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Lunchtime news wrap: Wednesday November 14, 2012

Wednesday 14 Nov 2012 12:43 p.m.

By Kim Choe

A solar eclipse excites New Zealand, Elmo’s puppeteer is cleared of underage sex allegations, and royal myths are dispelled on Prince Charles’ birthday. Here is your lunchtime news wrap – bite-sized updates of local and international news delivered fresh every afternoon.

Solar eclipse shades New Zealand

Did you see the partial eclipse? Despite cloudy skies, the solar phenomenon was visible this morning. Up to 91 percent of the sun was obscured by the moon at eclipse’s peak at around 10:24am. The next eclipse like this one won’t be seen in New Zealand until 2028, but if you missed it, don’t worry – it’s all online!

It seems our friends across the Tasman might have had the upper hand on this one, though – Queenslanders were able to see a dramatic full eclipse just before 10am New Zealand time.

Whangamata school catches fire

Whangamata Area School has been evacuated after a fire broke out in a woodwork classroom at 11am. All students and staff have been accounted for. A car crashed into a powerpole near the school around the time of the fire, but it’s not yet known if the two incidents were related.

Doha mall fire trial delayed a fourth time

The criminal hearing into May’s fatal shopping mall fire in Qatar’s capital has been delayed yet again, after the Gympanzee daycare’s owner Iman Al Kuwari failed to show up. 13 children, four teachers and two firefighters died at the daycare – including New Zealand triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes. The court said it would send police to summon Al Kuwari ahead of the next hearing on November 29, but she’s believed to be overseas and it’s unclear whether police will have the power to force her to appear in court.

Top commander drawn into Petraeus scandal

The affair scandal that cost CIA Director David Petraeus his job has widened. General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, is now also under investigation for having alleged “inappropriate communications” with a woman involved in the case. The allegations have forced US President Barack Obama to delay Allen’s nomination to be the next commander of NATO forces in Europe.

Underage sex allegations against Elmo puppeteer withdrawn

Kevin Clash is no longer accused of having underage sex with a 16-year-old boy, after his accuser withdrew the allegations. The unnamed man, now 23, released a statement through a law firm today admitting the relationship had been adult and consensual. Clash had taken leave from Sesame Street to fight the allegations – there’s no word yet on when he will return to playing the show’s much-loved red critter.

Odd bite: Royal myths dispelled

Happy 64th birthday, Charlie! To mark this royal occasion, Clarence House has launched a new website dedicated to the prince and his wife Camilla. Among other things, it sets the record straight on a few popular myths – like whether Camilla smokes, and if Charles really eats seven eggs for breakfast.

Prince Charles is celebrating in Wellington today, where he will have afternoon tea with 64 New Zealanders who share the same birthday.

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