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The Spill: Year End Drama

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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.

Sydney

In Sydney, Australia, the fireworks show went ahead, even after around 300,000 people signed a petition protesting the display. The region is suffering from extreme fires and associated smoke pollution in the air, and some residents thought the fireworks show should be canceled to prevent more air pollution and so that the money could be spent on firefighting instead. The petition suggested the fireworks “may traumatize some people” who had suffered in the fires. Despite these claims, the fireworks show was one of the first to welcome in the new year.

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.

Hong Kong

Unlike Sydney, one city did cancel its fireworks display – but this time, it was due to political reasons. Hong Kong has been in the midst of political protests for several months now, and the protestors thought New Year’s Eve was no reason to stop. A fireworks display, which is usually held on the island’s iconic Victoria Harbor, was canceled due to “security concerns” as people formed a human chain in the area and chanted slogans like “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times!”

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. Currently, there is no reason to think that this issue will go away in 2020. “I hope people can continue fighting in 2020,” said one protestor, 28-year-old engineer Eric Wong. “We should not forget the people in jail who could not count down to the new year with us.”

“This year there are no fireworks, but there will probably be tear gas somewhere,” said 25-year-old IT worker Sam. “For us it’s not really New Year’s Eve. We have to resist every day.”

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. The country has suffered from instability since then, in the form of Islamic extremism from ISIS, resulting in a civil war from 2014-2017. The year 2019 also saw civil unrest and protests against corruption and poor living conditions.

A protest was held at the U.S. embassy on December 31, with demonstrators breaking in, smashing windows and setting a fire in the reception area. They eventually dispersed as a result of American guards firing 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. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the embassy, and so notified!” Iranian leaders fired back, saying, “If Iran decides to confront a country, we will do that openly.”

In response to the incident, 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.”

Barack Obama presidential portrait

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. Other men in the top 10 list included former President Jimmy Carter, businessman Elon Musk, philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Pope Francis, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, California Representative Adam Schiff, the Dalai Lama, and investor Warren Buffett. 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.”

President Donald Trump

The Obama family as a whole did well, as Michelle Obama was named the most admired woman in America, this year. Second place went to First Lady Melania Trump, and teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was joint third, along with television host Oprah Winfrey and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Other women to place in the top 10 included, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

This was Queen Elizabeth’s 51st time in the top ten list, making her the most frequently appearing woman on the list.

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