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Hundreds of individuals in Russia gathered for the funeral of Alexei Navalny, the outspoken Putin critic who died in prison last month. Despite a substantial police presence and erected barricades, mourners broke into applause as Navalny’s body was brought into a church near Moscow. Attendees knowingly risked arrest for expressing support, while Navalny’s wife squarely pointed the finger at President Putin for his demise, contrary to Moscow’s claim of natural causes.

Navalny’s memorial service commenced at 14:00 Moscow time at the Church of the Icon of Our Lady Quench My Sorrows, with notable foreign diplomats present in solidarity. Following the service, Navalny was laid to rest at Borisovskoye Cemetery. Despite efforts to broadcast the event live, disruptions to mobile signals hindered streaming, leaving many unable to witness the proceedings.

Despite warnings from the Kremlin, mourners seized the opportunity to voice their admiration for Navalny’s bravery and questioned the authorities’ apparent fear. Navalny’s team encountered challenges in organizing the funeral, including difficulties in procuring a hearse. Supporters abroad were urged to participate in memorial services, reminiscent of past public displays of grief for opposition figures.

Concerns about surveillance and the potential for post-funeral detentions were widespread, with social media platforms sharing advice urging attendees to exercise caution. The gathering was marked by a sense of defiance against government crackdowns on dissent.

Navalny’s immediate family, excluding his children residing abroad, attended the ceremony. However, his widow, Yulia, faced potential arrest upon her return to Russia, further underscoring the risks associated with opposition activism in the country.

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Irish President Michael D Higgins was taken to the hospital after feeling unwell at his official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin. Doctors assessed him at home before deciding to transport him to the hospital for further tests as a precautionary measure.

Initial assessments at the presidential residence did not reveal any immediate concerns, but medical professionals opted for additional testing to ensure his well-being. The president’s office reported that the preliminary test results were positive.

Mr. Higgins will remain in the hospital overnight for observation and continued medical care. Despite his hospitalization, he is said to be in excellent spirits and has expressed gratitude to the medical staff for their assistance.

This incident occurred shortly after Mr. Higgins presented the 2024 Volta Lifetime Achievement Award to film director Steve McQueen at the Dublin International Film Festival the previous night.

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Germany’s lower house of parliament recently passed a bill legalizing cannabis for limited recreational use, despite facing opposition and warnings from medical authorities. The legislation allows adults to possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use, with strict regulations in place to prevent access by minors. The bill received significant support from 407 lawmakers, while 226 opposed it, with four abstentions. Germany now joins the ranks of Malta and Luxembourg as the third European country to legalize recreational cannabis, marking a significant shift in drug policy.

Under the new legislation, adults in Germany will be permitted to cultivate a limited number of cannabis plants for private consumption. Additionally, they will be allowed to possess specified amounts of cannabis both at home and in public spaces. Licensed not-for-profit clubs will also have the authority to distribute cannabis to adult members, further regulating its availability and distribution channels.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has emphasized that the primary objective of the law is to prioritize child and youth protection. Despite the legalization of cannabis for adult use, strict measures will be implemented to prevent minors from accessing the drug. Lauterbach reiterated that while cannabis consumption is being legalized, it is essential to acknowledge its potential dangers and risks.

However, the legalization of cannabis in Germany has faced opposition from various quarters, including the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Critics argue that the legislation undermines efforts to protect children and young people from the harms of drug use. CDU lawmaker Tino Sorge criticized the government, likening its actions to that of a “state drug dealer.”

Furthermore, medical authorities, such as the German Medical Associations (GMA), have expressed concerns about the potential consequences of cannabis legalization. GMA President Klaus Reinhardt warned that legalization could lead to increased consumption and trivialize the associated risks. Reinhardt emphasized the addictive nature of cannabis and its potential to cause serious developmental damage, advocating against its legalization in Germany.

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The French Senate has overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to solidify women’s right to abortion, following a similar endorsement by the National Assembly. The vote, with 267 in favor and 50 against, reflects growing pressure to strengthen abortion rights amidst concerns over erosion in allied nations like the US and Poland.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a special joint session of both houses of parliament, away from Paris, in Versailles, to vote on the amendment. If passed with a three-fifths majority, a referendum won’t be necessary. An Ifop poll from November 2022 indicated strong public support, with 86% favoring the amendment.

While all major political parties in France support abortion rights, there was a revision in the language of the amendment, changing from endorsing the “right” to abortion to advocating for the “freedom” to have one. This adjustment, calling for “guaranteed freedom,” was approved by the Senate.

President Macron has pledged to make women’s freedom to choose abortion “irreversible” by enshrining it in the constitution. Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti hailed the move as historic, positioning France as the first country to constitutionally protect women’s freedom in deciding about their bodies.

Conservative senators expressed feeling pressured to approve the amendment, with one anonymously stating concerns about familial repercussions if she voted against it.

The backdrop to this decision includes ongoing debates in the US, where abortion rights have been challenged, leading to restrictions in many states, and in Poland, where a near-total ban on abortion was imposed by the Constitutional Court in 2020.

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Alexei Navalny’s burial is confirmed to take place at Borisovskoye Cemetery in Moscow on Friday, following a farewell ceremony at a local church. Yulia Navalnaya, his widow, expressed uncertainty about the funeral’s peacefulness and the potential for police interference.

Navalny, a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, died unexpectedly in a Siberian prison earlier this month, sparking accusations against the Russian president from his widow and many world leaders. Details surrounding Navalny’s death remain scant, with Russian authorities initially resisting releasing his body to his family.

Funeral arrangements faced obstacles, with some funeral homes refusing service due to the deceased’s identity. Yulia Navalnaya addressed the European Parliament, criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and advocating for a more effective strategy against Putin.

The funeral date was adjusted due to logistical challenges, with Navalny’s team urging attendees to arrive early. Security concerns loom over the event, given recent arrests of those paying tribute to Navalny across Russia. Allegations surfaced of a potential prisoner swap involving Navalny, but the Kremlin denies any knowledge of such arrangements.

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French authorities discovered 72 firearms and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition at the residence of iconic actor Alain Delon, located in Douchy-Montcorbon, approximately 135km south of Paris. The actor, renowned for his tough-guy roles in classics like “The Samurai” and “Borsalino,” did not possess the necessary permit to legally own these weapons.

The search was initiated after a court-appointed official observed a firearm at Delon’s home and reported it to a judge. Delon, aged 88, has been in poor health since suffering a stroke in 2019 and is facing family disputes that have garnered public attention. His children have publicly aired grievances, leading to legal battles and accusations.

Concerns arose when his children accused his former live-in assistant of “moral harassment,” a claim that was disputed by the assistant’s lawyer. Delon’s most recent notable appearances include receiving an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and attending the funeral of his friend and fellow actor Jean-Paul Belmondo in Paris later that year.

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Midfielder Kristoffer Olsson, formerly of Arsenal, has been hospitalized and placed on a ventilator after losing consciousness at his home, according to his current club Midtjylland. The 28-year-old Swede is believed to be suffering from a severe brain-related illness. Midtjylland provided this update in response to growing speculation about Olsson’s absence from the team.

Expressing deep concern, Midtjylland stated that Olsson’s condition does not seem to be a result of self-inflicted harm or external factors. A team of Danish medical experts is working to diagnose his condition accurately and initiate appropriate treatment.

Olsson, who progressed through Arsenal’s youth system, joined Midtjylland permanently during the 2014-15 Premier League season. He has also played for clubs in Sweden, Russia, and Belgium. The football community, including Arsenal and the Swedish Football Association, has sent messages of support for Olsson’s recovery.

Since his hospitalization, Olsson has been surrounded by family, club staff, and medical specialists. Midtjylland has appealed for privacy and understanding to ensure Olsson’s recovery is as smooth as possible.

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Sweden has cleared the final obstacle to its NATO membership after Hungary’s parliament voted to ratify its bid, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Initially met with delays and accusations of hostility from Hungary, Sweden’s application gained traction as Prime Minister Viktor Orban signaled support, emphasizing solidarity between the two nations.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson hailed the parliamentary ratification as a historic milestone, marking a significant departure from Sweden’s longstanding policy of neutrality spanning two centuries. This decision reflects Sweden’s commitment to defending its values and interests within the framework of the NATO alliance.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg lauded Hungary’s approval, emphasizing its role in strengthening and ensuring the security of the alliance. With parliamentary hurdles cleared, Sweden now awaits the formal invitation to join the 31-member NATO group, signaling a transformative shift in its defense posture and regional security dynamics.

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Maria Pevchikh, an ally of Alexei Navalny, revealed that plans were underway for Navalny’s release in a prisoner exchange deal. The exchange was intended to involve Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for murder, along with two detained US citizens in Russia. Negotiations for this swap had been ongoing for two years but gained momentum after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Concrete plans for the exchange were reportedly made in December, with American and German officials involved in the talks.

However, according to Pevchikh, Russian President Vladimir Putin changed his mind at the last minute, leading to Navalny’s sudden death in prison. Pevchikh claimed that Putin’s deep-seated animosity towards Navalny, driven by the perceived threat he posed to Putin’s power, motivated the decision to sabotage the deal. Despite the existence of a firm agreement, Putin allegedly opted to eliminate Navalny rather than allow him to be released.

These revelations come amid continued speculation and international scrutiny surrounding Navalny’s death. While the German government has refrained from commenting on Pevchikh’s claims, the Kremlin has yet to provide an official response. However, Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesperson, had previously dismissed allegations of government involvement in Navalny’s death as absurd.

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The Eiffel Tower, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, recently experienced a six-day closure due to strikes by workers protesting the management practices of its operator, Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE). These strikes disrupted plans for visitors and resulted in significant financial losses for the company.

The primary grievances of the striking workers revolved around SETE’s business model, which they alleged overestimated future visitor numbers while neglecting essential maintenance and renovation needs. Union representatives accused SETE of prioritizing short-term profitability over the long-term preservation of the monument.

Initially planned as a five-day strike, workers voted to extend it to six days after rejecting SETE’s initial proposal. This decision underscored the depth of dissatisfaction among employees regarding the company’s management practices and the condition of the Eiffel Tower.

However, after negotiations between SETE and the unions, an agreement was eventually reached. This agreement included provisions for regular monitoring of the company’s business model and significant investment in maintenance and renovation until 2031, totaling approximately €380 million. Additionally, there were discussions about potentially classifying the Eiffel Tower as a “historical monument” to enable state funding for necessary works, as suggested by French Culture Minister Rachida Dati.

This recent strike at the Eiffel Tower echoes a previous protest in December, coinciding with the centenary of Gustave Eiffel’s death. Gustave Eiffel, a renowned civil engineer, is best known for his design of the Eiffel Tower, which was intended to showcase France’s industrial prowess during the 1889 Paris Exposition.

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