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Robert Gehrke looked at Utah’s future for 2022, here’s what he saw

From redistribution to Mitt Romney and the Real Housewives, Robert Gehrke offers his annual forecast for 2022.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Like every year around this time, I spent the last weekend lighting incense and sage, reading tea leaves, consulting maps, and shaking a magic eight ball.

I even killed a chicken to try to guess what to expect in Utah in 2022.

OKAY. It was a chicken sandwich, and I ate it. The point is, I am committed to helping each of you prepare for what lies ahead in the coming year.

First, a recap of my predictions for 2021, in which it was predicted that former President Donald Trump would spend the year ranting, expressing grievances and generally slamming (it’s nailed down); the legislature would ignore the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission and Gerrymander Salt Lake County (of course); President Joe Biden would restore Utah’s national monuments and the state would go on (yes); and selfish vaccine deniers would prolong the pandemic (and, boy, have they ever done that!).

I also predicted that Senator Mitt Romney would be key if Congress is to do something (see also: the Infrastructure Bill); the legislature would avoid large-scale tax reform, Rep. Burgess Owens would say something bizarre and embarrassing (a giveaway, really).

There were a few hiccups. I didn’t think Democrats could win both Georgia Senate elections and hope no one wasted too much money on my prediction that the Utah Jazz would advance to the Western Conference Finals (they lost in the semi-finals).

Still, a decent record proving that I am listening more and more to the universe. So as long as the chips in my vaccines don’t cause too much interference, here’s what’s in store for 2022.

From the “Hope I’m Wrong” files, Senator Mike Lee will be re-elected.

I’ve said before that Ally Isom and former Rep. Becky Edwards are good candidates and would be a big improvement over Lee, but Lee is popular with the fundamentalist Republican wing and beating him will be very difficult, especially s ‘they split the dissenting vote. . I don’t see any challenger giving up at this point.

On paper, it’s safe to say that anti-Trump independent challenger Evan McMullin has a shot at beating Lee, but it feels a bit like hitting a hole in a blindfold. He will fight well, but despite clear differences between Lee and McMullin, he will fail to convince Democrats who see it as a trade of Lee for another Republican.

In the aftermath of the redistribution, Republicans will win the US House, but I think Democrats barely manage to keep the Senate – if you consider what they have now, it’s the Senate’s “hold”. The divided Congress means nothing will be done and Biden’s presidency will be mostly inconsequential.

Better Boundaries continue to send emails asking for money for a possible lawsuit challenging the Legislative Redistribution, but my magic ball doesn’t predict that they actually pull the trigger. The legislature will not empty the independent commission, at least not right away. They have nine years to do so and voters have short memories. The Utah Democrats will lose two House seats within the redesigned boundaries.

Right-wing activists pushing a voting initiative with a host of terrible ideas to make voting more difficult – restrict registration, end postal and early voting and revert to hand-marked paper ballots – don’t will not even come close to doing it on the ballot. The Legislative Assembly’s audit of Utah’s voting system will come back perfectly, proving that state elections are up. It won’t matter for the aforementioned crowd of tin foil hats. And, despite positive reviews from voters, ranked voting will not be extended (at Mike Lee’s request).

• Utah will experience another severe drought, which is evident since we have experienced drought for the past 25 years. Lakes and reservoirs will remain low and large fires will burn. But some initial, late action will be taken in water conservation.

• In the face of a host of lost rights for transgender Utahns, critical racial theory and anti-government bills, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and the recently formed Silicon Slopes Political Action Committee will be pushed. to take a leading role as the voice of reason and perhaps provide a little cover for Governor Spencer Cox to push back the legislature.

• One of Salt Lake City’s real housewives will file for divorce, but she won’t be the one you expect!

• In the sports world, The University of Utah will shock Ohio State in THE Rose Bowl; this time, the Jazz will really make the final of the Western Conference; Salt Lake City will attempt to host the 2030 Olympic Winter Games; and my Detroit Lions will make the playoffs next season (no, really).

• This one’s more of a wish than a prediction, but we’ll finally put COVID-19 in our rearview mirrors (mostly) and we can stop worrying about what anti-vaxxers or anti-maskers or merchants think. conspiracy. We can return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life, filled with well-deserved peace and prosperity.

Happy 2022!


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EXPLANATION: How will Biden’s COVID-19 testing giveaway work?

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden has said the federal government will buy half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distribute them free to people to use at home. But despite strong public demand for testing, it will be several more weeks before these kits are available to ship. The administration is still working on the details of how the program works.

DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE THE TESTS?

Not yet. As of this week, the Defense and Health and Human Services departments are “executing what is called a ‘fast-track emergency contract’,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The contract should be signed soon.

WHEN WILL THE TEST KITS BE DELIVERED?

The first delivery is scheduled for early January. The 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time but will rather be delivered in batches.

MY PHARMACY HAS NO TESTS. HOW CAN I GET A FREE GOVERNMENT KIT?

You’ll go to a new government website to request a kit, but the site won’t be functional until after the first batch of test kits have been delivered, Psaki said. She said the process was handled that way to avoid creating more confusion for the public. But the idea is that anyone who wants a test kit should go to this website and request one.

“We’re obviously not going to get the website up and running until tests are available,” Psaki said.

WHAT AT HOME TEST WILL I DO?

It’s unclear. But Psaki noted that the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved several different brands of rapid home tests that are currently on the market.

WILL I BE LIMITED TO ONE TEST OR CAN I REQUEST MORE THAN ONE?

TBD, Psaki said.

WHY BIDEN PURCHASES THESE TEST KITS?

This represents recognition by the President that the administration must do more to increase access to COVID-19 testing, which is an important tool in helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In cases where infected people show symptoms or not, testing is the only way to find out if they have the virus in order to avoid coming out and potentially spreading the disease.

But the demand for test kits has skyrocketed as the holidays approach and people have become anxious to test themselves and their families before traveling and as the easily transmissible omicron variant has spread rapidly within a matter of a few. weeks only to become the dominant strain in the United States.

Biden’s pledge of 500 million test kits builds on the administration’s earlier pledge to send 50 million rapid tests to community health centers across the country.

HOW MUCH IS THE PROGRAM?

The purchase will be paid for with money from the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Biden signed in March, the White House said. The exact cost will be known shortly.

IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY TO GET A FREE TEST KIT

Biden said in a speech on Tuesday that starting in January, private insurers would cover the cost of home testing. Thus, people will have the option of purchasing tests in a store or online and then requesting reimbursement from their health insurance.

The government will also give access to free home tests to people who may not have health insurance, Biden said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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Ahead of vacation gatherings, ‘omicron is here’, warns Utah virologist

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune offers free access to critical articles on the coronavirus. Register for our Top Stories newsletter, sent to your inbox every morning. To support journalism like this, please make a donation or become a subscriber.

Ahead of the vacation travel buzz, which is expected to reach pre-pandemic levels at Salt Lake City International Airport this month, a Utah virologist on Tuesday expressed concern over the recent increase in the omicron variant. of the coronavirus.

“Omicron is here, and its frequency is increasing rapidly,” said Stephen Goldstein, virologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday that the omicron variant had overtaken delta as the most dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, accounting for about 73.2% of all COVID-19 cases last week.

In an area including Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and North and South Dakota, model projections released on Monday estimated that omicron accounted for about 62% of new coronavirus cases.

The emerging prevalence of Omicron in Utah continues to be studied. According to Utah Department of Health spokesperson Charla Haley, a genome sequencing test performed at Intermountain Healthcare found the absence of a particular protein – believed to be an indicator of the omicron variant – in 30 % of state tests completed in recent weeks. .

Using the same sequencing test, the Utah Public Health Laboratory also found this missing protein in 11 of 29 COVID-positive samples, or 37.9%, Haley said. She added that the lab would have to completely sequence all 11 to be sure the samples contain the omicron variant or not. So far, the state lab has definitively identified seven cases of omicron in the state, Haley said.

Goldstein said early data from South Africa indicates that the rate of protection offered by current COVID-19 vaccines against all symptoms, mild to severe, has fallen to around 35% – from 65% to 70% effectiveness against other variants.

But that protection rate rises to 70% to 75% for people who have received their third booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna versions of the vaccine.

Protection against serious illness – something strong enough to land a person in the hospital – remains robust, around 75% effective, compared to 95% effective as vaccines against the delta variant, Goldstein said. .

Federal COVID-19 Plan

President Joe Biden announced updates to his administration’s COVID-19 winter plan on Tuesday afternoon. As part of the plan, the Associated Press reported, the federal government would buy 500 million rapid tests for the coronavirus and send them free to Americans starting in January. People will be able to use a new website to order the tests, which will then be sent free by US mail, the White House said.

Biden’s plan to distribute 500 million free tests is a good start, Goldstein said. “We just need more of them. We need it in stores and pharmacies, not on empty shelves. “

Goldstein also said he would like the federal government to do something similar “to provide people with high quality, reliable masks they can use.” Many KN95 masks available online are fake, Goldstein noted.

Biden’s plan also called for more support to hospitals and increased vaccination and booster efforts.

New cases in Utah

On Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 811 new cases of coronavirus in the past day. The seven-day moving average of new cases stands at 964, the lowest since August 16.

The Department of Health also reported 21 more deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday. A third of them were people aged 45 to 64.

Nine of the deaths reported on Tuesday occurred before December 1 and were only recently confirmed to have been caused by the coronavirus after further testing.

The number of children vaccinated continues to increase: 88,892 children aged 5 to 11 have received at least one dose since becoming eligible. That’s 24.4% of children that age in Utah, according to the Department of Health. And 54,554 of those children were fully immunized, or 15% of this age group.

State intensive care units remain close to capacity. The UDOH reported Tuesday that 93.2% of all intensive care beds in Utah and 96.3% of intensive care beds in major medical centers in the state are occupied. (Hospitals consider anything above 85% to be functional.) Of all critical care patients, 37.9% are treated for COVID-19.

Vaccine doses administered during the last day / total doses administered • 14,003 / 4,448,663.

Number of Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,880,852 – 57.6% of the total population of Utah. It is an increase of 2,660 in the last day.

Cases reported in the last day • 811.

Cases among school-aged children • Kindergarten to grade 12 children accounted for 93 of the new cases announced on Monday, or 11.5% of the total. There have been 45 reported cases in children aged 5 to 10 years; 22 cases in children 11-13; and 26 cases in children aged 14-18.

Tests reported in the last day • 7 393 people were tested for the first time. A total of 14,694 people have been tested.

Deaths reported in the last day • 21.

There have been five deaths in Utah County – two men and a woman aged 45 to 64, and a man and woman aged 65 to 84.

Salt Lake County has reported three deaths – a man and woman aged 45 to 65 and a woman aged 85 or older. There have also been three deaths in Washington County – one man and two women aged 65 to 84. And there have been three deaths in Weber County – a man and woman aged 65 to 84 and a woman aged 85 or older.

Davis County has reported two deaths – both men aged 65 to 84. There have also been two deaths in Box Elder County – a man and a woman aged 45 to 64. And there have been two deaths in Tooele County – two women aged 65 to 84.

Cache County has reported the death of a woman aged 65 to 84.

Hospitalizations reported during the last day • 444. This is 12 less than what was reported on Monday. Of those currently hospitalized, 182 are in intensive care, 10 fewer than reported on Monday.

Percentage of positive tests • According to the original state method, the rate is 11% over the last day. This is below the seven-day average of 11.9%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeat testing of the same individual. Monday’s rate was 5.5%, below the seven-day average of 8.2%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Risk ratios • During the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns have been 15.6 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those vaccinated, according to an analysis from the Utah Department of Health. The unvaccinated were also 9.7 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3.7 times more likely more likely to test positive for coronavirus.

Totals to date • 621,008 case; 3,738 deaths; 27,093 hospitalizations; 4,153,440 people tested.


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Anxious restaurants like omicron, high food costs are taking their toll

DETROIT (AP) – As restaurants in the US and UK are open unrestricted and often bustling, they enter their second winter of the coronavirus pandemic worried about what to come: They are pressed by shortages labor and soaring food prices and the omicron variant is looming.

“I am extremely worried. I never felt like I was out of the woods, ”said Caroline Glover, chef and owner of Restaurant Annette in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The rapid spread of the omicron is already hitting the industry in Britain and elsewhere, with restaurants, hotels and pubs reporting cancellations at the busiest and most lucrative time of the year. Businesses have urged the UK government to offer relief after officials warned people to think hard about socializing. Scotland and Wales have pledged millions of pounds for business, adding further pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to do the same in England.

“It’s pretty devastating. For private rentals, large tables of eight to 16 people for example, these have almost disappeared. It’s the bread and butter of restaurants at Christmas, ”said Jeff Galvin, co-owner of Galvin Restaurants, a group of five upscale establishments in London.

Many companies have said hundreds of bookings for festive business lunches disappeared almost overnight as infections began to skyrocket and Johnson announced tighter restrictions, including mandatory masks in most of the interior spaces, although the restaurants are open as usual.

Glover, Colorado, is worried about renewed restrictions if infections increase. For now, business is back, with its dining room at full capacity – up from a 50% cap last year – and four greenhouses outside booked well in advance.

Likewise, diners are back and business is booming for Amy Brandwein, who owns the Italian restaurant Centrolina and a small cafe, Piccolina, in Washington. After her restaurants survived the closures with take out and grocery deals, “I can safely say that we are back to 2019 levels,” she said.

But recruitment remains a challenge. In a recent survey of 3,000 American restaurant owners, 77% said they did not have enough workers to meet demand, according to the National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group.

Many restaurant workers have started new careers or returned to school. Jada Sartor of Grand Rapids, Mich., Has seen her pay drop from $ 10 to $ 16 an hour this year as restaurants become increasingly desperate for workers, but she recently quit her job as a waitress because of she couldn’t find affordable daycare.

“The cost of living is so high that you can’t afford to really live,” she said.

Kristin Jonna, owner of Vinology restaurant and wine bar in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said she had raised salaries by nearly 40% to attract and retain her staff of 35 people. It was a change that had to happen in the service sector, she said. But it cannot raise menu prices enough to compensate.

“Everyone knows beef is more expensive, but high-end, highly skilled labor costs too,” Jonna said. “This is the most delicate part of our business right now. “

Jonna said the restaurant is buzzing despite the high number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan. It has fewer major events scheduled, but the customers who come spend more.

U.S. restaurant and bar sales reached about $ 73.7 billion in November, up 37% from the same month last year, according to preliminary data from the US Census Bureau. But that was in part due to higher menu prices as restaurants try to account for inflation.

Sara Lund, owner of Bodega and The Rest, a bar and restaurant in Salt Lake City, Utah, said the cost of her ingredients has risen 15 to 40 percent this year.

“Margins on food will never be astronomical, even in good times,” she said. “But pay 40% more for protein?” I cannot pass this on to the client.

Diners know restaurants are struggling, and many say they’ve started dining out again to help out their favorite local spots. Liz Cooper of Needham, Massachusetts, said she was comfortable dining inside with her family of five, all of whom are vaccinated except for her 4-year-old daughter.

“If you love a restaurant and a small business, you should go there and support them,” Cooper said. “They might have to shut down, and then you’ll be heartbroken that you can’t get your favorite chicken parm or cannoli.”

Steve Geffen, who owns four Chicago-area restaurants including Once Upon a Grill, said he has pulled 30% of the tables in his restaurants to make sure patrons feel comfortable eating there. inside. So far, it works.

“They don’t mind waiting any longer knowing that they aren’t sitting on top of everyone,” he said.

But Jeanne Busch in Forest Park, Illinois, sticks to the occasional takeout.

“I’m definitely not comfortable without a mask inside in a crowd,” Busch said. “As we head into winter and omicron continues to rampage, we mostly expect to eat at home.”

In Britain, omicron has already devastated restaurants and pubs. Patrick Dardis, who runs Young’s channel of some 220 pubs, said he hoped authorities would come up with a financial aid plan soon. About 30% of the chain’s reservations were canceled last week.

“There are thousands of businesses – not just pubs – that could collapse in January if the current situation is not paired with proper financial support,” he said.

UKHospitality, an industry trade group, has called for tax relief, saying concerns over omicron wiped out £ 2 billion ($ 2.6 billion) in sales this month.

Restaurants are also clamoring for government support in the United States, where the Restaurant Revitalization Fund ran dry earlier this year after handing out $ 28.6 billion to 100,000 applicants.

Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public policy at the National Restaurant Association, said the industry needed at least $ 40 billion to fund the 200,000 applicants who did not receive grants. So far, Congress has taken no action.

It’s harder for restaurants to explain what’s going on now that their dining rooms are full and they’re unlocked, Kennedy said.

“They think we’re completely blown away and crushed it, but the answer is we’re barely doing it,” he said.

Lindsay Mescher, who opened the Greenhouse Cafe in Lebanon, Ohio, in 2019, is frustrated that she never received a promised government grant. She was approved in May, but the demand was so high that funds ran out before she received any money.

It has taken out loans to keep its staff of eight employees while offering only take-out food for the first 16 months of the pandemic. The cafe reopened to diners this year and has had a busy summer and fall, but Mescher is still struggling. She paid $ 165.77 for a case of 400 take-out salad bowls, for example; now they cost $ 246.75.

“The funds would have guaranteed our survival,” Mescher said. “It is extremely unfair that some restaurants have been relieved and others have not. “

___

Anderson reported from New York and Hui from London.

___

Follow all of AP’s stories about the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located in the European Economic Area.


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Will redistributing California mean better congressional maps than Texas?

By Sameea Kamal and Jeremia Kimelman
CalMatters

Another week, a little closer to the independent California Redistribution Commission finalizing new congressional and state legislative districts before the Dec. 27 deadline.

The commission is trying, but struggling, to make maps for 52 congressional districts. His work is especially watched this year because the state is losing a district due to slower population growth. Nationally, this will have an impact on whether Democrats retain their slim majority in the US House of Representatives.

That’s because in other states, Republican legislatures and governors are drawing districts that favor the GOP, including states that have added census seats. Among them is Texas, but the US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit to block the use of cards it says deny minorities their rights.

Here’s how the congressional redistribution is impacting partisan control in California, Texas, and the United States:

California Congress Cards

The commissioners had planned to complete the reviews of congressional districts on Monday evening. Instead, they decided to continue working on it, while also reviewing the state Senate districts.

“I had hoped we would be able to land the plane,” said J. Ray Kennedy, a San Bernardino County Democrat and international election observer who is chairing the committee’s sessions this week. “We weren’t at the end. We still have outstanding issues.

A point of contention: To group together “mountain communities,” earlier versions of the maps showed a district along the Eastern Sierra starting at the Oregon border and descending to San Bernardino. In response to public comments, the commission divided the district, but remains stuck on whether to put Mono, Inyo and Alpine counties with the Modesto region or with Roseville.

Placing these counties with Roseville would have a domino effect on the Sacramento area. In the last map, Sacramento and West Sacramento weren’t split between different districts.

A problem that recurred throughout the mapping process: having to weigh the demand of one community of interest against another. And while public input is meant to guide the process, it is often confrontational.

On Monday evening, callers from San jose – including the mayor of the city – expressed their dissatisfaction with the division of the city into four districts.

Mayor Sam Liccardo said it would undermine the various neighborhoods of the city of San José compared to the wealthier and more influential suburbs.

“San Francisco and Oakland, the other two major cities in the Bay Area – both of which are considerably less populated than San José – have proposed districts that will ensure that their representatives in Congress represent their city overwhelmingly,” Liccardo wrote to the Commission. “San Joseans certainly deserve this. “

A much smaller community has repeatedly appeared during congressional mapping: Old Fig Garden in Fresno County.

Although it only has 5,477 inhabitants, its displacement makes the difference between increasing the black voting age population in a district of Fresno-Tulare or increasing the Latin American voting age population, with a slight decrease in the number. black voters.

The bigger question, however, in the Central Valley is whether there are two districts that are strong in the voting rights law – those with a majority of non-white voters – or three that are weaker.

But while it may appear that communities may oppose each other, the commission also takes into account “coalition districts”, where different minority communities can vote in a similar enough way to be grouped together.

Responding to criticism from some weird couples in Northern California, two commissioners said they were based on all the data and comments.

“I always see this as an opportunity to get to know your neighbor,” said Commissioner Alicia Fernández, a Republican from Yolo County. “Get to know a new point of view and hopefully work together.”

“There is no way to make it perfect,” she added. “We are 14 people who come together and do our best. “

How is California going?

Before the independent commission in 2011, the redistribution led to many partisan battles on the borders. After a number of unsuccessful efforts, starting in 1982, by the two parties to create some sort of commission, voters created one in 2008, but barely: 51% approved the measure, while 49% agreed to do so. are opposed.

California is one of eight states where the redistribution is done entirely by an independent commission. In seven states, new Congressional Districts are designed by Democratic-controlled legislatures, while Republican-majority legislatures are drawn in 20 states.

This includes Texas, where the Republican legislature and governor have approved districts that form a GOP majority in its delegation to the United States House after the 2022 election, with at least 25 of 38 seats. Currently, Republicans hold 23 of 36 seats.

Texas won two seats in the 2020 census, while California lost one. And while much of Lone Star State’s population growth has been driven by people of color, the cards give white voters effective control over both. new seats, according to the Texas Tribune.

This has led to at least five legal challenges facing the cards, including that of the Department of Justice. “By passing its plans for Congress and the House for 2021, the state has again diluted the voting power of minority Texans and continued its refusal to comply with the voting rights law, in the absence of ‘intervention by the attorney general or federal courts,’ the complaint said.

The national perspective

Texas isn’t alone in using redistribution to adjust or maintain power dynamics. In several other states, lawmakers are drawing congressional districts that likely signify easy Republican victories.

In North Carolina, where the Republican-controlled legislature is laying the cards, the state Supreme Court has postponed the primary elections from March to May next year due to lawsuits challenging the new districts. The Democratic governor does not have the power to veto cards – and the United States Supreme Court will not rule on gerrymandering cases.

In California, if the preliminary cards were held, 40 of the 52 House districts would favor the Democrats, according to an analysis, and six would be competitive. Several Democratic representatives are stepping down, further opening the door to Republican gains. The latest: Rep. Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2022.

“It’s too early to say what’s going to happen in California, but I think based on past history the California commission is going to create good competition no matter which card they pass,” Samuel said. Wang, director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

In the rest of the United States, however, most states are less competitive.

This sparks criticism of the composition of the California commission: demanding the same number of Democrats and Republicans on the panel is not representative of the state, where Republicans are almost two to one among registered voters, claims the consultant Democrat Steven Maviglio and others.

To get final approval, a card must get a “yes” vote from at least nine of 14 commissioners – at least three of five Democrats, three of five Republicans, and three of four without party affiliation. If no set of districts for Congress, State Assembly or State Senate obtains the minimum number of votes, the commissioners shall continue to debate until one of them do it.

The independent commission “reduces California’s influence on the formation of Congress.” We are unilaterally disarmed, ”Maviglio said. “Republican majority states are doing their best to make sure Republicans control Congress.”

Take Georgia, for example, where two competitive districts narrowly won by Democrats in 2020 collapsed into one in suburban Atlanta, while in Utah Democratic Salt Lake City has been split into four Republican districts, according to the New York Times.

And while the redistribution will help determine the balance of power in Congress, the partisan standoff will likely continue to block many important pieces of legislation.

Wang cited the Senate filibuster rule as an example, which requires a qualified majority of 60 senators to interrupt debate and voting.

“The first step is representation that reflects the wishes of the voters, and I think California does a better job than almost any other state in doing it,” Wang said. “But the second step is for lawmakers to be able to be productive in Washington. Switching from voters’ wishes to a functioning government is complicated. There are a few weak points. “



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Pesticide spraying is outdated practice, but property taxes in Utah can be raised to do more

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City Mosquito Control District (SLCMAD) intends to increase property taxes to fund an increased effort to spray pesticides against mosquitoes.

According to Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, an organization of about 400 Utah healthcare professionals, health and environmental experts, believes the practice of aerial spraying of pesticides should be stopped altogether. This method of controlling mosquito populations is considered obsolete and dangerous for the environment and the people who live in it.

Dr Brian Moench, Chairman of the Board of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said about it:

“It makes no sense to expose hundreds of thousands of people to nerve chemicals in a futile attempt to prevent a different nerve disease (West Nile virus) in a few dozen people. The fact that SLCMAD is now raising property taxes to do even more spraying further exacerbates bad public policy. “

Here are some reasons why healthcare professionals are unhappy with this practice:

  1. Spraying pesticides, even in small amounts, can affect brain development in infants. Even low dose exposure is associated with higher rates of autism and loss of intellect. Utah has one of the highest rates of autism in the country.
  2. Decisions about public exposure to these chemicals should be made by people with expertise in public health, toxicology and environmental toxins. The group believes that the public should not be unintentionally exposed to these toxins.
  3. Aerial spraying of pesticides on 170,000 acres, which is happening now, contributes to air pollution.
  4. Mosquitoes are becoming resistant to pesticides, forcing the need for chemical sprays to evolve and become potentially more dangerous than they already are. Pesticides do not reduce the incidence of West Nile virus, which is no longer the widespread public health hazard it once was.
  5. According to UPHE, citing safety as the reason for spraying pesticides is based on flawed science and ignores the majority of relevant medical studies.

UPHE board member Dr Courtney Henley says knowledge of the dangers of widespread pesticide spraying has been around for a long time. She points to the irresponsibility of those who still practice these sprays, saying, “It’s been 60 years since Rachael Carson released Silent Spring and Utah government agencies are still putting deadly chemicals in our environment without thinking about the impact. cumulative negative of these chemicals. on our communities or the low efficiency of the practice.

SLCMAD’s board of directors will hold a public hearing Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to vote on the tax increase for the increased spraying of pesticides against mosquitoes and the public comment will take place at 6 p.m.

Click here for more meeting details and here to register for the webinar.


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Social media posts by rioters on Capitol Hill influencing convictions

For many rioters who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, the self-incriminating messages, photos and videos they post on social media before, during and after the insurgency even influence their criminal convictions. .

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson read aloud some of Russell Peterson’s articles on the riot before sentencing the Pennsylvania man to 30 days in jail. “Overall I had fun lol,” Peterson posted on Facebook.

The judge told Peterson that her messages made it “extraordinarily difficult” for her to show him mercy.

“The ‘lol’ particularly stuck in my stomach because, as I hope you understood, nothing about January 6 was funny,” Jackson added. “No one locked in a room, curled up under a table for hours, was laughing.”

One of the main lessons learned from the DOJ’s counter-insurgency prosecutions so far has been the significant role of social media, with much of the most damning evidence coming from the spokespersons’ own words and videos. rioters.

FBI agents have identified dozens of rioters from public posts and subpoena tapes from social media platforms. Prosecutors use the posts to build cases. The judge now cites the words and images of the defendants as factors that call for tougher sentences.

As of Friday, more than 50 people were convicted of federal crimes related to the insurgency. In at least 28 of those cases, prosecutors have factored an accused’s social media posts into their demands for tougher sentences, according to an Associated Press court record review.

Many rioters took to social media to celebrate the violence or spew hateful rhetoric. Others have used it to spread disinformation, promote baseless conspiracy theories, or downplay their actions. Prosecutors also charged a few defendants with attempting to destroy evidence by deleting messages.

About 700 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. About 150 of them have pleaded guilty. More than 20 defendants were sentenced to prison or prison terms or to terms already served behind bars. More than a dozen others have been sentenced to house arrest.

Statements by rioters, in person or on social media, are not the only consideration for prosecutors or judges. Department of Justice memos say the defendants should also be tried based on whether they engaged in violence or damaged property, whether they destroyed evidence, how long they spent in inside the Capitol, where they entered the building and whether they showed genuine remorse.

Prosecutors recommended probation for Indiana hair salon owner Dona Sue Bissey, but Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced her to two weeks in prison for participating in the riot. The judge noted that Bisssey posted a screenshot of a message on Twitter that read: “This is the first time the United States Capitol has been violated since it was attacked by the British in 1814.”

“When Ms. Bissey returned home, she was not struck with remorse or regret for what she had done,” said Chutkan. “She celebrates and brags about her participation in what amounted to an attempt to overthrow the government.”

FBI agents obtained a search warrant for Andrew Ryan Bennett’s Facebook account after learning the man from Maryland broadcast a live video from inside the Capitol. Two days before the riot, Bennett posted a message on Facebook that read: “You better be ready, chaos is coming and I will be in Washington on 6/1/2021 fighting for my freedom !. “

Judge James Boasberg identified the post as an “aggravating” factor in favor of house arrest instead of a full probationary sentence.

“The cornerstone of our democratic republic is the peaceful transfer of power after the election,” the judge told Bennett. “What you and others did on January 6 was nothing less than an attempt to undermine this system of government.”

Senior Judge Reggie Walton noted that Lori Ann Vinson had publicly expressed her pride in her actions on Capitol Hill in television interviews and on Facebook.

“I understand that sometimes emotions get in the way and people do and say stupid things, because it was ridiculous what was said. But does that justify giving me a prison sentence or a prison sentence? It’s a tough question for me to ask, ”Walton said.

In Felipe Marquez’s case, the judge found that social media posts belied serious mental health issues that required treatment rather than incarceration. Marquez recorded videos of himself with other rioters in the office of Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Back home in Florida, Marquez posted a YouTube video in which he rapped about his riot experience to the tune of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.” with lyrics that included “We even punched the police” and “We were taking selfies”.

In the video, Marquez was wearing a t-shirt that read “FBI Property”.

Prosecutors had recommended four months in jail, but U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras sentenced him to three months of house arrest with mental health treatment, followed by probation. “I think you have some serious issues that you need to resolve. It played a big role in my sentencing decision, ”he said.

Prosecutors requested a one-month jail sentence for Vinson, but the judge sentenced the Kentucky nurse to five years probation and ordered her to pay a $ 5,000 fine and complete 120 hours of labor. of general interest.

Judge Jackson gave Andrew Wrigley a history lesson before sentencing the Pennsylvania man to 18 months probation. Wrigley posted on social media a photo of himself holding a 1776 flag during the riot. The judge said the gesture did not honor the nation’s founders.

“The goal of 1776 was to let the people decide who would govern them. But the purpose of the attack on Capitol Hill was to prevent that from happening, ”Jackson said. “The purpose of the attack on Capitol Hill was to overthrow democracy, to substitute the will of the people for the will of the crowd.”

Videos captured New Jersey gym owner Scott Fairlamb beating a policeman outside the Capitol. His Facebook and Instagram posts showed he was ready to commit violence in Washington, DC, and had no remorse for his actions, prosecutors said.

Senior Judge Royce Lamberth said other rioters in Fairlamb’s position would be “well advised” to join him in pleading guilty.

“You couldn’t have beaten that if you had been tried on the evidence that I saw,” Lamberth said before sentencing Fairlamb to 41 months in prison.

But it worked for the benefit of one. The captain of the charter boat in Virginia, Jacob Hiles, likely avoided a harsher sentence by posting videos and photos of him and his cousin on Capitol Hill. A day after the riot, Hiles received a private Facebook message from a Capitol Police officer who said he agreed with Hiles’ “political position” and encouraged him to delete his offending posts. , according to prosecutors.

The officer, Michael Angelo Riley, deleted his communications with Hiles, but investigators recovered the messages from Hiles’ Facebook account, prosecutors said. Riley was charged in October with obstruction charges.

Jackson sentenced Hiles to two years probation on Monday. Prosecutors said the case against Riley might have been impossible without Hiles’ cooperation.

__

Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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Oakland City Council votes to hire more police officers | Oakland News – Oakland News Now

Oakland News Now – Oakland City Council votes to hire more police officers – video made by YouTube channel with the logo in the top left corner of the video. OaklandNewsNow.com is the original blog post for this type of video blog content.

With homicides and gun violence on the rise, Oakland lawmakers voted to hire more officers. Andrea Nakano has more on Tuesday’s vote.

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Note from Zennie62Media and OaklandNewsNow.com: This video blog post shows the full, live operation of the latest updated version of an experimental network of Zennie62Media, Inc. mobile multimedia video blogging system that was launched in June 2018 This is an important part of Zennie62Media, Inc.’s new and innovative approach to news media production. What we call “the third wave of media”. The uploaded video is from a YouTube channel. When the YouTube video matches a search pattern for “Oakland Police,” it is automatically uploaded and automatically formatted on the Oakland News Now site and on social media pages created and owned by Zennie62. The overall goal here, in addition to our, is the on-scene reporting of news, interviews, observations and events on smartphones, in real time, anywhere in the world and in seconds and not within hours – is the use of the existing YouTube social network. graphic on any topic in the world. Now the news is reported with a smartphone and also by promoting the current content on YouTube: no heavy and expensive camera or even a laptop is needed, nor to have a camera crew to film what is already on Youtube. The secondary objective is faster and very inexpensive production and distribution of media content information. We have found that there is a lag between the length of the post and the production time and revenue generated. With this the problem is much less, but by no means solved. Zennie62Media is constantly striving to improve the system’s network coding and is looking for interested multimedia content and technology partners.

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U.S. plans diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, but Salt Lake organizers to attend with hopes of future candidacy

The United States will organize a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest China’s human rights violations, the White House confirmed on Monday, a move China pledged to welcome with ” firm countermeasures ”.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said American athletes will continue to compete and “will have our full support”, but added “we will not be contributing to the games fanfare.”

“The diplomatic or official representation of the United States would deal with these games as usual in the face of the gross human rights violations and atrocities committed by the PRC in Xinjiang, and we simply cannot do that,” Psaki told reporters. during Monday’s briefing.

Despite the boycott, the group working to bring the Winter Games back to Utah are still considering sending a delegation to China.

Fraser Bullock, chair and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Games committee, said Monday he plans to attend with committee chair Catherine Raney Norman and councilor Darren Hughes. Bullock said their intention was to learn more about the mechanics of the Games, not to be there for political purposes.

“Our focus is not on a diplomatic boycott or any of those political dynamics,” Bullock said. “Ours is focused on our games.

“Our goal is to be behind the scenes,” he added, “to understand what they are doing in terms of hosting the Games, new ideas that we can bring to our Games and talking with people about our future hosting opportunity. “

The group hopes that the Salt Lake Valley, the site of the 2002 Olympics, can once again host the Winter Games in 2030 or 2034. Bullock said he did not expect the diplomatic boycott. has an effect on the decision of the International Olympic Committee on whether or not to bring the Olympics back to Utah.

“We know that things in the world come and go, and we recognize that through it all it’s a long journey of nine or 13 years,” he said. “We are just focusing on our Games and putting our best assets forward in terms of what we can offer the world. “

Ahead of the boycott announcement, Senator Mitt Romney tweeted comparing companies and politicians who turn a blind eye to China’s human rights violation to someone “paying the cannibals to eat them last.” . Romney, who played a pivotal role in hosting the Olympics in Utah in 2002 and has expressed support for a boycott, applauded the move once it was announced.

“No more Olympics should be awarded to a nation that so blatantly violates the human rights of its own citizens,” he wrote in a joint statement with Senator Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

Biden will host a White House Democracy Summit this week, a virtual gathering of leaders and civil society experts from more than 100 countries to take place on Thursday and Friday. The administration said Biden intended to use the summons “to announce individual and collective commitments, reforms and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.” .

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, DN.J., called such a diplomatic boycott “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of unacceptable abuses by the Chinese government.” .

He called on “other allies and partners who share our values ​​to join the United States in this diplomatic boycott.”

“We have a fundamental commitment to promote human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take measures to advance human rights in China and beyond, ”Psaki added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused US politicians of demagoguery over not sending dignitaries to attend events that China hopes will enhance its economic development and its technological prowess.

Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Zhao said such a move would be an “outright political provocation,” but gave no details on how China might retaliate.

Human rights activists and lawmakers in the United States who support a boycott say it is a necessary step. They cite China’s poor human rights record as justification, claiming that China is using gambling to whitewash its mistreatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents and ethnic minorities.

“Uninvited, US politicians continue to tout the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful thinking and demagoguery,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing. . “If the US side is determined to go its own way, China will take strong countermeasures. “

Sending high-level delegations to each Olympic Games has a long tradition in the United States and other leading countries. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. First Lady Jill Biden led the US contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and Second Mister Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympics.

The diplomatic boycott comes as the United States attempts to stabilize turbulent relations with Beijing, even as it maintains a firm approach to trade and conflicts over China’s actions on Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. CNN was the first to report that an announcement was expected this week.

Beijing has organized a firm response to all US criticism, denouncing it as interference in its internal affairs and imposing visa bans on US politicians it considers anti-Chinese.

It was not clear who the United States could have sent Beijing for the games, and Zhao’s comments seemed to indicate that China had not issued any invitations.

Australia, whose ties with China have collapsed over a series of disputes, also raised the possibility of a diplomatic boycott.



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How consumer debt in Utah changed during the pandemic

2021-12-03

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s unemployment rate soared to 15%, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fallout on American workers was immediate, as many lost their wages or saw their wages drop overnight. Overall, however, across much of the country, the economic damage from the pandemic has not turned out to be as devastating as many initially predicted.

The majority of Americans have felt a lack of money, but various surveys show mixed results. Partly because of government stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits and a more vigilant eye on spending, Americans appear to have weathered the economic turmoil fairly well – at least so far.

According to the nonprofit think tank Urban Institute, most Americans have consolidated their bank accounts and controlled their spending. The median amount of debts collected nationwide increased by just $ 16 between February and October 2020, from $ 1,833 to $ 1,849 – although that amount varies by state.

In Utah, the median amount of debt in collection rose from $ 1,891 to $ 1,966 between February and October 2020. The change of $ 75 ranks as the fifth largest increase among the 30 states to report a increase in median debt at collection agencies.

Although the typical amount of debt in collection increased in Utah during the first months of the pandemic, other important financial indicators have improved. Probably in large part due to certain provisions of the CARES law, the mortgage default rate fell from 1.9% in February 2020 to 1.1% in October 2020. The law, which was passed in March 2020 , stipulated that federally-backed lenders suspend collection of mortgages. single-family home borrowers if they faced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.


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