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Americas Cup – Closing The Gap – Gods Army – Mobile Marae – Te Papa – Kiwis – Peter Doone – Millennium Baby – Drugs Billionaire – Nuclear Tests – Web Wars –Cannabis – Editorial: Te Papa

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AMERICAS CUP: He's 73 and about to sail in the race of his life. Renzo Guidi, from a tiny seaside village in Italy, finds himself at the heart of one of the world's greatest sporting events - because his superstitious countrymen need him as their lucky charm. When the Italian challenger Prada lines up against AmericaOne in the opening race of the Louis Vuitton Cup finals today, Guidi will be at the back of the silver boat Luna Rossa as 17th man, or observer.

CLOSING THE GAP: Prime Minister Helen Clark has put her reputation on the line, taking personal responsibility for one of the country's most intractable problems - closing the social and economic gaps between the races. At Ratana Church commemorations near Wanganui yesterday, she said she would chair a new cabinet committee aiming for higher employment, better health, better housing and higher educational achievement among Maori and Pacific peoples.

GODS ARMY: Twin brothers aged 12 are believed to be behind the attack on a Thai hospital in which 500 hostages were seized in a volley of gunfire last night. The twins, Johnny and Luther Htoo, lead a gang known as God's Army, a breakaway faction of the Karen National Union, an ethnic group which has fought for over 50 years for greater autonomy from the Burmese Government.

MOBILE MARAE: A "mobile marae" built by Te Awamutu artists and carvers will have to be exhibited with care to avoid offending local Maori when it begins touring the country. The mobile marae will travel by trailer around the North Island to attract students to the Maori tertiary institute Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

TE PAPA: Financially troubled Te Papa should take a look at the way it spends its money before putting up its hand for more, says the head of the Auckland Museum, Dr Rodney Wilson. He was commenting on the dire straits in which the Museum of New Zealand may find itself after a projected $17.5 million loss.

KIWIS: Conservationists have launched an emergency rescue of kiwi chicks after a population explosion of rats, mice and stoats. Wildlife experts say that pest numbers are reaching plague proportions with their highest numbers for 10 years.

PETER DOONE: The future of Police Commissioner Peter Doone will dominate the first cabinet meeting of the year today. The cabinet will also set up the select committee review of MMP, hear progress reports on the Budget and finalise key subcommittees.

MILLENNIUM BABY: Magazine publisher Australian Consolidated Press has promised to pay in full the family of New Zealand's first millennium baby. Managing director Bruce Cotterill said yesterday that the family would receive all the money originally promised in a contract with Woman's Day, although he could not reveal how much that was.

DRUGS BILLIONAIRE: Police have decided not to appeal against the discharge without conviction handed down to the drug-importing American billionaire. Assistant Commissioner Neville Trendle said it was decided not to proceed with the appeal after seeking advice from the Crown Law Office and Solicitor-General.

NUCLEAR TESTS: New Zealand and Fiji are considering joining forces to build a nuclear test monitoring station in Fiji, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said in Suva yesterday. It would be built as part of a global network of 300 such stations to help verify compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Mr Goff said.

WEB WARS: Porirua police have launched an Internet Website in the hope that it will spark a reaction from people intimidated by the local Mongrel Mob. Constable Mark Duncan, of the tactics division, says the public can play a big part in supporting police in their fight against crime and the Website could motivate them.

CANNABIS: Frightened farmers near Te Puke have invited police and politicians to a public meeting tomorrow night to discuss trespassers growing marijuana on their land. The move follows a gathering last week of 30 concerned neighbours on Maniatutu Rd, Paengaroa, where a 36-year-old man was shot dead while trekking through a private property.

EDITORIAL – TE PAPA: A project intended from the start to become a focus of New Zealand's national identity cannot, of course, be allowed to fail. Te Papa may, therefore, feel it has the Government over a barrel when it says that inadequate funding threatens its ability to deliver "a credible national museum service." Has it not, after all, been outstandingly successful, attracting millions of visitors through its doors? Throw in the threat of exhibitions having to be closed and its collection programme halted and surely the Beehive will stump up the extra $8 million a year which the Ministry for Culture and Heritage reckons Te Papa needs to sustain itself.

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