Friday Briefing – The New York Times

A 24-year-old student at Charles University in Prague killed 14 people and wounded more than 20 others at the school, some critically, in a rare shooting spree yesterday in the Czech Republic. The gunman later fell from the roof of a building. The police said they believed he had first killed his father in their family home.

The gunman was partly identified by the police as David K. The chief of the national police force said the assailant had been inspired by a “similar terrible event abroad,” but did not specify which. The authorities did not believe the shooting was an act of terrorism.

The authorities were investigating whether chilling Russian-language messages posted under the name David Kozak were connected to the gunman. These posts praised recent mass shootings in Russia, including one perpetrated by a 14-year-old girl. One message said of the shooter: “She certainly did not kill enough. I will try to fix that.” Another read: “I always wanted to kill.”

Details: The episode could have been much deadlier if the police were not already on the scene when the shooting began. Officers had information suggesting that an attack at the school was imminent and had evacuated one of its buildings, the authorities said.

The Biden administration is quietly signaling new support for seizing more than $300 billion in Russian central bank assets stashed in Western nations, and has begun urgent discussions about using the funds to aid Ukraine’s war effort as other financial support wanes, according to senior American and European officials.

Until recently, top Treasury officials had warned that such a move might not be legal and could set a worrying precedent. But the administration, in coordination with other G7 nations, is taking another look at whether it can use its existing authorities or it should seek congressional action to use the funds.

The talks among finance ministers, central bankers, diplomats and lawyers have intensified in recent weeks, officials said, with the Biden administration pressing for a strategy by Feb. 24, the second anniversary of the invasion.

After nearly a week of delays and furious last-minute negotiations, the U.S. said it was ready to support a Security Council resolution that would call for more aid to enter the Gaza Strip.

The text of the resolution dropped an earlier version’s call for the suspension of hostilities, instead calling for “urgent steps” to allow unhindered humanitarian access. It asks the U.N. secretary general to appoint a coordinator tasked with “facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying” humanitarian aid, who would also be “consulting all relevant parties.”

The vote had been delayed over disagreements on who would monitor that aid. The U.S., under Israeli pressure, has said Israel must remain involved in the inspections, but Cairo — which controls the Rafah border crossing into Gaza — has wanted the U.N. to take over to streamline the delivery of badly needed aid to the enclave.

In other news from the war:

There’s a grain of truth in Lisa Simpson’s comment that everybody does “The Nutcracker” “because you don’t have to pay for the music rights.” But for every traditional treatment, there’s one with a contemporary left-field twist.

Here are five instances in which light tweaks and heavy rewrites have reframed — and occasionally ruined — the Tchaikovsky holiday classic.

Antoine Griezmann: Atletico Madrid’s joint-record scorer and his path to legendary status.

Court ruling: The European Court of Justice said soccer’s governing bodies had abused their dominant position by blocking plans for a new Super League.

Left-footers: Why they are behind record Premier League penalty conversion rates.

Under pressure: Xavi enters uncharted territory at Barcelona.

Every year — including this one — The Times publishes a slate of holiday content and suggestions, much of which expresses something of the spirit of the age.

In 1923, a year in which 40 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line, people in Cleveland decorated their homes not with cut flowers, but with weeds like “pepper grass, teazle, milkweed and goldenrod,” painted in festive colors.

In 1973, The Times picked some unusual (and timely) gifts, including a 50-cent McDonald’s hamburger gift certificate, a Vietnam War-themed board game and a “sterling silver handwrought fly swatter” for the executive who has it all. In 1998, people sought to replace “stress with serenity” and abandon the commercial spirit of the season — including by making ornaments out of pine cones or eschewing physical gifts.

This year, a reader asks whether he really has to get an ugly Christmas sweater for a themed party. Our fashion columnist decries these disposable items and suggests more sustainable options: making your own or swapping for someone else’s.