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A tragic incident unfolded in the city of Bryansk, western Russia, where a teenage girl fatally shot a fellow student before turning the gun on herself at Gymnasium No 5 on Thursday morning. Five individuals, including one seriously injured, were harmed in the shooting. The firearm used was reportedly registered under the girl’s father’s name, according to a parliamentarian.

Authorities were alerted to the situation around 09:15 local time, and one victim was undergoing surgery, as stated by Russia’s deputy health minister, Alexey Kuznetsov. The police suspect that the 14-year-old girl may have been involved in a conflict with classmates.

Local authorities are providing psychological support to students, teachers, and parents affected by the incident. Alexander Khinshtein, a member of the Russian Duma, revealed on Telegram that the girl’s belongings, including a box of bullets, were discovered during a school search. He emphasized the “neglectful attitude” towards the secure storage of the firearm as a contributing factor to the tragedy.

Strict gun laws in Russia require firearms to be stored in a special safe, accessible only by the legal owner, and subject to regular police inspections. Students reportedly barricaded themselves in a classroom upon hearing gunshots.

The governor of the Bryansk region, Alexander Bogomaz, described the shooting as a “terrible tragedy.” While school shootings have occurred in Russia in recent years, this incident is noteworthy as it involves a female shooter. In 2021, a 19-year-old carried out a shooting in Kazan, resulting in the deaths of seven children and two adults, and the following year, 18 people were killed in a school shooting in Udmurtia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has undertaken a rare foreign trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. The discussions are expected to cover topics such as the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as oil production. Notably, the UAE is hosting the COP28 UN climate summit. Despite facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) related to alleged war crimes, including the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia do not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Putin’s visit is seen as part of Russia’s efforts to assert influence and counter isolation attempts by the West. In the UAE, trade and oil are key agenda items, as it is described as Russia’s primary economic partner in the Arab world. Putin also traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, discussing bilateral cooperation and regional events. The leaders reportedly addressed ways to promote de-escalation in the Israel-Hamas conflict and discussed conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Sudan.

Furthermore, Putin is set to meet Iran’s President Ibrahim Raisi to discuss the war in Gaza. This trip follows Putin’s limited international travel since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with visits restricted to Russian-occupied Ukraine, Iran, and China.

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British trader Sanjay Shah has been extradited from the United Arab Emirates to Denmark to face tax fraud charges totaling £1.46 billion. The charges stem from alleged fraudulent share trading schemes conducted by Solo Capital, the hedge fund Shah founded. Despite living in Dubai, Shah denies any wrongdoing, asserting that the trades in question were legal. Denmark, heavily impacted by “cum-ex” schemes, alleges that Solo Capital engaged in fraudulent activities between 2012 and 2015. The Danish authorities are seeking to recover the substantial sum, which accounts for nearly 0.5% of the country’s GDP.

In the legal proceedings, Shah, who lost his job as a trader during the 2008 financial crisis, is considered the primary suspect. Prosecutors in Denmark are pushing for him to be held in custody until his trial, scheduled for January of next year. Since 2020, Danish authorities have aggressively pursued Shah, leading to the freezing of much of his fortune, including a £15 million central London property. Despite an extravagant lifestyle in Dubai, where he resided on the exclusive Palm Jumeirah island and hosted charity events with renowned musicians like Elton John and Drake, Shah has faced mounting legal challenges.

Sanjay Shah’s legal battles are part of a broader crackdown on “cum-ex” fraud in Denmark. In a separate case in November, Guenther Klar, a British national who worked for Solo Capital between 2010 and 2012, went on trial in Denmark—the country’s first court case over cum-ex fraud. Klar, extradited from Belgium, faces accusations of defrauding the government of £37 million. He maintains his innocence, marking another chapter in Denmark’s efforts to address financial misconduct within the realm of cum-ex schemes. Despite facing challenges in the UK Supreme Court, Shah’s extradition and the ongoing legal proceedings underscore Denmark’s commitment to pursuing those involved in financial fraud, irrespective of their location.

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Francisco José García de Zúñiga, a farmer in Jaén, Spain, is facing a challenging harvest season due to consecutive years of drought in 2022 and 2023. Jaén is a crucial region for olive oil production, with Spain being the world’s largest producer, contributing to 70% of European Union consumption and 45% globally.

The persistent lack of rain in olive-producing areas like Jaén has led to a significant impact on both the quantity and price of olive oil. Mr García de Zúñiga emphasizes that Spain’s challenges affect global production, adhering to the basic law of supply and demand. As Spain produces less oil, global supply decreases, and if demand remains constant, prices rise.

In Spain, olive oil prices have surged by over 70% this year, following a substantial increase in 2022. Factors contributing to this surge include rising costs of fuel, electricity, and fertilizers over the past two years, but the primary factor is the extended period of drought. The Nuestra Señora del Pilar cooperative, one of the world’s largest olive oil factories, experienced a severely low olive harvest in the 2022-23 season.

Cristóbal Gallego Martínez, the cooperative’s president, highlights the impact of climate change on traditional agricultural assumptions. Dry periods are lasting longer, and the usual cycle of poor and good harvests is disrupted. He calls for government measures, such as investing in irrigation systems, to address the changing climate patterns.

The rise in olive oil prices is not limited to Spain, as it has been observed across Europe. Some neighboring countries have seen a less sharp increase, leading to Spaniards crossing borders to purchase slightly cheaper oil. The UK and Ireland, for instance, have lower prices due to having bought oil at a lower cost several months ago.

Despite the economic considerations, experts warn against opting for cheaper alternatives, as olive oil is a vital component of the Mediterranean diet, known for its health benefits. Lower-cost alternatives, such as sunflower oil, might lead to a loss in nutritional value. Fernando López-Segura, from Córdoba’s Reina Sofía hospital, underscores the cardiovascular benefits of consuming [virgin extra] olive oil, emphasizing the importance of maintaining its place in the Mediterranean diet. However, current consumption trends are influenced not only by health considerations but also by the unpredictable patterns of rainfall.

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In Smolensk, Russia, firefighters went beyond the typical animal rescue scenario when they found an injured Ural owl outside their fire station gates on Monday morning. The owl, with a damaged wing, was under attack by crows. The firefighters promptly intervened, rescuing the distressed bird from the crows and providing warmth and nourishment.

Following the rescue, the Ural owl was transported to a veterinarian for an x-ray and additional care. The next step involves sending the owl to a wild bird rehabilitation and reintroduction center, as stated by Smolensk’s emergency services.

Natalia Arbuzova, a press officer interviewed by Russian state media, recounted the incident. She explained how the firefighters noticed the motionless owl with an injured wing being pecked by crows at 10:00 local time. The firefighters acted swiftly, driving away the crows, placing the owl on a shovel, and bringing it inside the station. To protect the owl from light sensitivity, it was kept in a dark box and provided with nourishment.

The bird is anticipated to recover well, but it will remain at the vet’s until it is ready to be transferred to the rehabilitation center, Arbuzova added.

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The surge in gang-related violence, including shootings and bombings, once confined to Sweden’s major cities, has now spilled into quieter suburbs and towns, challenging the nation’s reputation for safety. Upplands-Bro, a community north of Stockholm, has witnessed a series of incidents, including the tragic death of a 14-year-old boy in August and multiple shootings and bombings since January.

The shift in violence from impoverished urban areas is attributed, in part, to gangs targeting the relatives of their rivals. Law enforcement suspects that some of the recent violence is coordinated by criminal leaders based in other countries, such as Turkey and Serbia. The toll has been significant, with nearly 50 fatalities and over 140 explosions in 2023 alone, surpassing the previous year’s record of over 60 deaths from gun violence.

Gangs have evolved beyond street-level criminal activities, forming connections with higher-level criminals. Innocent bystanders, including a 70-year-old man and a 24-year-old teacher, have fallen victim to the violence. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson acknowledged the severity of the situation in a rare national address, promising stricter penalties for deadly violence.

Children as young as 13 or 14 are being recruited into gangs through promises of money and designer clothes on social media. Concerned individuals are taking action, organizing street patrols in affected areas. Community engagement, like night walks and support for families affected by violence, is seen as a way to enhance safety.

In areas like Jarva, where unemployment rates are high, individuals like Libaane Warsame have taken it upon themselves to patrol the streets after losing a family member to gun violence. Despite a lack of fatal shootings this year, residents remain on edge.

The rise in gang violence has prompted the government to reevaluate immigration policies. The right-wing coalition government, elected in 2022, believes that the increase in violence is linked to past immigration policies. Steps include making it harder for immigrants outside the EU to receive social benefits and introducing compulsory preschool to improve Swedish-language skills in certain areas. Legislation against recruiting children for criminal activities has been enacted, and plans for stop-and-search zones and increased prison sentences for offenses, such as gun crimes and explosions, are in progress.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree approving a 15% increase in the country’s troop numbers, gradually adding 170,000 personnel to reach a total of 1,320,000. The move, as announced by the defense ministry, is a response to perceived threats, particularly from the expansion of NATO. The ministry emphasized that the augmentation will be carried out through a staged recruitment drive rather than mobilization or changes to conscription procedures.

The rationale behind the decision includes concerns about the “growth of the joint armed forces of [NATO] near Russia’s borders” and the perceived threats associated with Russia’s ongoing military operations, particularly its involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

Amidst this development, NATO’s recent expansion, which now includes Finland, and Sweden’s application to join, have been highlighted as contributing factors to Russia’s decision. The alliance has clarified that Ukraine’s potential membership is contingent on meeting certain conditions, though a specific timeline has not been specified.

Notably, Ukraine cannot pursue NATO membership while it remains in a state of conflict with Russia. Against this backdrop, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for reinforcements and enhanced defenses along the front line with Russia, particularly given the challenging weather conditions with temperatures falling below freezing in the region.

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A medieval tower in Bologna, Italy, named the Garisenda Tower, which rivals the famous leaning tower of Pisa in its tilt, has been closed off due to concerns over its potential collapse. The 12th-century tower, standing at 47 meters with a four-degree tilt, is now enclosed by a 5-meter high barrier to contain potential debris if it were to fall. Recent monitoring has detected shifts in the tower’s tilt direction, leading the city council to deem the situation “highly critical.”

The city council has initiated a civil protection plan to safeguard the Garisenda Tower. The construction of a €4.3 million barrier is underway as the first phase to ensure the tower’s stability. This barrier, set to be completed early next year, will not only contain potential debris but also protect surrounding structures and individuals in the event of a collapse. Additionally, metal rockfall nets will be installed around the tower to enhance safety measures.

The closure of the Garisenda Tower comes after the site was first shut down in October. Sensors detected changes in the tower’s tilt, prompting inspections that revealed deterioration in the materials forming its base. The restoration work is anticipated to take several years, and both the tower and the plaza beneath it will remain inaccessible during this period.

To fund the restoration efforts, the city council has launched a crowdfunding campaign, emphasizing the significance of this project as an “extraordinary challenge” requiring commitment not only from the local community but also from individuals worldwide who cherish Bologna and its iconic symbols. The Garisenda Tower, along with the Asinelli Tower, forms a historic pair that has adorned the Bologna skyline since their construction between 1109 and 1119. The Garisenda’s height was reduced in the 14th century due to its leaning, and it is notably mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, completed in 1321.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has emphasized the urgent need to strengthen defenses along the front line following meetings with commanders in key areas of tension in the south and east. Russian forces are attempting to encircle the eastern town of Avdiivka, targeting southern regions like Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. President Zelensky, in his nightly address, highlighted the importance of accelerating the construction of structures in sectors requiring reinforcement. Despite Ukraine’s air force claiming success in downing 18 out of 25 Russian drones and one cruise missile, the situation remains challenging, especially with temperatures dropping below freezing.

Zelensky acknowledged that winter introduces a new phase of the war, and he pledged “maximum attention” to eastern towns under fire, the Donetsk region, and the defensive line in the north-east. Concerns are rising about the possibility of a “frozen” conflict despite ongoing fierce fighting. The failure of Ukraine’s counter-offensive since the summer to achieve desired gains has raised questions about frontline morale. The military reported repelling 20 attacks near Avdiivka, which is almost encircled by Russian forces. The town’s industrial hub faces threats, with Russian forces aiming to seize a nearby coke plant.

In the south-east, Russian forces are attempting to regain lost areas around Robotyne, but Ukrainian officials claim to maintain positions on the east bank of the River Dnipro. Zelensky expressed dissatisfaction with casualties and the insufficient supply of weapons. Despite facing challenges, Ukrainian forces managed to regain control of the village of Krynky after crossing the Dnipro, facing relentless Russian attacks. Russia’s defense ministry reported repelling a Ukrainian naval attack on occupied Crimea via the Black Sea, while parts of the peninsula were placed under a state of emergency due to storm-related deaths.

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German authorities have apprehended two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, under suspicion of planning a militant Islamist attack on either a Christmas market or synagogue. The younger individual, a German-Afghan from Burscheid, was taken into custody after a search of his residence, while the 16-year-old, described as a Russian national, was detained in Wittstock/Dosse. The alleged seriousness of the plot prompted police intervention, as the boys had specified a time and place for the potential attack.

The targeted location initially mentioned in reports was Cologne, southwest of Burscheid, but subsequent information suggested it might be the nearby city of Leverkusen. The suspects had reportedly exchanged information on the Telegram messaging app, discussing the use of homemade incendiary devices or a van to carry out their plans. The arrests come amid concerns about a heightened risk of Islamist militant attacks in Germany, with authorities acting on a tip from abroad regarding a potential threat involving an individual from North Rhine-Westphalia.

The arrests unfolded as Thomas Haldenwang, the head of Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), warned of an increased risk of Islamist militant attacks. Haldenwang linked this elevated threat to the Israel-Hamas conflict and highlighted the potential for attacks on Jewish, Israeli individuals, and institutions in the West. He emphasized that various groups were spreading hatred, incitement, and antisemitism, with jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State exploiting the situation to convey a victim narrative to Muslims in the West. The intelligence chief underscored the urgency of the situation, stating that an attack could happen in Germany at any time.

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