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2023: Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Icon, To Step Down




NEW ZEALAND, WELLINGTON — Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, announced her resignation on Thursday. She became a global icon of the left and showed a new way to lead.

At the time, Ardern was 37 years old. She was praised around the world for how she handled the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history and the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. But she had to deal with growing political pressure at home and abuse from some people, which no other New Zealand leader had to deal with.

Nonetheless, her announcement stunned the country of 5 million people.

Ardern, fighting back the tears, told reporters in Napier that her last day as prime minister would be Feb. 7 after five and a half years in office.

“I know what this job takes, and I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. “It’s that simple,” she explained.

On Sunday, members of her Labour Party will vote for a new leader.

After winning the top job for the first time in 2017, Ardern became an inspiration to women all over the world. She appeared to herald a new generation of leadership — she was a millennial, had worked as a part-time DJ, and wasn’t married like most politicians.

Ardern became only the second elected world leader to give birth while in office in 2018. She later brought her infant daughter to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.


Ardern Pushed Through Many Bills To Better The Country

While right-wing populism was on the rise worldwide, she pushed through a bill aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, oversaw a ban on assault weapons, and largely kept the coronavirus out of New Zealand for 18 months.

Her approach to the pandemic earned the ire of U.S. President Donald Trump, and she pushed back against claims from Trump about the spread of COVID-19 after he said there was a massive outbreak and “It’s over for New Zealand. “Everything has vanished.”

Ardern faced one of New Zealand’s darkest days in March 2019, when a white supremacist gunman stormed two mosques in Christchurch and slaughtered 51 worshippers during Friday prayers. After the attack, Ardern was praised for how much she cared about the survivors and the Muslim community in New Zealand as a whole.

After the shootings at the mosques, Ardern moved quickly to make it illegal to own the most dangerous types of semi-automatic weapons. A subsequent police buyback scheme destroyed over 50,000 guns, including many AR-15-style rifles.

Less than nine months after the shooting, another tragedy struck when the White Island volcano erupted, killing 22 tourists and guides.

Ardern got praise from all over the world for how her country handled the coronavirus pandemic when it first happened. New Zealand was able to keep the virus at bay for months. But as more contagious versions spread and more people got vaccines, she had to give up on her zero-tolerance policy.


Feels Under Fire Because Of Covid Restrictions

At home, she faced growing opposition from those who opposed coronavirus mandates and rules. Last year, a protest against vaccine mandates on Parliament’s grounds lasted more than three weeks and ended with protesters hurling rocks at police and torching tents and mattresses as they were forced to leave. Ardern canceled her annual barbecue this year due to security concerns.

Last month, Ardern said that a wide-ranging Royal Commission of Inquiry would look into whether the government made the right choices in fighting COVID-19 and how it could better prepare for future pandemics. Next year, a report is due.

Many people think that sexist attitudes played a part in the anger that was shown toward Ardern.

“Her treatment, the heaping on, in the last few months has been disgraceful and embarrassing,” actor Sam Neill tweeted. “All the bullies, misogynists, and victims. She deserved a lot better. A fantastic leader.”

However, Ardern and her government were chastised for being big on ideas but short on execution. Supporters were worried that it hadn’t done what it said it would in terms of increasing the number of homes and reducing child poverty. Those who didn’t like it said it didn’t pay enough attention to crime and the struggling economy.


Climate Change Is The Biggest Challenge

Climate change, according to Ardern, is the greatest challenge facing her generation. Her policies, on the other hand, were met with skepticism and opposition, including from farmers who were against plans to tax cow burps and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Ardern had been facing difficult electoral prospects. Her center-left Labour Party won reelection in 2020 in a historic landslide, but recent polls show that her party is behind its conservative opponents.

Ardern stated that the role required her to be prepared for the unexpected.

“But I’m not leaving because it was difficult. “If that had been the case, I would have quit two months in,” she explained. “I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. “The ability to recognize when you are and are not the right person to lead.”

She described her time in the office as challenging but rewarding.

“I am now entering my sixth year in office, and I have given my absolute all to each of those years,” she said.


Tired And No Longer Wanting To Fight

Ardern, according to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, “has shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength.”

“She has shown that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities,” Albanese wrote on Twitter. “Jacinda has always stood up for New Zealand. She has been an inspiration to many people and a great friend to me.”

On Twitter, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed gratitude to Ardern for her friendship and “empathic, compassionate, strong, and steady leadership.”

Ardern has charted her course for New Zealand. She tried to be nicer to China than Australia, which is a neighboring country that ended up fighting with Beijing. Last month that building relationships with small Pacific nations should not become a game of one-upmanship with China.

According to New Zealand Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon, Ardern has been a strong ambassador for the country on the international stage. He stated that “nothing changes” for his party and that it remains committed to winning this year’s general elections to “deliver a government that can get things done for the New Zealand people.”

Ardern announced that the vote would take place on October 14 and that she would remain a member of Parliament until then. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has announced that he will not run for Labour Party leadership, leaving the field wide open.

Only after the election will it be clear who will serve as Prime Minister.


Law Makers Will Vote Sunday

If no candidate receives at least two-thirds of caucus support when Labour lawmakers vote on Sunday, the entire party membership will decide the leadership race. Ardern has suggested that the party choose her replacement before she steps down.

Ardern said she hadn’t had much time to reflect on her time in office, even though it had been fraught with crises.

“It’s one thing to lead your country in peaceful times; it’s another to lead them through the crisis. “There’s a greater weight of responsibility, a greater vulnerability among the people, and I think that will be what sticks with me in many ways,” she said. “I had the honor of standing by New Zealand during a crisis, and they put their trust in me.”

Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, thanked Ardern on Twitter, saying her compassion and leadership on that dark day “shone a light in our grief journey.”

“I’m shocked, sad, and happy for her,” Al-Umari wrote.

Ardern said she had no immediate plans after leaving office, aside from family obligations with her daughter, Neve, and her fiancé, Clarke Gayford, after a virus outbreak thwarted their earlier wedding plans.

“As for Neve, Mum is looking forward to seeing you when you start school this year,” Ardern said. “And to Clarke, let’s finally tie the knot.”




Australia Swelters Under Extreme Heat As Rare Early Cyclone Barrels Toward Northern Coast




A tropical cyclone has rapidly strengthened off Australia’s northern coast, as millions face heat wave conditions expected to last into the weekend.

According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, severe tropical storm Jasper strengthened to the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on Friday, with maximum winds of 220 kilometers per hour (138 mph).

“Further intensification Friday is possible, and a category 5 system cannot be ruled out,” according to the country’s meteorology bureau.

According to a CNN investigation of National Hurricane Center storm tracks, Jasper is the earliest Category 4 tropical cyclone to form in the Coral Sea since records began in 1900.

The storm, which is 1,195 kilometers (742 miles) northeast of Queensland and moving south at 9 kilometers per hour (6 miles per hour), could hit the coast near Cairns, a city of 250,000 people, with maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour) by early Tuesday.

Forecasters believe the expected route could change.


Australia Swelters Under Extreme Heat As Rare Early Cyclone Barrels Toward Northern Coast

During El Nio, a climate trend in the Pacific Ocean along the equator that often reduces rainfall on Australia’s east coast, the storm arrives unusually early.

This year’s system has had an impact on weather all over the world, and it has the potential to significantly impact storm seasons.

Meanwhile, heat advisories are in effect in various states and territories, including New South Wales, which has a population of almost 8 million people.

Temperatures in Sydney, the state capital of New South Wales, are anticipated to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday, thanks to strong, dry winds.

Due to the elevated risk of bushfires, some Sydney schools were forced to close on Friday, and a total fire ban was in effect in some parts of NSW.

On Friday, regions of South Australia received a “catastrophic” fire rating, the highest on the scale, indicating that lives and property are likely to be lost if a fire starts.


Parts of New South Wales and Victoria have extreme fire risk ratings.

The heat is expected to subside by the end of the weekend and into early next week.

With frequent heat waves, excessive rains, and destructive bushfires, Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate catastrophe.

Earlier this year, amid Australia’s warmest winter since records began in 1910, more than 20 runners in the Sydney Marathon were hospitalized due to heat exhaustion.

Ski resorts, including the country’s largest, Perisher, also closed early owing to a lack of snow.

Fears were especially high because the devastating 2020 Black Summer fires, the country’s worst in decades, are still fresh in the minds of millions of Australians.

The fires consumed 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres), killing hundreds and destroying over 3,000 homes.


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Azerbaijan And Armenia Agree To Prisoner Swap And To Work Towards Peace Deal




Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed to exchange prisoners and work toward restoring relations and a peace agreement to end a decades-long conflict, which the US and EU have applauded.

According to a joint statement issued by Azerbaijan’s state news agency, AZERTAC, Azerbaijan will swap 32 prisoners of war for two military personnel.

“The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan both believe that there is a historical chance for the region to achieve long-awaited peace.” The two countries “reaffirm their intention to normalize relations and reach a peace treaty based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the statement. The breakthrough resulted from conversations between the offices of Azerbaijan’s president and Armenia’s prime minister.

“An agreement has been reached on taking tangible steps towards building confidence between two countries,” the statement says.


Azerbaijan And Armenia Agree To Prisoner Swap And To Work Towards Peace Deal

According to Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the US State Department, the prisoner swap was “an important confidence-building measure” as the two countries worked toward a peace agreement.

“We commend Azerbaijani President (Ilham) Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister (Nikol) Pashinyan for their joint efforts to lay the groundwork for a more peaceful and prosperous future for the people of the South Caucasus,” the statement read. “The United States will continue to strongly support efforts to reach a durable and dignified peace.”

“Establishing and deepening the bilateral dialogue between sides has been a key objective of the EU-led Brussels process: today’s progress is a significant step,” said EU Council President Charles Michel on X. “I now encourage the leaders to finalize the … peace deal ASAP.”

The neighboring countries have been at odds for decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area in the Caucasus Mountains.

After mounting a quick 24-hour attack, Azerbaijan reclaimed control of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic-Armenian enclave within its boundaries, in September.


Azerbaijan And Armenia Agree To Prisoner Swap And To Work Towards Peace Deal

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by Armenian rebels for decades. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, and cease-fire agreements have proven unstable.

Armenia admitted earlier this year that the province was part of Azerbaijan, but there are still disagreements about the future of its administration.

The latest progress on prisoner swaps and repairing relations came as delegates from both countries gathered in Dubai for the COP28 climate conference.

The statement also stated that Armenia would withdraw from consideration to host the annual UN-backed climate meeting next year and that Azerbaijan hoped other nations would support its bid.


Azerbaijan And Armenia Agree To Prisoner Swap And To Work Towards Peace Deal

There is a vacancy for the summit host for COP29 in 2024, which, according to UN standards, should be hosted in Eastern Europe. Before Thursday, the two countries had been obstructing each other’s candidacy in the voting process.

A vote among the region’s nations determines the year’s host country. Russia voted against numerous countries that are members of or allies of the European Union.

Azerbaijan is a big oil and gas producer that has been strengthening ties with Russia. Oil and gas account for about half of the country’s GDP and over 90% of its exports.


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Italy Quits Belt And Road Plan As Europe Rethinks China Relations




Italy, the only G7 country to join China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, will abandon the global infrastructure program when its contract expires next year, marking the latest symptom of Europe’s growing hostility against Beijing and its worldwide ambitions.

Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister, acknowledged the much-anticipated action on Thursday. She made the promise during her election campaign last year in response to complaints that the agreement with China that a previous administration had negotiated in 2019 had not been particularly beneficial to Italy’s economy.

On the other hand, Meloni emphasized that Rome could maintain excellent relations with Beijing outside of the program, which has increased China’s worldwide power while raising concerns that it has burdened some nations with unmanageable debt.


Italy Quits Belt And Road Plan As Europe Rethinks China Relations

“I believe we should… improve our cooperation with China on trade and the economy,” Meloni told reporters, according to Reuters, in her first public comments on the matter following rumors that Italy had informed China of its decision not to renew the treaty when it ends in March 2024.

“The tool of the (BRI) … has not produced the results that were expected,” she said in a statement.

Italy’s decision coincides with the European Union’s campaign to “de-risk” its supply chains from China and secure critical technologies after the bloc’s designation of Beijing as a “systemic rival” in 2019.

These tensions were on display Thursday during a conference in Beijing between EU leaders and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as the two sides grappled with issues ranging from trade to Russia’s war in Ukraine – with little progress made.

When asked about the Italian pullout during a normal news briefing on Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry maintained a cautious tone, citing the “enormous appeal and global influence of Belt and Road cooperation.”

“China vehemently opposes attempts to smear and sabotage Belt and Road cooperation, or to incite bloc confrontation and division,” said spokesperson Wang Wenbin, without mentioning Italy specifically.


Italy Quits Belt And Road Plan As Europe Rethinks China Relations

China has signed collaboration agreements with what it claims are more than 140 countries for the initiative, which has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in roads, ports, airports, and bridges, mostly in the Global South over the last decade.

Italy’s decision to join the scheme in 2019 was generally interpreted as a diplomatic victory for Beijing, prompting criticism from Washington and Brussels.

This summer, Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto called the 2019 decision “wicked,” citing growing trade disparities between the two countries in an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Last year, China imported $26.9 billion in Italian goods, up from $21.4 billion in 2019. According to China’s customs data, Chinese exports to Italy increased from $33.5 billion to $50.5 billion during the same time.

Former China-friendly Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who joined the scheme, blasted the withdrawal in an interview on his Facebook page, saying it was made for “ideological reasons” and risked “scuppering” future Italian export growth.


Italy Quits Belt And Road Plan As Europe Rethinks China Relations

In an interview with the Italian news outlet Fanpage earlier this year, the Chinese Ambassador to Italy, Jia Guide, stated that a “reckless” choice to withdraw from the accord would have a “negative” influence on cooperation.

Italian politicians were eager to tread gently in their withdrawal, with Meloni frequently implying that good relations with China could be maintained outside of the Belt and Road initiative. She has also refuted allegations that the US persuaded her to abandon the scheme.

Rome withdrew as a delegation of top European Union officials arrived in Beijing for the first EU-China meeting in four years.

Chinese leaders saw the summit as a critical opportunity to calm tense relations with Europe, which Beijing sees as a major potential counterweight in its competition with the United States.

“We should not regard each other as rivals simply because our systems are different,” Xi told the visiting leaders, according to China’s official readout. “We should not reduce cooperation because competition exists, or engage in confrontation because there are disagreements.”


Italy Quits Belt And Road Plan As Europe Rethinks China Relations

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel challenged Xi and Chinese Premier Li Qiang on their countries’ massive trade deficits and “unfair competition,” while Li urged the EU to be “prudent” in its use of “restrictive” economic policies.

Even though the summit looked to achieve nothing regarding fundamental problems, Von der Leyen stated that both parties agreed “that it is in our mutual interest to have balanced trade relations.”

The EU will seek “concrete progress following these discussions,” according to a statement issued after the meeting.

Source – CNN

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