Billions of birds collide with glass buildings — but architecture has solutions

A sticker in the shape of a bird of prey is seen on a window pane from an office building in Munich, Germany. Window stickers are designed to prevent bird collisions.

A sticker in the shape of a bird of prey is seen on a window pane from an office building in Munich, Germany. Window stickers are designed to prevent bird collisions.Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.The ConversationCNN — 

At least 1,000 birds were killed in one day in early October, when they collided with a single Chicago building, McCormick Place Lakeside Center — the largest convention center in North America. A paradigm of architectural modernism, the Lakeside Centre was built in stages from 1960 to 2017, and is a steel, concrete and glass behemoth.

Although not particularly tall by contemporary standards, the building’s almost unbroken glass facade presents a problem for birds, most notably at night when the brilliantly lit interiors cause them to become confused. The thousand killed that day were a small proportion of the millions of migratory birds that were moving southwards across the continent to their wintering grounds — a journey undertaken twice yearly by these animals.

What makes this mass bird death unusual isn’t the number of animals that died (the American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to a billion birds suffer the same fate every year), but that it garnered so much public attention. This was thanks to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, a volunteer group that has recorded bird strikes in the city since 2003. According to their records, this was the largest number of dead birds recorded in the grounds of one building over a single day.

The facade of Chicago's Aqua Tower was, in part, designed to stop birds flying into the its windows.

The facade of Chicago’s Aqua Tower was, in part, designed to stop birds flying into the its windows.Arcaid Images/Alamy Stock Photo

One way to prevent bird strikes is to pay more attention to the design of glass buildings in cities. Chicago set an example for this in 2009, when US architect Jeanne Gang’s Aqua Tower was completed. Its wave-like facade and fritted glass were in part designed to stop birds flying into the building’s windows. Fritted glass is printed with ink and contains ultra-small particles of ground-up glass, giving it a frosted or otherwise slightly opaque appearance.

This was just one aspect of Gang’s effort to “naturalize” the skyscraper — buildings that are typically composed of straight lines on account of their steel or concrete frames. As the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí once quipped: “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature.”

World’s tallest wooden tower to be built in Australia

Bird-safe glass

The Aqua Tower has curved balconies to soften the hard edges of what is an otherwise conventional skyscraper. The wave-like rippling effect also serves to minimize wind shear and create shade. In tandem with the fritted glass, the reflective qualities and hard edges of the glass are dampened, helping to prevent confusion, particularly at night.

The tower demonstrates how architectural features usually chosen to enhance human lives can also benefit other organisms. This challenge was taken up by Buffalo-based architect Joyce Hwang in her project No Crash Zone from 2015. Hwang temporarily applied patterns to the windows of the Sullivan Center in Chicago, ostensibly to deter birds from flying into the glass, but also to add aesthetic interest to the material itself.

A laminate of dots applied to many of the windows at the L.L. Bean headquarters in Freeport, Maine.

A laminate of dots applied to many of the windows at the L.L. Bean headquarters in Freeport, Maine.Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

Hwang has argued that architects can still use glass in buildings — but with a little imagination, they can incorporate graphic ornamentation that will please us as well as other creatures (or maybe just not distract them).

More easily applied design solutions include bird-friendly film: a laminate of dots applied to glass to help birds see windows as objects rather than transparent, which minimizes the risk of collision. This feature has been adopted by Columbia University in New York and several other buildings in the city, including a hotel, cemetery, mail facility and ferry terminal.

Floating architecture isn’t the future. It’s already here

Lights out

The way humans make use of artificial light, it seems, is the more intractable problem when it comes to caring for birds.

In 2019, it was discovered that the annual Tribute in Light installation, held in New York City every year to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, caused migratory birds to become disorientated and exhausted. The birds are drawn to the four-mile-high beams of light, veering off their migratory routes and becoming trapped by the spectacle.

In 2020, the decision was made to periodically switch off the lights and then restart them so that, even if the birds become disorientated, they can recover and continue on their way.

A 2021 study carried out in Chicago demonstrated the wider application of this principle: by shutting off half the lights in larger buildings at night, bird collisions can be reduced by anything from six- to 11-fold. At the time of writing, a change in the law is being debated in New York to prohibit nighttime illumination of unoccupied buildings. Many courtrooms, libraries and public schools in the city already turn off their lights during the bird migration season.

Philadelphia joined a national initiative to dim building lights during the spring and fall bird migrations.

Philadelphia joined a national initiative to dim building lights during the spring and fall bird migrations.Matt Slocum/AP

Whether these changes can spur a wider transformation of attitudes towards artificial light in cities is uncertain. After all, nighttime illumination is bound up with the 24/7 culture of cities, which has seen the natural cycles of light and dark long since banished. Today, the illuminated city only goes dark in extreme circumstances, like the widespread power failures across New York City that followed Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The top interior designers and architects to look out for in 2024, according to Architectural Digest

Yet people could choose other ways to use less artificial light. Darkness is a vital part of nature. It is the means by which animals, and plants, rest and take cover. For migratory birds, darkness is a safe place; it also allows them to perceive the world as they need to, with the light of the Moon and stars (and their sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic field) guiding their long journeys.

Care for migratory birds could also yield a greater appreciation of dark skies. Making nighttime cities more bird-friendly might help human residents reconnect with the beauty and awe that these vistas inspire.

Paul Dobraszczyk is a lecturer in architecture at University College London (UCL).

Republished under a Creative Commons license from The Conversation.

Beijing is trying hard to ward off a slowdown, but data continues to disappoint

A worker welds at a market under construction in Kunming, Yunnan province, August 12, 2015. Growth in China's factory output, investment and retail sales were all weaker than expected in July, adding pressure on Beijing to roll out more measures to prevent a deeper slowdown, days after it shocked markets by devaluing its currency. REUTERS/Wong Campion

A worker at a construction site in Kunming, Yunnan province, on August 12, 2015.Wong Campion/Reuters

Editor’s Note: Sign up for CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, which explores what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world.Hong KongCNN — 

This week, Chinese authorities across the board intensified efforts to boost growth, but those attempts may not be enough to fix the ailing economy.

On Friday, the country’s central bank pumped a massive amount of liquidity into the banking system as part of broader efforts to support the economy, which has been grappling with weak property market and consumer demand.

While Hong Kong stocks rose after the move, government data released on the same day showed that the world’s second economy is still struggling, as investment in fixed assets continued to disappoint.

Some areas did show improvement, though. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), output generated by China’s industrial sectors rose by 6.6% last month, compared to the same period in 2022. That’s higher than a forecast for 5.6% growth provided by a Reuters poll of economists.

Retail sales, a barometer of consumer spending, jumped by 10.1% in November, which was higher than the increase of 7.6% reported the month before.

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However, the most recent figure was lower than a Reuters forecast of 12.5% expansion, which was calculated against a low base of comparison in 2022, when Covid-19 curbs discouraged spending.

Investment in fixed assets such as buildings and roads increased by 2.9% in the first 11 months of the year, compared to the same period in 2022. That was slightly lower than a forecast of 3.0% expansion.

Fixed asset investment was hobbled by real estate development, which fell 9.4% year-on-year in the first 11 months of this year, according to NBS data.

“The weakness in private investment is largely concentrated in real estate, where the problems clearly run much deeper than a simple lack of confidence,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics wrote in a Friday research note.

China’s real estate slump is at the center of many of its current economic problems. The industry, which has accounted for as much as 30% of the GDP, fell into crisis three years ago after the government cracked down on developers’ reckless borrowing.

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Home sales have plunged, and many developers are struggling with a cash crunch. The property market slump has contributed to signs of tepid spending and even weak prices for most of this year, adding to concerns about deflation.

Loosening the rules

Beijing is taking steps to ward off a slowdown.

Earlier this week, China’s top leadership vowed to put greater focus on economic growth in 2024 at the closely-watched annual Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC), which typically sets the tone for economic policy for the year ahead.

According to Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) injected a net 800 billion ($112 billion) worth of funding, the largest on record, into the banking system via the medium-term lending facility (MLF).

The MLF is a monetary policy tool introduced by the PBOC in 2014 to help commercial and policy banks maintain liquidity by allowing them to borrow from the central bank using securities as collateral. The PBOC said in a statement that Friday’s move was intended to “maintain reasonable and sufficient liquidity in the banking system.”

And to further support the ailing real estate industry, two of China’s biggest cities, Beijing and Shanghai, have further relaxed rules on property purchases by lowering the minimum deposit ratio for first and second homes.

On Thursday, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Renewal Development said it would lower the minimum down payment deposit ratio for first homes to 30%. Previously, that figure ranged from 35% to 40%, according to Reuters.

The minimum deposit for second homes would be lowered to 40% or 50%, depending on location. Previously, the amount was 60% or 80%.

The commercial capital of Shanghai announced that the down payment requirement for first-and second-home buyers would be lowered to 30% and 50%, respectively, CCTV reported. That compares to previous ratios ranging from 35% to 70%, according to state media.

Hu told CNN that the relaxation of rules should help to boost traction and sentiment in the property market.

“That said, it might not be enough to address the most important issue in China’s housing market. That is the credit risk for developers,” he said.

The ultimate solution, he added, may still lie with the central government, which can create a lender or buyer of last resort for troubled property developers, similar to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) created and run by the US Treasury during the global financial crisis.

TARP was passed in 2008, in the wake of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, as the nation’s financial system was on the verge of collapse and economists feared another Great Depression.

— CNN’s Diksha Madhok and Wayne Chang contributed reporting.

South Korea to see population plummet to 1970s levels, government says

FILE PHOTO: A woman holding up her baby is silhouetted against the backdrop of N Seoul Tower, commonly known as Namsan Tower, in Seoul, South Korea, October 2, 2018.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

A woman holding up her baby is silhouetted against the backdrop of N Seoul Tower, commonly known as Namsan Tower, in Seoul, South Korea, October 2, 2018.Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters/FileSeoul, South KoreaCNN — 

South Korea, the country with the world’s lowest birth rate, expects it to fall even further in the next two years while its overall population is expected to plummet to levels not seen since the 1970s.

The new data underscores the demographic timebomb that South Korea and other East Asian nations like Japan and Singapore are facing as their societies rapidly age just a few decades after their dramatic industrialization.

South Korea’s total fertility rate, the number of births from a woman in her lifetime, is now expected to drop from 0.78 in 2022 to 0.65 in 2025, according to the government’s Statistics Korea.

In a worst-case scenario, that rate could go as low 0.59 births per woman in 2026, the agency said.

It is expected to gradually come back up to 1.08 in 2072, Statistics Korea said, but that is still far below the 2.1 births per woman needed to maintain a stable population in the absence of immigration.

In comparison, the United States’ fertility rate was expected to be 1.66 births per woman this year, and rise to 1.75 by 2030, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but the US will still see population growth because of immigration.

Many European and other industrialized nations also face aging populations, but the speed and impact of that change is mitigated by immigration. Countries like South Korea, Japan and China, however, have shied away from mass immigration to solve their working age population issues.

With scant immigration, South Korea’s total population is expected to drop from 51.75 million in 2024 to 36.22 million, a level not seen since 1977, according to Statistics Korea.

In a worst-case scenario, South Korea could see a population as low as 30.17 million, the country’s population in 1967, the agency said.

Whichever estimate is used, there’s no question South Korea will be a highly aged country by 2072 as the median age will increase from 44.9 in 2022 to 63.4 in 2072, Statistics Korea said.

It added that the annual number of newborns in the country is expected to drop from 250,000 in 2022 to 160,000 in 2072 – a 65% decrease.

South Korea’s birth rate has been falling since 2015 and the country recorded more deaths than births for the first time in 2020, a trend that has continued since.

Similar demographic declines are being seen in several other Asian countries including Japan and China, raising concerns there will be too few people of working age to support the ballooning elderly population.

Experts say the reasons for these demographic shifts across the region include demanding work cultures, stagnating wages, rising costs of living, changing attitudes toward marriage and gender equality, and rising disillusionment among younger generations.

Meanwhile, North Korea is also hinting at population worries.

Speaking to a national conference of mothers in Pyongyang earlier this month, leader Kim Jong Un tasked the country’s women with “stopping the declining birth rate,” asking them to “give birth to many children,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Doing so exhibits patriotism, Kim said, and “our cause of building a powerful socialist country can be hastened faster.”

The United Nations Population Fund estimates North Korea’s fertility rate for 2023 at 1.8 births per woman.

A rescue dog without paws is getting boots for Christmas

Chloe was found by rescuers heavily pregnant and with her paws cut off.

Chloe and her puppies after being rescued by Catherine Lumsden in Hong Kong.Courtesy Catherine LumsdenHong KongCNN — 

Some cases are so awful that dog rescuer Catherine Lumsden doesn’t have the words to express how angry they make her feel.

One evening in August, the founder of Catherine’s Puppies, a shelter in Sai Kung, a district in northeastern Hong Kong, received a call about Chloe – an 18-month-old chihuahua mix and new mother of three.

Chloe was found by volunteers a few days prior, heavily pregnant and without paw pads or claws on all four of her little legs.

“The vet said she wasn’t born this way, and there is no way this happened by accident,” Lumsden said. “They were at some point cut off by a person, not a vet. I have absolutely no way to find the monster who did this.”

Chloe couldn’t put any weight on her front left leg, the pressure was too much on her fragile bones. The vet suggested it could be infected, possibly requiring surgery to ease the pain, but that would mean losing more of her leg. X-rays were needed to get a better understanding of her situation, the vet said, and she may need a prosthetic in the future.

The costs began adding up, and Lumsden – who runs the shelter on donations and says she barely scrapes by each month – turned to the shelter’s Facebook page to make an appeal to her 22,000 followers.

Chloe’s doe-eyed face and pixie ears melted the hearts of animal lovers across the city, and donations flooded in for her treatment.

Nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) away in Discovery Bay, a well-heeled development on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, Preeti Sharma didn’t have to think twice.

“We can foster Chloe – just a msg away,” she wrote.

Chloe, a rescue dog, sits inside a car, in Hong Kong.

Chloe wearing her Christmas jumper in Hong Kong.Courtesy Preeti Sharma

Slowly building trust

Sharma, a mother of two, took in Chloe and two of her pups (the third had already been adopted), adding to the family’s growing brood of rescue dogs.

“There was no question we had to rescue Chloe and her pups,” Sharma said. And within the first five minutes of the taxi ride home, she knew that she wouldn’t be letting Chloe go.

“When she first came home, she was terrified and scared of every human being. She wouldn’t let anyone – especially my son – come near her,” Sharma said, adding this makes her family believe her paws were cut off by a man.

A rescue dog and a goat were adopted together in North Carolina.

Rescue dog-goat best friends find their forever home together

Chloe would hide in their garden for hours and would only come out when she saw her puppies.

“If anyone tried to go near Chloe, she would surrender, close her eyes and cry,” said Sharma. “Which is why we feel her ‘human’ used to beat her as well.”

But slowly, and with the help of Sharma’s other rescue – Ivy, a former breeder dog, who is fully deaf, partially blind, and has cancer and epilepsy – Chloe’s quirky personality started to come through.

About two months later, the family made it official. Chloe was adopted – and became the Sharmas’ seventh rescue dog.

“It took her three months to trust and live without fear, and learn that in his house, no one beats her, and everyone loves her,” she said.

Chloe’s new boots

Now, Chloe is more mobile than doctors thought she would ever be.

But to give her the best chance of a comfortable life, they have ordered a special pair of boots for her two front legs, which will arrive from Sweden around Christmas Day.

“Her back legs are okay and she sort of stands like a kangaroo,” Sharma said. “But she’s using her bones to walk, and you can see it’s not comfortable as she keeps switching between her two front feet to balance.

“We are hoping this helps her, but she may still require a prosthetic,” said Sharma, who is planning to run 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) in January to raise money for it.

Sonal Sharma poses for a picture with rescue dog Chloe, in Hong Kong.

Preeti’s daughter, Sonal, with Chloe at the vet.Courtesy Preeti Sharma

Lumsden, who cares for around 90 dogs at her shelter, says thinking about funds is “beyond stressful each month.”

In October, she made a public appeal to help clear more than HK$123,000 ($15,000) debt at her local vet clinic for her dogs. Medical bills, coupled with the shelter’s upkeep and buying beds and blankets for the dogs, among other things, make the situation increasingly difficult.

“It’s beyond anything you can imagine,” she said. But seeing Chloe – and all the other dogs she’s saved – thrive in their new homes makes it all worth it, she added.

At the Sharmas, Chloe spends her day playing in the garden with Sharma’s other rescue dogs, getting lots of belly rubs and cuddles.

“Chloe is a special soul who has a special place in our heart,” Sharma said. “She’s become the love of our lives.”

Canadian man charged with murder in sprawling international investigation into ‘suicide kits’ sold online

Inspector Simon James of York Regional Police speaks to the media during a news conference in Mississauga, Ont, on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. Canadian police said Tuesday, Dec. 12 they are charging the man with 14 counts of second-degree murder along with the previously announced 14 charges of aiding suicide for allegedly selling lethal substances on the internet to people at risk of self harm. An international investigation is underway following the arrest in Canada earlier this year of Kenneth Law, who was initially charged with two counts of counseling and aiding suicide. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)

An international investigation is underway following the arrest in Canada earlier this year of Kenneth Law, who was initially charged with two counts of counseling and aiding suicide.Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press/APCNN — 

They live an ocean apart from one another but now share a bond of anguish and outrage over the suicide deaths of their children.

David Parfett and David Ramirez describe stories of grief that are remarkably similar. Both are fathers to young adults who were talented and loving but vulnerable, they say, to mental health challenges in recent years.

Tom Parfett died in 2021 in England, Noelle Ramirez in 2022 in Colorado.

“Tom was such a gifted kid,” said Parfett, taking in a framed photo of his son with a smile.

“Such a light of bravery and freedom,” said Ramirez of his daughter, struggling to take in her memory without tearing up.

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Both died from a lethal dose of sodium nitrite they bought online – a potentially toxic salt legally used in smaller doses as a meat preservative.

This week in Ontario, police charged Kenneth Law with 14 counts of second-degree murder, in addition to earlier charges of 14 counts of counseling and aiding suicide already laid against him.

Law is now in custody and will appear in court in Ontario on December 19, police have announced.

Law’s lawyer, Matthew Gourlay, told CNN in a statement: “Mr. Law will be pleading not guilty to these new charges of second degree murder, which are in addition to the assisting suicide charges he was already facing. These novel allegations will be vigorously contested in court.”

The new charges against Law all relate to 14 alleged victims in Ontario. Police, however, say their investigation continues and they do not rule out more charges in Canada or other countries.

“We are collaborating with law enforcement agencies on a daily basis, globally, in countries all over the world,” said Insp. Simon James, of York Regional Police, at a news briefing Tuesday near Toronto.

James is leading a multi-jurisdictional investigation in Ontario and says authorities are investigating reports that Law may have sent more than 1,200 toxic packages intended for self-harm to people in more than 40 countries.

Parfett told CNN he had for months suspected his son Tom found the means and the encouragement to end his life online. He says he did some detective work in the weeks after his son’s death – all in an effort to understand how easily his son obtained the toxic substance.

“Within 2 to 3 months I’d actually ordered poison from Ken Law. At the time, I did not know that it was the exact same path as my son. It actually demonstrated how easy it was,” Parfett told CNN in an interview from his home in London.

Ramirez says he, too, painstakingly traced his daughter’s steps to better understand how she managed to end her life.

“You can’t buy a bomb online and have it delivered. This chemical is deadly,” said Ramirez in an interview with CNN from his workplace in Montrose, Colorado.

Both men say more investigation needs to be done in their countries and elsewhere.

Canadian police say they continue to gather more evidence, which is what led to the new charges of second degree murder against Law. His alleged victims range in age from 16 to 36, they say.

According to the British National Crime Agency, 272 people have been identified as having purchased products from websites connected to Law in a two-year period up to April 2023.

The NCA, in a statement to CNN, said that “subsequent inquiries have found that 89 people have sadly died.” The agency adds that “in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, the NCA has taken the decision to conduct an investigation into potential criminal offences committed in the UK. This operation is underway.”

Sodium nitrite is commonly used as a preservative for meat and fish, in metal treatment and finishing, as an antidote to cyanide and as a color fixative, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. It is not illegal to buy but is regulated and is relatively unknown except for having gained popularity over the past few years on internet suicide forums.

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is trying to pass legislation that would ban the sale of highly concentrated sodium nitrite. But for now it remains available online in the US and many other countries.

When Tom Parfett died at age 22 in October 2021, he was studying philosophy at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. His father remembers Tom as a highly intelligent, sensitive young man with strong friendships and a real love for football, particularly for Manchester United.

Noelle Ramirez was born on May 3, 2002, in Denver, Colorado. When she died at age 20, two months before her 21st birthday, she had been in the process of transitioning and was undergoing therapy while attending college a short distance from her parent’s home. Her father describes her as kind and “so friendly, open to everyone, such a light of bravery and freedom.” He said she would build computers for her friends who couldn’t afford them.

Tom and Noelle had more in common than being a part of Generation Z, having lived through the turbulence of Covid 19 lockdowns and endured personal struggles as well as the pressures facing young people today.

The investigations continue slowly, and Parfett believes had it not been for an independent investigation led by The Times newspaper in London earlier this year, Law may have never been charged with any crimes.

“It actually cost lives. There was an opportunity there, for police for authorities to close this down, to close this down quickly,” said Parfett.

Seated at his home in London, surrounded by framed photographs of Tom, David Parfett says there is no doubt in his mind that Tom could have been saved had he not been encouraged and supplied with the means to take his own life.

“How come my precious kid, in my view, be influenced to take his own life. Knowing him as I do, as I did, I really don’t think that is something Tom would do of his own volition,” Parfett said.

It is a sentiment shared by Ramirez and his family. Noelle, says Ramirez, would be alive were it not for Law’s website, and he believes that Law went as far as coaching Noelle on how to end her life.

“I had followed the trail of receipts and, you know, the packaging and these type of things,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said he believes with his “whole heart that my daughter would be here. She was a good person. We kept her safe. We kept her safe. We couldn’t, I guess, we couldn’t keep you safe from everything. I believe in my heart that she would be here today. Without him.”

Four suspected members of Hamas arrested in Europe over alleged terrorism plot

BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 07: A police van stands outside the Reichstag, seat of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, on the day police conducted nationwide raids against a suspected insurrectionist group on December 07, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. Law enforcement agencies conducted raids nationwide today and arrested 25 people whom they claim are in an organization bent on violently overthrowing the German government. According to Germany's prosecutor general, the group is driven by a mix of conspiracy theories and far-right ideology, including influence of the Q-Anon and Reichsbürger movements. Among its members are former members of an elite military unit and former police. The leader of the group is reportedly a German aristocrat named Heinrich Reuss, also known as Prince Heinrich XIII, who was to lead the new government following an insurrection. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A police van outside Germany’s parliament.Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesBerlinCNN — 

Four alleged Hamas members suspected of plotting terror attacks on European soil have been arrested by German and Dutch authorities, Germany’s federal prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday.

Three people were arrested in Germany and one in the Netherlands on suspicion of planning attacks on Jewish institutions in Europe, the prosecutor said.

Hamas is classified by the United States, the European Union and other nations as a terrorist organization.

Of the three arrested in Germany, two were Lebanese nationals and one was an Egyptian national, said the prosecutor. The person arrested in the Netherlands was described as a Dutch national.

The prosecutor outlined the first names of the individuals arrested, but in line with German privacy law is not disclosing surnames of the suspects. CNN is not naming the individuals.

CNN has reached out to Lebanese, Egyptian, and Dutch authorities for comment.

The news came as Denmark and the Netherlands arrested four other people suspected of terrorism offenses, though the Danish Intelligence Intelligence Agency told CNN those cases had “no direct connection” to the arrests of suspected Hamas members.

Reacting to news of the Hamas-linked arrests, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser thanked the German and Dutch police authorities, stating that it “shows that our security authorities are extremely vigilant and act consistently.”

“The protection of Jews is our top priority. We use all constitutional means against those who threaten the lives of Jews and the existence of the state of Israel,” Faeser said.

The German Justice Minister, Marco Buschmann, also thanked authorities for the “successful investigation,” which has “contributed to ensuring that Jews in Europe can continue to live in safety and peace.”

“Following the terrible attacks by Hamas on the Israeli population, attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions have also increased in our country in recent weeks. This is shameful and shocking. We must therefore do everything we can to ensure that Jews in our country do not have to fear for their safety again. And our security and law enforcement authorities are working flat out to achieve this,” Buschmann stated.

The incident comes after the European Commissioner for Home Affairs warned the war between Israel and Hamas has increased polarization within European society.

Ylva Johansson told journalists that the divide is creating a “huge risk” of terror attacks in the EU during this holiday season.

To combat the risk, Johansson announced she is allocating 32 million dollars to protect public spaces such as places of worship during the holiday season.

Denmark arrests

The news of the allegedly Hamas-linked arrests came as Denmark and the Netherlands arrested four other people suspected of terrorism offenses.

However, Denmark’s Intelligence Agency told CNN those cases had “no direct connection” to the arrests of suspected Hamas members made by German and Dutch authorities.

A spokesperson for the Danish Intelligence Agency told CNN that there is “no direct connection between the terrorism arrests that have been made in Denmark and the case referred to concerning Hamas-affiliated persons arrested in Germany.”

Speaking in Brussels to Danish broadcaster TV 2, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen described the incident as “about as serious as it can be.”

“There are people who live in Denmark who do not wish us well. Who are against Danish society and everything we believe in. Happiness. Democracy. Freedom. Equality,” she said.

This is a developing news story. More to come

Hungary blocks Ukraine aid deal but EU opens door to membership talks

European Council President Charles Michel makes a statment to the media regarding opening accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova during an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. European Union leaders, in a two-day summit are discussing the latest developments in Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine and continued EU support for Ukraine and its people. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

European Council President Charles Michel makes a statement to the media regarding the opening of accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova during an EU summit in Brussels, on Dec. 14, 2023.Virginia Mayo/APBrussels, BelgiumCNN — 

Hungary blocked a crucial European aid package for Ukraine, hours after EU leaders agreed to open membership talks with Kyiv.

“Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine,” Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban posted on X, formerly Twitter, after a late-night session of the EU Council in Brussels. “We will come back to the issue next year in the #EUCO after proper preparation.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Hungary was the only nation out of the 27 EU members to oppose the multi-billion dollar financial aid package for Ukraine. According to Reuters, the funding deal is worth 50 billion euros ($55 billion).

“This is a good outcome. We still have some time. Ukraine is not out of money in the next couple of weeks. So we have that time and I think we can get there,” Rutte added.

Rutte said it was agreed that funding talks would resume early in 2024, and that “given the state of play in the talks, I am fairly confident that we can get to a breakthrough early next year.” But he added that was “not a guarantee.”

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Earlier at the EU Council, member states agreed to begin so-called accession talks with Ukraine, nearly two years after it was accepted as a candidate state. Ukraine has held ambitions to join the EU for more than a decade.

Orban – whose government has always been by far the closest ally of the Kremlin in the EU – said he had not participated in the discussions about accession talks in order for the other member states to make the decision.

Orban on Thursday called the announcement that Ukraine was beginning accession negotiations “a completely senseless, irrational and incorrect decision,” adding that his country “did not participate in the decision today.”

Earlier this week, Orban claimed that Ukraine still needed to meet three of the seven conditions necessary to greenlight accession talks and, therefore, said there was no current reason to negotiate EU membership for Ukraine.

“Hungary’s position is clear; Ukraine is not prepared to start negotiations on EU Membership,” Orban said in a post on X.

“On the other hand, 26 other countries insisted that decision be made,” he continued. “Therefore, Hungary decided that if the 26 decide to do so, they should go their own way. Hungary does not want to share in this bad decision.”

Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, said the move was “a clear signal of hope for their people and for our continent.” He also confirmed that accession negotiations would be opened with Moldova, and that the EU had granted candidate status to the former Soviet state of Georgia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the news. “This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens,” Zelensky posted on X following the announcement.

“History is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom,” Zelensky said.

The decision to open formal membership talks with Kyiv sends a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin following concerns that the West was wavering in its support for Kyiv in its fight against Moscow’s invading forces.

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky (L) shakes hands with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola as he arrives for a summit at EU parliament in Brussels, on February 9, 2023. - Ukraine's President is set to attend an EU summit in Brussels on February 9, 2023, as the guest of honour where he will press allies to deliver fighter jets "as soon as possible" in the war against Russia. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky shakes hands with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola as he arrives for a summit at the EU parliament in Brussels, on February 9, 2023.Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

‘We have lived up to our promises’

While experts caution that some fundamental obstacles still stand in the way of Ukraine joining the bloc, Thursday’s decision was nonetheless hailed as a milestone by various European leaders.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, called the decision “strategic” and “a day that will remain engraved in the history” of the European Union.

“Proud that we have lived up to our promises and delighted for our partners,” she said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on X that “it’s clear these countries belong to the European family.”

Despite the political significance of the move, Kyiv still faces a number of obstacles in its bid to join the EU.

Ukraine is not going to be allowed to bypass the process that all countries must go through before joining the EU and in all, it could still be a decade until Ukraine actually joins the EU and can enjoy the benefits of full membership.

Ukraine will likely still need to meet the conditions of the Copenhagen Criteria – an opaque trio of requirements that the EU must be satisfied are met – before moving to the next stage of negotiations.

The critera focus on whether or not a candidate country has a functioning free-market economy, if the country’s institutions are fit to uphold European values such as human rights and the EU’s interpretation of the rule of law, and whether the country has a functioning, inclusive democracy.

All of those things are hard to prove for any country let alone one currently under invasion and in a state of war.

If Ukraine can meet the Copenhagen Criteria, EU and Ukrainian officials can start negotiating under the 35 Chapters of the Acquis, which lay out the accession conditions.

All chapters of negotiations must be fully closed, signed off by every EU member state, then ratified by EU parliament.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

Western officials warn Ukraine is ‘certain to fail’ against Russia if US doesn’t provide more aid

Ukrainian servicemen rest at their positions after a fight, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, near the front line city of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, in May.

Ukrainian servicemen rest at their positions after a fight, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the front line city of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, in May.Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko/ReutersCNN — 

As a Ukraine aid package continues to stall in the US Congress, America and its allies are assessing what they describe as the potentially debilitating impact on Ukraine’s defense and longer-term prospects of losing the war, multiple US and European officials told CNN.

“There is no guarantee of success with us, but they are certain to fail without us,” a senior US military official said.

The most immediate concern is the impact on Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive in the east and south, where Ukrainian forces have struggled to make significant forward progress even when US support was still coming. “If looking at taking and holding further territory,” said one European diplomat, “it is hard to see how that could succeed without continued US support.”

More broadly, Western officials fear the loss or further delay of US support will impact aid from its allies. On Friday, Ukraine suffered another blow when Hungary blocked further European Union aid, though talks on the issue are expected to resume in January. The news underlined the scale of the challenge facing Kyiv and many fear that if the US fails to continue providing support, European nations will follow.

“If we go south,” said Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, who co-chairs the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, “our allies will too.”

Now, Western intelligence agencies are currently calculating how long Ukraine could hold out without US and NATO help. One senior US military official estimated months, with a worst-case scenario of a significant setback or even defeat by the summer. A Russian victory would not just be dire news for Ukraine, it would be disaster for wider European security and a major blow to the US.

Asked about the continued delay in US aid, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN from Brussels, “We can’t talk about war fatigue right now because if we do and give in, then Putin wins and that will mean a catastrophe to everybody. That will mean more conflicts, more wars, more scarcity of food supply, all the different worries that come along with it. So that’s why we have to make an effort now.”

Ukrainian forces are already rationing ammunition, US and Ukrainian officials told CNN, as Russian forces fire back at a ratio of five to seven times greater than Ukrainian forces are able to. A senior Ukrainian military official told CNN that Ukrainian commanders believe the impact on their firepower has led to additional Ukrainian casualties.

Without additional US aid, Western officials assess that Ukraine would first run out of long-range missiles, then air defense missiles and later artillery ammunition and short-range missiles such as shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Each category of munition has been crucial to Ukraine’s defense. The long-range missiles, such as the UK-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles, have been central to Ukraine’s success in pushing back Russia’s Black Sea fleet hundreds of miles to open up a shipping corridor for grain and other supplies. Air defense missiles have proven particularly essential in recent weeks as Russia has expanded its attacks on civilian infrastructure this winter. (CNN reported earlier this month that Western intelligence was expecting an expansion of such attacks in an effort by Moscow to break Ukraine’s will to fight.) Shorter-range missiles have enabled Ukrainian forces to defend against Russian tanks and aircraft which greatly outnumber their own.

Assessments of what a Ukrainian defeat would mean for Europe is causing deep fears among some of America’s closest European allies.

“I don’t think people fully realize what Ukraine’s fall would actually mean,” said a European diplomat. “We would see horrible things: ethnic cleansing and total destruction of Ukraine. Remember what they did in Bucha. So, it is already success if we can prevent that from happening. And that is why we must carry on.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

Boston Tea Party 250th anniversary: City to re-enact key moment in history

Boston is set to re-enact its tea rebellion -- and act that changed the course of history 250 years ago.

Boston is set to re-enact its tea rebellion — and act that changed the course of history 250 years ago.Michael BlanchardCNN — 

They were fed up with a British tax on tea in particular and consumed by resentment of British authority in general. So on the night of December 16, 1773, a group of rebellious colonial Americans called the Sons of Liberty decided to make a statement.

They sneaked onto ships docked in Boston Harbor and proceeded to toss 342 chests of imported Chinese tea into the water. This act of mercantile defiance impressed the heck out of future US President John Adams.

“This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting, that I cant but consider it as an Epocha in History,” he wrote in his diary.

Adams certainly hit the bullseye in his prediction that this night would echo through history. And now the city is set to re-enact the Boston Tea Party on its 250th anniversary. Here’s what they have planned:

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What will happen at the Tea Party re-enactments

Live, historical re-enactments will start at 4 p.m. Saturday, December 16, at Faneuil Hall, according to a representative of the December 16th 1773 organization, which is putting on the event. Tickets are sold out for viewing inside the hall, but people can still gather outside and watch screenings of what’s going on inside.

At 6 p.m. at Downtown Crossing (Reader’s Park at Milk and Washington streets), a town crier will deliver news to the crowds of Patriots and Loyalists gathered outside of re-enacted events simmering inside the Old South Meeting House (also sold out).

At 7:30 p.m., a rolling rally led by fife and drum corps will march toward Harborwalk. The procession is free and open to the public.

At 8 p.m., re-enactors will be on two replica ships, ready to throw tea off the vessel. The December 16th group said “more than 2,000 donations of loose tea have been received from all 50 states and from all around the globe in addition to 250 pounds from London’s East India Company, the same company where the tea came [from] 250 years ago.”

At the waterfront, bleachers will be available first-come, first-served for people to sit and watch the destruction of the tea. Parts of the reenactment will be live-streamed.

Crowds will be able to follow re-enactors down to the harbor.

Crowds will be able to follow re-enactors down to the harbor.Caroline Talbot

Is this tea dump going to be safe for the harbor and the animals in it?

“We have always made it our goal to leave the smallest environmental impact on the Fort Point Channel.” the organizing team of the 250th Boston Tea Party Anniversary & Reenactment said in statement to CNN Travel. “The tea itself is a biodegradable plant as it is just dried leaves. All other materials are retrieved from the harbor. The chests themselves are retrieved from the water and there are no other substances left in the water.

“Additionally, while we have seen a large amount of participation in the tea donation project, the amount of tea that we are throwing pales in comparison to the original amount thrown in 1773.  In 1773, the Sons of Liberty threw over 92,000 pounds of tea. We will not be throwing anywhere close to the number.”

Types of tea at the Party and other tidbits

Five different blends of tea were thrown into the water during the Boston Tea Party, the December 16th group said. And they haven’t faded into history – you can still sample and buy them in case you’d rather sip than sling your tea.

Check them out at Abigail’s Tea Room at Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. They are:

Some of the best places to visit in the United States

• Bohea: One of the first teas imported by the East India Company in the 18th-century.
• Congou: A black tea quite prestigious in Colonial America.
• Hyson: A spring green tea that was a favorite of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
• Singlo: A term for Chinese green tea that encompasses several varieties that are harvested later than early spring hysons.
• Souchong: A black tea from Fujian province of China with a distinctive smoky aroma.

The museum also features the Robinson Tea Chest, “the only known tea chest still in existence from the Boston Tea Party,” and a vial of tea on loan from Old North Foundation of Boston believed to be from the Tea Party.

Shein sued by rival Temu for alleged ‘mafia-style intimidation’

A package from Temu. (Photo by Nikos Pekiaridis/NurPhoto via AP)

A package from Temu. (Photo by Nikos Pekiaridis/NurPhoto via AP)Nikos Pekiaridis/NurPhoto/APCNN — 

Fast-fashion retailer Shein has been hit with a lawsuit by rival Temu, alleging the company has used aggressive and unlawful tactics to thwart competition — adding another layer to the hostilities between the two Chinese-owned e-commerce sites as they fight to dominate the bargain shopping market in the US.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the US District Court of the District of Columbia by Temu’s US-based parent company, WhaleCo, alleges that Shein has engaged in “mafia-style intimidation” tactics against Temu and its suppliers. Temu alleges that Shein employees have even gone so far as to falsely imprison merchants who do business with Temu in Shein’s offices for “many hours.”

Shein, which sells clothing and other lifestyle goods, allegedly engaged in the “subversion of the US legal process to disrupt Temu’s operations and damage Temu’s valuable brand,” including by illegally claiming copyright registrations for products sold on Temu’s website, according to the lawsuit.

In a statement to CNN, a Shein representative said, “We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves.”

The lawsuit comes just weeks after Shein filed for a US IPO, according to reports from Reuters.

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Both Temu and Shein are Chinese-owned e-commerce companies specializing in low-cost and discount goods — mostly shipped from China. Temu’s WhaleCo is owned by China-based PDD, which also owns the hugely popular Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo. Both are relatively new entrants in the US market: Shein expanded its American presence in 2019, while Temu launched in the US in September 2022.

The lawsuit comes amid an already-contentious legal fight between the two retailers. Temu filed another lawsuit against Shein in Massachusetts federal court in July, accusing its rival of violating antitrust laws. That lawsuit followed a complaint by Shein, which sued Temu in December for allegedly mobilizing social media influencers to disparage Shein online.

In a statement to CNN on the latest lawsuit, a Temu spokesperson said: “Their actions were too exaggerated, we had no choice but to sue them.”

Wednesday’s filing alleges that Shein has ratcheted up its intimidation tactics in the months leading up to Temu’s Super Bowl LVIII advertising campaign set to launch in February 2024 because the campaign is “bound to increase traffic to Temu’s app and website.”

– CNN’s Michelle Toh contributed to reporting.