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Teen activist Howey Ou fights for environmental change in China, her home and the world’s biggest polluter. The country, with its fast-growing population and superpower economy, holds the record for being the world’s worst carbon emitter, overtaking the United States to produce a whopping 11.7 billion metric tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This is more emissions than the U.S. and Europe combined.
For the 18-year-old activist, who goes by her Chinese name Ou Hongyi, this is a frightening scenario, one which she said worried and angered her but also served as an important wake-up call.
“It made me question how a country like mine, with a population of more than 1.4 billion, did not have a single young person who was willing or brave enough to stand up and speak out against horrible environmental destruction that’s taking place,” Ou told VICE News.
Her environmental awakening began when she was a little girl growing up in Guilin, a small southern Chinese city famed for its lush green mountains, freshwater rivers, and dramatic limestone peaks. Nature and a love for animals shaped Ou’s values and beliefs and would later inspire her to set off on a life-changing mission.
In May 2019, Ou staged her very first climate action strike in front of local government offices and was catapulted to global prominence. It lasted for seven days before officials found her and took her to a police station. This attracted the attention of fellow youth activist and Fridays For Future founder Greta Thunberg, who hailed Ou a hero and praised her efforts and dedication to the climate fight in China. But unlike Thunberg who has gone on to achieve global status and recognition, Ou is fast-discovering that her brand of green activism isn’t as welcome or well-received at home, in China, where public criticism and dissent are viewed as official acts of defiance — and harshly punished.
Speaking to VICE News, she talked about her dedication to the planet, the rewards and challenges of taking part in the environmental movement, the anxiety and loneliness she often feels because of it, and why she hasn’t looked back since.
VICE: Hello Howey! You made global headlines by staging a solo climate change protest outside government buildings in Guilin, China. Can you tell us what that day was like?
Howey Ou: It took many days of planning and soul-searching before I made the decision to stage a protest. I did a lot of online research beforehand about the climate change battle as I wanted to be fully prepared. I came up with catchy slogans and sentences — with the intention of grabbing attention and shocking passersby — and wrote them down on big boards which I took with me to City Hall on the afternoon of May 26, 2019.
Day one was uneventful. I was on my own and didn’t spend a very long time at my first location but I made it a point to take a picture, like how other young protesters around the world do, before I moved on to nearby streets. I then shared the picture on Twitter and received a modest response, which inspired me enough to keep going. Before I knew it, I was into my second and third day of protesting.
I eventually took my best friend along and we met a guard outside one of the local government buildings. At first I was a little worried that we would be stopped but he turned out to be very kind and gave us some advice. He told us that we would be better prepared if we had some proposals to hand out to officials. I left feeling hopeful.
I decided to press on and returned to City Hall. I would sit outside every day for three to four hours. I documented all my movements on Twitter and soon I received a notification telling me that Greta Thunberg had retweeted one of my posts. I noticed that my followers began to steadily increase. I began to gain traction not just on Twitter but also in real life.
I caught the attention of plainclothes police officers, who gave me two options: either return home or go with them to the station. I didn’t want to go home because I saw that as a defeat so I went along with them peacefully as I felt it was a good show of peaceful and unyielding resistance.
How do you approach climate activism? What are your tactics?
My Twitter bio reads: “You can develop vaccines for COVID-19 but there is no vaccine for climate emergency.”
Civil disobedience protests are the way to draw public attention to the climate crisis that is already unfolding. It’s also important to know how best to strike a balance, saying positive and empowering things as well as presenting the hard scientific facts. We need to remain hopeful and use our courage to empower others to want to do the same. We also need to be tactful in dealing with challenges because it can be a desperate situation. This is the only way to tackle the crisis and create public awareness. History shows us that.
I also constantly tell myself that I would need a lot of energy if I was going to do this alone — it’s a constant dilemma that I face. If we can’t mobilize enough people to wake up and make changes happen through collective action, then our civilization is doomed. There is no turning back and now is the chance for us to make a difference.
Tell us about your experience with the police in China.
I was taken to a central police station where I was led into a small room and told that it would be a formal interrogation. They had papers [on hand] and a computer to record my statement. The officers asked me to cooperate and tell them everything I knew. They asked a lot of questions, like how I came to know about climate change and why I felt the need to protest every day. They also asked about the people who stopped to talk to me in the streets. They told me that “there was no need to lie.”
They also seemed to know a lot about me and even had details about my friends — that was when I knew it wasn’t an innocent chat. I finally understood that these were officers from the national security bureau and realized that it wasn’t a casual arrest.
They lectured me and said that what I had done in front of the government buildings was illegal. Looking back, I think they probably felt threatened and wanted to stop people like me from spreading messages that speak ill of the government and the country. It was their way of controlling information and stamping out resistance. It’s all about authority. They weren’t concerned about science or the planet at all.
The entire session lasted for more than an hour. It was close to midnight when I was finally released. My parents were there to pick me up and were really worried. The police officers told them not to allow me to post anything on Twitter or speak to foreigners or journalists.
What happened after that?
It was a warning of things to come. We lost internet connection at home for three days and my mobile number was suspended. The interrogation continued, with police phoning my parents for several days at their workplace. The whole thing created a rift between my parents and me.
Your father previously expressed concerns about your activism, saying he was afraid it would end up hurting your future.
Yes. My parents don’t feel that protests are wise and would rather that I focus on school. Ever since that happened last May, my parents and I have had intense conflicts at home. At one point, they even took away my phone and electronic devices. It was really frustrating and exhausting. I ended up leaving home for a while and wandered around the country for a few months. I visited some research centers to continue my climate change work because I felt I could not do so in an embattled home environment. I’m currently living on my own, away from them, and I’m not sure about what will come next.
We also read reports that you were stopped from attending school. What’s the situation like now?
There was a lot of international media coverage about my plight and since then, my school has allowed me to return to finish my studies.
I can go to school now but I can tell that my teachers are still very hesitant about my activism and are probably feeling pressure from the local education ministry and the national security bureau about my public profile. Like my parents, they are in a difficult position. I need to consider my education seriously because if I choose to return to class, I cannot quit and I’m finding it all very frustrating.
Why do you say that climate change can be a lonely fight in China?
I’ve largely been operating alone to spread my messages about climate justice and don’t have the same support networks that young activists in other countries get from community movements.
I’m no stranger to being silenced but my activism is often questioned. Many NGOs in China are funded by the government, they tend to be more moderate and wouldn’t aggressively challenge the government so I’ve been alienated in the local environmentalism circles and have been excluded from events and conferences about climate change in China.
But I do know another Chinese climate activist named Zhao Jiaxin, and I’ve spoken with other Fridays For Future activists — but none in China. I also look to my peers as well as Chinese animal rights activists for support. They told me to ignore fears of imprisonment and gave me a lot of encouragement.
Twitter is a great platform and I’ve received invaluable support from other inspiring activists from places like New Zealand and Australia and closer to home in Asia like Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. It’s an amazing community, one that gives me hope and the confidence to carry on my fight.
Some foreign groups and world leaders have praised the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for trying to combat climate change. Why do you say it can still do better?
Billions of people will die because of the climate crisis and world leaders aren’t doing enough or taking it seriously. Our government in China silences scientists and even resorts to hiding facts from the public, many who believe that President Xi Jinping and the CCP are doing a good job.
It’s wrong when politics bleeds into climate action and it’s a bigger crime when activism is silenced. And when one prioritizes money over saving the planet, you’ll find that there will be people, especially in powerful high-level positions, who refuse to see the truth.
Take for example Chinese companies that are allowed to get away with slaughtering wildlife and destroying nature. Chinese fishing vessels are still entering protected international waters to slaughter sharks and other marine sea creatures. It shocks and infuriates me. It is a terrible ecological crime because their selfish actions only serve to accelerate the destruction of such fragile ecosystems. Worst of all, this isn’t a one-off incident, it happens a lot.
China’s actions have a great global impact on the world. Whether such atrocities take place in the country or not, Chinese companies need to be held accountable and punished. We need stricter laws to protect our environment and not allow such greed to take place at the expense of our planet.
But I think the bigger problem in China is widespread apathy among the public. Lots of people don’t realize that we are in the middle of a very big and dangerous climate emergency.
They believe that their government is doing a good job and there are many others who still don’t care about it or believe in science. The lack of inaction and stubborn disbelief makes me very worried and angry. It can feel like I am fighting a hopeless battle.
In your opinion, who are the ones suffering the most from climate change and environmental destruction?
The most vulnerable people in society are often the ones who suffer the most, namely poor farmers and fishers. I actually visited a few villages in the countryside and found it really sad and frustrating to see how their lives have been uprooted and destroyed by floods and other disasters.
Families told me how hopeless they feel, that they have no power to change the situation and don’t know how to prevent future disasters. They feel that their government has failed them and don’t know what they can do or where they can turn. And that’s where I come in — to demand change from the government through civil disobedience.
I am also concerned about the evident climate change in the Tibetan Plateau. It’s an important and strategic water source for billions of people and temperatures there are rising faster than anywhere else in Asia.
Lots of media outlets often compare you to Greta Thunberg. How do you feel about this?
I first heard about Greta on the Chinese internet when people were sharing posts about her after she skipped school to protest about climate change. It was a big talking point. Her actions resonated with me and made me want to get involved. She plays such an important role in the global fight against climate change. The world wouldn’t be having these important discussions today if it wasn’t for her voice and campaigning.
Seeing young people taking to the streets, united by science and a rallying cause, to demand impactful change from world leaders is truly inspiring. Greta played a big part in that. We both started out protesting on our own and I admire her courage a lot, so it’s an honor to be compared to her.
How did you get involved with Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future movement?
Growing up in China, I didn’t see protests in person and only managed to learn about them much later in life through the internet. That was where I read about Greta Thunberg and her movement — I wanted to be part of it.
I spent hours reading up and searching, and found the movement’s official website. I saw long lists of names from different countries but none from China and wondered how that could be.
How can a country like China — with one of the world’s largest populations that also holds the worst carbon emissions record — not have a single young person willing to stand up and fight against climate change and the government?
I couldn’t believe that. I was shocked and angry but at the same time, felt really determined to be part of the Fridays For Future movement. I needed to get in touch with like-minded young people in China and if there was really no one, then someone had to take the first step and responsibility to join the campaign. And that person was me.
Did I want to look back on this pivotal chapter in history in 30 years time and regret not standing up and doing the right thing? How there were millions of young environmentalists out there in the world, marching for a better and safer future, but no one to fight for environmental change in China?
That was what I told myself and it gave me a lot of courage.
I reached out to people in the U.S. and Europe using a local study app and asked if they could connect me with activists from Greta’s movement. In 2019, I received an official invitation to join the Fridays For Future movement. I was hesitant at first because I knew that it would take up a lot of energy if I was going to do this alone and there would be great challenges. But my hope outweighed the doubts I had and I joined and haven’t looked back since.
How has your activism influenced your everyday life?
I gave up meat two years ago and have been vegan for quite some time. I once dreamt that I had to kill a fish and the thought horrified me — I couldn’t go through with it. I love animals too much and strongly oppose cruelty to them, so I do not agree with industrial farm practices that exploit, torture, and slaughter them for profit. That was why I decided to give up consuming eggs and milk too. Overall, I find that a meatless diet is not only better for my health but for the environment too.
It was a choice I struggled with for many years. Growing up in China, you are often raised on meat so my parents didn’t approve of my decision to give it up. But eventually, they came around and understood where I was coming from. Now they don’t eat meat. Some of my friends also became vegetarians too and I’m very proud of that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
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