First Thing: Hamas issues threat over lives of hostages | US news #Hamas #issues #threat #lives #hostages #news

Good morning.

Israeli tanks have reached the heart of Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis, as Hamas issued fresh demands for Palestinian prisoners to be released while at the same time threatening the lives of the hostages they continue to hold.

Residents of Khan Younis said tanks had reached the main north-south road through the city on Sunday after intense combat through the night that had slowed the Israeli advance from the east. Warplanes were reported to be pounding the area west of the assault.

The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered, calling it the beginning of the end for the organisation. The Palestinian militant group denied this, calling the claim “false and baseless”.

In a statement yesterday, Hamas said that none of the hostages that were still being held would leave Gaza alive unless its demands for prisoner releases by Israel were met. In a televised statement, a Hamas spokesperson said the movement was “ready to release all soldiers in exchange for all our prisoners”.

  • Why is the US president under scrutiny over his support for Israel? The support of Joe Biden’s administration for Israel’s war in Gaza has come under intensified scrutiny after it revealed it had bypassed Congress to supply tank shells, and was reported not to be carrying out continual assessments of whether Israel was committing possible war crimes.

Zelenskiy to visit Washington in attempt to break Senate deadlock on Ukraine aid

US President Joe Biden with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv in February.
US President Joe Biden with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv in February. Photograph: Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Biden has invited his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to the White House, days after his administration warned it would run out of money for Ukraine aid in weeks unless feuding US lawmakers act.

The meeting tomorrow is intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion”, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment.”

Republican senators last week blocked $106bn in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package.

  • What will Zelenskiy do while in Washington? As well as meeting Biden, he has also been invited to address US senators on Tuesday morning in the Capitol, a Senate leadership aide said. A private meeting between Zelenskiy and the US House of Representatives speaker, Mike Johnson, will also be held in the Capitol on Tuesday, Johnson’s spokesperson Raj Shah said in an email to Reuters.

  • What are opponents to US support for Ukraine up to? Allies of Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, will hold a closed-door meeting with Republicans in Washington to push for an end to US military support for Ukraine, the Guardian has learned. Members of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and staff from the Hungarian embassy in Washington will on Monday begin a two-day event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank, with some attenders, including Republican members of Congress, invited to join closed-door talks the next day.

Trump says he won’t return to witness stand in $250m New York fraud trial

Former US President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he arrives at the New York sate supreme court during the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization, in New York City on December 7, 2023.
Donald Trump arrives in court in Manhattan, in December 2023, with his attorney Alina Habba. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump announced he would not take the witness stand for a second time at his fraud trial in New York today, the former US president’s last chance to make his case as he combats a potential $250m fine that hangs over his family business.

Trump had been expected to take the stand again as the hearings draw to a close. But yesterday he announced on the Truth Social site that he would no longer be making an appearance.

Trump first testified in court on 6 November, an appearance that was more political rally than attempt to persuade judge Arthur Engoron of his innocence. Engoron has already ruled that fraud took place and is using the trial to weigh what punishment he will mete out.

  • What is the trial about? The New York attorney general, Letitia James, has argued that Trump, his adult sons and other company executives inflated the value of their assets in order to obtain more favorable loans.

  • What is their defence? Trump’s team has argued through witness testimony that the former president had the right to value his properties however he pleased, and that it was up to lenders and accountants to make sure the numbers were right.

In other news …

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, speaks to journalists during a COP28 press conference.
The head of the UN, António Guterres, has called on world leaders to “end the fossil fuel age” as he returns to Cop28 for the final days of the summit. Photograph: Martin Divíšek/EPA
  • The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has been speaking to reporters at Cop28, underlining the significance of the next few hours of negotiations. “Cop28 is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow, but there are still large gaps that need to be bridged. Now is the time for maximum ambition and maximum flexibility,” he said.

  • Rudy Giuliani, the politician who was once lauded as “America’s mayor” but descended into the rabbit hole of Donald Trump’s election denial lies, will face a Washington DC jury today in a landmark case that could see him saddled with millions of dollars in damages.

  • The Utah senator Mitt Romney declined to rule out voting for Joe Biden next year and said he hasn’t offered an endorsement in the Republican race because his backing would probably be a “kiss of death”. In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press he joked that he should maybe endorse the candidate he liked the least.

  • Hipgnosis Songs Fund, which owns the streaming rights to artists ranging from Beyoncé to Neil Young, has sold a chunk of its song rights at a steep discount to raise cash. The fund said on Monday that it had sold 20,000 unspecified “non-core” songs for $23.1m (£18.4m), in a statement to the London Stock Exchange, where it is listed.

  • A Catholic priest in a small Nebraska community died yesterday after being attacked in a church rectory, authorities said. Stephen Gutgsell was assaulted “during an invasion” of St John the Baptist Catholic church in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, the archdiocese of Omaha said in a statement on Sunday.

Stat of the day: the oldest black hole ever observed, dating to dawn of universe

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket with Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope onboard, at the launch pad in December 202
Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket with Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope onboard is seen at the launch pad in December 2021. The telescope has infrared vision that allows it to observe some of the earliest stars and galaxies. Photograph: Bill Ingalls/AP

Astronomers have detected the oldest black hole ever observed, dating back more than 13bn years to the dawn of the universe. The observations, by the James Webb space telescope (JWST), reveal it to be at the heart of a galaxy 440m years after the big bang. At around a million times the mass of the sun, it is surprisingly big for a baby black hole, raising the question of how it grew so big so quickly. Prof Roberto Maiolino, an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge, who led the observations, said: “The surprise is in it being so very massive. That was the most unexpected thing.”

Help us raise $1.5m to fund independent journalism in 2024

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Don’t miss this: Black women are more likely to experience infertility than white women. They’re less likely to get help, too

Illustration of Black women wearing blue.
Black women are twice as likely as white women to experience infertility. They are also half as likely as white women to seek help for infertility. Illustration: Rachelle Baker/The Guardian

IVF has helped hundreds of thousands get pregnant. But Black women in the US, saddled with the myth of hyper-fertility and biased reproductive care, often lack the assistance they need, writes Lisa Armstrong.

While more than 13% of American women aged 15 to 49 have impaired fecundity, Black women are twice as likely as white women to experience infertility. (The most recent infertility data from the Centers for Disease Control is from 2013.) They are also half as likely as white women to seek help for infertility; one review of 80,390 assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles (defined as any fertility treatments in which either eggs or embryos are handled) showed that white women were involved in 85.4% of them, whereas only 4.6% involved Black women.

… Or this: Society ‘disappears’ ageing women. So I harnessed that cloak of invisibility to do all sorts of ‘inappropriate’ things

Street artist Deborah Wood pasted an image of screaming older women in Hosier Lane in Melbourne and asked women going past what would they like to yell about. Those words were then pasted coming out of the mouths.
Street artist Deborah Wood pasted an image of screaming older women in Hosier Lane in Melbourne and asked women going past what would they like to yell about. Those words were then pasted coming out of the mouths. Photograph: Deborah Wood

“The notion of becoming invisible as an ageing woman has become an accepted trope,” writes Deborah Wood. “My friends and I, from our late 50s onwards, were first gobsmacked then increasingly enraged at being talked over, not served, not replied to, brushed aside and not taken seriously. Small accretions of casual insult that eroded our hard-earned sense of self and agency. Instead of simmering in a stew of rage and resentment I began to wonder if that conferred invisibility could be harnessed. If I reframed it as a cloak of invisibility I could do all sorts of things ‘inappropriate’ for my age.

“I refrained from robbing a bank (though fairly sure I could have got away with the loot), instead turning my attention to street art.”

Climate check: Fossil fuel phase-out will ‘not avert climate breakdown without protections for nature’

An aerial view of a burnt area of the Amazon rainforest in Labrea, southern Amazonas state, Brazil.
When deforestation reaches 20-25% of an area such as Labrea in the Amazonas state of Brazil, the system approaches the tipping point to savannah. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP/Getty Images

Human destruction of nature is pushing the planet to a point of no return, and even a phase-out of fossil fuels will not stave off climate breakdown unless we also protect the natural world, one of the world’s top climate scientists has warned.

Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the Guardian: “Even if we phase out all fossil fuels, if we do not get involved in nature, [the destruction of natural landscapes and habitats] can make us lose what we all have agreed on the safe future for humanity on Earth – that is, to stay within the 1.5C limit. It’s really decisive, that we get it right on nature.”

Last Thing: Paris Ritz finds missing €750,000 ring in vacuum cleaner bag

A police car drives past the Ritz hotel in Paris, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.
A police car outside the Ritz in Paris after there really was a jewellery theft in January 2018. Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

The questions began swirling soon after police were notified that a €750,000 (£644,000) ring had gone missing from the Ritz hotel in Paris. Was it a meticulously planned and targeted robbery? An act of carelessness? Or simply a quick swipe, carried out when the opportunity presented itself? Two days after a Malaysian guest at the hotel reported the missing diamond ring to police, the hotel proffered an answer, albeit less exciting than many of the theories that had circulated online: the hotel said security had found the ring in the bag of a vacuum cleaner.

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