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Pope Francis suggests women can use contraception if they are at risk of contracting Zika virus

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Pope Francis insisted Thursday that abortion was always a crime but hinted that the Church could exceptionally relax its ban on contraception for women at risk of contracting the Zika virus.

“Abortion is not a lesser evil. It is a crime,” Francis said in response to a question about how best to combat the outbreak across Latin America of the virus linked to birth defects.

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But he added: “Avoiding a pregnancy is not an absolute evil.”

The 79-year-old pontiff recalled that one of his predecessors, Paul VI (1963-1978) had authorised nuns working in Africa to use contraceptives in light of a high risk of them being raped by soldiers.

“We must not confuse the evil consisted of avoiding a pregnancy with abortion,” Francis said. “Abortion is not a theological problem. It is a human problem, medical. One person is killed to save another. It is evil in itself, it is not a religious evil, it is a human evil.

“On the contrary, avoiding a pregnancy and, in the cases of Paul VI which I have cited, it was clear.

“I would also urge doctors to do everything they can to develop a vaccine.”

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The United Nations and aid organisations have urged countries hit by the virus to ensure women have access to contraception to reduce the risk of infection and the right to abortion should they decide to terminate a pregnancy.

Many Latin American countries outlaw abortion or allow it only if the mother’s life is in danger.

After initially saying little about the outbreak, Catholic leaders in the region have recently begun to assert the Church’s opposition to what it terms “artificial” birth control and abortion.

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Instead of using condoms or the contraceptive pill, Church officials have been recommending abstinence or what they term natural family planning — scheduling sexual relations for the least fertile periods of a woman’s menstrual cycle.


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New Zealand may postpone general election after 4 test positive for COVID-19: PM Jacinda Ardern

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New Zealand locked down nursing homes nationwide Wednesday after a 102-day streak without the coronavirus ended, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the outbreak could force her to postpone next month's general election.

Ardern said authorities were scrambling to trace anyone who had been in contact with four Auckland residents who tested positive Tuesday, ending the dream run in which the virus had been contained at New Zealand's borders.

A three-day stay-at-home order for Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city with a population of 1.5 million, was announced on Tuesday night and went into force at lunchtime on Wednesday.

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2020 Election

Android phones to get ‘ShakeAlert’ earthquake warnings — and phones may double as tremor detectors

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Android phones will receive warnings triggered by a "ShakeAlert" earthquake early-warning system implemented on the West Coast by the US Geological Survey and partners.

ShakeAlert uses signals from hundreds of seismometers across the state to trigger warning messages that "an earthquake has begun and shaking is imminent," according to the system's website.

"We saw an opportunity to use Android to provide people with timely, helpful earthquake information when they search, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety if needed," principal software engineer Marc Stogaitis said in a blog post.

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2020 Election

‘Don’t talk about racism, racist’: Trump scorched after claiming Biden-Harris campaign has a ‘racism problem’

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President Donald Trump continued to lash out at Kamala Harris after the California Democrat was chosen to join the 2020 Democratic Party ticket as presumptive nominee Joe Biden's running mate.

At a news conference following the selection, Trump complained about Harris being "nasty."

After 10 p.m. on Monday, Trump tweeted out an attack ad claiming "Joe Biden has a racism problem."

Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's line of attack:

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