News in 2004

Babies cause Utah’s number to rise

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Utah gained 37,000 residents from July 2003 to July 2004, which makes it the nation’s seventh-fastest growing state. Utah now has almost 2.4 million residents. The 1.5 percent increase is attributed to the birth rate and the influx of new residents who also have many children. The state’s economy is also strong, with a forecast of a 2.5 percent job growth rate in 2004 compared to the 1 percent rate for the rest of the nation. "It [the increase of residents] means our economy is strong," said one state official. "There are people moving into Utah. Utah is seen as a good place to live and good place to raise families." The state still disputes the federal government’s total numbers, saying Utah has some 80,000 more residents than what is reported. The numbers matter in such things as U.S. Congressional seats in Washington, D.C. and federal government aid. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/22/04)

Utah schools 20th in nation

Despite the fact that it ranks last in the nation in state spending per pupil and in student-to-teacher ratios, Utah has been ranked 20th in the nation for the academic achievement of its students. In addition, Utah is 38th in the country when it comes to teacher salaries. The ranking comes from a conservative, nonprofit organization that is based in Washington, D.C. The author of the report said that Utah is "getting pretty good bang for your buck for what you’re actually spending." (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/21/04)

Professor with potty mouth fired

The Southern Utah University political science professor who enjoyed utilizing the four-letter word that begins with "F’ was "F"ired and will not be offered a contract for the next academic year. According to the dean, Stephen Roberds was not necessarily fired for his bad language. Instead, the faculty review committee returned Roberds’ application without granting or denying tenure. Roberds will be paid for the spring semester with full benefits until his contract runs out at the end of June. Some students were bothered, with one calling him a "phenomenal professor" who helped students think outside the box. "I found his classes outstanding," the student said. I hate to see a professor of his caliber terminated. I knew he had a difficult time being in a very conservative area." Another student said, "It does make the school look like a backwater place when it really isn’t. I’ve heard plenty of high school coaches use the f-word." (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/16/04)

Politically correct school district takes "Christmas" out of "Merry"

If you are a teacher or school administrator in the Granite School District, forget about wishing students a "Merry Christmas." Stick to "Happy Holidays." An annual district memo told the paid staff that mentioning the word "Christmas" may not take into consideration the feelings of a number of Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, and atheist students. The district also wanted teachers to understand that, while "holiday parties" can be held, no "Christmas" parties are allowed. "Where did things change?!" complained one teacher. "In trying to protect the rights of the minority, we have ignored the majority. Granite School District is so afraid of its own shadow, and so blind on this, that they couldn’t find their own *#$%! with both hands and a hunting dog." (Deseret News, 12/14/04)

Utah’s report card on welfare gets failing mark

Utah’s welfare reform performance has been given an overwhelming "F," according to a public policy research foundation in Washington. This makes Utah one of eight states as well as the District of Columbia that is failing to help people get off welfare and making it on their own. Among other problems, the state earned low marks because it has too many loopholes for current welfare recipients. While poverty is down 2 percent across the nation, Utah’s rates went up more than 2 percent. (Deseret News, 12/8/04)

Man’s double-life will now be a single life in prison

A Canadian man who lived in Utah for the past decade posing as a high school teen was arrested in Washington state for financial fraud. Kenneth Lickiss, 35, came to Utah a decade ago as "15-year-old Scott Davion" and lived with a Salt Lake family for almost five years. Lickiss met a female LDS missionary in 1994 in California who invited him to live with her family in Salt Lake. The family helped him get a Social Security card and sponsored his baptism into the Mormon Church. In his late 20s, Lickiss was able to get exceptionally good grades at both Taylorsville and Cottonwood High Schools and even dated some girls at the schools.

However, his adopted family had no idea that Lickiss was a native of Lethbridge, Canada and was already a baptized member of the church, having served an LDS mission in Poland. Lickiss has been on the run for the past four years after he embezzled from a computer store and its customers. A mother of one of the girls whom he dated in high school said, "He needed to be caught. What surprised me about him was how he hid his identity for four years. I was surprised he could get away with it like he did." Lickiss was just days away from moving to Hawaii. The missionary who originally arranged to have Lickiss live with her family reportedly added, "I was shocked. He definitely looked older and heavier." Is it no wonder that Mormons who rely on their "feelings" are not able to piece 2+2 together and read what certainly should have been obvious signs that Lickiss was a fraud? (Deseret News, 12/8/04)

Utah school contemplates lettings gays dance at prom without note

Thanks to a public sign-holding protest that he conducted for four days outside the Copper Hills High school, 17-year-old student Jason Atwood may have won the right to dance with his 15-year-old boyfriend at his school’s spring prom without having a note from his parents. The school, which is located in West Jordan, allows homosexual partners to dance only if their parents have given written permission. Atwood’s father disagrees with his son’s lifestyle, fearing that any note he might provide would clear the school of responsibility of his son possibly being harassed at the dance. "As long as I’m paying taxes to support that school, my son deserves every bit of protection," he said. The two boys have reportedly been harassed throughout the school year, though they have not yet reported any incidents. They told the administration that they would begin reporting any harassment they receive. Tom’s mother says she is proud of the couple’s stand, saying, "You can’t help who you love." The school’s principal said he would re-evaluate the policy before the prom takes place. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/4/04)

FLDS leader gets notice to respond to lawsuits

Polygamist church leader Warren Jeffs (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has been notified in classified ads posted in four different newspapers that he is required to respond to a lawsuit claiming that he sexually abused his nephew two decades ago. The lawsuit, which was filed last July, says that Jeffs and two of his brothers abused the plaintiff when he was a child. The lawsuit also names the world’s largest polygamist church that has some 10,000 members, most of whom live on the border of southern Utah and northern Arizona. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/4/04)

FLDS Church working on its first temple

The polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which is not officially connected to the Mormon Church but has a large population living in Utah, is apparently building its first temple in west Texas. The FLDS emphasizes doctrines before 1890, when polygamy was officially banished by Mormon Church leaders. Previously members had been told that temple work was unnecessary because they were not worthy enough to enter a temple or that the time was just not right. Earlier FLDS leaders stressed that a temple would be built in Jackson County, Mo., after Christ’s return. Thus, there apparently will be a change in doctrine that could be announced by church president Warren Jeffs, 49, a controversial figure who does not like the outside press and is rarely seen in public. "He has to do something to keep the people following him," said one observer who declined to be named. (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/4/04)

Head of former RLDS Church resigns

In an unexpected move, W. Grant McMurray has resigned as the president and prophet of the 250,000-member Community of Christ Church, which is the second largest church in the world that claims to follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, Jr. McMurray, 57, cited "personal and family issues" as the reason for his stepping down as prophet and priest from the church that is based in Independence, MO. Until McMurray became the prophet in 1996, the church had been guided by descendants of Smith. McMurray’s predecessor, Wallace B. Smith, did not have any sons, thus breaking the chain. In his letter to his two counselors in the governing First Presidency, McMurray—who has also been diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease—wrote, "I have done my very best to fulfill my responsibilities in accordance with the needs of the church and believe that God has gracefully blessed me in that effort. Along the way I have made some inappropriate choices, and the circumstances of my life are now such that I cannot continue to effectively lead the church." McMurray was "very loved and respected, very forward-thinking," said the pastor of Salt Lake City’s Community of Christ church. McMurray’s loss of the priesthood means that he cannot officiate or participate in church sacraments, though he remains a member in good standing No successor has been named, though McMurray’s two counselors will lead the church until someone is chosen (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/3/04)

Manti man makes his point in 8,200 ways

Grant Peterson figured he didn’t deserve an $82 fine for driving without a headlight, so the Wal-Mart employee decided to gather 8,200 pennies into a bucket to pay his fine. However, the court has asked him to come back and pay in paper, though Peterson says he probably won’t do it. "I paid the fine," he said, citing Title 31 of the U.S. Code to maintain that pennies are legal tender in Manti. The court spokeswoman says that the state allows the court clerks to reject "unusual forms of payment." (Salt Lake Tribune, 12/2/04)

Jennings ends his "Dimaggio streak"

Ken Jennings finally completed his incredible 74 Jeopardy winning streak when he lost in the November 30th edition of the game show. Jennings, a Salt Lake City Mormon who won almost $2.5 million during the 74 shows that lasted six months, was the toast of the game world by creaming the vast majority of his opponents. In fact, only nine of the 74 victories went down to the Final Jeopardy question. Jennings will forever be the trivia answer question to who won more money in game show history than anyone else in TV game history. Since then, Jennings has been featured on such shows as Nightline, ABC’s World News Tonight’s (Person of the Week), A&E’s Biography, and numerous talk shows. Nancy Zerg—who lost on the next show after her upset victory—correctly answered H&R Block to the Final Jeopardy answer: "Most of this firm’s seasonal 70,000 white-collar employees work only four months a year." Jennings incorrectly answered "Fed Ex," which probably did not make that company’s executives happy since the company stresses its around-the-clock service. At the end of the show, Jennings gave a big hug to Zerg and reportedly said, "I didn’t blow this, you won it." Jennings had two chances in the "Daily Double" questions in the Final Jeopardy round, but he lost those, making his 28 questions correct out of 32 possible answers moot. Jennings plans to write a book published by Random House detailing his strategies and how his memory is able to work. He will also tithe off his winnings to the LDS Church. (tvgameshows.net, 12/1/04)

Cats and dogs may be allowed in same Provo house

A Provo city ordinance that does not allow felines and canines to cohabitate in any residence may be overturned next month by local legislators after complaints from residents. Although Provo residents may own up to two dogs or two cats, the law says they cannot be in the same household. The change of the law would be the result of a trip to the animal shelter taken by Susan Sewell, who was trying to adopt a kitten but already owned a dog and cat. "If you are a responsible pet owner, why limit it to two?" she asked. "If you have two dogs, your kid can’t ever have a cat." (Salt Lake Tribune, 11/30/04)

Potty-Mouth Professor Gets Himself into Brouhaha

A political science professor at Southern Utah University may have jeopardized his tenure after he used the "f-bomb" in a class debate on a Supreme Court ruling. The professor, Stephen Roberds, was named by the university’s students as professor of the year last year and is currently up for a tenure review. However, his choice of language has caused an uproar at the Cedar City school, despite an immediate apology from Roberds. The student and professor spoke for 45 minutes, and though many thought the issue was resolved, a complaint was filed. Some believe that the department chairman approached the student to lodge the complaint. According to the university’s authorities, an isolated cuss word should not be enough to eliminate the professor’s tenure request. (Salt Lake Tribune 11/24/04)

Draper Gets New LDS Temple

A new temple will be built near the South Mountain Golf Course on Rambling Road in Draper, Utah, which is the same area where MRM has recently relocated. The temple will share a large site with a stake center that is already under construction; the two facilities will also share a parking lot. It is expected to help relieve congestion at the West Jordan temple when it is built in the next few years. The mayor of Draper is ecstatic because of the possible economic benefit that one of Utah’s fastest-growing communities could reap. The population of Draper, currently at 33,000, is expected to grow to 50,000 within the next six years. Draper, which was one of 14 Utah cities honored by the governor earlier this year for being a "Quality Growth Community" because of its careful city planning, is also building a new branch library that is triple the size of the current library. (Deseret News, 11/23/04)

Rehab center to help LDS addicts

A new drug-and-alcohol treatment program called Renaissance Ranch is aiming to help Mormons beat their habits. Located just off the I-80 in Parleys Summit, the center already has a waiting list. As the Deseret News puts it, "it is one of a number of service-oriented businesses springing up to serve the unique needs of Latter-day Saints whose theology regarding sin, redemption and the vital nature of healthy family relationships is well-defined….But the darker side of reality for many Latter-day Saints means they are living lives that don’t match the values their faith espouses. It’s something they often hid to avoid being ostracized, yet addiction of many kinds—particularly to pornography—plagues LDS families in number that reflect the national average." The ranch offers a 60-day program that borrows from the 12-step recovery program. One of the major drugs of choice from the clients who come from the Wasatch Front is heroin; addition to prescription drugs is another major problem. The cost for the program is $6,000 for room and board, though the director says he could even charge as much as "$20,000 a month, and I’d be full in about two months." He added, "Sometimes people in the church say they’ll just pray and go to church. That’s necessary, but it’s not going to help you stay sober. You can’t go to quorum meeting and say, ‘You know what, I’m feeling pretty crummy and I want to start drinking.’ Every now and then a person in recovery has to talk with someone who has the same problem." (Deseret News, 11/21/04)

Utah Mayor Leads Religious Discussion

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a non-Mormon, led a discussion on the state’s religious division at a packed Salt Lake City Library auditorium. Members from religions around the world and a number of Mormons packed the auditorium at the 1 ½-hour open forum. Anderson’s goal is to get have the state’s residents become more united, even if their religions are different. Atheists, Muslims, Scientologists, Catholic and Protestant Christians, and Mormons shared their views about how they believe it is important to practice tolerance in order to not divide communities. (Deseret News, 11/18/04)

Utah Residents Top State When It Comes to Giving Away Their Money

With the Mormon Church requiring its faithful members to give 10 percent of their gross income to the local wards, Utah—a state where 70 percent of the residents are LDS—leads the nation with the percentage of money given away. In fact, Utah’s residents average giving away more than 7 percent of their take-home pay, which mainly goes to churches rather than community organizations, an executive director for the United Way lamented. The average Utah itemized tax return includes more than $5,000 worth of donations. In addition, Utah leads the nation in the percentage of residents who donate their time to charitable causes. One 2003 BYU study shows that Utahans volunteer on the average more than five hours per month. (Salt Lake Tribune, 11/16/04)

Blacks Say Bias Exists at BYU

The Deseret Morning News has published an extended article on the idea that authorities are biased against black students at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. During the past year, several BYU black football players have been disciplined for a variety of offenses; along with their parents, the players contacted the newspaper to complain that they were treated unfairly by BYU administrators, Provo police officers, and the Utah County Attorney’s Office. Their only evidence is the fact that no white players have been disciplined during the past year. The offenses with which the players have been charged are felony robbery, having group sex at a party, and other Honor Code violations. Several remaining black football players deny the complaint of the other athletes, with one black player saying, "People want to make comments, but to me it’s nonsense. When you sign the Honor Code, you’ve got to live it." For the complete report, see deseretnews.com (Deseret News, 11/16/04)

Utah Meets Government Goal on Smoking

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 12 percent of Utah’s residents smoke tobacco, almost three times less than the percentage of smokers in Kentucky (31 percent). Utah thus becomes the first and only state to have met the government’s goal of having the nation’s smoking rate go down to 12 percent by the year 2010. Overall in America, the total has dropped to 22 percent in 2003, a percentage point less than the year before. (Chicago Sun Times, 11/11/04)

Bankruptcies Declining in Utah

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Utah said that Utah’s bankruptcy rate so far this year is down 5 percent, which is good news for a state that has suffered a full decade of increasing bankruptcies. "So far this year, we’ve seen fewer filings every month, although the rate of decline was a lot stronger during the first half," when the number of bankruptcy petitions was down 7 percent, U.S. Bankruptcy Court clerk William Stillgebauer said. "Still, it is nice to see the numbers going down instead of up." Reasons given for the drop are improving economic conditions and low interest rates. However, personal spending is still up, which is certainly a nationwide trend. The last year that saw a drop in Utah’s bankruptcy rate was 1994, when the rate went down 4 percent from the previous year. (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/8/04)

Don’t Put Gasoline into Toilet, Salt Lake City Apartment Dweller Finds Out

If you are ever tempted to put gas into the john, a man in Salt Lake City can tell you from experience, "Don’t do it!" The unidentified man noticed gas leaking from his car, so he captured the gas in a container. Not wanting to pour the gas into the storm drain and harm the critters at the other end, he decided to put it into his toilet. As he did so, a pilot light in a nearby water heater caused a fairly loud explosion, one of which had not been ever heard from that particular john. Needless to say, the toilet did not survive, but we’re happy to report that the man did (even if he wishes that he were dead!). But the major bummer is that a small fire caused $75,000 worth of damage to his townhouse. In hindsight, one fire department spokesman reportedly said, "Material such as gasoline and kerosene should never be poured into the drain or toilet or sewer system. It just causes a problem that will have to be cleaned up somewhere else down the line." Isn’t it nice to learn something new every day? (Salt Lake Tribune, 10/6/04)

A Little Publicity Goes a Long Way for T-shirts

A t-shirt that was banned from being advertised in the BYU student newspaper has become quite a popular item in Utah. The t-shirt, which says, "I can’t. I’m Mormon" was considered inappropriate for the newspaper; the succeeding publicity has caused the orders to go up from 2-3 a day to 40-50. The t-shirt was developed by a Las Vegas Mormon who is a returned Mormon missionary. He says that he uses the phrase whenever he wants to decline an invitation that might cause him to compromise his morals. Apparently BYU officials believed that the phrase implied that the wearer wished he could commit an immoral act (i.e. drink, smoke, have sex, take drugs) but couldn’t and was blaming his or her Mormonism for it. The designer disagrees. "Mormons outside of Utah use that phrase all the time," Joe Herrera said. "People say, maybe if you’re having to say ‘I can’t,’ you’re in situations you shouldn’t be in. Well, I live in Las Vegas. We don’t all work at Deseret Book." Commentary from many Mormons, including Deseret News commentator Doug Robinson, appeared to suggest that BYU needed to lighten up and have a better sense of humor. (Deseret News, 10/5/04)

Utah Court Says LDS Leaders Have No Obligation to Identify Sexual Predators

The Utah Court of Appeals has ruled that churches are not obligated to inform the public about sexual predators who are attending their congregations. The decision was made in regard to a lawsuit brought by a mother and son against the LDS Church. They claimed that the church knew about previous cases involving convicted child molester George K. Tilson, 62, of Salt Lake City, who was a Mormon at the time but has since been excommunicated. According to their lawsuit, Tilson abused the mother and child while he served as a Mormon priesthood holder and Boy Scout leader. Judge Pamela T. Greenwood said that the "alleged abuse did not occur while the victims were at church events." The opinion read, "Tilson was not a [church] employee, agent, or clergy member. Although [the church] conferred upon Tilson the positions of high priest and Scout leader, the sexual abuse suffered by plaintiffs occurred in Tilson’s house and was unrelated to [the church] or any of its activities." A church spokesman said the church is "gratified that the Court of Appeals decided the church cannot be held responsible as an institution when an individual member commits private criminal conduct." The church also said it "unequivocally condemns child abuse in any form, and our hearts go out to victims of abuse and their families." The Mormon Church has settled several other abuse cases, including brokering a $3 million settlement in Portland, Ore. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/20/04)

Magazine Gives High Marks to Utah Universities

The University of Utah and Brigham Young University scored well in the recent U.S. News & World Report’s 2005 edition of America’s Best Colleges. BYU scored 74th (down from 67 last year) while the University of Utah is 111th (up from 117th). A total of 1,400 four-year accredited colleges and universities were rated. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/20/04)

BYU Football Players Accused of Rape

An allegation that a 17-year-old girl was raped on August 9 by a group of BYU football players was announced just hours before the team appeared at an open house for fans. Athletic director Val Hale had no comment, though he did mention the school’s honor code during a morning campus presentation. Charges have not yet been filed and no names were given. The girl claimed that she met the men at a mall and went to their apartment where they watched a pornographic video. She passed out after consuming alcohol, waking up when the men began to take turns having sex with her. Last January another charge was made against BYU football players for a January rape. However, the woman later recanted and said she had consensual sex with six of the men. But the school punished the players for violating the school’s honor code, expelling one player and suspending three other players until January 2005. The two remaining players withdrew on their own. (Deseret News, 8/20/04)

Scheme Bilks Dozens of Utahans out of Millions

More than 100 people from Utah and other parts of the country have been scammed for at least $30 million, according to FBI investigators who broke up a ring that targeted numerous Mormons, especially many retired people who lost anywhere from $2,000 to $1 million each. Seven people were arrested, including two from Utah. James Franklin Harrell, 70, of San Diego was the mastermind behind the scheme that promised investors a portion of a supposed $1.6 trillion offshore trust that had been created by Joseph Smith’s descendants. Harrell claimed to have used the investor’s money to create an insurance company that would give him access to the money, promising the investors huge amounts of interest when he paid them back. The FBI says Harrell has worked similar schemes since the 1970s. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/20/04)

BYU Says "We’re Number One (Stone Cold Sober School)"

BYU laid claim once again to the top "Stone Cold Sober School" label by the latest edition of Princeton Review. The annual survey considers the top party college, the happiest students, and other similar categories. Since 1992, the "Best 357 Colleges" survey is based on responses from more than 110,000 students at U.S. campuses. Topping out on the party school list was the University of Albany New York, which rose from No. 14 last year. The report ranked Albany seventh in the use of hard liquor and marijuana, ninth in beer drinking and first in "students [almost] never study." (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/17/04)

Tom Green Says He’s a Changed Man

Tom Green probably surprised many prison officials when he wrote a recent letter to a Utah parole board, asking "What in the hell was I thinking?" regarding whether or not he was repentant for his polygamous ways. Green was most known for touring the talk show circuit—including the Jerry Springer show—and bragging about his many wives and children. Father to 32 children with five wives, Green was sentenced to prison in 2002 for having sex with first wife Linda Kunz, who was 13 when the 37-year-old first admittedly had sex with her. A parole board hearing was held on August 12 to determine when Green might get out, as parole guidelines suggest he should serve six years and three months before he can be released. The board will take 1-2 months before making a decision about whether to release him on parole, release him without supervision, or keep him in prison.

To test Green, the parole board chairman asked him what he would tell his own teenage daughters if they wanted to marry a man who was several decades older. "I would tell them they were not [to do it], as far as I could prevent it," Green answered. "And the man would have to seek some help [therapy]." Asked why he thought that way, Green replied, "From the great opportunity I’ve had in the last two years to do a lot of thinking and reflecting. It has been a very eye-opening experience and a wake-up call." Kunz, now 32, also spoke to the board, saying, "I forgive him his mistakes and wrong choices. And I still love him very much. I very much need his help with my [magazine subscription] business, so I can be a mother to my children." Green still has four wives, as one former wife left him. He said he would live with Kunz at her Springville, Utah home if he were released. Green also promised to care for his children and pay an outstanding child support bill of almost $35,000. (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/13/04)

Ken Stays Champ Through Summer

All-time Jeopardy champion and Utah resident Ken Jennings has not only set numerous records during his extraordinary May-July run, but he gets to return when the Jeopardy game show continues its programming in September. Jennings has won more than $1.3 million during his 38-episode, 76-opponent streak. For instance, one recent game had Jennings racking up $42,000 while his next closest opponent was $5,200. He increased that total another $10,000. On the last show of the season, Jennings added $75,000 to his total, to which host Alex Trebek exclaimed, "Will it never end?" In fact, very few of the opponents have even been in the games as Jennings has dominated the show like nobody else ever has. Despite his numerous runaway victories, ratings for the show have soared, especially in Utah where everyone tunes in see how the local boy is doing in Hollywood. Jennings has also made his rounds on the late night TV show circuit. (Washington Post, 7/24/04)

Apostle Maxwell Dies

Neal Maxwell’s seven-year battle with leukemia ended on July 21 at the age of 78. An educator, philosopher, a writer of more than 30 books, and speaker once worked for the CIA, turned down a chance at national politics, and was described by the LDS First Presidency as "extraordinary." "His incisive mind, his tremendous teaching abilities and his remarkable leadership have greatly assisted in moving forward the work of [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] in all the world," the three-man governing body said in a news release Thursday. "We greatly sorrow over the passing of our beloved associate and friend." Maxwell began to work for the church in 1970 as head of the LDS education system. He later became a Seventy and, in 1981, joined the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/23/04)

Armed With Pen, Library Patron on a Crusade

A Utah library system is trying to find out who is blotting out the "hells" and "damns" in a series of books based on a TV show and changing them to "hecks" and "darns." The culprit, who has not yet been caught by Layton library officials, is taking a purple pen to do the deed to the Jessica Fletcher novels. "It would be by luck or a total accident if we were to catch [the culprit]," says county library director Pete Giacoma. "That’s why we are asking people to just let us know if they see anything or notice any other markings so that we can get it on the record." The books are based on the "Murder, She Wrote" television series. The patron who found the edited words was not happy that someone would do such a thing. "It’s aggravating that somebody would impose their religious standards on everyone else," she said. "I’d just tell them to read another book." The censorship is illegal and could cost the perpetuator a fine and six months in jail if he or she is caught. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/21/04)

One Man, 19 Crimes in Just One Night

A South Salt Lake man broke 19—count them, 19—laws in just one night last week. The man, who was driving with expired tags and no insurance as well as a revoked license, was pulled over by a Murray police officer. When the officer frisked the man and found plastic bags of methamphetamine on him, the man struck the officer in the chest and drove away. He drove to a public garage and tried to steal another car. When that didn’t work, he went to two other places and tried to steal other cars, even threatening one family with a knife. Finally, he grabbed a mountain bike and drove off. When he ran into a police road block, he took a final swing at a police officer. Let’s just say that it wasn’t this guy’s night. He is in jail with the unusual fine of $500,007. Nobody can explain why the seven dollars. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/17/04)

Utah Job Growth Booming

The state’s job growth is the fastest in three years as more people are finding jobs these days in Utah. June’s growth of 1.9 percent meant that there were almost 21,000 more jobs than the previous month. Employment in professional and business services accounted for the much of the growth. "There’s a perception that all the jobs we are creating are just Wal-Mart-type jobs … but we’re creating a mix of jobs and I’m very encouraged that the strongest growth is in the higher-paying occupations," one official said. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/16/04)

No Cell Phones in Utah Schools

The Jordan school district has decided that its elementary and secondary students will not be allowed cell phones during instructional hours, including field trips. Those who break the rule will have their phones confiscated. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/15/04)

Student Who Doesn’t Swear Gets Court Settlement

A University of Utah LDS coed who would not swear in a University of Utah play won her suit. Christina Axson-Flynn, 24, refused to participate in a drama production that would have required her to say several swear words. She withdrew from the university during the 1998-9 school year. Axson-Flynn will receive her $3,000-$4,000 in tuition and will attend another school. The budding actress, whose parents are also into drama, said, "I wouldn’t have a hard time at making a career holding to morals, no matter what those morals were." (WorldNetDaily, 7/14/04)

Defense Spending Up in Utah

Spending on military defense in Utah is more than likely to exceed $2 billion for the first time in the state’s history. In fact, defense contracts have increased 50 percent since President Bush entered office. Everything from missiles to communication networks are included in the spending. "Federal military spending provides Utahans with jobs and is vital to Utah’s economic health, and we appreciate it," said Lynne Ward, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Olene Walker. Overall, a total of $202 billion in defense contracts were administered by the Pentagon in 2003. This is a 19 percent increase over the previous year and almost 40 percent since 2000. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/5/04)

Expensive Lemonade Sold by Boy Scout Troop

In an effort to defray a potential $14 million judgment against the state’s Boy Scouts, one Utah troop has a possible ticket in raising the money: selling lemonade at $250 a glass. The federal and state governments are suing the Scouts for a 2002 Utah fire that may have been started by unattended Boy Scouts on a campout. However, the Boy Scouts have denied fault and blame off-roaders for the fire. Whether or not the Boy Scouts are liable for the fire, Troop 347 of a Salt Lake City suburb has decided to try and raise the money for the potential judgment even though its troop was not responsible for the fire. "C’mon, we need your help!" shouted one Scout at cars whizzing past during morning rush hour. Sips were $1, a small glass was $3, and it was a whopping $250 for a large 16-ounce drink. "If only one person in 40 in the entire state of Utah buys a large, it’s over," said Scott Fisher, a morning radio disc jockey who helped organize the fund-raising event. However, after two hours of selling, the troop only raised $66.43. (Salt Lake Tribune, 7/3/04)

West Nile Virus Plagues Utah

Spread by mosquitoes, the West Nile Virus is being spread throughout Utah and Arizona. The 2,500 people who make up the homeless population are the most vulnerable to the disease, causing homeless advocates to launch a program to educate the homeless and provide mosquito repellent. The Fourth Street Clinic has received more than $20,000 to disseminate the information and provide repellent. "We hope to reach the majority of homeless people in the Salt Lake County area and inform them about what West Nile Virus is and how to take care of themselves," said Allan Ainsworth, executive director of the Fourth Street Clinic. The virus normally causes flu-like symptoms, including fever, headaches, and muscle pain. It can be deadly, especially for those over the age of 50. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/30/04)

Utah Bank Fails

The Bank of Ephraim has been purchased by Far West Bank after bad loans and an embezzlement scheme created a hole that the bank’s owners could not escape. Unfortunately for some large depositors, the bank’s failure could result in lost money. A total of 125 accounts—some of which included the city of Ephraim, Snow College, and the Sanpete County Landfill—held large deposits in the bank that was founded in 1905. These deposits combined for a total of almost $5 million that is not insured by the FDIC. The owners of these accounts may have to wait three years to get back two-thirds of their money. The bank apparently ran into trouble with its liberal lending policy. For instance, it opened a branch in Hildale, home to several thousand polygamists belonging to the Fundamentalist Latter day Saint Church (a splinter group from the Mormons). Loans were given there using property and homes as collateral. Unfortunately, members of the FLDS Church do not own their homes, as the mortgage papers are kept in the church’s title. Altogether the bank’s bad loans total $400,000 along with an additional $2 million in loans classified as "nonaccrual." In addition, several former bank employees who were indicted last month had embezzled thousands of dollars from the bank. The bank had no internal auditor, and its problems were not seen earlier by federal inspectors. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/27/04)

Pollution Down in Utah

There is less toxic pollutants being released into Utah’s air, land, and water than the previous year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One company, Kennecott Utah Copper, fell to number four in the nation from the top polluter in the nation. It released almost 140 million pounds of pollutants in 2002. Meanwhile, Utah was seventh as a state with almost 175 million pounds of emissions. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/24/04)

Haircut Salon Opposed by City’s Leaders

The city of West Jordan is trying to find a way to deal with a business specializing in bikini-clad hair stylists. Bikini Cuts, which allows its patrons to access the Internet to choose specific stylists who are posing in suggestive poses, applied for a business license in the heart of the conservative community. "Right now they are just people applying to open a barbershop wearing attire you’d normally see at a swimming pool," West Jordan City Attorney Roger Cutler told the city council. The mayor, for one, opposes the business. "If people call us and say, ‘What are you going to do about this?’ I think we need to have them flood [the landlord] with calls," West Jordan Mayor Bryan Holladay said. "Unfortunately, legally, we can’t do very much beyond that, but I think we need to continue to devise a strategy." The first location is in Sandy, and the owner has tried three times to open a second store in either Sugar House or Murray. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/24/04)

BYU Graduate Destroying Jeopardy competition

In June Salt Lake City engineer Ken Jennings, 30, set a record for the most consecutive Jeopardy game show victories at 13. He continues his streak into the week of 6/21 with total winnings of more than $440,000, which is the 23rd highest total ever won on any television game show. Jennings has shown a knack for using the clicker and answering a wide variety of questions. On Friday, 6/18, he had $27,000 going into the Final Jeopardy category and bet $3,000 on this answer: "In 1582, the man born Ugo Buoncompagni proclaimed this solar dating system still used today." The correct answer was the Gregorian calendar, giving him a total victory of $30,000. Jennings answered 33 of 34 attempts and two Daily Doubles, which is an incredible average. His average of $33,000 per victory is also amazing. If he wins two more times with this average, he will vault to fourth place in total game-show winnings. Before last year, Jeopardy limited its champions to five days on the show. However, because of the rule change and the amount of money on the board doubling several years ago, Jennings has a chance to make game show history. (www.tvgameshows.net)

Bears Causing Problems in Utah parks

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has killed three black bears in Utah parks as the animals have become more bold in their search for food. One bear injured two sleeping rafters at Desolation Canyon last month. In addition, two bears have been relocated and another that has twice broken into a home will be killed if it comes back. In Price, two adult male bears were killed at a Boy Scout camp after they caused havoc there. The bears were estimated to be 200 pounds. "This is a strange year," one official said. "We haven’t had this kind of problem for a few years. There is usually plenty of green grass they are satisfied with, but they are coming out and heading right into campgrounds and causing problems." (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/18/04)

Mayor Worried About Church’s Plans for downtown

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has publicly spoken out about how the Mormon Church’s redevelopment plans for downtown may affect the city. The church recently purchased the Old Navy building and is considering a purchase of the Triad Center. Some critics are calling the church’s recent buying spree—including Main Street’s Crossroad Mall—as the "Vaticanization" of downtown. "While we welcome the commitment to downtown demonstrated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we urge them to consider their plans in light of our need to continue to have diverse uses for our downtown, from lively retail, mixed-income housing and many entertainment options — including restaurants and nightclubs," Anderson told the Downtown Merchants Association. Anderson is concerned about the church’s policy of not allowing alcohol sales or Sunday openings at its mall properties. The additional purchase of these buildings may end up affecting the entire downtown area. Meanwhile, the church has publicly stated that its half a billion dollars worth of downtown investment is a "community endeavor" as well as making sure the property surrounding the Salt Lake Temple will be compatible with "the doctrine of the church." (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/17/04)

Off-roaders Cheer Court Decision

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s (SUWA) bid to limit off-road activity in Utah’s wilderness areas was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that forcing the Bureau of Land Management to crack down on off-road vehicle use would have improperly overrode its authority to take care of such matters, especially when there were other projects throughout the country that were more pressing. "It’s the best news we’ve had in a long time," said the president of an off-road vehicle group. However, the SUWA promised to "not (fold) up our tent and (go) away." (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/15/04)

Homosexual "Pride" Day Draws 50,000

A parade through the streets of Salt Lake City helped draw 50,000 people to the annual Utah Pride festival that is put on by the Utah homosexual community. The parade is Utah’s second largest behind the July 24th Pioneers Day Parade. The event’s leaders politicked against the possible state constitutional amendment that would mandate that marriage should only be for a man and a woman. "Now is the time," parade Grand Marshall Bruce Bastian urged declared in a speech. "We need our families, our friends, our parents to help fight this discriminatory amendment. Help register everyone you know to vote." Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson was there to give his full support, saying, "I think it’s (the constitutional amendment) a horrendous thing." The parade featured men in drag and same-sex couples wearing leather outfits. Some were disappointed that the parade was not raunchier, including one regular who said, "We needed more dykes on bikes at the front." The festival included free HIV testing, which one man said was "cool." Another man who was sprinkled in glitter and wearing a tiara said, "It’s great to actually see Utah has queers." (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/14/04)

Most Utah Towns Not Celebrating Independence Day on July 4th

In Utah, Sundays are generally a day of keeping the "Sabbath," with shopping, recreating, or doing anything that would violate the Fourth Commandment saved for the other six days of the week. When holidays like Pioneer Day (July 24) or New Years Day (Jan. 1) fall on a Sunday, it is a general Utah tradition to celebrate it either the day before or after. In line with this tradition, most Utah cities such as Murray, Sandy, Riverton, Sugar House Park, and Provo are celebrating July 4th with festivals, 5K runs, and fireworks on Saturday, not Sunday. Only two Utah towns will celebrate on Sunday: Park City and Moab. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/10/2004)

Majority of Utah Town’s Officers is Polygamous

An eight-month investigation by the Utah Attorney General’s Office has shown that more than half of the police officers in the northern Utah town of Hildale practice polygamy. Hildale is on the Utah border while its twin city, Colorado City, rests on the Arizona border. Residents from the two towns are mostly polygamous members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is the world’s largest polygamous organization. The investigation—which came as a result of the August 2003 conviction of Hildale police officer Rodney Holm, who had sex with his minor wife—concluded that seven of the 12 officers are polygamists. In addition, some officers (including the police chief) used documents that overstated the number of training hours that they had compiled in order to retain their police certification. The seven officers who were confirmed as polygamists will not be prosecuted by the attorney general. "We just don’t have the resources to start charging bigamy," he said. Hildale Mayor David Zitter was angry about the investigation, saying it was "a direct assault on polygamy." What is interesting is that, the last time we checked, having more than one wife is against both U.S. as well as Utah law. How the seven officers who are supposed to maintain the law can remain in the police force is certainly disconcerting. (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/9/04).

Smoking in SLC Public Parks May Get Banned

The Salt Lake Valley Health Department is considering placing a ban on smoking at more than 300 public parks thanks to a teenage group that works with the health department. Members of Teen Advocates Against Tobacco provided the impetus for the proposed ordinance that would prohibit smoking within 50 feet of playgrounds, sandboxes, sporting events, and other places where children gather. The consequence for breaking the potential ordinance—which could be instituted only after a public hearing—would be up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. "We want to protect the health and well-being of all of our residents, especially children," said Darrin Sluga, manager of the department’s Tobacco Prevention Program. "Outdoor second-hand smoke can sometimes be as hazardous as indoor smoke. And it’s frightening to see a child pick up a cigarette butt and put it in his mouth." According to Sluga, the Utah Indoor Clear Air Act of 1994, which legislated a ban of smoking inside restaurants, was initially met with opposition. However, "they thought they would lose business, but that never happened," he said. "It just became accepted." Yet smokers are not happy with the proposal. As one Salt Lake City smoker said, "Give me a break. It’s public property. Let’s not go overboard." (Salt Lake Tribune, 6/4/04)

Utah Leads Nation in Volunteerism

Utah residents perform more hours of volunteer service than those from any other state, according to an Indiana research group that utilized statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. In fact, almost half (46.8%) of Utahans volunteered their time compared to Iowa (40.8%), the next highest state. "The people that live in Utah care a lot about their community and a lot about their neighbors," said one United Way volunteer center in Utah County. Scott Snow, the executive director for the Utah Commission on Volunteers, added, "Some of the first Utahans had to pull together and help each other to survive. Still, Utahans believe in service and community involvement." An important factor to the high volunteer rate in Utah is that the Mormon Church encourages people to donate their time at the local wards and stakes as well as its food distributing centers. It wasn’t clear if the time donated by Mormon missionaries was counted as "volunteer" work. States at the bottom of the survey showed that Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, New York, and Nevada did not even check in at half of Utah’s rate. (Deseret News, 6/3/04)

Olive Osmond Buried Without Incident

There was tight security at the funeral of Olive Osmond, mother of famous singers Donny and Marie, when it was learned that a website posted a rumor stating that there was a $30,000 reward being offered for a photograph of her in her coffin. She was laid to rest with no known attempts to collect the bounty. Mrs. Osmond died on May 9th from complications from a stroke she suffered over two years ago. Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency and next in line to become the prophet, closed the service. (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/16/04).

More Than a Quarter of Utahns Have College Degrees

According to 2002 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of Utah ranks 17th in the nation when it comes to those over the age of 25 who have college degrees. A total of 27.3% of Utahans have college degrees. Leading the nation was the District of Colombia (42.5%); it was followed by Massachusetts (35.5%), Colorado (33.5%), and Maryland (33.1%). In the west, only Colorado, Washington, and California rank above Utah in the percentage of college graduates. (Deseret News, 5/13/04).

LDS Judge Rules in Favor of His Church in Land Deal

A Mormon federal judge has upheld a land swap that allows the Mormon Church to restrict speech on a block of Main Street that it purchased from Salt Lake City in 1999. At that time city and the church entered into an agreement that allowed the city to retain an easement through the property, thus guaranteeing public access. However, the church also wanted to control behavior. Mormon judge Ted Stewart sided with his church but the 10th Circuit court of appeals overturned his decision on every point stating that the arrangement violated the First Amendment. To circumvent this decision, the city worked out a deal whereby it would relinquish the easement in exchange for land. A challenge over this new agreement was dismissed by Judge Dale Kimball, also a member of the LDS Church. The ACLU plans to appeal once again to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver. (Salt Lake Tribune, 5/4/04)

Salt Lake City Not to Be Repeat of San Francisco

Although Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is pro-homosexual and believes in gay marriages, he has no plans to begin allowing gay couples the privilege that they recently been given in San Francisco. County clerks are the only ones in Utah who are able to give marriage licenses, but even if he could, he says that he would not imitate the "anarchic" tactics of San Francisco Gavin Newsom. If it were legal, though, he would be willing to officiate at a gay wedding ceremony. "I hope we get to the point where there is full equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation," he said. Meanwhile, the state legislature passed a bill this week that reiterated its stand against homosexual unions. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/21/04)

Firing Squad Outlawed in Death Penalty Cases

By just a single vote, Utah legislators banned the firing squad as a prisoner option in death penalty cases. House Bill 180 passed by a 16-9 vote. Utah Gov. Olene Walker agreed with the ruling and will sign the bill into law, with her spokeswoman saying "she thinks there could be some more humane ways, other than a firing squad, to accomplish" death. Four who are on currently on death row have already said they wanted to die by the firing squad, and it appears they would still be allowed to choose the firing squad when it comes their turn. As for other criminals in death penalty cases, they will only be allowed to be lethally injected. The firing squad has been used in 40 of 50 formal executions since 1847. Its popularity stems from the "blood atonement" teaching in early Mormonism that declared how the shedding of one’s blood was the only way to cleanse one of his sins. However, Mormon leaders are quick to point out that this was never a part of "official" Mormon doctrine, though Brigham Young preached on the subject in General Conference. The legislature also determined that executions will not take place on holidays, Sundays, or Mondays because of overtime costs. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/20/04)

Sex Offenders Not Accounted for in Utah

The number of registered sex offenders in Utah has increased by about 1,700 people, and the Department of Corrections department is having a difficult time accounting for as many as 1,600 of the 8,000 people on Utah’s registry. It has been more than a year since the last time the department did a check on its registry. Sex offenders in Utah must register for a decade after their release, while those who have been convicted twice must register for life. They must check in annually, although it is apparent that 20 percent of the offenders did not do this in the past year. There is apparently no enforcement of those who haven’t been checking in. One child advocacy group spokesman said, "Given our concern with substantiation and databases and keeping track of things, I am absolutely astounded that we have lost track of these people," she said. "I really am speechless. It seems to me there is no excuse." Utah is not alone in losing track of sex offenders, as California is unable to account for a total of 33,000 previously convicted for sex crimes. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/18/04)

LDS Church Does Not Want Strip Club in Salt Lake City

The Mormon Church is calling a strip club in downtown Salt Lake City a "private" and "public" nuisance" in an attempt to legally ban it from the city. Property Reserve Inc., a real estate business owned by the LDS Church, does not want The Dead Goat Saloon to have the necessary business license because the seminude club interferes with its ability to have "full use and enjoyment of its property." (Deseret News, 2/7/04)

Some Language May Not Be Protected in Salt Lake City

A three-page document outlining free-speech guidelines was released on Friday that limits what may be said in Salt Lake City’s public places. The Salt Lake City Council will have to approve the guidelines in order for the document to be enforced. Although it does not specifically spell out what is or is not allowed to be said on public sidewalks, it gives examples from other court cases that invoked "fighting words." Using the example of calling a woman who is leaving the Salt Lake temple a "harlot," Mayor Rocky Anderson said, "If it [calling a woman a harlot] is directed to a specific person and especially in the presence of children or somebody’s new husband, anybody could expect that that would elicit a violent response and that very likely would be considered fighting words under established constitutional doctrine." One street preacher agreed that calling someone a harlot was wrong and he does not do it. Yet if this document passes the City Council, one has to wonder whose word would be believed when it come to one party accusing another of illegal speech, especially when a Mormon is accusing a Christian evangelist of hateful language. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/7/04)

Former University of Utah Student Happy With Judgment

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier dismissal of a case involving a University of Utah student who says she was discriminated against because she is LDS. The case may take place in a year. Christina Axson-Flynn, a former University of Utah student, is claiming that five of the university’s theater professors did not allow her freedom of speech and religion when they refused her request to substitute other words for profanity in an in-class assignment. "This is a great day," she said. "We feel vindicated and thrilled about this decision." Her lawyer, Jim McConkie, has heard of "hundreds of students" who may have similar complaints. "This whole case is really just about religious intolerance," one of the lawyers said, adding, "The tensions in this case come because Christie is a member of the majority religion in this state."

In a related story, the university is being accused of "blantant discrimination" because it will not hire former BYU historian D. Michael Quinn. The University of Utah’s religious historian is claiming that Quinn’s recent rejection shows that the university does not see any "intellectual or cultural merit in Mormonism." She added, "The absence on this campus of scholarly attention to Mormon history, theology and practice is profound." Quinn, an accomplished scholar who was educated at Yale, has written a number of scholarly books on Mormon history. Although he was excommunicated from the Mormon Church a decade ago for some differing beliefs, he does hold to the authenticity of Mormonism’s divine origins. Quinn said that though there has been a "historical pattern of hostility toward Mormonism," he did not feel this was true during his interviewing process. (Deseret News, 2/5/04; Salt Lake Tribune, 2/6/04)

Lawyer Says Faithful Mormons Should Not Serve on Certain Juries

Salt Lake attorney Larry Keller argued in the 4th District Court that Mormons who pay tithes to their church are too biased to serve on any case involving church-owned Brigham Young University. Keller’s client is a Mormon who worked at BYU for a decade before he was accused of embezzling more than $300,000 from the university’s student financial services. "The danger is that an LDS person is likely to conclude that they serve to lose some small amount (of donated tithing)," he claims. He also feels that a Mormon will be biased because the church’s university suffered harm. According to Keller, a total of $7,500 of tithing money is used each year for every BYU student. If true, this equals about $225 million in tithing funds used for the university’s 30,000 students. (Deseret News, 2/3/04)

Utah Schools Begin Standardized Testing That Counts

High school students who cannot pass the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test will not be allowed to graduate for the first time in Utah history. The test, which was first given three years ago, measures student achievements in standardized basic curriculum. More than 30,000 sophomores from the class of 2006 will take the test from Tuesday through Thursday during the first week in February. Those students who do not pass the battery of tests will have only four more opportunities before their senior year in order to pass the failed section(s). The student will be done once he or she has passed each of the three tests. "I will not risk a kid not graduating from high school because of a test, so they’re going to be remediated, and it will cost them elective choice(s)," one Utah high school principal said. Last year’s results did not count for graduation, but approximately 66% students passed the math portion 75% passed the writing exam, and 80% passed the reading test. In other words, there may be a number of students who will have to retake at least one of the exams. (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/1/04)

Flamboyant Ute Coach Calls It Quits

Rick Majerus, the University of Utah men’s charismatic basketball coach, announced his retirement effective at the end of the current season. The 370-pound Majerus, who has a history of heart problems, checked into a hospital in Santa Barbara, CA to deal with an illness that hit him on Tuesday night. He may not be able to return before the season ends in March. His lawyer said that Majerus had already decided to retire at season’s end. The coach found success at the U of U in his 15 seasons, winning 187 out of 200 home games while collecting ten conference titles and coming close to winning the national title in 1998. There is speculation that he may consider a less stressful job as a television analyst. In their first game without Majerus, the Utes rallied from 17 points down to beat state rival BYU 64-56 on Sat. Jan. 31. "We love Coach," Nick Jacobson, one of the team’s two seniors, said after that game. "I’m sure he’s really proud of us. It’s very emotional to me." Although the Utes played sluggishly in the first half of the Cougar and fell behind during the first half, their comeback was fueled by an emotional halftime speech by the Utah coaches. "We challenged them to come out with the same heart, same intensity and focus as Coach came with every single day," one of the coaches said. (Salt Lake Tribune 1/29/01, San Diego Union/Tribune 2/1/04)

Dry January Worries Officials

A drier than normal January caused by a high-pressure ridge has caused concern for water officials who are wondering if the five-year drought in Utah can be alleviated. According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Utah’s snowpack is at 102 percent of normal compared to about 120 percent at the end of 2003. "We are about average … and average would be great if it weren’t for the fact we’ve had five straight years of deficit," said Randy Julander, snowpack expert for the conservation service. Another official added that "we’ve had no moisture in January" and "it’s been a dismal month." However, officials are optimistic about the upcoming two months, traditionally the wettest period of the year. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/31/04)

Child Abuse Information Revealing

According to the statewide advocacy group Voices for Utah Children, there are 911 children abused or neglected every month in Utah while 83 girls give birth. In addition, 28 teens attempt suicide each month, with two succeeding. Voices for Utah Children released its annual report "Measures of Child Well-Being: How Does Utah Measure Up" this week. Reports of child abuse are up to 19,600 cases, up from 2002 when there were 18,500 cases reported. "We really don’t know if there’s more child abuse or if people are reporting it more," said Carol Sisco, a DCFS spokeswoman. Other interesting monthly facts provided by the group include:

 

  • 900 women who give birth do not have adequate prenatal care.
  • 23 infants die before their first birthday.
  • 272 babies are born with low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 9 ounces).
  • 13 people between the ages of 1 and 19 die as a result of injury. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/28/04)

Polygamists in the News Again

Warren Jeffs, the "prophet" and mayor of Colorado City, a northern Arizona town known for blatantly practicing plural marriage, has ordered 21 top members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "to leave their church-owned homes and their families in what appears to be a play for even more power." His order has been met with defiance leaving some to think the feud could lead to violence. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says a task force of federal and local agencies from both Utah and Arizona "are investigating Jeffs, 47, and the activities of his church. Shurtleff considers the group to be very similar to a cult, and says that Jeff is a dictator to the people." Similar to a cult? (ABC News," Scathing Split," 1/27/04)

Utah Gas Tax May Go Up

Needing a way to raise revenue to build new roads and continue maintenance on existing roads, the Utah Legislature is considering a proposal to raise the current 43 cents-per-gallon gas tax to 48 cents. Currently, Utah has the 18th highest tax in the nation, with 18.4 cents of each gallon going to the federal government while 24.5 cents stays home. With this nickel rise in the state tax, Utah will rate ninth in the country. The raise is necessary, according to the Wasatch Front Regional Council, because close to $100 million was diverted from the state’s Centennial Highway Fund to balance the state budget. In addition, more resources from this fund may be also diverted in order to boost state funding for public education. (Salt Lake Tribune, 1/26/04)

Utah Smoking Rate Lower Than Rest of Nation

Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the United States, as only one in eight people in the state smoke compared to almost one in four in the rest of the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Utah’s high Mormon population and "strong social prohibitions against smoking" help Utah have only half the smokers as the average state. (greenwichtime.com, 1/16/04)

BYU Leader Tells Students to Be Modest in Clothing

First-year BYU President Cecil Samuelson recently talked to the student body at the Mormon-owned BYU about inappropriate attire being worn by some at the school. In fact, he has personally fielded several complaints about bare midriffs since he became the president last March. One parent apparently complained to her daughter about the clothes the daughter was wearing and was shocked when the daughter told her that "her professors and even on one occasion the president himself had seen her and not said anything critical of her dress and appearance." Another critic was a BYU graduate who wrote him after attending a 50-year reunion last fall, saying, "It shocked me to see so many tummies on the campus." In his talk, Samuelson said, "Some adult women I know have mentioned that a few of you look like you are wearing your much younger sister’s T-shirts." He told students that they needed to tuck in their shirts and cover their stomachs in a show of modesty. Students who were interviewed after the talk admitted that many on the campus are imitating the look that was made popular by pop star Britney Spears. One student said, "Modest girls get upset because they’re trying to get attention in other ways besides their bodies. When they see immodest girls getting all the attention, it discourages them from dressing modestly." (Deseret News, 1/14/04)