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New Zealand Herald

East Timor, Militias Mass For Attack – Medical Warning – Fear of Flying – Ansett Dispute (and editorial) – Special Education – NZQA Row – Current Account – Housing Costs – Kids And Books – Pie Cart – All Blacks Depart

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EAST TIMOR - MILITIAS MASS FOR ATTACK: Hundreds of pro-Jakarta militiamen massing near Dili are reported to be threatening attacks on the multinational troops. 'We want war,' one of the camouflage-wearing irregulars said in Liquisa, about 20km west of the East Timorese capital. The militiamen, reported to number about 500, are armed with old and homemade guns.

MEDICAL WARNING: Doctors say people with life-threatening illnesses are bypassing them for cheaper treatment under new accident compensation rules. The Medical Association is alarmed by what it calls a rising trend of unsafe self-diagnosis.

FEAR OF FLYING: A fear of flying into the dawn of the new millennium has prompted one of the world's leading airlines to change its flight plans for the New Year. Singapore Airlines says it will cancel or reschedule some flights that were to be in the air at midnight.

ANSETT DISPUTE: Ansett New Zealand has rejected an offer by its locked-out pilots to work free during the school holidays, dismissing it as a publicity stunt. The pilots, represented by the Airline Pilots Association, offered on Wednesday to work without pay until next Friday so people taking time off for school holidays would not be grounded.

ANSETT DISPUTE – EDITORIAL: The luxury of two main trunk airlines remains one of the most conspicuous advertisements for the benefits of competition. Doubters have only to be reminded of how they trudged across windswept tarmacs to aircraft that provided mediocre service with plastic cutlery and never a complimentary drink. Terminal upgrades - long presumed unaffordable - materialised at astonishing speed when it was known Ansett was coming. Suddenly there were even air bridges to the planes, just as at airports overseas. Ansett New Zealand has had a hard row to hoe as the second main trunk carrier. It took several years to turn a profit and sometimes seemed to survive mainly on loyalty and the determination of the underdog. How sad to see that spirit now gone in a long dispute that could all too easily bring down the airline.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: Linda Daniels and her 9-year-old daughter, Melanie, are leading a David-and-Goliath fight for children with special needs. The Manurewa woman is one of 16 parents taking the Government to task for a new special education policy which they say will make their children suffer.

NZQA ROW: Former Qualifications Authority chief executive Douglas Blackmur received a $160,000 golden handshake when he left the job four months ago. He also received an unapproved $33,000 pay rise in late 1997, which the authority did not reveal for more than a year, say three reports made public yesterday.

PIE CART: The Newmarket pie cart - to many hungry snackers an Auckland mecca - has scored one in the eye against ritzier neighbours who wanted it moved on. Some businesses in the area tried to stop the cart's trading licence being renewed. They argued that the late-night diner no longer fitted Newmarket's posh image and was dragging the area down-market But far from scrapping it as a relic from a "pie-gone" era, the Auckland City Council supported the cart and issued a new licence.

ALL BLACKS DEPART: Hundreds of passionate fans - from the Prime Minister to the newly crowned Miss New Zealand - turned out at Auckland Airport last night to farewell their All Black heroes. "This is mind-blowing. We thought we'd just slip out of the country quietly," captain Taine Randell told the crowd as the team mingled with fans of all ages, signing pages and pages of autographs before leaving for the Rugby World Cup in Britain.

CURRENT ACCOUNT: A sharply worse current account deficit, and predictions of worse to come, give cold comfort to National as it prepares to announce the date of the general election. Prime Minister Jenny Shipley will say on Sunday when the country will go to the polls after a special meeting of National MPs in Auckland.

KIDS AND BOOKS: Increased pressure on parental time and competing entertainment mean children spend less time with books and do not become hooked on reading. The New Zealand Herald tomorrow launches a child literacy programme called Kids Into Books, a daily story corner to encourage children to read and parents to read to them.

HOUSING COSTS: A quarter of poor households pay 50 per cent or more of their net income in rent or mortgage, says a survey. Almost 45 per cent pay 40 per cent or more, and 73 per cent pay more than 30 per cent.

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