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The New Zealand Herald

Fiji Hostages Released - DNA Mixup - Harry Potter - Hammer The Haka- Dumped Syringes- Cervical Inquiry - Falcons Shot At - America’s Cup Village - Philippine Hostages - Bombay Mudslide - China Ties - Manila Garbage Rescue – HIV Infection Rate - Sa Aids Crisis - Grenade In Leg - Priest & Prostitutes - Speight’s Man President - Fiji MPs Freed

FIJI HOSTAGES RELEASED: Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry drank kava with his captors yesterday before emerging from 55 days as a hostage, vowing to remain a leading figure in Fiji. He told the Herald last night that there had been some "anxious moments" for him and his son Rajendra, also held hostage. But he held no ill-will towards coup leader George Speight.

- DNA MIXUP: Vital DNA evidence in the David Bain murder case was either mixed up or contaminated, the High Court at Auckland heard yesterday. The revelation emerged in the trial of Travis Burns, who is accused of battering to death Whangaparaoa woman Joanne McCarthy with a hammer in November 1998.

- HARRY POTTER: A bitter pricing frenzy surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire passed right over the heads of Rebecca and Janelle Phillips yesterday. The 9-year-old Glen Eden twins were content to just secure a copy of the book so their mother could begin reading them a chapter each night.

- HAMMER THE HAKA: SYDNEY - Australians will "hammer the haka" at tomorrow night's rugby test with a long blast of Waltzing Matilda. After their haka, normally the final act before kickoff, the All Blacks will have to cool their heels while balladeer John Williamson belts out the Aussie favourite to the expected 105,000 crowd at the Bledisloe Cup test.

- DUMPED SYRINGES: Police may test the blood in the syringes found dumped in an Avondale playground for DNA to track the user. A play area in Miranda Reserve was demolished by Auckland City Council contractors yesterday following Herald revelations that local children had been tested for HIV and hepatitis after playing with some of 300 dirty syringes and needles they found there in a supermarket shopping bag.

- CERVICAL INQUIRY: A prominent pathologist who advised health authorities not to reread the cervical smear slides of thousands of Gisborne women has admitted the rate of abnormalities picked up by Dr Michael Bottrill was unacceptably low. Dr Andrew Tie, vice-president of the New Zealand branch of the Royal College of Pathologists, yesterday told a ministerial inquiry he advised the Health Funding Authority last year not to rescreen 23,000 slides because there was insufficient statistical evidence to show there may have been widespread misreading.

- FALCONS SHOT AT: The Department of Conservation is outraged that New Zealand's threatened falcons are being shot at by pigeon owners trying to protect their pets. Only 2000 falcons remain and DoC believes the carnivorous bird, depicted on New Zealand's $20 note, is being shot to stop them attacking pigeons when they come in search of food during winter

- AMERICA’S CUP VILLAGE: High-powered lawyers are gunning for Rob Sutherland, the former boss-turned-critic of commercial blunders at the America's Cup village. The Herald has learned that the body in charge of the $85.7 million public spend-up at the village is preparing a lawsuit to recover the $320,000 it paid Mr Sutherland to stay quiet when he left in May last year.

- PHILIPPINE HOSTAGES: MANILA - The top Philippine official negotiating with Muslim rebels for the release of mostly foreign hostages said yesterday he had taken sole charge of talks with the kidnappers to quickly end the saga. But within hours two other negotiators held a meeting with leaders of the Abu Sayyaf rebels at their hideout on the southern island of Jolo, sowing new confusion into Government efforts to secure the release of the hostages.

- BOMBAY MUDSLIDE: A mudslide triggered by days of torrential rain buried huts in a slum area of Bombay killing at least 50 people, police said yesterday. The toll is likely to rise. Tonnes of earth engulfed more than 200 hovels on a hillside in the eastern suburb of Ghatkopar on Wednesday. Rescue workers were searching for victims more than 20 hours after the disaster struck.

- CHINA TIES: BEIJING - United States Defence Secretary William Cohen's bid to rebuild military ties with China, strained by discord over Taiwan and missile defence plans, faces a fresh challenge after American pressure scuppered a key Sino-Israeli arms deal. Cohen, due to address a military officers' college and meet President Jiang Zemin today, was likely to hear of Chinese resentment over Israel's decision to ditch a planned $US250 million ($517 million) early warning radar sale to China.

- MANILA GARBAGE RESCUE: MANILA - Philippine rescue teams braved a storm yesterday to try to reach about 150 people believed trapped under a mountain of garbage in a Manila shantytown. Officials said it would be a miracle if anyone was still alive.

- HIV INFECTION RATE: DURBAN - Every minute, six people under the age of 24 are infected with the HIV virus and many young people in the worst-hit countries do not know they are at risk, the Unicef children's agency says. In its annual Progress of Nations report, issued at the International Aids Conference in Durban, Unicef said girls and young women worldwide were 50 per cent more likely to contract HIV than young men.

- SA AIDS CRISIS: DURBAN: The hatch slams shut, a bell rings and Raphael Kayamba has the future of yet another anonymous individual on his hands. A deacon at Berea Baptist Mission in Johannesburg, Kayamba deals with the living, kicking proof of the South African Aids crisis. "The mothers who are abandoning their babies are young," said Kayamba, a 39-year-old engineer who for a year has dedicated his life to finding homes for infants left at his church's "door of hope."

- GRENADE IN LEG: BOGOTA - Military surgeons needed especially steady hands this week as they traded surgical gowns for bulletproof vests to help remove an unexploded grenade from the leg of a young soldier. The case began on Monday, when 19-year-old Nicolas Sanchez was rushed to the hospital with the grenade lodged against the femur in his left thigh, where it inexplicably failed to explode.

- PRIEST & PROSTITUTES: MIAMI - A prominent Catholic priest has been netted in a prostitution sting - the latest in a series of high-profile officials arrested in an area of Miami known as a haven for streetwalkers, police said yesterday. Father Patrick O'Neill, aged 60, a high-ranking priest in the Archdiocese of Miami and a former university president, was arrested last week and charged with soliciting sex after he pulled his Mercedes to a stop on a downtown street and allegedly propositioned a male undercover police officer. "He offered $US100 ($220) in exchange for some sexual fondling," said Miami police.

- SPEIGHT’S MAN PRESIDENT: Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has appointed Ratu Josefa Iloilo to be President. Ratu Josefa had been favoured for the job by coup leader George Speight who this afternoon released the last 18 members of the government he overthrew on May 19th.

- FIJI MPS FREED: SUVA - Deo Narain's brown eyes are twinkling and he makes no attempt to hide his broad smile. There is no need to any more - he is a free man. The MP with the former Fiji Government was released early yesterday from Suva's parliamentary complex, where he and 26 others had been held hostage by rebels for two months.

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