09-13 Dec Weekly News


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Sydney bush fires combine to form 'mega-fire'

Australian fire-fighters are battling the worst bushfire they have seen. They dubbed it a "mega-fire". Eight different fires combined an hour's drive north of Sydney. The gigantic blaze is endangering tens of thousands of homes in its path. It is burning across a huge swath of land and is roughly 60km wide. Officials say it is burning out of control and is too vast to contain. They said: "We cannot stop these fires. They will keep burning until conditions ease."

The spread of the fires was made worse by a long drought. It is very early for forests to be so dry. Officials said: "There's a tough couple of months ahead and we've already seen the horrific consequences of fire." Sydney is covered in choking, poisonous smoke. Residents received advice about exercising outside. They say it is "unprecedented". An official said: "People's emotions are very, very tested and frail at the moment."


Finnish woman, 34, to be world's youngest prime minister

A 34-year-old woman is to become the youngest prime minister in the world. The new leader is Sanna Marin. She only celebrated her 34th birthday last week. She became the head of the Finnish Social Democrats Party last week. Members of her party voted for her in an election on Sunday. She received 32 of the 61 votes to become chairperson of her party. Ms Marin was the minister of transport and communications in Finland. She will take over as Finland's prime minister after her former boss announced that he would be stepping down. The ex-prime minister, 57-year-old Antti Rinne, announced last week that he was quitting. Marin will be the youngest prime minister in Finland's history.

Sanna Marin said she is very excited at the prospect of leading her country. She said: "There's a lot of work to be done. First, we'll have to call a meeting between the ruling parties and review the government program. We have a joint government program which glues the coalition together." She added that one of her first jobs is to increase the popularity of her party with the Finnish people, saying: "We have a lot of work ahead to rebuild trust." Marin will lead a coalition government. All of the other four leaders in the coalition are also women. Marin is a new kind of leader. She shares photos of her private, social and political life on her Instagram page.


Bougainville may be the world's next country

A possible new member may be added to the global family of nations. Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has voted for independence. A referendum was held on the island. Over 181,000 people cast their vote and nearly 98 per cent of them voted in favour of independence. It was a non-binding referendum, which means the PNG government does not have to make it law. However, PNG should act on the result.

Bougainville is the largest of the PNG chain of islands. It is part of the Solomon Islands and used to be called the Republic of North Solomons. Bougainvilleans started a fight for independence in the 1960s. Bougainville became part of PNG in 1976. This started the decade-long Bougainville Civil War, in which 20,000 people lost their lives. The Prime Minister of PNG said his government was committed to respecting the poll's result.


Greta Thunberg is TIME's Person of the Year

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has been named TIME magazine's Person of the Year for 2019. The 16-year-old from Sweden beat New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Hong Kong democracy protestors to win the award. Ms Thunberg shot to fame in 2018 for raising people's awareness of the threat to the planet from climate change. She started a global movement when she decided to go on a climate strike outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018. Schoolchildren around the world then followed her example. She has since addressed the United Nations in New York and has met the Pope. After hearing about the award, she tweeted: "Wow, this is unbelievable! I will share this great honour."

Greta Thunberg is the youngest person ever to receive the award. TIME magazine wrote about why it gave the prize to Ms Thunberg. It said she has, "succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift" in getting millions of people to join a "worldwide movement calling for urgent change". It added: "Greta has offered a moral call to those who are willing to act, and put shame on those who are not." Not everyone is happy with Ms Thunberg receiving the award. Donald Trump Jr said TIME was using a teenager "as a marketing gimmick". In contrast, Hillary Clinton tweeted: "I am grateful for all she's done to raise awareness of the climate crisis, and her willingness to tell hard, motivating truths."


New Zealand volcano

The volcano eruption that engulfed New Zealand's White Island in smoke and ash yesterday has claimed at least six lives, and several others are still missing and feared dead. Forty-seven people were on the island at the time of the eruption, and dozens face critical injuries. A spokesperson from New Zealand's Ministry of Health said every burn unit in the country is at capacity. Of those hospitalized, 27 have burns over more than 30% of their body, and several have inhalation burns. Authorities are still trying to decide whether it is safe enough for rescue workers to access the island to search for the missing. Scientists have said there were no indications the volcano was going to erupt. Still, some are asking whether tourists should have been there at all.



You won't be flying on a Boeing 737 Max anytime soon. Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson said yesterday a House Transportation Committee hearing he couldn't give a time frame for when the controversial model would be back in the air. The planes were grounded worldwide back in March after two crashes killed a combined 346 people. The hearing also revealed that Boeing and the FAA ignored clear signs that the 737 Max planes were dangerous. A government report filed after the first crash, made public during the yesterday's hearing, concluded the jets were at a significant risk for future crashes. Dickson said if he were head of the FAA at the time of the report, he would have grounded the planes immediately. However, it took months -- and another deadly crash -- before any action was taken.


UK election

The UK general election results are in, and Boris Johnson's Conservative Party has secured a commanding victory. It now holds a majority in Parliament, which means Johnson has an easier path to push his Brexit bill through a vote. While some places with historically low support for Conservatives supported the party this time, other areas held the anti-Brexit line. Tensions between these regions may boil over as an inevitable Brexit threatens to drag Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the EU against their will. Now, Johnson will probably push for a vote in the reshuffled House of Commons before the end of the year. Then, he'll have to do some serious negotiating with the US and China to forge new trade deals to soften the economic blow of separating from the EU. Another takeaway from the historic vote: Though Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson lost her seat, the day was a win for female MPs in general, with a record 221 women winning seats.


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