First Thing: seven killed in shooting at Jehovah’s Witness hall in Germany

First Thing: seven killed in shooting at Jehovah’s Witness hall in Germany

Good morning.

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has denounced a “brutal act of violence” after seven people were shot dead and several others were injured at a Jehovah’s Witness centre in Hamburg on Thursday night. Police said the suspected gunman was dead and that the motive remained unclear.

Scholz said his thoughts were with the victims, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses community in Germany said its members had been targeted in a “horrific attack”.

The suspect is believed to have been aged between 30 and 40 and to have used a handgun after forcing himself into the building close to the city centre. There are reports that he had been ejected from the church about 18 months ago for reasons unknown.

  • What happened when the police arrived? Officers from a specialised armed unit were by chance already near the scene when the shooting happened, local media reported. They entered the building and started evacuating people.

Wagner forces taking ‘tactical pause’ in Bakhmut, says US thinktank

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, speaking to a camera from a rooftop at an undisclosed location. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The private mercenary group Wagner appears to be taking a “tactical pause” in Bakhmut, the Institute for the Study of War has said in its daily update.

The US thinktank believes Wagner is waiting until enough reinforcements of conventional Russian troops have arrived before it will take a backseat in the fierce battle.

“The arrival of an increased number of conventional Russian forces to the area may suggest that Russian forces intend to offset the possible culmination of Wagner’s offensive operations in Bakhmut with new conventional troops,” the ISW said.

Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence said the death toll from yesterday’s mass strikes was 11, two more than the update on Thursday from emergency services. The ministry cited Ukrainian officials.

  • What else is happening? Reuters reports that in a Telegram message to Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin said he was sure the two leaders could advance their cooperation on regional and international issues, the Kremlin said. “I am confident that, working together, we will ensure the expansion of fruitful Russian-Chinese cooperation in various fields,” Putin said.

‘It was traumatic’: Uber, Lyft drivers decry low pay and unfair deactivations

Rideshare drivers protest outside LaGuardia airport on 26 February over their treatment and pay by Uber and Lyft.
Rideshare drivers protest outside LaGuardia airport on 26 February over their treatment and pay by Uber and Lyft. Photograph: Derek French/Rex/Shutterstock

For more than five years, James Jordan worked full-time for Uber in Los Angeles, until early 2022 when he was permanently deactivated from the app – Uber’s equivalent of being fired. He said he later found out he had been deactivated due to old customer complaints, and that Uber would not listen to his appeals or offer to provide dashcam footage to disprove the allegations.

“Within a week, 10 days, I had gotten a number of complaints. I didn’t know where they were coming from,” said Jordan, who said he completed over 27,000 rides for Uber and had a 4.95 rating on the app before his permanent deactivation.

Jordan’s is not an isolated case. A report published by the Asian Law Caucus and Rideshare Drivers United, based on survey responses from 810 rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft in California, found two-thirds of drivers had experienced temporary or permanent deactivations of their accounts, with drivers of color and immigrant drivers disproportionately affected. Jordan is Black.

The survey responses detailed unfair and non-transparent deactivations, with 30% of drivers claiming they received no explanation for deactivations. The survey detailed incidents of discrimination from customers, and customers making frivolous complaints in order to gain free rides or credits from the rideshare companies. Drivers said there was no fair process in place for drivers to respond or advocate on their own behalf.

  • What does Jordan and others like him want to see happen? “Uber needs to be regulated,” Jordan said. “Uber is redefining independent contracting to fit their agenda. We need the attorney general’s office to take seriously these violations that I and hundreds of other drivers are experiencing.”

In other news …

Robert Blake in Baretta in 1975
Robert Blake in Baretta in 1975, the year he won an Emmy. Photograph: Universal Tv/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock
  • Robert Blake, the Emmy award-winning performer who was tried and acquitted in the killing of his wife, has died age 89. A statement released on behalf of his niece, Noreen Austin, said Blake died from heart disease, surrounded by family at home in Los Angeles.

  • The Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin, has expressed concerns over rising levels of violence against Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and warned against acts that could trigger more insecurity. His visit to Israel was disrupted by protests against the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial changes.

  • Xi Jinping has been handed an unprecedented third term as president, capping an ascent in which he has become China’s most powerful leader in generations. He vowed to “build a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilised, harmonious and great modern socialist country”.

  • Prosecutors have signaled to Donald Trump that he could face criminal charges for making a hush-money payment to the adult film actor and director Stormy Daniels. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has offered the ex-president the chance to testify next week before the grand jury

Stat of the day: Two leading Ohio Republicans found guilty in $60m bribery scheme

Larry Householder
The former Ohio house speaker Larry Householder. Photograph: Fred Squillante/AP

The former Ohio state house speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican party chair Matt Borges were convicted on Thursday in a $60m bribery scheme that federal prosecutors have called the largest corruption case in state history. A jury in Cincinnati found the two guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering, after more than nine hours of deliberations over two days. Kenneth Parker, the US attorney, said the government’s prosecution team showed that “Householder sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the people of the great state of Ohio he was elected to serve”. He called Borges “a willing co-conspirator”.

Don’t miss this: ‘He passed the bee baton on to me’ – people who inherit hobbies

A beekeeper inspecting a hive
From beekeeping to crochet, these hobbies passed down through generations form lasting bonds. Photograph: David Wootton/Alamy

It’s fair to say Alasdair Friend didn’t always picture himself as a beekeeper. But when a diagnosis of motor neurone disease meant his father was no longer able to tend to his hives, Friend resolved to carry on his passion. He was not without doubts at first. “I remember driving back with this actively buzzing box of 40,000 bees and thinking: what have I signed up for?” he said.

How we spend our free time matters: research suggests that having hobbies can enhance mental and physical wellbeing and offer greater life satisfaction. From team sports to crafts classes, they can also be a means to meaningfully connect with others. And for some, having an interest in common offers a way to feel close to a loved one, whether or not they still practise it together.

Climate check: Air pollution ‘speeds up osteoporosis’ in postmenopausal women

A hazy morning in downtown Los Angeles
US study finds bone loss occurs twice as fast among women living in areas with higher air pollution. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

A study has concluded that air pollution is accelerating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Researchers scanned the bones of more than 9,000 women living in four different parts of the US. Each had a bone scan three times over a six-year period, which was compared with the air they breathed. On average, air pollution accounted for a doubling of the speed of bone loss. In the US, 10 million people are thought to have osteoporosis, of whom about 80% are women. The condition weakens bones and is linked to more than 2m fractures a year, at a cost of more than $20bn annually. The new study helps to explain earlier work by the same research group that looked at hospitalisation for fractures among more than 9 million people in the eastern US.

Sædís the orca swims with a newborn long-finned pilot whale calf off the coast of Iceland
Sædís the orca swims with a newborn long-finned pilot whale calf off the coast of Iceland. Photograph: courtesy of orcaguardians.org

Orcas, or killer whales, are apex predators, best known for their ferocious hunting techniques. So when a female was seen apparently caring for the offspring of another species, it came as a bit of a surprise. “I saw straight away there was something weird about it,” says Thérèse Mrusczok, who witnessed the encounter. The ship’s crew initially thought it was a very small killer whale calf but photos later confirmed what Mrusczok suspected – that the female, called Sædís, appeared to be looking after a newborn long-finned pilot whale. The unique sighting is the subject of a research paper published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology. “It’s another level of empathy we see in these animals if they are capable of caring for another species,” said Mrusczok.

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