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SOUTH AFRICA: Controversial appointment

President Jacob Zuma, brushing aside criticism from gay rights and women's groups, appointed a conservative Christian Thursday to head the high court. Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who told a judicial panel he believes God chose him to head the Constitutional Court, is a member of the Winners Chapel, which believes homosexuality is a disease that is "curable." He has been widely criticized for legal decisions that threw out jail sentences of men convicted of marital rape or assaulting their girlfriends and reduced the sentences of men convicted of raping children. Mogoeng has served as a justice for two years.

THAILAND: Pardon sought for Thaksin

The government will submit a petition to King Bhumibol Adulyadej asking him to grant a royal pardon to exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, risking renewed conflict a month after his sister became prime minister. The government will revive a 2009 petition from Thaksin's supporters as part of efforts to bring him back into the country, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said Thursday in Bangkok. Thaksin, ousted in a coup five years ago, has lived overseas since fleeing a 2008 jail sentence for abuse of power. His sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, won election July 3.

INDIA: Gandhi back after surgery

Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi has returned home after traveling overseas for surgery for an undisclosed ailment. Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi said she returned to New Delhi early Thursday and was fine. He gave no other details. Gandhi was operated upon in early August. News reports have said the operation took place in the United States. Gandhi, 64, the widow of slain former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, is widely viewed as the most powerful person in India, setting government strategy and doling out cabinet posts. She took over the Congress Party in 1998 but declined the premiership despite leading the party to victory in 2004 elections.

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