Florida trial awaits priests accused of stealing millions


The Revs. John Skehan, 81, and Francis “Frank” Guinan, 66, are scheduled for trial, each charged with one count of grand theft over $100,000 – a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Each is accused of pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Roman Catholic parish they were tapped to grow and inspire, St. Vincent Ferrer in Delray Beach.

Instead, they left the faithful reeling after their arrests by Delray Beach police in 2006. While accused of misappropriating more than $8 million, they are charged with outright stealing far less. Detective Thomas Whatley referred to them at the time as “professional money launderers.”

Assistant State Attorney Preston Mighdoll is expected to present evidence of gambling trips that Guinan made with women to the Bahamas and Las Vegas…

A former female employee of the church, Colleen Head, given immunity by prosecutors, recounted for police the skimming of offertory plates and her wondering how Guinan could afford to live a lavish lifestyle on a priest’s salary, according to the court record. She told them of envelopes stripped of cash in an Easter Sunday collection bag that he handed her.

The current pastor, the Rev. Thomas Skindeleski, said he will reserve any comment on the case until after a court decision. “I will say I have asked people to pray more deeply, to consider more strongly the Lord,” he said

Skehan looks to me like he had more fun with the money than Guinan.

Raju wasn’t a bumbling bookkeeper – he was stealing million$

Raju’s new corporate offices
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The founder of Satyam Computer Services, B. Ramalinga Raju, skimmed huge amounts of cash from the company, rather than padding its books as he has claimed.

Investigators looking into the fraud that has been called India’s Enron have found a “maze” of about 300 companies related to Raju that were used to “siphon” as much as $1 billion in cash from Satyam, said a senior official involved in the inquiry, who was granted anonymity to discuss developments in the case…

Raju, who was Satyam’s chairman, said in a letter to the company’s board on Jan. 7 that about $1 billion of the company’s cash was “non-existent” and that he had falsified its profits for years to avoid losing control of the company. But the person involved in the investigation said that despite Raju’s claim that he had padded profits, he relied on hundreds of companies to divert money from Satyam.

These companies are registered to Raju and members of his family. Figuring out what, exactly, happened at Satyam “is becoming increasingly complicated,” this person said, adding that investigators had not figured out where all the missing money wound up…

Instead, the person involved in the investigation said, the entire $1 billion Raju said was faked might have actually been earned by the company but then skimmed from it.

Sounds more and more like Enron ethics. That brings another question into play. Who collaborated?

Are we to accept the fairy tale scripted by the thief-in-charge? Are his peers inside Satyam, inside stock exchanges – inside the government of India gullible or ignorant – or culpable?

A musical celebration was held, today, in Washington, D.C…

…to celebrate the coming inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Plenty of folks will say things more elegant than anything I might conjure up; but, I wanted to say something about the event.

I spent thirty-seven years of my life as a performing artist. Seventeen of those picking on a guitar and singing. I have a great belief in the honesty and power of music. I am convinced people can learn to love and strive, side by side, through the lyric and song and poetry, the thunder and dance of musical notes. Otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed with it so long.

I’ve given away my last guitar. The notes I listen to are birdsong as often as digitized – nowadays. But, I was proudest of all, today, that so many people who live and die inside the craft I love so well – were able to present themselves before the nation and the world – and offer their songs of freedom.

Like Woody said, “This machine kills fascists!”

Car crash is scary – even worse is missing shampoo appointment

An elderly woman driver in the US state of Florida crashed into a man on a scooter, but drove on to an appointment at a hairdresser’s, police said. Louise Davidson was held for leaving the scene of a crash involving injuries in Palm Beach County.

The 77-year-old had veered into the path of an oncoming scooter that had right of way, according to police.

The man was reportedly thrown onto the windscreen and then fell to the road. The accused said she did not see him.

Boynton Beach Police said they later spotted the woman’s car after she had her hair washed at a salon.

You have to keep your priorities in order.

A genetic snapshot of Iceland 1,000 years ago

Meeting site of Allthing democratic parliament in 930

Scientists at deCODE genetics have completed the largest study of ancient DNA from a single population ever undertaken. Analyzing mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mother to offspring, from 68 skeletal remains, the study provides a detailed look at how a contemporary population differs from that of its ancestors.

The results confirm previous deCODE work that used genetics to test the history of Iceland as recorded in the sagas. These studies demonstrated that the country seems to have been settled by men from Scandinavia – the vikings – but that the majority of the original female inhabitants were from the coastal regions of Scotland and Ireland, areas that regularly suffered raids by vikings in the years around the settlement of Iceland 1100 years ago.

The current study further shows that the gene pool of contemporary Icelanders appears to have evolved rapidly over the intervening thousand years. As a result, the original female settlers are genetically less closely related to present-day Icelanders, and instead more closely related to the present day populations of Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia, as well as those of northwestern and southwestern Europe.

This is a demonstration of a phenomenon known as ‘genetic drift.’ In essence, in any population certain individuals will have more offspring and, by chance and in this case over the course of 35 generations, many more descendants than others. And as a result, particularly in a small population, the genetic variety of the original population can decrease and change over time…

Questions leap to mind. Well, for some of us. 🙂

Iceland being the longest-standing democracy in the world, I’m curious how much of an effect came from those Celtic women, still likely themselves to have deep feelings about Druid democracy.

Icelandic society – and property relations especially – are matriarchal. Interesting in light of these findings.

CDC: 1 in 200 kids are vegetarian

[Sam] Silverman may feel like a vegetable vendor at a butchers’ convention, but about 367,000 other kids are in the same boat, according to a recent study that provides the government’s first estimate of how many children avoid meat. That’s about 1 in 200.

Other surveys suggest the rate could be four to six times that among older teens who have more control over what they eat than young children do.

Vegetarian diets exclude meat, but the name is sometimes loosely worn. Some self-described vegetarians eat fish or poultry on occasion, while others — called vegans — cut out animal products of any kind, including eggs and dairy products.

Anecdotally, adolescent vegetarianism seems to be rising, thanks in part to YouTube animal slaughter videos that shock the developing sensibilities of many U.S. children. But there isn’t enough long-term data to prove that, according to government researchers.

The new estimate of young vegetarians comes from a recent federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of alternative medicine based on a survey of thousands of Americans in 2007. Information on children’s diet habits was gleaned from about 9,000 parents and other adults speaking on the behalf of those under 18.

Look for everyone to react with his own slant to this simple study. I post it simply because I thought it was interesting that someone decided to do a count.

I just had an additional thought. The percentage struck me as low. Is that most likely because of an underestimate or because the phenomenon is blown out of proportion?

Pilot of Flight 1549 tells his tale

The plane being lifted from the water to a waiting barge
Daylife/AP Photo by Craig Ruttle

The pilot of the US Airways Airbus that was forced to crash-land in New York’s Hudson river after both its engines failed has told investigators he made a split-second decision to attempt a water landing to avoid a possibly “catastrophic” crash in Manhattan.

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s account of the landing was released as salvage crews hoisted US Airways Flight 1549 from the river and on to a barge. Investigators retrieved the plane’s black boxes, which were filled with fresh water, and sent them to Washington for analysis.

The aircraft’s torn and shredded underbelly revealed the force with which it hit the water. A gash extended from the base of the plane toward the windows, its right wing appeared charred and the exterior of the destroyed right engine apparently had been peeled off…

The pilot told investigators yesterday that in the few minutes he had to decide where to set down the plane on Thursday afternoon, he felt it was “too low, too slow” and near too many buildings to go anywhere other than the river, according to an account of his testimony to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

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Forgive and Forget?

Daylife/Getty Images

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

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