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from FaithWorld:

Feisty debates between Catholics and secularists before pope visit to Britain

arrest the pope002If you like debates about religion but were turned off by the uproar in the United States over Koran-burning and the New York Islamic centre, take a look at the rhetorical duelling that's been going on in Britain ahead of Pope Benedict's visit there starting on Thursday. For the past few weeks, the leading lights of secularist and atheist thought have been hammering away at the Catholic Church, playing up its sins like the sexual abuse crisis and arguing that the pope doesn't deserve the honour of a state visit. A quick Google search digs out plenty of them. (Click on the screen grab for video on British group's proposal to arrest Pope Benedict during his visit/MSNBC via YouTube)

On the other side, a group of lay Catholics has formed a speakers' bureau ready to face off with the critics and defend the pope and the Church. They're a kind of rapid reaction force, ready to appear anywhere to refute the secularists and atheists. The result has been a feisty in-your-face exchange providing the pro and contra arguments for many current disputes over the Catholic Church. Some arguments could be criticised as too emotional or even irrational, but boring they're not.

Catholic Voices, the speakers' bureau that's been putting up sparring partners for the Church's critics, must already rank as one of the big innovations of this papal tour.  Popes are no strangers to protests when they visit foreign countries, but the Vatican and the local Church hierarchy usually ignore the critics or give cautious responses. Under Pope Benedict, Vatican public relations has been so badly organised that both he and his aides have often provided even more fuel for criticism. Given the strong and mostly critical interest the media would show in the pope's visit, these speakers - journalists, lawyers, students and a few clergy - decided the Church needed a more professional operation if it was to get its message across.

skyscreengrabdebate002Catholic Voices coordinator Austen Ivereigh (photo at far right in screengrab from Sky TV debate, click on image for video), a former deputy editor of The Tablet and spokesman for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, gave me his thoughts about the project and how it's been doing:

from FaithWorld:

Expect papal meeting with UK sexual abuse victims — Patten

pattenOne regular but regularly unannounced feature of papal trips in recent years has been the private meeting with local Catholics who were sexually abused as youths by priests. Journalists only find out about them after they've taken place. Just such a meeting seems to be on the cards during Pope Benedict's visit to Britain next week, but of course it does not appear in his official schedule. Chris Patten, the prime minister's special representative for the papal visit,  said as much on Monday in an interview with BBC television (quote at the end of the clip):

"On several previous visits, the pope has met victims of abuse. He has never said he was going to meet them before he did and his meetings have always, for very understandable reasons, been private. I would be surprised if in this visit or any future visit he behaved in any different way."

from Fan Fare:

UK’s X Factor gets off to rocky start

cowell3The X Factor, one of Britain's most-watched television programmes, has got off to a rocky start this year with its integrity called into question after it came to light that some contestants' performances had been enhanced using computer software. A spokesman for the show, a pillar of ITV1's annual scheduling, admitted that post-production work was sometimes necessary due to the number of microphones used during filming. But he also told British media that judges make their decisions during the audition stages based on what they hear live, and that later shows are all genuinely live.

The revelations have prompted negative media comment and online complaints from some fans, although few people expect them to have too much of an impact on viewing figures. The first episode of this year's series was watched by 11.1 million people, up from last year's figure of 9.9 million.

What is Alistair Darling up to?

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darling Normally regarded as a safe pair of hands, Chancellor Alistair Darling raised hell on Tuesday night by confirming on live television what everyone in Westminster has believed for some time.

That was that there were people who worked for the prime minister who briefed against him after he told a magazine interviewer in 2008 that the country was facing the worst economic conditions in 60 years.

TV interview shows Brown is brushing up

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BrownIt should have been toe-curlingly embarrassing but Gordon Brown seemed to come out of it pretty well, raising the stakes for the planned debates between party leaders ahead of the election.

The prime minister’s appearance on Piers Morgan’s celebrity interview programme on Sunday night must have been designed to  show a more human side to Brown — who often comes across as awkward and intellectual.

Do you have a favourite Monty Python sketch?

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Monty Python membersNothing was sacred to “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” — and that is probably why the comedy troupe’s television show became so popular.

The irreverent programme starring  John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman first aired 40 years ago in 1969.

Will you miss Teletext?

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It will be the end of an era. Associated Newspapers has announced that it will shut the analogue Teletext TV service in January next year.

The shutdown was expected to take place in 2012 and the company has also said that it will even close several of its Freeview digital services. The service has been badly hit by a fall in audiences and revenue brought on by the economic downturn.

Candidates feel the heat in “The Apprentice” kitchen

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After a monumentally useless performance in last week’s opening task, “The Apprentice” candidates return to our screens tonight to add further ridicule to the claim that they are the “brightest business prospects in Britain.”

This week’s task sees them struggling to… make sandwiches. It is boys versus girls again and team Ignite and team Empire have to set up a catering service in the City of London, pitching for business, sourcing ingredients, creating menus and basically making a pig’s ear of the whole thing.

“The Apprentice” makes a welcome return

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You have to ask yourself, following last night’s opening episode of the fifth series of reality show “The Apprentice”, why lawyers even bother entering the competition. Sir Alan Sugar reportedly has little time for legal eagles and it was pretty clear, once her team had lost the first task, that poor Anita Shah, pictured, was going to be the first one booted out of the competition.

Mind you, she was pretty useless.

The show’s opening claim that the candidates, who are competing for a job with Sir Alan Sugar and a six figure salary, are “Britain’s brightest business prospects” is patently untrue. “The Apprentice” seems to have adopted the Big Brother mantra of selecting candidates not for their worth but because of their oversized egos, unwarranted self-belief and willingness (in some cases eagerness) to stab each other in the back.

What’s your gadget of the year?

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nokia-phone.jpg******For those immune to the charms of the latest gadgets, they are expensive, infuriating and fragile devices that are destined to be lost or stolen or end up languishing in the back of a drawer.******But for gadget-lovers there is nothing better than getting their hands on a covetable new toy that promises to make life easier or more fun.******Readers of Stuff magazine, who are more likely to fall into the second category, are voting for their favourite gadget of the last 12 months.******Here’s the shortlist: Apple’s iPhone, Sony’s PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s Wii Fit, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Asus Eee PC and the B&W Zeppelin.******Nominees in the other categories include the BlackBerry Bold, Nokia N96, Creative Zen X-Fi and TomTom GO 730.******Do you constantly upgrade your mobile/iPod/television in a quest for the latest features? Or are you quite happy still using your basic phone and full-size TV?******What was your favourite gadget of the last year and why do you love it so much?*******Click here for full story*

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