Wednesday Reads: Strange Creatures then and now

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

JJ is spending time with her mother this week so BB and I will be taking her days so she can focus entirely on her journey at hand.  Please keep JJ, her mother, and their family in your kind thoughts as they go through this difficult transition.

Delphyne posted the work of this artist on JJ’s page earlier in the week. I loved it so much and I knew JJ’s day was the perfect day to post it.  So, thank you Delphyne for the great visual find on My Modern Met.  Links to Robert Benavidez’s pinata art, his shows and his gallery are in the article.  More can be found at the link clear at the end.  This is Mr. Benavidez’s site.  He also makes some gorgeous sugar skulls.

Contemporary artist Roberto Benavidez finds inspiration in imagery and literature from hundreds of years ago. Influenced by works like Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, he manages to fuse the famous source materials with elements that are significant to his own life. Benavidez grew up in rural southern Texas where the party piñata is commonplace. He uses the crepe paper creations as the basis for his sculptures. In the past, Benavidez recreated the strange beasts found in Bosch’s triptych but has more recently turned to the Luttrell Psalter, a famous medieval manuscript.

Among the writing in the Luttrell Psalter are illustrations of saints and Bible stories. They go beyond everyday scenes, however, and depict many fantastical hybrid creatures—a fact that Benavidez chooses to highlight. He calls this series Illuminated Piñata, and he crafts the three-dimensional beasts contained within the pages. They include oddities like a hare with a giraffe-like neck and hooved feet, as well as a dotted rodent with only one back leg and a tongue that looks like a tree branch.

The Trump Family Crime Syndicate and Paul Manafort’s jail time are squarely on page one.   ABC news has the information on today’s sentencing of Manafort in the DC court. This is reported by Allison Pecorin: “Paul Manafort’s sentence in DC case means he faces 81 months total behind bars.”

Paul Manafort was sentenced to 73 months in his Washington, D.C., unregistered foreign lobbying and witness tampering case on Wednesday.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced him to 60 months on the first count, running concurrently to 30 months of the 47-month sentence imposed in his Virginia case last week.

She also sentenced him to 13 months on the witness tampering count to be served consecutively with the count one sentence and his Virginia sentence.

That would mean an additional 43 months overall, bringing the total time he faces behind bars, including the nine months that he has already served in Virginia, to 81 months.

Put another way, the combined sentences of 90 months amount to seven-and-a-half years.

The judge also ordered Manafort to pay one-time restitution of $6.16 million to the Internal Revenue Service, the same amount he was sentenced to pay in the Virginia case.

The sentencing in the D.C. case is the latest chapter in the former Trump campaign chairman’s year-and-a-half-long legal battle.

The truly exciting headline comes from the New York Times where we learn that New York state is going after Manafort.  This is great because he cannot be pardoned by Trump in these crimes and if Trump does pardon him he will lose his 5th amendment privileges in these matters.  This is the headline from William K Rashbaum.  New York Charges Manafort With 16 Crimes. If He’s Convicted, Trump Can’t Pardon Him.”

Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

News of the indictment came shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced to his second federal prison term in two weeks; he now faces a combined sentence of more than seven years for tax and bank fraud and conspiracy in two related cases brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases.

While Mr. Trump has not said he intends to pardon his former campaign chairman, he has often spoken of his power to pardon and has defended Mr. Manafort on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man.”

The new state charges against Mr. Manafort are contained in a 16-count indictment that alleges a yearlong scheme in which he falsified business records to obtain millions of dollars in loans, Mr. Vance said in a news release after the federal sentencing.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” he said, adding that the investigation by the prosecutors in his office had “yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”

The indictment grew out of an investigation that began in 2017, when the Manhattan prosecutors began examining loans Mr. Manafort received from two banks.

Last week, a grand jury hearing evidence in the case voted to charge Mr. Manafort with residential mortgage fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records and other charges. A lawyer for Mr. Manafort could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another Manafort tale–showing the activities of a perpetual thug–has come across the desk of Betsy Woodruff writing for The Daily Beast. “The Wacky Tale of Paul Manafort, Anne Hathaway’s Fraudster Ex-Boyfriend, and a Vatican Land Scam. Manafort and his then-partner talked about their plans to do business with the Italian who lured in investors with phony claims about sweetheart deals on the church’s real estate.”

According to two people with knowledge of the conversations, Manafort and then-business partner Rick Davis said numerous times that they planned to go into business with a handsome Italian businessman named Raffaello Follieri, and that they expected to use his purported access to the Vatican to get a sweetheart deal on the Catholic Church’s real estate.

In 2008, Follieri pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, as well as one conspiracy count. He was sentenced to more than four years in prison. The access he claimed to have to the Vatican was part of an elaborate, intercontinental scam that made international news and generated a tabloid feeding frenzy. Federal prosecutors said the Italian businessman, who dated actress Anne Hathaway for four years before his arrest, claimed to investors that he was the CFO of the Vatican and that he would use his connections in Rome to arrange lucrative real estate deals. He claimed the Vatican was eager to sell off unused properties to raise quick cash to help offset the costs related to its ballooning child sex abuse scandals, as New York magazine noted.

A host of political power-brokers got roped into Follieri’s scheme. The Wall Street Journal reported that he became close with Clinton ally Doug Band, and offered to help Hillary Clinton court Catholic voters in the lead-up to her 2008 presidential bid. Bill Clinton even invited him on stage at a Clinton Foundation event, per New York, to thank him for a donation commitment on which he never delivered. The Italian newspaper L’Immediato reportedthat American super-lobbyist Tony Podesta called him “un visionario.” And Sen. John McCain drew considerable heat after celebrating his 70th birthday aboard a yacht Follieri had rented, as The Nation reported. Hathaway was on hand for the festivities.

And according to New York, Follieri was staying at his parents’ apartment in Trump Tower when he got arrested.

Now, people with knowledge of Manafort’s businesses say he and Davis also looked to get in on Follieri’s purported Vatican real-estate fire sale.

The Vatican–and its bank–have been at the center of international crimes for about as long as it was invented by the Romans.

Boeing stock is not going to be worth much for awhile given the tragedy that occured in Ethiopia earlier in the week and the apparent cover up of problems with its newest version of the 737 max.  Politico has this headline with the story written by Kathryn A. Wolfe: “Pilots complained at least 5 times about Boeing 737 MAX problems, records show”.

Pilots in the U.S. complained at least 5 times in recent months about problems controlling their Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets during critical moments of flight, federal records show, adding to questions raised by deadly crashes involving that model of jetliner in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Some of the incidents appear to involve the same anti-stall system that has come up as a potential cause of October’s Indonesia crash, according to a review of a Federal Aviation Administration incident database that lets pilots self-report trouble. Investigators have not said whether the same technology had emerged as a possible cause of Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia, although both involved airliners that mysteriously plunged to the ground minutes after takeoff.

For one U.S. incident in November 2018, a commercial airline pilot reported that during takeoff, the autopilot was engaged and “within two to three seconds the aircraft pitched nose down,” in a manner steep enough to trigger the plane’s warning system, which sounded “Don’t sink, don’t sink!”

After the autopilot was disengaged, the plane climbed as normal, according to the report.

The reports are submitted anonymously to help improve reporting of safety problems and so do not include any information about which airline was involved. In addition, though the reports have a spot to note what airport was involved, often pilots do not fill out that field.

The Trump Administration and its appointees have really done a job on this.  The FAA doesn’t have a real director and the Secretary of Transportation is best known for being Mitch McConnell’s beard. Plus, Trump evidently took a phone call from the head of Boeing who asked he not ground the jetline. Boeing’s CEO has recently become a Mar a Loga crony along with the Maraloga Day Spa Madam and other grifters.

This is from WAPO:  “FAA doubles down on decision not to ground the Boeing 737 Max, as counterparts around the world have done” with several bylines.

U.S. aviation safety officials found themselves virtually alone Tuesday, after their counterparts in Europe and around the world ordered hundreds of Boeing aircraft grounded while investigators work to find the cause of an Ethio­pian Airlines crash that killed 157 this week.

The Trump administration resisted bipartisan calls to temporarily suspend use of the Boeing 737 Max 8, even as President Trump consulted by phone with the besieged company’s CEO.

With the European Union and others following China’s move to bar flights by some of the American aviation giant’s most important airplanes, former transportation safety officials said the Federal Aviation Administration risked losing its status as the world’s aviation safety leader. India became the latest country to ground the aircraft late Tuesday, declaring that none of the planes will be allowed to enter or transit airspace starting Wednesday afternoon. Hong Kong, New Zealand and United Arab Emirates have followed suit.

Is this quid pro quo and pay for play or what?

Mr. Trump jumped into the fray on Tuesday morning, posting Twitter messages deploring what he described as the technological complexities of modern commercial aircraft. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” Mr. Trump said. Much of what he asserted, however, was misleading or lacked context, aviation experts said.

The Boeing chief, Mr. Muilenburg, in his conversation with the president reiterated that the plane was safe, outlining the company’s position. He also updated Mr. Trump on the status of the 737 Max models. The call came after the Mr. Trump’s tweets, but was in the works the night before, according to one of the people.

Mr. Muilenburg has worked to cultivate a relationship with the president, although it has sometimes been uneasy.

Shortly after he was elected president, Mr. Trump assailed Boeing for the estimated cost of its program to build new Air Force One planes that serve as mobile command centers for the president.

The “costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter a month after winning the election but before he took office. A couple of weeks later, Mr. Muilenburg visited Mr. Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to try to smooth things over.

“It was a terrific conversation,” Mr. Muilenburg told reporters after the meeting, explaining that he had given Mr. Trump “my personal commitment” that Boeing would build new Air Force One planes for less than the $4 billion estimate. Weeks after the conversation, Boeing donated $1 million to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee. The company had donated the same amount to help finance President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2013.

The Senate may actually act on this.  Elizabeth Warren is acting presidential.  Let’s hope she can elbow out Sanders and Biden so the she and the others can run without these two old leather bags in the way.

In the United States, calls to ban the plane are mounting.

Several senators, including Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, and the Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have called on the F.A.A. to ground the Boeing planes until the investigation into the Ethiopia crash is completed.

“The world has now witnessed the second tragic crash of one of these planes in less than six months. While we do not know the causes of these crashes, serious questions have been raised about whether these planes were pressed into service without additional pilot training in order to save money,” Ms. Warren, who is running for president, said in a statement. “Today, immediately, the F.A.A. needs to get these planes out of the sky.”

So, these are the two stories that seem to be defining today.  I’m waiting to hear from my mechanic and doing grading and prep work for my lecture tonight.

All of our love and thoughts are with you, JJ!  Just take care of yourself!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  And again, check out these pinatas!!