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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Zuma sets ambitious building projects

JOHANNESBURG | President Jacob Zuma announced ambitious $40 billion infrastructure projects Thursday, laying out his plans for creating jobs and hope in nation harder hit than most in Africa by global recession.

“The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail lines, dams and roads,” he said in a nationally televised state of the nation address to parliament in Cape Town. “It must industrialize the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation.”

His plan spanned the country, from a dam in the southeastern homeland of former President Nelson Mandela to a rail and road network and new water systems to boost prospects for mining in Limpopo, a province in the far northwest.

SAUDI ARABIA

Journalist faces death for criticizing Prophet Mohammed

RIYADH | A young Saudi journalist is facing calls for his execution after tweeting remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

On the occasion of the Muslim prophet’s birthday last week, 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari tweeted: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you.”

“I will not pray for you,” he added.

The controversial tweet sparked a frenzy of responses - some 30,000, according to an online service that tracks tweets in the Arab world.

FRANCE

Perfume heir on trial for racist insults

PARIS | An heir to the Guerlain perfume empire went on trial Thursday in Paris on charges he made racist insults on national television.

Jean-Paul Guerlain faces up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of $29,900 if convicted.

Prosecutor Alexandre Aubert denounced what he called the use of a “degrading stereotype.” The verdict was set for March 29.

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