Kiwi Olympian helps the hungry at Rio after cookbook success

A Kiwi kayaker who funded his own trip to the Olympics has begun a side project while in Rio de Janeiro to help those living in poverty. 

Mike Dawson has been handing out food packages in the favelas, or slums, surrounding Rio in the lead-up to next week's games, NZME reports. 

The 29-year-old has been living in the city for the past nine weeks while preparing for the Olympics, and after seeing the amount of impoverished people decided to hand out food parcels with Brazillian kayaker Pepe Gonçalves. 

Food has become a big part of Dawson's Olympic journey in recent months.

Mike Dawson has published a cookbook to make the $40,000 he needs to get to the Olympics. Source: Breakfast

When his Olympic funding was cut after finishing 28th at last year's World Championships, he had to find a new way to get himself to Rio.

He and his girlfriend Martina Wegman created Eat Like The Locals, a cookbook made up of 22 recipes from around the world. 

The cookbook proved successful with over 700 copies sold, along with several generous donations. 

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Aerial footage shows devastation after Hurricane Michael tears through 'cozy' Florida beach town

Tom Garcia surveyed the damage to an apartment block on the coast road in Mexico Beach, Florida, pacing along in his walker through the debris today.

He said he hadn't heard from his daughter and 90-year-old mother since Thursday, when Hurricane Michael tore the small Gulf Coast community in the Florida Panhandle.

Search and rescue teams combed through dozens of destroyed buildings, some knocked by the massive sea swells clean off their foundations, others gone altogether. Source: Associated Press

Search and rescue teams from south Florida combed through dozens of destroyed buildings, some knocked by the massive sea swells clean off their foundations, some obliterated altogether.

Mexico Beach described by its mayor, Al Cathey is a quiet "cozy, family oriented town," which he added " hardly exists" anymore.

No one in the town has cell phone service, phone service or internet.

Local 86-year-old man Bill Shockey stayed at his house when the storm hit and the hurricane swells crashed water 1500 feet inland, flooding his enitre house.

Hector Morales, a cook at a local restaurant, pointed to a boat tethered to a palm tree in front of a neighbour's house, by his old mobile home.

Morales squeezed out the door in flood water and swam with a dog to the boat and held on for dear life.

He says he's lost everything and he's now starting from zero.

Search-and-rescue teams found at least one body in Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael, an official said today as the scale of the storm's fury became ever clearer.

The death toll across the South stood at 13, not counting any victims in Mexico Beach.

Search and rescue teams combed through dozens of destroyed buildings in Mexico Beach. Source: Associated Press

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US pastor convicted of terror links flies out of Turkey

An American pastor flew out of Turkey yesterday after a Turkish court convicted him of terror links but freed him from house arrest, removing a major irritant in fraught ties between two NATO allies still strained by disagreements over Syria, Iran and a host of other issues.

The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced North Carolina native Andrew Brunson to just over three years in prison for allegedly helping terror groups, but let him go because the 50-year-old evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.

Hours later, Brunson was transported to Izmir's airport and was flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for more than two decades. He was to be flown to the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, then on to Washington, where he was to meet with US President Donald Trump today.

"I love Jesus. I love Turkey," an emotional Brunson, who had maintained he was innocent of all charges, told the court during yesterday's hearing. He tearfully hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the court decision.

"PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!" Trump tweeted after the American was driven out of a Turkish prison in a convoy. Later, after Brunson was airborne, Trump told reporters the pastor had "suffered greatly" but was in "very good shape," and that he would meet with him at the Oval Office today.

Trump predicted at a campaign rally in Ohio that Brunson will is "going to be in great shape."

Brunson's release was a diplomatic triumph for Trump, who is counting on the support of evangelical Christians for Republican candidates ahead of congressional elections in November.

It could also benefit Turkey, allowing the government to focus on an escalating diplomatic crisis over Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post who went missing more than a week ago and is feared dead after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed in the consulate; Saudi officials deny it.

Additionally, Turkey could now hope that the US will lift tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports, injecting some confidence into an economy rattled by high inflation and a mountain of foreign currency debt.

Yesterday's ruling followed witness testimony that seemed to partly undermine the prosecutor's allegations and highlighted concerns that Turkey had been using the US citizen as diplomatic leverage.

Turkey bristled at suggestions that its judicial system is a foreign policy instrument, and has accused the US of trying to bend Turkish courts to its will with tariffs in August that helped to send the Turkish currency into freefall.

Brunson's release doesn't resolve disagreements over US support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, as well as a plan by Turkey to buy Russian missiles. Turkey is also frustrated by the refusal of the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of engineering a 2016 coup attempt.

The court dropped an espionage charge against Brunson, who had faced up to 35 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him. He was among tens of thousands of people, mostly Turks, who were caught up in a government crackdown after the failed coup.

He was accused of committing crimes on behalf of Gulen as well as Kurdish militants who have been fighting the Turkish state for decades.

Earlier, the court called two witnesses following tips from witness Levent Kalkan, who at the previous hearing had accused Brunson of aiding terror groups. The new witnesses did not confirm Kalkan's accusations. Another witness for the prosecution said she did not know Brunson.

Brunson again denied accusations that his church aided Kurdish militants, saying he had handed over a list of Syrian refugees whom the congregation had helped and adding that Turkish authorities would have identified any terrorists.

"We helped everyone, Kurds, Arabs, without showing any discrimination," he said.

The pastor, who is originally from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was imprisoned for nearly two years after being detained in October 2016. He was formally arrested in December of that year and placed under house arrest on July 25 for health reasons.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had resisted US demands for Brunson's release, insisting that the courts are independent. But he had previously suggested a possible swap involving Brunson and Gulen, who denied he organised the coup attempt.

Other witnesses had not yet testified in Brunson's case and evidence was still not complete, suggesting a rushed effort to resolve the case.

Brunson led a small congregation in the Izmir Resurrection Church. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, with top representative Tony Perkins monitoring the trial, had listed him as a "prisoner of conscience."

While supporters in the United States celebrated Brunson's release, his case overshadowed the predicament of a Turkish-American scientist from NASA and several Turkish workers for the US diplomatic mission who were arrested in Turkey.

Evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson was able to leave the country after spending nearly two years in detention. Source: Associated Press

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Royal Wedding: Princess Eugenie marries long-time partner at Windsor Castle

Britain’s Princess Eugenie married tequila brand ambassador Jack Brooksbank in a star-studded royal wedding Friday (local time) at St. George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Rt Revd David Conner, Dean of Windsor conducts the wedding ceremony between Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Source: Associated Press

It was the second wedding extravaganza of the year for the royal family, which seems to be riding a wave of popularity as the younger generation comes to the fore and the widely-respected Queen Elizabeth II cuts back slightly on her public appearances.

The 28-year-old bride, the queen’s granddaughter, is ninth in line to the British throne. She wore a long-sleeved gown with a fitted top, a peplum and a long train by British-based designers Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos and a diamond-and-emerald tiara loaned to her by the queen.

Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank kiss on the steps of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Source: Associated Press

The 92-year-old queen and her husband, Prince Philip, attended the wedding, along with other senior royals, including Prince Charles; Prince William and his wife Kate, the duchess of Cambridge; and Prince Harry with Meghan, the duchess of Sussex.

Britain's Prince Charles, Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Source: Associated Press

There had been doubts about whether the 97-year-old Philip would be well enough to attend, but he seemed to be in good form during a rare public appearance. Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla, missed the wedding because of other commitments.

The granddaughter of the Queen arrived at Windsor Castle's St George's Chapel in a 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI, accompanied by her father, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.

Her mother, Duchess of York, Sarah "Fergie'' Ferguson arrived earlier with eldest daughter Princess Beatrice, who was dressed in royal blue as maid of honour.

The star-studded ceremony of 850 guests included Naomi Campbell, Demi Moore, Ellie Goulding, Liv Tyler, Kate Moss, Ricky Martin, Jimmy Carr, Pixie Geldof, Cara Delevigne and James Blunt.

Eugenie’s sister, Princess Beatrice, served as maid of honor — she read a selection from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” during the service.

They are the daughters of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who are divorced but enjoy an amicable relationship.

The A-list guests included Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Liv Tyler, fashion luminaries Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne and Naomi Campbell and pop singer Robbie Williams, whose daughter was a bridesmaid.

Eugenie’s dress was cut in a deep V in the front and the back, a feature requested by the bride that revealed a vertical scar from her surgery at age 12 to correct scoliosis. She has said previously it’s important for people to show their scars.

Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank hold hands during their wedding. Source: Associated Press

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, wore a fuchsia dress by Alexander McQueen and a hat by Philip Treacy — Britain’s premier milliner. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, wore a navy dress and coat by Givenchy.

There were occasional blue skies on a generally cloudy, gusty day as the royal standard flew atop the Windsor Castle complex, indicating the queen was in residence. The strong winds forced many women to hold on to their elaborate hats as they approached the chapel.

Eugenie works at a contemporary art gallery. The couple, who had dated for seven years, got engaged in January when Brooksbank, 32, proposed during a trip to Nicaragua. They married in the same venue used in May by Harry and Meghan.

William and Kate’s 5-year-old son, Prince George, served as a page boy, and their daughter, 3-year-old Princess Charlotte, was one of six bridesmaids. There was no sign of 5-month-old Prince Louis, William and Kate’s youngest child.

The bridesmaids and page boys, including Prince George and Princess Charlotte, arrive for the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank. Source: Associated Press

The bride’s parents left the chapel together smiling as the newlyweds embarked on a horse-drawn carriage ride through parts of Windsor.

Flower Girls Princess Charlotte, left, and Theodora Williams wave to the crowds following the wedding of Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank in St George's Chapel. Source: Associated Press

The queen hosted a champagne luncheon for the guests just after the ceremony, with a second reception planned for the evening.

Before the event, Eugenie told ITV, which broadcast the hour-long service in Britain, that she was both excited and a bit on edge.

“It’s nerve-wracking and a bit scary and all the things that come with getting married, but at the end of the day you get to marry the person you love,” she said.

The couple invited 1,200 members of the public to come onto the castle grounds for a closer glimpse of proceedings. There were also crowds of well-wishers on the streets outside the imposing castle, the site of Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle in May.

“I’m a royal superfan, so when her majesty organises a big event for her granddaughter, I can’t stay at home,” said Joseph Afrane, 54. “Whether it’s rain or sunshine, I have to come down and support her majesty.”

The couple had been dating for seven years before tying the knot. Source: Associated Press


First body uncovered in town obliterated by Hurricane Michael, death toll expected to rise as searches continue

Search-and-rescue teams found at least one body in Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael, an official said as the scale of the storm's fury became ever clearer.

The death toll across the South stood at 13, not counting any victims in Mexico Beach.

Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue unit that went into the flattened town, said: "We have one confirmed deceased and are working to determine if there are others."

Zahralban said searchers were trying to determine if that person had been alone or was part of a family.

Zahralban spoke as his team — which included a dog — was winding down its two-day search of Mexico Beach, the town of about 1,000 people that was nearly wiped off the map when Michael blew ashore there Wednesday with devastating 250km/h winds.

Blocks and blocks of homes were demolished, reduced to splintered lumber or mere concrete slabs by the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years.

As the catastrophic damage across the Florida Panhandle came into view 48 hours after the hurricane struck, there was little doubt the death toll would rise.

How high it might go was unclear. But authorities scrapped plans to set up a temporary morgue, suggesting they had yet to see mass casualties.

State officials said that by one count, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind. Some of them successfully rode out the storm. It was unclear how many of the others might have gotten out at the last minute.

Emergency officials said they have received thousands of calls asking about missing people. But with cellphone service out across vast swaths of the Florida Panhandle, officials said it is possible that some of those unaccounted for are safe and just haven't been able to contact friends or family.

Across the ravaged region, meanwhile, authorities set up distribution centers to hand out food and water to victims. Some supplies were brought in by trucks, while others had to be delivered by helicopter because of debris still blocking roads.

Residents began to come to grips with the destruction and face up to the uncertainty that lies ahead.

"I didn't recognise nothing. Everything's gone. I didn't even know our road was our road," said 25-year-old Tiffany Marie Plushnik, an evacuee who returned to find her home in Sandy Creek too damaged to live in.

When she went back to the hotel where she took shelter from the storm, she found out she could no longer stay there either because of mold. "We've got to figure something out. We're starting from scratch, all of us," Plushnik said.

President Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and hard-hit Georgia early next but didn't say what day he would arrive.
"We are with you!" he tweeted.

Shell-shocked survivors who barely escaped with their lives told of terrifying winds, surging floodwaters and homes cracking apart.

Emergency officials said they had completed an initial "hasty search" of the stricken area, looking for the living or the dead, and had begun more careful inspections of thousands of ruined buildings. They said nearly 200 people had been rescued.

Gov. Rick Scott said state officials still "do not know enough" about the fate of those who stayed behind in the region.

"We are not completely done. We are still getting down there," the governor added.

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said he expects to see the death toll rise.

"We still haven't gotten into the hardest-hit areas," he said, adding with frustration: "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country we seem to not learn the lesson."

Long expressed worry that people have suffered "hurricane amnesia."

"When state and local officials tell you to get out, dang it, do it. Get out," he said.

Homes at Mexico Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast have been left shredded in the wake of Hurricane Michael’s 250kmh winds. Source: Associated Press