Deseret News poll: Do Utahns support Bears Ears National Monument?
The House on Fire ruins are pictured in Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County on April 9, 2021.

The House on Fire ruins are pictured in the Shash Jaa Unit of Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County on April 9, 2021.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Utahns appear in favor of keeping Bears Ears National Monument at its current size of roughly 1.3 million acres, although a large number of voters aren’t sure.

That’s according to the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll, which asked voters whether they support keeping the monument at its original size. About 42% of respondents say they do — 19% say they strongly support it, 23% say they somewhat support it.

Meanwhile, 26% said they oppose the monument at its current size, with 11% saying they somewhat oppose and 15% saying they strongly oppose. And 32% responded with “don’t know.”

The poll was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from Sept. 24-29. It surveyed 802 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.23 percentage points.

The legitimacy of the monument is currently being challenged in the courts after Utah sued the federal government in August 2022, arguing that both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments violate the antiquities act. The suit was thrown out, but the state quickly filed an appeal with hopes that it will go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The region is of deep spiritual and cultural significance for tribes in the American Southwest, with over 100,000 archeological sites scattered throughout its 1.3 million acres.

Pressed by a tribal coalition made up of the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe and Pueblo of Zuni, President Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument in the waning days of his presidency.

But many Utah politicians, industry leaders and locals in nearby towns opposed the move, and in 2017 former President Donald Trump slashed 228,000 acres from Bears Ears. The administration also reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears’ neighbor to the West, by 1 million acres. President Joe Biden restored both monuments in October 2021, a move Utah is now challenging in court.

During his monthly press conference in August not long after the appeal was filed, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox told reporters the monument status brings more people to the area, and the federal government lacks funding to handle the influx of visitation. And the protections hinder industry, especially mining for critical minerals that Cox says will help fight climate change.

“It has the exact opposite effect of what the president is intending to do,” Cox said.

For Hillary Hoffmann, the co-director of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, the new poll begs the question — do Utahns agree with the sentiment often pushed by politicians?

“They’ve spoken in congressional hearings about objections to the monument size … and made statements in public meetings and in the media, but we don’t ever have numbers attached to that, or any way of quantifying what those statements represent,” she said. “It’s really great to hear that there’s so much local support in Utah for the monument.”

Other polling has yielded similar results, with a February 2022 survey by Colorado College suggesting 60% of the state’s residents think the monument is “more of a good thing,” while 30% responded negatively. Roughly 6% had no opinion.

But Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, whose district encompasses Bears Ears, said the high number of respondents who answered “don’t know” means many Utahns are still on the fence.

“The fact that you’re polling statewide and still getting 32% that don’t know, and some who want to see it smaller, I think is really telling,” said Lyman, one of the more vocal opponents to the monument in the legislature. “And if you were to poll in San Juan County, it would be a lot different.”

The poll is statewide, so results specific to San Juan County are not available. However, the poll results do suggest party affiliation plays a role in the Bears Ears debate. About 69% of Democratic respondents say they support the monument’s current size, compared to just 28% of Republicans.

The issue is complicated, Lyman said. On paper, the monument sounds great, but he said voters along the Wasatch Front may not have the nuanced perspective that residents in his hometown of Blanding do.

“It’s complex, and a lot gets lost,” he said. “People don’t get it, it’s like saying that we’re $33 trillion in debt. That sounds like a lot, but they don’t know the specifics. And it’s the same thing with saying 1.3 million acres.”

A common refrain from politicians is that the monument went against the wishes of residents, harming local industry and the economy. Lyman says if the poll were solely conducted in San Juan County, a majority would be against the current size.

But the county is also home to a large swath of Indigenous voters, and in 2018, following the Trump administration’s reduction of Bears Ears, voters elected the county’s first ever Native American majority commission. Then in 2020, the new commission passed a resolution asking Biden to restore the monument.

“Some of the tribal population of San Juan County in particular has often been overlooked in the discussion,” said Hoffmann. “The beneficial impacts the monument has on the tribal communities on reservation lands that surround the monument are sometimes ignored.”

Instant loan scam uses sextortion, steals data, drives suicide
Illustration showing road signs pointing away from a steep dropoff.

Michelle Budge, Deseret News

Profiteers in India and China have created an instant loan scam they’ve deployed so far in at least Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The scam is a particularly vicious one that includes stealing data, near-constant harassment, blackmail and humiliating victims by distributing photoshopped nudes to friends, relatives and associates, according to an undercover investigation by the BBC.

And that’s just for starters.

According to the BBC, the people who fall victim usually need a small amount of money that is conveniently made available on a quick loan app that must be downloaded to a phone or computer. Once it’s there, personal information can be accessed, including one’s contacts, photos and other information.

The money arrives quickly — minus whopping fees that were not disclosed upfront. Payment is usually due in a very short amount of time — often just a week and if not paid in that time, the interest piles on, driving up the debt, while so-called debt collectors begin a thuggish round of harassment by phone, from cruel threats of harm to actual blackmail. Sometimes they call and harass people from a borrower’s contact list, too. Borrowers are encouraged to take loans again and again, even from other apps, to settle the debt.

The debt collectors may use nude photos — real or faked — as leverage, yet another example of sextortion, which has been a problem to some degree near-worldwide.

The undercover BBC reporting found at least 60 people in India took their own lives “after being abused and threatened.”

The article makes the point that not all hassle-free loans online are predatory, “but many, once downloaded, harvest your contacts, photos and ID cards and use that information later to extort you.” Borrower beware.

Sometimes the harassment and blackmail take place even after the loan has been repaid, per the BBC, which helped place a young man in two different call centers that attempt to collect the debt or vex the debtor. There, he could film the abuse quietly. His work showed those making terrible threats and constant harangues weren’t going off script, BBC said. Their supervisors were coaching them.

In April 2022, a couple, Parshuram Takve and his wife Liang Tian Tian, “were charged with extortion, intimidation and abetment of suicide. By the end of the year they were on the run,” the article said. The investigation also led to a Chinese businessman, Li Xiang, who bragged about his “business” to people who posed as investors.

One woman’s picture — her head photoshopped on a naked body — was widely distributed. “It was shared with lawyers, architects, government officials, elderly relatives and friends of her parents — people who would never look at her in the same way again,” BBC reported, noting she has been ostracized.

A well-known pattern

Others have reported on the cruel scam, as well. In July, Indian Express wrote that a couple and their two children died by suicide in Bhopal after pressure from a loan app company that “gained access to the man’s electronic devices and leaked an objectionable photo to his contact list, police said.”

The family was in financial stress. He took out loans, then was offered an online job. He took it. “Over the next few months, the man was allegedly coerced into taking loans from the same company and his debt gradually increased.” After he missed a payment, he said his phone was hacked and “morphed pictures of me” were shared with family and contacts.

Officials are investigating the claims in the note.

Business Today reported in July on a 22-year-old engineering student in Bengaluru who died by suicide after borrowing money from a Chinese loan app and being subsequently and systematically harassed and blackmailed.

Mint has also reported on the issue, among others.

Sextortion here and abroad

Not just loan apps use provocative photos as leverage, either. So-called “sextortion” is international, including in the United States, where the targets are often teens.

The Department of Homeland Security warns that “today, predators use phones to stalk and blackmail teens on social media and dating apps. Sextortion — the act of threatening to share nude or explicit images — is more common than you may think, and cases affecting young children, teens and adults have increased exponentially in the past two years.”

In 2022, law enforcement agencies received over 7,000 reports related to the online sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily boys, according to Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI. More than a dozen sextortion victims were reported to have died by suicide. 

The federal safety alert says boys ages 14 to 17 may be targeted by someone online posing as a teenage girl who becomes romantically interested in the boy. “It starts simply enough: A teen responds to an online request to expose parts of his body on a webcam or send a nude photo to a new online ‘friend.’ The next thing the teen knows, the new friend threatens to expose them by publicizing the photos — unless they pose for more explicit photos or send money.”

Homeland Security says to report sextortion and save chats and other messages as evidence. Never, ever pay or send more images.

The government of Australia offers advice “if someone threatens to share a nude image or video of you,” calling it a form of “image-based abuse (or ‘revenge porn’)” that’s illegal. It also notes “sextortion,” where the goal of the blackmail is money or more intimate content, after obtaining a nude photo of someone.

Revenge porn usually involves a former romantic partner who has explicit or compromising photos. After a breakup, that person threatens to share them with others.

Australia’s eSafety government page also counsels never paying, instead contacting authorities who will provide help.

Utah files lawsuit against TikTok, alleging harm to teen users
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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The state of Utah has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against TikTok, arguing the social media platform harms teen users, Gov. Spencer Cox and Attorney General Sean Reyes announced Tuesday.

Lawmakers have become increasingly aggressive toward social media, passing a pair of bills to regulate how social media companies operate in the state. The governor has long promised litigation against several platforms, and the lawsuit against TikTok is the first major court action the state has taken.

“Make no mistake that Utah will continue to lead out to protect children from the harms of social media, and this is not a partisan issue,” Cox said. “We will not stand by while these companies fail to take adequate meaningful action to protect our children. We will prevail in holding social media companies accountable by any means necessary.”

Reyes said the complaint alleges TikTok’s algorithm “intentionally creates an addiction that targets our kids,” saying the company designed those features to “mimic a cruel slot machine that hooks kids’ attention and does not let them go.”

He also accused the company of misleading the public about its connection to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and said the company is “siphoning large amounts of personal data from our kids every time they use the platform.”

“Our efforts to demand accountability did not start yesterday and they will not end tomorrow,” Reyes said.

The civil lawsuit seeks to force TikTok to change its practices, and seeks punitive damages to rectify the alleged harms.

TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

Addictive algorithms

Cox has previously compared social media companies to tobacco companies, saying the platforms are aware of the harms their products inflict on children and teenagers, but they continue to market to them anyway.

Chief among those harms, Cox said, are the algorithms encouraging repeat use of the platforms. The governor said the algorithms are programmed to “continuously learn how to better manipulate our kids to stay on the app for too long and return to the app as often as possible” — features even adults have a hard time resisting.

He also accused TikTok of misleading parents about the safety of the app. Reyes said TikTok also allows “disturbing content and dangerous challenges” to reach children, and doesn’t take the necessary steps to protect them.

Referencing lawsuits filed against tobacco companies, Cox said the purpose of the state’s lawsuit isn’t just to get money, it’s also aimed at changing the behavior of the company and incentivize it to put in place more controls to protect children.

“If the only way we can get their attention is that they end up paying billions of dollars to correct some things of the damage they’ve done — it doesn’t bring back our kids, it doesn’t bring back their innocence — but it’s certainly better than nothing and nothing is what we’re getting from them,” he said.

“We will look back on this and deeply regret that we didn’t do this sooner,” Cox said. “It’s one of my regrets that we didn’t do this four or five years ago.”

Gov. Spencer Cox holds a press conference with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to discuss a lawsuit filed against TikTok, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

Gov. Spencer Cox holds a press conference with Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to discuss a lawsuit filed against TikTok, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Concerns about TikTok’s ties to China

TikTok has increasingly been seen as a threat to national security, because its parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in China, where the Chinese Communist Party has broad power to collect user information from companies.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told a congressional committee in March the company is incorporated in the U.S., and “TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honor such a request if one were made.”

Reyes said Chew has claimed ByteDance doesn’t control or influence TikTok, which the attorney general called “objectively false.”

“In short, TikTok’s public statements that it is independent of its Chinese-based parent company, and thus Chinese law, are false and misleading,” the lawsuit states.

What’s next?

Cox and Reyes both promised this won’t be the last lawsuit against social media companies, and the lawsuit is meant as a “warning” to other platforms they say have engaged in similar behavior.

They declined to call out any specific companies, but Reyes said they are “looking at any and all potential targets.”

The governor said the companies have the ability to impose more guardrails to protect users without violating First Amendment rights to free speech.

“But the problem is, right now, there’s no cost to them to keep doing what they’re doing, and so, unless and until we impose a severe cost on them as a society, they’re going to keep doing this,” he said.

Utah has previously pressed TikTok to respond to investigative subpoenas, and Reyes said it will file motions in the coming weeks asking the courts to compel the company to respond.

Editorial: Rep. Tim Hernández shouldn’t stay silent on the murder, rape and torture of innocent Israelis

Newly appointed Colorado state Rep. Tim Hernández clarified that he was rallying for support of Palestinians and not for Hamas on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol only a day after Hamas militants murdered, raped, and kidnapped hundreds of innocent Israelis near the Gaza border.

While we appreciate the clarification, and while we also pray for the hundreds of innocent Palestinians who were killed in recent days as casualties of the war sparked by Hamas, we cannot help but note what Hernández has refused to do – condemn Hamas’ terrorism.

“I condemn war for any loss at all,” Hernández wrote in a prepared statement responding to both accusations that he was tacitly endorsing violence by his presence at the rally, and to a video recording a conversation he had with a counter-protester where he appeared to refuse to condemn the violence. “War threatens the dignity of life for citizens in all of Gaza, in all of Israel, and across the Earth, and I hope one day soon we may build a world free from war entirely.”

Dallying with violence and terrorism and acts of pure evil by mincing his words makes us realize that Hernández considers this an abstract exercise in political gamesmanship – perhaps the type of contrarian debate a freshman philosophy major would engage in during class as an exercise, not the real-world response needed in the face of beheadings and torture.

Hernández has played this game before – albeit on a much smaller scale of importance — refusing to condemn the actions of some bad actors during the Black Lives Matter protests who vandalized buildings in downtown Denver and Aurora. He told 9News when asked about whether he thinks violence is necessary that he personally isn’t a violent person but that he wasn’t “here to police protest.”

Now he says “I’m against attacking innocent people” but refuses to say that Hamas doing just that over the weekend is wrong.

As a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, appointed by a few members of a committee to fill a vacancy, his words and actions carry the weight of his constituents.

Hernández has clearly decided somewhere in his life that ugly means justify righteous ends. In this case, Hernández is going so far as to stay silent on terrorism because it is a means of smashing the apartheid state that exists in Israel and Gaza for Palestinians.

We also support an end to the cruel conditions and inhumane treatment Israel has imposed on Palestinians. But to be clear Hamas is not seeking a political end to restrictions on travel and dependence on aid. Hamas – as a matter of policy – refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist and is seeking the destruction of the country and the claim of holy lands. Hamas leaders have refused peace talks in its call for Israel’s destruction. Israel must defend itself from such attacks and protect its innocent civilians simply trying to exist in the Middle East.

The actions of Hamas fighters and leaders in recent days are so clearly evil, so hate-filled and so ignorant that basic human decency requires their condemnation.

Had Hernández unequivocally said these things during the pro-Palestinian protest this week, we would not have been spurred to single him out for such derision, although we find such judgment questionable.

But this newly-minted official cannot find the words to oppose terrorism, claiming instead the complexity of the situation calls for nuance. The issue seems clear to us – the most successful movements in the world’s history for justice – whether led by Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King – emphasized non-violence.

Hernández doesn’t have to be perfect in his fight against injustice, but he cannot be a state legislator and tacitly support the murder, rape and torture of innocent people as part of a philosophical question of how to stop injustice in the Middle East.

We would hope to see Hernández use his position for good in this debate, standing beside both Israelis and Palestinians in an American protest for peace.

Editorial: Congress is no longer even limping forward

The United States Congress – a powerful legislative body tasked with keeping our country running — has been limping along for almost exactly a decade, held back by an extremist wing of the Republican Party quashing any hope of bipartisan moderation.

That fringe element – metamorphosed from the Tea Party to the Freedom Caucus — won the day last week with its successful ouster of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy who is now just a regular representative. Never before has a speaker lost his or her position through what is effectively a vote of no confidence. It’s tempting to look at McCarthy’s fall and applaud the shaking up of a power structure that is failing the American people.

But make no mistake – the architect behind this chaos is not interested in actually governing or reducing the deficit or fixing immigration or developing a sound international policy to keep our enemy Russia in check.

Rep. Matt Gaetz may be saying in public that he is driven by the laudable desire to create a government funding system that allows for more congressional oversight of the hundred-billion-dollar purse, more line-item analysis of discretionary and defense spending, and fewer pork-barrel, pet-projects tacked onto a must-pass omnibus spending bill.

Gaetz, however, isn’t serious about those goals.

“Nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz told reporters moments after the vote, belying his true personal motive. “Kevin McCarthy has made multiple contradictory promises and when they call came due, he lost votes of people who maybe don’t ideologically agree with me.”

Gaetz is driven by a deep ideological agenda that has little to do with federal funding provisions and everything to do with continuing a false narrative that helps disgraced former President Donald Trump. Gaetz said he is upset that McCarthy is compromising with Democrats and hasn’t subpoenaed Hunter Biden, the president’s son, about Hunter’s shady foreign dealings using shell companies to get paid millions. Ironically Gaetz’s motion required the support of almost every Democrat and only included eight Republicans.

Gaetz’s harshest critics say he is in fact demanding behind closed doors for the investigation into his own alleged ethics violation to be quashed by house leadership. McCarthy has refused.

In sharp contrast, Colorado’s Rep. Ken Buck also supported the motion to vacate McCarthy from the speaker’s office.

“There were some of us that felt so strongly about spending, about the irresponsibility of having $36 trillion of debt at the end of next year based on the deal Kevin McCarthy cut that we stood up and did something about it,” Buck told Fox News defending his vote.

We often disagree with Buck’s protest votes on spending bills, but he is not wrong about the growing federal debt and the unsustainable trajectory of American taxing and spending. We just don’t see the wisdom of shutting down the federal government with so little hope that it would actually result in a better budget. The solution must come from a bipartisan group passing legislation similar to President Barack Obama’s deal with Republicans — the Budget Control Act of 2011 and its unpopular sequestration that was abandoned by lawmakers a few years later.

Buck can tilt at windmills all he wants – usually it’s not as harmful as causing an upheaval in the U.S. House or grinding government to a standstill during a budget impasse – but to reduce the deficit will take compromise that avoids the devastating effects of austerity measures by using a combination of holding spending steady for several years while increasing revenue with smarter tax policy.

The only way the ouster of McCarthy could work to the advantage of the American people is if moderates crossed the political aisle to create a consensus vote to put someone in power who could broker such a deal. Congress is no longer limping toward that goal; the institution has been brought to its knees by Republicans.

Lori Vallow Daybell appeals murder conviction over mental health
Lori Vallow Daybell sits during her sentencing hearing at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho.

Lori Vallow Daybell sits during her sentencing hearing at the Fremont County Courthouse in St. Anthony, Idaho, Monday, July 31, 2023.

Tony Blakeslee, EastIdahoNews.com via Associated Press

An attorney for Lori Vallow Daybell, the mother sentenced to multiple life sentences for murdering her children, filed an amended appeal Wednesday asking for transcripts from 35 days over the course of her yearslong legal proceedings.

The transcripts include a motion hearing in August 2022, parts of the jury trial this past March and the sentencing in July.

The amended appeal, filed by Craig H. Durham, also asks for sealed mental health reports to be confidentially included in the clerk’s record.

Attorneys for Vallow Daybell initially filed the appeal on Sept. 6, about a month after her July 31 sentencing, where she was given three life sentences in connection to the murder of her two youngest children, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old JJ Vallow, and Tammy Daybell, the spouse of Chad Daybell whom she later married.

The appeal lists 16 issues attorneys intend to raise, the first questioning if Vallow Daybell, “after spending 10 months in a mental hospital, was competent to stand trial?”

Jim Archibald, Vallow Daybell’s attorney at the time, claimed there were a number of issues during the trial, some revolving around Vallow Daybell’s mental competency. He questions whether Vallow Daybell’s right to a speedy trial was violated, and why the court denied the defense’s request in November 2022 to send her back to a mental hospital.

“Did the government commit fundamental reversible error in its opening statement to the jury?” the appeal asks.

“Did the court err in allowing the government to amend the grand jury indictment two years after the indictment was filed without sending the case back to the grand jury?” another bullet point reads, presumably referring to an error in the indictment related to the grand theft charge, an issue her attorneys raised several times during the trial.

Another item in the appeal questions the court’s decision to allow the jury to hear statements of co-conspirators, “but then rule in jury instructions that the government need not prove those persons were part of the conspiracy?”

In September 2019, Vallow Daybell’s two children disappeared. It was later discovered that they had been murdered and buried in a shallow grave behind the Rexburg home of Chad Daybell, the man she was believed to be having an affair with and the apparent source of her fringe religious beliefs.

Then in October 2019, Daybell’s wife, Tammy, was killed by what investigators said was asphyxiation in her sleep, though at the time her death was ruled natural. Just two weeks later, while her children were still unaccounted for, Lori Vallow married Chad Daybell on a beach in Hawaii.

That December, Tammy Daybell’s body was exhumed and Tylee and JJ were declared missing. A court ordered Vallow Daybell to produce her children by Jan. 30, 2020. She was arrested in Hawaii about four weeks later after she failed to comply.

On June 9, 2020, police executed a search warrant and found the bodies of Tylee and JJ buried in Daybell’s backyard. Chad Daybell was arrested that day. Nearly three years later, Vallow Daybell was found guilty on six counts.

Vallow Daybell was given three consecutive life sentences in July for the murders. She also received two life sentences for conspiring to murder her children and 10 years for grand theft, with those prison terms running concurrently to the life sentences for the three murder convictions.

“Tiger King” subject Carole Baskin weighs in on big cat hunting in Colorado

Big cat hunting in Colorado is not for meat

I write to shed light on a subject that is often overlooked in discussions about trophy hunting and trapping of mountain lions and bobcats in Colorado — consumption of their meat. Proponents of these activities may argue that the meat is used, but the reality is far from it. Mountain lion and bobcat meat is not inspected by the USDA, posing a potential public health risk. The meat could harbor zoonotic diseases, which can transfer from animals to humans, creating untold health risks.

Further, you won’t find mountain lion or bobcat meat on the menu in any restaurant that considers itself part of a civilized society. The very notion evokes a sense of disgust because it’s fundamentally at odds with our ethical and social norms. The primary motivations for hunting these animals are not for food but for sport and profit, often leaving families of these beautiful creatures orphaned and vulnerable.

The absence of mountain lion and bobcat meat in our food system isn’t a mere coincidence; it’s a reflection of both the potential dangers and a societal consensus that recognizes the grim implications of such consumption. Colorado’s ballot initiative to ban trophy hunting and trapping of wild cats offers an opportunity to align our laws with both public health interests and ethical standards. Let’s make the choice that benefits us all, including the wildlife we share our state with.

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, Tampa

Editor’s note: Baskin is CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

Use license plate readers to enforce registration

Re: “40,000 drivers caught on camera using express lanes to pass others,” Sept. 29 news story

OK, so we’ve got this whiz-bang system that can read license plates on a car as it flashes past at 70 mph in the toll lanes. It can even read the state it came from and can track the driver down, send him a bill for his toll fee, and follow up if he doesn’t pay it. All completely automated.

So, why can’t we use those plate readers to read expired temporary tags and send those drivers a bill for their registration fees? Maybe it’s because there are so many it would overload the system.

Richard Webb, Littleton

Another end run on TABOR

I have never known a politician who could not find a way to spend every tax dollar collected.

This Will Rogers-type statement clearly reflects the attitude of Colorado legislators as they continually try to whittle down the TABOR amendment. What is wrong with giving a refund to taxpayers instead of perpetually creating some new entity for unsustainable spending?

Propositions HH and II are the current attempts to shrink TABOR. The recently mailed information booklet summarizes HH as to “allow the state to retain and spend excess state revenue.” It is easy to create excesses every year by intentional overtaxation. Another nebulous comment states property taxes would be lower than they would be “otherwise.” How comforting! TABOR refunds are guaranteed on excess revenue. Imagined property tax savings from constantly increasing assessments are not.

Proposition II is a bit more difficult. It would spend excess revenue of a nicotine tax on a good cause, enhancing preschool programs. Unfortunately, it is based on revenues over some estimate and there is nothing that would make sure the estimate is fair value. The windfall is $23 million, and that similar revenues will be available for subsequent years cannot be assured. For a critical preschool program, success depends on well-defined revenues, and there is no guarantee that the revenue will project comparably in the future nor provide a guarantee that other currently dedicated revenues for preschools will remain the same and not be diverted to pet projects.

Think carefully before you vote on these TABOR-rescinding propositions.

Mike Reimer, Arvada

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When was O.J. Simpson acquitted in the Nicole Brown case?
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With defendant O.J. Simpson, far right, looking on, lead defense team attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., second from right, examines a pictures of Simpson’s next door neighbor Wolfgang Salinger’s estate, March 3, 1995, in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Reed Saxon, Associated Press

Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson was acquitted in what reports call “the trial of the century” for two counts of murder on Oct. 3, 1995.

Here’s why this case captivated an entire nation.

What happened on the night of Nicole Brown’s murder?

The West Port Library Guide reported that “on the night of June 12, 1994, Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death outside of her condominium in Los Angeles, and Simpson quickly became the prime suspect.” Simpson was charged with “several crimes, including armed robbery and kidnapping,” according to Britannica.

CNN reported a timeline sequence of what happened on the night of the murders:

  • 6:30 p.m. — “Nicole Brown Simpson, her children and several others go to dinner at the Mezzaluna restaurant.”
  • 8:00 p.m. — “Nicole Brown Simpson and her children leave Mezzaluna, and stop for ice cream on the way home.”
  • 9:15 p.m. — “One of Nicole Brown Simpson’s sisters call Mezzaluna to say that Nicole’s mother had left her glasses at the restaurant. Ronald Goldman volunteers to return the glasses.”
  • 9-9:30 p.m. — “Brian Kaelin, a friend staying in a guest house at O.J. Simpson’s home, and Simpson go to McDonald’s for dinner.”
  • 9:45 p.m. — “Kaelin and Simpson return home.”
  • 9:48-9:50 p.m. — “Goldman leaves the restaurant with a white envelope containing the glasses.”
  • 10:15 p.m. — “While watching television, Pablo Fenjves, a neighbor of Nicole Brown Simpson, hears the cries and constant barking of a dog.”
  • 10:25 p.m. — “Limousine driver Allan Park arrives at Simpson’s home.”
  • 10:40 p.m. — “Kaelin hears three loud thumps on an outside wall of his room.”
  • 10:40-10:50 p.m. — “Park buzzes intercom several times but does not get any response.”
  • 10:55 p.m. — “Park calls his boss and tells him Simpson is not home. He is told to wait until 11:15 since Simpson is always late.”
  • Shortly before 11 p.m. — “Park sees a Black person, 6-feet, 200 pounds, walking across the driveway towards the house.”
  • About 11 p.m. — “Kaelin goes to the front of the house to check on the noise. He sees the limousine driver at the gate. Several seconds later, Park again buzzes the intercom and Simpson answers. He says he had overslept and just gotten out of the shower.”
  • 11 – 11:15 p.m. — “Simpson puts his bags in the limousine.”
  • 11:15 p.m. — “Limousine leaves for Los Angeles Airport.”
  • 11:35 p.m. — “Limousine arrives at airport.”
  • 11:45 p.m. — “Simpson leaves on an American Airlines flight to Chicago.”
  • 12:10 a.m. — “The bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are discovered outside her townhouse.”
  • “About 5 a.m. — “Detectives Mark Fuhrman and Philip Vannatter arrive at Simpson’s house.”
  • 5:15-5:30 a.m. — “The detectives examine an apparent bloodstain on Simpson’s Ford Bronco.”
  • 5:40-5:50 a.m. — “Detective Fuhrman decided to jump the wall in order for police to get inside the estate. Once on the grounds, the detectives awaken Simpson’s daughter, Arnelle, who is staying in a guest house. She takes the police to the house and telephones Cathy Randa, her father’s longtime assistant.”
  • 7-7:30 a.m. — “Detective Vannatter declared the area a crime scene and goes to get a warrant to search the house.”

Why did O.J. Simpsons trial captivate the nation?

28 years ago Tuesday, Simpson was found not guilty for the two counts of murder he was charged with and yet people reportedly still feel that this case resonates for a couple of reasons.

USA Today reported that some of the ties to this case that keep people captivated today are the Kardashian connections to the case, the bloody glove featured in the trial, the “pre-social media” acquittal, racial tensions and of course the infamous “low-speed car chase.”

The trial itself began on Jan. 24, 1995, and the final verdict was decided on Oct. 3, 1995, resulting in finding Simpson “not guilty” of the charges pressed against him.

For more than eight months “some 150 witnesses testified, though Simpson did not take the stand,” according to Britannica.

“White, Black, immigrants who were from different races, women and men, rich and poor — and everyone was glued to the television,” Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School who directs the school’s Institute for Race and Justice said, according to The Washington Post.

The verdict decided all those years ago left the country then and even now reportedly split about whether or not Simpson committed the crimes.

“It stood in, in a lot of ways, for race relations in America,” UW-Madison professor Hemant Shah told, Spectrum News 1. “Black man on trial for the murder of a white woman.”

While some jurors still stand with their decision, others feel that they made the wrong call, according to Dateline NBC.

“Given that standard and based on the amount of evidence that was presented, then yes, you would have to say that yes, he is guilty,” the foreman and juror during the trial, Armanda Cooley said.

Marsha Rubin-Jackson, another juror on the trial reportedly stands by the verdict but details that if it was brought forward as a civil case, “I would have to vote guilty.”

What is a bump stock? Will bump stocks become legal again?
In this 2017 file photo, a device called a “bump stock” is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah.

In this 2017 file photo, a device called a “bump stock” is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. A Utah case about bump stock accessories could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Several challenges to a federal ban on an accessory that makes a semi-automatic weapon work like a machine gun continue to make their way through the courts, including a Utah case.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide in late October or early November whether to hear a case regarding a device known as a bump stock. Of the cases that have petitioned the court, two were decided in favor of the plaintiff and one for the government in three separate federal appeals courts.

At issue is whether the accessory is a “machine gun” as defined in federal law because it is designed and intended for use in converting a rifle into a machine gun or into a weapon that fires “automatically more than one shot … by a single function of the trigger.”

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, which represents Utah gun enthusiast Clark Aposhian, is challenging a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rule that classifies a bump stock as a machine gun. The group also represents Texas gun shop owner Michael Cargill in another case now pending before the Supreme Court.

The groups argue that if bump stocks are to be banned, Congress must make that decision, not an agency such as ATF.

What is the Utah bump stock case?

Aposhian’s case is a little different than the others because it’s not about whether bump stocks should be banned but whether the ATF acted lawfully in how it banned them.

A federal judge in Utah last week ruled in the government’s favor. Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, intends to appeal, which would send the case back to the 10th Circuit of Appeals in Denver for the second time. A court rejected Aposhian’s attempt to block the rule in 2020.

The Utah case isn’t among those the Supreme Court is considering, but Aposhian and his lawyer say it isn’t over.

“I think it’s important to keep the case going because you never know what’s going to happen in other cases,” New Civil Liberties Alliance attorney Richard Samp said on Aposhian’s radio show “Gun Radio Utah” last week.

But if the Supreme Court takes one of the other cases, it would supersede Aposhian’s case. The high court’s ruling would be binding in the Utah case.

Why were bump stocks banned?

Bump stocks came under intense scrutiny after a gunman used them to kill 58 people and wound 500 others at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017. He fired more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes.

The law defines a machine gun as one that fires more than one shot automatically by a single function of the trigger. A bump stock uses the recoil energy after a shot is fired to keep a gun firing by rapidly bumping the trigger against the shooter’s finger.

The Trump administration adopted a regulation that redefined the devices as machine guns, therefore banning them under existing law. The rule directed owners to destroy or surrender their bump stocks to the ATF before it took effect in March 2019 or face criminal penalties. There were an estimated 520,000 bump stock owners at that time.

What does the government say about bump stocks?

The Department of Justice has argued that the ATF previously not classifying the bump stock as a machine gun was erroneous, and the 2019 rule corrected that mistake.

It contends Congress did not distinguish between a gun that allows a shooter to pull the trigger once and produce repeated fire or pulling a trigger once and applying pressure to a slightly different part of the weapon to continuously fire as with a bump stock. The DOJ argues that a ban on machine guns would be largely meaningless if it could so easily be circumvented.

Police chief who led Marion County Record newspaper raid resigns
A stack of the Marion County Record is shown on Aug. 16, 2023, in Marion, Kan. The police chief who led a highly criticized raid of the small Kansas newspaper has resigned, per reports.

A stack of the Marion County Record sits in the back of the newspaper’s building, awaiting unbundling, sorting and distribution, on Aug. 16, 2023, in Marion, Kan. The police chief who led a highly criticized raid of the small Kansas newspaper has resigned, per reports.

John Hanna, Associated Press

Marion, Kansas, Police Chief Gideon Cody, who led a raid on a small Kansas newspaper in August, has resigned.

City Council Member Ruth Herbel confirmed to The Associated Press that the mayor of Marion announced Cody’s resignation on Monday, just days after he was suspended from his post. Mayor David Mayfield had previously defended Cody and said he would not take any action until the Kansas Bureau of Investigation finished looking into the raids, The Wichita Eagle reports. For reasons not made public, the mayor suspended the chief indefinitely last Thursday.

What happened?

In mid-August, in a town of fewer than 2,000 people, Cody and his team descended on the Marion County Record newspaper office and took cellphones, computers, hard drives — even utility records. They also went to the home of Eric Meyer, the owner and publisher of the paper, made copies of bank statements and took a personal computer, allegedly looking for information linking a local business owner and her DUI arrest.

The day after the raid, the founder of the paper, Eric Meyer’s 98-year old mother, collapsed and died, something Eric blames on the raid.

The raid produced an immediate outcry. More than 30 news organizations and press freedom advocates, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, signed a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemning the raid, calling it “overbroad, improperly intrusive and possibly in violation of federal law.”

At the time, Seth Stern, director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told the AP that “the raid appeared to have violated federal law, the First Amendment ‘and basic human decency.’

“The anti-press rhetoric that’s become so pervasive in this country has become more than just talk and is creating a dangerous environment for journalists trying to do their jobs,” Stern said.

Within days, Joel Ensey, the Marion County attorney, said there was insufficient evidence to link the alleged crime and the items seized. The items taken were then returned, and the FBI began an investigation.

Not about a DUI?

Meyer. the newspaper’s editorr, said he believes the raid was carried out because the police chief left the Kansas City police department in April and the Marion County Record had begun an investigation as to why. The Kansas City Star reported that Cody “faced discipline for allegedly making insulting and sexist comments to a female officer, who recorded a following conversation in which he acknowledged his behavior was unprofessional.” She filed a hostile work environment complaint against him in the months before he left Kansas City. Following an internal investigation, writes the Star, he was told he would be demoted to sergeant. Instead, he resigned and went to work in Marion County.

The Associated Press reports that Cody’s departure came after the AP obtained body camera footage of the raid through an open records request. The body camera video came through on Monday, the same day Cody resigned.

City Councilwoman Herbel said after Monday’s city council meeting that she was glad he resigned. “Now we can start to move forward as a community.”

Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy