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Good morning, and Happy New Year. Let’s start with our top stories:

In a key ruling that could ignite a constitutional crisis, Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected a key component of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul that would limit the court’s own powers. The planned overhaul, which was put on hold after the attack by Hamas on Oct. 7, sparked months of protests, with opponents saying it would open the door to corruption and improper appointments. The ruling is a blow to Netanyahu’s government, which claims that the national legislature, not the high court, should have the final word over legislation and other key decisions.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Dec. 31, 2023.POOL/Reuters

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Israel says the war in Gaza has many months to go, though it signalled a shift on Monday as it pulled tanks out of some Gaza City districts and announced plans to cut back on troop numbers. The war has reduced much of the Palestinian enclave to rubble, killing thousands and plunging its 2.3 million people into a humanitarian disaster.

And Canada finds itself in an awkward spot as it weighs its response to South Africa’s bid to take Israel to the International Court of Justice for its military actions in Gaza, legal experts say. The Canadian government has often intervened at the same court in support of human-rights cases against other governments, including Russia. But as a supporter of Israel, it is likely to oppose the South African application, and will struggle to explain the apparent inconsistency, legal analysts say.

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Also on our radar

Jimmy Lai enters not guilty plea: Hong Kong publisher and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty to a series of national security charges Tuesday, as a trial expected to last much of this year got under way. Prosecutors began outlining their case, describing Lai as a “radical political figure.” His legal team have called the trial a “sham” and expect him to be convicted regardless of the evidence.

Japan in race to find survivors after earthquake: A powerful, 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit central Japan on New Year’s Day, killing at least eight people, destroying buildings, knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and prompting residents in some coastal areas to flee to higher ground. The country dropped its highest-level tsunami alert, but told residents of coastal areas not to return to their homes as deadly waves could still come.

Size of federal public service swells to record: The federal public service reached a record size in 2023 as the number of jobs filled through non-advertised posts soared to nearly three times the level prior to the election of the Liberal government in 2015. And more public servants switched jobs, resigned or were investigated than at any time during the Trudeau government’s mandate, new statistics from the Public Service Commission of Canada show.

‘Social prescribing’ put to the test: Can writing prescriptions for community and wellness activities actually help patients who are isolated and disconnected from their community? “Social prescribing” programs across Canada are aiming to do just that. Globe reporter Erin Anderssen examines a growing health initiative that offers hope.

A new era in women’s hockey: The first game of the Professional Women’s Hockey League unfolded Monday night in Toronto in a long-awaited launch for the centrally owned six-team league featuring the best female players in the world. (But it didn’t end with the result Canada was hoping for: New York beat Toronto 4-0.)

Morning markets

Traders bet on rate cuts: European stock markets opened higher on Tuesday as traders bet on central banks cutting rates in 2024, oil prices gained after a naval clash in the Red Sea, and Chinese stocks were weighed down by mixed economic data. Around 5:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE was flat. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 added 0.62 per cent and 0.25 per cent, respectively. In Asia, markets in Japan were closed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.52 per cent. New York futures were down modestly. The Canadian dollar was lower at 75.42 US cents.

What everyone’s talking about

André Picard: “In Canadian cities, the cycling and public transit infrastructure is lamentable, with few exceptions. We spend our time making excuses – the weather, the weather! But Toronto’s weather is not much different from that of Paris. What’s lacking in Canada is political will – we need politicians and policy-makers to say we no longer accept the tyranny of the car. We need the recognition that, if we want to tackle climate change and make cities livable, the focus should be on improving the lots of cyclists and pedestrians.”

Robert Rotberg: ”In this season of holiday celebration, there is nothing but relentless darkness for the globe’s untold millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. Not only are nearly two million Gazans displaced, as well as millions of Ukrainians, but incessant wars in Africa and Asia have forced millions to flee violence. They need the world’s attention and succour.”

The Editorial Board: “Quebec’s experience [with subsidized daycare] foreshadowed what is happening now with the federal plan: a lucky few families benefited from subsidized spots, which were even more in demand because of the lower fees. In the interests of fairness, Quebec introduced a generous tax credit that was tilted toward low-income families. Ottawa and the provinces should take note. Because without further action, the widening gap between families with a daycare space and those without will only grow.”

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Editorial cartoon by David Parkins, published Jan. 2, 2024.David Parkins/The Globe and Mail

Living better

24 dietitian-approved tips to build healthy eating habits

Do your 2024 health goals include optimizing your diet for long-term health? Don’t set yourself up for failure by attempting an overnight revamp of your habits. Instead, check out these 24 healthy living tips from registered dietitian Leslie Beck and incorporate some tips each week. At the end of January, take a moment to review your progress and pick one you feel requires more attention to master in the next month.

And if your eating habits require just a minor tweak, take a look at these 5 habits that might be sabotaging your diet. You might find that a small change can make a big difference.

Moment in time: January 2, 1920

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American science fiction & mystery writer Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992) as he sits in a booth during the 'New York is Book County' fair, New York, New York, September 16, 1990. (Photo by Rita Barros/Getty Images)Rita Barros/Getty Images

Isaac Asimov is born

As befitting a future novelist, Isaac Asimov was never sure about his birthdate. Although he celebrated it on this date, its actual timing remained shrouded in mystery. Records in his small Soviet birthplace of Petrovichi were sparse, and even his parents could only narrow it down to some time between Oct. 4, 1919 and Jan. 2, 1920. His infancy was tough and almost too brief: When he was one year old, he and 16 other children in Petrovichi contracted double pneumonia. The other 16 died. Two years later, spurred by hope for a better life, his family moved to New York. Perhaps his early brush with death bequeathed his legendary work ethic. During his career, Mr. Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books, popularizing a sub-genre of science fiction grounded in reality, or at least theoretically possible reality. Since his 1992 death, his legacy as a visionary continues to grow. Indeed, amid increasing concerns about artificial intelligence, his three laws of robotics look more prescient than ever, in particular his first law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Even Mr. Asimov himself, however, expressed doubt it would actually be followed. – Ken Carriere

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