The New York Times - Your Wednesday Briefing: The U.S. votes

Plus Europe makes climate pledges and Kenya discloses details of a Chinese railroad contract.
Author Headshot

By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

Good morning. We’re offering a preview of the U.S. midterms. Plus, European countries made climate pledges to poorer countries.

A polling station in California.Adam Perez for The New York Times

Election Day in the U.S.

After one of the most consequential, unpredictable and expensive midterm campaigns, Americans finally began voting in person yesterday. The polls haven’t closed yet, and I’ll bring you the latest updates on the most consequential results tomorrow. (Follow our live coverage.)

The stakes in this election are high. The outcome will determine the balance of power in Congress, state legislatures and governorships. It could also shape the future of representative democracy: Many Americans are choosing whether or not to vote for Republican candidates who deny the 2020 election results.

Democrats, energized by Donald Trump’s possible return, have counted on an abortion-rights fight to rouse the party’s liberal base. But Republicans are expected to make significant gains by tapping into frustration with persistent inflation and President Biden’s low approval ratings.

There are signs, too, that the U.S. could be headed once again for a battle over the mechanics of voting. In Florida, the secretary of state has blocked federal monitors from entering polling places, which could erode protections for minority and disabled voters. And in Arizona, the Republican candidate for governor, Kari Lake, has spread inaccurate claims about a hiccup with voting machines.

Global view: Many of the democracies that once looked to the U.S. as a model are worried that it has lost its way.

What’s next: Expect delays in results. Some pivotal races, like those in Pennsylvania and Georgia, could take days (or even weeks) to be decided. Here is a rundown of when to expect results this year.

The needle: It’s back. Here’s how it works.

Developing countries have placed loss and damage on the formal agenda for the first time.Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

European countries makes climate pledges

Wealthy nations have long resisted calls from developing countries to shoulder the costs of climate change. At last year’s U.N. climate summit, only one, Scotland, made any sort of pledge.

Yesterday, Scotland pledged $5.7 million.Then, Ireland pledged $10 million, followed by Austria, which said it would pay around $50 million to vulnerable developing countries. Belgium, Denmark and Germany made similar pledges. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, endorsed the idea.

All eyes are now on the U.S., which has not agreed to new funds for poorer nations affected by climate change. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, sent up a not-too-veiled flare yesterday to Washington. “Pressure must be put on rich non-European countries,” he continued, “‘You have to pay your fair share.’”

The U.S. plan: The Biden administration wants corporations to fund renewable projects in developing countries — and then count the resulting emissions cuts toward their own goals. Payments from companies would then go to countries struggling to adopt renewable energy. The E.U. and U.N. are skeptical.

Keeping tabs: The top four emitters — China, the U.S., the European Union and India — aren’t meeting their climate goals.

Construction on the railway began five years ago and has cost $4.7 billion.Brian Otieno for The New York Times

Kenya discloses secret contract with China

Kenya shared details of a loan agreement it signed with China in 2014 to build a railway, which has since become associated with debt, dysfunction and criminal inquiries. (The railway starts in the coastal region but ends abruptly in the middle of nowhere.)

In a major step toward transparency and political accountability, President William Ruto published documents on Sunday that revealed how the railway’s financier, Exim Bank of China, had the upper hand in the negotiations. The loan’s terms were also costlier than expected, an economist said.

But the disclosure could come at a price, straining Kenya’s relations with China, its top trading partner. Kenya owes more bilateral debt to China than to any other nation.

Context: The $4.7 billion project was over budget by millions of dollars and became the center of multiple criminal investigations. Kenyan judges eventually declared it illegal.

Analysis: Experts said the revelations were unprecedented, as Chinese loan contracts are often shrouded in secrecy.

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THE LATEST NEWS

The War in Ukraine
  • Russia denied a report that it had lost hundreds of troops in a single battle in eastern Ukraine. The rare statement sought to stem rising public discontent over the war.
  • Ukraine said it would be open to peace talks, but with strict conditions: Russia has to return property and compensate Ukraine for damage.
  • India again urged Russia to end the war, but said it would keep buying Russian oil.
  • Ukrainians are leaving areas occupied by Russia as life there becomes unbearable.
Asia Pacific
Sébastien Thibault
  • China’s “zero Covid-19” policy and U.S. objections to a Chinese semiconductor company are hurting Apple’s ability to make new iPhones there.
  • Members of China’s business class are growing increasingly worried under the near-absolute rule of Xi Jinping, our columnist writes.
  • The man who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, appealed his life sentence, the BBC reports.
Other Big Stories
A Morning Read
Kevin Van Aelst

Some of the most powerful people in fashion got together in 2020 to discuss reducing their industry’s environmental toll.

They published a proposal in an open letter and started an initiative called Rewiring Fashion. Little has come of their ambitious ideas, but the E.U. took notice. In May, antitrust regulators raided some fashion houses, saying they may have violated price-fixing rules and potentially created a cartel.

Now, the notoriously cutthroat industry is facing a new issue: How to collaborate, but not collude, on sustainability?

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BOOK REVIEW

Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

Murakami’s musings

Haruki Murakami has written a memoir, “Novelist as a Vocation.”

It’s a candid, assured book, our critic writes, with choice details about his career. For example, the Japanese writer won a prize for his first novel after submitting his only copy of the manuscript to the judges. He also decided to be a novelist after an epiphany at a baseball game in Tokyo in 1978.

Murakami’s greatness is incontestable: Of his 14 novels published in English, at least three are masterpieces, our critic writes. But his reflections in his memoir can come across as irritating, cranky and light on any real advice.

“To tell the truth, I have never found writing painful,” Murakami writes. “What’s the point of writing, anyway, if you’re not enjoying it? I can’t get my head around the idea of ‘the suffering writer.’”

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
Sang An for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not, these nine new pies make excellent desserts.

What to Listen to

Check out our list of the week’s 10 notable new songs, including tracks by Selena Gomez and Sipho.

Relationships

Can text fights actually help a marriage?

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and here’s a clue: Participate in a democracy (four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The Times began planning for the midterms months ago. David Halbfinger, our Politics editor, shared what went into overseeing the sprawling operation. Initially, he sketched out ideas for coverage on sticky notes along his basement wall.

The Daily” is on the future of American democracy.

You can reach Amelia and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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