PHILADELPHIA — It's been nearly a year since Christopher Hinkle was beaten to death inside a Philadelphia jail cell, but his family says it knows little more about his last moments than it did when first told of his death. "I don't know anything," said his mother, Diana Lawhon. "I know from what I saw in the hospital, from what the doctors told me, and from the autopsy report. But I don't know what happened in the jail. I don't know what happened in that cell. I don't know why he was put in with somebody who was in on a violent crime when [her son] was in on a drug charge." Lawhon, of the Poco...
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Just in time for Christmas and Hanukkah shopping, New York City is auctioning gifts that were given to Mayors Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani and Bloomberg that range from the unique and exquisitely beautiful to, in the case of Rudy Giuliani, the heavily used.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's pristine Nike Air Force 1 sneakers signed by hip hop OGs Ice-T and Fab 5 Freddy currently stand at $510—and a winning bidder can run off in them on Saturday when bids close.
Meet the Gifts to the City auction, organized by the NYC Department of Citywide Administration. Bids are placed online. No shipping, so have a pickup truck ready to carry that big bronze statue. Most New Yorkers think of city auctions as a way to sell goods seized from drug lords or abandoned by bankrupt millionaires. This is different. All this swag was fleetingly bestowed on former NYC mayors. The gifts mayors get from movie legends, kings, queens, dictators, and star athletes legally belong to New York. The mayors must leave gifts behind when they leave office.
That doesn't mean they don't use them a lot first.
Giuliani's Tiffany "world traveler" cufflinks are too grimy to discern Earth's continents engraved on the globe-shaped jewelry. The official description admits there is "some tarnishing" but the cufflinks are in "fair condition." They come with a small Tiffany's blue velvet pouch. The cufflinks still awaited their first bid as this story filed.
Giuliani's true gem is a Spalding basketball in great condition signed by the miraculous 1999 Knicks, the magical team that went from #8 seed to the NBA playoffs. It's priced now at $510.
Giuliani also left behind a bizarre bit of sports memorabilia; a Louis Vuitton faux soccer ball, covered with some plush material with complex stitching. It does not look as if it were made to kick across a muddy field. It's wrapped tight in a leather harness with a long leash.
A search of the site for gifts left behind by former mayor Bill de Blasio turned up zero.
But Bloomberg's gifts included the bronze Prometheus statue by Greek sculptor Pavlos Angelos Kougioumtzis. He depicts the trickster Titan who had a fatal soft spot for humans as an abstract figure lifting its arms toward the sun. In the ancient myth. Prometheus angered the gods by stealing a bit of sun and giving the gift of fire to ancient Earthlings. Right now, bids stand at $162.50. Kougioumtzis lives in Athens and most of his public art is displayed in Greece. He attended the University of Oregon on a Fulbright scholarship and left behind at least one sculpture in America: an abstract bronze statue of Nike, winged goddess of victory, for Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics.
Bloomberg's bounty also includes a Tiffany gift: a stainless-steel cake slicer with a sterling silver handle. The cake slicer, for some reason, was used instead of a shovel to break ground for the Museum of the City of New York in 2006. Other Bloomberg gifts include an elegant Waterford cut glass vase and a 25-inch string of pearls.
The auction site says prospective buyers can schedule an in-person view of sale items.
Some items may not have monetary value, but as the organizers point out, possess an incredible historic value. One item among the gifts given to New York City's first Black mayor embodies pop history and painful insight into how Americans accept social class. When the man who remains NYC's sole Black mayor met Black superstar Diana Ross, what gift did she give him?
A glass apple paperweight.
She didn't bother to sign it. The apple has the Friar's Club emblem on it, so there wasn't even a way Dinkins could prove to his buddies that the world-famous diva gifted His Honor. She clearly considered her presence as his gift, not some crystal blob she handed to Dinkins.
By contrast, an unnamed Egyptian gift-giver gave Dinkins a platter of intricately interwoven leafy vines made of sterling silver nestled in a teak box with a purple lining.
If nothing in the mayoral bonanza pops as a perfect gift, there is a way to follow the flashy footsteps of Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost and Pete Davidson, who bought a defunct Staten Island ferry. The auction is selling a vessel that was once a romantic landmark for lovers, a 2-story, glass-enclosed restaurant. Afloat next to a Queens pier. the Manhattan skyline glittered like a broken aurora borealis all around diners. Silver and candlelight sparkled in its huge windows. The restaurant was a frequent backdrop for wedding photos. But it closed forever after exasperated employees who hadn't been paid after the owner's arrest walked off the job in 2015.
As The City reports, the floating restaurant has a link to De Blasio's mayoral history. The FBI accused the owner of underreporting $17 million in sales and wages to the IRS. De Blasio was accused of doing favors for the owner in exchange for campaign donations, which he denied. De Blasio was never convicted of a crime, although prosecutors continued to criticize his fundraising methods.
"Safely removing the barge will require hiring professional engineers to remove it at the winning bidder's expense," the auction site warns.
Sadly, the fallen beauty's condition is bluntly described as "poor." Bids start at $15,000 and the winner must have a safe plan for getting the restaurant barge to its new home.
Funds raised by the auction support a state agency that cares for historic records and makes them available to the public for research.
On CNN Wednesday, Pulitzer Prize-winning tax expert David Cay Johnston predicted that now House Democrats have obtained tax returns from former President Donald Trump's years in office, they will try to put those returns out to the public and effectively "crowdsource" an audit, allowing people to look for signs of tax evasion or crimes.
The key obstacle, Johnston said, is that Trump's taxes still are not, legally speaking, a matter of public record, even after the lengthy court battle that made the IRS hand them over to congressional investigators.
"The tax returns in question are primarily from the period when Donald Trump was president," said anchor John Berman. "How does that affect the investigation?"
"I'd be much more interested in seeing the tax returns before he became president, because there's testimony in the ongoing New York City trial on tax cheating by the Trump Organization that they cleaned up their behavior once Donald Trump arrived in the White House," said Johnston. "But the issue the committee was concerned about was Donald Trump's repeated claims that he was persecuted by the IRS because he's a Christian — never mind in a book he called Christians fools and schmucks and idiots and is inherently anti-Christian. Are presidential candidates being treated properly by the IRS? That's an issue the Republicans might want to get into, depending on how facts turn out in the future. Not likely, but possible, since they're always trying to beat up the IRS."
"So the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal, declined to release whether they will release these publicly," said Berman. "Will any of these see the light of day?"
"They are concerned about a section of the tax return that makes tax returns a public record," said Johnston. "They used to be public records a hundred years ago, but they aren't now. He's having a meeting with his caucus on the committee, and I think one of the things they're certain to discuss is, is there a way for them to put this into the congressional record so that it's always there and people on the outside can basically crowdsource an audit?"
David Cay Johnston says Democrats will try to "crowdsource" a Trump tax audit www.youtube.com
On CNN Wednesday, former federal prosecutor Elie Honig walked through how the newly-elected Republican House majority could try to sabotage the criminal investigations into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Republicans don't have the power to order the Justice Department to shut down the investigation. However, warned Honig, they could launch counter-investigations of their own designed to harass or distract the DOJ.
"We just heard that House Republican Leader, Kevin McCarthy, who may be Speaker within a few weeks, is about to hold hearings around the security around the Capitol on January 6th and that the January 6th Committee preserve all records and transcripts," said anchor John Berman. "What does that mean? How does that play out?"
"This is an example of elections have consequences," said Honig. "Republicans soon will have the power to hold hearings. They issued this instruction to the January 6th committee to preserve their records. I don't think they need to be told that. Of course they're going to preserve their records. But we should get used to this. We're going to see Kevin McCarthy investigate the investigators on the January 6th thing."
In particular, Honig pointed to a recent tweet by McCarthy ordering Garland to "preserve your documents and clear your calendar."
"Merrick Garland doesn't need to be told that either," said Honig. "But related to the Mar-a-Lago search, we should get used to seeing the Republican-controlled House — they can't stop or derail a criminal investigation, but they can make life difficult and complicated for Merrick Garland and the Justice Department, and I look for them to try to do that."
Watch below or at this link.
Elie Honig says House GOP will "make life difficult" for Merrick Garland www.youtube.com