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NZ Justice Minister resigns after failing alcohol breath test



New Zealand’s justice minister has resigned with immediate effect, after failing an alcohol breath test in the wake of a car crash.

Kiri Allan, 39, was charged with careless driving and resisting arrest.

She is the fourth minister from Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ cabinet to leave since March, ahead of elections due in October.

No casualties were reported from the crash, which took place in the capital Wellington on Sunday night.

Following her arrest, the former minister was detained at a police station for four hours before being released. She is due to appear in court at a later date.

Ms Allan, whom Mr Hipkins said had been suffering from “extreme emotional distress”, will remain as a member of parliament for now.

“She understood that retaining her ministerial warrant was untenable, especially for a justice minister to be charged with criminal offending,” said the prime minister in a press conference.

Ms Allan, who was also minister for regional development, conservation, and emergency management, had recently taken time off due to “personal difficulties”, only returning to work last Monday.

She confirmed her separation from her partner last month and is also facing accusations of poor working relationships with staffers.

In a statement on Monday, Ms Allan said that she had returned to parliament believing she could juggle personal challenges with her job.

“My actions yesterday show I wasn’t okay,” she said, adding that she will consider her future in politics.

Ms Allan was once seen as the darling of the Labour party. She was even tipped to succeed former prime minister Jacinda Arden, who stepped down from her role earlier this year before Mr Hipkins took over.

Her resignation is the latest development in what Mr Hipkins admitted has been a “messy” time in his own party.

Transport and immigration minister Michael Wood resigned in June over his failure to disclose a possible conflict of interest in stock ownership. A month earlier, customs minister Meka Whaitiri switched sides to join another party.

Four months ago, police minister Stuart Nash in March was also fired after it was revealed he had given confidential information to donors.

An April opinion poll predicted a close contest in the upcoming election between the centre-left Labour party and its main opposition the National party.

(BBC News)


India suspends visas for Canadians




India has suspended visa services for Canadian citizens amid an escalating row over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.

Visa service provider BLS posted a message from India’s mission blaming “operational reasons” for the decision.

Tensions flared this week after Canada said it was investigating “credible allegations” linking India with the murder of the separatist leader.

India angrily rejected the allegation calling it “absurd”.

Analysts say relations between the countries, which have been strained for months, are now at an all-time low.

The message about the suspension of visas was first posted on the BLS website on Thursday.

“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” it read.

India’s foreign ministry refused to comment on the matter and asked the BBC to refer to the BLS website.

The move comes a day after India issued an advisory urging its citizens travelling to or living in Canada to “exercise utmost caution” in view of the “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada”.

Canada has 1.4 million people of Indian origin, making up 3.7% of the country’s population, according to the 2021 census. India also sends the highest number of international students to Canada – in 2022, they made up 40% of total overseas students at 320,000.

(BBC News)

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One in 10 people now aged 80 or older




For the first time ever, more than one in 10 people in Japan are now aged 80 or older.

National data also shows 29.1% of the 125 million population is aged 65 or older- a record.

Japan has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world and has long struggled with how to provide for its ageing population.

It has the world’s oldest population, measured by the proportion of people aged 65 or up, the United Nations says.

That proportion stands at 24.5% in Italy and 23.6% in Finland, which rank second and third respectively.

In Japan, those aged over 65 are expected to account for 34.8% of the population by 2040, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

The country’s elderly employment rate is among the highest across major economies – workers aged 65 or more make up more than 13% of the national workforce.

But this has done little to relieve the burden on the country’s social security spending.

Japan has approved a record budget for the next fiscal year, in part due to rising social security costs.

Efforts to boost its birth rates have also met with little success amid the growing cost of living, and notoriously long working hours.

Birth rates are slowing in many countries, including Japan’s neighbours, but the problem is particularly acute in Japan.

The country was estimated to have had fewer than 800,000 babies born last year – the lowest number since records began in the 19th century.

In the 1970s, that figure was more than two million.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in January that his country is on the brink of not being able to function as a society because of its declining birth rate.

However authorities remain hesitant about accepting migrant workers as a solution to falling fertility.

Other countries in Asia are facing similar demographic challenges.

Last year, China’s population fell for the first time since 1961, while South Korea has reported the lowest fertility rate in the world.

(BBC News)

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UK to ban American bully XL dogs




The British government has announced steps to outlaw the American bully XL by the end of the year.

The American bully XL  is a popular breed that likely descended from pit bulls.

The ban was announced after a string of dog attacks that caused outrage on social media last week.

PM Rishi Sunak said it was clear the American XL bullies were “a danger to communities” and a ban was needed.

He added that experts and police will work together to “accurately define the breed” and powers will be used in the Dangerous Dogs Act.

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