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Friday on my mind

David Mazower | 09:38 UK time, Friday, 3 November 2006

Top of the morning to you, it's James here seeing if I can throw a few stories your way to fire up the synapses this Friday. Last night's debate on "Is there a problem with young black men?" provoked a flood of emails, texts and calls, so let's see if we can find something similarly exciting today. And if there's a great story I miss (highly likely), remember that you can help set the agenda by posting it here on the blog or emailing it to us.

First out of the gates, it's hard to avoid this big scandal in the US. The leader of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals in the US has resigned after being accused of paying for sex with a man. Rev Ted Haggard, who is known as a vocal opponent of same-sex marriages, denies the accusations.

He's not a politician, but given the power of evangelical voters in the US, it's hard not to wonder how this will effect the midterm elections next week. The allegations come as voters in several US states are due to hold simultaneous votes on gay marriage laws.

What do you think - how is this playing in the US? It's the most read story on the BBC website, but I had to dig around to find it on either the New York Times or Washington Post websites. Will it affect how you vote, or is it just more muck-raking, another low-point in the dirty tricks campaigns? And does it really matter - is there too much emphasis placed on sexuality in US politics? Let us know you views - post them to the blog, or email them to us.

To get you thinking, this blogger says "If the public sends a signal to the [Republicans] next Tuesday, the message should be that we're fed up. We're fed up with the lies, the smears, the hypocrisy and the win-at-all-costs mentality that pervades the right-wing these days." But James C. Dobson from the conservative organisation Focus on the Family has come to the defence of his friend Ted Haggard.

Another story I like today is the China-Africa summit getting underway in Beijing. More than 40 African heads of state have gathered to discuss trade and investment, and we're talking large amounts of money - $42bn (£22bn) in 2005. As its economy booms, China is snapping up oil and other commodities, bringing lots of money to some African states.

Is this a good thing? WIll that money promote development in Africa, or will it just line the pockets of corrupt leaders? Is it helping or stifling African industry and manufacturing? If you're in Africa, let us know how Chinese investment is affecting your country. You can tell us who you think will benefit most in our online debate.

Mark's been in touch to suggest we look at the situation in Naples, where there has been a spate of murders - at least twelve in the last ten days. We were alerted to this story earlier in the week by our listener Stefano, who emailed us to say:

"Italy is not just one: there's at least two Italies. One where there are laws and people follow the laws and another that is like the wildest far west where everyone has their own laws. I don't think the troops can sort out the problem, there's the need to change the people.

Many of the killings are related to turf wars between rivals in the local crime network, the Camorra. Italian PM Romano Prodi has ruled out sending in the army, at least for now.

Are you in Naples? Let us know what you're experiencing, and how life there is being affected by the crime wave. And what do you think should be done - should the army be sent in? Can organised crime be beaten?

It's not just Napolitans who are stuggling with a crime wave - have a read of this fascinating story in today's Times. Guatemala is a country of only 12 million people, but there are more than 5,000 muders happening a year, more than during the civil war in the country. Violence is out of control, but the citizens have found a novel, if macabre way to fight back: hiring assassins to kill gang members and criminals. They call it "social cleansing," and apparently nearly half of all Guatemalans support it.

What about you? Is this an acceptable way to deal with the problem of violence? Is it the ONLY way to deal with the problem? Or should Guatemalans be trying something else? Post your thoughts to the blog.

Sticking with Latin America, one story which I've been keen to look at for a while is the ongoing tensions in Mexico. Riot police and protesters have clashed at a university campus in the Mexican city of Oaxaca in the latest protests against the state governor, part of a simmering feud which has already claimed several lives. Last week, 4,000 riot police entered Oaxaca, removing demonstrators from the city centre after five months there.

We'd love to hear from any eyewitnesses in Mexico. Do you think the protesters are right? Or do you think they should pack up and go home? Let us know.


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