The New York Times - Your Thursday Briefing: No “red wave”

Plus Russia says it is retreating from Kherson City and investors try to parse China’s “zero Covid.”
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By Amelia Nierenberg

Writer, Briefings

Good morning. We have the U.S. midterm election results and the details about Russia’s stated retreat from the city of Kherson.

Voters lined up in Georgia on Election Day.Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

No sign of a “red wave” in the U.S.

In the critical midterm elections, Democrats defied the historical odds as well as an anticipated “red wave” that could have given the Republican Party a substantial majority in the House and a narrower one in the Senate.

With several key races still too close to call, Republicans have an advantage in the House, which could doom President Biden’s legislative agenda and mean more grinding partisan conflict. But the margins are slim, and Democrats could still hold the Senate. Here are updates and five takeaways.

Donald Trump’s position as kingmaker is on shaky ground: Many candidates whom the former president supported underperformed, and his looming presence may have undercut Republicans in some tight races. Right-wing media praised Ron DeSantis, who won re-election as Florida’s governor and is emerging as a 2024 favorite.

Control of the Senate will take weeks to decide, although Republicans now have an easier path to the majority than the Democrats do. In Georgia, the race between Senator Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, and Herschel Walker, the Republican, will go to a runoff next month.

Abortion: The issue seemed to carry more weight than analysts had expected, proving decisive for Democrats in battleground states.

Biden: He appears to have had the best midterm performance of any president in 20 years, which could give his 2024 prospects more heft.

Kherson was the only land that Russia controlled west of the Dnipro River, which bisects Ukraine.Andrey Borodulin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Is Russia retreating from Kherson?

Russia’s defense minister ordered the retreat of its forces from the key city of Kherson in Ukraine yesterday.

The move comes after a monthslong Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. A retreat from Kherson would be a humiliating blow for Moscow and a major victory for Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, stayed silent.

But even as Ukrainian soldiers entered some frontline villages that had been under Russian control, Ukraine’s military was not convinced that the Russians intended to fully withdraw. Top officials have warned that Russia may feign a retreat to try to lure Ukrainian forces into urban combat.

“We have signs they are pulling out,” a colonel told The Times. “They blew up bridges that would have allowed our forces to advance. We see them leaving population centers, but in some they leave soldiers behind to cover their movements.”

Context: Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russia and the only regional capital to be under Moscow’s control. Last month, Putin announced the annexation of the Kherson region.

Brittney Griner: The American basketball star is being moved to a penal colony.

Analysis: Some analysts saw the withdrawal order as a reminder of Putin’s willingness to make tactical concessions.

In China, anger, frustration and discontent are slipping through internet censors.Hugo Hu/Getty Images

When will “zero Covid” end?

It’s the question on everyone’s mind: When will China drop its strict Covid-19 restrictions?

The uncertainty is leaving global markets uneasy, as policymakers and business leaders wait for a sign from Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, who is more powerful than ever.

After his ascension to a third term at the Communist Party’s congress late last month, markets plunged. Days later, speculation about loosening restrictions sent them soaring. Xi continues to trumpet “zero Covid,” and his commitment is echoed by top officials, while low-level health officials are urging a less drastic enforcement of existing measures.

The numbers don’t suggest a sudden swerve to living with Covid yet. With more than 8,100 new infections per day, China’s daily cases are at a six-month high. Officials are relying on the usual playbook: Just yesterday, CNN reports, lockdowns spread across Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub with 19 million people, as cases rose.

Quotable: “China has this boot on the neck of economic activity, and we’re past the point where the boot made sense,” an expert on China said. “The problem is, the most authoritative voice continues to reiterate no change.”

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They met a 6-year-old girl, Sarah Cuauro, who had left Venezuela for the U.S. with her mother. When she was separated from her parent in the jungle, Sarah began to sing. “The glory of God, giant and sacred,” she croaked through tears. “He carries me in his arms.”

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SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICA

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s president, spoke at COP27. Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The “African” COP

This year’s COP27, a U.N. climate summit, takes place in Egypt. African leaders and activists have a unified agenda: to hold accountable the wealthy nations that are most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

The continent is already feeling the effects of extreme weather, including a drought in the Horn of Africa that has put millions at risk of starvation.

COP27 comes more than a decade after world leaders met in Durban, South Africa, and pledged $100 billion a year to help developing nations transition to renewable energy and adapt to climate change. Those promises were never fully realized.

“Our continent only contributed 1 percent of the damage that’s been done to the climate,” South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said this week. Industrialized countries, he said, “need to live up to the commitment that they have made.”

This time, developing countries put “loss and damage” funding, a form of climate reparations, on the summit agenda. The U.S. and some other big countries are resisting the idea because they fear broader liability claims.

If wealthy nations are serious about Africa’s future, said Eric Njuguna, a 20-year-old Kenyan activist, this funding would need to go beyond the “clever mathematics” of loans and rerouted aid. “We need more than just a location change, we need for this COP to deliver climate justice for Africa,” Njuguna said. — Lynsey Chutel, a Briefings writer in Johannesburg.

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook
Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Maeve Sheridan.

Make steak. Then, fake the frites.

What to Watch

In “The Fabelmans,” Steven Spielberg gets personal.

What to Read
Tech Fix

A smartphone is like a car: It works better, and longer, with regular maintenance.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword. Here’s a clue: King or queen (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

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

P.S. The Berlin Wall fell 33 years ago yesterday. “Hundreds of thousands of East Berliners romped through the newly porous wall in an unending celebration,” The Times reported. Here are some photos.

The Daily” is on the midterms. On “Still Processing,” disco is back.

Lynsey Chutel wrote today’s Spotlight on Africa. What did you love? And what can we do better? Email us at briefing@nytimes.com.

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