kids for cash judge convicted, vintage coffee wallpaper, oldest seaweed and worm-like fossils found

For those that have not been following the story. There is or was a judge in Pennsylvania who made arrangements to sentence kids to a private for profit juvenile detention facility in exchange for kickbacks. Ciavarella faces complex federal sentencing guidelines

Former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. is guilty of charges that carry a maximum combined prison sentence of 157 years in prison. Prosecutors say he should serve 13 to 15 years. The difference is due to the complex nature of the sentencing guidelines used in federal courts.

Mr. Ciavarella, 61, was found guilty of 12 charges, seven of which carry maximum prison sentences of 20 years. He was also convicted of four tax charges that carry maximum sentences of three years in prison and a single tax conspiracy charge that carries a maximum of five.

Ciavarella was found guilty of racketeering and conspiracy. The children he sent off to this facility ranged in age from ten to seventeen. Many of them probably were not angels with dirty faces. Though it was found that most of them committed low-level infractions and many of those were first time offenses. The kind of situation where another judge may have sentenced them to counseling and probation or at least to very short sentences. It is my understanding that every child he convicted and sent to his friend Powell’s PA Child Care facility in Pittston Twp. and Western PA Child Care in Butler County have been vacated. Ciavarella and his co-conspirator, former Judge Michael T. Conahan have caused to serious damage to the lives of those children, their families and  the juvenile justice system. If being convicted of felony racketeering ( an infraction originally written to go after organized crime, the sex and hard drugs trade) were not enough, Ciavarella and his defense attorney seem to suffer from serious issues of denial. They’re not going to admit fault regardless of what any court says.

“The jury rejected 95 percent of the government’s case,” defense attorney Al Flora Jr. told reporters on the steps of the federal courthouse following the verdict. “The government really got hurt today on this entire case, and it stands for the proposition of what Mark Ciavarella said all along was true: He never took a kickback; he never took a bribe; and he never extorted Robert Powell.”

If Ciavarella never did any of those things he would not have been convicted of racketeering. Prosecutors never introduced evidence to back up claims in a grand jury indictment that Ciavarella detained juveniles when it was “unwarranted”. So after his conviction Ciavarella declares he never did nutt’in to nobody, said after the verdict that he “absolutely never took a dime to send a kid anywhere.” So Powell gave Ciavarella money ( about one million dollars) because he was such a nice guy. Of course he never “extorted” Powell. The payments were quid pro quo per child sent. Payment for services rendered as it were. A few degrees away from being in the slave trade business. Ciavarella also faces a litany of civil suits from the families involved. Civil suits provide for a much wider arena for discovery.  When the state Supreme Court vacated all those cases involving the pay for play child detention facilities they did so based on the fact that Ciavarella repeatedly ignored state court rules requiring him to fully inform defendants of their right to counsel and reveal conflicts of interest. What would that conflict of interests be? Receiving payment from the for-profit detention centers. Ciavarella and his lawyers would have fit in perfectly with the legal spinners like David Addington and John Yoo at the Bush White House. Ciavarella’s arrogance is ultimately going to cost him. In a plea deal he could have gotten seven years at most that required them to plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy. After Ciavarella heard his admissions characterized as “kids for cash” he and Judge Michael T. Conahan went a little bonkers and thus a Judge Kosik rejected those sentences because he found the judges had failed to accept full responsibility for their crimes. Now Ciavarella, who is 61, will not get out of jail until he is 74 at the earliest. Some TV reports showed some parents understandably upset at Ciavarella and his lawyer’s arrogance and lack of remorse. They might find some consolation in knowing his inability to admit to the depths of his crimes and lack of humility will be costing him at least five more years in prison.

vintage coffee wallpaper

Oldest Fossils of Large Seaweeds, Worm-like Animals Tell Story of Ancient Oxygen

Almost 600 million years ago, before the rapid evolution of life forms known as the Cambrian explosion, a community of seaweeds and worm-like animals lived in a quiet deep-water niche near what is now Lantian, a small village in south China.

Then they simply died, leaving some 3,000 nearly pristine fossils preserved between beds of black shale deposited in oxygen-free and unbreathable waters.

Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech in the United States and Northwest University in Xi’an, China report the discovery of the fossils in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.

In addition to ancient versions of algae and worms, the Lantian biota–named for its location–included macrofossils with complex and puzzling structures.

In all, scientists have identified some 15 species at the site.

This discovery highlights the structural diversification of  eukaryotes. Eukaryotes are known to be the first organisms with complex cell structures. Their diversity seems to have occurred tens of millions of years after what is called the Snowball Earth which is thought to have ended 635 million years ago. The Snowball Earth hypothesis, besides being a great setting for a graphic novel, says the Earth’s surface became almost completely frozen at least once during earth’s history. There are some photos of the fossils and a photo essay of the dig at the link.

Before Scott Walker was high potentate of Wisconsin he was the  executive of the Milwaukee County Board. He hasn’t changed much –  Walker Whacked Wisconsin Taxpayers With Bill for Wackenhut After Illegally Asserting Powers

Kill or Capture—Six Questions for Matthew Alexander

Career Air Force interrogator Matthew Alexander, who won the Bronze Star for leading a team in a series of intelligence breakthroughs in Iraq, has written a dramatic account of the pursuit and capture of a key Al Qaeda leader named Zafar in northern Iraq. Alexander also sifts through the current interrogation policy debate in Washington, separating nonsense from fact and offering the reader an intelligent and critical take on the issues. I put six questions to him about his new book, Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious Al Qaeda Terrorist.

Alexander gathered the intelligence from Iraqis and made the capture without torturing anyone. Alexander also points out, for those who like to gloat over waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times, that at one point KSM could have revealed the location of Osama Bin Laden and he never gave up that information. Information that a professional like Alexander could likely have obtained and without torture.