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Up First briefing: South Africa accuses Israel of genocide; Christie ends 2024 race

A woman stands in her damaged house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Friday, following Israeli bombardment amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
AFP via Getty Images
A woman stands in her damaged house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Friday, following Israeli bombardment amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

A legal hearing into the war in Gaza begins in The Hague today. The UN's International Court of Justice is hearing a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. South Africa will present its case today, and Israel will present its defense tomorrow.

  • Legal experts tell NPR's Rob Schmitz that proving genocide will be difficult because the legal definition of genocide depends on proving intent to exterminate a group based on characteristics like race, religion and nationality. Gleider Hernández, president of the European Society of International Law, tells him Israel will likely say the actions it took following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks were taken in self-defense. Schmitz reports on Up First that a ruling might not come for years. The court could issue a provisional ruling, but another legal expert tells him that enforcing this is very difficult, and Israel could ignore it.


Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last night, days before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. He was a vocal critic of the Republican frontrunner, former President Donald Trump. Christie did not endorse another candidate but emphasized that he "in no way" endorsed Trump ever to be president again.

  • Christie's exit from the primary changes "next to nothing" in Iowa, NPR network reporter Clay Masters reports on Morning Edition. Two of Trump's remaining rivals — Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis — faced off in a CNN debate in Iowa last night, where they spent most of the night accusing the other of lying. Masters says Trump ultimately walked away victorious by not showing up to the debate.


It's now easier to invest in crypto in the U.S.. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved yesterday almost a dozen bitcoin ETFs or exchange-traded funds. These investment funds track bitcoin prices and will allow people to invest in bitcoin without owning any of the cryptocurrency.

  • An analyst at the financial services firm Morningstar tells NPR's David Gura that the SEC's decision will make the barrier of entry to crypto investment much lower. Gura notes that most cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are volatile, and prices can move up and down a lot in a single day. SEC Chair Gary Gensler emphasized that while these specific ETFs are approved, he and his colleagues are not endorsing bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency.

Deep dive

For patients with long COVID, exercise can lead to a worsening of symptoms, a condition called post-exertional malaise. New research shows what's going on in their muscles.
Erik Isakson / Getty Images/Tetra images RF
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Getty Images/Tetra images RF
For patients with long COVID, exercise can lead to a worsening of symptoms, a condition called post-exertional malaise. New research shows what's going on in their muscles.

Many patients with long COVID are told to hit the gym and get back in shape when they describe their fatigue symptoms, known as post-exertional malaise (PEM). A new study paints a clearer picture of why exercising with this condition is so difficult. Researchers compared 25 people with long COVID to healthy controls and asked both groups to work out for 10-25 minutes on a stationary bike.

  • The mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in people with long COVID were functioning at a severely reduced capacity, making it hard for the muscles to get enough oxygen.  
  • Long COVID patients also had more muscle damage after exercising than healthy participants. 
  • Researchers found microclots that carry "trapped inflammatory molecules" that traveled from blood vessels into muscle tissue.  
  • Experts warn that exercising can harm those with PEM, and other approaches to recovery are needed.

Today's listen

Pink's 2009 pop hit "Sober" may be the best known song about sobriety. She's shown above at The BRIT Awards in London in 2019.
Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Pink's 2009 pop hit "Sober" may be the best known song about sobriety. She's shown above at The BRIT Awards in London in 2019.

This year, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones will be five years sober. When he was working through a 12-step program, he rejected the idea that there could be good music about not drinking. To help those who have decided to participate in Dry January, NPR's Neda Ulaby asked Frere-Jones to identify great songs that explore sobriety.

Listen to his favorite tracks and read about his recovery journey.

3 things to know before you go

  1. After nearly 40 years as an actress and two Oscar nominations, Angela Bassett was honored at the 14th annual Governors Awards with an honorary Academy Award.
  2. Longtime Alabama football coach Nick Saban shocked the sports world yesterday with his retirement announcement. (via WBHM
  3. Residents of St. Paul, Minn., saw a historic, all-women city council sworn in this week. All of the council members are under 40, and all except one are women of color. (via MPR)

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.