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On climate change, oil and gas companies have a long way to go

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


The oil and gas industry has found itself under a harsh spotlight as concern over climate change increases across the world. Lately, oil and gas majors have responded to the scrutiny with a series of pledges, plans, and press releases on the subject of global warming. The big five oil giants — Exxon and Chevron (US), BP (UK), Total (France), and Shell (the Netherlands) — have all pledged, with varying degrees of ambition, to reduce their emissions.

The industry has clearly gotten the memo that climate policy is happening. And it wants to be at the table rather than on the menu.

But do these pledges pass muster? Are they in line with a 1.5° Celsius scenario, or even close? The general consensus seems to be no. The International Energy Agency said, upon this year’s release of its “Oil and Gas Industry in Energy Transitions” report, “there are few signs of the large-scale change in capital allocation needed to put the world on a more sustainable path.” In other words, show me the money.

There are other ways of assessing these plans outside of their total dollar amounts. Do they rely on carbon offsets or carbon capture plans of dubious value? Do they signal a change in lobbying, advertising, and political participation? Do they account for climate justice?

In an attempt to bring some rigor to these assessments, the nonprofit Oil Change International (OCI) has released a report that lays out a set of necessary-but-not-sufficient “minimum criteria” that oil company plans must meet “to have the possibility of being 1.5°C-aligned.”

How do the plans measure up? Well, they all fail — none are aligned with 1.5°. BP is doing the best, but none are particularly close to clearing the bar.

Before getting into the criteria OCI uses, and what they say about oil company pledges, let’s run through a little background.

The fossil fuel industry is struggling with low prices, oversupply, and political pressure

As I wrote in some detail earlier this year, the fossil fuel industry is a mess. It was facing difficult cross-pressures even before the Covid-19 lockdown hit it in the gut.

Fracking operations have been losing money for years. Overproduction and overinvestment have created a supply glut that was suppressing oil prices even before the virus struck. Renewables are skyrocketing and electric vehicles (EVs) are poised for enormous growth, both of which will cut into future oil demand.

Oil majors have been writing down assets, financial institutions are turning away from oil investments, and plastics are likely to substantially underperform the industry’s rosy projections. All the while, customers, corporate partners, investors, shareholders, and activists are putting ever-increasing pressure on oil and gas companies to begin planning seriously for climate change.

This was all going on when the coronavirus hit and cratered demand, which still hasn’t recovered and may never fully recover. Some analysts are speculating that 2019 will turn out to be the global peak in fossil fuel demand. “Could it be peak oil?” speculated BP CEO Bernard Looney. “Possibly. I would not write that off.”

Meanwhile, the decline continues. This is the context in which these commitments are being released — oil and gas companies are somewhat desperate, unusually weak, and badly need social capital.

To limit global temperatures to 1.5°, most oil and gas must stay in the ground

Previous OCI research has compared known fossil fuel reserves to the carbon budget permitted by a 1.5° scenario. The situation is stark.

Fossil fuel companies have what are called “proved reserves,” which are fields that can be reasonably expected to produce in current economic conditions, and “developed reserves,” which are fields that are currently producing, through existing mines or wells.

If fossil fuel companies develop all their proved reserves, the 2° carbon budget would be blown many times over. In fact, as the graph below shows, developed reserves alone would blow the 2° budget. In fact, if every coal mine in the world vanished overnight, the developed reserves of oil and gas would still push past the 1.5° budget.

A chart that shows CO2 emissions from developed reserves of fossil fuels exceeding the 2° carbon budget. OCI

Developed reserves are what analysts call “carbon lock-in” — the carbon hasn’t been emitted yet, but investments in infrastructure, equipment, and labor make it extremely difficult, politically and economically, to prevent it from happening.

Every bit of new fossil fuel exploration and development, every new mine or well, is an increment of carbon lock-in. And since there’s no carbon budget left over, the only way to truly get on a 1.5° path is to cease exploring or developing new reserves entirely.

That is the baseline: The growth of fossil fuels is incompatible with solving global warming. Acknowledging that basic fact is the beginning of any serious plan for oil and gas companies.

A chart showing oil and gas emissions with and without new development. Without new development, the level of emissions approaches the 1.5° pathway. OCI

With that in mind, let’s take a look at OCI’s assessment.

Oil companies are doing a fraction of what they need to do to get in line with 1.5°

OCI lays out 10 minimal conditions that must be met for a plan to be aligned with 1.5°, which it applies to eight of the biggest integrated oil and gas companies in the world: BP, Chevron, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, and Total.

The conditions fall under the headings Ambition (1-5), Integrity (5-8), and Transition Planning (9-10). We’ll walk through them and cite companies (if any) that are meeting them.

  1. Stop exploration: no more finding new fields. BP is the only company that has agreed to this, and only in new countries.
  2. Stop approving new extraction projects. No company has pledged this.
  3. Decline oil and gas production by 2030. BP has said it will reduce production 30 percent by 2030; Eni has said it will plateau in 2025, but only oil will decline. Other companies have said nothing.
  4. Set long-term phase-out plan aligned with 1.5°C. BP, Eni, and Repsol have plans OCI deems insufficient; the rest have none.
  5. Set absolute target covering all oil and gas extraction, including scope 3 emissions. Where scope 1 and 2 emissions are direct energy use by a company, scope 3 emissions encompass the entire supply chain through which the company’s products are produced and used — in this case, the carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels. Eni and Repsol are good on this. Equinor, Shell, and Total cover scope 3 emissions, but only through carbon intensity targets rather than absolute reductions. BP is good on the surface, except it contains some pretty big loopholes. Its pledge “excludes more than 40 percent of its oil production and 15 percent of the gas that come from its stake in the Russian energy giant, Rosneft,” Nicholas Kusnetz reports for Inside Climate News. “It also excludes all the oil and gas that BP’s refineries and service stations buy from other producers before selling it to customers.” Plus, BP recently announced that it’s selling a large chunk of oil and gas assets, which will get them off BP’s books, but will not shut them down.
  6. Do not rely on carbon sequestration or offsets. They all do, though.
  7. Be honest about fossil (“natural”) gas as high carbon. None of them are, though. Lots of them are still passing it off as a “low-carbon” shift.
  8. End lobbying and ads that obstruct climate solutions. Here, BP, Eni, Equinor, Repsol, Shell, and Total have all made vaguely positive noises that OCI deems insufficient.
  9. Commit to explicit end date for oil and gas extraction. None of them have.
  10. Commit plans and funding to support workers’ transition into new sectors. None of them have.

Here’s the visual — if you can’t read it, just note all the red, which means “grossly insufficient.”

A chart showing the major oil companies’ climate change plans. Most of their commitments are “grossly insufficient” in terms of meeting the criteria established by OCI. OCI

One thing worth noting: The only two companies with solid red all the way down are Exxon and Chevron, the US companies. They, like the country they call home, are laggards on climate.

While almost all the companies are planning increases in oil production, Exxon and Chevron are planning the most:

A chart showing major oil companies’ planned increases in oil production. Exxon ranks the highest. OCI

Exxon and BP are planning the biggest increases in gas production:

A chart showing oil companies’ planned increases in gas production. Exxon and BP rank the highest. OCI

In general, the European oil and gas majors are farther ahead on climate change, likely because the political context in which they operate takes climate change more seriously. But none of the majors are even beginning to make the enormous near-term shifts in investment that will be required to hit their long-term targets.

A pie chart showing oil and gas investments in 2019. Fossil fuels account for 99.20 percent. OCI

The oil majors have a long journey ahead

OCI’s criteria are quite strict and no oil and gas major is anywhere close to meeting them. There is an entire section of the report on the various loopholes the majors are using to diminish or minimize accountability, from ignoring scope 3 emissions (side-eye at Exxon) to making unreasonably big bets on unproven carbon capture technologies to measuring carbon intensity rather than absolute emissions.

And of course, the fossil fuel companies, despite their rhetoric, continue to put their lobbying power behind campaigns and trade groups that oppose climate action.

“In 2018, for example, BP played a central role in blocking the adoption of a carbon tax in Washington State, spending $13 million to help defeat the effort,” Kusnetz writes. “BP, Chevron and [the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group] all supported the Trump administration’s weakening of regulations limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The institute has also pressed lawmakers and governors to eliminate incentives for electric vehicles, policies that are among the few in the United States that encourage a shift away from oil.”

During the pandemic, the industry has lobbied furiously for special breaks and favors to boost production and prices. And it has largely received them, especially from Trump. A recent Morning Consult analysis found that the US “has committed more to fossil fuel companies through federal and state policies than any other Group of 20 member has directed to all energy types — fossil and renewable combined — since the start of the pandemic, both through relief packages and other, ostensibly unrelated, policy changes.”

BRITAIN-ENERGY-OIL-CLIMATE-BP-AGRICULTURE-BUSINESS-ENVIRONMENT
BP CEO Bernard Looney speaks during an event in London on February 12, 2020, where he declared the company’s intentions to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

By and large, fossil fuel companies are fighting for their narrow interests within the system they find themselves, which is pretty much what you’d expect them to do.

A few of the European majors are beginning to budge. Here’s Kusnetz again:

BP and Shell insist they are now aligning their lobbying with their net-zero goals. Shell, at least, has begun to back this up: The company opposed the Trump administration’s methane regulation roll-back and the loosening of fuel efficiency standards for cars. Shell and BP also have announced they will leave the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a trade group, because of its opposition to carbon taxes and its failure to support the Paris Agreement. In February, BP said it would end its “corporate reputation” advertising, and that any future campaigns would “push for progressive climate policy; communicate our net zero ambition; invite ideas; or build collaboration.”

That’s a good start, but there’s a long way to go and a lot of companies that aren’t yet on board.

OCI’s criteria, if met, would effectively amount to the rapid managed phase-out of enormous assets by the industry that controls the assets, a transition not every company, or even most of them, would survive. That is not something that typically happens. A moment’s consideration leads to the conclusion that headlines the final section of the report: “Oil and gas companies will not manage their own decline.”

In that sense, the report is something of a thought experiment, meant to reveal what ought to be obvious, as OCI says: “Governments must step in to manage the decline in fossil fuel production and secure a just transition.”

Ultimately this is a matter for public policy. The system in which oil and gas companies operate must be changed, to channel investment away from fossil fuels into alternatives and affected communities. That will happen, if at all, through organization, democratic pressure, and changes in legislation and regulation — not through voluntary pledges.


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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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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.
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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