February 3, 2023

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The Premier Blog Where Money Talks

Your Wednesday briefing: The US votes

After one of the most consequential, unpredictable and costly midterm campaigns, Americans finally began voting in person yesterday. The polls aren’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, the state legislatures, and the governorships. It could also shape the future of representative democracy: Many Americans are deciding whether or not to vote for Republican candidates who are in denial about the 2020 election results.

Democrats, emboldened by Donald Trump’s possible return, have counted on a pro-choice fight to shake up the party’s liberal base. However, Republicans are expected to make significant gains by capitalizing on frustration over ongoing inflation and President Biden’s low approval ratings.

There are also signs that the US may once again be heading towards a battle over voting mechanisms. In Florida, the secretary of state has barred federal monitors from entering polling stations, which could undermine protections for minority and disabled voters. And in Arizona, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has been making false claims about a hiccup in voting machines.

Wealthy nations have long resisted calls by developing countries to shoulder the costs of climate change. At last year’s UN climate summit, only Scotland made any commitment.

But at COP27 the dam may have started to break.

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

All eyes are now on the US, which has not approved new funds for poorer countries affected by climate change. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, sent a not-too-disguised flare to Washington yesterday. “There needs to be pressure on rich non-European countries,” he continued, “‘You have to pay your fair share.'”

The US plan: The Biden administration wants companies to fund renewable projects in developing countries — and then count the resulting emissions reductions toward their own goals. Payments from companies would then go to countries struggling to adopt renewable energy. The EU and UN are skeptical.

Keep an eye on: The four largest emitters – China, the USA, the European Union and India – are not meeting their climate targets.

Images: Times photographers have documented the climate crisis around the world.

In a big step toward transparency and political accountability, President William Ruto on Sunday released documents revealing how the railroad’s financier, the Exim Bank of China, had the upper hand in the negotiations. The terms of the loan are also more expensive than expected, said an economist.

But disclosure could come at a cost and strain Kenya’s ties with China, its main trading partner. Kenya owes China more bilateral debt than any other nation.

Context: The $4.7 billion project ran millions of dollars over budget and became the focus of multiple criminal investigations. Kenyan judges eventually ruled it illegal.

Analysis: Experts said the revelations were unprecedented as Chinese loan deals are often kept secret.

Russia denied a report that it had lost hundreds of troops in a single battle in eastern Ukraine. The rare statement sought to stem growing public discontent over the war.

Ukraine said it was open to peace talks but with strict conditions: Russia must return property and compensate Ukraine for damages.

India again urged Russia to end the war but said it will continue buying Russian oil.

Ukrainians are leaving the Russian-occupied territories as life there becomes unbearable.

Some of fashion’s most powerful figures came together in 2020 to discuss reducing their industry’s environmental footprint.

They published a proposal in an open letter and started an initiative called Rewiring Fashion. Little has come of their ambitious ideas, but the EU has taken note. In May, antitrust authorities raided some fashion houses and said they may have broken pricing rules and may have created a cartel.

Haruki Murakami has written a memoir called Novelist’s Vocation.

It is an open, safe book, writes our critic, with selected details about his career. For example, the Japanese writer won an award for his first novel after submitting his only copy of the manuscript to the jury. He also decided to become a novelist after having an epiphany at a baseball game in Tokyo in 1978.

Murakami’s greatness is undeniable: of his 14 novels published in English, at least three are masterpieces, writes our reviewer. But his musings in his memoir can come off as irritating, cranky, and flippant with any real advice.

“To tell you the truth, I’ve never found writing painful,” writes Murakami. “What’s the point of writing if you don’t enjoy it? I can’t grapple with the idea of ​​the ‘suffering writer’.”