if your dreams are made
    of cashmere, Indian heritage wool, Peruvian royal alpaca, and reclaimed and sustainably grown hardwoods,
    this might be what finally convinces to leave your phone in the other room when it’s time to wind down.

  2. The best way to know that it’s all paying off: getting the data. The Oura health tracker fits
    on your finger and collects some of the most complete biometric data available outside lab settings. While
    you snooze, Oura measures your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, respiratory rate, body
    temperature, nighttime movement, sleep quality, and periods of light, deep, and REM sleep. It then
    aggregates that data into a generalized sleep score through Oura’s associated app and offers personalized
    guidance on how you might tweak your habits for better rest.

MEDITATION

  1. For those who think a mindfulness practice could have something spiritually important to offer
    but don’t find clearing their mind to be a reasonable goal, there are two other mindfulness tools that might
    make sense. The first is active meditation, a technique in which you focus your attention on the process of
    a single, simple task. (You might be familiar with the idea of hitting flow while you’re in a good groove
    with work or hobbies. Active meditation works the same way.) Mindfulness coloring books are a good
    introduction; they allow you to access stillness in a way that, if you’re the aforementioned nonmeditator,
    won’t drive you nuts. The ones from The Coloring Method draw on traditional meditation techniques like metta
    (loving-kindness) and guide you through breathwork and positive affirmations to ground the practice. For a
    preview, check out the downloadable PDF in our Q&A with the founders of The
    Coloring Method.

  2. Most contemporary mindfulness practices stem from Zen Buddhist traditions. And there’s so much
    more to Zen than meditation. The book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff is a
    good primer. It offers one hundred ways to reframe small stressors in your life and approach your thoughts,
    relationships, and workload more mindfully. Pick and choose your lessons and cover just a few pages at a
    time if you’d like to. Maybe the chapter “Your ‘In-Basket’ Won’t Be Empty When You Die” really speaks to you
    today: Most of us need reminding that if we put off the good stuff (family time, downtime, me time) until
    the to-dos are all done, we might not ever get to the good stuff. And as you find yourself going back to the
    chapters you need most, you might notice you’re getting better at this mindfulness thing.

WASTE REDUCTION

  1. We can’t talk about healthy habits without considering ones that are healthy for the planet.
    Some of the most important at-home sustainability habits happen in the kitchen. First up: ditching
    single-use plastics and disposable paper goods. This starts with having the right alternatives on hand. Try
    reusable food wraps in place of plastic wrap, which usually can’t be recycled outside of specialty
    facilities. The ones from Snacksheets come in various sizes and use plant-based resins and waxes instead of
    beeswax, so they’re vegan, too. Then stock up on silicone sandwich bags in every
    size so
    you never need to reach for a ziplock again. They’re perfect for packed lunches, they can be used for
    sous-vides, and you can pop them in the dishwasher when you need to. Other recs: organic cotton
    “paper towels” and metal straws
    in a pretty rose gold.

  2. Second, let’s talk about composting. Food scraps that you compost turn into nutrient-rich
    humus, which nourishes soil and helps capture atmospheric carbon. The ones you toss in the trash end up in
    a landfill, where they contribute to methane emissions. And the health of our atmosphere directly impacts
    our own health: Climate change has been shown to affect our personal health and the health of our local
    communities—from extreme weather events to the incidence of novel infectious diseases. If you’re hesitant to
    compost at home because you’re afraid of what that banana peel will smell like in three days, here’s some
    good news: Vitamix has made a countertop composting tool called the Foodcycler FC-50 that aerates and breaks
    down your food waste, turning it into natural fertilizer at the touch of a button. The carbon filtration
    system eliminates odors, and the machine itself is super quiet. A few hours later, your compost is ready to
    spread across your garden or top off your houseplants, and you can stick the inner bucket in the dishwasher.
    It makes a good habit really easy—and easy means you’ll stick with it.

PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTIVITY

  1. Most of us find we’re more productive when the workday doesn’t feel like a marathon. And
    sometimes all it takes to make things more manageable is a timer. The Pomodoro Technique is a way of breaking
    down your work into chunks with built-in breaks. For each twenty-five-minute work period, you put everything
    else aside and focus on whatever it is you’re doing. When the timer dings, you get five minutes off to let
    the dog out, stretch, make a snack, and text your friends back. Then you’re back on for your next cycle of
    twenty-five minutes on, five off. Every four cycles, you get a longer, fifteen-minute break. (We like to
    extend the break in the middle of the day for lunch and a walk.) If that all seems like a lot to keep track
    of, there’s an Internet browser extension called Marinara that’ll do the timing for you so that you have one less
    thing to think about—and it lets you customize the length of your cycles to make it right for your schedule.

  2. Perhaps the best way to optimize good habits is by making a habit of thinking about them.
    That’s where this journal comes into play: Every day, you take note of how you felt about your habit
    performance, what you’d like to remember about what went well and what might not have, and what you can do
    tomorrow to get you closer to your goal. There’s a space for daily gratitude notes, too—some needed
    perspective on days that didn’t go as planned.


We hope you enjoy the products recommended here. Our goal is to suggest only things we love and think you might, as well. We also like transparency, so, full disclosure: We may collect a share of sales or other compensation if you purchase through the external links on this page.



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Lifestyle

10 Heroic Products That Brought Joy to a Bleak Year


MATCHA POINT

“Some people just have more fun when they’re properly caffeinated. I’m one of them. That said, I am super
sensitive to caffeine, so the exact right balance is hard to achieve—some days, even a single cup of coffee is a one-way ticket to a bad time. I’ve given quitting several goes, but I’m human. So when I can, I choose
matcha over coffee—it still has caffeine to perk me up, but it’s also a source of L-theanine, which makes the
experience a lot smoother. Plus, making matcha is more fun and requires less patience than making coffee.
And I love that matcha works so well with oat milk. My mom got me an Almond Cow plant milk maker for the holidays, so I’m milking
my oats fresh at home now, which is a source of absolute glee.” —Kelly Martin, associate editor

  1. Matcha Kari
    Ceremonial Grade Matcha
    goop, $61

    SHOP NOW

SUPER SOAK

“Maybe not fun in the usual sense, but I live for a nice, leisurely, stress-melting soak. What’s funny is I never used to take baths; I was team shower all the way. Then I started working here and realized there was a
total bathing culture (GP takes a bath every night, and she’s not the only one). And
then I tried a sample of “The Martini” Emotional Detox Bath Soak—I think it came in my
welcome-to-goop goodie bag—on a whim, and that’s when I saw the light. I’ve since tried all the goop bath soaks, but Martini’s still my number one. The bag says it ‘takes the edge off during turbulent times,’ so you
can imagine how many times I’ve repurchased it this year.” —Amanda Chung, junior creative copywriter

  1. goop Beauty The Martini Emotional Detox Bath Soak

    goop Beauty
    “The Martini” Emotional Detox
    Bath Soak

    goop, $35

    SHOP NOW

PERCUSSION SECTION

“My husband’s birthday is at the end of November, and I got him a Theragun: the best gift I’ve ever given
him, according to him. And it’s certainly the gift that I’ve enjoyed the most already and look forward to
using—often. This massager is incredibly powerful. Calves. Hamstrings. Lower back. Shoulders. The arches of
your feet—oh my, do not skip those. Of course, it’s particularly great when you get someone else to do it all
for you and you can melt right into your pillow.” —Kiki Koroshetz, wellness director

  1. Therabody Theragun Elite

    Therabody
    Theragun Elite
    goop, $399

    SHOP NOW

PRESS PLAY

“I did something I’d always wanted to do: put Swarovski crystals all along my ears. Added a little holiday
sparkle. I started out trying to follow the directions and place the ear seeds according to the traditional
Chinese map of the ear. I’m not sure which of my intended acupressure points—stress, digestion, immunity,
shoulders—I ended up with, but I find myself wanting to press on certain of the ear seeds more than others.
Acupressure plus sparkly jewels equals fun.” —Gerda Endemann, senior director, science and research

  1. WTHN Ear Seed Kit

    WTHN
    Ear Seed Kit
    goop, $45

    SHOP NOW

FLORAL ARGUMENT

“This little pot has brought me a lot of joy. Everything about it feels luxurious, especially the texture:
It’s a silky, cooling gel-mousse, which you spread in an even layer over your skin and leave on for
however long you’d like. Because it doesn’t have any harsh acids—the main goal is hydration—I can reach for it
whenever I’m feeling blah without having to worry whether it’s too soon after the last treatment. I always
feel transformed afterward. If I’ve had a few days where I’ve lapsed on my skin-care routine, it’s the
ultimate rehab, which is enough to completely reverse a mood.” —Jessie Geoffray, senior editor

  1. Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Mask

    Tata Harper
    Hydrating Floral Mask
    goop, $95

    SHOP NOW

MOOD SWING

“I keep this herbal tincture at my desk and put a few drops in my water or straight on my tongue throughout
the day. The name Rose-Colored Glasses makes sense: It tastes like sweet and earthy rose, and it helps me
cultivate good vibes and a brighter outlook when I get a little stressed. It’s also just a fun addition to my
drink when water starts to get boring.” —Jenna Cady, merchandising assistant, beauty and wellness

  1. Wooden Spoon Rose-Colored Glasses

    Wooden Spoon Herbs
    Rose-Colored Glasses
    goop, $36

    SHOP NOW

HEAVY HITTER

“Early in the pandemic, strategic advisor Priya Parker shared the advice that creating transition rituals can help break up a monotonous day.
Transition rituals are simple, she says, like a cup of coffee that takes you from a rest state to a
tackling-your-inbox state. In that same vein, I needed something to help me transition at the end of my
workday. I was closing my laptop and then immediately staring at the slightly larger screen that is my TV.
Enter the Bearaby weighted blanket. Now when I close my laptop, the first thing I do is go get under it—with
no screen in reach—to unplug for at least a little while. As rituals go, it’s pretty perfect: nothing too
fancy and requires no effort on my part.” —Cait Moore, senior programming manager

  1. Bearaby Cotton Napper Weighted Blanket 15lbs

    Bearaby
    Cotton Napper Weighted
    Blanket 15lbs

    goop, $249

    SHOP NOW

HEART TALK

“I met Neel van Lierop, the creator of these cards, when I was going through a rough breakup. I know that
doesn’t scream fun, but what I learned from Neel was that she created her original Inner Compass deck
when she was coming out of a relationship and didn’t know what her gut was telling her. Instead of ruminating
and endlessly searching for answers, she created an easy-to-use deck that would help people develop and trust
their own intuition. The cards aren’t meant to tell you what to do; they help you feel your feelings and
listen to your inner voice. Neel’s second set of cards, the love deck, is a light-hearted exploration of both
romantic love and self-love. So even if things have been tough and decidedly not fun, the cards have helped me
see the good in life. And yes, I did eventually get over that ex.” —Samantha Saiyavongsa, associate editor

  1. Inner Compass Cards Inner Compass Love Cards

    Inner Compass Cards
    Inner Compass Love Cards
    goop, $55

    SHOP NOW

CARBON CYCLE

“With the monotony of the WFH life, I’ve learned how to turn the most mundane moments into an occasion.
Lately I’ve been doing beverages:
My beloved pour-over coffee is the morning ritual that I look forward to
from the moment my alarm goes off. A bubbly water with mint, cucumber, and a fancy lemon twist makes lunch
leftovers feel very extra. And winding down with a great album and a spritz (lately I am obsessed with bubbles
and Current Cassis) in
the evening makes me feel like I’m in a cool lounge despite the fact I’m in my pj’s by 6:45. The Aarke
makes it super easy—I can whip up fresh bottles of bubbly water in a jiff, and it’s a lot less wasteful than
stocking cans or bottles of seltzer as I used to. Having that fancy fizz at my fingertips makes
special-feeling moments easier to attain in this strange new reality.” —Caitlin O’Malley, food director

  1. Aarke Stainless Steel Sparkling Water Maker

    Aarke
    Stainless Steel
    Sparkling Water Maker

    goop, $219

    SHOP NOW



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Entertaiment

17 Viral TikTok Products You Need In Your Life


We love these products, and we hope you do too. E! has affiliate relationships, so we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchases. Items are sold by the retailer, not E!.

Contrary to popular belief, TikTok is more than just complicated dance trends and the Kardashians pulling hilarious pranks on each other. The social media platform is the ultimate influencer when it comes to unique Amazon finds and random items you never knew you needed in your life. Not to mention, users also have some great life hacks for 2020 like using a tool key chain to avoid germs and makeup brush sanitizing cases

From touchscreen toasters and blanket ponchos to miracle skincare products and trendy candles, let us do the honors of introducing you to 17 viral TikTok products that will make your life instantly better. No dancing required!

Keep scrolling to see the TikTok products we can’t live without.



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Health

The U.S. And Equitable Access To Menstruation Products : NPR


NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Jennifer Weiss-Wolf of Period Equity about where the U.S. stands on providing free menstruation products nationally and how the pandemic has affected access to them.



MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On Tuesday, Scotland became the first country to guarantee that feminine hygiene products will be made freely available to anybody who needs them. The news was celebrated by activists who have argued for years that these essential products are too expensive and too difficult for many women and girls to access. So that got us thinking about what things are like here in the U.S., especially since the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many people’s budgets and schedules into chaos.

So we called Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. She is the co-founder of Period Equity. That is an organization founded to ensure accessible, affordable and safe menstruation products in this country. She’s with us now. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, thank you so much for joining us today.

JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF: Thanks so much for having me.

MARTIN: So I just think that for many people who haven’t spent any time thinking about this, they might think about this as a personal issue. But you argue that it should be a matter of public policy, also. So for people who aren’t familiar with this discussion, just what exactly are you and advocates calling for? What is the problem that you think needs to be addressed?

WEISS-WOLF: We’ve kind of created this frame and phrase for it called menstrual equity. And, really, what that is all about is ensuring equitable access to menstrual products such that nobody is actually held back from participating in daily life, succeeding in all of the things that, you know, matter to all of us – whether it’s going to school, going to work – on account of menstruation and inability to afford menstrual products.

MARTIN: So what are some of the issues here in the United States that you think people need to think more about? I mean, first of all, let’s say taxes. Are sales taxes imposed on these feminine hygiene products? Can you buy feminine hygiene products with food stamps, for example, with SNAP benefits if you are of very low income? What are some of the things that are particular to the United States that you think people may not know?

WEISS-WOLF: So you asked about sales taxes. And that’s been a pretty live campaign here in the United States for many years, where, right now, there are – 30 of the 50 states actually don’t exempt menstrual products from sales tax. Twenty of them do, and 10 of those the result of a very coordinated campaign going back about five years now to demand that legislatures do better and exempt menstrual products from sales tax.

You asked about SNAP and WIC. Neither of those programs include menstrual products as part of their – you know, the things that you’re able to purchase with those benefits. So there are many, many ways that these products prove unaffordable and inaccessible for many people but that we could use and leverage public policy to change that. Again, fighting for the tampon tax, as it’s publicly called, is one of those ways. But there have been other legislative advances, too, that quite frankly mirror what happened in Scotland this past week, where six states have mandated provision of menstrual products in their schools, and 13 states have mandated provision of menstrual products for people who are incarcerated.

MARTIN: OK. But before we let you go, we will soon have a new administration. What are two suggestions for what you think this incoming administration could do to make people’s lives easier, who, as I said – you know? Half the population at some point in their lives needs these products.

WEISS-WOLF: OK. So some of the specifics, actually, that they can do are included in this live legislation called the Menstrual Equity For All Act. So among those provisions, there could be an earned income tax credit for low-income people who need to purchase menstrual products. There is a provision that would require states that accept federal funding for their criminal justice systems to provide menstrual products in state prisons in order to receive those federal funds. Those are some examples of how federal levers can be pulled to ensure that states and citizens on the ground have access to more affordable menstrual products.

MARTIN: But what about people who aren’t in prison? I mean, what about people who work these long hours, don’t necessarily have breaks or maybe they have the same break that a man would have but they don’t need to do the same thing on their break that a man would – you know? – that what women need to do to take care of themselves is different on a break. Is there something that the government could do to make that less challenging?

WEISS-WOLF: I think that just government and the federal government, in particular, talking about, embracing, acknowledging menstruation in and of itself will spur states and other jurisdictions to take action. I mean, and that’s kind of how this has worked here in the United States. It’s been a bit of a two-way street. There are some things that are better dealt with at the local and state level. There are some things that – there are federal levers that can be pulled that will nudge us towards change but actually really aren’t the cure-all because that’s, again, not necessarily how our systems work.

But there’s an echo chamber that we can call to ensure that everybody – and especially our lawmakers – are speaking about menstruation and the economics of menstruation and the health of menstruation and the idea that people who exist in the workplace, in schools, in our economy are people who menstruate and that we can’t be silent about it because we’re all – we all need to be called upon to be part of sort of the creative thought process about how to make the changes that will improve people’s lives, especially when it comes to menstruation.

MARTIN: That was Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. She’s co-founder of the group Period Equity, and she’s author of “Periods Gone Public: Taking A Stand For Menstrual Equity.” Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, thank you so much for joining us today.

WEISS-WOLF: Thank you so much for having me.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.



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Politics

U.S. Restricts Chinese Apparel and Tech Products, Citing Forced Labor


But that order was never announced. Officials from the Agriculture Department, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Trade Representative intervened to raise objections about the measure, saying it could threaten American cotton exports to China, or put the trade deal Mr. Trump signed with China in January at risk, people familiar with the matter said.

In their call on Monday, homeland security officials denied that any intervention prompted the delay, saying the legal review had been “driven by the unique nature” of the policy. “We want to make sure that once we proceed that it will stick,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

Under a withhold release order, importers are still allowed to bring their products into the United States if they are able to provide proof to customs that the goods were not made with forced labor, for example through an extensive audit of the manufacturing facilities, said John Foote, a partner at Baker & McKenzie who specializes in international trade and forced labor issues. If the importer is not able to produce that proof, the product must be sent back, or it is subject to seizure by U.S. customs.

In August, labor and human rights groups including the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Uyghur Human Rights Project filed a petition asking Customs and Border Protection to issue a withhold release order on all cotton goods from the Xinjiang region.

“The system of forced labor is so extensive that there is reason to believe that most cotton-based products linked to the Uyghur Region are a product wholly or in part of forced labor,” the petition read.

Customs has issued several withhold release orders in the past against individual companies with ties to Xinjiang, including clothing makers Hetian Taida Apparel Company and Hero Vast Group. Other entities and people in Xinjiang have been subject to sanctions, including the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and paramilitary group that plays an important role in Xinjiang’s development, and Changji Esquel Textile Co. Ltd., whose parent company, Esquel Group, said it has ties to Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Muji. Esquel Group denies that it uses forced labor in its supply chain and says it is appealing the listing.

In July, the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security issued an advisory jointly warning American companies to monitor their activities in China, particularly in Xinjiang, saying they could face “reputational, economic and legal risks associated with certain types of involvement with entities that engage in human rights abuses.”



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Health

F.D.A. Adds More Hand Sanitizers to List of Products to Avoid


The Food and Drug Administration has expanded its list of hand sanitizers that consumers should avoid to include products with inadequate levels of alcohol in addition to those containing methanol.

The agency issued an advisory last week announcing that its tests had found four hand sanitizers with “concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol” — active ingredients in hand sanitizers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that consumers use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent ethanol, if soap and water are not available.

The four hand sanitizers the F.D.A. found to have inadequate concentrations of ethanol are NeoNatural, Medicare Alcohol Antiseptic Topical Solution, Datsen Hand Sanitizer and Alcohol Antiseptic 62 Percent Hand Sanitizer.

Three of the four products, all of which are manufactured in Mexico, were added to an import alert to stop them from entering the United States.

The F.D.A. also flagged several more products that had inadequate amounts of benzalkonium chloride, a chemical with antimicrobial properties.

By Tuesday, the F.D.A.’s list of hand sanitizers that consumers should avoid had grown to 115.

In June, the agency warned consumers to avoid nine hand sanitizer products that were manufactured in Mexico because they contained methanol, a substance that can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested. Substantial methanol exposure can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, permanent blindness and seizures, among other harmful effects.

During the coronavirus pandemic, sales of hand sanitizers have soared as consumers tried to observe health officials’ recommendations to frequently and thoroughly wash or sanitize their hands to keep from contracting the virus.

According to Dr. Matthew G. Heinz, a hospital physician in Tucson, Ariz., 60 percent alcohol is the minimum concentration for a hand sanitizer to be effective. Lower concentrations mean diminished disinfectant properties, he said.

“Depending on the exact concentration, it may almost have the same effect as putting water on,” Dr. Heinz said on Tuesday. “If we’re talking something in the 15, 20, 25 percent range, you may not be able to really kill anything.”

Asked how much sanitizer a person should use, Dr. Heinz recommend an amount that would cover the hands entirely, not just the palms. But using hand sanitizer repeatedly throughout the day, he said, is no substitute for using warm water and soap for cleaning.

“After multiple uses, you can start diminishing the effectiveness of the hand sanitizer,” Dr. Heinz said. “You really do need to actually wash with soap and water for 20 seconds or more to kind of renew things. You really can’t just apply hand sanitizer 40 times throughout the day and think that you’re good.”



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Lifestyle

High Quality Cannabidiol Products Review


Are you feeling stressed out or anxious? Do you experience pain and inflammation? If you answered yes to either of the above questions then you should definitely know about CBD, one of nature’s most powerful healing remedies.

The Healing and Health-Boosting Magic of CBD

If you’ve never heard of it before, here’s a quick introduction to what CBD is and the research behind this amazing compound. CBD (which stands for cannabidiol) is a natural compound found in the cannabis and hemp plants (don’t worry it won’t get you high, but it makes most people feel good for other reasons), and there is a growing body of scientific research showing that cannabidiol can be beneficial for a variety of uses (from reducing social anxiety to helping reduce pain and inflammation) with more and more evidence cropping up every day.

According to medical cannabis expert, Leonard Leinow, “at least ten randomized, controlled trials on over one thousand patients have demonstrated the efficacy of cannabinoids for neuropathic pain of various origins.” In addition, pre-clinical research has shown CBD to have a range of effects including antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-anxiety properties. And a 2012 research review of several international studies concluded that CBD has been effective for reducing anxiety, particularly social anxiety. [1-2]

Many people report that taking CBD oil causes them to experience a pleasant and powerful reduction in anxiety and a noticeable lift in mood, which is often described as feeling a wave of calm or bliss washing over their bodies, which is consistent with CBD’s reported effects at 5-HT receptors that control the release of many important neurotransmitters (particularly serotonin) that affect stress, anxiety levels, and mood.

But before you run out and buy some, there’s a few important things to keep in mind when navigating the many different types of CBD products on the market. Here’s our guidelines for what to look for as well as a few of our favorite products.

Full-Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate

We recommend choosing a full-spectrum CBD product, like Just CBD’s organic full-spectrum CBD tincture. Full-spectrum means that the extract contains a range of other helpful cannabinoids and terpenes that naturally occur in the plant itself. These compounds (along with the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids found in the plant) work in a synergistic manner to enhance the effectiveness of the CBD.

Dosage

Another aspect to keep in mind when looking for CBD is the strength of the product. If you’re new to taking CBD, you’ll want to start with a smaller dosage and work your way up. We particularly like Just CBD’s full-spectrum tincture because it comes in a variety of doses ranging from 1.66mg to 50mg of CBD per milliliter. Most people will generally use between 10mg to 50mg of CBD per dose; however, smaller amounts can be used more frequently throughout the day and even for pets, as there’s a growing body of research that’s showing CBD may be useful for helping alleviate anxiety and pain in cats and dogs as well.

Organic and Natural 

As with most herbs and supplements, we always recommend seeking out organic and all-natural products whenever possible. Organic CBD ensures that there are no harmful chemical pesticides or GMOs used during growing.

In addition to their organic full-spectrum tincture, Just CBD (a leading brand in the CBD space) has a few other natural products that are super versatile and effective. Their CBD coconut oil is a lovely, balancing addition to a Bulletproof-style coffee and has a number of other uses such as a vegan substitute for butter or a body moisturizer and massage oil. If you experience any aches and pains that you use a topical cream for, you may want to try out their CBD infused pain cream, which has a ton of rave reviews from their customers.

As for myself, I’ve been using Just CBD’s full-spectrum organic CBD tincture for a few weeks now and have experienced some incredible benefits. These last couple of weeks for me have been filled with deadlines and near-constant travel, along with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, yet I’ve felt a lot less stressed and much more calm and focused than I normally do with this much going on.

To try Just CBD’s for yourself, visit their website justcbdstore.com

References

[1] Volkow, Nora D. “Cannabidiol: Barriers to Research and Potential Medical Benefits.” Drug Caucus Hearing on Barriers to Cannabidiol Research, United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. June 24, 2015 Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol

[2] A. R. Schier, N. P. Ribeiro, A. C. Silva, J. E. Hallak, J. A. Crippa, A. E. Nardi, and A. W. Zuardi, “Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa Constituent, As an Anxiolytic Drug,” Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatri 34, suppl. 1 (2012): S104–S110. PubMed PMID: 22729452.

Disclaimer

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. No claim is made or implied whatsoever as to the effects of any recommended products or their effects on health.



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Best of CES 2020: These were the most talked-about products


The consumer tech show in Las Vegas features thousands of companies — from big names like Google (GOOGL) and Samsung (SSNLF) to unknown startups — showing off their latest products. The gadgets range from the innovative to the downright odd. Some products will launch this year, others will never hit the market.

Here are the gadgets that grabbed our attention as we walked through endless rows of booths across multiple convention centers.

It wouldn’t be CES without robots. At this year’s event, Samsung (SSNLF) showed off a yellow tennis ball-like robot named Ballie — think BB-8, the lovable droid from “Star Wars” — that acts as your personal assistant, following you around the house and helping with chores. In the future, for example, Samsung says its built-in camera can detect spills and tell your smart vacuum to go clean them up. Or, if an elderly person falls, Ballie can roll over so they can ask it to call 911. Lovot, a companion robot, was also a hit at CES. It’s cute, gives hugs and, with the camera on top of its head, doubles as a home monitoring system.
But the real show stopper came from a classic household name: Charmin. The company’s robot, controlled by an app, attempts to solve an age-old problem by bringing you a new roll of toilet paper when you run out. But don’t get too excited: It’s only a concept and not coming to market.

Robokitties

And then there were the robo-cats. A startup called Elephant Robotics developed a robotic pet cat called MarsCat. The bionic feline can walk, stretch, play with toys, avoid obstacles and bite its nails. It can also recognize human faces and knows 20 commands and phrases, including “sit” and “come here.” It may be the only time a cat will listen to you.
Not to be outdone, Yukai Engineering unveiled a headless robot kitten intended for people who want to own a pet but can’t because of allergies or restrictions where they live.

A new “species” of virtual assistants

Samsung-backed Neon showed off one of the most cutting-edge but potentially controversial new technologies at CES this year: “artificial humans.” The service promises these incredibly life-like CGI creations will interact with users in more powerful ways than existing home assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant.

Neon CEO Pranav Mistry told CNN Business he’s not aiming to replace humans but rather add a “species” of complementary companions that can learn your likes and dislikes, such as if you prefer plain or pepperoni pizza, and ultimately become your friends. These Neon avatars will be interactive on smartphones or on larger screens, such as in stores. They’re expected to launch later this year, possibly with a subscription model.

Samsung's Neon shows their "artificial humans", AI composited animations displayed at human scale, on opening day of this year's CES.

The vertical TV no one asked for

Like robots, TVs are always a focus at CES and, this year, the big talker came from Samsung. The company unveiled a new model called Sero, which features a display that can rotate either horizontally or vertically. Samsung is betting on a unique concept specifically designed with smartphone users in mind.

Samsung debuted a new TV that can play vertical videos.

Flying taxis (and bikes) that may or may not ever get off the ground

Uber and Hyundai unveiled a flying taxi that may eventually transform your ridesharing trips. The first prototype will be ready in 2023, according to a Hyundai spokesperson.
If that wasn’t enough, there was the the Manta5 Hydrofoil Bike — one part bike, one part plane. The e-bike is designed to mimic cycling, but on water — and it has a fully waterproof battery and motor. The product has been in development for eight years.
This half-bike, half-plane has been under development for eight years.

Segway S-Pod

For those who prefer land-based transportation, there was the Segway S-Pod. It’s an odd-looking chair on wheels that some quickly likened to one used in the Pixar film Wall-E. The S-Pod is designed for enclosed spaces like airports and malls. It can go up to 24 miles per hour, and passengers are able to control the speed with a knob.

Initial reactions from people who got a test spin were that it was fun and a lot easier than trying to balance on the original two-wheeler Segway. It’s slated for release in the second half of the year.

Google, forget what I just said

While not a physical product, privacy was top of mind at CES this year, with several of the biggest tech companies releasing privacy-focused news this week. Google added two new voice commands for people to better control their privacy when using its voice assistant. For example, users can tell Google Assistant to forget what it just heard if it was activated accidentally by using the new command: “Hey Google, that wasn’t for you.”

Facebook also announced a new version of its “Privacy Checkup” tool it hopes will help guide users through important privacy settings. The company said the updated tool will help users control who can see what they share, how their information is used and how they can boost their account security.



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Fake and dangerous kids products are turning up for sale on Amazon


The car seat broke into pieces in a 30 mph crash test commissioned by CNN, failing to meet the basic standards set by US regulators. Video of the test shows the toddler dummy twisting as the car seat fractures and slides forward, with plastic pieces that have broken off it flying through the air. In an identical crash test scenario, an authentic Doona met federal requirements, with the car seat remaining in one piece and in place around the dummy.

CNN bought the copycat Doona and had it crash-tested at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute as part of a months-long investigation into the sale of counterfeit and patent-infringing children’s products on Amazon. Seven different business owners told CNN their products were being actively targeted by counterfeiters using Amazon’s marketplace for third-party vendors. The businesses said Amazon put the onus on them to report suspicious listings and that this often amounted to a game of “whack-a-mole,” in which new listings appeared almost as soon as flagged ones were taken down.  

Counterfeits are a problem for many ecommerce platforms, not just Amazon, but Amazon is the world’s largest ecommerce platform and its dominance is growing. According to an estimate from data firm eMarketer, Amazon controls 37.7% of US ecommerce sales and that share is expected to grow. Many of the brands that spoke to CNN told us they can’t afford not to sell their products on Amazon. As an Amazon spokesperson said to CNN in a statement, “our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products.”

Amiad Raviv, the commercial manager of Doona, said the company has found more than 40 Amazon listings this year that contained fake versions of its products or versions that infringed on its intellectual property. Doona flags the listings they are concerned about to Amazon, which then removes them. According to Raviv and the other business owners CNN spoke with, this piecemeal process means listings are often online for several days, leading to a significant window when consumers can buy the potentially dangerous product. 

The imitation Doonas are sold through Amazon’s website or app, but not by Amazon directly. According to Amazon’s 2018 annual report, 58% of Amazon’s sales came from its millions of third-party sellers, many of whom ship directly to consumers. Many legitimate brands, including Doona, sell products through authorized third parties. However, items purchased this way may never be checked by Amazon employees or pass through an Amazon warehouse. 

“A lot of people on the Amazon platform think that because it’s on Amazon, it is a genuine product. And that’s actually really not the case,” said Raviv.

The product CNN bought was listed by a seller called Strolex and shipped from China. All US car seats are required to be certified according to NHTSA standards, but this seat did not have any US certification labels. On the Amazon listing, it claimed to have European certification, but when it arrived it was missing a required European certification label and the European registration number in the instruction manual was a copy of Doona’s.

Baer examined the car seat before the crash test and pointed out several things she saw as red flags. The word “always” was misspelled “aiways” on the anti-rebound bar, the seat featured European warning labels instead of American ones and a safety label was sewn through the webbing of the child harness straps, which she believes could potentially weaken them.

The Strolex listing disappeared from Amazon shortly after CNN ordered the seat, but the seller Strolex remained on the site though with no active listings. When reached by phone in China, a representative of Strolex said in English “my products are safe,” but refused to give his name or answer any other questions.

The results of the crash test were sent by CNN to Amazon for review. A week later, Amazon sent an email to customers who bought the product, warning them of a safety issue and saying it “may not be a genuine product.” The email urged customers to stop using the product immediately and offered a full refund.

Amazon told CNN safety was a top priority, but also that sellers are responsible for meeting Amazon’s “high bar” for the quality of products.  “We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations and have developed industry-leading tools to prevent unsafe or non-compliant products from being listed in our stores,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

Not just car seats

Luanne Whiting-Lager and Bengt Lager first realized their “Love to Dream” baby swaddle was being copied last year when a customer called to complain that a zipper pull had broken off the swaddle, frightening the new mom and creating a potential choking hazard for her baby. The customer thought she had purchased a real version of the $34.99 swaddle through Amazon’s marketplace, but the couple’s company, Regal Lager, examined it and realized it was a counterfeit. The fake product used the Love to Dream trademark and also copied the brand’s patented swaddle shape, which allows the baby to bring their hands to their mouth while swaddled. Regal Lager provided CNN a photo of the fake swaddle and the original invoice.

Regal Lager is the exclusive distributor for the “Love to Dream” swaddle in the United States and participates in the Amazon Brand Registry, Amazon’s official program to help businesses protect their intellectual property.

The company found complaints online about the fake product’s zippers falling off and the product’s neck opening being too large or small, another potential safety problem since it can ride up over the baby’s mouth while it sleeps or be too restrictive around the neck.

The real "Love to Dream" swaddle

Eventually, the company hired an agency, Marketplace Ninjas, which helps brands operating on Amazon and the two convinced Amazon to take down 20 different listings for infringing upon versions of their product. The agency monitors Amazon and other e-commerce site all the time, watching as the counterfeiters employ new tactics to get past safeguards, like listing the product as Luv 2 Dream initially and then changing it to match their trademark Love to Dream. “One taken down, another pops up,” Whiting-Lager said. 

Regal Lager says the cheaper copycats have had a negative impact on their business. They estimated they’ve lost about $250,000 in the whole ordeal or about 3% of their Amazon sales, based on their sales volum

The couple like working with Amazon, but think the company needs to take full responsibility for the products on the platform and could take steps to restrict who can post products using Amazon’s specific identification numbers to control counterfeits. 

“The whack-a-mole game”

Amazon offers three programs designed to help companies protect their brand from counterfeits. While business owners CNN spoke to say Amazon’s initiatives have helped tackle the problem, they complain the responsibility — and cost — of policing fakes feels like it falls on them rather than on Amazon.

The company said more than 200,000 companies participate in the Amazon Brand Registry. This program started in 2017, is free and gives rights owners tools to help manage and protect their brands, including the ability to search their global listing by word or image and flag potential infringers. Amazon also automatically scans its site to proactively remove suspicious listings. According to Amazon, “brands in Brand Registry on average are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry.”

Aaron Muderick, the founder of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, said his receptionist spends 15 to 20 hours a week submitting forms asking Amazon and other ecommerce sites to remove products that use his company’s trademarks. He has registered the phrases “Thinking Putty,” “Liquid Glass,” and “Puttyworld” and even a cartoon image of him in glasses.   

Aaron Muderick, founder of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty.

He participates in the Amazon Brand Registry. He says the tool is useful and has improved over time, but he finds it disappointing given Amazon’s reputation for AI and software prowess.

“It doesn’t work as well as I would expect,” Muderick said.  “While the whack-a-mole game has gotten a little bit better, it still exists every single day.”

Charlotte Wenham, the Executive Officer of pNeo, also participated in Amazon’s brand registry when she discovered in 2018 that sophisticated counterfeiters were targeting her company’s Baby Shusher, a sound machine designed to help babies sleep. Based the seller complaints, Wenham believed there was a real risk of harm should the battery fluid leak from a counterfeit product onto a sleeping baby.  

Wenham said the counterfeit products used Baby Shusher’s branding and replicated the real product’s packaging and user manual. Iris Wilbur-Kamien thought she had bought a genuine Baby Shusher on Amazon until it fell apart just five months after she purchased it. Only when the real company asked her to send a photo of the product’s identification code did she realize it was a counterfeit, she told CNN. There wasn’t one.

Wenham said the impact on her business from the flood of counterfeits was significant, costing more than $100,000 by her estimate. She believes in cases where a genuine manufacturer is being besieged by counterfeits, Amazon should move a lot faster. Every day the counterfeits remained on the site, she said, was a day she lost sales. 

A counterfeit Baby Shusher product (left) next to the genuine article (right).

“Amazon does not provide any real support. It was entirely up to us to manage it,” Wenham said. The counterfeits are no longer appearing on Amazon in the United States, but she is still testing products bought on the site in other countries. 

Amazon also provides a service called Transparency, where brands can add unique codes to products. These codes can be scanned by Amazon and by customers to confirm authenticity, but brands have to buy the special labels from Amazon at a cost of from 1-5 cents per item. The brands also have pay to add the labels to each product. Amazon said over 6,000 brands have enrolled in Transparency. 

Regal Lager declined to participate in Transparency, primarily because of the costs involved. “It’s like the good guys are having to pay for the bad guys’ behavior and it just seems backwards,” Bengt Lager said.

Signs of a potential counterfeit

Recently, Amazon added a third brand protection service called Project Zero, which uses the ecommerce giant’s machine learning technology. Amazon describes the program as giving brands access to a “self-service counterfeit removal tool” that allows them to instantly remove counterfeits from the platform while also providing feedback into Amazon’s automated system to identify fakes. 

At his headquarters in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Aaron Muderick keeps a wall of shame showing copycat products. Children’s putty may not sound like a risky product, but European regulators have issued 19 separate safety alerts for putty and slime products in the last year, ordering sales bans or recalls because of high levels of boron, lead and barium and potentially dangerous magnets.

As Muderick has become more aggressive about flagging trademark violations, he sees the competing products reappear under new names and packaging. These generic product names do not violate his trademarks, but he continues to be concerned about their safety. He estimated the infringing and copycat products cost him 10-30% of his sales. 

CNN purchased a six-pack of generic magnetic putty on Amazon. Each tin of the product included putty and a small magnet that could be used to attract or repel it. Testing found the magnets included in the set did not meet federal standards for toys intended for children under 14. The product listing on Amazon was labelled as suitable for children ages 3 and up. Magnets that are both small and powerful are not permitted in children’s toys because of the risk a child could swallow a magnet and metal item, leading to an intestinal blockage or perforation. Researchers affiliated with Rutgers University tested the magnet for CNN and found it was substantially stronger than the federal limit for a magnet that is small enough to be swallowed.

Muderick said he’s frequently found generic putty products that he believes are unsafe, but it’s not clear to him how to alert Amazon to his concerns. While Amazon is responsive when he submits a form saying a listing violates his copyrights and trademarks, he said the process is much more opaque when it comes to reporting suspected safety issues.

Amazon said they are investigating counterfeits associated with the brands included in CNN’s reporting and will take “appropriate action against the sellers involved.” An Amazon spokesperson described the various issues these businesses reported to CNN as “isolated incidents that do not reflect the fantastic products and customer experience provided by millions of small businesses selling in our store.”

“I am sort of just mystified”

Amazon’s spokesperson told CNN they know customers expect an authentic product when shopping on Amazon, no matter who the seller is. But legally Amazon has not been held to that expectation. Numerous US courts have upheld the notion that liability doesn’t apply to ecommerce sites in the same way as a physical store. When it comes to third-party sales, ecommerce sites argue they are just a platform providing a virtual meeting place for buyers and sellers to interact. Amazon has also argued that it is protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that protects online sites from liability for speech by others on their platforms, because the company believes it covers the claims and the warnings made in product listings.  

Now, some courts are beginning to question whether it’s time to rethink past decisions on Amazon’s liability, given the company’s extensive control over its marketplace and the difficulties involved for consumers trying to sue third-party sellers. 

A Philadelphia appeals court recently ruled Amazon could be held liable in the case of a woman who was blinded in one eye when a defective dog collar she had purchased from Amazon broke and a retractable dog leash attached to it hit her. Neither she nor Amazon could locate the third-party company from which she had bought the collar. In their decision, the judges in the case concluded, among other things, that Amazon exerts “substantial control” over its vendors and was the only party available to the injured plaintiff for redress. 
Sadie the dog. When a defective collar purchased from Amazon that Sadie was wearing broke, a retractable leash attached to it snapped back and hit her owner, blinding her in one eye.

Amazon had argued that it was not the seller in this case, but a marketplace provider, and thus not subject to the liability claims. It also argues it was protected the claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act.

Given the significance of the decision, the entire Third Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to review the decision in 2020. The initial decision has no legal effect pending that review.  

Mark Geistfeld, a professor at the NYU School of Law who specializes in product liability, said he believes it’s just a matter of time until legal interpretations begin to change regarding Amazon’s liabilities. He said the key issue is consumer expectations. A shopper in a physical store or on Amazon understands something could be manufactured by a third party, but, with both purchases, they are expecting the product is not defective or counterfeit. 

“I am sort of just mystified by the failure of the court to see why Amazon is not the seller for the purposes of liability law,” he said.

Also at issue is the amount of control Amazon exerts over its site, in terms of how listings are presented to customers, the terms it makes sellers sign and the level of information available using artificial intelligence software. Trademark cases such as Tiffany v. eBay, which set out in 2010 that ecommerce platforms were not responsible for infringing sellers, now look out of date to some lawyers. 

“Something is shifting. It can’t be the same standard that was used 10 years ago,” said Kari Kammel, from the Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection at Michigan State University. 

Jason Drangel, a lawyer who represents several major toy manufacturers in counterfeiting lawsuits, agrees.  

“The platforms that exist now basically control the products, they understand that the products come from a specific country, a specific seller located in China,” he said. “It’s a different world and that’s part of the problem.”  

Politicians are also beginning to pile on the pressure over counterfeits and safety in the Amazon marketplace. 

In August, three Democratic senators wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, expressing their “grave concerns regarding Amazon’s failure to remove illegal, deadly and deceptive products, and to provide visible warnings on the products sold on your platform.” The letter was in response to a Wall Street Journal investigation into counterfeits on the site. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Robert Menendez and Edward Markey included a list of questions for Bezos about how he will ensure safety on the platform. Senator Menendez’s office told CNN the response from Amazon didn’t adequately address their concerns.
At a July House hearing on counterfeits, Republican Congressman Doug Collins questioned why representatives of Amazon, eBay (EBAY) and Walmart failed to attend. He urged platforms to find a more effective, automated process for detecting and blocking counterfeit listings, to create better ways to vet sellers and prevent counterfeiters from listing products again and again under different names, and to stop counterfeiters from using genuine photos of brands to market their products without their consent.

 ”These solutions are well within the grasp of our large online marketplaces and practices they should have already implemented on their own,” Rep. Collins said. 

Amazon did not provide CNN with a direct response to either the letter from the senators or Representative Collins’ comments, but did tell CNN that in 2018, its teams used a mixture of proprietary technology and manual reviewers to proactively block more than three billion suspect listings for various forms of abuse, including non-compliance, before they appeared in the store.

Muderick from Crazy Aaron’s thinks a legislative change may be the only way to end the game brands like his are playing against the fake listings of infringing and potentially dangerous products.

“I think unless someone is liable, nothing is going to get better,” he said. 

Kelly Burns, Jacqueline Davalos and Winston Lo contributed reporting.

Update: This story has been updated to clarify Amazon’s comments to legislators.



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The tech products that helped us survive 2019


Here’s what impressed our editors, reporters and producers the most — and in some ways, helped us survive 2019.

Do you have a friend like me? Someone who goes to Disney World twice a year? Someone who has an “Empire Strikes Back” poster hanging in their house? Are all of their waffles shaped like Mickey Mouse? If so, there’s no better gift in streaming this year than Disney+. The company’s new service features all the new and classic movies and characters the Magic Kingdom has to offer: Iron Man, Buzz Lightyear and, of course, Baby Yoda. Disney+ is $6.99 a month — or half the price of a Netflix subscription. — Frank Pallotta, Media Reporter
The first thing I learned after our baby was born is that sleep is mostly just a dream for parents. The second thing I learned is that there is absolutely no end to the list of stuff you need to buy for your sweet cooing financial sinkhole, including a camera to surveil your stupidly fragile nugget while they sleep. You could spend $300 on a Nest Cam or $400 on an Owlet Cam — or you could buy the Wyze Cam for $25. It was built by a group of former Amazon employees, covers most of the basics of what you need (Video feed? Check. Accessible on your phone? Check) and, best of all, leaves you with a couple hundred extra bucks to spend on diapers and baby food. Seth Fiegerman, Tech Editor

Google Nest Mini

I bought the Nest Mini speaker on sale for $29, and it was one of the best, smartest purchases I’ve made. Google jam-packs this thing with all kinds of kids’ entertainment: Frozen stories, Halloween jokes, Mickey Mouse choose-your-own-adventure, Stranger Things games, freeze dance, mad-libs. My kids are obsessed with it, and they’re interacting (and not using a screen)! And for me, I get access to the entire internet, asking Google random facts with my voice instead of pulling my phone out all the time. It’s a decent little speaker for music and podcasts, too. — Dave Goldman, Assistant Managing Editor

Blueland

I’m always looking for ways to reduce my single-use plastic consumption. I recently became hooked on Blueland, which makes cleaning products in reusable packaging. (It costs $40 for the starter kit with several glass bottles; you add water and a tablet to form the mixture. Replacement tablets are $2, so you save a ton in the long run.) Their hand soap is amazing, smells great and foams so well — it’s like a little cloud in your hand. Unlike some other eco-friendly cleaning products, Blueland works phenomenally well. I’m gifting the starter kit to all my loved ones. — Rachel Crane, Space and Innovation Reporter

Ember coffee mug

I sip my coffee slowly so it’s routinely lukewarm by the time I get halfway through it. For my birthday, my soon-to-be mother-in-law got me an Ember mug ($99), which keeps my coffee warm until I finish it without multiple trips to the microwave for reheating. I can also set the specific temperature I want. It makes my mornings so much easier. Millie Dent, Intern

Apple AirPods

I initially resisted buying AirPods because I thought they were just another overpriced Apple product (and at $159, they are). But because I travel often for work, I realized a lot of my time was spent untangling my old headphones in airplanes. Despite the small size of the wireless earbuds, I don’t often lose them and they did survive several rounds in the washing machine (and tumble dryer). That is, until I eventually needed to bring my right Pod to the Genius Bar for a $69 visit. — Donie O’Sullivan, Tech Reporter

AirPods Pro

If you’re going to splurge on AirPods, spend the additional $90 for the new Pro model (sorry, Donie). Apple recently redesigned the earbuds with noise-cancelling technology and it makes a major difference. The AirPods Pro impressively drowns out all the sirens and traffic during my busy commute (and offers a transparency mode for when you want to hear the background noise). I love the interchangeable silicone tips, too — so much better than the hard and plastic-y feel of traditional AirPods. Samantha Kelly, Tech Editor

Garmin Forerunner 235

I’m late to the smartwatch game because being more connected hasn’t necessarily been an aspiration for me, but the Garmin Forerunner 235 ($169) is a pleasant entry. It’s not overwhelming on features (apps are mostly limited to fitness tracking and you need to be connected to your phone for most things) but has just enough (message notifications, heart-rate and sleep monitoring) to give me a taste if I ever decide to go all in. I’m a biker, so it’s been especially convenient having a GPS device on my wrist that I can start with a push of a button and sync to an app like Strava. Matt Quinn, Senior Editor

Nintendo Switch Lite

1-underscored nintendo switch lite hands-on
The Nintendo Switch was this Black Friday’s best selling product for good reason: It can be handheld or plugged into a TV, has a bunch of exclusive games and works offline. But at $299, it’s expensive. The Nintendo Switch Lite is $100 less, lighter and a lot easier to grip than the original Switch. It can’t be docked onto a TV, but that doesn’t bother me: I can still game in bed all day or whip it out during a long commute to catch an extra couple of Pokemon. Shannon Liao, Associate Writer

Lumos Matrix

I recently bought a Lumos Matrix helmet ($229) with built-in lights to make riding my bike at night a lot safer and less stressful. It’s a constant pain point for bikers and scooter riders like me to make sure distracted drivers see you, especially when it’s dark. This definitely helps. — Matt McFarland, Writer

Peloton (and bluetooth headphones)

My wife and I had three kids in two years and I needed to get back into working out for my physical and mental health. The $2000 price tag for a Peloton bike was obviously steep, but it’s worth every penny. Even if you don’t buy the bike or treadmill, the $40 a month subscription gets you access to yoga and cardio classes, mediation sessions and audio runs. When I ride, I use $19 Letsfit bluetooth headphones, which look very similar to more expensive brands, but it sounds great, battery life is good and handles the sweat. Mike Tarson, Senior Producer

Chevy Bolt EV, LT model

While a $37,000 electric car may not be the kind of item that’s on most people’s holiday wish lists, it is the technology that most changed my life for the better this year. My family bought our first EV, a Chevy Bolt, this summer, and found it fun to drive, quick to juice up with the ChargePoint charging station we installed in the garage, and full of useful stats about how economically (or not, in my case) we’re using it. The best part? We haven’t stopped at a gas station since.Rachel Metz, Senior Writer

Bonus: Goodreads app

Although this isn’t a gift, the free Goodreads app is a gamechanger. At the beginning of 2019, I promised myself I’d read at least one new book every month. I set a goal of 12 books on Goodreads and used it to track my progress, keep a list of books I’m interested in and check out what friends and others on the app were recommending. I read 35 books this year! (That’s up from five books last year.) At a time when social media platforms are criticized for being toxic, Goodreads feels like one of the rare feel-good social networks. — Kaya Yurieff, Tech Reporter





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