George Soros warns China is facing an economic crisis

George Soros warns China is facing an economic crisis

By Charles Riley, CNN Business – January 31, 2022

"China is facing an economic crisis": Soros on China and Xi Jinping

London (CNN Business) China is facing an economic crisis after a real estate boom ended with a bang last year, according to investor George Soros. The billionaire said in a speech at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Monday that President Xi Jinping may not be able to restore confidence in the troubled industry, which has been hit by a series of defaults by developers and falling prices for land and apartments. China’s real estate boom was based on an “unsustainable” model that benefited local governments and encouraged people to invest the bulk of their savings in property, Soros said.

Government policies designed to curb the boom made it difficult for indebted real estate behemoth Evergrande to pay its debts, he added.

The developer is reeling under more than $300 billion of total liabilities, including about $19 billion in offshore bonds held by international asset managers and private banks on behalf of their clients. Evergrande has been scrambling for months to raise cash to repay lenders.

Government officials have been sent into the company to oversee a restructuring, but there’s little clarity about what comes next. Evergrande has appealed for more time, but some lenders appear unwilling to wait. On Sunday, the company said that receivers had been appointed over a plot of land in Hong Kong, which it pledged as collateral against a $520 million loan last year.”It remains to be seen how the authorities will handle the crisis,” Soros said, during a panel discussion about developments in China and how the United States should respond. “They may have postponed dealing with it for too long, because people’s confidence has now been shaken.”George Soros looks on after delivering a speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on January 23, 2020.George Soros looks on after delivering a speech on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on January 23, 2020.Soros has in recent years emerged as a prominent critic of Xi and China’s ruling Communist Party. The legendary investor and chair of the Open Society Foundations said in September that asset manager BlackRock was making a “tragic mistake” by doing more business in China. He has criticized Beijing over its surveillance policies and a crackdown on private business.

The Chinese president now faces risks from the property market, according to Soros, who was speaking just days before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Falling prices will “turn many of those who invested the bulk of their savings in real estate against Xi Jinping, ” Soros said, adding that the current situation “doesn’t look promising.” “Xi Jinping has many tools available to reestablish confidence — the question is whether he will use them properly,” said Soros.An aerial view shows the Evergrande Changqing community on September 26, 2021 in Wuhan, China. An aerial view shows the Evergrande Changqing community on September 26, 2021 in Wuhan, China.Analysts have been long been concerned that Evergrande’s collapse could trigger wider risks for China’s property market, hurting homeowners and the broader financial system. Real estate and related industries account for as much as 30% of the country’s GDP.

China’s economy expanded 8.1% last year, far exceeding the government’s own targets. But weakening growth in the closing months of 2021 suggests the real estate crisis, renewed Covid outbreaks and Beijing’s strict approach to controlling the virus are taking a toll. The International Monetary Fund expects economic growth to slow dramatically to 4.8% in 2022.

Some Republicans warn Trump’s latest Jan. 6 speech shows he would ‘do it all again’


Some Republicans warn Trump’s latest Jan. 6 speech shows he would ‘do it all again’

David Morgan January 31, 2022

FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump holds a rally in Conroe, Texas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A handful of Republicans pushed back against former President Donald Trump’s weekend offer to consider pardoning people convicted of joining the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, saying it showed he would “do it all again” if he regains the White House in 2024.

“Trump uses language he knows caused the Jan. 6 violence; suggests he’d pardon the Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy; threatens prosecutors; and admits he was attempting to overturn the election,” U.S. Representative Liz Cheney posted on Twitter on Monday. “He’d do it all again if given the chance.”

Cheney is one of just two Republicans taking part in the U.S House of Representatives’ official investigation of Jan. 6.

Cheney and a few other Republicans spoke out after a weekend in which former President Trump at a Saturday rally in Conroe, Texas, offered to consider pardoning people convicted of joining the attack if elected to a second term in 2024 and called for protests against prosecutors in New York and Georgia investigating him and his company.

He followed up Sunday evening with a statement repeating his false claims that his vice president, Mike Pence, “could have overturned the Election” that Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

He also lambasted a bipartisan effort led by Republican Senator Susan Collins to reform the federal law that allows Congress members to dispute presidential election results.

Representative Adam Kinzinger, the other Republican on the Jan. 6 committee, wrote on Twitter late on Sunday that it was “time for every Republican leader to pick a side … Trump or the Constitution, there is no middle on defending our nation anymore.”

Trump’s comments on targeting prosecutors led Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis, who is investigating whether Trump tried to influence the state’s handling of the election, to ask the FBI for additional security for her office.

She noted in a Sunday letter to the FBI’s Atlanta field office that her concerns were driven by Trump’s comments in Texas attacking “radical, vicious racist prosecutors” and encouraging protests in Washington, New York and Atlanta.

Trump was impeached in the House but acquitted in the Senate last year on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack, in which thousands of his supporters stormed the Capitol in the worst assault on Congress since the War of 1812. Cheney and Kinzinger voted for his impeachment, and Collins voted to convict him.

Fueled by Trump’s false claims that his November 2020 election defeat was the result of fraud, the attackers sought to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory and threatened to hang Pence for refusing to overturn the results. More than 700 people have been charged with joining in the assault.

Other Republicans on Sunday also rejected his remarks about pardons.

“The folks that were part of the riots and, frankly, the assault on the U.S. Capitol, have to be held accountable. There is a rule of law,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told CNN.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump ally, voiced his own concerns about the potential for repeated violence.

“I don’t want to reinforce that defiling the Capitol was OK. I don’t want to do anything that would make this more likely in the future,” he told CBS.

(Reporting by David Morgan, additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Anti-vaxxer tells supporters the new COVID antidote is in ‘urine therapy’

USA Today

Anti-vaxxer tells supporters the new COVID antidote is in ‘urine therapy’

Gabriela Miranda January 30, 2022

As the pandemic has evolved and vaccinations have become politicized, the door has opened for some questionable alternatives to treat COVID-19.

Urine therapy – where advocates encourage people to drink their own urine to tap into its redemptive properties – is among the latest, and a recent video calling the therapy the next “COVID antidote” was viewed over 366,000 times.

“I’ve seen a rise in anti-vaxxers and conspiracists supporting urine, Viagra and other odd alternatives to the vaccine,” said Dr. Amanda Torres, a physician at Winchester Hospital in Boston. “It’s dangerous.”

Christopher Key, who travels the country to preach about the dangers of vaccines and masks, has taken to promoting urine therapy on his “Vaccine Police” website.  

“OK, and I know to a lot of you this sounds crazy, but guys, God’s given us everything we need,” said Key, who claims “tons of research” has been done on urine therapy..

There is no scientific or peer-reviewed research to support Key’s claims.

Key’s Twitter account was suspended as of Tuesday morning but his Telegram account, where Key often promotes his beliefs, remained active.

COVID-19 updates: Pfizer developing vaccine to target omicron, unvaccinated make up most cases in NY

“Now drink urine!” he said. “This vaccine is the worst bioweapon I have ever seen. I drink my own urine!”

Torres told USA TODAY the COVD-19 vaccine is “not a bioweapon” and there’s no research to prove urine therapy is beneficial for those vaccinated or unvaccinated.

“The matter of the fact is the COVID vaccine is safe and the best protection against the virus. Urine and whatever other therapy people want to believe has not been proven,” Torres said.

The vice dean for research at the University of Louisville College of Medicine was among many other healthcare professionals who shared their thoughts on the topic.

“Do not, I repeat do not, drink urine to treat COVID,” Dr. Jon Klein wrote.

Key’s video comes just days after his recent court appearance for his arrest last April, reported. Key appeared in court on Jan. 4 after he was arrested for refusing to wear a mask inside of a Whole Foods in Alabama. After being asked to leave by the staff and refusing, Key was charged with third-degree trespassing.

While inside the courtroom, Key also refused to wear a mask and didn’t stop recording when asked to. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, different unproven “alternatives” to the vaccine have been promoted. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said there was a “growing interest in a drug called ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans.”

The FDA said only certain formulas of ivermectin have been approved to treat parasites in animals.

“However, the FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical attention, including hospitalization, after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for livestock,” according to the FDA’s website.

Here we go again, with another money sucking Arizona election audit

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

Here we go again, with another money sucking Arizona election audit

Laurie Roberts, Arizona Republic – January 31, 2022

Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona senate, June 21, 2021, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix.
Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona senate, June 21, 2021, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix.

The Great Arizona Hunt for Election Fraud continues as a special master and three – count ‘em, three – IT experts from across the nation gear up to examine Maricopa County’s election equipment.

Yeah, I know. You thought the audit of the 2020 election was over, that it ended in September when the Senate’s own Trump supporting auditors could find no evidence of widespread fraud.

O ye, of far too much faith that, at some point, sanity will sink in.-

That the state Senate’s Trump contingent will accept the fact that their guy lost, freeing us poor taxpayers from having to continue shelling out money to chase a conspiracy that doesn’t – and didn’t – exist.

They won’t and so we will. Open our wallets wide once again, that is.

Another audit for an already answered question

This time for a special master and three IT experts to answer the already answered question:

Was the county’s election management system hooked up to the internet and thus vulnerable to Chinese (or maybe Venezuelan?) hackers who, as the conspiracy theory goes, switched thousands of Donald Trump votes to Joe Biden?

The county has long said the equipment wasn’t connected to the internet.

The Republican-run Maricopa County Board of Supervisors hired two sets of elections experts who concluded that the election equipment wasn’t connected to the internet.

The Senate’s own audit provided the most convincing evidence of all that the election equipment wasn’t connected to the internet. (More on that in a moment.)

None of it was good enough for the Senate’s conspiracy crew. Republican senators demanded that the county turn over its computer routers but the county refused, saying their release could result in the release of confidential information about county residents.

So, we’re paying John Shadegg $500 an hour

Facing the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in state-shared funding, the county and Senate finally agreed to a compromise.

Former Rep. John Shadegg is that compromise. He’s a former Republican congressman who is serving as a $500-an-hour special master, contracted by the county to answer the senators’ detailed questions about the routers.

To do that, Shadegg on Friday hired three IT experts, each of whom will travel to Arizona to examine the county’s routers and the Splunk logs that are used to analyze computerized data.

We don’t yet know how much those three experts will cost county taxpayers. Shadegg already has billed us $16,800, and the examination of equipment has not yet even begun.

Of course, that’s chicken feed compared to the millions of dollars that county and state taxpayers already have paid to accommodate a bunch of sore losers who have screamed so loudly and so often that the election was stolen – without proof – that now a shockingly number of people believe them.

And so we continue paying whatever it takes to produce facts in order to change apparently unchangeable minds.

If there was an internet connection … oh, never mind

It’s a colossal waste of our money.

Consider that the Senate’s own audit already produced the most convincing evidence of all that there was no funny business afoot by hackers or nefarious state actors.

Think about it.

The reason the election equipment was supposedly hacked, as the conspiracy theory goes, was to change thousands of votes from Trump to Biden.

But the Senate’s own Cyber Ninja auditors hand counted the paper ballots, all 2.1 million of them.

That hand count matched the machine tally by Dominion Voting Systems. And both counts showed Biden got more votes than Trump.

But if the machines had been hacked, wouldn’t that hand count be diff … oh, never mind.

Confederate Flags, Conspiracies, and the Ghost of JFK Jr.: What I Saw at Trump’s Bananas Texas Rally

Rolling Stone

Confederate Flags, Conspiracies, and the Ghost of JFK Jr.: What I Saw at Trump’s Bananas Texas Rally

Steven Monacelli, January 30, 2022

Donald Trump - Credit: AFP /AFP via Getty Images

Conroe, Texas — The Donald trump train made its second stop here this Saturday with a coterie of politicians, conspiracy theorists, and grifters in tow. It came on the heels of a Lara trump rally in north Texas this past Thursday and just two weeks after a similar rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Meanwhile, six hours south at the border, the disgraced QAnon peddling general Michael Flynn and other far-right figures held an event at the exact same time followed up by a caravan to the border on Sunday. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who spoke at a QAnon conference in Dallas last July, was featured as a speaker at both events.

This confluence of events in Texas demonstrates the sort of far-right politics that is coalescing here: paranoid, obsessed with or tolerant of bigoted conspiracy theories, eager to appeal to violence, and convinced they’re fighting against a secret Marxist plot. If this sounds familiar, it’s because similar politics emerged during the Weimar period in Germany, were honed by the Nazis, and later trafficked into mainstream politics via the John Birch Society — one of the sponsors of the event at the border.

More from Rolling Stone

Dozens of politicians from across the state and country turned out for the rally, seeking to ride on Trump’s political coattails. Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and State Senator Dawn Buckingham all spoke glowingly of Trump and touted their endorsements from the former president.

We were in one of the reddest counties in one of the reddest states, and it showed: When I arrived at the press check-in station, the first thing I saw was a merchandise vendor with a Confederate flag — the banner of a nation that lasted only 4 years before being routed out of existence — that says “Come And Take It.” It was set up directly across from a wooden cross.

Having attended the prior rally in Arizona and the Lara trump event on Thursday, a twisted sense of deja vu came over me when I got into the venue and began to hear the same songs, watch the same videos, listen to the same speeches, and see the same people. There were many familiar faces — election conspiracy peddling MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and the JFK Jr. obsessed QAnon cult leader Michael Protzman — and in some instances, near word for word repeats of previous events.

Trump opened the Houston rally in the exact same manner as he did in Arizona: saying it’s the biggest rally ever, that the media is fake, and that they won’t turn their cameras around to show the crowd size. He even repeated the false claim about a 29 mile long line of cars, but this time it was 30 miles long. The crowd began to jeer at the press. When I turned around to take a photo of the overflow crowd, someone flipped me off.

From inside the press pen I was able to observe Michael Protzman, aka Negative 48, and over one hundred of his followers secure prime seats directly to the left of the stage. The Protzmanians arrived over a day early and began lining up for the event the night before, just as they had in Arizona. The group was in rare form, dancing and singing together. They wore matching red ties and shirts depicting Donald Trump, JFK, and JFK Jr. Prior to the event, Protzman predicted to his group that who they would be seeing speak at the event was not actually Trump but JFK in disguise — a claim they’ve made before regarding the Rolling Stones concert in Dallas, Texas.

When I approached Protzman and asked him what he expected to see, he responded cryptically. “You never know,” he said, before bopping off to tend to his flock and dance with one of his lieutenants, Stephen Tenner, who at one point shook hands with Mike Lindell. As of late the Protzmanians have taken to compiling a variety of non-standard calendars to ensure they have every combination of possible dates to check against their “decoding” of the numerology. This is because none of their dates or predictions have panned out.

The entire scene — replete with more merch vendors than a Grateful Dead concert — made me think of the Church of Unlimited Devotion, the infamous subset of Deadheads who believed Jerry Garcia was the second coming of Jesus. One of the central claims of Protzman’s belief system sounds awfully similar: JFK is the second coming of Jesus Christ. They also traffick in fascist propaganda and Holocaust denial.

The Protzmanians, like the Church of Unlimited Devotion, are a relatively small sect. Neither are fully representative of the larger movements from which they emerged, but they demonstrate what can happen when magical thinking and cults of personality collide and provide us an understanding of how far some folks have fallen off the map. Even if only a little over 100 out of the thousands of people at the Trump rally truly believe that JFK Jr. is secretly alive or somehow related to Christ, many attendees seem to be willing to believe other things that aren’t true, like that refugee immigration from crisis-stricken countries is a part of a sinister Marxist plot or that murders have gone up one thousand and nine hundred percent.

This strain of political thought, particularly the notion of a secret Marxist plot, isn’t new in this country. The paranoid anti-communism of McCarthyism gave way to the John Birch Society, which has sought to mainstream its far-right ideology for decades. In Conroe, I witnessed the fruits of their labor. Hats and shirts for sale that simply say “God, Guns, and Trump” and speeches that I can only describe as full-blown Bircherism.

Without a hint of irony, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said the upcoming elections are a race between “Patriots and Traitors,” suggesting that the side that isn’t on trial for seditious conspiracy is the traitorous one. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said the election was stolen and that Marxists want to “take away the country from us.” Gov. Abbott made an abstruse comparison between Biden’s response to the Russian army at the Ukraine border to the Texas-Mexico border, doubling down on the idea that immigration is a part of a planned invasion. The crowd chanted “build that wall,” which Biden has continued to do in some parts.

When Trump finally took the stage after hours of patience, the temperature had dropped significantly. My toes were cold and my soles regretted the choice of cowboy boots. Trump repeated much of what he said in Arizona but mixed in some of his trademark stream of consciousness riffs to keep things fresh. Less than an hour into his speech, the crowd started to thin out. I’d heard it all before, so I decided to follow suit.

(Indeed, it was more than an hour into his rambling speech when Trump offered something new: teasing a 2024 presidential run and dangling pardons for Jan. 6 rioters if he retakes office.)

As I approached the main exit, Trump was talking about Hillary Clinton. “Lock her up!” the crowd chanted. A woman walking beside me said to no one in particular, “Clinton’s a witch, that’s why they’re never going to lock her up.”

And as I approached the parking lot by the nearby baseball fields where I’d parked, I overheard a conversation between two older women. “How does Trump expect us to stand around for five hours?” one said to the other, referring to the ban on any form of lawn chair at the event. “By the time he started talking, we were hurting.” For the first time all day, I agreed with what I was hearing.

Later that evening, I went back to a pizza place by my hotel about 40 minutes south of Conroe in an upscale suburb of Houston called The Woodlands. I got to chatting with my server, a young man with a ponytail and glasses. When I told him I’d been in Conroe, his eye twitched. He said he grew up in Conroe and that his eye had twitched for a reason. When I told him what I had seen there, he asked me if I wanted a free shot of whiskey. I wish I had asked for two.

Farmers flourish under Biden, see recovery from Trump-era trade wars

Farmers flourish under Biden, see recovery from Trump-era trade wars

The prices of corn and soybeans have increased and demand is up for American exports.

By Teaganne Finn January 29, 2022

Image: A farmer surveys his land during a rice harvest on a farm in Bolivar County, Miss., on Sept. 15, 2020.

A farmer surveys his land during a rice harvest on a farm in Bolivar County, Miss., on Sept. 15, 2020. Rory Doyle / Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump often espoused his love for America’s farmers during his presidency.

But after a year under President Joe Biden, farmers say they’re actually feeling the love.

“Well, certainly the difference between 2019 and 2021 is the differences in administrations,” Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer said in an interview. “In 2019, our administration was at war with all of our customers.” Under Biden, he said, the nation is “rebuilding our relationships with our customers.”

Trump courted support from farmers during his failed re-election campaign in 2020 and touted his administration’s trade relief, saying they were better off with government payments than relying solely on sales.

While the focus of the Biden administration has been on its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and more recently the global standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, the farm sector has fared quite well under the new administration, as farmers ease off of government bailouts and see a boost in commodity prices.

“We had farm income that was up by a pretty fair amount in 2021, almost to the record level of 2013, but not quite,” said Patrick Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. “Part of that, of course, was continuing government payments, but there was a very strong recovery in both crop and livestock prices last year.”

Soy and corn prices, two of the largest cash crops in the United States, have suffered slightly, falling below $9 and above $3 a bushel, respectively, during the pandemic. Now, exports have had an increase in demand, in part because of exports to China and poor weather affecting South American producers. Soy was up to $14 in 2021 and corn is projected to continue above $5 in 2022.

Net farm income, a broad measure of profits, is estimated to have increased by $15.7 billion in 2020 relative to 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The agency also forecast net farm income at $116.8 billion in 2021, the highest level since 2013.Trade spats

Schweitzer points out that in 2021, the majority of net farm income came from commodity sales and actual production “off the farm.” Whereas in 2019, a “big chunk” of the income was coming from Market Facilitation Program payments, which were at the core of the Trump administration’s effort to mitigate losses from its disputes with China and other trading partners.

The cost of the second round of tariff aid was estimated to be about $16 billion and came with added provisions that aimed to address allegations that large corporations had disproportionately benefited over smaller farms in the initial phase.

Vincent Smith, a visiting fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said the Trump administration “severely disadvantaged” farmers with an ill-advised trade policy.

Image: Soybeans are harvested in Wyanet, Ill., on Sept. 25, 2020.
Soybeans are harvested in Wyanet, Ill., on Sept. 25, 2020.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

“The Trump administration, in terms of these trade war subsidies, was entirely reactive to shore up support in the farm sector,” Smith said, adding that both Trump and Biden remain interested in garnering the votes of farmers.

In 2020, Trump won a number of traditionally Republican farm states including Iowa, Texas, North Carolina and Nebraska.

Trump’s administration faced criticism when critics said then-Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue used his position to promise more help for farmers during an August 2020 campaign event in North Carolina in a bid to woo voters.

Trump was able to prevail in North Carolina, one of the few swing states that he was able to win. Playing fairly

While Biden is seeing a rebound in the farming sector, some of the improvement may not all be driven by his own policies.

On trade, his administration has been in a holding pattern, and officials have yet to outline how it intends to tackle a litany of leftover trade disputes with China.

But there are a number of farm-focused efforts underway.

Biden has tried to address nagging supply chain issues in hopes of boosting profits for family farms and lowering prices for consumers.

“I think the real optimism in agriculture is that we’ve got a president that is willing to stand up to these corporate monopolies and tell them ‘enough is enough.’ You need to play fairly, you need to share your profits,” Schweitzer said.

Building on an executive order from July 2021, the Biden administration announced earlier this month it intends to provide $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to help expand independent processing capacity, and provide funding that would give independent meat producers access to cold storage and other equipment to improve distribution of their products.

It will also work with lenders to provide independent processors with credit and devote money to workforce training and safety, the White House said in a statement highlighting the project.

With meat and poultry prices leading the broader nationwide increase in the cost of groceries, the White House has spent months arguing that anti-competitive consolidation within the meatpacking industry is to blame for the soaring prices.

Four companies — Tyson, JBS, Marfrig and Seaboard — control as much as 85 percent of the nation’s meatpacking business, according to a White House estimate.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack predicted in early January that there would be localized price reductions.

“People are eating more at home than they ever have and that has caused a slight disruption in the market,” he said in an interview, referring to the initial impact of the Covid omicron variant.

He added, “It’s going to take a little time, but I think you’re going to see a moderation of prices over time by virtue of the fact that we’re going to expand processing capacity in this country. We’re going to make it a much more competitive market.”

Westhoff says the farming sector is “watching to see just how that translates into practice.”

“I think a lot of folks are skeptical of how much can be done to change that in the very short run, but certainly there’s a lot of people who want to find a way to do that,” he said.

Texas trump supporters don’t even like butterflies !


Texas Butterfly Sanctuary Closes Due To ‘Credible Threats’ From Pro-Trump Event

Josephine Harvey January 28, 2022

A South Texas butterfly conservatory said it will temporarily close after being warned that it could be a target of a nearby rally headlined by conspiracy theorists and allies of former President Donald Trump.

The National Butterfly Center announced Friday that it would shutter until Sunday due to “credible threats” regarding activities planned during the three-day We Stand America rally in the neighboring border town of McAllen. The closure comes one week after a right-wing congressional candidate from Virginia accused the center’s staff of being “OK with children being trafficked and raped.”

The sanctuary’s director, Marianna Treviño-Wright, said she was warned by an acquaintance, former Republican state lawmaker Aaron Peña, that “she should be armed at all times or out of town this weekend” because the rally included a “Trump Train-style caravan to the border” that would likely make a stop at the butterfly center. She said she was advised that both she and the sanctuary were targets.

Peña did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We simply cannot risk the safety and lives of our staff and visitors during this dangerous time,” the sanctuary said, noting that it would pay its staff during the unexpected closure.

The rally will focus on border security and is set to feature former Trump administration officials Michael Flynn, a QAnon supporter who served as national security adviser, and Thomas Homan, who was an acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Other QAnon-supporting, pro-Trump personalties are also expected to attend, including Mark Finchem, the Arizona state lawmaker running for Arizona secretary of state.

One right-wing group whose post was featured on the event website told supporters that “the McAllen event is not just a rally. It’s a boot camp with a full day of how-to training, to push back against and defeat the Marxists.”

The National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre nature preserve located just north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Mission, Hildago County, has become an unlikely combatant in a war with Trump allies.

The center’s parent group, the North American Butterfly Association, sued the Trump administration in 2017 for beginning border wall preparations without conducting the appropriate environmental assessments. The conservationists have since been embroiled in legal standoff with both the Trump administration and later with We Build The Wall, an organization that claimed to be crowdfunding private donations to build the border wall, including a section near the nature preserve.

The butterfly center said We Build The Wall founder Brian Kolfage and Steve Bannon, a chief strategist in the Trump White House, attempted to boost fundraising efforts by attacking the sanctuary and Treviño-Wright with defamatory and malicious lies in late 2019 and early 2020.

Both men were charged in August 2020 for allegedly using the group’s donations for personal expenses.

In 2019, Kolfage assailed the butterfly park’s staff on Twitter for pushing back against his efforts to build the wall, calling them “freaks” and saying the sanctuary was a “sham.” He accused staff of ignoring human trafficking and seemed to suggest that the sanctuary’s operators might have been involved in some kind of international butterfly-smuggling scheme.

In one tweet, he wrote: “The only butterflies we saw were swarming a decomposing body surrounded by tons of rotting trash left behind by illegals.”

The sanctuary said it faced online harassment as a result of the posts.

Treviño-Wright said a doctored image of rafts at the butterfly center's dock was shared online in 2019. (Photo: via National Butterfly Center)
Treviño-Wright said a doctored image of rafts at the butterfly center’s dock was shared online in 2019. (Photo: via National Butterfly Center)

Police were called to the butterfly center last week after a Virginia congressional candidate, Kimberly Lowe, and her friend had an altercation with staff.

Lowe is currently traveling around the southern border and sharing videos of Border Patrol, migrants being apprehended and processed, and sections of wall. She said in one video that she is learning about it so “we can save America and stop the drugs that are crossing the border and destroying our families.”

According to an affidavit provided by Treviño-Wright, her son Nicholas Wright interrupted her during a conference call at around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 21. He said that two women were trying to enter the preserve without paying admission “but wanted us to open up the gate for them to access the back 70 acres of the property, so they could go see ‘illegals crossing on rafts.’”

“He said one of the women claimed to be running for Congress and the other claimed to be with the Secret Service,” Treviño-Wright wrote.

Aaron Peña and Kimberly Lowe at an event in Texas. <br /><br />Treviño-Wright said she contacted Aaron Peña after she looked up Kimberly Lowe on Facebook and saw the two pictured together at a recent event. (Photo: Kimberly Lowe for Congress/Facebook)
Aaron Peña and Kimberly Lowe at an event in Texas.

Treviño-Wright said she contacted Aaron Peña after she looked up Kimberly Lowe on Facebook and saw the two pictured together at a recent event. (Photo: Kimberly Lowe for Congress/Facebook)

Treviño-Wright said she looked up Lowe on Facebook and saw her videos from the border, then went to meet the women at reception and told them they were not welcome.

“At this point they started saying things like, ‘So, you’re not about keeping the illegals out?’ and ‘you are OK with children being raped,’ and the like,” she said in her affadavit. “They continued to say things like that as they moved toward the front door.”

Audio of the altercation provided and recorded by Treviño-Wright verifies this exchange, including that Lowe’s friend claimed she was a member of the Secret Service.

Lowe told HuffPost she had not suggested that Treviño-Wright was “involved with anything” and accused her of making things up. She said Treviño-Wright was “mentally ill” and that she had “verbally and physically assaulted us, stole my phone, kidnapped us, and tried to keep us from leaving, and filed a false police report.”

As the women stepped outside the front doors of the center, Treviño-Wright said, she noticed that Lowe was filming her and tried to stop her. She said she “panicked” because she, her children and the center had been threatened before after conservative figures posted photos of her.

“I moved to stop her from doing this, by knocking or taking away her phone and retreating inside the building to wait for the police,” Treviño-Wright said. “Then I was thrown to the ground.”

In the audio, a scuffle can be heard, including a woman’s voice saying, “You did not take my phone … get the fuck down, bitch.”

Lowe was livestreaming the end of the exchange to Facebook but later deleted the video.

In a livestream from her car later, Lowe told viewers that “this is what you have down here at the border with crazy freakin’ people who are OK with children being trafficked and raped. I was just assaulted at the butterfly center.” Lowe’s three children were in the back seat.

Treviño-Wright sent a copy of Lowe’s livestream to HuffPost. Lowe sent HuffPost the same video, but excluded the second half.

Treviño-Wright said she filed a report with the Mission Police Department and submitted recordings and signed affidavits from herself and her son.

The Mission Police Department, McAllen Police Department, Hildago County Sheriff and Border Patrol did not immediately return requests for comment.

On Friday night, following the publication of this report, Lowe called HuffPost and said she was rejected from the We Stand America event when she arrived earlier that day, thanks to media “hit” pieces.

She said she was turned away by Christie Hutcherson, the founder of Women Fighting for America, and Finchem, both of whom were advertised as attendees of a ticketed reception that included the tour to the wall.

Lowe said Finchem told her that “because of me, the entire event almost got canceled.”

She was told that she’d be reimbursed for her ticket.

“I would have thought that the people who are supposed to be in my party would have supported me and instead they removed me,” she said. “These are pretty big bridges burned for me.”

She said she was facing online harassment and abuse and had left Texas to drive back to Virginia.

HuffPost has contacted Hutcherson and Finchem for comment.

1 in 5 American’s Never Really Bought Into the Democratic Experiment Justice Breyer and President Lincoln Revered.

The New York Times

For Many Who Marched, Jan. 6 Was Only the Beginning

Elizabeth Dias and Jack Healy January 23, 2022

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally near the White House in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (Pete Marovich/The New York Times)
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally near the White House in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (Pete Marovich/The New York Times)

PHOENIX — There were moments when Paul Davis questioned his decision to join the crowd that marched on the U.S. Capitol last January. When he was publicly identified and fired from his job as a lawyer. When his fiancée walked out.

But then something shifted. Instead of lingering as an indelible stain, Jan. 6 became a galvanizing new beginning for Davis. He started his own law practice as a “lawyer for patriots” representing anti-vaccine workers. He began attending local conservative meetings around his hometown, Frisco, Texas. As the national horror over the Capitol attack calcified into another fault line of bitter division, Davis said his status as a Jan. 6 attendee had become “a badge of honor” with fellow conservatives.

“It definitely activated me more,” said Davis, who posted a video of himself in front of a line of police officers outside the Capitol but said he did not enter the building and was expressing his constitutional rights to protest. He has not been charged with any crime from that day. “It gave me street cred.”-

The postmortems and prosecutions that followed that infamous day have focused largely on the violent core of the mob. But a larger group has received far less attention: the thousands who traveled to Washington at the behest of then-President Donald Trump to protest the results of a democratic election, the vast majority of whom did not set foot in the Capitol and have not been charged with any crime — who simply went home.

For these Trump supporters, the next chapter of Jan. 6 is not the ashes of a disgraced insurrection but an amorphous new movement fueled by grievances against vaccines and President Joe Biden, and a deepened devotion to his predecessor’s lies about a stolen election.

In the year since the attack, many have plunged into new fights and new conspiracy theories sown in the bloody chaos of that day. They have organized efforts to raise money for the people charged in the Capitol attack, casting them as political prisoners. Some are speaking at conservative rallies. Others are running for office.

Interviews with a dozen people who were in the large mass of marchers show that the worst attack on American democracy in generations has mutated into an emblem of resistance. Those interviewed are just a fraction of the thousands who attended the rally, but their reflections present a troubling omen should the country face another close presidential election.

Many Jan. 6 attendees have shifted their focus to what they see as a new, urgent threat: COVID-19 vaccine mandates and what they call efforts by Democratic politicians to control their bodies. They cite Biden’s vaccine mandates as justification for their efforts to block his presidency.

Some bridled at Trump’s recent, full-throated endorsements of the vaccine and wondered whether he was still on their side.

“A lot of people in the MAGA patriot community are like, ‘What is up with Trump?’” said Davis, the Texas lawyer. “With most of us, the vaccines are anathema.”

In interviews, some who attended the Capitol protests gave credence to a new set of falsehoods promoted by Trump and conservative media figures and politicians that minimize the attack, or blame the violence falsely on left-wing infiltrators. And a few believe the insurrection did not go far enough.

“Most everybody thinks we ought to have went with guns, and I kind of agree with that myself,” said Oren Orr, 32, a landscaper from Robbinsville, North Carolina, who had rented a car with his wife to get to the Capitol last year. “I think we ought to have went armed and took it back. That is what I believe.”

Orr added that he was not planning to do anything, only pray. Last year, he said he brought a baton and Taser to Washington but did not get them out.

More than a year later, the day may not define their lives, but the sentiment that drove them there has given them new purpose. Despite multiple reviews showing the 2020 elections were run fairly, they are adamant that the voting process is rigged. They feel the news media and Democrats are trying to divide the country.

The ralliers were largely white, conservative men and women who have formed the bedrock of the Trump movement since 2016. Some describe themselves as self-styled patriots, some openly carrying rifles and handguns. Many invoke the name of Jesus and say they believe they are fighting a holy war to preserve a Christian nation.

The people who went to Washington for Jan. 6 are in some ways an isolated cohort. But they are also part of a larger segment of the public that may distance itself from the day’s violence but share some of its beliefs. A question now is the extent to which they represent a greater movement.

A national survey led by Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats at the University of Chicago, concluded that about 47 million American adults, or 1 in every 5, agreed with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, about 21 million, or 9% of American adults, shared the belief that animated many of those who went beyond marching and invaded the Capitol, Pape said: that the use of force was justified to restore Trump to the presidency.

“They are combustible material, like an amount of dry brushwood that could be set off during wildfire season by a lightning strike or by a spark,” he said.

Some downplay Jan. 6 as a largely peaceful expression of their right to protest, comparing the Capitol attack with the 2020 racial justice protests that erupted after George Floyd’s murder. They complain about a double standard, saying that the news media glossed over arson and looting after those protests but fixated on the violence Jan. 6.

They have rallied around the 700 people facing criminal charges in connection to the attack, calling them political prisoners.

Earlier this month in Phoenix, a few dozen conservatives met to commemorate the anniversary of Jan. 6 as counterprogramming to the solemn ceremonies taking place in Washington. They prayed, sang “Amazing Grace” and broadcast a phone call from the mother of Jacob Chansley, an Arizona man whose painted face and Viking helmet transformed him into an emblem of the riots. Chansley was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges.

Then it was Jeff Zink’s turn at the microphone. Zink is one of several people who attended the Capitol protests and who are running for public office. Some won state legislature seats or local council positions in last November’s elections. Now, others have their eyes on the midterms.

Zink is making an uphill run for Congress as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic swath of Phoenix and said he will fight for Jan. 6 defendants — a group that includes his 32-year-old son, Ryan.

Father and son marched up the Capitol steps together and were steps away as police subdued a man who smashed a window. Zink said he and his son were peacefully documenting the event and never actually entered the building. A federal criminal complaint accuses Ryan Zink of unlawfully entering a restricted area of the Capitol and obstructing an official proceeding.

The complaint against Ryan Zink quotes a Facebook message from Jan. 6: “Broke down the doors pushed Congress out of session I took two flash bangs I’m OK I’ll be posting pictures in a little bit when we get back I’m hurt but we accomplished the job.”

Jeff Zink, a onetime church deacon, referenced the biblical Book of Proverbs as he outlined why he believed COVID-19 was a bioweapon meant to convert the United States to socialism and lamented that the United States “was no longer a Christian nation.” And despite the fallout from their decision to join the Jan. 6 rally, he said he would “absolutely” do it again.

“Godly men and godly women need to stand up,” he said.

Julie McKechnie Fisher, who went to Washington to hear Trump speak Jan. 6, helped organize more than 30 candlelight vigils nationwide like the one where Jeff Zink spoke, to honor the defendants. She is working with a right-wing group called Look Ahead America, which aims to register new voters in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, and train them to lobby for what the group’s website calls “America First initiatives,” like changing election laws and “helping to clean up voter rolls.”

“We just can’t become complacent,” she said. “I can’t see anything good that this administration has done for us, and it doesn’t feel like he loves our country.”

Several people who marched on the Capitol described the day as a kind of Trumpian Fort Sumter — part of a life-or-death fight against socialism, anti-Christian secularism and the tyranny of Biden’s masking and vaccine mandates.

Their views began to take shape in the hours just after Jan. 6 and have been buttressed by a flood of misinformation on social media, talk radio and from revisionist documentaries. Some said they had watched a program by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that floated conspiracy theories suggesting Jan. 6 was a “false flag” operation.

Several people charged in the breach of the Capitol have expressed remorse as they pleaded guilty and made requests for sentencing leniency, telling federal judges that they now feel duped or wish they could do it over. A Colorado man wrote that he was “guilty of being an idiot.” A Kansas City, Missouri, man said he was “ashamed.”

Still, those who have been charged have supporters whose movement is wrapped not only in feelings of anger but also of belonging. It is a reason the spirit of that day carries on.

That sense of community resonates for people like Greg Stuchell, a city councilman from Hillsdale, Michigan, who took an overnight bus to Washington last year with his teenage daughter to protest the election results. He said he did not enter the Capitol. For him, Jan. 6 is like the annual March for Life in Washington, he said, where people simply show up to protest laws and values they believe should fall. For every one person who attends, there are another 100 who wish they could have, too, he said.

Since the election Stuchell, a Catholic convert who opposes abortion, has channeled his anger by marching with other men around the Hillsdale courthouse on the first Sunday of every month. He found solidarity, he said, in similar men’s groups growing in Hungary and Poland. “Men got to step up. We don’t have that many men anymore,” he said. At the machine shop he manages, some male co-workers have been tossing around ideas to protest what they see as a rigged government and election system, like not filling out W2s or not paying taxes, he said.

“If they don’t fix it, I don’t know what happens,” he said. “People need to stand up and say, ‘Enough.’”

Why don’t Arizona cities require residents to conserve water?

Why don’t Arizona cities require residents to conserve water? It’s simple, really

Joanna Allhands, Arizona Republic January 29, 2022

Few Arizona cities mandate water conservation measures now, but most have plans to do so in the future.
Few Arizona cities mandate water conservation measures now, but most have plans to do so in the future.

Why don’t cities mandate conservation measures if Arizona needs to save water?

This is a question I get frequently, and there’s a simple answer: Because we’re not at that stage yet.

That doesn’t mean saving water is unimportant. Cities can and should be doing more to help residents use less.

But there are reasons why Arizona cities aren’t yet forcing residents and businesses to save – and we can see them playing out in California.-

California has struggled to save more water

California has essentially cut off State Water Project supplies to many cities and farmers this year because there isn’t enough water to go around. It also has announced another round of mandatory statewide restrictions on things like outdoor watering and car washing.

The state enacted mandatory conservation measures for the first time in 2015 to reduce usage by 25%. Many cities have generally sustained those savings, the result of converted landscaping and other measures.

But the state also widely missed its target last year to save an additional 15% – in part because those 2015 mandates took out the low-hanging fruit. If California wants to save more water now, it’ll require behavioral changes that residents may not be so eager to make, much less sustain over time.

That’s the downside of mandatory measures. If people aren’t willing to play along, the only way to get there is by enforcement, which is expensive, time consuming and usually anger producing.

That’s why Arizona cities are loath to use mandates.

Nearly all Arizona cities will mandate, eventually

But nearly all have plans to enact them, eventually.

Arizona water providers are required to create a drought preparedness plan – somewhat of a misnomer, considering that they are really about handling water shortages, not preparing for drought.

Actions increase as the stages progress, though the triggers for each stage vary by provider. Scottsdale and Tucson tie their stages in part to levels of shortage at Lake Mead, which makes sense, considering that they rely on a larger portion of Colorado River water than other major cities. Other cities base their triggers on more general reductions to surface water or their overall supply.

The actions that cities will take at each stage also vary. Most begin with cuts to water use at city facilities and voluntary actions for homeowners and businesses, which grow into mandates as the stages increase.

Most cities spell out which mandates they will consider at various stages, such as turning off water to splash pads, limiting ornamental turf, creating restrictions on outdoor watering or imposing fines on water wasters. Some require city council approval for actions taken in later stages.

Scottsdale and Tucson are already in stage 1

Because Lake Mead has reached its first level of shortage, Scottsdale and Tucson have already moved into stage 1 of their plans.

Scottsdale will no longer make water available to those who live outside city limits and is asking residents to voluntarily conserve 5%, perhaps by replacing turf and water-intensive landscaping, choosing not to overseed grass in the winter or by scheduling a free, city-provided review of their water use.

The water department is asking for additional money this year to fund its turf removal rebate and is ratcheting up its messaging about saving water. Officials hope that the more they can conserve voluntarily now, the less they will have to mandate later as Mead sinks into deeper levels of shortage.

Meanwhile, Tucson is sharing information with homes and businesses about their historical use and will send targeted conservation recommendations to those who use more water than their peers. The city also is reviewing whether to suspend new requests to join its water service area.

Do more to save – but voluntarily, for now

Some argue that cities should already be doing this stuff, and they have a point. If most actions in the first stage of cities’ plans are voluntary, why wait for a shortage trigger to enact them?

But cities also are right that rather than jumping to heavy-handed mandates that people may reject over time, the focus now should be on creating a positive culture of water conservation, where everyone agrees that if we’re going to live in the desert, we need to use less water, and any water we use must be done wisely.

Cities have done a decent job of that so far. Existing voluntary measures, along with more efficient appliance standards, have vastly cut water use over time. Arizona uses less water now than it did in the 1950s, even though millions more people live here.

It’s also worth noting that while metro Phoenix’s largest cities are home to half of the state’s 7-plus million population, they use 11% of Arizona’s water supplies. Even drastic cuts in use among these cities probably wouldn’t be enough to keep Lake Mead from falling into deeper tiers of shortage.

That doesn’t mean water is OK to waste, or that cities shouldn’t do more to encourage residents and businesses to use less water.

But the balance between carrots and sticks matters. And while mandates won’t be off the table forever, they are probably not the best way to compel lower use now.

Nobody Cares Whether You ‘Believe’ in the Separation of Church and State. That’s the Law, Champ.


Nobody Cares Whether You ‘Believe’ in the Separation of Church and State. That’s the Law, Champ.

Jack Holmes January 28, 2022

Photo credit: Joel Prince - Getty Images
Photo credit: Joel Prince – Getty Images

Looking around the Republican farm system, it’s hard not to feel an escalating sense of doom for this ball club and the league they play in. Unfortunately, the rest of us are stuck in Major League Batshit with these people, a competition in desperate need of a relegation system. Politico enlivened this Friday with a report on an internecine MAGA dispute out of Tennessee, in which the batting champ got himself in hot water with other luminaries of the movement. Apparently, Madison Cawthorn and Candace Owens and Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are unhappy that Donald Trump backed Morgan Ortagus, whom he once plucked from Fox News to serve as a spokesperson for the State Department, over Robby Starbuck, a MAGA social-media influencer, for a congressional endorsement. Donald Trump Jr. and Dan Scavino  are also reportedly mad at Daddy, though not in public, and have you ever heard a list of such abysmally low-quality people exercising this kind of influence over one of our two major political parties? Whoever wins, this country loses.

Speaking of which, there’s the Ohio Senate primary. J.D. Vance, the venture-capitalist everyman backed by $10 million from a technovampire planting nice little seeds all over our politics, has had to play second fiddle to a more shameless and relentless MAGA devotee in Josh Mandel. This is Mandel’s third attempt at becoming a senator from Ohio, and it’s not hard to see why the first two campaigns came up short. The guy has Stephen Miller vibes. But in today’s Republican Party, he appears to be the frontrunner for the nomination, to the extent that he engaged in what looked like a general-election debate against a prospective Democratic opponent, Morgan Harper, before the primary races have been decided. (Congressman Tim Ryan is also running competitively in the Democratic primary.) On Thursday evening, Mandel at one point suggested that Obama orchestrated a George Soros-funded invasion of Haitians. People in the audience laughed loudly.

But we’ll leave aside the now-standard immigration hysteria and engage with one piece of Mandel’s reactionary exhibition in particular. We have returned, yet again, to the issue of church and state. The issue that will not die, from the corporate Christian push of the 1930s to the online message boards of Web 1.0, the issue that Mandel probably raised in the hopes of generating articles like this one that he can point to as evidence that the Woke Mob is out to Silence him.

Luckily, this principle does not require Mandel to “believe” in it for it to be a bedrock of American law and history. “When you read the United States Constitution,” he continued, “Nowhere in the United States Constitution do you read about separation of church and state.” Helpfully, Mandel botched the wording to make his point even weaker here. Had he said that the Constitution does not explicitly mention “a separation of church and state,” that would be correct, not that it’s anything more than pedantic. (As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse, author of a seminal volume on this dispute, put it on Twitter, “Every single reference to religion in the Constitution puts it at arms length from the state.”) Here’s a part of the constitutional text Mandel may want to consult:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

Interesting that it’s the first line of the Bill of Rights. Seems important. But then again, the opening phrase of the Second Amendment (“A well regulated militia…”) has also been entirely erased somehow. The First Amendment doesn’t explicitly say there’s a separation between church and state, however. That’s true. Does that suggest something about The Founders, as Mandel tells us? Let’s ask some guy named Thomas Jefferson what this all means. From his “Letter to the Danbury Baptists” in 1802:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Ah. And I thought we liked walls these days? But Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Let’s talk to the guy who wrote much of the latter, James Madison, who explained a veto in an 1811 speech as president thusly:

Because the Bill exceeds the rightful authority, to which Governments are limited by the essential distinction between Civil and Religious functions, and violates, in particular, the Article of the Constitution of the United States which declares, that “Congress shall make no law respecting a Religious establishment.”

And as usual, it’s Madison who gets to the core of the issue. Civil functions are separate from religious functions. If you want to make policy for civil society through the government, you must appeal to the principles undergirding the legal regime of civil society. Your religious beliefs are your own, and they may—and likely do—influence your opinions on matters of civil policy. But when you make an argument for rules everyone should live by, regardless of their religious beliefs, your justification cannot be the belief system of your own one religion. It doesn’t matter what your religion is. A spiritual belief is not grounds for making secular policy, and secular policy is what the United States government, at all levels, is in the business of making. You may feel, devoutly even, that America is a Christian Nation, but as we often hear these days, the facts do not care about your feelings. Besides, would Jesus really approve of American immigration policy?