New Year’s Firework Controversies
Countries across the globe celebrate the coming of the New Year with fireworks celebrations at midnight – but this year, there were a few controversies.
In Sydney, Australia, the fireworks show went ahead after around 300,000 people signed a petition protesting the display. The region is suffering from extreme fires and smoke pollution in the air, and some residents thought the fireworks show should be canceled. The petition suggested the fireworks “may traumatize some people” who had suffered in the fires.
Sydney Mayor Clover Moore defended the celebration, saying it would “give hope to people at a terrible time.” She added that the display is planned for months in advance and that much of the budget for the event had already been spent, anyway.
Some towns on the outskirts of Sydney were not able to hold their own fireworks displays, however. Parramatta, for example, was not able to get an exemption from a total fire ban that was in place due to extreme heat.
Unlike Sydney, one city did cancel its fireworks display – but it was due to political reasons. Hong Kong has been in the midst of political protests for several months, and the protestors thought New Year’s Eve was no reason to stop. A fireworks display was canceled due to “security concerns” as people formed a human chain in the area.
The unrest in this semi-autonomous region of China was triggered by laws that were perceived as attempts by the central Chinese government in Beijing to interfere in Hong Kong affairs. “I hope people can continue fighting in 2020,” said one protestor, 28-year-old engineer Eric Wong.
“For us it’s not really New Year’s Eve. We have to resist every day,” added 25-year-old IT worker Sam.
The city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, on the other hand, urged a new start in the new year. “Let’s start 2020 with a new resolution, to restore order and harmony in society. So we can begin again, together,” she said.
Protestors Storm U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
On the last day of 2019, protestors attempted to storm the United States Embassy located in Baghdad, Iraq.
The U.S. has held a presence in the Middle Eastern country of Iraq since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. American troops initially entered the country due to rumors that its leader, Saddam Hussein, had “weapons of mass destruction.” These rumors were later revealed to be false, but Hussein was still removed from power. The war officially ended in 2011.
A protest was held at the embassy on December 31, with demonstrators breaking in and setting a fire in the reception area. They eventually dispersed when American guards fired tear gas into the crowd. The State Department assured the public that no embassy staff had been injured in the attack.
President Trump blamed Iran – a county that neighbors Iraq – for the attack. He tweeted, “Iran is orchestrating an attack on the US embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible.” Iranian leaders fired back, saying, “If Iran decides to confront a country, we will do that openly.”
Trump ordered 750 solders to be sent to the region. Mark Esper, the defense secretary, commented that “The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world.”
America’s Most admired Men and Women
Every year, Gallup polling company compiles a survey to find out who the most admired people are across the U.S.A. This year’s results were unusual, as the most admired man in America is… two men! President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama tied for first place, both receiving 18% of the vote. This is Obama’s 12th time to win the top spot, while it is Trump’s first.
18% may not seem like much, but no other person received more than 2% of the votes. Some other men in the top 10 list included businessman Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Pope Francis, and the Dalai Lama. Not every recipient was famous, however. According to Gallup, 11% of Americans “named a relative or friend as the man they admire most; 18% named some other living man; and 25% did not name anyone.”
Michelle Obama was named the most admired woman in America. Second place went to First Lady Melania Trump, and teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was joint third with television host Oprah Winfrey and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Queen Elizabeth of England appeared in the top ten for the 51st time, making her the most frequently appearing woman on the list.