The News You Need To Read This Morning

Control of the House is up in the air, Ohio plans to erase millions in residents’ medical debt, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever explores T’Challa’s legacy.

This is an excerpt from Incoming, BuzzFeed News’ morning newsletter dedicated to making sense of this chaotic world we live in. Join the club here.

Democrats won control of the Senate. Now what?

Decision Desk HQ called the Nevada Senate race on Saturday night for Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, in a close race against Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. The outcome of the Nevada race secured Democrats 50 seats in the Senate, while Republicans have won 49 — flying in the face of an expected Republican “red wave” in this year’s midterms.

Georgia’s open seat will head to a runoff election next month after neither Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock nor Republican candidate Herschel Walker won more than 50% of the vote. But even if they win in Georgia, Republicans can no longer outnumber Democrats in the Senate; if each party has 50 seats, a tie vote is broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.

For the House of Representatives, the GOP has won 211 seats so far, including seven that had previously been held by Democrats. 218 seats are necessary to secure a majority. Republicans look likely to keep their lead in enough places to take control of the House, but about two dozen races have yet to be called as of Monday morning.

Southern city Kherson reclaimed by Ukraine

  • Ukraine has taken back Kherson after months of Russian occupation. Despite the looming issues of power and water shortages and severe infrastructure damage, the mood of the city is joyful. “Finally freedom!” 61-year-old Tetiana Hitina told the Associated Press.

SNAPSHOTS

What to know now that Biden's student loan forgiveness has been ruled unconstitutional. If you already applied to the program, the administration will continue to hold your application pending a final decision.

A 9-year-old Black girl was afraid to leave the house after a neighbor called the police on her while she was catching spotted lanternflies, her mother said. The neighbor called 911 after spotting the fourth-grader outside testing an environmentally friendly spotted lanternfly solution she’d made, identifying her as “a little Black woman” with a “hood.”

Thousands gathered in Atlanta to celebrate the life of Takeoff from Migos. Quavo paid tribute to his nephew in an emotional speech: "You always with me, and we did everything together," he said.

Newly elected House member Maxwell Frost is the first Twitter-bred stan to enter Congress. The first Gen Z member of Congress spoke with BuzzFeed News about how political campaigns are similar to standoms.

IMAGE OF THE DAY

a woman holds a pile of white truffles on a blue velvet cushion in a crowded room

"We have a broken healthcare system": An Ohio county is trying to erase up to $240 million in medical debt

Toledo City Council, along with commissioners of the wider Lucas County, passed a proposal last week that is expected to forgive up to $240 million in medical debt for residents.

The city council has decided to use Toledo's $800,000 in emergency funding from the federal COVID-19 stimulus package to buy medical debt through the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. According to its website, RIP Medical Debt specializes in purchasing “bundled medical debt portfolios on the secondary debt market, and then forgives that debt at pennies on the dollar.”

Toledo is not the first place in the US to follow this model. Council member Dr. Michele Grim said the idea was formed after seeing a medical debt relief plan passed by Chicago and the wider Illinois Cook County in July. The Illinois plan hopes to erase $1 billion in debt with RIP Medical Debt, using the $12 million in federal funding provided to them.

Around 41% of American adults have some kind of medical or dental debt, according to a 2022 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Medical debt is the number one reason why people go into bankruptcy,” Grim told BuzzFeed News. “A lot of people who have medical debt struggle to put food on the table, avoid going to the hospital, or pay their utilities. I hope it’ll help give people the boost they need to go back to the doctor, to pay their rent or mortgage.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not as good as the first but still moving

angela bassett in white mourning clothes standing next to another hooded person in white

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever swiftly delivers some of the fundamental elements that made the first movie so fun, transporting us to mysterious civilizations with majestic historical lore while injecting high-minded questions into scenes thick with flashy battles and car chases. But the cast’s collective talents can only shine through in flashes, Albert Samaha writes.

Lupita Nyong'o, who plays a Wakandan spy and T’Challa’s former love interest, brings a radiant energy but doesn't appear onscreen until midway through. Danai Gurira plays the Wakandan general Okoye in a sparkling performance that spans the tearful intensity of getting demoted by the queen to the understated hilarity of her blunt efforts to blend into an American college campus, but she gradually fades from the story as it approaches its final act. The movie thrives in moments of intimate interiority, but they don’t come often enough, crowded out by storylines that serve the needs of the Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than the central narrative playing out among the central characters.

Nevertheless, director and cowriter Ryan Coogler’s most impressive feat is in granting viewers the space to grieve without ever abandoning us there. T’Challa’s death — and Chadwick Boseman’s — is neither overwrought as a plot point nor cast aside as a perfunctory prologue. Rather, it serves as a springboard to a deeper exploration of collective loss.

The first Black Panther set a bar that Wakanda Forever didn't come close to matching. But taken on its own terms, as a superhero sequel tasked with serving an unusually wide range of needs, it stands as a different kind of accomplishment.

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