Catholic diocese to pay $1.35M for priest’s child porn collection

A judge has approved a $1.35 million settlement in a civil lawsuit involving a Kansas City priest convicted of producing child pornography.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Kenneth Garrett III approved the settlement in the lawsuit filed in 2011 by a minor girl and her parents against the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn. The approval was entered in the court record last week.

The diocese reached the agreement with the plaintiffs on Oct. 2, days before the case was to go to trial. The settlement was the diocese’s third in five months involving allegations of sexual abuse by a priest and brings to more than $4 million the amount it has paid in those cases…

The pornography scandal involving Ratigan emerged in December 2010 after a computer technician discovered hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on the priest’s laptop. A federal grand jury indicted Ratigan on 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child pornography involving five girls ranging in age from 2 to 9.

Ratigan pleaded guilty to five charges and was sentenced last month to 50 years in prison. He also pleaded guilty in October in Clay County Circuit Court to three counts of possessing child pornography and was sentenced to seven years on each charge.

The civil suit settled last month alleged that Ratigan engaged a 9-year-old girl in sexually explicit conduct and that Finn allowed Ratigan continued access to children after learning of the images found on the priest’s computer.

It feels like these charges have been in the wild for most of my life. In truth, nothing was done by the Roman Catholic Church or local police and judicial systems until lawsuits began to be filed, victims gathered together in a political struggle for recognition.

That says as much about our political establishment protecting an “important” group of their own peers – as it says about the corruption of the administration of this church.

Cache of art looted by the Nazis discovered in Munich


Reproduction of Picasso’s “Guernica” – homage to civilians killed in 1930’s deliberate air strikes

A collection of 1,500 artworks confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s has been found in the German city of Munich…

The trove is believed to include works by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall…

Some of the works were declared as degenerate by the Nazis, while others were stolen from or forcibly sold for a pittance by Jewish art collectors.

If confirmed, it would be one of the largest recoveries of looted art…Investigators put the value of the works at about one billion euros, Focus magazine said.

The magazine said the artworks were found by chance in early 2011, when the tax authorities investigated Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of an art dealer in Munich.

He was suspected of tax evasion, and investigators obtained a search warrant for his home in Munich…There, they found the cache of some 1,500 artworks which had vanished from sight during the Nazi era.

The younger Mr Gurlitt had kept the works in darkened rooms and sold the occasional painting when he needed money, Focus reports…

There are international warrants out for at least 200 of the works, Focus reports. The collection is being held in a secure warehouse in Munich for the time being.

Nazis considered most modern art as degenerate, especially if the artist was Jewish or anti-fascist. Not that the habit of destroying artwork, books or music has disappeared from the repertoire of the hate-filled and ignorant.

This creep apparently considered the cache of stolen art to be his own private trust fund.

Non-genetic inheritance, changing environments and adaptation

In the last two decades climate change emerged as a momentous threat to ecosystems and species, calling for — politics aside — a greater interest in the adaptation abilities of the world’s creatures. Understanding and predicting how populations will respond to climate fluctuations has been attracting a wealth of research into evolutionary biology and the molecular components of evolution; with some vital questions motivating these studies: namely, how organisms will handle their new circumstances, or how populations will be able to cope with climate change in order to survive and avoid extinction. With the far-reaching impacts of climate change being felt globally, it is no wonder that scientists are desperate to understand evolution and its implications for adaptation abilities.

Until recently, biological information was thought to be transmitted across generations by DNA sequencing alone. Furthermore, adaptation to the environment was thought to only occur with Darwin’s mechanism of rare mutations of the DNA that are selected for the reproductive advantage that they provide. However, scientists are now paying increased attention to non-DNA factors that are inherited and can actually help offspring adapt to their environment.

An article published last week in Non-Genetic Inheritance — an open access journal by Versita, brings attention to this new mode of inheritance. The authors refer to a process called Transgenerational plasticity (TGP). Plasticity is a term used to describe how an organism changes its phenotype (e.g. morphology, physiology or behaviour) to adapt to its environment. For example, some animals become more hairy when bred in cold conditions. Transgenerational plasticity refers to offspring developing the adaptations, when the parents experience the environment…

Dr. Santiago Salinas and his colleagues put forward a convincing argument that not only could non-genetic fast-acting mechanisms of adaptation be widespread in nature (complimenting the slower DNA-mutation based methods of adaptation) but that they could also be of increasing importance as rapid climate change continues. In an extensive catalogue of examples they suggest that non-genetic inheritance mechanisms are being used in a wide variety of life forms.

Salinas surveyed 80 empirical studies from 63 species to argue that the new adaptive method is sufficiently established both theoretically and empirically to merit inclusion as a coping tactic against rapid environmental changes. Moreover, modulation of the system could be used in agriculture to ensure that crop species are fully adapted to their environments.

A fascinating approach to questions hindered and hampered outside the realm of science and research by political hacks and seat-of-the-pants pundits. Nonetheless interesting and thought-provoking.

Here’s a link to the article – which is not available free to the general public, yet. Worth keeping an eye out for it, though. Should be a fun read and lead to beaucoup learning and discussion. Some of us should live long enough to see if the hypotheses prove to be correct. 🙂

83-year-old jewel thief — busted again!

An 83-year-old career criminal who says she has stolen jewelry the world over has been arrested on charges of trying to steal a $40,000 ring in California.

Doris Marie Payne, who was the subject of a documentary, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne,” was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of felony larceny, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

Payne “was implicated in a jewelry theft” at a jewelry store in Palm Desert, Calif., Oct. 21, the sheriff’s department said in a news release.

She was released from prison this year after serving 2 1/2 years of a 5 1/2 year sentence for stealing an $8,900 ring from a department store in San Diego.

She told a Los Angeles Times reporter for a story published in 2008 she was in her late 20s the first time she stole a diamond and has lost count of how much jewelry she has stolen…

Payne, who was being held on $45,000 bond, is also to be the subject of a feature film

I hope she’ll make enough from the film to retire, eh?