First Thing: Nikki Haley accuses Pompeo of ‘lies’ after VP plot claim | US news

Good morning.

Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, said the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s claim that she plotted to replace Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s vice-president was “lies and gossip to sell a book”.

Haley spoke to Fox News last night, after the Guardian obtained a copy of Pompeo’s forthcoming memoir, Never Give An Inch, and reported his comments about Haley.

Haley resigned from the Trump administration in October 2018. Before that, Pompeo says, she set up a personal meeting with Trump in the Oval Office without checking with him.

Pompeo writes that John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, thought Haley had in fact been accompanied by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as they presented “a possible ‘Haley for vice-president’ option”.

Pompeo also writes unfavourably of Haley’s performance as UN ambassador and criticises her resignation.

  • What did Haley say? Speaking to Fox News, Haley said: “I don’t know why he said it, but that’s exactly why I stayed out of DC as much as possible, to get away from the drama.” She also pointed out that Pompeo says in his book he does not know if the story is true.

  • Is Haley planning the Republican presidential nomination in 2024? Both Haley and Pompeo are among possible contenders in the contest in which Trump remains the only confirmed candidate. But Haley seems set to run. She told Fox News: “We are still working through things and we’ll figure it out. I’ve never lost a race. I said that then, I still say that now. I’m not going to lose now.”

Zelenskiy expecting ‘strong decisions’ as Kyiv’s allies meet in Germany

Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Volodymyr Zelenskiy is calling for western allies to supply Ukraine with tanks. Photograph: Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has said his government is expecting “strong decisions” from defence leaders of Nato and other countries meeting on Friday to discuss boosting Ukraine’s ability to confront Russian forces with modern battle tanks.

The meeting, at Ramstein airbase in Germany, is the latest in a series since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, and where future weapons supplies will be discussed, particularly of Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks used by armies across Europe.

Berlin has veto power over any decision to export the tanks and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has appeared reluctant so far to authorise their release for fear of provoking Russia.

Some allies say Berlin’s concern is misplaced, with Russia already fully committed to war, while Moscow has repeatedly said western weapons transfers would prolong the conflict and increase suffering in Ukraine.

  • What has the US government said? The US defence secretary has called for the allies to “dig deeper” in their support for Ukraine as “history is watching us”, as he gave details of the $2.5bn military aid package the US announced yesterday.

  • What else is happening? Here’s what we know on day 331 of the invasion.

Ron DeSantis bans African American studies class from Florida high schools

Florida governor Ron DeSantis
The move by the Republican governor is the latest in a series of actions to stop conversations about race and gender in public schools. Photograph: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, has rejected a new advanced placement course in African American studies from being taught on high school campuses. He argues that the course violates state law and “lacks educational value”.

This move is the latest in a series of actions to keep conversations and lessons about race, sexuality and gender identity off the state’s school campuses.

DeSantis officially banned the course in a letter from the state education department to the College Board, the organization that administers college readiness exams such as the scholastic aptitude test (SAT). They also oversee advanced placement (AP) courses, which allow students to earn college credits in subjects like English and chemistry.

In a letter on 12 January to the College Board, the Florida education department said the course was “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value”.

  • When did schools start offering the course? It hasn’t been running for long. In the summer of 2022, the College Board announced a pilot program to “offer high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies” would be launching in 60 high schools across the country during the 2022-23 school year and will be set to expand to other campuses the following year.

In other news …

David Crosby poses for a portrait to promote the film David Crosby: Remember My Name
David Crosby. ‘Although he is no longer here with us, his humanity and kind soul will continue to guide and inspire us.’ Photograph: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP
  • Legendary US musician David Crosby has died aged 81 after a “long illness”. The singer, guitarist and songwriter was part of the original lineup of the Byrds and appeared on their first five albums. He also co-founded the folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash.

  • One of the world’s oldest Zionist organisations with close ties to the Israeli government, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), is using American anti-terrorism laws to sue a major Palestinian rights group in the US over its support for the international boycott movement.

  • A federal judge has ordered Donald Trump and one of his attorneys to jointly pay nearly $1m in penalties for pursuing a frivolous lawsuit that accused Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and others of engaging in racketeering and concocting a vast conspiracy against him.

  • A small town in Alabama is honoring a man who paid off his neighbors’ pharmacy bills for years and kept his generosity a secret until shortly before his recent death by picking up exactly where he left off. Hody Childress donated $100 a month for neighbors who couldn’t pay their prescriptions.

Stat of the day: Joshua Tree’s ‘Invisible House’ could be yours for $18m

Joshua Trees in the Mojave Desert with boulder formation in the distant.
‘Americans have a better understanding of the cultural appeal of Joshua Tree’s remote desert landscape than potential international buyers.’ Photograph: R Patrick Jennings/Alamy

Joshua Tree’s real estate boom may have reached a symbolic peak, as the desert town’s iconic, mirror-walled mansion goes on the market for $18m in what is said to be a record-setting asking price. The Invisible House, constructed in 2019 by film producers Chris and Roberta Hanley, has hosted celebrities including Alicia Keys and Ariana Grande. It’s a surreal, box-like structure, with glinting glass walls that reflect the desert landscape, and a massive, 100ft indoor pool that stretches nearly half the length of the house. Even if the Invisible House ends up selling for $9m, half the asking price, “it will be the most expensive home ever sold in Joshua Tree”, local newspaper San Bernardino Sun reported.

Don’t miss this: ‘You have to set time aside for friendship’– the radical power of hanging out

Friends chatting and laughing sitting by the window having a cup of teaA British-Bangladeshi woman and an Asian woman chat and laugh while having a cup of sitting next to a window with the sun shining through in a flat in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
‘You have to set that time aside’ for relaxing with friends, says the academic Sheila Liming. Photograph: Carlos G Lopez/Getty Images

From sharing a cuppa to lazing in the park, is the key to happiness doing everyday activities with pals? Leisure time, shrinking since the 1970s, is increasingly precious for women in particular, with US and UK statistics showing a stark gender gap. What free time people do have, time-use surveys consistently show, is mostly spent watching television – perhaps because we find ourselves too exhausted to do anything else. The author and academic Sheila Liming wants us to find the time – or, more precisely, to reclaim it. Her new book, Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time, is partly a paean to the pleasures of idling with others and partly a manifesto to “take back our social lives from the deadening whirl of contemporary life”.

Climate check: ‘Super-tipping points’ could trigger cascade of climate action

Aerial view of rental cars  in Sydney, Australia
Aerial view of rental cars in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Three “super-tipping points” for climate action could trigger a cascade of decarbonisation across the global economy, according to a report. Relatively small policy interventions on electric cars, plant-based alternatives to meat and green fertilisers would lead to unstoppable growth in those sectors, the experts said. But the boost this would give to battery and hydrogen production would mean crucial knock-on benefits for other sectors including energy storage and aviation. Urgent emissions cuts are needed to avoid irreversible climate breakdown and the experts say the super-tipping points are the fastest way to drive global action, offering “plausible hope” that a rapid transition to a green economy can happen in time.

Last Thing: ‘We dubbed it Toadzilla’: giant cane toad believed to be the largest of its species found in Australia

Rangers in Conway National Park, near Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia, have discovered a huge cane toad, dubbed Toadzilla, weighing 2.7kg, which could be a new record for the species
Rangers in Conway National Park, near Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia, have discovered a huge cane toad, dubbed Toadzilla, weighing 2.7kg, which could be a new record for the species. Photograph: Department of Environment and Science QLD

She’s toxic, weighs as much as some newborn babies and was found in the wilds of Australia’s far north. A giant cane toad, dubbed “Toadzilla”, found by rangers in Queensland’s Conway national park yesterday, is believed to be the largest of her species ever found. The Guinness World Record for the largest toad in history is 2.65kg (5.8lbs), found in 1991. The rangers who found “Toadzilla” took it back to their base and weighed it. She tipped the scales at 2.7kg (6lbs), which could be a new record. Ranger Kylee Gray saw the enormous toad while walking in the national park. “I reached down and grabbed the cane toad and couldn’t believe how big and heavy it was,” she said. “We dubbed it Toadzilla.”

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