Melbourne, Apr 14 (AP/UNB) — A drive-by shooting outside a popular Melbourne nightclub in Australia early Sunday left one man dead, another critically wounded and two others injured, police said.
Police said shots were fired from a car into a crowd standing outside the two-story Love Machine club, hitting three security guards at the nightclub and one patron.
Police appealed for anyone with video footage or information to come forward. They have made no arrests so far.
Four people were taken to a hospital, two of whom in critical condition. Police later confirmed that one man, 37 years old, had died.
They are investigating whether a black Porsche SUV seen leaving the area is related to the shooting. The car was later found burnt out.
“These things are still incredibly rare and there’s nothing to indicate at the moment that this is part of a broader agenda,” said Andrew Stamper of Victoria state police.
Love Machine host Steve Yousif posted on Facebook: “Overwhelmed with all your calls and texts, nothing but love for you all.”
“What happened last night was uncalled for and devastating. For some of you it was a night out, the rest of the Love Machine family lost a beautiful soul today,” he wrote.
Gun violence is rare in Australia, which strengthened its gun laws following the murders of 35 people by a lone gunman in 1996 in Tasmania. In New Zealand, an Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder over the March 15 mosque attacks that left 50 dead, leading that nation to ban a range of semi-automatic weapons.
London, Apr 13 (AP/UNB)— As a symbol of the woes of Britain's Brexit-era democracy, it could hardly be bettered. Lawmakers had to be sent home in mid-debate last week when water from a burst pipe began gushing into the House of Commons chamber.
The image perfectly illustrates Parliament's problem as it tries to solve the puzzle that is Brexit. On the outside, the U.K. institution is resplendent, a world-famous symbol of democracy sitting majestically on the River Thames. On the inside, it's decrepit and increasingly unfit for use.
The hidden flaws in Britain's political system have been laid bare — and televised worldwide — since voters chose, almost three years ago, to leave the European Union.
Decision-making has ground to a standstill, even as business leaders and residents alike cry out for certainty. Many Britons feel a mix of frustration, fascination and shame at the ongoing political chaos. So do politicians on both sides of the Brexit divide.
"I am ashamed to be a member of this Parliament," said pro-EU Liberal Democrat lawmaker Norman Lamb after lawmakers once again failed to find a way forward on Brexit.
Bill Cash, a pro-Brexit Conservative, said this week that Britain had been "humiliated" by failing to leave the EU on time.
The last few months in Parliament, as lawmakers repeatedly tried and failed to agree on a roadmap for Britain's departure, have produced close votes, late nights and high drama. It's a political soap opera that has sent the viewership of Parliament's live-streaming website soaring and made an international celebrity of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, with his bellowing cries of "Orderrrrr" and "The ayes have it!"
But all the sound and fury signifies — not much. Britain is no further out the EU door or clearer about its post-Brexit direction than it was at the start of the year.
A divorce agreement struck between Prime Minister Theresa May's government and EU late in 2018 lays out the terms of an orderly U.K. departure and promising close future ties. Since January, Parliament has rejected it three times. Pro-Brexit lawmakers won't vote for it because they favor a more definitive break with the bloc. Pro-EU politicians reject it because they think it's a poor substitute for EU membership.
Parliament has also voted on other options including leaving without a deal and holding a new referendum on Britain's EU membership. And twice lawmakers have rejected them all.
To avoid a chaotic no-deal departure that could devastate an economy already weighed down by Brexit uncertainty, May has twice gone to the EU asking for more time. Despite the bloc's increasing exasperation at Britain, it has twice agreed, delaying Brexit Day first from March 31 to April 12 and then again until Oct. 31.
British businesses breathed a sigh of relief, but feared the respite would be temporary unless politicians can resolve a political crisis that been building since the surprise result of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Amid widespread mistrust in politicians, a feeling that had been growing for years, voters opted to leave the EU against the advice of the government, most economists and major business groups.
Britain's political system has proven itself ill-equipped to implement the demand.
May's Conservative minority government does not have a majority of seats in Parliament — a rare occurrence in Britain — and struggles to deliver its policies. The country's two main parties, Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party, are both internally divided over Brexit and have begun to fray, with more than a dozen lawmakers quitting in recent months to sit as independents.
Pro-EU backbench lawmakers have gone to war with the government, seizing control of the parliamentary timetable to hold debates and votes on Brexit. Pro-Brexit Conservatives have demanded that May resign for failing to take Britain out of the EU.
In this environment, Parliament's stressed, exhausted politicians and their staff are frankly relieved at the 10-day Easter break that began on Friday. The prime minister has implored them to relax, reflect and come back ready to strike a Brexit compromise. In the meantime, May's government is still holding talks with Labour in hopes of finding common ground.
But there are few signs of any emerging consensus. Brexiteers in the Conservative Party are still plotting to remove May and replace her with a more strongly pro-Brexit leader, such as former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Pro-EU politicians are still hoping to secure a new referendum on Brexit that could deliver a mandate for Britain to stay in the bloc. Labour craves a national election, despite the risk that voters could decide to punish all politicians amid exasperation over the Brexit debacle.
There is no end in sight to the Brexit drama, which has left observers around the world scratching their heads — and sometimes chuckling — at Britain's plight.
Richard Ashworth, a British member of the European parliament, told EU colleagues that Brexit had had produced "a sad nation, divided like never before, and a House of Commons in crisis."
"Let Brexit stand as a cautionary tale to the people of Europe," he warned.
But some observers feel sympathy as Britain so publicly struggles with deep, divisive questions about its values and place in the world — questions that are not confined to the U.K.
"Parliament is representing the divisions in our county," said Anand Menon, director of the U.K. in a Changing Europe think-tank. "It's brutal. It's horrible. It's inconclusive. It's democratic politics at its most visceral.
"Among international observers I speak to, there is a sense of, 'There but for the grace of God go I.'"
London, Apr 13 (AP/UNB) — British standup comedian Ian Cognito has died on stage during a gig.
South Central Ambulance Service said Friday that medics were called to a club in Bicester, southern England, Thursday night, and "sadly one patient passed away at the scene." Police said the death was not suspicious.
Show organizer Andrew Bird told the BBC that when Cognito sat down and fell silent, "everyone in the crowd, me included, thought he was joking."
Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, never achieved wide fame but was highly respected among fellow comedians.
Entertainer Jimmy Carr tweeted of Cognito's onstage death: "That's commitment to comedy."
"Little Britain" star Matt Lucas tweeted: "He was always kind to me when I started out, and brilliant and provocative and entirely original onstage. What a loss."
Santiago, Apr 13 (AP/UNB) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that China's financing of President Nicolás Maduro's government is prolonging the crisis in Venezuela.
Pompeo kicked off a four-country tour of Latin America in Chile, where he met with President Sebastián Piñera to discuss the U.S.-China trade war and the Venezuelan crisis. Hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine and other hardships have forced more than 3 million Venezuelans — about one-tenth of the population — to flee the country in the last few years.
"China's bankrolling of the Maduro regime helped precipitate and prolong the crisis in that country," Pompeo said, adding that China invested over $60 billion, "with no strings attached."
"It's no surprise that Maduro used the money to use for tasks like paying off cronies, crushing pro-democracy activists, and funding ineffective social programs," he said.
"I think there's a lesson, a lesson to be learned for all of us: China and others are being hypocritical calling for non-intervention in Venezuela's affairs. Their own financial interventions have helped destroy that country."
Pompeo said China is a major U.S. trading partner, but that its "trade activities often are deeply connected to their national security mission, their technological goals, their desire to steal intellectual property, to have forced technology transfer, to engage in activity that is not economic."
He also criticized Russia's links with leaders in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
"Flying in troops and opening a training center in Venezuela are obvious provocations," he said. "We shouldn't stand for Russia escalating an already very precarious situation in that country."
Geneva, Apr 13 (AP/UNB) — The ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo does not yet warrant being declared a global emergency but is of "deep concern," the World Health Organization said Friday.
Following a meeting of its expert committee, the U.N. health agency called for efforts to be redoubled to stop the deadly virus, noting that the recent spike in Ebola cases raises the risk of spread to other countries.
The outbreak announced on Aug. 1 has become the second-deadliest in history, behind the West African one from 2014-16 that killed more than 11,300 people. Congo's health ministry on Thursday reported 1,206 confirmed and probable cases, including 764 deaths.
This is the second time the expert committee has decided this outbreak is not yet a global emergency. Committee chair Robert Steffen called Friday's decision unanimous and said the experts had feared making the declaration might even hurt response efforts. He did not give details but said experts were "moderately optimistic" the outbreak could be contained within a "foreseeable time."
Ahead of the WHO announcement, a top Red Cross official said he was "more concerned than I have ever been" about Ebola's possible regional spread.
Emanuele Capobianco, head of health and care at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, cited Congolese health ministry data showing 40 new cases over two days this week. He called that rate unprecedented in this outbreak.
To be designated a public health emergency of international concern, a situation must be "serious, unusual or unexpected," threaten to infect other countries and require "immediate international action."
Emergency declarations almost always boost global attention and donor funding. WHO has noted it is woefully short of the $148 million it says is needed to fight Ebola for the next six months. To date, the agency has only received $74 million.
This outbreak, occurring close to the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, has been like no other. Mistrust has been high in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before, and insecurity caused by rebel groups has hurt aid efforts.
Rebecca Katz, a global health security expert at Georgetown University, in a statement called WHO's decision disappointing, saying the U.N. agency and its experts were "taking too narrow of an interpretation" of what constitutes an international emergency. She called the difficulty of coordinating the response "deeply concerning."
Ahead of the announcement, Trish Newport, Doctors Without Borders' representative in Goma, a major crossroads city close to the outbreak, said that declaring a global emergency wouldn't necessarily help stop the epidemic.
"Bigger is not necessarily better," she said and called for a new approach, saying that after nine months of the same strategy "the epidemic is definitely not under control."
Doctors Without Borders is calling for patients to be treated in existing health centers rather than Ebola-specific clinics: "It's very clear that people do not like or trust the Ebola centers and they are not coming to be treated."
Newport said 75% of new Ebola cases have no obvious link to previous patients, meaning that officials have lost track of where the virus is spreading.
WHO's Dr. Michael Ryan, who heads the emergencies program, disputed that assessment, insisting that officials are eventually able to connect most Ebola cases to a previous patient after an arduous forensic process.
Previous global emergencies have been declared for the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the emergence of Zika virus in the Americas and the international attempt to eradicate polio. WHO was criticized for not declaring the 2014 Ebola outbreak an international emergency until nearly 1,000 people had died and the disease had spilled across borders.
Tariq Riebl, who is based in a current Ebola hot spot, Butembo, for the International Rescue Committee, said a major obstacle to stopping the outbreak is that officials are simply unaware of how many Ebola cases there are.
"We're discovering people when it's way too late," he said, noting numerous cases were buried in secret and never reported to authorities. "Given the average number of cases we're seeing now, this is not going to be over for at least another six months or more."