Good morning.

The chaos at Twitter has escalated today and speculation of the platform’s imminent collapse is swirling as hundreds of employees were reported to have rejected Elon Musk’s ultimatum to keep working for the business, threatening its ability to keep operating.

As the company temporarily closed its offices to staff, Twitter users began saying their goodbyes and linking to accounts on other platforms.

#RIPTwitter, #TwitterDown, #Mastodon and #Myspace were all trending on the platform after the deadline passed on Musk’s ultimatum for the remaining workforce to sign up for “long hours at high intensity”, or leave. It has been estimated that hundreds of the remaining staff opted to go.

The departures include many engineers responsible for fixing bugs and preventing service outages, raising questions about the stability of the platform and prompting hurried debates among managers over who should be asked to return, current and former employees said.

  • How many people have decided to leave? It’s unclear but it could be as many as 50% of the company. The numbers highlight the reluctance of some staffers to remain at a company where Musk has hastened to fire employees including top management, and is ruthlessly changing the culture to emphasise long hours and an intense pace.

  • What actions should Twitter users take? Researchers are urging users to download their tweets in case Twitter implodes completely and many users have tweeted in recent days that they are seeking to archive tweets from loved ones who have died.

Biden administration says Mohammed bin Salman should be granted sovereign immunity in Khashoggi civil case

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The Biden administration’s move in effect ends an attempt to hold Mohammed bin Salman responsible for 2018 killing of Khashoggi. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Mohammed bin Salman should be granted sovereign immunity in a civil case involving the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration has told a US court, in effect ending a last ditch attempt to hold the Saudi crown prince legally accountable for the 2018 killing.

In a filing released late last night, the Biden administration said the crown prince’s recent promotion to the role of prime minister meant that he was “the sitting head of government and, accordingly, immune” from the lawsuit.

“The United States government has expressed grave concerns regarding Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific killing and has raised these concerns publicly and with the most senior levels of the Saudi government,” the Department of Justice said in its filing, adding that the US had also imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions related to the murder.

“However, the doctrine of head of state immunity is well established in customary international law and has been consistently recognized in longstanding executive branch practice as a status-based determination that does not reflect a judgment on the underlying conduct at issue in the litigation,” it said.

  • What will happen now? Legal experts say the US government’s position, which was filed to a US district court, will probably lead judge John Bates to dismiss a civil case brought against Prince Mohammed and his alleged accomplices by Hatice Cengiz, the outspoken fiancee of Khashoggi.

US declares lab-grown meat safe to eat in ‘groundbreaking’ move

Upside Foods’ chicken sandwich.
Upside Foods’ chicken sandwich. Photograph: Upside Foods

The US government has cleared the way for Americans to eat lab-grown meat, after authorities deemed a meat product derived from animal cells to be safe for human consumption.

The US food and drug administration (FDA) will allow a California company called Upside Foods to take living cells from chickens and then grow them in a controlled laboratory environment to produce a meat product that doesn’t involve the actual slaughter of any animals.

The FDA said it was ready to approve the sale of other lab-grown meat, stating that it was “engaged in discussions with multiple firms” to do the same, including companies that want to grow seafood from the cells of marine life. “The world is experiencing a food revolution and the US food and drug administration is committed to supporting innovation in the food supply,” said Robert Califf, the FDA commissioner.

With Singapore currently the only country in which lab-grown meat products are legally sold to consumers, the US approval could open the floodgates to a new food market that backers say is more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional livestock farming.

In other news …

Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing speaker, has led House Democrats for two decades.
Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing speaker, has led House Democrats for two decades.
Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
  • Nancy Pelosi, a giant of American politics and the first woman to lead the House of Representatives, was stepping down from leadership to make way for a new generation, she said. The 82-year-old made the announcement after Republicans regained a majority in the chamber.

  • A North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone today had the potential range to strike the US mainland, Japanese officials say. The US, Japan and South Korea condemned North Korea for launching the missile.

  • The US is deeply concerned about the Chinese government setting up unauthorised “police stations” in US cities to possibly pursue influence operations, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, has said. Asked if such stations violated US law, Wray said the FBI was “looking into the legal parameters”.

  • The families of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie have reached a $3m settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed after authorities concluded he strangled her in August 2021. Her family said the money would go to the Gabby Petito Foundation, dedicated to locating missing people and curbing domestic violence.

  • A member of Russia’s armed forces who took part in the invasion of Ukraine has requested political asylum after landing in Madrid, the Guardian has learned. Nikita Chibrin, 27, said had he spent more than four months in Ukraine and was eager to testify in an international court about his experiences.

Stat of the day: Missile strikes leave 10 million Ukrainians without power

Armoured vehicles in Kyiv
The strikes on Ukraine’s power grid follow a series of battlefield setbacks for Russia, including last week’s retreat from Kherson. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Fresh Russian strikes hit cities across Ukraine on Thursday, crippling the energy infrastructure and plunging millions into darkness as winter sets in and temperatures drop. “More than 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity,” the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said. Repeated barrages have disrupted electricity and water supplies across Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports, but the Kremlin blamed civilians’ suffering on Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate rather than on Russian attacks. The latest assault coincided with the season’s first snow, after officials in Kyiv warned of “difficult” days ahead.

Don’t miss this: As small towns shrink, is immigration the answer?

From left: suburbs west of Des Moines, Iowa; an empty street in Rockdale, Texas; Indian stores in Queens in New York.
From left: suburbs west of Des Moines, Iowa; an empty street in Rockdale, Texas; Indian stores in Queens in New York. Composite: Guardian/AFP/Getty Images/Alamy

Parts of rural America are emblematic of a larger trend in the United States: a population that in 2021 grew 0.1%, the slowest rate since the founding of the country, according to the US Census Bureau. Demographers and sociologists who study the trend point to a number of factors, including low fertility, the Covid-19 pandemic and a significant decrease in immigration due to the pandemic and restrictions introduced by the former president Donald Trump. If a growing population is necessary for a healthy US economy, the country may have to rely on immigration to deliver it.

… or this: ‘At 52, I abandoned everything, every friend, every family member’ – the top official who escaped Scientology

Mike Rinder
‘People contact me every single day asking for help’ … Mike Rinder, pictured in 2012. Photograph: Zuma/Alamy

Mike Rinder was so entrenched in the “aristocracy of Scientology” that Tom Cruise gave him birthday presents – a fancy watch and a set of Bose headphones, writes Paula Cocozza. He earned promotion after promotion within the Sea Organization, a sort of executive order, was flown around the world and entrusted with taking Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley on a private tour of the Los Angeles museum devoted to Scientology’s founder, L Ron Hubbard. But after more than 45 years in the notoriously secretive church – which he now regards as “a mind prison” – he broke out.

Climate check: EU agrees to loss and damage fund to help poor countries amid climate disasters

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, of the Philippines, center, participates in a Fridays for Future protest calling for pay for loss and damage at Cop27
Fridays for Future protest calling for money for climate action at Cop27. Photograph: Peter de Jong/AP

A breakthrough looked possible in the deadlocked global climate talks today as the European Union made a dramatic intervention to agree to key developing world demands on financial help for poor countries. In the early hours of Friday at the Cop27 UN climate summit in Egypt, the European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, launched a proposal on behalf of the EU that would see it agree to establishing a loss and damage fund. The EU’s move throws the spotlight on the US, which has not yet responded to the proposal and much greater pressure on China too.

Last thing: James Webb telescope finds two of the oldest and most distant galaxies ever seen

An image from Nasa’s James Webb space telescope shows what is probably one of two farthest galaxies seen to date.
An image from Nasa’s James Webb space telescope shows what is probably one of two farthest galaxies seen to date. Photograph: ESA, Nasa, CSA, STScI/AFP/Getty

Nasa’s James Webb space telescope is finding bright, early galaxies that until now have been hidden from view, including one that may have formed just 350m years after the big bang. Astronomers said if the results were verified, this newly discovered throng of stars would beat the most distant galaxy identified by the Hubble space telescope – a record-holder that formed 400m years after the universe began. Launched as a successor to Hubble, the Webb telescope is indicating stars may have formed sooner than previously thought – perhaps within a couple million years of the big bang.

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