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Lunchtime news wrap: Tuesday November 20, 2012

Tuesday 20 Nov 2012 12:36 p.m.

By Kim Choe

Sir Peter Jackson rejects claims of animal mistreatment on The Hobbit, a proposed ‘smoker’s licence’ sparks debate, and San Francisco nudists are at risk of a cover-up. Here is your lunchtime news wrap – bite-sized updates of local and international news delivered fresh every afternoon.

Controversy over Hobbit animal deaths

A week out from the world premiere of The Hobbit, Sir Peter Jackson has rejected accusations 27 animals were mistreated and died during the making of the trilogy. Sir Peter says the allegations were made by disgruntled on-set animal trainers who were dismissed from the film’s production more than a year ago. The SPCA is criticising the anonymous whistleblower for not notifying anyone at the time the alleged mistreatment occurred, saying it’s now too late to do anything about it.

Shearer poised to extinguish leadership threat

David Shearer will seek a vote of confidence from his MPs at 4pm in a bid to extinguish the threat posed by his rival David Cunliffe. The result is already a foregone conclusion because Cunliffe has declared his support for Shearer this time around. Will Shearer seek to assert his position further by demoting Cunliffe from the front bench?

Nearly 100 dead in Gaza

The conflict between Israel and Hamas shows no signs of abating, and civilian casualties are mounting. Israeli aircraft have struck crowded areas in the Gaza Strip, killing 24 civilians in less than two days. At the time of writing, 96 Palestinians and three Israelis had been killed since the conflict began on Wednesday.

Egypt is trying to broker a cease-fire with the help of Turkey and Qatar, with both Hamas and Israel due to present their conditions to the delegation.

Obama makes historic visits to Burma, Cambodia

United States President Barack Obama has become the first US leader to visit Cambodia and Burma, but was careful to moderate his positive words with calls for them to continue their moves towards democracy. He visited Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her home and called her a personal inspiration.

Obama is attending the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh along with New Zealand Prime Minister John Keylisten to Mike McRoberts’ report.

A licence to smoke?

A Sydney University professor has proposed a controversial smoker’s licence that would see people forced to take a test and pay a fee before being allowed to buy cigarettes. Simon Chapman says the ‘risk knowledge’ test would make sure smokers know the dangers of what they do. Action on Smoking Health (ASH) says the licence is one option that could help New Zealand become smoke free by 2025, but it raises the question of whether the burden of health education should be shifted from tobacco companies to the smokers themselves.

Odd bite: San Fran nudists rebuff impending ban

San Francisco nudists have stripped off in protest of a scheduled vote to prohibit nudity in most public places. The rather specific proposal would make it illegal for anyone over the age of five to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza". It has particularly riled those in the city’s famously gay Castro District, where nudists are frequently seen parading.

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