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The Salt Lake Tribune News Feed

older | 1 | .... | 1082 | 1083 | (Page 1084) | 1085 | 1086 | .... | 1276 | newer

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    In the most recent Western States Survey, 91 percent of Utahns polled had visited federally managed Utah public lands in 2017. The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development reports over 110,000 Utahns work in the outdoor recreation economy, and another 144,200 people earn their livelihood in Utah’s tourism industry.

    These patrons might be surprised to learn that their own senator, Mike Lee, considers them to be “an upper-crust elite,” who are oppressing rural Utah communities with their desire for “rustic cabins, craft breweries, and artisanal coffee shops.”

    After facilitating the wildly unpopular (and illegal) pillaging of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, Lee furthered his anti-public lands political agenda during his June 29 speech which portrayed just how out of touch Lee is with Utah’s communities and economic realities.

    Our state’s growth, prosperity and desirability for corporate relocations is due, in great part, to the stewarded, zoned and funded public lands that are such a defining component of Utah. I would know. Access to Utah’s public lands is why I brought Black Diamond here.

    Only Lee seems to be confused on this point. He ignores the fact that over 40 percent of the workforce in Grand, Garfield and Kane counties owe their livelihood to outdoor recreation and tourism, and that wages in these industries are increasing 23 percent faster than other jobs. And he seems to forget outdoor recreation’s direct impact on Utah’s economy exceeds $12.4 billion. Lee’s proposal of disposing of our public lands would destroy the platform that Utah’s current and future economic prosperity and vibrant quality of life are built on.

    If he spent any time on these lands alongside us, Lee would recognize why his second cousin, Stewart Udall, fought so passionately to preserve American wilderness across the country and for the creation of Canyonlands National Park here at home. Udall was the secretary of the Interior Department in the 1960s.

    Udall understood that whether we were born here, or chose to make it our home, the story of our relationship with our land is the story of Utah. From the pioneers coming down Emigration Canyon, to the climbers, skiers and hikers going up Big Cottonwood Canyon or the thousands of annual summer vacations to one of Utah’s Big Five, to the ten’s of thousands of citizen sportsmen who love to hunt or fish, we know that, as Udall also wrote, “plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife, are in fact plans to protect man.”

    Ours is not a story of moneyed elites demanding rural oppression. It is the opposite. It is all of us coming together to protect access, enjoy, and profit off our shared lands and their natural features and resources. This is Utah’s story.

    If Lee gets his way and privatizes our public lands, they will become the playground of those elites. “No trespassing” signs will pop up as wealthy new landowners cut off access to their private hunting and fishing ranches. Utahns who’ve owned land for generations will find themselves outbid when they go up against the deep pockets of international extractive industries and agribusiness. After all, it took only a few months before mineral rights in Bears Ears were sold to a Canadian firm.

    Lee’s anti-public lands ideology has blinded him to reality and the integral role these lands play in both our unique Utah high quality of life and our economic vibrancy. It is time for him to stop his relentless assault on our states greatest asset.

    |  Courtesy 

Peter Metcalf, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Black Diamond Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah.
    | Courtesy Peter Metcalf, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Black Diamond Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Peter Metcalf, Park City, is founder and former CEO of Black Diamond Equipment and vice chairman of the Conservation Alliance and of the Conservation Lands Foundation.

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    What would the American psyche be like if the media, written and televised, would cease the use of inflammatory words?

    The Salt Lake Tribune reported the Supreme Court nomination process as "the setting up of a ferocious confirmation battle." NBC Nightly News used the word “battle” when reporting on the same issue. These are just a few examples of our journalistic press gone awry.

    Whatever happened to the responsible journalism that reported the facts with words that were civil, respectful and truthful? “Battle” could easily be exchanged for “debate.” Does the journalistic community even realize the unrest and disquiet it has sown in the American soul? Do journalists even care? Is there any twinge of conscience that would turn this travesty of inflammatory reporting into mature journalism?

    Or is the courting of readership too important to respect and report the facts without all of the editorializing?

    Sharon Kirby Butler, Holladay

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    “I know my humor is outrageous when it makes the Unitarians so mad they burn a question mark on my front lawn.” 

    —Lenny Bruce

    Yes, that’s a Unitarian joke. I know because I found it on a webpage of Unitarian jokes maintained by a Unitarian church. A Canadian Unitarian church, no less, which probably makes it doubly self-effacing.

    It’s a collection of remarks and quips and shaggy dog stories about how those who might be found on a Sunday morning waiting for the coffee to brew at the local Unitarian Universalist chuch are perhaps just a bit squishy in their fundamental faith.

    Cracks like, “What’s a Unitarian prayer? ‘Dear God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.'” “UUs are basically good people, who, for the most part, try to live by the 10 suggestions.” “Visitors on a tour of Heaven noticed a group of Unitarian Universalists, who were arguing about whether or not they were really there."

    So, because the image that UUs have of themselves is one that values discussion and debate over dogma and certainty, it might be time to excommunicate the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. If Unitarians were organized enough to excommunicate anybody. Which they aren’t.

    But it seems that the church on 1300 East went right to the Bible and, instead of arguing and interpreting and giving new meaning to anything, took quite literally Matthew 25:35. The bit about, “I was a stranger and ye took me in.” And they took in Vicky Chavez and her two young daughters, giving her a place of sanctuary when she could not bring herself to return to her native Honduras even though her plea for asylum had been denied by the United States government.

    The family has been in the church for six months now and, just the other day, Chavez’s most recent plea for asylum was denied. The church is still home to the three of them. They daren’t go outside for fear that the modern brownshirts, the agency known as ICE, might swoop in.

    The pastor, the Rev. Tom Goldsmith, said six months ago that the church membership had voted unanimously some months before that to offer such sanctuary to anyone who sought it. Unanimously. Another thing that’s supposedly not so Unitarian. But very biblical.

    Of course, the fact that this case is such big news shows just how unusual this act of Christian kindness is and, frankly, how much pure bunk it is to hear, as we do every day, that this is a Christian nation.

    It is nothing of the kind.

    If it were really a Christian nation, there’d be a Vicky Chavez in every church in town. In the state. In the country. If we had a Christian government, as Mike Pence and others argue we should, it would be a government based on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, all that Jesusish stuff.

    Do the math. The controversy over illegal immigration, fueled not just by racism but by genuine — if overblown — fears of people overwhelming the health care, welfare and educational systems, would quickly fade away if every family took in one refugee, and every church hosted a family of refugees. The burden for each would be pretty light and the taxpayer would be spared much of the cost.

    There are enough of us to also handle the problem of the home-grown homeless as well. Again, a single homeless person in every home. A homeless family in every church. Room to spare.

    So why don’t I go first?

    For the same reason you don’t. It’s too scary. We don’t like strangers. We fear them and worry that they might go nuts from drug withdrawal or steal from us or get violent.

    Many of them need more than a roof and a bed. They need catch-up education, mental health or drug treatment, other kinds of rehab, protection from abusive ex-boyfriends. And they might smell funny and talk funny and eat weird stuff and might never go away.

    That’s why, like everything else in the 21st century, we want to farm out the care and rehabilitation of the homeless and the migrant to professionals. To people we pay because they know what they are doing. Who have backup. Who don’t make us look, too much, at what’s going on with the poor and the stateless.

    That means, of course, government action. Fighting over allotments of taxpayer money and over the size and location of refugee centers and homeless shelters.

    Not because there is anything wrong with the strangers, but because we won’t take them in.

    George Pyle, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial page editor, may need to be taken in himself someday. Along with his cat.

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    In its most recent term, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of the most important Fourth Amendment cases of the past several decades involving digital privacy. Chief Justice Roberts joined four justices to rule that the police must obtain a warrant before tracking a citizen’s location via his cell phone.

    The case, Carpenter v. United States, involved a series of robberies that the FBI was able to tie to Timothy Carpenter after cell phone data showed he was near each of the robberies when they occurred. The FBI did not get a warrant for the data before obtaining it. The government argued that it can lawfully use cell phone data to track the location of any citizen at any time without a warrant.

    The Supreme Court has now rejected that argument. In doing so, it has likely expanded protections for citizens’ privacy rights in a wide variety of new technologies, from emails to web browsers to home speaker systems like Amazon’s Alexa. But those protections remain uncertain and vulnerable to change. The court’s opinion was vague, and it focused on cell phone tracking alone. It pointed the way towards protecting privacy in the internet age without actually doing so. Although supporters of privacy should celebrate this important victory, we should not lose sight of how fragile it is.

    The Fourth Amendment normally requires the government to have probable cause and a search warrant before searching houses or examining private data. But this principle has generally been limited by something called the “third party doctrine.” The third party doctrine dictates that personal information exposed to a third party like a phone company or a bank is no longer protected by the Fourth Amendment. In the internet era, the third party doctrine threatens to eliminate Fourth Amendment rights in almost every form of digital information. Google searches, emails, cloud-stored files, cell phone data and more are all shared with third party service providers.

    The Carpenter decision seriously diminishes the power of the third party doctrine. Carpenter’s location data was exposed to his cell phone providers, Sprint and MetroPCS. Those companies recorded his location data in their own business records — companies often use this information for marketing and research. Yet the court ruled that this exposure to third parties no longer mattered for Fourth Amendment purposes. It was concerned about the almost unlimited potential of cell phone tracking to reveal things about citizens’ private lives. The court also noted that, in today’s world, people have little choice but to use cell phones and no ability to stop those phones from revealing their locations to their cell phone companies.

    The court accordingly ruled that the third party doctrine does not extend to especially revealing forms of information, like cell phone data that can reveal a citizen’s every move. At first glance, this appears to be a narrow and fact-dependent ruling, one that depends on the uniquely revealing and unavoidable nature of cell phone tracking. But the principles of Carpenter extend to a wide variety of technologies.

    Facial recognition and license plate tracking are similarly revealing of movement and similarly difficult for citizens to avoid. Web-surfing data, Google searches and speech recorded by Alexa are all extremely revealing forms of information and navigating the internet is certainly a necessary part of modern life. Protection for things like the contents of emails and text messages seems even more certain, as even many of the dissenting justices suggested that such writings are equivalent to the “papers” that the Fourth Amendment has traditionally protected. Because the logic of Carpenter extends to all of these technologies, it likely represents a huge victory for privacy despite its seemingly narrow focus.

    In the end, the force of Carpenter will depend on the stability of the court’s personnel and the willingness of the chief justice to create clear rules to protect privacy rather than resolving cases with as little discussion of principles as possible. The court’s partial rejection of the third party doctrine represents a major victory for privacy rights. But the uncertainty and fragility of its holding means that the fight to preserve the Fourth Amendment in the internet age is far from over.

    Matthew Tokson | University of Utah School of Law
    Matthew Tokson | University of Utah School of Law

    Matthew Tokson (@mtokson) is an associate professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law who writes and teaches in Fourth Amendment law, among other subjects. He is a former senior associate at WilmerHale LLP and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter.

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    Sometime during my years as a cop, I arrested four BYU students — two guys, two girls — for scampering around a city graveyard in the middle of the night.

    When I caught them, they weren’t entirely dressed. They weren’t naked, but I did find a sock and a pair of women’s underpants on a headstone.

    Personally, I didn’t care what idiot game they were playing in a graveyard at night or even if sex had been planned atop somebody’s grave. But that’s just me.

    However, as a cop, I was paid to enforce the law, which included trespassing into a graveyard after hours. That, and an attempt to argue public property statutes with me based on half a semester of pre-law, earned them a trip to jail.

    I thought that was it. But a few months later, the court issued a failure-to-appear warrant for one of the kids. It landed in my lap.

    Curious, I checked into it. The judge had released the students on their own recognizance. That was OK with me. But I dug a little more and discovered that all four had been kicked out of BYU within a couple of days of their arrests.

    I was never certain whether they were expelled because of trespassing, being out so late, because of a stray pair of underpants or something else. Nobody would tell me.

    I felt bad. After all, the kids hadn’t done anything all that horrible. I could have just ended the debate by giving the pre-law mouth a boot in the butt and sent the students on their way.

    Instead, they went to jail, got bounced from school, endured prolonged parental disapproval and shame at church, and, doubtless, ended up riddled with needle marks and living on the street.

    I’m kidding about the last part. Maybe being tossed from BYU actually put them on the right path. Most of those things happened to me, and I didn’t turn out entirely hopeless.

    What bothered me at the time was that a misdemeanor arrest by a municipal cop ended up being processed by a church-owned police force and a very private judgment committee.

    Call me irascible, but the worst form of church-and-state violation is when a religion has its own state-authorized police department to enforce secular law — and a little extra.

    Don’t get me wrong. I worked with a lot of BYU cops. Good ones. But it was whom they ultimately answered to that gave me pause.

    I answered, in order, to a sergeant, a lieutenant, a chief, a mayor and, ultimately, the public. I don’t know how it worked at BYU, but I’ll bet it wasn’t the same line of authority after chief. Somewhere at the top of that lofty chain of command was Jesus.

    The last thing a church needs is a police department. Security guards? OK. But cops?

    If I discovered two BYU faculty members (married but not to each other) making the windows of a car steam (and I did once), I didn’t have to report the adultery through official channels.

    My responsibility began and ended with making sure both occupants wanted to be there and maybe suggesting they take it somewhere else.

    I never knew BYU cops who looked at themselves as the morality police, but I’m not sure if they were ever ordered to be. I hope it never happens.

    Who wants to be sitting in church and suddenly get snatched out of the congregation for unpaid parking tickets? Would not paying a full tithe be a misdemeanor or a felony?

    If any church has a police department, then it should be run like regular police forces — with open records, public appeals and not checking to see whether someone went to worship service.

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    They did not have to die.

    That's the bitter truth. Katie Sasser and her friend John Hall would likely still be alive if cops and prosecutors in Glynn County, Georgia, had done their jobs. But they were more interested in protecting one of their own. So Sasser and Hall were shot to death in June by Sasser's estranged husband, Robert C. Sasser. He then killed himself.

    Consider it the grim coda to a tale told in this space in 2016, about the most troubling police shooting you've never heard of. It began in June of 2010 when Caroline Small, a troubled 35-year-old woman, led police on a low-speed chase after being spotted using drugs.

    The dashcam video shows that they caught her, had her hemmed in on all sides with four flat tires. Small rocked the car back and forth a couple times, but it was useless. She had nowhere to go. And for no good reason whatsoever, then-Sgt. Sasser and Officer Todd Simpson shot her, eight rounds peppering her windshield. As she lay dying, they bragged about their marksmanship.

    "I hit her right in the face ... right on the bridge of the nose," said Sasser.

    Simpson waved off a former EMT who approached the car. "She's dead. I shot her in the head. Her head exploded." Small died seven days later.

    But that wasn't the worst. A 2015 investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, a local ABC affiliate, found that police tampered with the crime scene, manufactured misleading evidence and interfered with a supposedly "independent" investigation, aided and abetted by District Attorney Jackie Johnson, who deferred to and helped the defense at every step.

    As a result, Sasser and Simpson (who died of brain cancer in 2016) were cleared of wrongdoing. A civil suit was dismissed.

    "I've lost many nights of sleep over it," David Peterson, a former prosecutor in Johnson's office, told the AJC. "This was a murder, and it was covered up. It shouldn't have happened. It was wrong."

    As noted, unless you live in the region, you've probably never heard of this case. That's because Small was white. As such, she does not fit comfortably into our national debate on police brutality, dominated as it has been by African Americans like Philando Castile, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray.

    But as I pointed out two years ago, "Although African Americans bear the brunt of our refusal to demand accountability for police misbehavior, unchecked power ultimately has no racial loyalties."

    The British historian Lord Acton famously put it like this: "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Sasser got away with murder because of that corrupted power, because it closed ranks and looked the other way. Heck, he even got a promotion. Apparently, no one thought to ask whether two men who could callously execute a woman who posed no threat were fit to be police officers. Apparently, no one wondered if maybe they should be in prison.

    In May, Sasser was arrested for domestic violence. A few days later, he tried to assault fellow officers after a nine-hour standoff during which he was suicidal. Last month, he murdered Katie Sasser and John Hall.

    And maybe none of it would have happened had anyone done right by Small, had they not placed law enforcers above the law itself. May every cop and prosecutor wrestle with the lessons of that failure. May every individual who thinks police brutality is something black people made up realize that under unchecked power, no one is safe.

    And may every person who failed Caroline Small meet her in their dreams.

    Leonard Pitts Jr.
    Leonard Pitts Jr. (CHUCK KENNEDY/)

    Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald.

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    The cloud blurring the view from Break Merino’s damaged left eye swells and recedes with memories: A drug dealer’s kid, covered in feces and unable to speak after years imprisoned in a pen. The limp weight of a drowning victim. The daughter of a man whose skull he fractured with a baton.

    But in the center of it all, where his vision is clearest, Merino can track a theme in the stress of his life as one of Salt Lake City's most street-savvy investigators:


    It started with his sources — the relationships he cultivated and sometimes burned. The people he convinced to snitch.

    Merino once embedded in immigrant neighborhoods on Salt Lake City's west side, where he made friends, mentored kids, got invited to family cookouts — and then helped lock up 17 men connected to the Tongan Crip Gang.

    But now, sitting in his darkened house, unemployed and 60 pounds lighter, Merino says his distress isn't just from the persistent anxiety over being found out, over breaking trust. It isn’t just over what he saw and did on the streets.

    Betrayal comes full circle, he says. After post-traumatic stress disorder caused a cortisol buildup that began blinding his left eye, after an interrupted suicide attempt, after being directed to what he considered a counterproductive therapy program and seeking desk work he could do from home, Merino says he was fired under a city policy restricting medical leave. The department’s union abandoned his case amid its own political upheaval, he says.

    Now he is taking legal action on his own — seeking financial compensation — and calling out what he describes as a “punitive,” “political” department where he says officer expertise isn’t valued.

    "Some of this work comes with a price," says Merino, 41. "Before you know it, you're just panicking and you don't know how to get it under control, and there's just no place to turn — and when you do turn and ask for help, it's 'How can we throw you away? We don't want to deal with it.'"

    The city is pushing back.

    “We believe that any claim of discrimination … will be found without merit,” says city human resources director Julio Garcia. “The city does care about its employees. Terrible things do happen, but we have to fill those positions.”

    ‘The guy has a gift’

    His former supervisor, retired Deputy Chief Isaac Atencio, says Merino was a rare find in policing: street smart, people smart and creative.

    Merino’s collection of accolades — multiple awards, a stack of commendations from commanders, recognition as a gang expert for federal prosecutions — reflect his ambitious policing style during his 17-year career, according to Atencio and other officers who were close to him.

    "The guy has a gift," says Atencio. "He was probably getting more done than any of the other detectives they had working in there."

    Especially unusual, Atencio says, was Merino's comfort with street culture — something Atencio chalks up to Merino's upbringing in a Utah policing family; his father also was an officer. Where other officers might see gangs as uniformly sinister, Merino saw nuance in the hierarchies and community ties, Atencio says.

    That made him the perfect fit for the case that would make his career.

    Merino had joined Atencio's gang unit in the mid-2000s, after stints with SWAT and patrols in Glendale, where the Tongan Crip Gang (TCG) for years had been gaining notoriety.

    The gang was interlaced with families and neighborhoods — and its members weren’t all the same. A few were dangerous and powerful, Merino says. Others, he says, were decent kids hanging out with their friends and getting into low-grade trouble.

    To deal with the gang without needlessly ripping apart a community and its families, enforcement would need to be more surgical, Merino says, and that meant someone would need to know its structure intimately.

    The gang unit devised a plan: Merino would coach youth football in Salt Lake City's Tongan community and build relationships to learn the gang's inner workings.

    “I knew from there we could grow and get into more areas and start helping more … identify and generate informants and then branch out,” Merino says.

    Some administrators balked.

    "'Coaching football? I need stats!'" Merino recalls one deputy chief saying. "And I'm like, so, I can go out today and make 13 arrests on misdemeanors and scratch out citation after citation, and I won't have near the impact I'll have if I'm coaching that team."

    It worked. Merino gradually gained trust in the neighborhood.

    It wasn’t an act just to get close to his targets: Merino’s wife and daughters often joined him at family parties in Glendale, and his family still has close friends there.

    Merino wasn’t undercover, per se. He was well known as Glendale’s neighborhood Officer Friendly, someone who wouldn’t cuff a kid for petty crime and helped out where he could with rides and groceries, community members say.

    "They knew his position, they knew he was an officer, but they also knew they had a friend on the force," says one of Merino's former informants, who is part of Glendale's Tongan community and still has ties to TCG members.

    But his role shifted as he worked his way up the hierarchy, Merino says. Some members believed he was a "dirty cop" because they kept avoiding charges — but they didn't know he was holding out for something bigger.

    When federal racketeering indictments came down on 17 TCG members, based in part on evidence Merino had gathered, he knew the defendants weren’t the only ones blindsided. The case had wiped out almost “an entire generation” of young men from the community, Merino says — and he, the white police officer who had been welcomed at weddings and funerals, was part of it.

    He wanted to move in support programs: after-school activities, social workers and treatment for drugs and mental illness, post-prison rehabilitation.

    “What people didn’t know was that the [gang] leadership did keep kids in line a little bit,” Merino says. “As soon as they were gone, I knew it was going to create a vacuum. …It’s going to be awkward at first, but get back in, and then we’ve got to fill this void with something positive.”

    There was no money for that, Merino was told.

    He was moved to a training position in the department’s police academy, leaving behind a bewildered community with less than he says he wanted to give.

    ‘I feel responsible’

    Training other officers should have been less stressful than working the streets.

    But as time passed, Merino says, he became more anxious. He’d had nightmares since 2006, when he and three other officers got into a deadly fight with Alvin Itula, a man who was wrongly listed as having an arrest warrant due to a clerical error.

    While trying to subdue him, Merino struck him with his baton while another officer fired a Taser at him. Although medical examiners said Itula died not from Merino’s baton strikes but of drug-induced delirium and the officers were cleared in the death, Merino’s memory lingers on one detail: Itula’s daughter, watching the whole thing.

    "I feel responsible," Merino says.

    The night terrors and anxiety gnawed at Merino. He started drinking to get to sleep and waking up nauseous from panic. Violent scenes from his patrol days flashed inexplicably into his mind.

    Then the fallout from Merino’s Glendale days became inescapable: After TCG member Siale Angilau was shot to death by a federal marshal while lunging at a witness during his trial in 2014, gang resentments against Merino revived. Officers learned of retaliation threats and told Merino to send his family out of town. Federal agents installed cameras and alarms around Merino’s Davis County home, where he paced the rooms day after day with his gun and a fire extinguisher. TCG was known to use Molotov cocktails in revenge hits, Merino says, and they knew where he lived.

    But Merino's dread, he says, was not just about the new threats.

    For years he had worked in Glendale followed by a creeping fear that he would be exposed as a traitor. PTSD can produce an elevated sense of peril. But stalking around his own house alone for two weeks, blinds drawn, ears tuned to every passing car, it felt more like an awful premonition come to pass.

    When his wife, Courtney, and their daughters returned home, Merino was different, Courtney says. He kept beating his path around the house, scanning for attackers — a habit his then−10-year-old daughter nervously picked up. Now 14, she still circles the house before bed, religiously checking each lock and window in her nightly patrol.

    The whole family is in therapy.

    As Merino's anxiety peaked, he says he confessed to his sergeant that his marriage was failing and he was struggling to function. He says the sergeant suggested transferring him back to patrol — considered a step down professionally and a greater risk for PTSD.

    "That right there was my first clue that reporting (anxiety) to them was not going to work in my favor," Merino says. "So I quit talking about it to anybody. But the symptoms didn't go away or lessen, they just intensified."

    Merino eventually was returned to investigations, developing confidential informants for the department’s intelligence unit. But he didn’t feel safe or effective: Basic tactics for high-risk interviews — having a backup team nearby, taking care to protect informants from being pegged as snitches — weren’t being used, he says. Getting time and resources to ferret out crime networks also was tricky, he says.

    He also was truly undercover, working sources who didn't know he was a police officer. And as his PTSD symptoms worsened, vigilance bled into panic.

    "All of a sudden one day you're getting up and you're throwing up or nearly throwing up because you know today you've used up all your lives. You've had too many close calls — and all of a sudden you're going, 'What is creating this irrational thought?' And you can't put your finger on it. So the whole day you're going, 'I'm going to get killed today. I'm going to get killed today. I'm going to get killed today — or I'm going to get someone else killed.' You're driving yourself crazy because your subconscious is looking for this dangerous thing that doesn't exist."

    Meanwhile, working undercover revived Merino's anxieties around manipulation.

    “You’re starting to reach out to people … and you’re getting really close to them, and it’s like — God, but at some point I might have to burn you to get this [other] guy,” Merino says.

    ‘The house of cards came down’

    Finally, in February 2016, Merino says, “the house of cards came down.”

    He was helping search for a man with a knife in City Creek Canyon when his vision started to blur. By the time he got back to the station, he couldn't see at all through his left eye, and pressure was building up behind it.

    An opthamologist took a quick look and asked what sounded like an odd question: Had Merino had an "eventful" career as a police officer?

    Merino scanned back through 16 years of threats; chases; shootings; deaths; undercover deception; a baby with second-degree burns all over her body after she had been dipped in hot water as punishment for crying; a distressed firefighter, shot a few yards away from Merino during a standoff.

    Merino was diagnosed with central serous retinopathy, a vision disorder that flares up when the stress hormone cortisol creates a fluid buildup in the eye.

    He spent the next 16 months on leave and briefly working from home while undergoing conflicting treatments. He was given benzodiazepines to treat his vision, which could be permanently damaged without immediate relief — but they are known to worsen PTSD. He says the department worker’s compensation firm ordered him to undergo a type of psychotherapy that he says forced him to engage with traumatic memories without a strategy to cope with being triggered by them. His physical symptoms grew worse, he says.

    After eliminating the treatment, Merino began to improve — but the setback was demoralizing, he says. In December 2016, Merino says, a deputy chief told him the city had begun enforcing caps on medical leave, and he’d be fired if he couldn’t return to work.

    One night when Courtney and his daughters had gone out, Merino says he got out a gun.

    “I had made up my mind,” he says. “The girls left and I was going to do it — and they just happened to come back through the door five minutes later.”

    He hid the gun and didn't consider killing himself again, he says.

    But in July 2017, Merino says, he received word he was fired. He says he lost an array of benefits and has been on two-thirds pay since then, under worker’s compensation insurance.

    He was stunned, he says, that there was no role for him to play in the department while he was recovering — for example, advising the gang unit or doing background investigations from home.

    Merino’s history made him a valuable asset, says retired FBI agent Juan Becerra, who was connected to the TCG cases.

    “He is a very good investigator, but talent is not as important as having institutional knowledge,” says Becerra. “He had knowledge of what was going on in the street. He could talk to people. When you have somebody who has that kind of experience, which nothing else teaches you ... it makes them very important.”

    Merino's police union, the Salt Lake City Police Association, was no help, he says. His termination came amid a divisive election for the union presidency, he says, and his first meeting put him between the former president and an attorney who had supported the new one.

    The attorney said his firing was lawful, he says; a union representative recommended a civil-rights lawyer who said Merino’s case was good, but the union didn’t pay a retainer and legal action stalled.

    The association did not return calls requesting comment.

    ‘Protections don’t last in perpetuity’

    Now Merino is on his own; he hired a lawyer and filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in May alleging wrongful termination.

    Though Merino says administrators invoked a new three-month cap on leave, Garcia says Salt Lake City has long allowed its police chief to grant officers up to 12 months leave — but no longer.

    “You have to have cops on the street. You have to have firefighters fighting fires,” he says.

    He noted that an employment policy overhaul after Jackie Biskupski became mayor includes improved parental leave, tuition reimbursement for training and worker’s compensation and long-term unemployment packages.

    “We have these programs to help our employees who find themselves in these difficult situations,” he says. “But these protections don’t last in perpetuity.”

    Peer support coordinator Sgt. Lisa Pascadlo says the department has become more accommodating of PTSD cases in recent years and she believes officers are less afraid of seeking help. She called Merino’s case “a heartbreaker” but says “things have changed since then.”

    Merino says the department’s unwillingness to keep the door open for him shows a pattern of favoring instant rewards over long-term investment in expertise and strategy.

    His assignment to develop informants, for example, was led by inexperienced officers, he says. He recalls intervening to stop supervisors from managing informants in a way that he knew could be seen by judges as coercion or a civil-rights violation.

    “We can’t do it that way,” he recalls saying. “I’ve already been through court on this.”

    Retaining experienced officers is a problem, acknowledges Salt Lake City police detective and spokesman Greg Wilking — but he says it extends throughout the profession.

    “There’s an awful lot of experience that is being lost in our police department, and it’s because people aren’t sticking around,” he says. “That’s institutional knowledge, that’s a lot of hours time-tested and proved, and we are losing that experience. People are checking out after 20 years, if they can make it to 20 years. … That lack of experience — yeah, that hurts.”

    Meanwhile, Merino says, his work networking in Glendale has gone to waste.

    “Now they’ll pull you over and arrest you for the stupidest things,” says the informant, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. "The younger guys — they hate all police officers now, they hate everyone now.”

    Angilau’s sister, Tolina Tausinga cautiously accepted Merino’s friendship in the years after her brother was shot to death in court. Merino was trying to rebuild ties in Glendale, and Tausinga had become a community activist.

    “I didn’t trust anyone with a badge, but [Merino] … kept coming to see how he could help me,” Tausinga says. “Break Merino is one of the only officers I can honestly say, even though it hurts me, I respect.”

    Tausinga eventually took a community outreach job with the department and Merino hoped to partner with her permanently to redevelop plans for gang prevention. But her position lost funding, Merino got sick, and now, she says, police relations in Glendale have deteriorated. She called Merino’s termination “a huge loss.”

    Gang enforcement strategy changes quickly in the Salt Lake Valley, where gang activity crosses city lines and various task forces have led investigations over the years, Wilking says.

    “A lot of those directives change based on different administrations,” Wilking says, adding that citizen experiences with gang investigators may reflect that more than a philosophical shift within one department.

    Officers who are injured on the job are a priority for hiring if they can return within three years, Garcia says. But Merino says he isn’t looking to return to the department, which he describes as “retaliatory.”

    After everything, he says, some of the strongest ties to his old policing life are the sources he worked. They still come to visit and invite him to family get-togethers, even after he made his career manipulating loyalties in their communities.

    “Guys that I thought were close — we've been in shootouts together — I haven't heard from them once,” he says. “But then my CIs [confidential informants] come up to see me.”

    As for the “thin blue line” of police solidarity, Merino says: “It’s very thin.”

    ( Leah Hogsten  |  The Salt Lake Tribune ) Break Merino stands near  a sketch of himself from the Salt Lake City Police Department thanking him for his "outstanding service and dedication to The Team" from January 2004 to September 2010 on the SWAT unit. Merino was terminated after taking leave for post-traumatic stress disorder, including a PTSD-related condition where cortisol builds up behind his retinas, causing vision impairment in his left eye.
    ( Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune ) Break Merino stands near a sketch of himself from the Salt Lake City Police Department thanking him for his "outstanding service and dedication to The Team" from January 2004 to September 2010 on the SWAT unit. Merino was terminated after taking leave for post-traumatic stress disorder, including a PTSD-related condition where cortisol builds up behind his retinas, causing vision impairment in his left eye. (Leah Hogsten/)

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    It’s happening again, the rumors about an imminent two-hour block.

    Someone’s cousin in Arizona belongs to a Mormon congregation that has reportedly started consolidating its meetings to two hours each Sunday instead of the requisite three. Or your sister-in-law’s parents heard about a stake in New England that is piloting a two-hour church program so church members can more faithfully observe a quieter Sabbath.

    Actually, that second rumor was true. In 2015, the Boston stake did apparently pilot such a program for exactly that reason. But the part of the story that the rumor mill neglects to mention is that the institutional church quickly put the kibosh on those enterprising New Englanders, with the Newsroom issuing the following statement about it in November 2015:

    “After recognizing it was not within church guidelines, local church leadership in the Boston Massachusetts Stake decided to drop plans to shorten the standard Sunday worship meeting schedule. The two-month experiment set to begin in the stake in January was planned locally with good intentions to better observe the Sabbath Day.”

    And who knows? The cousin-in-Arizona rumor may be partly true as well. There are some Mormon congregations that only meet for two hours. But on closer examination these generally turn out to be branches, not wards.

    (Just by way of explanation for non-Mormon readers: when the LDS Church isn’t well-established in an area and doesn’t yet have enough members to form a ward, it makes a branch, and the rules are a little different. Two-hour Sunday church is normal for many branches because they don’t have enough members to run all the programs of a fully functioning ward. Only in Mormonism is your reward for congregational growth going to be . . . more and longer meetings.)

    Despite the fact that the church rejected the Boston attempt, and despite the fact that we’ve all had our hopes raised and dashed many times before on the subject of shorter church meetings . . . nevertheless we persist. The rumors have started again, as Mormons are by nature an optimistic people. A couple of readers have asked me recently if I have any corroboration that a two-hour block is going to take effect in January.

    So I contacted a church official, fully expecting to be told that the rumors were the usual twaddle. Instead I received a “no comment” by email, which is not unusual, with a puzzling added layer of seesawing over the phone, which was. It was a somewhat bewildering conversation: I had contacted the church to obtain disconfirmation of a rumor, and was told simultaneously that 1) the church could not confirm or deny the rumor, and 2) I should not go around spreading rumors, but try to learn the facts about whether such rumors are true. Um . . . .

    The spokesperson also encouraged me to ask journalists and scholars who might have information about pilot programs that were implementing changes to church meetings, and specifically mentioned Claremont Mormon Studies chair Patrick Mason as one such person.

    Mason, however, knew nothing beyond the usual rumors and said he didn’t know why the church had referred me to him. But as usual, he had a very thoughtful take on the question in general, including ruminations about how Mormons’ longer meetings help contribute to our shared identity as a people:

    “I would see it [a shorter block] as just one more step in the direction of Mormonism being something less than an all-encompassing religion — another step away from the Mormon village that we’ve mostly lost. (Plus, I’m still in the demographic that benefits from two hours of free baby-sitting per week.)

    “I mean, if you’re going to church for two hours, does one more hour really hurt? Are there droves of people out there who are staying away but would crowd the chapels if only it were a two-hour block? I’d much rather have church HQ and local stakes and wards do the hard work of thinking how to make those three hours more productive than to simply punt and say we’ll have two mediocre hours rather than three.”

    Mason always makes me think more deeply about a question. In this case, he makes me suspicious of my own default assumption that a two-hour block would be, without question, an improvement. I’ve long been a fan of the idea of shorter church meetings, especially since as things stand now, many Mormons have additional meetings before or after the three-hour block. So when we’re adding things like ward council or choir practice to the mix, various stalwarts are routinely in the building for four or five hours on a Sunday. Having a two-hour block could help those folks spend more time with their families and also force wards to evaluate what actually helps people feel the Spirit on Sundays, so we’re not just filling time or going through the motions.

    But maybe Mason is right that our shared religious identity is eroding in important ways, and we should be wary of it chipping away still further.

    It’s probably an academic question. The church recently announced it would be expanding its Sunday school resources for 2019, releasing new study guides to enhance its planned curriculum on the New Testament.

    It sounds like the church wants to equip members to study the scriptures at home — but my read is that this is being positioned as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, having Sunday school for all ages during the three-hour block.

    If I’m wrong, I’ll gladly eat my hat. Or at least a cake I have baked in the shape of a hat during the extra hour when I would otherwise have been at church.

    The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.

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    London • Novak Djokovic was disconsolate and injured when he left Wimbledon a year ago, quitting during his quarterfinal because of a painful right elbow that would need surgery.

    Djokovic was so dispirited by his upset exit at the French Open last month that he vowed, in the heat of the moment, to skip the grass-court circuit.

    Good thing he didn't stick to that. Just look at him now, back at his best and Wimbledon's champion for the fourth time. Djokovic ended a Grand Slam drought that lasted more than two seasons, grabbing a lead in Sunday's final right away against a weary Kevin Anderson and holding off a late challenge to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3).

    "I had many moments of doubt," Djokovic said, "and didn't know really if I could come back to the level to compete."

    Anderson nearly managed to extend the match, five times standing just a point away from forcing a fourth set. Djokovic held steady on each one, then was as superior in the tiebreaker as he was most of the sun-drenched afternoon.

    It is Djokovic's 13th major trophy, the fourth-highest total in the history of men's tennis, trailing only Roger Federer's 20, Rafael Nadal's 17 and Pete Sampras' 14.

    But it's also Djokovic's first since he completed a career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open.

    During that time, he struggled with the first major injury of his professional career, one that forced him off the tour for the last half of 2017. He eventually had an operation this February, and as his losses accumulated, his ranking fell out of the top 20 for the first time in more than a decade.

    At No. 21, Djokovic is the lowest-ranked Wimbledon titlist since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.

    Under a pale blue sky interrupted by only the occasional soft white puff of cloud, with the temperature at 86 degrees (30 Celsius), Djokovic started so well, and Anderson shakily.

    "The first two sets," acknowledged Anderson, who played college tennis at the University of Illinois, "Novak beat up on me pretty bad."

    That might have been easy to anticipate. This was, after all, the 22nd Grand Slam final for Djokovic, and the second for Anderson, the runner-up at last year's U.S. Open and aiming to become the first South African man to win Wimbledon.

    Plus, Anderson could be excused for exhaustion. His semifinal was the second-longest Grand Slam match in history, lasting more than 6½ hours until he edged John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set. And that followed another extended fifth set in his 13-11 upset of eight-time champion Federer in the quarterfinals.

    "I'm definitely not feeling as fresh now as I was coming into the week," Anderson said.

    It was no wonder that, with all of that time on court, all of that stress on his racket-swinging arm, Anderson was visited by a trainer after Sunday's opening set to get his right elbow massaged.

    Anderson was so out of sorts, his strokes so off-the-mark, that Djokovic gathered eight of the first 10 games even though he only conjured up two winners. No need for more, because Anderson gifted him 15 unforced errors in that span.

    It was so lopsided for the first hour-plus that spectators began pulling for Anderson, likely in the hopes of getting more tennis for their tickets, which carried a face value of 210 pounds (about $275).

    Just his earning a random point, even via a Djokovic miscue, was reason to roar, it seemed. Surely, Anderson appreciated the support. Didn't do a thing to alter the ultimate outcome, however.

    When Anderson pushed a forehand return into the net to end it, Djokovic exhaled. After they shook hands, Djokovic performed his ritual of bending down to grab a couple of blades of grass and plopping them in his mouth, savoring the triumph.

    "The grass tasted really well," joked Djokovic, who did the same after his Wimbledon titles in 2011, 2014 and 2015. "I had a double portion this year, to treat myself."

    One difference on this day: His 3-year-old son, Stefan, was up in the stands for the trophy presentation . Later, they met in a hallway, and Djokovic knelt down to hug his child.

    "It feels amazing," Djokovic said, "because for the first time in my life, I have someone screaming 'Daddy! Daddy!'"

    This was a third consecutive straight-set men's singles final at the All England Club, and one indication of why: Anderson made 32 unforced errors, Djokovic 13.

    Another key: Djokovic handled the 6-foot-8 Anderson's big serves much better than previous opponents. Widely considered the top returner in the game, Djokovic broke four times. Consider that Anderson won each of his last 27 service games against Isner.

    One more: Djokovic saved all seven break points he faced, including five that would have given Anderson the third set.

    As much as Djokovic is known for his body-bending defense and unerring reads on opponents' serves, he's also someone who fills his matches with histrionics and exaggerated reactions, whether violently smacking the side of his shoe with his racket — as he did against Nadal in their thrilling five-set semifinal that began Friday and ended Saturday — or tearing off his shirt to celebrate a victory.

    This day was no different. Angered by fans making noise during points, he told the chair umpire to tell them to shut up, throwing a colorful word into the demand. He pointed to his ear after winning one point, as if to say: "Who are you cheering for now?!" He blew a kiss toward the stands after another.

    But when he broke Anderson for the second time in three service games at the outset, Djokovic simply shook a clenched fist while calmly looking at his guest box above the scoreboard. The bright yellow digits on there showed that Djokovic already led 4-1 after all of 18 minutes.

    Might as well have declared him the champion, right then and there.

    “There is no better place in the world to really be making a comeback,” Djokovic said. “This is a sacred place for the world of tennis.”

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    Salem, Ore. • Members of the Warm Springs Hotshots were getting ready to head home when the radio buzzed — a wildfire had started — and the elite crew launched into motion to tamp down the blaze in the sagebrush of eastern Oregon’s foothills.

    The blur of activity in late June would be familiar to every wildland firefighter, but the Warm Springs crew is one of only seven Hotshot crews based on an American Indian reservation and overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. It’s also one of only four administered directly by an American Indian tribe.

    The country's more than 100 Hotshot crews — consisting of about 20 members each — are trained to work in remote areas for long periods and often respond to large, high-priority wildfires. Members must pass arduous physical tests and undergo training in specialties like fire behavior.

    Gaining certification as a crew can take years.

    For those based on American Indian reservations, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has a hiring preference that selects tribal members first. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland.

    “As a Native crew, we’re representing Native people when we’re going out,” said Renso Rodriguez, the crew’s assistant superintendent.

    Members of the Warm Springs Hotshots watch a helicopter water drop as they battle a blaze in the hills above Warm Springs, Ore., July 1, 2018. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Tom James)
    Members of the Warm Springs Hotshots watch a helicopter water drop as they battle a blaze in the hills above Warm Springs, Ore., July 1, 2018. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Tom James) (Tom James/) A member of the Warm Springs Hotshots holds his gear in Warm Springs, Ore., July 1, 2018. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Tom James)
    A member of the Warm Springs Hotshots holds his gear in Warm Springs, Ore., July 1, 2018. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Tom James) (Tom James/)

    Darron Williams, a Hopi tribal member and head of fire prevention for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Pacific Northwest, put it another way, describing modern prescribed burning techniques as tying into traditional understandings of the role of fire — and people — in the ecosystem.

    The Warm Springs crew has a unique connection to the community, but members had to overcome tensions elsewhere in its early years.

    Glenn Smith was a supervisor on the team in the late 1980s and early ’90s, shortly after it gained the elite status.

    Back then, Smith recalled, the crew's members stood out — and were sometimes singled out, arriving at fires to find themselves assigned work normally reserved for less-qualified crews.

    Hotshots are “usually up in front with the flames,” Smith said. The superintendent at the time, he added, “would always have to go up there and tell them, ‘No, we’re a Hotshot crew.’”

    Once, recounted current superintendent Gary Sampson, the crew showed up at a wildfire in another state only to be made to wait in camp for three days while other crews were sent out.

    “We were just sitting together, playing cards,” Sampson said, adding that he was a junior crewmember at the time. “We could see the fire on the hill right above us.”

    Over time, the crew earned a reputation for hard work, and younger members described such tensions as mostly something they had only heard about.

    Members of the Warm Springs Hotshots stand at the ready in Warm Springs, Ore., July 1, 2018. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Tom James)
    Members of the Warm Springs Hotshots stand at the ready in Warm Springs, Ore., July 1, 2018. Most Warm Springs Hotshots belong to one of the three Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and live on the sparsely populated reservation about 100 miles southeast of Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Tom James) (Tom James/)

    Overwhelmingly, members described the Warm Springs Hotshots’ unique identity in positive terms, as a commonality that draws the group together and connects it to the tribal community.

    It's not uncommon to have relatives working on the crew — its members currently include a pair of brothers — or successive generations cycling through, Sampson said.

    The connections extend beyond the crew itself.

    A small wildfire recently sparked dangerously close to the outskirts of Warm Springs, and community members including Austin Smith, 67, parked on an overlook to watch its progress.

    As crews from around the area fought the fire, Smith, a distant relation of Glenn Smith, described a tribal tradition of digging graves by hand.

    Some families still follow the practice, physically arduous as it is.

    “If the family wants to do it by hand and they ask the Hotshots to help them, they will,” Smith said.

    In winter, the crew also is known to cut wood for tribal elders, and in the summer to clear flammable brush and grass from around their homes.

    “They’re a vertebra,” Smith said. “They hold up the people.”

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    Moscow • The World Cup final is typically a tightly wound, low-scoring affair and, since the turn of the young century, teams have been separated by narrow margins or dreaded penalty kicks.

    This summer’s four-week spectacle in Russia, however, defied convention from the start, and so it was fitting that on the last day of a glorious tournament, France won the championship Sunday in a wild affair with Croatia, 4-2, for its second title in 20 years.

    Vive La France. Vive Les Bleus.

    Ending a string of three consecutive finals decided after regulation, France scored three straight goals in a 27-minute stretch bridging halftime.

    The six goals were as many as the previous four finals combined. They were the most in a final since England beat Germany, 4-2, in extra time in 1966 and the most in regulation since Brazil's 5-2 triumph over Sweden in 1958.

    Didier Deschamps became the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, joining Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer.

    Croatia, a country of some 4.4 million, was attempting to become the smallest nation since Uruguay in 1950 to raise the trophy.

    An own goal, a penalty kick and strikes by Paul Pogba and 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe elevated the French in an open and entertaining match before a global TV audience estimated at more than 1 billion and a sellout crowd of 78,011.

    A day before the summit with President Donald Trump in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin was joined on the VIP level by, among others, French President Emmanuel Macron and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

    The final brings out not just those supporting the participating teams, but fans of teams that were eliminated long ago. It’s the culmination of the planet’s most popular sporting event, but also a four-week party that spread to 10 other cities before reconvening in the capital.

    Croatia set the terms. France did not seem to mind but needed to absorb mounting pressure for 15 minutes. The Croatians were not precise enough in the final third of the attack to test goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the French captain.

    Perhaps the French figured the Croatians would burn themselves out after playing three consecutive extra-time matches (an additional 90 minutes) over two weeks of knockout games. Croatia, though, has proven resilient in the face of fatigue, as England learned after taking an early lead in the semifinals and surrendering in extra time.

    Croatia’s early fun and promise came to an end in the 18th minute on a French set piece. Antoine Griezmann launched the 30-yard free kick toward the edge of the six-yard box, a perilous spot to defend with so many surging bodies angling to make contact. French heads rose, but the one to connect was Mario Mandzukic’s. It skipped off his scalp and floated past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to the far side for an own goal.

    Croatia answered 10 minutes later and, like France, started it with a free kick. Luka Modric's service was not a direct threat, but after three headers and Domagoj Vida's alert back pass, Ivan Perisic steered the ball from Ngolo Kante and ripped a left-footed shot from 17 yards that nicked a defender and splashed into the far side for his third goal of the tournament.

    Another 10 minutes passed before France's go-ahead goal, a penalty kick by Griezmann that was awarded with an assist from video replay.

    On Griezmann's corner kick, Blaise Matuidi won a header against Perisic at the near post. The ball then struck Perisic's left hand. Argentine referee Nestor Pitana did not witness the infraction, but after being notified by the video assistant referee, he consulted the sideline monitor and pointed to the spot.

    Griezmann's fourth goal in seven appearances provided the most first-half goals in a final since 1974 between West Germany and the Netherlands.

    Croatia buzzed with menace after intermission. Lloris made a sensational leaping save on Ante Rebic's searing bid, then exited the penalty area and used his chest to control a dangerous ball an instant before Perisic arrived.

    At the other end, Mbappe turned the corner with the agility and acceleration of a sports car and tested Subasic from an acute angle.

    Mbappe was it again in the 59th minute, using his speed and balance to infiltrate the right side of the box. He crossed to Griezmann, who tapped back to Paul Pogba. The first bid was blocked, but when the second returned to him, the Manchester United midfielder smashed a left-footed shot from 19 yards.

    Subasic had been leaning one way; the ball went the other. In disappointment, he fell on his back, well aware the match was slipping away.

    Mbappe got into the scoring act six minutes later, gathering Lucas Hernandez's pass and ripping a 25-yard shot into the low left corner for his fourth goal of the competition.

    Mandzukic got one back in the 69th minute, pressuring the sloppy Lloris on a routine back pass. He not only blocked the outlet attempt, but directed it into the net.

    Croatia had a faint lifeline, but time melted away on its upset hopes and left France atop the soccer world again.

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    Moscow • Russian protest group Pussy Riot claimed responsibility Sunday for four people who brought the World Cup final to a brief halt by running onto the field dressed in police uniforms.

    The three women and one man who charged onto the field simultaneously in the 52nd minute of one of the world's most watched sporting events were tackled to the ground by stewards. Croatia defender Dejan Lovren pushed the man, helping a steward to detain him.

    Before being hauled away, one of the women managed to reach the center of the field and share a double high-five with France forward Kylian Mbappe.

    “Hello everyone from the Luzhniki field, it’s great here,” the heavily political punk band said on Twitter, and released a statement calling for the freeing of political prisoners, an end to “illegal arrests” of protesters and to “allow political competition” in Russia.

    Their statement also referenced the case of Oleg Sentsov, a vocal opponent of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, who was sentenced in 2015 to 20 years for conspiracy to commit terror acts. He denies the charges and has been on a hunger strike since mid-May.

    The group said the police uniforms symbolized how Russian police's actions fall short of their "heavenly" depiction in literature and called for reforms. It wasn't clear if they used the uniforms as a ruse to enter the Luzhniki Stadium amid tight security, and the group couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

    "The citizens in question were taken to the local police station," the Moscow branch of the Russian Interior Ministry said, without providing further details.

    Pussy Riot rose to global prominence with their daring outdoor performances critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012 that sent two members to prison for nearly two years. Putin was watching the game alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

    The group was previously known for wearing brightly colored balaclavas, though those who protested Sunday did so with their faces uncovered.

    FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The protest was briefly shown on international TV broadcasts, even though FIFA policy is usually to cut away from field invasions.

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    London • In the midst of a messy political crisis at home over Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed Sunday that Donald Trump gave her this piece of advice: Sue the EU, don’t negotiate.

    A bemused May turned him down. But the exchange was the latest example of the awkward dance between the U.S. and Britain, with the two leaders attempting to put on a public show of friendliness despite clear strains over trade, the EU and their approaches to diplomacy.

    Trump told reporters on Friday that he had given May advice about how to deal with the EU that she found too "brutal." Asked in a BBC interview Sunday what that was, May responded with an amused expression: "He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them."

    With a laugh, she added: "Actually, no. We're going into negotiations with them."

    In the past few days, Trump's first official visit to Britain has been steered wildly off course by a series of humiliating remarks he has made about May's leadership — especially her handling of the tense Brexit negotiations.

    In an explosive interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader's approach likely "killed" chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, "but she didn't listen to me."

    He also praised May's rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May's Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a "great prime minister."

    The comments shocked many in Britain — even May's opponents — and couldn't have come at a worse time for the British prime minister, who is facing a crisis over Brexit from within her own ranks. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain's biggest trading partner.

    The U.S. president later apologized and sought to soften the blow, telling reporters at a joint news conference Friday that May is an "incredible woman" who is "doing a fantastic job" as prime minister.

    Asked to rate U.S.-U.K. relations, Trump called them the "highest level of special." He added it was up to May how to handle Brexit, as long as the U.S. "can trade and we don't have any restrictions" on commerce with the United Kingdom.

    On Sunday, May seemed to point to Trump's inconsistent advice when she said that as well as telling her to "sue" the EU, he also suggested not walking away from the negotiations.

    May didn't elaborate, and it wasn't clear what grounds Britain would have to sue the EU, how it would work or to what purpose.

    But Trump has made clear his animosity toward the EU, aggressively criticizing his European NATO allies for taking advantage of the U.S. on trade and defense spending. In a CBS interview Saturday, he called the EU a trade "foe."

    May's government has just published its long-awaited Brexit plans, which propose to keep Britain and the EU in a free market for goods, with a more distant relationship for services. That has infuriated fervent Brexit supporters, who see it as a bad deal. Along with Johnson, the man who had been leading the Brexit negotiations, David Davis, also quit in protest.

    Ahead of a key week of Parliament votes on trade and customs policy, May warned party rebels on Sunday they should fall into line, saying wrecking her Brexit blueprint could result in disaster.

    "We need to keep our eyes on the prize. If we don't, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all," she wrote in an article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

    She acknowledged that some lawmakers had doubts about her plans to stick to a "common rule book" with the bloc for goods and agricultural products in return for free trade, without tariffs or border customs checks, but insisted she couldn't see a viable alternative.

    Her appeal didn’t convince prominent Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, who accused May of only half-heartedly supporting Brexit. May, he contended, was “a Remainer who remains a Remainer.”

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    San Diego • A federal judge, responding to a plan to reunify children separated at the border, said he was having second thoughts about his belief that the Trump administration was acting in good faith to comply with his orders.

    The Justice Department on Friday filed a plan to reunify more than 2,500 children age 5 and older by a court-imposed deadline of July 26 using "truncated" procedures to verify parentage and perform background checks, which exclude DNA testing and other steps it took to reunify children under 5.

    The administration said the abbreviated vetting puts children at significant safety risk but is needed to meet the deadline.

    Chris Meekins, deputy assistant Health and Human Services secretary for preparedness and response, filed a declaration that he is fully committed to meeting the deadline. However, he does not believe "the placing of children into such situations is consistent with the mission of HHS or my core values."

    U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw took umbrage at Meekins' statement, disputing the official's interpretation of his orders and saying that safe reunification could and will occur by July 26.

    "It is clear from Mr. Meekins's declaration that HHS either does not understand the court's orders or is acting in defiance of them," the judge wrote late Friday. "At a minimum, it appears he is attempting to provide cover to defendants for their own conduct in the practice of family separation, and the lack of foresight and infrastructure necessary to remedy the harms caused by that practice."

    Sabraw, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said Meekins' statement calls into question his comments in court hours earlier that the administration was acting in good faith.

    Sabraw said in court Friday that the administration had largely complied with orders but, at the same time, he indicated he will be monitoring its actions ahead of the deadline.

    The judge said the administration must provide a list of names of parents in immigration custody and their children by Monday and complete background checks for them by Thursday. He scheduled four hearings over the next two weeks for updates, including one on Monday.

    "The task is laborious, but can be accomplished in the time and manner prescribed," he wrote in his order.

    Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services, said the administration proposed its plan "in the interests of transparency and cooperation" after concluding that the abbreviated vetting was necessary to make the deadline.

    “Within the time the court allows, we will strive to implement the most comprehensive procedures possible to ensure child welfare,” she said. “We look forward to continuing our close work with the court to accomplish the goals we share of safe, expeditious reunification.”

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    Helsinki • President Donald Trump arrived in Finland on Sunday for a closely watched one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, hours after telling an interviewer that he was going into the meeting on Monday with “low expectations.”

    On the way to meet with a leader who has cracked down on the press in his country, Trump tweeted that the U.S. news media is the "enemy of the people" and complained that "No matter how well I do at the Summit" he'll face "criticism that it wasn't good enough."

    Trump also said in the interview that he had given no thought to asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    But after being given the idea by his interviewer, Trump said "certainly I'll be asking about it" although extradition is high unlikely. The U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with Moscow and can't force the Russians to hand over citizens. Russia's constitution also prohibits turning over citizens to foreign governments.

    Trump flew to Finland, the final stop on a weeklong trip that began last Tuesday, from Scotland. He and his wife, Melania, spent the weekend at a golf resort Trump owns in Turnberry. He was returning to the White House after Monday's meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.

    Near Trump's hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 mostly male pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags. Big banners said "Welcome Trump" and "God Bless D & M Trump" and a helicopter hovered overhead.

    Chants of "We Love Trump, We Love Trump" broke out as the president's motorcade passed and Trump waved.

    Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said it would be "pretty silly" for Trump to ask Putin to hand over the indicted Russians.

    "For the president to demand something that isn't going to happen puts the president in a weak position, and I think the president has made it very clear he intends to approach this discussion from a position of strength," Bolton said in a separate interview.

    Trump told CBS News that he's going into the Helsinki summit with "low expectations. I'm not going with high expectations." He declined to discuss his goals, but said such sessions are beneficial and cited his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    "Nothing bad is going to come out of it (Helsinki), and maybe some good will come out," Trump said.

    He described the European Union, a bloc of nation's that includes many of America's closest allies, as a "foe," particularly on trade.

    "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade," Trump said, adding that "you wouldn't think of the European Union but they're a foe."

    He said Russia is a foe "in certain respects" and that China is a foe "economically ... but that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive." Trump has been reluctant to criticize Putin over the years and has described him as a competitor in recent days.

    Trump sat for the interview Saturday in Scotland and CBS News released excerpts on Sunday, hours before Trump flew to Helsinki. From aboard Air Force One, Trump called the U.S. news media "the enemy of the people" and complained that he'll face criticism regardless of the summit outcome.

    "If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" he tweeted.

    Trump also said: "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people."

    Putin is regarded as having created a culture of violence and impunity that has resulted in the killing of some Russian journalists. Trump regularly criticizes American news media outlets and has called out some journalists by name.

    Trump and Putin have held talks twice before. Their first meeting came last July while both attended an international summit and lasted more than two hours, well over the scheduled 30 minutes. The leaders also met last fall during a separate summit in Vietnam.

    But Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Monday's meeting "is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation and I hope it's a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests."

    Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican have called on Trump to pull out of Monday's meeting unless he is willing to make Russian election-meddling the top issue. Huntsman said the summit must go on because Russian engagement is needed to solve some international issues.

    "The collective blood pressure between the United States and Russia is off-the-charts high so it's a good thing these presidents are getting together," he said.

    Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling, along with Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics. Bolton described the meeting as "unstructured" and said: "We're not looking for concrete deliverables here."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., rejected Bolton's assertion that the indictments put Trump in a stronger position going in to the meeting.

    "He has already said that he has asked Putin about meddling, Putin told him he didn't do it, and he believed him," Murphy said. "And so it just belies common sense that the president of the United States, this president, is going to sit down across from Putin and press him hard on the issue of Russian meddling."

    Putin has denied meddling in the election.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said it's inevitable that Russia will interfere in U.S. elections and that it's pointless for Trump to confront Putin about it.

    Paul said both countries spy on each other but adds that Russian interference in the 2016 election isn't "morally equivalent" to U.S. interference in Russian elections, but "I think in their mind it is."

    Huntsman was interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," Paul appeared on CNN's "State of the Union," and Bolton and Murphy spoke on ABC's "This Week."

    Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Paul Huntsman, who is the owner of The Salt Lake Tribune.

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    One man is dead and a woman injured from multiple gunshot wounds as a result of a domestic violence incident that took place in Uintah County late Saturday night.

    The Uintah County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday afternoon that officers were responding to reports of a family fight at 2425 W. 500 North in the Canyon Villas Townhouses on Saturday at 10:40 p.m. The dispatch was soon updated to a “shots fired” incident.

    Upon arrival, deputies found a woman in a neighbor’s residence who had been shot multiple times. Deputies were directed to a nearby residence where the shooter, a man, was believed to have fled. After a short search, the man was discovered, dead from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot.

    Witnesses reported that a physical altercation between the man and woman had been audible from their residence. At one point, the woman fled to a neighbor’s house, seeking assistance. The man followed and shot her multiple times with a handgun as the neighbor was letting her in. The woman and the neighbor were able to get inside and wait until police and emergency service crews arrived.

    The woman was transported to Ashley Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, and subsequently airlifted to a facility in Salt Lake City for further treatment.

    The investigation is ongoing.

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    Provo • A Provo family has made their home a sort of sanctuary for members of the LGBTQ community, especially those who need something to eat and a place where they can escape from suicidal thoughts.

    Jerilyn Hassell Pool and Jeff Pool run their nonprofit QueerMeals out of their home, the Daily Herald reported.

    The people that they serve typically do not have family and community members that they can depend on or have a difficult relationship with the Mormon church, Hassell Pool said.

    About half of the people that come in and out of their home daily are struggling with acute suicidal ideation, they said.

    “We just want to keep people alive,” Hassell Pool said. “So many people here are not sure they want to live another day.”

    Aside from meals, the Pools provide LGBTQ people with support and attention.

    They moved to Provo from Oregon in 2016 to work with the LGBTQ community, particularly those trying to find their place in the Mormon church.

    As a Mormon herself, Hassell Pool hoped to provide LGBTQ people with a space where they can gather and have a community.

    “Our goal is to empower people to thrive, to find healthy and happy outlets for their sexual orientation and gender expression,” she said.

    Their effort started as a small operation, but friends encouraged the couple to start a nonprofit after seeing photos on social media of their grocery hauls for the meals they provide.

    Cameron Raps, who frequently visits the Pools, said QueerMeals has helped him through difficult times over the past year.

    “Jerilyn has been with me for pretty much every step of it,” Raps said. “Pretty much every time that I’ve been in a bad mental state, I will text her.”

    Although things are better now, Raps said he still makes a point to stop by at least one a week.

    “It’s free, I can come here, hang out, and not be in danger of just being by myself,” Raps said. “I have someone to talk to and things to eat.”

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    Chicago • A man killed by Chicago police had a gun in a holster at his hip and was shot multiple times as he ran away, spun around and reached toward his waist, according to footage released Sunday from an officer’s body-worn camera.

    Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said it's the quickest he has ever ordered such video released and that he hoped to dispel rumors that Harith Augustus, 37, was unarmed. He also hoped that making the 30-second clip public before a planned protest would prevent another violent confrontation between residents and officers.

    Protesters angry about the killing Saturday took to the streets in a city that’s struggled with police shootings, especially against black men and other minorities. Some threw rocks and bottles — including ones filled with urine — at officers, and police pulled people to the ground and hit them with batons.

    "The community needs some answers and they need them now," he told reporters Sunday. "We can't have another night like last night."

    He said Augustus' family was in favor of releasing the video for the same reason.

    Four protesters were arrested in the clash, and some police officers suffered minor injuries. Two squad cars also were damaged.

    The video, which lacks sound, shows four officers approaching Augustus outside a store on the city's South Side. An officer points to Augustus' waist and he backs away. Three officers try to grab his arms and he tries to get away, backing into a police cruiser as his shirt flies up and shows the gun.

    The footage pauses and zooms in on the weapon, which police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said was done to ensure a semi-automatic handgun in its holster and two bullet magazines tucked into Augustus' waist could be seen clearly.

    Augustus then runs away and into the street as a police SUV drives up. He spins and darts between the SUV and the police cruiser as he reaches toward his waist.

    Augustus did not fire his weapon and the footage does not show him pulling the gun out of its holster, though he does appear to try to grab something at his waist, Guglielmi said. Police also released a 50-second slow-motion clip showing Augustus reaching toward his waist. It's not clear if he was going for the weapon.

    Augustus died of multiple gunshots wounds, medical examiners said. He wasn't a known gang member and had no recent arrest history, Guglielmi said.

    Johnson said Augustus had a valid firearm owners' identification card but detectives have found no documentation that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

    A resident of the area, Gloria Rainge, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Augustus, known in the Grand Crossing neighborhood as "Snoop," worked at a barbershop and had a 5-year-old daughter.

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the shooting a tragedy and said in a statement that it's a blessing Augustus didn't bring the girl with him Saturday, as he's known to do.

    Officers patrolling on foot tried to question the man over a "bulge around his waistband" that suggested he was armed, patrol chief Fred Waller has told reporters.

    The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates officer-involved shootings, said it was analyzing the video and asking anyone who may have captured cellphone footage to share it with the agency.

    It was at least the third time in the last two weeks that a Chicago police officer shot someone.

    Chicago has a troubled history of police shootings. The city erupted in protest in 2015 after the release of a video showing a white police officer shoot a black 17-year-old, Laquan McDonald, 16 times a year earlier.

    The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with murder. McDonald's death led to the ouster of the police chief and a series of reforms meant to prevent future police abuses and to hold officers accountable.

    Jackson referenced the case as he called for video into Augustus' shooting to be released.

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    Aiming to rebuild trust after its handling of a sexual-harassment complaint ignited a public firestorm, FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention has created a community council to help oversee the event’s anti-harassment policies.

    Kira Coelho, a Salt Lake City after-school education consultant who cosplays under the name Kiki Furia, agreed to serve on the 10-member board. She said Friday the council is “a huge step forward. It’s all about change. It’s all about positivity. It’s about people being heard. It’s about being represented.”

    “I am glad that people are coming together to help make things safer for everyone,” said another board member, the Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen, former executive director of the Utah Pride Center.

    In a statement, FanX founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg said the council members are “diverse, smart and specialized people” who will give the event “an independent, experienced and expert perspective on individual situations as well as on policy decisions we make.”

    Details on how the council will work, and what will happen with harassment incidents and other issues referred to it, are still being ironed out, Edmonds-Allen and Coelho said.

    Without that clarity, and until the council can show an effective track record, some critics of FanX say they remain skeptical.

    Other members of the council are:

    • Rachel Burt, a human-resources professional who has led sensitivity training sessions for FanX staff.

    • Valerie Cameron-Walker, host of B98.7’s morning show and an event management expert.

    • Debra Daniels, director of the University of Utah’s Women’s Resource Center.

    • Kerry Jackson, a host of X96’s “Radio From Hell” and founder of “Geek Show Podcast.”

    • Debra Jenson, professor of journalism and communications at Utah State University, and a frequent advocate for diversity on FanX panels.

    • Erika Lynn Sabrowski, longtime volunteer coordinator for FanX, who now oversees the League of Utah Volunteers, an offshoot organization.

    • LaShel Shaw, a Salt Lake City attorney who specializes in entertainment and media law.

    • Jay Whittaker, Utah stand-up comedian and actor, who hosts the “Incredibly Vocal Minority” podcast and is a regular FanX moderator and panelist.

    The formation of the council follows another move FanX recently announced: A hotline, set up through the Utah Attorney General’s office, that convention attendees can call 24/7 to report instances of harassment, assault, abuse or bullying during the convention, which runs Sept. 6–8 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

    The hotline is modeled after one established during this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

    Edmonds-Allen called the hotline “a wonderful way for any potential victims to know that their concerns will go directly to the highest level.”

    Issues of sexual harassment and abuse — which became a front-burner issue in the wake of accusations against national media figures and the rise of the #MeToo movement — reached critical mass at FanX in May.

    That month, a complaint against Utah author Richard Paul Evans, accused of giving an unwanted hug and kiss to an author at last September’s Salt Lake Comic Con, became public. Evans denied wrongdoing but said he would ask fans before embracing them; he is not scheduled to return to FanX.

    A coalition of writers accused Farr and Brandenburg of not taking the woman’s complaint seriously. The writers were incensed with Brandenburg for reacting to best-selling author Shannon Hale by posting her private email address online — which Brandenburg said he did accidentally.

    The online incident led to Brandenburg taking a leave of absence from the event he co-founded. It also led FanX to revamp its social-media practices, formalize its anti-harassment policies, and hire a new public-relations firm.

    Last week, FanX announced its biggest celebrity “get” to date: Ben Affleck, star and director of the Best Picture Oscar-winning “Argo,” and current Batman in Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe franchise.

    Robison Wells, one of the Utah authors who challenged Farr and Brandenburg over their handling of the Evans accusation, was cautiously optimistic about the council.

    “They seem to be complying with all the requests” the group of writers made, Wells said. However, “real trust comes from a proven track record over time. … Words are cheap. This looks like a good start, but it’ll take a few years of compliant behavior before I’m going to trust them enough to go back.”

    Bryan Young, who as editor of the website Big Shiny Robot and host of the “Full of Sith” podcast has been the convention’s in-house “Star Wars” expert, is less impressed. Young wrote last month, in his column in Salt Lake City Weekly, that he would not participate in FanX until Farr and Brandenburg were no longer in charge.

    Young said Friday that the council is “a PR move designed to prevent Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr from taking accountability for the systemic issues in their organization.”

    The council, Young said, “would be a great group to form a new board in charge of the convention,” but only if Farr and Brandenburg step down. Young added, “Actions have consequences, but so does inaction in the face of sexual assault and harassment and, frankly, Brandenburg and Farr haven’t suffered any.”

    Coelho said she wrestled with whether she should stop attending FanX after the sexual harassment issues surfaced. Ultimately, she decided to stay.

    “I’ve always been about being positive,” Coelho said. “You can’t make change unless you’re on the inside.”

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    Bordenton, N.J. • “Do you feel like there is a steady hand at the wheel? Do you feel like you’re in good hands right now?”

    Andy Kim, a Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur for a congressional seat in south-central New Jersey, sees these questions as pivotal to November's election. They are singularly appropriate after a week of dangerous chaos ignited by President Trump's European trip and new indictments in the Russia probe.

    In an interview at a diner here before picking up his 2-year-old son Austin at a daycare center nearby, Kim predicts that by November, voters will view electing a Democratic-controlled House as essential to providing "a check against this administration" and restoring some "stability" to Washington.

    With three highly competitive House races, New Jersey is key to this effort. Democrats have fielded candidates with long histories of public service who were encouraged to join the electoral fray by the sense of emergency Trump's presidency has created.

    Kim was assigned by the State Department in 2011 to work with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Having experienced first-hand the role our NATO allies have in supporting the war effort, he says he was especially horrified by Trump's attacks on the alliance.

    Mikie Sherrill, who served nearly a decade in the Navy as a helicopter pilot, is the Democrats' nominee to the north in the 11th District. "We're used to getting missions accomplished working with people across many different backgrounds," she says in a telephone interview, adding calmly but — in light of current circumstances — pointedly: "We've all taken an oath to the Constitution."

    And nearby in the 7th District, Tom Malinowski, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration working on issues related to democracy and human rights, is taking on Republican Rep. Leonard Lance. Malinowski is eloquent during an interview in describing "the all-American middle-ground issues that the Trump Republicans" have ceded to Democrats in moderate districts.

    "We're now the party of fiscal responsibility in America, we didn't just add $2 trillion to the national debt for that tax cut that Warren Buffett didn't want," he tells me. "We're the party of law enforcement in America, we don't vilify the Federal Bureau of Investigation every single day. We're the party of family values, we don't ... take kids from their parents at the border. We're the party of patriotism in America that wants to defend this country against our foreign adversaries."

    It is a sign of the power of the activism Trump has unleashed that the popular incumbent in Sherrill's district, Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, decided to retire after months of demonstrations at his district office. The protestors underscored how vexing this year's climate would be even for popular incumbents.

    Contesting an open seat against Republican state legislator Jay Webber, Sherrill appears to have the best chance of the three, although Malinowski has held a very narrow lead over Lance in some polls while Kim is closely behind MacArthur whose staunch conservatism, Kim argues, puts the incumbent well to the right of his district.

    For his part, Lance notes that he is on the "center right," distinguishing himself from his party's right-wing radicals. In an interview, Lance lists a series of votes he cast against Republican bills, including the GOP tax cut. It is deeply unpopular in New Jersey, a high tax state, because of its near-elimination of the state and local tax deduction. He has also been assailing Malinowski as a "carpetbagger" (the Democrat grew up just outside the district, in Princeton).

    Malinowski says the electorate understands that the carpetbagger charge is a distraction. He cites the many times Lance fell in with conservatives, and makes the broader case that change in Washington will be impossible if Republicans maintain control of the House. "If we want different results," he says. "we're not going to get them by re-electing him."

    Yet if Trump looms over the election, all three New Jersey Democrats are campaigning primarily on bread-and-butter issues — health care, state and local taxes (that GOP tax bill), economic insecurity felt even by the relatively affluent, and infrastructure. The last of these has particular power in these commuter-heavy districts, given the failure of Republican budgets to finance the Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York City.

    In Malinowski's view, the public is already so aware of the election's stakes that Democrats don't need to mention Trump very much. "You just need to affirmatively champion core American values," he says.

    Day by day, the president is making this strategy ever more plausible.

    E.J. Dionne
    E.J. Dionne

    E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column and on the PostPartisan blog. He is a government professor at Georgetown University, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio and MSNBC. He is most recently a co-author of “One Nation After Trump.” E.J. Dionne’s email address is Twitter: @EJDionne

    © 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

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