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AM News Brief: Challenging New Nuclear Energy, COVID Cases On Utah Campuses & BYU Athletic Diversity

Photo of BYU Campus.
BYU Photo / Abby Smith
Under the "Russell Rule," schools in the conference like Brigham Young University will be required to have at least one finalist candidate for leadership positions be from an underrepresented community. This and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, August 5, 2020

State

Taxpayer Group Questions Nuclear Energy Project

The Utah Taxpayers Association is asking members of a utility cooperative to pull out of a nuclear energy project that’s been underway since 2008. Twenty-eight cities and special service districts in Utah have agreed to partially fund the project, which could cost around 6 billion dollars. The project involves a new technology called small modular nuclear reactors, which would replace carbon-based energy sources. But the reactors are still in development, and it’s unclear how much the power will cost users. Members of the cooperative have until September 14 to divest from the next phase of the project, which is expected to cost around 100 million dollars. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Campus COVID

A New York Times survey of every public four-year college in the country shows dozens of COVID-19 cases in Utah. While there is no standardized reporting for cases and deaths at colleges, as of July 28, data show Utah State University with 52, Brigham Young University with 51, nine at Dixie State and none at the University of Utah or Southern Utah University. Those numbers are based on reports from campuses and other sources. The Times say the data likely does not represent all cases though. In fact, among self-reporting forms and information available on Utah college websites — the U shows 110 confirmed cases, BYU 68 and Utah State 67. — Diane Maggipinto

Cases Statewide

Utah Health Department officials recorded 378 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. That brings the state’s total to 41,907. The agency also reported seven more people died — six in Salt Lake County and one in Davis County. The rolling 7-day average positivity rate is 9.8%. There are currently 181 people hospitalized with COVID-19. — Diane Maggipinto

Northern Utah

Canyons School District Delays Start

The Canyons Board of Education voted Tuesday night to push back the start of the school year one week. Most students will begin in-person learning Aug. 24. Preschool and Kindergarten begin Aug. 27. Board President Nancy Tingey says they acted in response to teachers' requests, whose contracts start next Monday. The move also allows teachers more time to prepare and adapt to safety protocols because of COVID-19. — Diane Maggipinto

BYU And Athletic Diversity

The West Coast Conference has officially adopted the “Russell Rule” — named after NBA legend Bill Russell. Under the new rule, schools in the conference like Brigham Young University will be required to have at least one finalist candidate for leadership positions be from an underrepresented community. And BYU has pledged to uphold the new rule. Mikaela Dufur is a professor at BYU who studies race and gender in sports. She said she’s not sure that the rule will completely change the way institutions hire, unless there is more accountability in hiring. Dufur said the conference could see a more diverse staff as a result of the new rule within six months, but it’ll likely take longer. — Jessica Lowell

City Council Meets Following Police-Protester Clashes

The Cottonwood Heights City Council held a work session Tuesday where they discussed the city’s police response to protests over the weekend. Videos from the incident showed police pepper spraying and detaining people during a protest in a Cottonwood Heights neighborhood Sunday. One council member suggested the city adopt a policy that disciplines officers that don’t turn on their body cams. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Johnson Won’t Contest Illegal Campaign Contributions

Businessman Jeremy Johnson has agreed not to challenge allegations that he made illegal campaign contributions to Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, and retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV. A pending consent judgment shows Johnson used straw donors — people who illegally use another person's money to make a political contribution in their own name — to give $50,000 to Lee's Senate campaign and $20,000 to Reid's campaign during the 2009-2010 election cycle. Johnson agreed not to contest a list of Federal Election Commission allegations describing the process by which he made the campaign contributions. Several of the contributions involve former Utah Attorney General John Swallow. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Fire Burns 11,000 Acres Along Utah-Arizona Border

The Pine Hollow Fire along the Utah-Arizona border grew over the weekend, burning more than 11,000 acres of grass, brush and woodland habitat after sparking from lightning. The Bureau of Land Management reported that one house and four outbuildings were threatened by the fire, burning about 20 miles east of Kanab. Officials said the fire burned more than 8,000 acres near the stateline campground as of Friday and grew to about 11,400 acres by Monday. The Richard Fire is also burning across state lines. The blaze started in Wyoming and scorched the border in Daggett County Monday. Utah Fire officials say it measures 3,444 acres and its start is being investigated. — Diane Maggipinto

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