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Specter of bankruptcy may loom over archdiocese

Inspiring Somali story takes pirate turn; BWCA endurance story; Wilfs again in spotlight; “genetic Republican” Taft takes on party; and more.

It was only a matter of time before the question came up. Tom Scheck of MPR reports: “Recent reports about clergy misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis threaten to put new financial pressure on an institution already under some financial strain. Even before recent revelations about alleged misconduct of priests, the archdiocese was concerned about the impact a new law could bring in dozens of new lawsuits against the church for clergy sex abuse. In fact, church officials met privately with attorneys to discuss ways to protect archdiocese assets from creditors. … Scott Domeier, a former accountant for the archdiocese, said bankruptcy was discussed openly among top officials. Domeier, who is serving three years in prison for filing improper tax returns and stealing more than $600,000 from the archdiocese, said church leaders constantly worried about legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims to file a civil suit against their abuser.”

Assisting … pirates. Laura Yuen of MPR says: “The inspiring story of a former Burnsville, Minn., man who helped stabilize an area in his native Somalia has taken a detour after Belgian authorities arrested him this month on suspicion of assisting a pirate ringleader. The U.S. State Department is providing consular assistance to Mohamed Aden, a naturalized U.S. citizen, a department official told MPR News. The official declined to say more about Aden’s case, citing privacy rules.”

At least the bugs are gone … MPR’s Michael Olson has a story of a guy bushwhacking/swimming his way across the Quetico and BWCA: “If you think you had a rough start to your day, read this: ‘It was one of those mornings that started by putting on cold, wet boots and hiking through alder thickets at seemingly every turn. And then it started to snow again, and the wind howled, biting at me as it whipped in full force off each of the lakes I encountered. Another inch of the cold, damp white stuff piled on the fir branches, showering me constantly as I plowed through the thickets.’ Outfitter and guide Jason Zabokrtsky is about to emerge from the wilds of Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park and cross into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He’s currently bushwhacking and swimming his way through 80 miles of canoe country.” And I thought it was rough waiting in line for a cinnamon roll …

Those with a certain (dark) view of how the Vikings stadium was financed will be alternately fascinated and infuriated by a long, reported piece by Michael Craig in this morning’s New York Observer. Basically a profile of the Wilf family, Craig writes: “This is a story about building a multi-generational fortune while staying out of the spotlight. … It has not come from decades of enormous profitability. It didn’t even come from the exposure of underhanded business practices, with a nearly $85 million judgment barely registering in the backyard of the world media center. The Wilfs brought on most of the curiosity, resentment and infamy when they tried to get a cheap deal on a place in Minnesota. … The New Jersey trial Jarwick v. Wilf exposed some of the family’s worst business practices. Although the lawsuit involved just one of hundreds of Wilf building projects, the systematic skill of Zygi, Lenny and Mark in taking advantage of their partners cannot be dismissed as an aberration. The actions that outraged the trial judge were conducted with a business-as-usual attitude. The Wilfs screwed their partners because they could.”

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One of Minnesota’s old-school “genetic Republicans” pens a commentary for the New York Times on the state of his party. Says John G. Taft: “Throughout my family’s more than 170-year legacy of public service, Republicans have represented the voice of fiscal conservatism. Republicans have been the adults in the room. Yet somehow the current generation of party activists has managed to do what no previous Republicans have been able to do — position the Democratic Party as the agents of fiscal responsibility. … There is more than a passing similarity between Joseph McCarthy and Ted Cruz, between McCarthyism and the Tea Party movement. The Republican Party survived McCarthyism because, ultimately, its excesses caused it to burn out. And eventually party elders in the mold of my grandfather were able to realign the party with its brand promise: The Republican Party is (or should be) the Stewardship Party. The Republican brand is (or should be) about responsible behavior. The Republican party is (or should be) at long last, about decency. What a long way we have yet to go.” How soon before some blogger calls him a RINO?

Good piece by Maya Rao of the Strib on the civility-inducing effects of ranked-choice voting: “They hesitate to use names. They tiptoe around details. The field of contenders to replace Mayor R.T. Rybak are under such pressure to appeal to a broad audience under a system in which voters will rank their first, second and third choices that they’re hesitating to point out basic policy differences with their rivals. Some political observers find the practice worrisome, noting that busy voters rely on candidates to detail distinctions.”

The GleanAww. Don’t cry, Tommy. Dave Phelps of the Strib reports: “A tearful Tom Petters pleaded to a federal judge for forgiveness Wednesday morning, attempting to get a reduced prison sentence for leading the biggest business fraud in Minnesota history. Petters asked U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle to replace his current 50-year prison sentence with one that carries a maximum of 30 years. ‘I’ve come full circle in my life back to where I was when I grew up in St. Cloud,’ Petters said, speaking directly to Judge Kyle. ‘Maybe I thought the world revolved around me. But I lost my way big time. I am sorry I lied in your courtroom. It’s a horrible excuse, but I lied. And I am begging for forgiveness today.’ ’’

Here’s a crowd you don’t want to upset … Kelly Smith of the Strib says: “The controversial reconstruction of a historic, tree-lined Lake Minnetonka road that has been decades in the making is moving forward this fall. The state, and then Hennepin County, have long sought to revamp the picturesque but aging section of Bushaway Road, part of County Road 101, as it winds along the lake from Wayzata to Woodland to Minnetonka. It’s been a lengthy process in part because of resistance from residents who fear that widening 2.2 miles from Minnetonka Boulevard to Hwy. 12 will destroy the more than a century-old scenic road.”

He survived a legendary nightmare. Edgar Linares of WCCO-TV says: “Minnesota’s last survivor of the infamous shark attacks after the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis has died. Erwin Hensch, 93, of Burnsville, died on October 15th in Crosby, Minnesota from complications with Alzheimer’s diseases. On July 30, 1945, Hensch’s ship, the U.S.S. Indianapolis was hit by two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. The crew had just delivered the first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian, Guam in the South pacific. Hensch was among 1,196 sailors on the ship. About 900 initially survived the torpedo attack many wearing life jackets. Over the next five days, hundreds died after being attacked in the shark-infested waters.”