First Thing: Palestinian groups accuse UN advisor of failing to warn about potential genocide

Displaced Palestinians who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, take shelter in a tent camp near the border with Egypt in Rafah. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters © Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Good morning.

Leading Palestinian human rights groups have accused the UN special advisor on the prevention of genocide of failing to fulfil her mandate after she issued only one statement on the war in Gaza – largely supportive of Israel – that has claimed 26,000 Palestinian lives.

In a statement issued in October, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, a Kenyan, omitted any criticism of Israel.

In a letter sent to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, on Wednesday, 16 Palestinian groups, including the umbrella body the Palestinian human rights council, said there had been a “glaring absence of any action in response to the sustained mass atrocities endured by Palestinians in Gaza”, and that this raised “significant concerns about the special advisor’s capability to execute her mandate with due effectiveness and impartiality”.

More broadly, the groups accused Nderitu of a dereliction of duty in failing to warn of a potential genocide, and said there had been a deafening failure by her to speak out about what had happened in Gaza.

  • What’s happening with the diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire? A Hamas delegation is expected in Cairo for more ceasefire talks, a day after the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected the group’s demands made as part of their response to a proposed ceasefire deal.

Black and Hispanic voters deserting Democratic party in large numbers, poll says

Black and Hispanic voters are deserting the Democratic party in numbers that will present a concern for Joe Biden’s re-election effort, a poll has found.

Among Black Americans expressing a party preference, the Democratic lead over Republicans has dropped by almost 20% in only three years, according to the Gallup survey.

The Democratic lead among Hispanic adults and adults aged 18 to 29, meanwhile, slid by almost the same proportion, leaving the party with only a modest advantage.

Both groups, especially Black voters, were key ingredients of the alliance that gave Biden a more than 7m-vote advantage over Donald Trump in the 2020 election. The loss was only partly offset by modest gains among college-educated Americans, with and without college degrees, Gallup found.

  • What does it mean for Biden’s re-election prospects? The drop in support of non-Hispanic Black voters will perhaps be most alarming for the Biden re-election campaign. In 2020, the Democratic party held a 77-11 percentage point advantage over Republicans in that demographic, which has sunk to a 66-19 lead.

Judge rejects Trump’s mistrial motions in E Jean Carroll defamation case

Donald Trump’s motions for a mistrial in the defamation case brought against him by the writer E Jean Carroll have been rejected by a federal judge, who added that the former president’s issues with the verdict had no “merit”.

In an order filed yesterday, Judge Lewis Kaplan said the motion for a mistrial “made no sense” and that approving it “would have been entirely pointless”. Trump’s lawyers had previously called for a mistrial in the middle of their cross-examination of Carroll, which the judge denied at the time, instructing the jury to disregard the counsel’s remarks. He reiterated his decision and sharply criticized the efforts of Trump’s attorney in the written order this week.

Last month, Trump was ordered to pay Carroll an additional $83.3m after Kaplan found that he had defamed her in 2019. A jury previously had found that Trump had sexually abused her, awarding her $5m. Shortly after the judge’s decision, Trump decried it on Truth Social as “absolutely ridiculous” and said he would be filing an appeal.

  • On what grounds did Trump try and get a mistrial? Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, requested the mistrial after Carroll discussed deleting some death threats she had received to help with her anxiety and “get control of the situation”. Habba accused Carroll of “deleting evidence” and made the unusual mistrial request in front of the jury.

In other news …

  • As Sean Hannity was interviewing Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels vigilante group known for targeting immigrants, group members pushed an unidentified man to the sidewalk and placed him in a headlock. The man, however, was not a “migrant” as Sliwa claimed, nor was there any evidence to support the allegation he’d been shoplifting.

  • The Senate blocked a bipartisan border and national security bill from advancing yesterday, as Democrats accused Republicans of bending to the political wishes of Donald Trump at the expense of their constituents. The vote was 49 to 50, with 45 Democrats and four Republicans supporting the bill’s advancement.

  • A US drone strike on a car in Baghdad has killed three members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia, including a high-ranking commander, officials said after a string of blasts were heard in the Iraqi capital. The strike late yesterday came on a main thoroughfare in the Mashtal neighbourhood in eastern Baghdad.

  • Britain is in the throes of a hidden poverty “epidemic”, with the worst-affected households living in squalor and going without food, heating and everyday basics such as clean clothes and toothpaste, the former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has said.

Stat of the day: cyber-attacks by North Korea raked in $3bn to build nuclear weapons, UN monitors suspect

UN sanctions monitors are investigating dozens of suspected cyber-attacks by North Korea that raked in $3bn to help it further develop its nuclear weapons programme, according to excerpts of an unpublished UN report reviewed by the Reuters news agency. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to flout security council sanctions,” a panel of independent sanctions monitors reported to a security council committee, using North Korea’s formal name.

Don’t miss this: The art of doing nothing – have the Dutch found the answer to burnout culture?

I am standing on the sand at Scheveningen, The Hague’s most famous beach resort, in the act of niksen, the Dutch term for doing absolutely nothing, writes Viv Groskop. I try not to think about whether I am really doing nothing if I am standing on a beach. Maybe I should be sitting down? But then I would be sitting down. How do you niksen properly? Being effortlessly aimless next to me is Olga Mecking, the author of Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing. It’s very common, says Mecking, to struggle to define niksen. “The definition I use in the book is: to do nothing, without a purpose.”

Interest in the concept of niksen has grown rapidly over the past five years – and it has become a publishing sensation. But just how easy is it to let go of all outcomes?

Climate check: ‘Life-saving’ – EPA tightens US pollution controls on soot

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized long-awaited new limits on soot, the tiny air pollution particles emitted by sources as varied as power plants, factories, car exhaust and wildfires. Also known as fine particle pollution, soot is one of the nation’s most widespread air pollutants. It is also one of the most dangerous, causing an estimated 85,000 to 200,000 excess US deaths annually; the tiny particles can become lodged in human lungs and sometimes even enter the bloodstream.

The strengthened pollution controls, unveiled yesterday, will lower the annual soot standard to 9 micrograms per cubic meter of air, down from the previous standard of 12 micrograms.

Last Thing: Who’s the smallest of them all? Meet the world’s amazing tiniest creatures

In the 19th century, the German zoologist Christian Bergmann pondered a simple question: why are some animals so small? His answer, that a warm-blooded animal’s size increases as its habitat cools, remains a rule in biology to this day. With much of life on Earth still unknown, scientists are discovering new tiny organisms every year, redefining what is considered the smallest of their kind but these tiny creatures can sometimes struggle to get the same conservation attention as their larger, charismatic counterparts. Patrick Greenfield asked scientists to tell us about the smallest creatures of their kind.

Source: The Guardian