Democrats celebrate retaining control of Senate | First Thing

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While the balance of power in the US House of Representatives remains unresolved, Democrats are celebrating the projection that they have won control of the Senate, marking a significant victory for Joe Biden, as Republicans backed by his presidential predecessor, Donald Trump, underperformed in key battleground states.

While senior Democrats remained guarded yesterday about the chances of keeping control of both chambers of Congress, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, hailed the party’s performance in the midterms after months of projections indicating heavy losses.

“Who would have thought two months ago that this red wave would turn into a little tiny trickle, if that at all,” Pelosi told CNN. “We’re still alive [for control of the House] but again the races are close. We don’t pray for victory … but you pray that God’s will will be done.”

As of Sunday morning Republicans remained seven seats shy of the 218 needed to win control of the House, with Democrats requiring 14, an indication that a majority on either side will be slim.

  • Have the US midterms finally loosened Trump’s grip on the Republican party? Some in the party are ready to declare it so. Referring to Governor Ron DeSantis’s victory in Florida, David Urban, a longtime Trump ally, told the Washington Post: “It is clear the center of gravity of the Republican party is in the state of Florida, and I don’t mean Mar-a-Lago.”

  • What does the future of the Democrat party look like? From the first openly lesbian governors in the US and first Black governor of Maryland, to the first Gen Z member of Congress, as well as battle-hardened young politicians in critical swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, a new slate of Democratic leaders is coming into view after Tuesday’s elections.

Zelenskiy accuses Russia of Kherson war crimes

General views of Kherson after Russian retreatKHERSON, UKRAINE - NOVEMBER 13: Civilians celebrate with Ukrainian soldiers at Independence Square after the withdrawal of the Russian army from Kherson to the eastern bank of Dnieper River, Ukraine on November 13, 2022. Residents in towns and villages where Ukrainian troops passed through on their way to Kherson cheered soldiers and gave them flowers to show their happiness and gratitude. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ukrainian forces set up satellite receivers to provide connection for civilians at Independence Square after the withdrawal of the Russian army. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After two nights of jubilation after the liberation of their city, the people of Kherson yesterday began to assess the extent of the damage wreaked by eight long months of Russian occupation, with residents still without electricity and water.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused Russian soldiers of war crimes and killing civilians in Kherson. “Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes. Bodies of dead civilians and servicemen have been found. The Russian army left behind the same savagery it did in other regions of the country it entered,” he said.

He also said Russian forces had destroyed key infrastructure before retreating, while the mayor of Kherson said the humanitarian situation was “severe” because of a lack of medicine and bread.

Thousands of mines, tripwires and unexploded shells have been left by the troops.

  • Kherson fell quickly. Will Ukraine’s progress east of the Dnipro River be as straightforward? Ukraine’s success in Kherson – and make no mistake, forcing Russia out with minimal civilian casualties is a major achievement – was a victory achieved by smashing the Russian supply chain. But critical also was favourable geography – the isolated position of Kherson on the west of the Dnipro. Russia has more advantages to the east, which will make it harder.

  • What else is happening in Ukraine? Here’s what we know on day 264 of the invasion.

Taiwan looms large as Joe Biden prepares to meet Xi Jinping in Bali

The US president, Joe Biden, arrives in Bali for the G20.
The US president, Joe Biden, arrives in Bali for the G20. Photograph: Made Nagi/EPA

Joe Biden will make clear that the US is not seeking a conflict with Beijing during his meeting with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, in Bali, but will press Washington’s commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan strait, according to senior White House officials.

The summit is the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January 2021. It will take place on the Indonesian island on Monday and comes amid rising tensions over Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that China claims as its territory and has vowed to “reunify”, by force if necessary.

Biden will lay out US priorities on China’s “provocative” military actions near Taiwan, one of the officials said, adding that the main objective of the summit was to “reduce misunderstanding and misperceptions and put in place steps that we believe will establish the rules of the road”.

Increased cooperation would not necessarily lead to substantive progress on “thornier issues” such as Taiwan, the official said. The goal is to “find ways to communicate” on those tougher areas, “because the only thing worse than … having contentious conversations is not having conversations at all”.

In other news …

Donald Trump
Former US president Donald Trump retained documents bearing classification markings at his property in Florida. Photograph: Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters
  • Donald Trump retained documents bearing classification markings, along with communications from after his presidency, according to court filings describing the materials seized by the FBI as part of the ongoing criminal investigation into whether he mishandled national security information.

  • Turkey’s interior minister has accused Kurdish militants in northern Syria of responsibility for a bombing in a busy Istanbul shopping thoroughfare that killed six people, and said that a suspect had been arrested, while 21 others were previously detained.

  • Tributes have poured in for pilots who were among the six killed when two historic military planes collided in midair during a show in Dallas on Saturday afternoon, with people saying they were heartbroken that the aerialists died while engaging in what they loved.

  • Nasa is planning a rocket launch to the moon next week as it aims to close the 50-year-long gap in moon-walking missions. Barring technical issues and Florida’s weather, Artemis 1 will launch after midnight Wednesday on a 15-day, 1.3m-mile journey. No humans will be onboard in this test mission.

  • In the lead-up to the midterm elections, the punditocracy of commentators and pollsters were almost united: a “red wave” of Republican gains was on the cards. But one dissenting voice stood out: that of leftist film-maker Michael Moore. He talks to the Guardian about why he never doubted his prediction.

Stat of the day: India faces deepening demographic divide as it prepares to overtake China as the world’s most populous country

People walk through a market for last minute shopping ahead of Diwali in Mumbai
India is poised to become the world’s most populous country. Composite: Guardian Design/ AFP/Getty Images

India is currently home to more than 1.39 billion people – four times that of the US and more than 20 times the UK – while 1.41 billion live in China. But with 86,000 babies born in India every day, and 49,400 in China, India is on course to take the lead in 2023 and hit 1.65 billion people by 2060. On 15 November the world’s population will reach a total of 8 billion people. Between now and 2050, over half of the projected increase in the global population will happen in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Republic of Tanzania – and India.

Don’t miss this: Why we all need to be a lot less hesitant about being kind

Claudia hammondClaudia Hammond photographed at home in South London. Claudia Hammond is a British author, TV presenter, and frequent radio presenter on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4. Claudia Hammond is the author of four books, including Mind Over Money: the psychology of money and how to use it better, published in May 2016 by Canongate Books. The Telegraph newspaper described this as: “Part fascinating psychological exploration, part practical guide - exposing the myriad ways money messes with our heads and suggesting means by which we might get a handle on it”. Her first book, Emotional Rollercoaster, published in 2005, was on the science of emotions. Reviews were positive; one said that although it contained “rare errors” these mistakes are “vastly outweighed by the wealth of fascinating observations”, and that “humour, sensitivity and warmth... emanate from every page”.
Hesitant helper: Claudia Hammond, like many of us, feels held back by ‘a fear an offer of help might not be welcome’. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Guardian

In my book, The Keys to Kindness, I draw on the world’s largest in-depth study into kindness, the Kindness Test, which I worked on with a team at the University of Sussex, writes Claudia Hammond. More than 60,000 people from 144 countries chose to take part. One of the findings that most intrigued me was that the chief obstacle to us carrying out more kind acts is not that we don’t care, but that our actions might be misinterpreted. I’d categorise myself as a hesitant helper. I want to be kind if I can and yet worry my offer of help might not be welcome. But while researching the book, I found that being kind enhances the mood of not just the receiver – but the giver, too.

… Or this: The arrest that shocked the firefighting world – and threatens a vital practice

Wildfires near Las Vegas, New MexicoA firefighter conducts a prescribed burn to combat the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon wildfires, near Las Vegas, New Mexico, U.S. May 4, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt
A firefighter sets a prescribed burn on 4 May to combat the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon wildfires, near Las Vegas, New Mexico. Photograph: Kevin Mohatt/Reuters

Hours before Rick Snodgrass was arrested, he’d called the sheriff himself. The United States Forest Service burn boss had requested the help of local law enforcement in Grant county, Oregon, reporting his crew was being harassed while conducting a controlled burn. It was the second burn that crews had conducted in the area in two weeks. But that warm October afternoon, the treatment did not go according to plan. The arrest of a fire chief over a burn gone wrong – an unprecedented event, according to people in the wildland firefighting system – has sent shockwaves through the field and has sparked fears that growing public pushback will hamper this essential work.

Climate check: Ukraine uses Cop27 to highlight environmental cost of Russia’s war

Smoke rises from an oil refinery after an attack outside the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine in May.
Smoke rises from an oil refinery after an attack outside the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine in May. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine has used the Cop27 climate talks to make the case that Russia’s invasion is causing an environmental as well as humanitarian catastrophe, with fossil fuels a key catalyst of the country’s destruction. Ukraine has dispatched two dozen officials to the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to spell out the links between the war launched by Russia in February, the soaring cost of energy due to Russia’s status as a key gas supplier, and the planet-heating emissions expelled by the offensive. Heavy shelling and the movement of troops and tanks has polluted the air, water and land, said Svitlana Grynchuk, Ukraine’s assistant environment minister.

Last Thing: Amazing deep sea animals found near Cocos Islands

A viperfish attacking a lanternfish
A viperfish attacking a lanternfish: Scientists exploring the uncharted waters of the Indian Ocean uncover a multitude of dazzling sea creatures. Photograph: Minden Pictures/Alamy

A shipload of scientists has just returned from exploring the uncharted waters of the Indian Ocean, where they mapped giant underwater mountains and encountered a multitude of deep-sea animals decked out in twinkling lights, with velvety black skin and mouths full of needle-sharp, glassy fangs. “The real stars of the show are the fish,” says the expedition’s chief scientist, Dr Tim O’Hara. “There are blind eels and tripod fish, hatchetfish and dragonfish, with all of these bioluminescent organs on them and lures coming out of their heads. They’re just extraordinary.”

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