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US President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City, US, September 21, 2021.
Image copyright: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz/Pool
President Joe Biden has committed billions of dollars to help developing countries address climate change, but the net effect of such pledges is murky.

Here’s what you need to know

World leaders called for bold action at the UN General Assembly. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres railed against division and inequality, while US president Joe Biden promised “relentless diplomacy” in tackling global issues like climate change. China’s president Xi Jinping announced that China would no longer build coal plants overseas.

Investors brace for the reopening of China’s onshore markets. The Evergrande Group kept falling in credit and equity markets on Tuesday, and threatens to bring other property developers down with it.

Several UK power companies said they will no longer accept new customers. Sky high electricity and natural gas prices have already caused some firms to go under. Separately, the government reportedly worked out a deal to restart production at a major fertilizer supplier, whose plant closures led to a carbon dioxide shortage in the food industry.

The US sanctioned a cryptocurrency exchange. The Treasury Department alleges Suex helped hackers get paid after several major ransomware attacks.

Russia faced further fallout from assassination attempts in the UK. The European Court of Human Rights found that Alexander Litvinenko’s killers acted on Russia’s behalf in 2006, while UK police named a Russian agent as a third suspect in the 2018 Novichok attacks.

The Canary Islands volcanic eruption forced the evacuation of another village. So far more than 6,000 people have fled their homes on La Palma.

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What to watch for

In his first presidential address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden put a lot of stress on the global aspect of Covid-19, noting the US government’s efforts to support the international response to the virus, including by donating 160 million doses of vaccines. He’s certain to emphasize a shared responsibility at a virtual Covid-19 Summit Wednesday.

The goal is clear: To end the pandemic. Delta showed new variants are more likely to emerge in countries with low vaccination rates, posing threats even where rates are high. So it’s in the interest of the US and other wealthy countries to ensure poor nations are equipped to deal with the virus, starting with addressing the global disparity in vaccination rates. Donating a few more millions of excess doses won’t fix it, so Biden’s new plan had better be more ambitious than that.


Markets haiku: An IPO went to the top of the pops

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The reign of pirates
On Digital Music Seas
Has come to an end

Universal Music Group’s IPO was a win for streaming. Subscription services have finally turned the tables on digital piracy.

📲 Download the Quartz iOS app to get a daily haiku pick-me-up.
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How big of a deal is Evergrande?

Image copyright: Reuters/Bobby Yip
Ready for a wild ride.

Global markets reeled Monday when one of China’s biggest property developers seemed to be teetering on the edge of collapse. Evergrande is all but assured of defaulting on interest payments on bonds due Thursday. While the fallout would be largely domestic, and would have to involve careful restructuring, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday that China’s economy could handle the blow.

Here’s the situation, by the digits:

2 trillion yuan (~$300 billion): Evergrande’s debts as of June, according to Caixin. The amount is equivalent to around 2% of China’s GDP.

$120 million: Interest payments due to bondholders on Thursday, including nearly $84 million on dollar bonds. Another interest payment is due next week.

29%: Share of real estate and related industries as a percentage of Chinese GDP, according to an NBER paper (pdf)

???: Amount benchmark indices and other property developers could drop when China’s onshore markets reopen on Wednesday


The World Bank scandal is bad for globalization

Image copyright: Reuters/Steve Reigate
Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director who now faces scrutiny over her time as CEO of the World Bank.

Last week, investigators from an external law firm released a report showing World Bank officials pushed the team developing the influential Doing Business index to manipulate it in several cases. Under pressure from senior leaders including then-CEO Kristalina Georgieva, employees altered scores to boost China’s and Saudi Arabia’s rankings because it was deemed politically expedient to do so. They also were told to ignore developments in Azerbaijan that would have helped improve its score.

As a result of the findings, every piece of data produced by the World Bank will now be suspected of playing to one or more favored stakeholders. Here’s why that’s bad for globalization.

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What we’re reading

🍁 Canada’s far-right fringe is getting less fringey. Yes, the same Canada the world associates with multicultural harmony and progressive ideals.

🍃 Amazon is lobbying the US government to legalize weed. Eliminating cannabis users does tend to turn a hiring pool into a hiring puddle.

📦 The pandemic has turned United Airlines into a thriving freight company. It pays to be flexible.

🛌 A burnout gap on your resume is a tough thing to explain. But there’s a way to talk about it without alienating new employers.

🚸 America’s kids will be even harder to vaccinate than its adults. Parents’ risk tolerance goes way down when it comes to their children’s health.


Surprising discoveries

Image copyright: Instagram/@gilsonmachadoneto via Reuters
To be fair, it is hard to beat a New York slice.

Brazil’s president was forced to eat pizza on the street in New York. Jair Bolsonaro isn’t allowed in the city’s restaurants because he’s unvaccinated.

A stolen smart speaker gave up the thief’s location. Alexa, what’s the minimum sentence for burglary in Germany?

Scientists found the genetic mutation that made humans tail-less. One was inspired to start looking after injuring his coccyx.

A pair of 107-year-olds are the world’s oldest living twins. Umeno Sumiyama and Koume Kodama were born in 1913.

Pandas get too comfortable to go find a mate. Why would they want to leave a cool, isolated bamboo patch?


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