First Thing: Hamas ‘close’ to truce agreement with Israel, leader says | US news

First Thing: Hamas ‘close’ to truce agreement with Israel, leader says | US news  

Good morning.

Ismail Haniyeh, the most senior political leader of Hamas, has said a truce agreement with Israel may be close, raising hopes of a pause in the Israeli offensive in Gaza and the release of at least some of the Israeli hostages the militant organisation is holding there.

“We are close to reaching a deal on a truce,” Haniyeh said, adding the group had delivered its response to Qatari mediators.

Senior US and Israeli officials, as well as the Qatari prime minister, have all suggested in recent days that an agreement is near, although observers have cautioned that public statements during such negotiations are often misleading and any potential deal could easily collapse.

Analysts also point out that any deal agreed by the political leadership of Hamas overseas would have to be acceptable to political and military leaders in Gaza.

Court rules that only US government can sue to enforce Voting Rights Act

A voting rights activist calls for protection of the right to vote in every state during a rally and civil disobedience action at the White House.
Voting rights groups expect the ruling to be appealed against at the US supreme court. Photograph: Allison Bailey/Rex/Shutterstock

A federal appeals court shocked voting rights groups yesterday with a ruling that only the US government, not outside groups or citizens, could sue to enforce the Voting Rights Act’s provisions.

The civil rights law, which outlaws racial discrimination as it relates to voting, has typically been enforced by lawsuits from these groups, not by the government itself. Now that the Republican-appointed eighth circuit court of appeals has made the ruling by 2-1, this “private right of action” to enforce section 2 of the law is called into question.

The ruling stemmed from a case brought by the Arkansas State Conference NAACP and Arkansas Public Policy Panel over new maps created during redistricting that the two groups allege diluted the voting power of Black voters in the state.

OpenAI staff threaten to quit en masse unless Sam Altman is reinstated

Composite image of the OpenAI logo on a mobile phone alongside headshot of Sam Altman
Sam Altman was fired from OpenAI on Friday in a move that shocked Silicon Valley. Photograph: Meir Chaimowitz/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Turmoil has engulfed the company behind ChatGPT after hundreds of OpenAI staff members threatened to quit en masse unless the board overseeing the business reinstates its ousted chief executive, Sam Altman, and steps down.

In an open letter, nearly all of OpenAI’s 700 employees demanded the resignation of the board and said they may walk out if Altman is not brought back.

Altman was fired on Friday in a move that shocked Silicon Valley, riled the company’s employees and put rival tech companies on alert for a talent exodus, although Microsoft – a major investor in OpenAI – quickly snapped some up.

Monday’s letter to OpenAI’s four remaining board directors said: “Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgment and care for our mission and employees.” The board’s members have yet to comment publicly.

In other news …

Screengrab showing one of the 40 workers inside the tunnel
Screengrab showing one of the 40 workers trapped inside the collapsed tunnel in Silkyara, in northern Uttarakhand state. Photograph: AP

Don’t miss this: people say you’ll know – but will I regret not having children?

Illustration of a woman holding a semitransparent baby in front of mountains
‘I’ve felt daunted by the decades that lie ahead, if I do indeed remain childfree: how will I generate meaning and momentum, entirely on my own steam?’ Illustration: Rita Liu/The Guardian

As a thirtysomething woman, the question of children – to have, or not to have – is one I’ll carry until, one way or the other, the train leaves the station for good, writes Elle Hunt. I can count on one hand those friends who have always been certain that they want children. Now, they have them. The rest seem mired in uncertainty, waiting for the opportunity to arise – or pass. Even decisions don’t seem to readily stick. All my life I’ve felt fairly sure that I don’t want children of my own. This is convenient, given that I’m 32 and single. And yet, without my bringing it up, the question seems to keep rebounding on me, like signposts along a highway warning of the last chance to turn: am I sure?

… or this: the majority of US gun deaths are suicides. Here’s how to prevent them

Silhouette of a woman in doorway.
‘There’s this myth that suicide is this carefully considered thing.’ Photograph: adl21/Getty Images

In 2022, the number of US gun suicides reached an all-time high: 73 people dying by gun suicide every day, or a total of nearly 27,000 deaths that year. Despite years of intense debate over gun violence in the US, this central fact still receives little attention: most of the country’s gun deaths are suicides, not homicides. Experts say stigma and misinformation are still getting in the way of preventing more of these deaths. Paul Nestadt, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, spoke to the Guardian about the country’s rising number of suicides, the role of guns and mental health – and what works to save lives.

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

Guardian illustration.
Photograph: The Guardian

As we head into 2024, the Guardian’s journalists are already hard at work preparing for one of the most consequential news cycles of our lifetimes. We need your support to raise $1.5m to fund our reporting into areas such as: the 2024 election and the potential for another Trump presidency; continued war in the Middle East; the sweeping implications of artificial intelligence; the climate crisis; and investigations into high-stakes abuses of power. If you value our reporting, please make a year-end gift today. We’re depending on you.

Climate check: revealed – the huge climate impact of the middle classes

Guardian illustration.
Carbon emissions of richest 10% are up to 40 times bigger than poorest, and ignoring divide may make ending climate crisis impossible, experts say. Illustration: Guardian Design

The richest 10% of people in many countries cause up to 40 times more climate-heating carbon emissions than the poorest 10% of their fellow citizens, according to data obtained by the Guardian. Failing to account for this huge divide when making policies to cut emissions can cause a backlash over the affordability of climate action, experts say. The world’s richest 10% encompasses most of the middle classes in developed countries – anyone paid more than about $40,000 (£32,000) a year. The lavish lifestyles of the very rich – the 1% – attract attention. But the 10% are responsible for half of all global emissions, making them key to ending the climate crisis.

Last Thing: caught not quite in the act – church cameras reveal bat sex ritual

Serotine bat flying at night.
Scientists have long been stumped by sex in serotine bats, or Eptesicus serotinus. Photograph: Biosphoto/Alamy

It was the surveillance cameras trained on the dark corners of St Matthias church in the village of Castenray in the Netherlands that caught the creatures in the act. The video footage is in black and white, the animals are entwined and upside down, and the events that unfold against a metal grill are more frantic than romantic. But the recording may nonetheless prompt the rewriting of textbooks. Researchers believe the film of serotine bats is the first documented evidence of any mammal mating without intromission. In plain English, that’s having sex without penetration.

Scientists have long been stumped by sex in serotine bats, or Eptesicus serotinus. The reasons become obvious from a glance at their anatomy. The male’s erect penis is enormous and ends with a heart-shaped head that is seven times wider than the female’s vagina.

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