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Senate Democrats want to build a climate coalition that can take on the Kochs

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A protest banner with the words “Climate Justice Now” placed in front of the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square in Massachusetts. A protest banner with the words “Climate Justice Now” placed in front of the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square, during a game at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 10, 2020. | Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

“As a caucus, we feel united and ready to roll,” says Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

In March 2019, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer established the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis to examine the effects of climate change on the country and develop a strategy to address it. Over the past year, the committee has held 10 hearings and a dozen closed-door meetings, solicited input from several specific stakeholder groups, and reviewed thousands of public comments. On Tuesday, it released its big report: “The Case for Climate Action: Building a Clean Economy for the American People.”

This has been a year filled to the brim with climate plans, going back to the beginning of the Democratic presidential primary. Every candidate had one (Biden is on his second), several public interest groups and coalitions released their own, the Biden-Sanders unity committee had one, and the Democratic House special committee had one. Even the most committed climate wonks can be forgiven if they don’t relish the thought of diving into another one, especially one that clears 250 pages.

But the new Senate report is noteworthy for two reasons.

 Alex Wong/Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a news conference on March 27, 2019, as he unveils a new Special Committee on Climate Change.

First, it fits quite snugly into the broad left-of-center policy alignment I’ve been describing as standards, investments, and justice (SIJ). The Senate is typically seen as one of the stodgier and more conservative Democratic institutions — it’s where the 2009 climate bill went to die — so its alignment with climate activists is no small thing.

Second, where the House committee report was technocratic, heavy on the nuts and bolts of policy, the Senate committee report is a much more political document. It is focused on the political barriers to action, getting allies on the same page, and overcoming well-funded opponents. It specifically addresses unions, environmental justice communities, and farmers, and recommends reforms to the financial system and dark money in politics.

To discuss the report, and the state of climate politics in the Senate, I called committee chair Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. We talked about the extent of unity in the caucus, Democratic plans for next year, and his frustrations with the degraded state of the Senate — “I’m aware of no other significant legislative body on Earth that has so much power and does so little,” he said.

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

David Roberts

Can you tell me a little bit about the process that produced this report?

Sen. Brian Schatz

The idea was to think through the structural challenges of climate action and to do the coalition-building necessary to actually win this thing. So we wanted it to be as deep and broad and diverse as possible. We didn’t fixate on getting the words exactly right, either from a messaging standpoint or even a bill-drafting standpoint, because neither of those are the reason we failed in the past. The reason we failed in the past is we were unable to build a broad and powerful enough coalition to overcome the Koch brothers and their friends.

So we did the work of listening. We started with labor. We went to the environmental justice community, to American Indian tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. We talked to farmers, to both small and large businesses, and to financial services and insurance communities. We had hearings, but we also had avenues for public comment, and got thousands of individual comments from the public.

We want to enable everybody to prosper in the process of solving the problem. I think too much of the climate movement has been about preventing bad stuff from happening, as opposed to allowing people to imagine all the opportunities they will personally experience if we take climate action.

It’s the work of politics — getting to a coalition that can win. I don’t want to overstate the case, because we still have to win the Senate and the White House, but as a caucus, we feel united and ready to roll.

Oversight of the Securities and Exchange CommissionBill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI).

David Roberts

I’ve been writing about that the left-of-center coalition in the US has aligned around a set of climate policy priorities. Biden’s plan fits in that mold, the Democratic House Special Committee report fits, your report fits. But then I wake up yesterday to find out that the Democratic National Committee has struck language opposing fossil fuel subsidies from its party platform. That’s climate policy 101. Is the consensus shallower than I thought?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I am more interested in what’s in Joe Biden’s climate plan and the Senate Democrats’ climate climate plan, and Kamala Harris’s climate plan, than I am in what’s contained in the party platform.

I mean, I was the Democratic Party chairman in Hawaii. I would have loved it if policymakers actually implemented our platform. But the truth is that it is not the most important policy document as relates to climate action among Democrats. It probably doesn’t crack the top three or four.

We clearly have a united Democratic Party. I can’t tell you what happened in the platform committee, or the platform subcommittee on energy, but they will not carry the day.

David Roberts

Conventional wisdom among Democrats has been that voters are concerned about climate change, but it’s not a top-tier, make-or-break issue for them. Where do you think voters are on this right now?

Sen. Brian Schatz

As a political issue, climate has gone from a mixed bag that divides the Democratic caucus to a winner.

It very clearly motivates young people, who are predisposed to vote for Democrats but are also more likely than other groups not to show up if they’re not sufficiently motivated.

And it continues to be a powerful issue for swing and independent voters. In the context of the pandemic, part of what we’re finding is that people have a newfound and rather specific desire that their political leaders listen to scientific expertise.

We had been trying to make the case that if you’re a reasonable, middle-of-the-road person, you can’t vote for someone who supports climate denial. But that’s an abstract way of describing it. Now we see that ignoring science is causing mass preventable death. We don’t have to explain why ignoring science is dangerous anymore. Everyone is living it.

Seattle Hospital Treating Covid Patients Is Cleaned During Shift ChangeDavid Ryder/Getty Images
A health care worker is overcome with emotion after visiting with a patient during a cleaning shift at Harborview Medical Center on August 20, 2020, in Seattle, Washington.

David Roberts

While it has generally fallen out of favor among climate wonks and activists, carbon pricing is still beloved by several of your colleagues. I know Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), for instance, is a big fan of a carbon tax. In your report, carbon pricing plays a peripheral role — you mention it as an option. Did you get pushback on that?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I’m a big fan, too. I still believe in a carbon price. But I think there are lots of ways to get this done. You could have a national renewable portfolio standard [RPS]. You could theoretically do it through statutory regulations under the Clean Air Act. You could do it by treaty.

I’m not particularly attached to the technique. What I like about a carbon tax is, it is big enough to solve the problem. What I’m wary about with other solutions is that test: Is it at scale and aggressive enough. I don’t think several hundred billion dollars going to the investment tax credits or the production tax credits for wind and solar are going to get us all the way home.

But Hawaii has arguably made more progress than any other state in moving toward clean energy, and we did it with an RPS. I’m absolutely open to whatever can get done that is equal to the task.

Even folks like me, who have been attached to a particular solution set, have to be nimble and have an open mind — likewise, those who are advocating for “keep it in the ground” or a Green New Deal or $7 trillion for clean energy infrastructure. Everybody has to be open. The main thing is to get to 51 [votes] with something that’s big enough to make the difference necessary, and not get attached to pride of authorship.

 Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Environmental activists, including one wearing a polar bear costume, protest against the Obama administration’s plans to allow new fossil fuel drilling on public lands and oceans, during a demonstration held by the “Keep It in the Ground” coalition in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2015.

David Roberts

Your report pegs the needed level of investment in clean energy at 2 percent of GDP [roughly $430 billion annually]. One of the ongoing fights on the left has to do with paying for stuff — how to pay for things, whether to pay for things, whether to address the issue at all. I’m curious where you come down on that question.

Sen. Brian Schatz

I personally don’t play the pay-for game anymore, because Republicans just never pay for the stuff that they prioritize. It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even ask them in any serious way how they’re going to pay for it, because everybody knows they’re not.

When it comes to climate action, the question is not whether we can afford to pay for it; it’s how much it will cost us if we don’t take action. I do not think it is credible any longer to imagine, after a $2 trillion tax cut and several trillion dollars spent in necessary Covid relief money, that we couldn’t come up with the money to solve a planetary crisis.

There’s a whole separate conversation, which I’m starting to be engaged in as a member of the Banking Committee, about Modern Monetary Theory.

David Roberts

I wanted to ask about that!

Sen. Brian Schatz

Here’s what I would say: I am intrigued by that particular conversation. I haven’t decided where I’ve landed on it, because I’m still learning about it.

But even in the worst case, even if the inflation hawks and worrywarts are right, you would have a situation where we solved a planetary crisis … and the trade-off was inflation. I’m prepared to deal with that potential negative externality. I’m not even sure it would materialize, but if it did, I think that’s a very fair trade.

David Roberts

Do you have any sociological or political explanation for why Democratic leadership in the House seems so attached to PAYGO [the self-imposed rule requiring any House bill to “pay for itself” in 10 years with tax hikes or money from other programs]? Why are they the last ones dying on this hill?

Sen. Brian Schatz

It’s a habit. It comes from serving many years in the Congress, and debt and deficit being a bludgeon that was used against Democrats in front-line districts. So Democrats in front-line districts have been told by operatives and other members to be deficit scolds, because that’s how you position yourself as a moderate.

David Roberts

There’s much more to say about that, but let’s move on.

Sen. Brian Schatz

Please. I’m gonna get myself in trouble.

House Leader Nancy Pelosi Holds Bill Enrollment For The Great American Outdoors ActTasos Katopodis/Getty Images
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

David Roberts

Opposition from unions, especially old-line trade unions, has impeded climate policy in the past. I know you deal with unions a lot — they’re a big force in Democratic politics. Where are they on climate policy right now?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I would leave it to them to describe where they are, but I can tell you that the conversations we’ve had have been extraordinarily productive. They started out rather blunt. There was a fair amount of folks describing how they’ve been treated over the years on this issue. But once they understood that we consider them central to this coalition, and we talked about the kind of policies we were envisioning, it became an extremely constructive conversation.

I think there’s an understanding now that we’re listening, that we’re not just going to do a bunch of hand-waving about job training opportunities. That sounds like you’re blaming the person whose job disappeared, making it a matter of them lacking skills to compete in the 21st century. That’s not really what’s happening. The folks in labor who work in energy are highly skilled individuals.

We have to be serious about investing. And we have to understand that even if our policies increase economic activity and prosperity in the bigger picture, those impacts are going to be extremely uneven. We need to think about the communities that are being harmed by the energy transition, and not think of this as a GDP question, but rather a community question. It’s got to be practical conversations about people.

David Roberts

Do you think it would help if more clean energy companies unionized?

Sen. Brian Schatz

Yes. It’s absolutely the case that we should be supporting unionization and union jobs and not just settle for vague promises or rhetorical flourishes, like the “jobs of the future” or whatever. We have to understand that if we’re really talking about taking care of workers, we don’t have to reinvent the public policy wheel. We already have it. It’s called collective bargaining.

House Democrats Discuss Protecting the Right To Organize ActSamuel Corum/Getty Images
Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, speaks during a press conference advocating for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act in the House of Representatives on February 5, 2020, in Washington, DC.

David Roberts

It seems that Democrats are becoming more aware of the danger the filibuster poses to their agenda. If Mitch McConnell can block anything, he will block anything. How likely is it that Democrats will be able to muster the votes to get rid of it?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I’m going to be a little overly precise here. My position on the filibuster, and any procedural reforms, is that the conversation needs to wait until after the election. I just have personal anxiety talking about all the great things we’re going to do, all the changes we’re going to make, and getting into those internal discussions about procedure before we’ve even taken the gavel out of Mitch McConnell’s hands. So I am cautious to weigh in on this.

I will say, more generally, that the most radical thing the United States Senate could do if it were run by Democrats next year is to allow all of the damage that Trump and McConnell have done to stay in place, and for us to work with a traditional Senate mindset, where we do one big bill per year. It would take 75 years to undo the damage.

By virtue of not taking action, or moving at a snail’s pace, we would be enshrining the destruction, allowing all of the damage Trump did to institutions and society in general to be made permanent.

David Roberts

Do you think the US Senate as currently constituted is capable of something like a blitz?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I don’t know the answer to that. But I think we’re in a time of tremendous change, and we need to recognize that the old Senate has died under Mitch McConnell. What we need to think through, as a Senate and as a society, is not how we can go back to the 1970s. Imagining that Teddy Kennedy and Orrin Hatch are going to pour a scotch and cut a deal is fantasy. Given polarization and the way politics operates nowadays, that Senate is gone, and the current Senate is broken.

So the question for us is, how do we make this place work again? I’m aware of no other significant legislative body on Earth that has so much power and does so little.

U.S.-WASHINGTON, D.C.-MITCH MCCONNELL-COVID-19-RELIEF NEGOTIATIONSXinhua/via Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (center).

David Roberts

Assuming the filibuster is gone and you only need 51 votes, that’s still almost total unanimity, which means the right-most senators in the caucus will effectively have veto power over what passes. Where is the right-most edge of the Senate Democratic caucus on climate change these days?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I don’t think it’s time to do that work yet. I’m sequencing this thing with some intentionality, and I just don’t want to put the cart before the horse.

We’ve done very well to work with every member of the Democratic caucus on this report, and work with their staffs and their offices, so that everyone, to greater or lesser degrees, is comfortable with the work we’ve done. But we still have to continue to build a foundation and then win, and then do the legislative politics that comes next. Trying to do that now, or speculating on it now, would blow up in my face.

David Roberts

Fair enough; then you probably don’t want to answer this question either. But if the filibuster stays in place, the other great hope of all progressives is a budget reconciliation bill [which only requires a bare majority]. Are you thinking about what a climate package that has to squeeze through the reconciliation process might look like?

Sen. Brian Schatz

You’re asking all the good questions, and I’m trying not to be obtuse in answering them. I will just say, we’re evaluating every single legislative pathway, and reconciliation is among them. It depends what your policy preferences are. It’s easier to do a carbon fee that way, a little more difficult to do infrastructure investment. But yeah, every legislative pathway is being considered, because this is an emergency.

David Roberts

The other big question is about priorities. If Democrats win, they are going to be entering office amidst multiple, uh …

Sen. Brian Schatz

Cascading cataclysms.

David Roberts

Yes. The conventional wisdom is that a new majority and a new president have a very narrow window of political opportunity in which to act, so they can only do a couple of things. Where is climate change in the priority stack?

Sen. Brian Schatz

I am prepared to reject the premise that we ought to do one or two things, after Donald Trump has destroyed dozens of aspects of our society. The political risk is that we do too little, that we come in and do some sort of tax incentive for advanced manufacturing and bump up the minimum minimum wage by a buck, hoping not to offend anybody.

We certainly have to be disciplined, and do our politics right, and sequence things right, and communicate well with the public. But if we win, I will consider instructions from the voters to substantially undo what has been done, and try to make progress on the issues of the day. There’s just no way we can do health care one year and immigration the next, and climate the following. There’s just too much to be done to save the republic.

Senate Policy luncheonsTom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) (left) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) talk on their phones in the Capitol’s Senate Reception Room on October 29, 2019.

David Roberts

Most in the climate community have come around to the idea that Republicans just aren’t going to help and so you have to do what you can with the left. But if there’s one Democratic Party institution that forever holds out hope for bipartisanship, it’s the Senate. Do you think there’s any realistic prospect of Republican cooperation on climate change?

Sen. Brian Schatz

You always have to be of two strategic minds here. First, if we have the majority and the votes, that puts us in a position to write the bill that is necessary to solve this crisis. And because we will have the votes, there may be an opportunity to attract more Republicans, and turn this into a bipartisan enterprise. But nothing is possible if we’re short on the votes. So we have to get our own house in order.

Secondly, I continue to be engaged in constructive conversations with Republicans. But they’re just that — conversations. They’re not introducing legislation. They’re not even co-signing letters to agencies on climate. So they’re constructive and polite, and there are a number of members who are privately puzzling through when they can make a break for it, and I will continue to cultivate that possibility and hope for it to materialize, but that is not the foundation of my strategy.

David Roberts

People are always lamenting the power of the fossil fuel industry. Is there a force lobbying for clean energy policy that is anywhere near that coordinated and powerful?

Sen. Brian Schatz

The whole purpose of our effort is to get there. The goal is, in a couple of years’ time, to build the infrastructure necessary to actually win this thing, and not just make a living losing.


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World

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.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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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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