Polk County Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Lawson is serving a 15 year prison sentence in Vermont after felony convictions for sexually abusing young men in Florida in 2002. Lawson used his authority as a police office to perform strip searches and perform examinations of private parts of young men whom he supposedly was investigating for law enforcement purposes. A breaking investigative report in the August 31, 2008 St. Petersburg Times documents Lawson’s role in a fatal car crash on May 31, 2002 in which honor student 16 year old Miles White was killed. Apparently, Lawson was involved in a high speed chase of the car in which young Miles White was a passenger. After the fatal crash Deputy Lawson’s unmarked police cruiser was removed from the scene of the crash. There is evidence that his police cruiser hit the rear of the boys car right before it left the road. Deputy Lawson falsified the report of his activity that night and the Sheriff’s Department went along with covering up his involvment. The Polk County Florida Sheriff’s Department had been notified of Deputy Lawson’s sexual abuse of young men prior to the fatal crash and had left him on the road with responsibility for investigating youth crime. Seven weeks after the accident Deputy Lawson pled guilty to multiple sex crimes and practicing medicine without a license for his perverted examinations of young men. Now six years later for the first time the public is hearing about the possible connection between Lawson’s interest in young men and the fatal crash.
This is another sad story of injustice and abuse of power. Fortunately, a persistant investigative reporter from the St. Petersburg Times is finally digging up the truth. A civil lawsuit brought by Miles White’s parents has also contributed to revealing the secrets of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department. I hope that someday all those persons entrusted with authority over children whether a police department, a church, a school, or other youth organizations will put the victims of child sex abuse first rather than engaging in a cover up to avoid bad publicity.
In the wake of May’s $8.7 million verdict against the Diocese of Burlington, another trial involving the Diocese of Burlington as well as the same priest-Rev. Edward Paquette, ended in a hung jury. The hung jury came after jurors deliberated for 16 hours. The victim’s attorney protested the closing remarks of the church lawyer when he stated, “one lawsuit ought to be enough to teach a lesson.” The remark came after the judge in the trial warned lawyers not to make mention or reference to the May trial.
In the end, the church’s argument was typical. They argued that the victim had waited too long to bring his claim and didn’t seem that injured. This in spite of the fact that they never disputed his claims of molestation at the hands of Paquette who had a long history of sexual abuse.
Anyone who knows anything about the terrible tragedy of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests will find the church’s arguments typical but offensive. Minor victims of sexual abuse rarely if ever come forward to tell anyone about the abuse. They remain too traumatized, confused, hurt, and confused to deal with it. The fact that the abuse occurred at the hands of a priest makes the abuse even more difficult to deal with. The other argument employed by the church that he didn’t seem that injured is insensitive to the harm done and horrifically unpastoral. When it comes to abuse and protecting the reputation of the institutional church, the church in Burlington side with protecting an institution rather than care for the soul of one of its members. Church officials often talk about what Jesus would do. I wonder what Jesus would do in this instance?
An Illinois jury has returned a $5,000,000 verdict against the Diocese of Belleville for fraudulently concealing that the Rev. Raymond Kownacki, a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, had abused James Wisniewski, 47, of Champaign. The damages include $2.4 million for compensatory losses including medical costs and emotional duress and $2.6 million for punitive damages.
According to trial testimony from the diocesan Review Board administrator, Margaret Mensen, the review board was prevented from seeing certain documents in Kownacki’s file. All the while, the Diocese of Belleville continued to transfer the pedophile priest to unsuspecting parishes. The parishes to which he was transferred were never informed of the priest’s past history of abuse. It wasn’t until 1995 when Kownacki was removed from ministry.
Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co., the makers of Byetta have acknowledged that the drug has been linked to 4 deaths. The FDA has already linked the diabetes drug to six cases of pancreatitis, including 2 deaths.
Byetta has been marketed for those with Type2 diabetes but has been dogged for several years that the drug may cause severe pancreatitis. Pancreatitis which simply means an inflammation of the pancreas, located in the upper region of the abdomen. Symptoms may include nausea, abdominal pain, stomach bloating, and vomiting.
The link between Byetta and pancreatitis is under investigation by the FDA.
Recent news articles point to a rise in embezzlement cases against Catholic priests who in turn are sexually abusive. Is there a connection? You bet there is! Often the priest abuser needs money to groom the potential victim by buying him gifts, food, fun stuff that the parents can’t afford. The abuser is seen as the pied piper who can give the potential victim whatever he or she wants as far as fun. But there’s a horrendous price to pay for it-sexual favors. Priests are paid a nominal sum for their salary, religious priests even less since they take a vow of poverty. Yet the church coffers offer a nearly unlimited supply of funds with which to tempt the victim. This is especially true if the abuser is the pastor of a parish. The pastor has discretionary authority over church finances with little or no oversight. This coupled with the fact that most donations are made in cash leaves the priest in a perfect position to use funds to abuse. Unlike most corporations, dual controls or any such financial controls are often not in place in churches. Take the Archdiocese of Cleveland for an example.
Stanford University has decided to restrict pharmaceutical companies’ financing of continuing education at the medical school. In the midst of widespread concern over drug companies’ influence on doctors’ education and practice, the university has taken the commendable step in refusing to allow the drug companies to cherry pick the courses they which to fund. Now, the pharmaceutical companies will be allowed to contribute to a pool and the university will disburse the funds in paying for the classes.
Stanford is now the sixth medical school in the country to restrict big pharma funding of its continuing education programs. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has banned outright pharmaceutical funding of these programs.
Under the old system, the pharmaceutical companies could use the classes as an influential marketing tool to doctors. The doctors are in the class because they are required to take the courses as part of their ongoing medical education. However, what has happened in the past is pharmaceutical companies bombard the doctors with their own products rather than providing sound medical education. Fortunately for consumers, some medical schools are now becoming more sensitive to the conflict.
When Diocesan Review Boards were implemented by the Dallas Charter in 2002, they were supposed to independently review sexual abuse complaints against priests of the particular diocese or archdiocese. They were also to be staffed (they’re usually volunteers) by competent professionals who would make recommendations to the bishop regarding what to do with the priest. At the time, most observers of the scandal were cautiously hoping that the church had made a step in the right direction in dealing with the scandal.
Five years after their formation, the review boards are a mixed bag depending on the diocese in which they are implemented. There is no provision in canon law forcing the bishop to utilize the Review Board or follow its recommendations. It remains up to the bishop of the local church how their work is to be used in dealing with priest abusers. Some dioceses have done a good job and have tried to work with these Boards. However, some have not. Two glaring instances of an abuse of the Review Board can be found in the Archdiocese of Chicago headed by Cardinal Francis George and the Diocese of Bellevill, Ill formerly headed by Bishop Wilton Gregory, now the Archbishop of Atlanta.
In deposition testimony released recently, Cardinal George admits to disregarding the recommendations of the Review Board citing a lack of evidence. When questioned, George continues to give the same answer: the investigation is not complete so he didn’t remove the priest.
In the Belleville case, then Bishop Gregory only turned over certain documents about an offending priest to the Review Board. As it turns out, the missing documents contained testimony and facts about other victims of the same priest. According to Margaret Mensen, the Board’s civilian administrator, these omissions prevented the board from investigating and offering counseling to at least four potential victims. Mensen also testified that diocesan officials didn’t help Board officials in interviewing priests who refused to cooperate after they’d been accused of sex abuse. During the trial, Mensen was shown documents revealing that former Belleville Bishop James Keleher, former vicar general Monsignor James Margason and former vice chancellor the Rev. Joseph Schwaegel had known for years about detailed written reports thata girl was raped and about other sexual crimes against children allegedly committed by Rev. Raymond Kownacki. These documents showed that instead of calling the police Kownacki was transferred 7 times. Each time he was transferred the new parishioners were never informed of Kownacki’s past. The last transfer in 1988 placed him right next to a Catholic grade school!
Shortly after the rapes of this girl, diocesan officials met with the girl. Reports of the meeting were obtained by the attorney at trial but never given to Mensen or the Review Board. Mensen testified that the girl felt abandoned by the diocese.
On January 10, 2007, the FDA expanded its recall of the Bard®, Composix®, Kugel® Mesh Patch. The expanded recall concerned the memory recoil ring that opens the hernia patches. The recoil ring has been prone to break under the stress of placement in the intra-abdominal space. Davol notified customers of the hernia patch in December 2005 and informed healthcare professionals of the problem in March 2006 of additional recalls.
However, Bard, Davol’s parent company, knew prior to 2005 that the ring was causing problems. The medical device company now claims that it acted responsibly in not notifying healthcare officials sooner because, according to them, the number of incidences were too few and the data was too random. Yet the truth is that the company had received 10 reports of problems with the hernia patch including one fatality. Additionally, the reports were coming out of Germany, three of them from the same doctor so Bard concluded that the problem resulted in the surgeon who was using the patch.
The real problem lies in the defective design of the recoil ring. Tests on failed patches have revealed a ring weld defect. This defect makes the device prone to breaking, sending pieces of the device into the body cavity causing bowel perforations and obstructions, serious infections, and chronic fistulae.
In response to Davol’s inaction, the FDA ordered Davol to begin an investigation into the defective device. It also accused the company of withholding important information about the defect. A subsequent FDA inspection of a Davol plant that manufactures the Kugel Mesh hernia patch revealed other problems: an ineffective complaint tracking system as well as a defective manufacturing procedures.
The FDA has laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the company. It has accused Davol’s ineffective plant procedures for causing delays in dealing and correcting the issue.
The FDA has received more than 100 complaints about the Kugel Mesh hernia patch and is subject to further punitive measures by the governmental agency if it doesn’t start to comply with the law and FDA regulations.
Senator Joe Biden, D-Del. has been a Catholic all his life. He’s frank, outspoken, and one who doesn’t shy away from fights if the fight is just. Speaking about his Catholic faith, Biden has talked about a principle that “animates” his faith and that is the abuse of power. Biden has dedicated his life to fighting what he sees as a real evil in the world. That abuse of power is at the root of the priest abuse crisis. For Biden, he’s not going to tolerate someone who abuses his authority, even if that person is a priest or a bishop. He doesn’t see a problem with remaining Catholic and speaking out against the priest abuse scandal. Perhaps his courage and willingness to speak frankly on even sensitive issues is why Senator Obama has chosen him as his Vice Presidential running mate.
In the midst of growing concern about the nation’s foodborne illnesses such as E.coli bacteria and salmonella contamination, the FDA has decided to allow for the radiation of spinach and lettuce products to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. Meat, in particular ground beef has been radiated for years to help kill E.coli bacteria which may be lurking undetected in the meat.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association had previously petitioned the FDA for such approval back in 2006. The recent spate of contaminated foods carrying such bacteria as E.coli and salmonella prompted the FDA’s move.
The FDA is considering allowing the radiation of peppers and tomatoes which were raw foods in the center of the most recent food contamination scare. While originally thought to come from tomoatoes, the recent food contamination was eventually linked to peppers from Mexico.