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In Brazil's presidential election, abortion plays major role

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ANALYSIS

As the candidates for the presidency of Brazil race to the wire before the run-off election of Oct. 31, abortion has become a major campaign issue.

The Catholic church and the evangelical churches, through their basic principles of defense of life, have become major players, but with quite different playbooks. Like the Brazilian team in soccer’s recent World Cup, not all the players are on the same page. Nor are their coaches.

The candidates were running a seemingly predictable campaign till the last weeks before the Oct. 3 election.

Dilma Rousseff -- the anointed protégé of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva ,"Lula", the two term president from the Worker's Party -- was expected to win the required 50 percent of the vote with no need of a run-off. But rumors had begun to circulate that she, and her party, would seek to legalize abortion.

The election issues had been much more about the success of the Workers' Party administration in raising 21 million people out of poverty in the last eight years and bringing Brazil into a position of leadership in Latin America and in the world.

Abp of Canterbury criticizes Euro burqa bans

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NAGPUR, India -- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams deplored attempts by European governments to prohibit Muslim women from wearing body-covering burqas in public.

"Governments should have better things to do than ban the burqa," Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, told an interfaith meeting at the National Council of Churches of India's headquarters in Nagpur.

France's constitutional court on Oct. 7 approved a law banning full-face veils in public, which would prevent women wearing garments such as the burqa.

Belgian lawmakers voted to approve a similar measure in March to ban the wearing of clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified. The newly-formed government in the Netherlands has also announced plans to introduce measures to ban face-covering veils.

"I believe that the state ought not to be addressing issues like these. Instead, it should leave such concerns to the religious communities," Williams said Oct. 14, describing the French ban as "a sign of being overanxious".

More than 100 church leaders attended the meeting alongside Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders.

South Africa rolls up welcome mat for Zimbabwe workers

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BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabweans living in neighboring South Africa will soon find themselves deported in droves after the South African government announced it was revoking a special permission that has allowed Zimbabweans to live and work in Africa’s largest economy.

A directive issued in September will withdraw in December a special dispensation announced last year that waived visa requirements for foreign migrant workers.

The visa suspension came into force as demand for labor peaked, especially in the construction industry as South Africa prepared to host the soccer World Cup in June. This provided employment opportunities for millions of Zimbabweans and inevitably opened the immigration floodgates.

While this allowed millions to stay in the country without official documents, it made it impossible to document the exact number of Zimbabweans scattered across the region’s economic powerhouse. This in turn raised the specter of xenophobia as locals complained Zimbabwean cheap labor was depriving them of jobs.

Protest, disbelief follow Belgium archbishop's AIDS statements

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BRUSSELS -- A storm of protest and disbelief is blowing across Belgium once again. This time the eye of the storm is Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the 70-year-old successor to Cardinal Godfried Danneels as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.

In a new book, Gesprekken met Monseigneur Léonard, (Conversations with Archbishop Léonard), recently published by the Belgian publisher Lannoo, the archbishop asserts that the world-wide AIDS epidemic is a matter of “immanent justice.”

Especially in the Belgian political world the protest against Léonard is strong and trenchant. “Repugnant” and “stupid” were the reactions from key members of the Flemish parliament. Eva Brems, from the Green party, has called her colleagues to support a parliamentary resolution that "the disgusting statements of Archbishop Léonard be condemned in no uncertain terms."

Search begins for new CRS president

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BALTIMORE -- Catholic Relief Services has begun a nationwide search for a successor to its president, Ken Hackett, whose career with the international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community spans nearly four decades.

"The good news is that we can do this patiently and carefully, because we are able to approach any leadership changes from a position of strength, success and stability," New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the CRS board, said in a Sept. 29 statement announcing the search.

Sharp satire illuminates farmersí plight

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Until I saw Indian producer Aamir Khan’s new film, I had never heard of the suicide epidemic among India’s poor farmers between 1997 and 2007, when an estimated 125,000 died by their own hand.

Khan (his 2001 film “Lagaan” was nominated for an Academy Award) has not made a Bollywood film with singing and dancing, though his shrewd use of color and music shows how these cultural motifs can mask the perception of reality. “Peepli Live” is a satire about India’s ineffectual and corrupt government, the media, and the human collateral damage of single-crop farming using genetically modified seed provided by global agribusiness. Both government and industry envision a big financial return for this policy.

In 2010, “Peepli Live” became the first foreign film ever to be shown in competition at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.

Anusha Rizvi wrote the screenplay and codirected it with her husband, Mahmood Farooqui. Their freshman effort has created a film that is as entertaining as it is dreadful.

Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Budhia (Raghuvir Yadav) are brothers who live in the small farming village of Peepli.

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