10 things you need to know today: January 11, 2024

Haley, DeSantis trade attacks in Iowa debate, UN top court hears South Africa's genocide case against Israel, and more

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley debate
Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley debate in Iowa
(Image credit: Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images)

1. Haley and DeSantis clash as Trump skips debate

Republican presidential hopefuls Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis exchanged attacks Wednesday night in their first head-to-head debate in a battle to show who was the best alternative to former President Donald Trump, the odds-on favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination. Trump stayed away and held his own town hall. The Iowa forum took place five days before the state's caucuses, which start the GOP primaries. Former South Carolina Gov. Haley and Florida Gov. DeSantis "called each other liars and insulted each other's records and character in the opening minutes," The Associated Press reported. Haley said trouble in DeSantis' campaign operation showed he couldn't lead the country; DeSantis accused Haley of flip-flopping on conservative issues. The Washington Post, The Associated Press

2. UN court hears South Africa genocide case against Israel

The International Court of Justice on Thursday started two days of hearings on South Africa's allegation that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in its war with Hamas in Gaza. Israeli President Isaac Herzog has called the allegation "atrocious and preposterous," noting that Hamas is the one with a charter calling for the annihilation of Israel, "the only nation-state of the Jewish people." Israel is defending itself in person against the claim for the first time, "attesting to the gravity of the indictment and the high stakes for its international reputation and standing," The New York Times reports. Initially, South Africa is asking the United Nations' top court to order an immediate halt to Israel's military operations in Gaza. The New York Times, NBC News

3. Chris Christie suspends presidential campaign

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday, just days before the Republican primary season kicks off with Monday's Iowa caucuses. "There isn't a path for me to win the nomination," Christie said at a New Hampshire town hall. Christie set himself apart from the rest of the GOP field by harshly criticizing former President Donald Trump. Christie's decision to bow out now could boost former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has battled with Christie for anti-Trump voters and gained on Trump in New Hampshire ahead of its Jan. 23 primary. Christie was caught on a hot mic saying Haley was "going to get smoked." Axios

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4. Judge says Trump won't speak during civil fraud case closing arguments

The judge overseeing Donald Trump's New York civil fraud case said Wednesday that Trump would not speak during Thursday's closing arguments, as the former president had requested, after his lawyers rejected the judge's conditions. Trump attorney Chris Kise had informed Judge Arthur Engoron in a Jan. 4 email that Trump intended to speak. Andrew Amer of state Attorney General Letitia James' office objected, saying letting Trump participate in closing arguments "would effectively grant him an opportunity to testify without being subject to cross-examination." Engoron had said he was leaning toward letting Trump speak but he could not "testify," "deliver a campaign speech" or "impugn" court employees. Kise said Trump couldn't agree to those terms. NBC News

5. Al-Shabab militants seize UN helicopter, crew in Somalia

The Somali armed Islamist group al-Shabab seized a United Nations helicopter that made an emergency landing Wednesday. Armed members of the al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group set the helicopter on fire and abducted most of the four Europeans and five Africans who were onboard. The attackers reportedly killed one crew member. Two others were unaccounted for and might have escaped, a Western official told The Washington Post. A U.N. memo said there were no U.N. staff involved. All the passengers and crew were third-party contractors, according to AFP. BBC, The Washington Post

6. House committees recommend holding Hunter Biden in contempt

Two committees in the Republican-led House on Wednesday approved a report recommending holding Hunter Biden in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for closed-door testimony. Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's son, made a brief appearance as the committees began to consider the contempt resolution, angering Republicans. "You are the epitome of white privilege," Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said, accusing Biden of ignoring the subpoena then showing up and "spitting in our face." Biden and his lawyers left after 10 minutes. Last month, on the day Biden was called to appear, he held a news conference outside the Capitol, offering to testify in public. Republicans allege, without proof, that the president benefited from his son's foreign business dealings. CNN

7. Ecuador, drug mafias declare war on each other

Ecuador's new president, Daniel Noboa, and drug gangs declared war on each other Wednesday as soldiers patrolled mostly empty streets following a drug boss' prison escape that triggered an outburst of gang violence. "We are in a non-international armed conflict," Noboa said in a radio interview. "We are in a state of war. We cannot give in to those terrorist groups." The small, once-calm South American nation has faced years of increasing power by transnational drug cartels, which use Ecuador's ports to ship cocaine to the United States and Europe, according to CBS News. A series of attacks left at least 11 people dead Tuesday in the port city of Guayaquil and nearby towns. The Wall Street Journal, CBS News

8. SEC approves bitcoin ETFs

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday approved 11 applications to offer exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tied to bitcoin. The decision came a day after someone hacked the regulator's account on X and claimed the decision had already been made. The authorization of bitcoin ETFs marked an important moment for the cryptocurrency industry. The new financial products will give people an easier way to invest in digital assets. Major financial firms, including asset managers BlackRock and Fidelity, were among the firms approved to offer the products, which could start trading as soon as Thursday. SEC Chair Gary Gensler, a critic of crypto-market fraud and volatility, stressed that the SEC hadn't endorsed bitcoin and urged investors to "remain cautious." The New York Times

9. Amazon, Google lay off hundreds in post-pandemic cost cuts

Amazon and Google on Wednesday announced hundreds of layoffs, the latest sign that tech giants are trying to reverse their over-expansion during the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon, which has cut 27,000 employees since late 2022, is laying off hundreds of workers at its studio division and its subsidiary Twitch. Google said it was cutting hundreds of employees in divisions including Google's Assistant program and hardware and internal software tools. Tech companies laid off tens of thousands of employees last year as consumers continued their return to normal life after the end of the coronavirus crisis, which had forced them to work, play, shop and study online, sparking a boom for the tech industry. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal

10. Avalanche kills 1 at California ski resort

An avalanche crashed through expert trails at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Wednesday amid a major storm with heavy snow and gusty winds. One person was killed and another injured. The resort, Palisades Tahoe, closed 30 minutes after it opened, and search crews rushed to see if anyone else was hurt or buried. The avalanche hit steep "black diamond" slopes for skilled skiers and snowboarders. The victims were out-of-town guests at the resort. Two others hit by sliding snow were pulled out unhurt. Skier Mark Sponsler, a veteran weather forecaster, said a person who saw the avalanche hit recounted that "there was screaming, there were skis and poles and a hand sticking up out of the snow." The Associated Press

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