Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will have his son killed if drug trafficking allegations against the younger politician are true, and that the police who carry out the hit will be protected from prosecution. Paolo Duterte, 42, this month appeared before a senate inquiry to deny accusations made by an opposition lawmaker he was…
'Someone is going to get shot': Secretaries of state are living in fear thanks to Trump’s election lies
Secretaries of State and other election officials across the country are speaking out about the alarming increase in harassment and violent threats they've faced since former President Donald Trump's 2020 election loss.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) detailed her encounter with "armed protesters" that organized outside of her home. Following Trump's loss, protesters reportedly told Hobbs, "Katie come out and play. We are watching you."
The Democratic official has also received vicious voice-mail. "You will never be safe in Arizona again," an unknown caller warned in one of the messages.
Hobbs also discussed the alarming encounter. "As an elected official, I expected that sometimes I would have constituents who were unhappy with me," Hobbs said. "But I never expected that holding this office would result in far-right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband's employment at a children's hospital or calling my office saying I deserve to die and asking, 'What is she wearing today, so she'll be easy to get.'"
As Trump continued to push the "big lie," election officials on both sides of the political aisle were faced with harassment. Although the numbers, and even audit outcomes, have made it clear that Trump lost the election by a substantial margin, his followers' blind faith has not waned.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) has also faced similar treatment. Speaking to CNN last week, she revealed whether or not she felt safe doing her job. The state official took nearly 30 seconds to speak.
"I take these threats very seriously," she said after carefully choosing her words. "It's absolutely getting worse."
"When I'm at the center of a national QAnon conspiracy and the very people who have stormed the Capitol are threatening me, it is very concerning," Griswold said. "When someone says they know where I live and I should be afraid for my life, I take that as a threat and I believe the state of Colorado should, too."
The latest concerns also come months after Gabriel Sterling, the top-ranking Republican for Georgia's voting system, also echoed similar sentiments about accountability during a Dec. 1, 2020 news conference last year. At that time, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) was being targeted amid pressures to overturn the election results in his state.
"It has to stop," Sterling said at a December press conference. "Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it's not right."
For Michigan Secretary of State Joycelyn Benson (D), it's become a way of life to live with looming threats. "It creates an air of apprehension everywhere you go and over everything you do. You're always looking behind your back and over your shoulder," she said.
"The lack of accountability means one thing: we have to anticipate that it will continue," Benson said. "And then as we close in on next year's election and 2024, I think it will simply continue to escalate, unless there are real consequences."
A Des Moines-based church that uses a hallucinogenic drug in religious ceremonies is challenging the Internal Revenue Service's decision to deny it tax-exempt status.
According to the lawsuit, filed recently in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Iowaska Church of Healing was formed in Iowa as a non-profit corporation in September 2018.
Corporate records indicate the church is run by Admir Dado Kantarevic, along with Billy Benskin and Merzuk Ramic, and its official location is Kantarevic's home, located at 4114 27th St., Des Moines. The lawsuit makes references to the church having 20 members at one point in time.
The church's teachings are built around the use of ayahuasca, which is brewed from the leaves of the shrubs and vines found in the Amazon. Elements of those plants have powerful hallucinogenic properties, which the church says can be used to awaken “the Third Eye" of its followers.
The Third Eye is described by the church on its website as “an organ that no one speaks about at school or in private" and which is “secretly protected in the geometric center of your skull."
In court filings, the church says that in January 2019 it filed an application with the IRS seeking tax-exempt status and was denied. With the assistance of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's office, the lawsuit alleges, the appeals process at the IRS was expedited and an appeal conference was held in April of this year.
A final determination letter denying tax-exempt status was issued in June of this year, stating that the church's use of the “Sacrament of Ayahuasca" in its religious practices was illegal, the lawsuit claims.
In court filings, the church acknowledges that under the federal Controlled Substances Act, an ingredient of ayahuasca called dimethyltryptamine or DMT, is a Schedule I drug and a hallucinogenic alkaloid, and that there is no statutory exemption allowing for its use in religious ceremonies.
According to the church, however, the IRS decision to withhold tax-exempt status “directly contradicts" a past U.S. Supreme Court ruling and also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
The case that was heard by the Supreme Court involves a different church whose members received communion by drinking ayahuasca in the form of a tea brewed from plants found in the Amazon rainforest. After U.S. Customs seized a shipment of ayahuasca that was being shipped to the church, federal authorities threatened criminal prosecution and the church filed a lawsuit for injunctive relief.
The government conceded that while the sacramental use of ayahuasca was an exercise of religion, the sacramental use of the substance was still prohibited by law. The Supreme Court ruled the government's actions violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it affirmed a lower court's preliminary injunction in favor of the church.
According to the lawsuit, the IRS has stated the Des Moines church has been formed for an illegal purpose – the distribution of a controlled substance.
The Iowaska Church of Healing disputes that and says its mission is to help individuals “attain healing of the mind, body and spirit through the sacred Sacrament of Ayahuasca under the guidelines of North and South American indigenous traditions and cultural values."'
Church leader convicted in high-profile drug case
The lawsuit states that ayahuasca is consumed in the form of a tea during the church's religious ceremonies and that its services also “involve prayers, smudging and spiritual music." The basis of its doctrine emanates from the Ayahuasca Manifesto, a document that details the role of ayahuasca in the expansion of consciousness, the church says.
In February 2019, the church filed a request with the Drug Enforcement Administration, seeking a religious exemption from the Controlled Substance Act. To date, the church alleges, the DEA has delivered no “substantive response" to the request, despite repeated follow-up inquiries, including one sent by Grassley's office.
The IRS has yet to file a response to the lawsuit.
Court records indicate that in December 2005, Kantarevic, then a personal trainer, was convicted of possession of anabolic steroids and sentenced to one year of probation. He was charged in connection with a federal investigation into the illegal importation of steroids for bodybuilders.
In his written guilty plea, Kantarevic acknowledged having received more than 3,500 grams of anabolic steroids through the mail in Des Moines, from both Thailand and California, with the intent of keeping some of the drug and mailing the rest to others.
As part of his plea, he acknowledged that it was his understanding the drugs came from Milos Sarcev and were to be paid for by Dennis James.
At the time, Sarcev and James were internationally known, competitive bodybuilders. Sarcev was a two-time holder of the title Mr. Yugoslavia, and James was a top competitor in the 2004 Mr. Universe contest.
Both men later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess anabolic steroids.
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.
There is no more traditional value than love, but it is the one in which conservatives often seem least interested. When it comes to transgender people, for example, they are quick to sideline love for hate.
Eli Bremer, GOP frontrunner in Colorado challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in 2022, has made transphobia the centerpiece of his campaign.
“Women have rightfully fought for their rights for, quite frankly now, centuries. If you think about it, in the history of mankind women have been subjugated to men," Bremer mused during a September appearance on Peter Boyles' KNUS show. Women recently have achieved equality, Bremer explained, but it's all been threatened, especially by the Biden administration's anti-discrimination transgender policies.
“We literally now have men taking away things from women, and it's actually the progressives and the Democrats who support men destroying what women have rightfully built, and it's like 'The Twilight Zone,'" Bremer said. “Liberals are now quite literally allowing biological men to take things away from women, which is abhorrent."
Bremer, a former Olympic pentathlete, is not merely concerned with trans women supposedly having an unfair competitive advantage over cisgender women in sports. His bias runs deeper.
“Today, Biden and progressives are changing the definition of 'woman' to a point where we risk having a legal definition that is unsustainable nor understandable," he writes on his campaign site. He rejects the use of gender pronouns that don't match assigned sex at birth. He also has a disturbing habit of grouping his attacks on trans athletes with discussions about convicted serial sex offender and former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.
Bremer's prejudice aligns with an alarming rise in transphobia on the Colorado right.
A year ago, the political committee Take Back Colorado bought Facebook ads that misgendered state Rep. Brianna Titone, the first openly trans lawmaker in Colorado, and falsely accused her of “sexualizing children." Take Back Colorado, which works to elect Republicans, is registered to Joe Neville, brother of Rep. Patrick Neville, who was then the House minority leader. The lawmaker Neville told The Denver Post that the ads showed “the facts." In another vile attack, Republican state Rep. Stephen Humphrey voiced a robocall around the same time on behalf of Colorado Family Values Victory Fund. Titone is “a transsexual state representative who wants to force a radical sexual agenda on every Coloradan," the call said, according to CPR.
Many transphobes purport to have science on their side ... but they are dangerously uninformed.
Last week Rep. Lauren Boebert of the 3rd Congressional District showed she would not be outdone among Colorado trans haters. “'Admiral' Rachel Levine," Boebert sneered on Twitter after Levine, a trans woman who is the U.S. assistant secretary for health, was sworn in last week as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, becoming the organization's first female four-star admiral. “Because Democrats would rather hire a man for a job than a real, qualified woman." Breathtaking transphobia.
Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia noted Levine's extraordinary credentials and wrote to Boebert, “You are just a hateful bigot."
Many transphobes purport to have science on their side — “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE … Trust The Science!" said a sign that delirious-with-hate Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia hung outside her office directly across the hall from the office of Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois, who has a trans daughter — but they are dangerously uninformed.
Transgender people have populated societies of every kind throughout human history. “Empirical evidence has demonstrated that trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity and expression," the head of the American Medical Association wrote in April. Biological factors “such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels" are thought to contribute to trans identity, according to the American Psychological Association. Transgender science is still emerging, but five years ago, a Scientific American article that weighed recent research concluded that it “points strongly toward a biological basis" for trans identity.
When you trust the science — true science, not science twisted by hate — it's clear that transphobia comes from a lack of knowledge and an abundance of bias. And the results are tragic. The largest survey on the experience of transgender people in the United States found that 40% of the respondents had attempted suicide. A quarter of trans kids had been physically attacked in school. Trans Americans experienced disadvantages throughout various aspects of society, including employment, health care, criminal justice and housing.
In 1992, Colorado voters adopted Amendment 2, which prohibited state and local governments from enacting protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. The shameful measure earned Colorado a new moniker, the “hate state."
The Supreme Court struck down the amendment, saying it violated the Constitution's equal protection clause. And the state in many ways has since evolved as a welcoming place for all. Jared Polis is the country's first openly gay governor.
But some Colorado Republicans, like Eli Bremer, reject this spirit of love and equality. Their unabashed transphobia signals their preference for hate to be central to the state's identity.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: email@example.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
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