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AM Brief: Utah keeps vote by mail, COVID battered long-term care & Romney calls for Russia sanctions

Utah Ballot Drop Box, Vivant Arena, Election 2020, Nov. 3, 2020
Renee Bright
/
KUER
Ballot drop boxes outside Vivant Arena on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022

International

Russia invades Ukraine

Russia has launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee. Ukraine’s government said Thursday that Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border in a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order and whose fallout already reverberated around the world. The chief of the NATO alliance said the “brutal act of war” shattered peace in Europe. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Rep. Romney urges severe sanctions on Russia

In response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Sen. Mitt Romney called on the United States to impose severe economic penalties on Russia. He said Putin’s actions are without justification or provocation and added they followed America’s shortsighted policies and timid response to Russia’s previous crimes in Georgia and Crimea. Romney said the U.S. should also oust Russia from global institutions, along with expanding and modernizing America’s national defense. — Leah Treidler

Rep. Curtis calls on Americans to support the European Union

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Utah Rep. John Curtis said he stands with European allies. Curtis is currently in Brussels and said all focus has turned to the conflict. “The mood is somber and almost surreal like this can’t be happening,” he said. “But it is happening and those in Europe know this has heavy consequences for them and, really, the rest of the world.” EU commissioners said today they’ll pursue aggressive actions in Ukraine, including a massive package of targeted sanctions against Russia. Curtis said they expect Russian retaliation and urged Americans to send support to European allies in the face of the intensifying conflict. — Leah Treidler

State

No changes for Utah’s vote by mail

A bill that would’ve eliminated Utah’s vote by mail system failed in a House committee Wednesday — leaving the program in place. The legislation also would have banned turning in other people’s voter registration forms for them and would have required the state to hire an outside firm to conduct audits of each election. Supporters of the bill said it was meant to prevent fraud but couldn’t provide any evidence of widespread irregularities. Opponents said it would have made it harder to vote and reduced turnout. — Sonja Hutson

Utah fails to protect its long-term care residents

According to a new report from the Disability Law Center, long-term care residents in Utah have been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. People in long-term care facilities account for 22% of the state’s COVID deaths but represent only 1% of the population. The report said the discrepancy comes from the state’s lopsided funding and inadequate measures to curb outbreaks, including a lack of transparency, a shortage of testing and protective equipment and other missteps. In one situation, state representatives told a family member that quarantine measures weren’t being enforced because once an outbreak begins “the State assumes everyone in the facility will also contract the virus.” The DLC recommended the state increases access to home and community-based care, ramps up oversight — especially of for-profit ventures — and addresses staffing shortages. — Leah Treidler

Utah novice airmen complete intensive training exercise

Airmen from Utah’s Hill Airforce base have completed a three-week simulated combat exercise at a base in Nevada. The exercise completion came in the wake of last week's deployment to Germany of F-35 jets and active and reserve personnel from Hill Air Force Base to bolster NATO forces. The simulation, called “Red Flag,” prepares novice pilots for deployment at any moment and was created after the Vietnam War to simulate a pilot's first 10 combat missions in a realistic but controlled environment. During the training exercises, the squadron also provided offensive and defensive air support and aided other aircraft in reaching their targets. — Leah Treidler

Prisons wielding new law to hire younger officers

Utah law enforcement agencies are already taking advantage of a new law, SB 96, which lowers the minimum age of correctional officers from 21 to 19. One of the main goals of the law was to ease the labor shortages at correctional facilities — such as Draper State Prison which is short roughly 120 officers. Younger officers are limited to certain positions — like booking and processing — and can’t carry guns. Some officials are worried. Maj. Scott Stephenson, director of peace officer training for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said 19-year-olds have little life experience and haven’t developed decision-making skills, making them vulnerable to manipulation by inmates. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

County Library opens free seed libraries

Free seeds will soon be available at some County Library locations in an effort to increase sustainability and educate patrons about horticulture. Seeds for tomatoes, peas, lettuce, radishes and more will be free to the public at the Draper, Holladay, Kearns and Millcreek branches from March to April. The grand opening will be at the Holladay branch on Saturday, and visitors will learn to sustainably grow plants at home. — Leah Treidler

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