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How affluent people can set a climate example by reducing overconsumption



This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

If 2020 teaches us anything, it’s that the next crisis we could have prevented is probably right around the corner, and it will be painful. A pandemic that scientists warned was very likely to occur arrived and has already killed well over 200,000 people in the US. Dozens of predicted, large wildfires exacerbated by climate change are torching the American West, their smoke more damaging to health than almost any fire season on record.

Because of the implacable physics of how carbon accumulates in the atmosphere over time and causes global warming to compound, we’re now further into the climate emergency and closer to the collapse of various ecosystems around the world than we were at the beginning of the year. Nine tipping points, including the dieback of the Amazon rainforest and the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, may be activated, which could trigger further cascading collapses.

But it’s not too late to intervene and limit the chaos.

A recent paper in Nature Communications clarifies whose actions in this moment are “central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions.” Yes, government and industry leaders are on the hook to decarbonize operations and infrastructure. But it’s also the affluent who use far more resources than the poor — more energy and more material goods per capita than the planet can sustain.

“Highly affluent consumers drive biophysical resource use (a) directly through high consumption, (b) as members of powerful factions of the capitalist class and (c) through driving consumption norms across the population,” the authors write.

Somehow, in all the campaigns to inspire climate action, the onus on well-off people to take the lead on sustainable consumption has been lost. Let’s face it: Rich people are influencers (though you don’t have to be rich to be an influencer). And those same rich or merely affluent are blowing through the world’s carbon budget — the maximum amount of cumulative emissions that can be added to the atmosphere to hit the Paris agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming goal.

According to a report out Monday from Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the richest 10 percent of the world’s population — those who earned $38,000 per year or more as of 2015 — were responsible for 52 percent of cumulative carbon emissions and ate up 31 percent of the world’s carbon budget from 1990 to 2015.

Meanwhile, the richest 1 percent of people — who made $109,000 or more per year in 2015 — alone were responsible for 15 percent of cumulative emissions, and used 9 percent of the carbon budget.

But an even more stunning finding from the report is that the rapidly accelerating growth in total emissions worldwide isn’t mainly about an improvement in quality of life for the poorer half of the world’s population. Instead, the report finds, “nearly half the growth has merely allowed the already wealthy top 10 percent to augment their consumption and enlarge their carbon footprints.”

In sum, as the report’s lead author Tim Gore, head of climate policy at Oxfam, said in a statement, “The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fueling the climate crisis yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price.”

Too few rich people are directly called on, or call on each other, to protect their kids, grandkids, and the most vulnerable from climate chaos by forgoing trivial flights across the country or retrofitting their homes to be more energy-efficient.

But the Covid-19 pandemic may turn out to be the best opportunity — especially for the affluent among us — to voluntarily shift consumption habits.

Here’s why: When we cut back on energy-intensive travel and shopping in the spring, it was easier to see the mindlessness, and even lack of satisfaction, in these patterns. For some people, “the Covid-19 crisis has shown that maybe we can do things differently, that a simpler life can be more fulfilling and provide more happiness,” says Tommy Wiedmann, a professor of sustainability research at UNSW Sydney and a co-author of the Nature Communications paper.

Permanently reducing air travel, driving, home energy use, food waste, and shopping need not lead to any reduction in quality of life. In fact, it may even go a long way toward improving it (for ourselves and others). As Vox’s Sigal Samuel reported in June, the top change readers she surveyed said they wanted to maintain after quarantine was “reducing consumerism.” “A long period of being shut in and not spending as much has led to the realization that so much of our consumer behavior is about instant gratification, not lasting happiness,” she writes.

We can also use lessons from our new Covid-constrained life for further economic reforms tailored to the climate emergency reality we find ourselves in. In particular, degrowth is a promising framework for meeting basic needs and improving well-being while staying within the carbon budget and planetary boundaries.

While individual contributions to climate change may be dwarfed by the contributions of fossil fuel companies and heavy industry, individual changes can also spread by “behavioral contagion,” social tipping points, and positive feedback loops of change.

Here we’ll lay out some of the key opportunities for fellow fortunates who have the economic freedom to choose how and what they consume. Individual, grassroots changes are essential to a bigger systemic change; personal growth and flourishing can happen through resource degrowth.

Optional consumption in the form of long-distance travel is imposing unoptional burdens on future humans for centuries.
Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

Yes, individual choices matter, especially if you’re affluent

From a global perspective, middle-class Americans are in the top 10 percent income-wise. “A $59,000 income in the United States has enough buying power to put you in the 91st percentile globally for per-person income,” according to the Washington Post. And beyond that, our fellow fortunates all have “optional consumption” that we engage in, often unreflectively.

Given that leverage, every energy reduction we can make is a gift to future humans, and all life on Earth. And we should be on guard for excuses to avoid changing individual consumption behaviors; they’re often based on logical, arithmetic, and moral errors.

For instance, affluent people sometimes argue that their consumption choices don’t matter because they’re just one person on a planet of more than 7 billion. But consider the physics of tipping points using an analogy from a 2019 piece we wrote, “12 excuses for climate inaction and how to refute,” which helps explain why our decisions today are so much more critical than they were a decade ago — or even this time last year.

A useful image here is a pile of sand on one side of a weighing scale; at or near the tipping point, it’s easy to see that every tiny grain of sand contributes to when that side of the scale ultimately falls. Your seemingly tiny contribution — the optional flight, the round-the-clock air conditioning, the thrice-weekly portion of beef — can, arithmetically, add up to make a critical difference. And “the bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty,” Greta Thunberg said in her widely cited 2019 speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Where the weighing scale image fails is that there isn’t just one tipping point or one single outcome, but rather a spectrum. The fewer greenhouse gases we emit, the nearer to the safer end of the spectrum we can stay, and the less climate chaos we will create.

We usually have options where we can choose to have more or less climate impact. Every time we choose more and not less, we’re imposing compounding burdens on others and on our descendants. Our choices will determine whether the future is “merely grim, rather than apocalyptic,” as New York’s David Wallace-Wells writes in his book The Uninhabitable Earth.

Restrained consumption is also a way to prevent the deepening of racial and economic injustice and inequality — low-income people and people of color are among the first to lose the most in climate disasters. Working toward justice means being a resource-responsible consumer.

“I think it is important for people to say that they will not do certain types of consumption anymore,” Julia Steinberger, a professor of ecological economics at the University of Leeds and a co-author of the Nature Communications paper, tells Vox. “It’s about making this way of life more visibly unacceptable. The rich could show their status and prestige with other things than lots of cars and huge houses and lots of material wealth.”

With all this in mind, here are five potential resource-responsible actions to commit to, in no particular order:

  1. Drive and fly less, since the top 10 percent uses around 45 percent of land transport energy and 75 percent of air transport energy, per a 2020 paper by Steinberger in Nature Energy.
  2. Retrofit your house and purchase clean energy, since roughly 20 percent of US energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from heating, cooling, and powering households.
  3. Buy food mindfully (less meat and dairy, don’t waste what you buy), since meat and dairy account for around 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization.
  4. Shop less, since the fashion industry generates at least 5 percent of global emissions.
  5. Ditch status-signaling SUVs, since SUVs were the second-largest source of the global rise in emissions over the past decade, eclipsing all shipping, aviation, heavy industry, and even trucks.

The pleasures of much of our consumption are fast forgotten, but the costs are slow and will be felt by generations for centuries to come

Despite what consumption enthusiasts and their enablers (marketers, economists, etc.) preach, the benefits and pleasures of much of our consumption are fleeting. Many of us have an inkling of this from our own experience, but we’re trapped on the treadmill of unthinking hedonic habits.

That enduring lack of true satisfaction is confirmed by much ancient wisdom: Enlightenment, or Nirvana, is the “ the absence of greed, absence of dislike, and absence of egoism,” as the Buddhist writer and scholar Stephen Batchelor notes in an interview with On Being’s Krista Tippett. And one of the most robust findings in social science, according to economist Robert Frank at Cornell, is the research on how emotional well-being doesn’t improve above an annual (individual) income of $75,000.

Some of our least effective consumption occurs in the form of self-soothing habits. When we’re feeling bad, or anxious, or bored, we often seek relief in impulsive shopping, a.k.a. retail therapy.

What longer-lasting reliefs beat fleeting fun? You may have experienced part of the answer in these Covid-constrained conditions. For many, an activity as simple as a walk has been their day’s treat.

That’s especially true if you find beauty or curiosity on your walk, where you notice things interesting enough to achieve what Iris Murdoch called “unselfing” — taking you out of your self-centered anxieties, even if only temporarily. (Here’s some background on this idea from Maria Popova.)

These spirit-supporting pleasures typically take more effort than reaching for “junk” treats (like a quick online purchase). But, in addition to being more satisfying, they often lack negative knock-on effects, like putting more carbon into the atmosphere. This carbon cost isn’t just about you — it is our collective legacy to our children and all future humans.

Hopefully, Covid-19 can teach us to pay attention to planetary boundaries and other collective threats we’ve long ignored. On climate, we should wake up to the intergenerational zero-sum game we are playing, where the carbon-generating and resource-depleting consumption we indulge in now compromises the safety of future humans.

Every physical resource is limited, or is renewable within certain limits. And this logic means there is no “green growth” solution here unless we reduce consumption: the approach known as “degrowth.”

Degrowth, explained

Even before Covid-19, a fundamental restructuring of the economy was very clearly needed to right the gaping inequities, the shockingly lopsided accumulation — nay, hoarding — of wealth. The factors that led to that are only being exacerbated by Covid-19. But as we recover from the pandemic, richer countries and citizens have a tremendous opportunity to remold under another paradigm.

Degrowth, as the economic anthropologist Jason Hickel puts it, is about rich countries “actively scaling down resource use and energy use.”

On a recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast, he clarified: “When people hear ‘degrowth,’ they think that sounds like a recession. But here’s the thing … a recession is what happens when a growth-oriented economy stops growing. It’s a disaster. People lose their jobs. They lose their houses. Poverty rates rise, etc. ‘Degrowth’ is calling for a shift to a fundamentally different kind of economy altogether.”

As Wiedmann, Steinberger, and their co-authors describe it, degrowth is a “downscaled steady-state economic system that is socially just and in balance with ecological limits.”

Taking advantage of this opportunity also requires going beyond a focus on carbon emissions. Clean energy, for example, won’t deliver a sustainable economy by itself. It’s about our resource use more broadly. (Even preexisting sweeping proposals like the Green New Deal often don’t address material limits.)

As Hickel wrote in June in Foreign Policy:

Ecologists say that the planet can handle maximum annual resource use of about 50 billion metric tons per year. We crossed that planetary boundary in the late 1990s, and today we’re overshooting it by more than 90 percent. This is what’s driving ecological breakdown: Every additional ton of material extraction has an impact on the planet’s ecosystems.

The outer limit works out to be about 6 metric tons per human per year. The current US average is 35 metric tons, with those toward the top of the income scale consuming vastly more. This means there is no avoiding the urgent need for deep cuts in energy and material use in rich nations, especially among those countries’ richest citizens.

Since we may not be able to remove much of the carbon that has already been emitted, or return the materials that have already been extracted, it’s best now to adopt a forward-looking redemption stance. What matters most is reducing impacts from here on out, rather than prosecuting past “sins,” often committed unwittingly, or by rich-mimicking rather than explicit choice. And that means choosing not to mindlessly add more grains of sand to the scale.

There are green shoots visible of the vast changes needed. China committed Tuesday to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 and peak its emissions by 2030. Night trains are coming back in Europe partially in response to people demanding low-carbon alternatives to flying. A group of European central bankers wrote in the Guardian in June that “the pandemic offers a unique chance to green the global economy” and is mobilizing businesses, investors, banks, and governments “to ensure climate risks are effectively managed in the financial system.”

You, too, can bank on bettering your personal economy by creating a new normal of mindful consumption and making it visible to others in the affluent class, as Steinberger advises. You’ll be a better, and probably happier, person. And other humans, including your kids, will thank you.

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



(CNN) —  

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

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

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


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

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

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

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

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

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

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

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

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

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

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

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

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

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

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

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

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

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

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

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.


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

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

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

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

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

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

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

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

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

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

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

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


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

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

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

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

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

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

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

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

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

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

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

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.


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

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

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

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

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

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

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

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

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

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

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

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.


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

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

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

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

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

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

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

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.


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

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

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

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

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

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

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

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.


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



Open Sourced logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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


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