Europe: A second day of snowfall closed schools and disrupted travel across parts of Britain and the Netherlands. Freezing weather and further snow was predicted. About a quarter of flights at Europe's biggest airport London Heathrow were cancelled. Hundreds of flights at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport were delayed, while the regional airport of Eindhoven shut completely, cancelling all flights. Heavy snowfall in the Netherlands led to the closure of schools and businesses. Rail and road networks were hit by icy weather, with some areas expected to get up to 30cm of snowfall within 24 hours. Travel was substantially disrupted for a second day across much of Britain. Train services across Wales, central and northern England as well as commuter services into London were severely disrupted.
Space: Space Age hand-me-downs are soaring to a whole new level. Tomorrow, SpaceX plans to launch its first recycled rocket for Nasa. The unmanned Falcon 9 — last used in June — will carry up a Dragon capsule that's also flown on a previous space station supply run. Nasa's International Space Station manager, Kirk Shireman, said the risk of launching a recycled rocket is about the same as for a brand new one. SpaceX is intent on driving down launch costs by salvaging its boosters and other components, and reflying them again and again.
United States: Authorities say a 2-year-old Utah girl has died after being fatally shot while her sibling was handling a gun. The Uintah County Sheriff's Office said that the child was accidentally shot in her home by an older sibling who was moving the gun from one room to another. The sheriff's office says that the gun had been leaning against a wall inside the home since Sunday after being brought back from a hunting trip.
Australia: A father of three who swam out to reach an unconscious teenage girl in choppy waters off Tasmania's northwest coast says he was scared for his own safety as he battled to keep her afloat. The 14-year-old girl is fighting for life in hospital after being pulled from the ocean off Devonport's Mersey Bluff. She got in trouble when swimming with her 14-year-old friend, who made it back to shore but was treated for shock. Anthony King, who works with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, "made one of those adrenaline -fuelled decisions that I would try and do something". Only King made it to her in tough conditions, as police and surf lifesaving crews launched rescue boats. He tried to clear her airways, hold her afloat and give mouth-to-mouth while treading water and waiting for help to arrive.
United States: Ash fell like snow and heavy smoke had residents gasping for air as a huge Southern California fire exploded in size, becoming the fifth largest in state history and driving celebrities from a wealthy hillside enclave. Tens of thousands have fled their homes as flames churn through foothill towns near Santa Barbara, the latest flare-up. Even residents not under evacuation orders took the chance to leave. Officials handed out masks to those who stayed behind in Montecito, an exclusive community about 120km northwest of Los Angeles that's home to stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Drew Barrymore. Actor Rob Lowe wore a mask as he live-streamed his family evacuating. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted that neighbours were helping each other and their animals get to safety.
Australia: Labor senator Sam Dastyari has quit the federal Parliament but insists he's a patriotic Australian, despite recent scrutiny of his dealings with a Chinese businessman and political donor. The NSW representative and factional colleague of Bill Shorten was sacked from his senior parliamentary roles by the Labor leader last week. He's now decided the best service he can render the federal party is to not return to the Senate in 2018. "I know Australia needs a Labor government and I refuse to let my personal situation put that prospect at risk," he said in Sydney. The Coalition Government had asked the Senate's powerful privileges committee to investigate Dastyari's conduct after it was revealed he had told businessman Huang Xiangmo — who has donated to both Labor and the Coalition — his phone was probably being tapped by Australian agencies.
Russia: A Russian cyber gang hacked into a British financial software company to steal millions of pounds from banks, it emerged. The crime gang used a new technique to rob 20 US and Russian banks, infiltrating their IT systems and then employing "mules" to withdraw at least £7.5 million from cash machines and steal money transfers. Group-IB, the Moscow cybersecurity firm that uncovered the crime, told the Daily Telegraph that several computers and servers at the UK company were infected by the hackers. The gang has been named "Money Taker". They hacked into banks in the US by infiltrating the card processing system. "Mules" working for the gang opened accounts in the US. Overdraft limits were then removed by the hackers, allowing the "mules" to withdraw huge amounts of cash from ATMs.
Science: Bumblebees have a grasp of maths that enables them to crack the classic "travelling salesman problem" as they forage for pollen and nectar, research shows. The problem, a benchmark of computer science, poses the question, "Given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city and returns to the origin city?" This was the conundrum facing bumblebees let loose on an array of artificial flower feeding stations at the Rothamsted Research institute in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. Scientists from Queen Mary University of London tried to trick the bees by offering shortcuts between individual flowers that increased the total distance they travelled. Initially, the bees fell into the trap, opting for short-term gain but ending up with a longer, more exhausting journey. But gradually the insects refined their flight paths and found the most effective "travelling salesman" solution. The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could assist the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced robots, the researchers say
Syria: President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would start to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Syria following its "successful intervention" in the conflict there. The announcement comes after the Defence Ministry said last week that Russia had "completely liberated" Syria from Isis, despite reports that the jihadist group still controls some remote territory in the country.
Australia: The first baby quokka to be born at the Australian Reptile Park has taken her first hops just in time for the Christmas school holidays. Cinnamon was born to Coco and Basil in August and after spending a few months in her mum Coco's pouch took her first hops in the NSW Central Coast wildlife sanctuary this week. The tiny joey will now play an important role in the conservation breeding programme to ensure the protection of quokkas. The status of the species continues to be listed as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, while Australian mammals have the worst extinction rate in the world.
United States: A North Dakota woman pleaded guilty in the killing of a pregnant neighbour so she and her boyfriend could keep the baby, though officials are still saying little about how the victim died. Brooke Crews, 38, could face life in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder and lying to law officers in the death of 22-year-old Savanna Greywind, of Fargo. Her boyfriend, William Hoehn, 32, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder and lying to law officers. He is scheduled for trial in March.