Brit politicians apologise for Pope ‘condom’ memo

The Foreign Office has apologised for a “foolish” document which suggested the Pope’s UK visit could be marked by the launch of “Benedict-branded” condoms.

The junior civil servant responsible had been put on other duties, it said.

Called “The ideal visit would see…”, the paper suggested the Pope be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage during September’s visit…

The UK’s ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, has met senior officials of the Holy See to express regret on behalf of the government.

The paper was attached as one of three “background documents” to a memo dated 5 March 2010 inviting officials in Whitehall and Downing Street to attend a meeting to discuss themes for the papal visit…

But it has, nevertheless, the potential to cause considerable damage. Whether fairly or not, it will leave some Catholics with the impression of a culture within official circles in which their Church’s teaching is not taken seriously.

We can only hope.

Some will suspect prejudice against faith groups. Perhaps most damaging of all, it could leave an impression that the Pope might be regarded as a figure of fun less than five months before his state visit to Britain.

It went on to propose the Pope could apologise for the Spanish Armada or sing a song with the Queen for charity.

Bet the Queen can carry a tune better than the Pope. Actually, I can’t think of anything the Pope does really well. He’s not succeeding at retaining his flock, is he, eh?

Abused boy scout awarded $18 million in further damages

A Multnomah County jury said the Boy Scouts of America must pay $18.5 million for the sexual abuse a former Scout suffered as a child — the largest such award levied against the organization.

Attorneys for the former Scout, 38-year-old Kerry Lewis, said the vast majority of sexual-abuse lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America since the 1980s have settled quietly, and the issue largely has stayed out of the national spotlight. They said Friday’s verdict, however, exposed the organization’s dark history with pedophiles and its unwillingness to come to terms with the problem.

“What we saw here in Portland has really pulled back the covers on the Boy Scouts of America,” said Paul Mones, one of Lewis’ attorneys, speaking to a crowd of local and national reporters. Mones said that although he considers the organization generally safe, it needs “to be open and honest” about pedophiles who are drawn to its volunteer ranks…

Lewis and his attorneys said they hoped the verdict would make Scouting safer.

If I was able to help save one person, this was all worth it,” Lewis said.

Oregon law requires that 60 percent — or $11.1 million of the $18.5 million punitive-damages verdict — goes to the state’s crime victim’s compensation fund…

As long as the BSA sticks to denial, refuses to face the fact that their inaction has perpetuated the problem – the lawsuits will continue to mount up. The potential service the organization offers will continue to diminish.

Celebrate Hubble’s 20th with space image – Mystic Mountain

This new gem rivals what may be Hubble’s most famous image, a shot of the Pillars of Creation taken in 1995. The shot above is of a star-forming region in the Carina Nebula. The enormous pillar of gas and dust is 3 light-years tall. The seam in the middle is the result of new stars forming and emitting powerful gas jets that are ripping the pillar apart.

Hubble’s capabilities are all the more impressive considering the rocky start the telescope suffered through when a defect was discovered in its primary mirror after it had been launched and began returning images that weren’t in focus. Scientists and engineers were able to fix the problem, and today Hubble is more capable than ever with its new Wide Field Camera 3, installed last year.

Check out this interactive timeline of Hubble’s history and RTFA for links to more beautiful images.

Airline pilot cleared of 9/11 accusations after ‘nine years of hell’

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The pilot falsely accused of training the hijackers responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks has won his almost decade-long miscarriage of justice battle.

Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian living in Britain who lost his career as an airline pilot, suffered wrongful imprisonment and damage to his health, will now be eligible for up to £2m compensation.

Raissi became the first person to be accused of participating in the 2001 attack in New York and Washington. He was held for five months in Belmarsh high security prison in London and told he would be charged with conspiracy and murder in the US where he could face the death penalty.

Today he described the last nine years as “hell” but said he was delighted with the decision by Jack Straw, the justice secretary. “I have suffered such a great injustice, I’m grateful for this verdict. They took almost 10 years of my life and now I’m starting to breathe again.”

He added: “I’ve been exonerated, not just by a court, but by the British government. Now I can turn the page, but I can never forgive them for what they did…”

Raissi’s arrest, at his home in Colnbrook, Berkshire, 10 days after the 9/11 attacks, followed an extradition request from the FBI. In court, where he awaited extradition to the US on a holding charge, he was described by British lawyers representing the US as one of the lead instructors of the four hijackers.

A judge threw the case out in 2002 and said there was no evidence against him. Since then, Raissi has sought an apology. In 2008, in a judgment that exonerated him, three court of appeal judges condemned the Met and the CPS for abusing the court process, presenting false allegations and not disclosing evidence.

Anyone holding their breath awaiting exoneration from the FBI or the United States government?

Americans think we are exempt from the laws of nature, the laws of human society, the recorded course of history. If we are exempt, then we bear no responsibility.

All fallacies. All corrupt.

French police fine Muslim woman for driving while wearing veil

A French Muslim woman has been fined for wearing a full-face veil while driving a car.

Police in the western city of Nantes said the veil – which showed only her eyes – restricted her vision and could have caused an accident.

The woman’s lawyer says they will appeal against the decision, which he described as a breach of human rights…

After stopping the 31-year-old woman – who has not been named – police asked her to raise her veil to confirm her identity, which she did.

They then fined her 22 euros, saying her clothing posed a “safety risk“.

“This fine is not justified on road safety grounds and constitutes a breach of human and women’s rights,” her lawyer, Jean-Michel Pollono, told AFP news agency.

He said the woman’s field of vision was not obstructed and added that a veil was no different from a motorcycle helmet in terms of hindrance to vision…

“The ball is clearly in the authorities’ court,” he said. “Currently no law forbids the wearing of the niqab…”

Think about it. Reflect. Who has reason on their side?

Brits believe the hills are alive with haggis

One in five people in Britain thinks that haggis, the traditional Scottish dish made from the lung, liver and heart of a sheep, is an animal that roams the Highlands, according to a survey on Friday.

Commissioned by the online takeaway food service, the survey found that 18 percent of Britons believe that haggis is a hilltop-dwelling animal.

Another 15 percent said it is a Scottish musical instrument while 4 percent admitted to thinking it was a character from Harry Potter…

Even 14 percent of the…Scottish people polled said they did not know what haggis was.

It could be like learning what goes into a hot dog. You really don’t want to know.