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Daily briefing

CALIFORNIA

Organized thieves hit high-end stores

SAN FRANCISCO — Groups of thieves, some carrying crowbars and hammers, smashed glass cases and window displays and ransacked high-end stores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, stealing jewelry, sunglasses, suitcases and other merchandise before fleeing in waiting cars during a weekend of brazen organized theft that shocked holiday shoppers and prompted concerns about the busy retail season.

The thefts are believed to be part of sophisticated criminal networks that recruit mainly young people to steal merchandise in stores throughout the country then sell it in online marketplaces. The thefts are ratcheting up as the holiday shopping season gets underway, experts and officials said. “We’re not talking about someone who needs money or needs food. These are people who go out and do this is for high profit, and for the thrill,” said Ben Dugan, president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail.

Virginia

School system returns pulled books

FAIRFAX — A northern Virginia school system said Tuesday it was returning two books to library shelves, two months after they were pulled for a formal review prompted by complaints that they contained obscene sexual material. Committees that included administrators, librarians, parents and students reviewed both “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” and determined both to be appropriate for high school readers, Fairfax County Public Schools said in a news release.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys,” according to the news release.

The committees unanimously recommended that the books remain available, and a top administrator made the final decision to reinstate them, the district said.

Ukraine

Belarus’ oldest newspaper banned

KYIV — Belarus’ oldest newspaper was banned on the 115th anniversary of its founding Tuesday, the latest move in the government’s relentless crackdown on independent media in the ex-Soviet nation. The Nasha Niva newspaper was outlawed as extremist by the Central District court in Minsk, which acted upon the request of the Ministry of Information.

The ruling will expose anyone who would publish or repost Nasha Niva materials to prison terms of up to seven years. The Belarusian authorities blocked the online newspaper in July and arrested its chief editor, Yahor Martsinovich, and journalist Andrey Skurko, who have remained in custody. Overall, 29 Belarusian journalists are in custody, serving their sentences or awaiting trial.

Germany

Man drives to own driving test

BERLIN — A man in Germany has discovered the hard way that it’s best to get a driving license first before trying to use it. Police in Bergheim, near Cologne, said Tuesday that the 37-year-old drove himself to his driving test, parking an Opel Zafira outside the test center in front of an astonished examiner.

They said he told police officers who were called to the scene on Monday that he had only driven because he wanted to make sure to get to the driving test on time. His test was immediately called off. The man now faces an investigation for driving without a license. Police also opened an investigation of the car’s owner.

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