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PM Brief: Ukraine charity scams, inflation in the Mountain West & some good COVID news

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The Mountain West is getting hit with the highest rate of inflation in the country. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Friday evening, Mar. 4, 2022

State

Good news for Utah from the CDC

All Utah counties are now in the low or medium levels of COVID-19 cases according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts say it’s still important to keep up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and to get tested if you have symptoms.

CDC covid map
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Utah State Courts responded by dropping the mask mandate throughout its facilities in line with the CDC’s most recent guidelines. The Utah Department of Health reported 261 new cases of COVID-19 Friday — a nearly 40% drop since last week. But the state reported another 11 Utahns have died from the virus. — Elaine Clark

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Beware of scammers using the invasion of Ukraine as their hook

People who want to donate money to support causes in Ukraine should do some research first. The Utah Department of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau are warning that the situation is ripe for scammers looking to take advantage of people’s generosity. There’s a searchable database of legitimate charities at the Utah Department of Commerce website. The Better Business Bureau said it’s especially important to be wary of crowdfunding efforts like GoFundMe. — Caroline Ballard

Northern/Central Utah

Burning trees for fuel

Researchers at Brigham Young University have found new ways to use dead trees as fuel in coal power plants. Andrew Fry, associate professor of chemical engineering, said the project addresses two things — decreasing wildfire potential and reducing carbon emissions at power plants. Although the idea is not new, Fry’s team has found new ways to convert the trees into pellets to burn alongside coal. There are issues with transitioning from coal-based fuel to biomass. Some scientists argue it’s not carbon neutral and some power plants aren’t equipped to make the transition. David Eskelsen, a company representative for PacifiCorp, said it was also a pricey option. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Inflation hits region hard

The Mountain West is getting hit with the highest rate of inflation in the country. A report this week from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee found in January, inflation in the region reached an annual rate of 9%. That’s compared to the national average of 7.5%. The report found the region’s price increases are largely driven by rising home and rent prices. Housing costs here are rising nearly twice as fast as they are nationally. The report said inflation cost the average Utah household more than $500 in added expenses in January. — Jon Reed

Navajo Nation VP vies for congressional seat

This week Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives. He's running in Arizona's newly redrawn Congressional District 2, which includes the Navajo Nation and much of northeastern Arizona. Lizer is one of several candidates vying for the Republican nomination. The new boundaries are changing the district's partisan makeup, which could lead to an upset for Democratic incumbent Rep. Tom O'Halleran.. — Emma Gibson, Mountain West News Bureau

Federal court hears police excessive force case

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado says a case in a Denver federal district court is the first in the nation to challenge police’s excessive use of force against people who protested the murder of George Floyd. In the trial that began this week, 12 plaintiffs argue Denver police officers lacked proper training when they responded to the peaceful demonstrations. They allege the city sanctioned police misconduct by failing to discipline officers for excessive use of force and violating their constitutional rights. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

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