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National Radio Midday Report

Indian Earthquake – Party Drug – Bluff Picket – Trade Deficit – Aus Air Crashes – Middle East Situation – MAF Mediation – GM Commission – WEF Meeting – AIDS Research Funding – Petrol Spill – Search Hampered – Van Heist – Auckland Anniversary Regatta

- INDIAN EARTHQUAKE: A seven-year-old boy was pulled out of debris alive where he had been trapped for more than 60 hours by India’s huge earthquake. Soon after, the boy’s mother was rescued, but few other happy rescue stories have been reported, and the death toll could be as high as 40,000. Aftershocks are hampering rescue efforts. The earthquake registered 7.9 on the Richter scale, the worst natural disaster in India for half a century. International aid is coming in to the country. NZ Charities say they have had a good response to their appeal for donations to fund aid to earthquake victims.

- PARTY DRUG: The distributor of the legal party drug 14B, related to Fantasy, is defending the product after three party goers were admitted to hospital after taking the drug on the weekend prompting the Ministry of Health to investigate. The drug, sold as a dietary supplement, was launched at the Big Day Out earlier this month.

- BLUFF PICKET: One person has been arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour after clashes between police and unionists during a picket at Bluff Port this morning. Up to 100 people protested as workers from the North Island crossed their line.

- TRADE DEFICIT: A doubling of the cost of fuel imports is the main reason for a merchandise trade deficit of more than $1.5 billion last year in early figures released by Statistics New Zealand today.

- AUS AIR CRASHES: Air safety investigators in Australia are sifting through the wreckage of three light aircraft crashes after a black weekend for the country’s light aviation industry.

- MIDDLE EAST SITUATION: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has ended speculation that he might meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat next week. He said there would be no further meetings before the Israeli leadership election, effectively admitting that there will be no progress in the peace process before the elections.

- MAF MEDIATION: A mediator has been appointed to mediate between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and its veterinarians, who are threatening to strike over their wages.

- GM COMMISSION: The Pesticide Action Network are calling for a ban on genetically modified foods until safety tests are improved significantly, in their submission presented today at the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. PAN are currently being cross-examined by the Life Sciences Network.

- WEF MEETING: United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan has told international business leaders to make their companies better citizens of the world, or risk a destructive backlash against globalisation, during the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

- AIDS RESEARCH FUNDING: Microsoft’s Bill Gates has pledged to fund research into an AIDS vaccine, and has urged other business leaders at the Davos forum to follow his lead.

- PETROL SPILL: A Chilean ship contracted by Ecuador to re-supply its Antarctic area station ran aground and spilt petrol off the Antarctic North Western coast. Meanwhile, salvage teams on the Galapagos Islands have now given up trying to move the tanker Jessica. The cleanup effort is now focused on capturing sea lions and birds worst affected by the spill.

- SEARCH HAMPERED: Police say the search for a missing man who disappeared after failing to surface after he fell off his water-skis is being hampered by king tides in Auckland waters.

- VAN HEIST: Six of the eight men charged over the million dollar security van robbery were back in the district court today. They have been further remanded in custody without plea until next Monday.

- AUCKLAND ANNIVERSARY REGATTA: Auckland’s Waitemata and Manukau harbours are filled with thousands sails for the Auckland Anniversary Day regatta.

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