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An exclusive summary by the website author who is a former BBC TV and radio journalist
The following  - unless otherwise credited - is a summary of stories from  Cook Islands News,  the daily newspaper of the Cook Islands which is published Monday to Saturday inclusive.

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Its web site is updated daily and is highly recommended as a trusted source of news.  This summary is published with permission of the copyright owners Cook Islands News Ltd.  Click on any underlined headlines for the full story on the newpaper's own website.  Photos unless otherwise credited are copyright Cook Islands News
This update: 20th February, 2020
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Cook Islands Pride launch
Tourism leaders fear impact to peak season visitor numbers

MPs have ignored worldwide threats of a tourism boycott and agreed unanimously to keep the law criminalising homosexuality for at least six more months. A select committee of MPs looking into the new Crimes Bill have been given that extra time to report back on their recommendation which could mean up to seven years in prison for same sex couples.  Sue Fletcher-Vea, president of Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council said they were "disappointed" and it could impact on visitor numbers at the busiest time of the year.  Opposition to reinstating prison sentences is strongest in New Zealand,which accounts for 70% of tourists to the Islands, where government MP Louisa Wall and other MPs signed a petition against criminalisation in Cook Islands. 

Left: Co-president Val Wichman with Lady Tuaine Marsters (right) at the launch of the Cook Islands Pride campaign.  Lady Marsters, wife of the Queen's Representativehas asked the Parliamentary committee of MPs headed by Elikana to "have the heart to understand the rights of the LGBT+ community as citizens of the country".

The Cook Islands has now been designated a 'developed nation' after six years of economic growth driven by tourism. It's means it will no longer qualify for some overseas aid and the Finance Minister, Mark Brown says the country will need to be smart about filling the gap left by departing donors.  He believes the way forward is " in the sustainable and innovative use of ocean resources and ocean technology."  The country is the first small nation in the region to be upgraded in this way by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Brown (right) thinks it will also mean more opportunities, particularly for young people. Photo: Cook Islands Government
Finance Minister, Mark Brown
Anyone who's been to or transited China in the preceding 14 days won't be allowed to enter the Cook Islands under new restrictions aimed at stopping the coronavirus. The restriction also applies to Cook Islands' residents who've been told to quarantine themselves for a fortnight before returning home. 
All arriving passengers will be advised of the symptoms of the virus and will have to complete a health declaration with details of where they've been in the preceding 40 days. Cook Islands residents have been advised to avoid all non-essential travel to China and the Ministry of Health has to approve all government travel.


Te Tauta village
Each of the two villages on Penrhyn is going to get its own cyclone shelter to help protect against the increasing threat of climate change. Some homes have already been moved back from the shoreline because of rising sea levels and storm surges. The island, also known as Tongareva, is just 5 metres about sea level at its highest point.  Left: Te Tautua on the eastern side of the island is where most of the population of 226 live (Photo: Robert Broussard)
Tajiya won the title of Miss Oceania at the Miss World event and was placed fifth overall in the whole contest.  She said she was overwhelmed by Mitiaro's honour which she received while visiting her grandmother on the island. She was welcomed by the Ariki (traditional leaders) and all the people of the island, and carried through the streets shoulder-high on a pa'ata. Tajiya was also given the privilege of also planting a young coconut  tree (uto) in the Mitiaro Government administration grounds.

Miss Cook Islands honoured on Mitiaro
Miss Cook Islands, Tajiya Sahay has had a new name bestowed on her by the people of her home island of Mitiaro after her success at this year's Miss World competition.  They're calling her  Teau-e-roa which means peaceful journey.
Police have shot dead 27 feral dogs after they mauled goats and cats. They were roaming villages on Rarotonga looking for food and officers feared they might attack an adult or child next.  At one incident in Nikao, 11 pet goats owned by one family were attacked and had to be put down. 
Transforming Avarua town
Ambitious plans have been unveiled to transform Rarotonga's Avarua waterfront into what Cook Islands News is calling "the Monaco of the Pacific".  A saltwater swimming pool, sports courts, museum, cultural centre and park are part of a 20 year vision which involves reclaiming the lagoon right out to the reef. Scientists and biologists have been engaged to study the environmental impact. The Punanga Nui market would be the first to undergo redevelopment. 
But within hours of the news appearing on the newspaper's Facebook page, more than 200 comments have been posted, most of which have attacked the proposals. 
Read my own rant about this on Facebook and share your views

Above: Artist's impression from the draft Avarua Town Plan produced by the Cook Islands Investment Corporation
Eleven more probable cases of dengue fever have been reported in the past month, bringing the total number of people infected or likely to have the mosquito borne illness to 137 since the latest outbreak began last February. Of that total, 49 had to be hospitalised, but were allowed home after treatment. They include one of the new cases in January. The Health Ministry is continuing with mosquito surveillance and spraying. 

The Cook Islands' leading travel management group has launched a scheme which it hopes will save 200,000 plastic bottles going to landfill each years.  The Turama Pacific Group is has set up a bottling station on Rarotonga where tourists can get a free refillable aluminium bottle instead. They've spent over NZ$60,000 on the project which is being backed by the tourism department.
Left: Nathan Skews, the new manager of the Turama Pacific Travel Group's water bottling station with one of the aluminum bottles
Nathan Skews
A proposed new law would ban the use of mobile phones and headphones while driving and make crash helmets compulsory for cycle, motorbike and scooter riders. Drink driving limits would also be tightened up and aligned to the tougher limits in Australia and New Zealand. Penalities for breaking the new law would be more severe as well.  The proposals will be presented to Parliament next month.
The Health Minister is intervening in a big row which has erupted about what's being called a "poop tax".  Food handlers are being asked to pay NZ$120 to have samples of their faeces tested as part of a new food safety policy. But restaurant and food stall holders have condemned the scheme and the cost as "ridiculous".  They've been told the test must be done before they can get a food licence.