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Noam Chomsky’s Green New Deal

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


Several books on the Green New Deal have been released in the past year or two, but none boasts a more illustrious set of authors than Climate Crisis and the Green New Deal, out Tuesday from Robert Pollin and Noam Chomsky.

Pollin teaches economics and co-directs the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has been writing about climate economics and green growth for years, as well as consulting with various nonprofits and governments (he advised Obama’s Energy Department for a few years) on policy and poverty reduction.

Chomsky, of course, has been a notable intellectual presence on the left since the mid-20th century. He’s an analytic philosopher, one of the founders of cognitive science, and a giant in the field of linguistics, alongside his notable contributions as a historian, essayist, and social critic. The author of more than 100 books, he is known as one of the most cited authors alive.

The book is structured around a series of questions, prompts, and discussion points from political scientist C.J. Polychroniou (credited as a co-author), and despite its compact length, it is a sweeping inquiry into the nature of climate change, its relationship to capitalism, what a global Green New Deal might look like, and the effects it may have on politics.

I reached Pollin and Chomsky by Skype to chat about some of the book’s themes, including capitalism, green investment, and the prospects for social solidarity in the face of rising chaos.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

David Roberts

Naomi Klein’s climate book This Changes Everything famously argued that consumer capitalism and climate change are effectively one and the same, that the one is the inevitable consequence of the other. Is that something unique to capitalism, or is it just human nature to be shortsighted?

Noam Chomsky

We should recognize that if global warming is an automatic consequence of capitalism, we might as well say goodbye to each other. I would like to overcome capitalism, but it’s not in the relevant time scale. Global warming basically has to be taken care of within the framework of existing institutions, modifying them as necessary. That’s the problem we face.

When we turn to human nature, the first thing to remember is that we know essentially nothing about it. It’s what I work on all the time. There’s a few small areas where there’s some understanding of cognitive human nature and very little about the rest. It’s all surmise.

If it is true that human nature is incapable of dealing with problems developing over a longer term, if that’s a fact about the way humans are structured and organized, we can, again, say goodbye to one another. So let’s assume it’s not the case.

Then we work within a set of parameters. The fundamental institutions are not going to change in time. Human nature allows the possibility of thinking about what’s going to happen in a couple of decades, even centuries. Assume all that.

Then we turn to solutions. And there are solutions within that set of assumptions. So let’s proceed and work on them. If those assumptions happen to be wrong, tough for the human species. It’s what we have.

Noam Chomsky in profile
Noam Chomsky.
Leo Canabarro

David Roberts

What historical analogues demonstrate the ability of capitalism’s institutions to reform themselves with the sort of speed and scale we’re talking about to limit climate change? I know we always go back to World War II, but there are obvious disanalogies — for one thing, there’s no enemy with a face. What prompts your optimism that the logic and momentum of capitalism are subject to change this big and fast?

Noam Chomsky

The analogue to World War II says that we easily have the resources to deal with this within existing institutions. Then comes the question of, is there an analogue in human history to facing a problem of destruction of the species within several generations? Answer: no. We’re in a new situation.

Actually, we’ve been in a new situation for 75 years. As soon as the nuclear age began, it was evident that humans had reached the intelligence and capacity to effectively destroy human life on Earth. That’s what we’ve been living with for 75 years. What wasn’t known at the time, but is now understood, is that it was also the beginning of what the World Geological Organization calls the Anthropocene, a period in which human activity is having very significant and deleterious effects on the environment.

So for 75 years, we’ve been living with a unique situation in human history. We have the means to destroy organized human life on Earth. That’s never been true before.

We also have the means to overcome that. World War II showed that with existing institutions, it was possible to amass resources on a scale well beyond what is required today. Bob’s work shows that very effectively. So let’s use what’s available. And let’s make the assumption that human beings are capable of looking beyond tomorrow.

David Roberts

A naive view of history might say that as the fruits of science become clear, there’s a sort of inevitability to greater democratic organization and complexity. But the last decade has seen a white revanchist backlash across the developed world, lots of places reverting to crude nationalism and authoritarianism. It certainly seems to throw a wrench in the notion that we’re on a one-way road to greater enlightenment.

Noam Chomsky

What history teaches us is that we have no idea. There are all kinds of lessons. Just take Germany. In the 1920s, Germany was the peak of Western civilization, in the sciences and the arts. And if you look at political science literature in the 1920s, the Weimar Republic was regarded as the peak of democratic achievement. Ten years later, it was the worst place in human history. And years after that, getting back to where it was.

Those are the lessons of history, namely, we don’t know.

Now, if you want to ask what’s happening now, I think we’ve been hit by an assault, the neoliberal assault, which has been devastating. Its basic design leads to high concentrations of wealth and power in unaccountable hands and massive growth of basically predatory institutions, most of them financial. That’s led to feelings across much of the world of anger, resentment, and distrust in institutions, which has some justification. And it’s fertile territory for demagogues; we’ve seen them arise.

But it’s also an opportunity to counter, and we’re seeing that too, everywhere from the streets of America to mutual aid groups in Brazil. Humans are capable of lots of things.

David Roberts

On the left these days, there’s a push for more public ownership in energy. But across the world, it seems like energy markets are already some of the least capitalist. What’s the right level of public involvement in the sector?

Robert Pollin

Globally, 90 percent of fossil fuel assets are publicly owned. So if we say the problem of climate change is private ownership of fossil fuel assets, and we need to transition to public ownership, well, we’re 90 percent of the way there! So that clearly is not a solution.

The cost of generating a unit of energy from solar power, wind power, and geothermal power is now fully competitive, at parity. Trump’s own Energy Department statistics show that, for a kilowatt of electricity, solar is 6.3 cents. Onshore wind is 6.0 cents, geothermal 4.7 cents. Now, coal with carbon capture is 13 cents. Nuclear is 9.3 cents. This is from the Trump administration.

The issue is, how do we mobilize investments adequately to transition into these already affordable energy-generating processes, and energy efficiency? As Noam mentioned, yes, we have a massive challenge, but it is not on the scale of World War II, at least not yet. My own estimate on a global model, we are looking at something like 2.5 to 3 percent of GDP per year, investing in renewable energy, transitioning to electricity, energy efficiency, and reforestation.

As Noam said, we don’t have time to totally overturn capitalism. We have to get to net zero emissions in no less than 30 years, and capitalism is still going to be around then. So we have to think about ways through which we can incentivize this transition that will also be egalitarian, in the sense that it will open up opportunities for small-scale enterprises. It’s going to generate jobs, and we have to make sure those are good jobs, union jobs. There will be jobs lost in the fossil fuel sector, so we have to create a just transition. But that’s all within the institutions of capitalism.

Robert Pollin.
PERI

David Roberts

One longstanding political debate is over how to pay for things, or whether to pay for them. A lot of progressives these days are pushing the idea that the only limit on federal spending is inflation. Where do you come down on that question?

Robert Pollin

You’re talking about modern money theory — I don’t know if Noam has any interest in this question. [laughs]

My own financing model does make use of printing money, just not 100 percent, all the time. I had a piece in the American Prospect last December called “How to pay for zero emissions economy,” and I combined revenue sources. I have a carbon tax; 75 percent of the carbon tax is rebated back to the lower half of the income distribution, so it’s egalitarian. We take money out of the military budget. And then the rest, yeah, I say the Fed can print the money — just like right now they’re printing $4 trillion, minimum, at the drop of a hat. And I’m talking about maybe $50 billion. It’s a minuscule amount.

When this article was published, one of the main proponents of MMT, Randall Wray, somebody I’ve known for a long time, attacked my articles. “How dare you talk about paying, even $1!”

I said, I have 50 percent of the public money coming out of this pool called debt monetization, but there’s limits to that. If we’re going to pay for the green New Deal 100 percent by printing money, and on top of that Medicare-for-all, and on top of that everything else that gets us to full employment, we’re talking about a very dangerous policy tool. When do we know, exactly, we’re going to get to high inflation? And once we get there, all of a sudden, are we supposed to flip a switch and go from zero tax revenue to $4 trillion?

The proposal Noam and I have in the book relies significantly on the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank printing money — just not 100 percent.

David Roberts

Environmental justice has moved to the center of the climate discussion. What’s your degree of hope that, in the face of fear and anxiety and panic, we’re going to transition compassionately, in an egalitarian way?

Noam Chomsky

I don’t see any contradiction. I’m old enough to remember when the Black maids all disappeared from the middle-class households and got good jobs in factories for military production. That had an egalitarian effect. It wasn’t the purpose of it, but it had that consequence. Now we can make it the purpose of things like, say, developing efficient mass transportation, instead of jamming up highways with cars. That contributes to justice and makes people’s lives better, especially poor people.

The effect of pollution is radically oriented toward harming the poor and deprived. When the Trump administration removes pollution controls from factories, who does that hurt? It’s people living near the polluting factories because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. If we end that, we’re helping them. So there’s just a lot of [egalitarian] things that happen almost automatically as the result of the Green New Deal policy, and it can be modified to make it more so.

One of the major issues of climate justice is dealing with the global South — the people who didn’t really contribute to the problem but are now suffering more from it than anyone else. That’s been discussed since the Paris negotiations, but the Republican Party has refused to provide even minimal aid that would be necessary in poor countries.

In India, the temperatures are going extremely high. Well, you need air conditioners. There are cheap, highly polluting air conditioners and there are slightly more expensive, efficient, non-polluting ones. The amount of money that would be required from the rich countries to provide Indian people with decent air conditioners would be almost undetectable. A tiny sum would make enormous difference in people’s lives. There are things like that all over the place.

Nationwide Lockdown To Curb Covid 19 Pandemic
Transporting air conditioners in India.
Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

David Roberts

What do you think about the degrowth movement, the idea that the only way to stabilize the climate in the long term is to cut back on consumption?

Robert Pollin

I’ve been in debates with these people — I have a lot of respect for them and fundamentally share their values. I’m sure I myself could live much more modestly than I do.

But affluent people in rich countries living a high lifestyle do not represent the standard of living for 95 percent of the world’s population. So when we say we have to live more simply, I don’t think it’s fair to apply that to everybody on planet Earth. In addition to that, people are going to keep consuming energy, and we should be in favor of delivering more energy, affordably, so that people can get around and have electricity and have a better standard of living.

The fact of the matter is, degrowth is not a solution, just in terms of simple mathematics. Right now the globe generates about 33 billion tons of CO2 emissions. Let’s say we cut global GDP by 10 percent, which would be a bigger depression than the 1930s. What happens? We cut emissions by 10 percent, from 33 billion tons to 30 billion tons. It’s no solution at all.

David Roberts

It’s not difficult to imagine the right responding to the undeniable reality of climate change with increased nationalism and hostility to immigration. How confident are you that climate change won’t spark a global wave of “green fascism”?

Noam Chomsky

I think the number of people who would think like that is so small that they really don’t matter. If they want to build themselves a gated community up in the Rockies, it’s not going to change much. It’s not gonna hurt the situation. It’s the general population that has to be reached.

Take a look at polls. Turns out that among Republicans, about 20 percent think that climate change is an urgent problem. That’s where the problem is, not with a group of reactionaries who think, I’ll save myself somehow, I’ll take a spaceship and live on Mars. The problem is the great mass of the population who are being deluded by constant propaganda. That’s a problem that can be solved by education, by organization, by reasonable forms of activism. That’s the way big changes have taken place in the world.

Just take our own country. We’re a very different country from what we were, say, 50 or 60 years ago. You go back to the 1960s, the United States had anti-miscegenation laws that were so extreme the Nazis refused to adopt them. We had federal laws in place that required that federal housing be effectively denied to African Americans. Women were not legally considered equal peers until 1975. Things that were considered normal at that time would be considered so outlandish now, you can barely even talk about them.

It didn’t happen by a miracle. And it didn’t mean convincing a couple of white supremacist reactionaries. It meant changing the nature of consciousness in the country. The Black Lives Matter protests created the biggest social movement in history, quickly, because the background had already been established. The same kind of background made it imaginable for the New York Times to publish the 1619 series. …

Awareness and consciousness can change, pretty fast, and that can happen on this too. It better happen, or we’re all in for it.


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

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(CNN) —  

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

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

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

Coffee

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

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

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

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

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

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

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

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

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

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

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

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

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

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

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

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

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

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

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

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

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

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

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

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

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

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

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

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

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

Beauty

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

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

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

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

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

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

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

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

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

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

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

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

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

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

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

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

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

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

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

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

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

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

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

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

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

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

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

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

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

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

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

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

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

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

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

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

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

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

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

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

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

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

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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