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National Radio Midday Report

Congo President – Australian Storm – California Blackouts – Fiji Sevens – Telecom Price Cuts – Trauma Witnesses – Petrol Prices Steady – French Veal – Estrada Protests – Powell Supports Nato – Bentley Murder – Prison Attack

- CONGO PRESIDENT: Confusion continues over the fate of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but there seems little doubt he is dead. Many African and Western sources say he is dead, however some officials insist he is still alive. Reports say officials are delaying an announcement to avoid the country from slipping into anarchy, and perhaps to give the president’s son a chance to take a grip of power.

- AUSTRALIAN STORM: A fast moving storm has battered the East Coast of Australia. A 22-year-old man was electrocuted by fallen power lines in Brisbane. Sydney was still cleaning up from a previous storm. Most of the damage was in southern New South Wales and Queensland. Flooding and blackouts were experienced in Sydney and houses were damaged. The storm brought high winds and enormous hail stones.

- CALIFORNIA BLACKOUTS: Large swathes of Californians are facing nights of blackout for the first time since the Second World War. Demand for electricity has overwhelmed supply. Power utilities have built up debts because of the way the sector was deregulated. Emergency legislation is being enacted in California and other emergency orders are expected from the Federal Energy Secretary.

- FIJI SEVENS: Foreign Minister Phil Goff is denying that the Government has buckled under pressure from the NZRFU in allowing Fiji to compete in the rugby series in New Zealand next month.

- TELECOM PRICE CUTS: The Consumers Institute says it doesn’t expect Telecom to cut its prices, except in areas where it faces competition from Telstra Saturn. Telecom has cut its line rentals in Wellington and Christchurch, where Telstra Saturn operates, but not in other areas.

- TRAUMA WITNESSES: People who see extremely traumatic events may yet see compensation from ACC under a proposal being considered by the Government.

- PETROL PRICES STEADY: No immediate rise in petrol prices is expected in New Zealand following the decision by oil exporting countries to cut production in an effort to raise the price of crude oil.

- FRENCH VEAL: Customs has impounded 60 cartons of French veal stock following a Ministry ban in the importing beef products from Europe as a precaution against BSE contamination.

- ESTRADA PROTESTS: Thousands of people have been demonstrating in Manila demanding the resignation of Philippines President Joseph Estrada following his collapsed impeachment trial.

- POWELL SUPPORTS NATO: US Secretary of State Designate Colin Powell says he will vigorously support the expansion of NATO and its military operations, however he supports President Elect George W. Bush’s position that NATO should reduce US Troop strength in the Balkans.

- BENTLEY MURDER: The lawyer representing the father of murdered Ashburton teenager Kirsty Bentley says he expects his client will be re-interviewed by Police late next week. It has been reported that Mr Bentley told police he remembered he was in a different place than he thought on the day his daughter went missing, following a bump to his head.

- PRISON ATTACK: The Corrections Department has launched an investigation into claims that a prisoner was attacked by up to six guards at Auckland’s Paremoremo Prison.

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