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New Zealand Herald

Pokemon Banned - Beachfront Rape - Election Bungle - Best Friends - Black Shirts - Avalanche Buried - Rangitoto Island - Sex Attacks - Christchurch Speech - Incis Sale - Photo Licences - Home Invasion - Drug Ads - Opinion: Election 99 - Student Loans - Editorial: Maori Anthem

POKEMON BANNED: A Christian school has banned Pokemon, claiming the toys are laced with references to the occult and promote anti-social behaviour. Kingsway School - a nondenominational Christian school in Orewa - is not the first to ban merchandise related to the Pokemon phenomenon, but others have done it on the grounds of classroom distraction.

BEACHFRONT RAPE: Four partygoers who saw the beachfront rape of a kidnapped woman on Sunday thought they were watching lovers making up after a quarrel - and left them to it. Wiremu Nikora was partying at Bellville Drive, Manurewa, about 5 am when he and his wife heard yelling at the nearby domain. Thinking it was some of the 50 people at the engagement bash, they wandered down to the beach, where they were confronted by a "big guy," who yelled out to a mate to "hurry up" and said there had been a domestic row.

ELECTION BUNGLE: A decision to bar experienced staff from working on election night contributed to the vote-counting shambles. MPs and ministers were warned, but did nothing.

BEST FRIENDS: Matthew Jones and Daniel Willcox-Silfverberg have been best friends since birth and are desk buddies at school. Even an America's Cup cannot dent their friendship. Matthew is the son of Team New Zealand's man-up-the-mast, Murray Jones. Daniel's dad is Prada's weatherman, Hamish Willcox.

BLACK SHIRTS: They are hot - too hot on occasions - but Team New Zealand's high-tech black shirts will be back. Ross Munro, managing director of Line 7, which made the shirts, said yesterday that the only reason the sailors got too hot during Saturday's non-start was that they were sitting out in the Hauraki Gulf doing nothing.

AVALANCHE BURIED: Family members will join the search today for three New Zealand snowboarders swept away in a massive avalanche in Japan. Aucklander Chris Coaster, aged 25, Craig Mowat, 25, from Wanaka, and James Gordon, 18, from Dannevirke, were caught in a massive snowslide 6km from the ski resort of Hakuba, 179km northwest of Tokyo, at about 3.30 pm (7.30pm NZ time) on Saturday.

RANGITOTO ISLAND: Rosemary Lamberton of Milford is an extraordinarily happy woman and right now she wants the rest of Auckland to stop and look at Rangitoto Island. "I really think people are very blinkered and just forget to stop and look around. We're all working very hard and rushing around but sometimes we forget to stop and appreciate what we have."

SEX ATTACKS: Auckland police have stepped up night-time patrols of inner city parks amid fears that two sexual predators may be sharing the same hunting grounds. There have been four sex attacks - in Myers and Albert parks, just 500m apart - since November, which police say may be the work of two men operating separately, who befriend lone women then lead them to secluded areas.

CHRISTCHURCH SPEECH: In Christchurch, some judges and police officers smoke cannabis, Green MP Nandor Tanczos claimed yesterday. Mr Tanczos, who uses the drug, told more than 300 Canterbury University students he was not the only MP who had used it.

INCIS SALE: In Wellington, selling the Incis computer system would be welcomed by frontline police if it meant putting the controversy of recent years behind them, says Police Association president Greg O'Connor. But he warned that something must be put in its place, to prevent the loss of valuable intelligence gathered by frontline police over the past few years.

PHOTO LICENCES: The new driver licences are not the identification gold cards some people were hoping for. Shane Egan confidently handed over his new licence when a teller at the Bank of New Zealand in Onehunga asked for identification so she could cash his $500 cheque.

HOME INVASION: Four men and a woman appeared handcuffed in court and surrounded by tight security as depositions opened yesterday into the brutal home invasion of a Manurewa couple last October. Four police officers were stationed inside the Pukekohe District Court room and two outside.

DRUG ADS: In Wellington advertisements for the drug Xenical reflect real-life issues faced by obese people and are raising awareness of obesity-related problems, says supplier Roche. Marketing manager Glenda Macdonald was responding to reports that the Consumers Institute and Medical Association want tougher television and newspaper advertising standards for prescription medicines.

OPINION: ELECTION 99: Settling in front of the television last November 27, New Zealand expected to know the results of the election by 11 pm. How wrong we were. Election 99 was, by any stretch of the imagination, a shambles. By the end of the night, only 39 per cent of the 67 electorates had managed to complete their preliminary counting.

STUDENT LOANS: In Wellington student loans administration may be returned to tertiary institutions because of the problems Work and Income New Zealand (Winz) has had. The announcement by Social Services Minister Steve Maharey yesterday came as Winz said it would hire 100 more staff to cope with its student services centre, being swamped with calls by panicking students.

EDITORIAL: MAORI ANTHEM: Leadership is not always a matter of laying down the law. Some subjects are better handled by gentle persuasion. The language of the national anthem is one. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Mark Burton, has written to national sports administrators asking that they consider having the anthem sung in both English and Maori at international fixtures. Beyond that the Government need not go.

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