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Provo City Library program helps the homebound, incarcerated children access books

Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.

The students at Slate Canyon Youth Center know that the rolling tote on wheels means there’ll be a fresh stash of books in their library.

“They look forward to it,” said Rikki Carter, adult and teen services librarian at the Provo City Library. “We look forward to it, too.”

Many of the rotating books inside the Slate Canyon School — a part of the youth detention facility — are courtesy of the Provo City Library Homebound Outreach Service, a program that provides library materials to those who aren’t able to make it to the library on their own.

The program started several years ago after librarians spotted a need within the community. The library can deliver books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and audiobooks to those who are library-card-holding Provo residents and who are homebound due to age or long-term illness, injury or disability.

Not counting the Slate Canyon School students, there’s about 14 people in the program, most of them elderly. Carter said that number fluctuates, and there is no attendance cap.

Patrons can request the books a few days in advance. Librarians will come to pick up old books and drop off the new ones about once a month.

Carter said the librarians become friends with the homebound patrons they visit, and will sit and chat with them during dropoffs. One woman even gives the librarians fruit as a thank-you.

“I feel like for a lot of the patrons, it is a bright spot in their month,” Carter said.

Patrons can use the Overdrive app to get e-books and audiobooks without physically entering a library, but Carter said some older visitors aren’t comfortable with the internet.

For Slate Canyon School, the service is a part of the way it has obtained accreditation.

Travis Cook, the principal of Slate Canyon School who spent the majority of his career at the Utah State Board of Education, said detention centers needed to have library services in order to receive that designation. Tapping into local community resources is a way to fill that need.

“We do have very small lending libraries, but we don’t necessarily have the space to do comprehensive library work,” Cook said.

He said connecting students with the library while they’re in custody introduces them to a community resource they can use once they’re released. The students don’t have a lot of free time, but do access the materials for class work and independent reading.

Cook said literacy is a high priority at the facility.

“We are grateful to the Provo City Library and other libraries in the state that formally and continually partner with juvenile justice services,” Cook said.

The facility will receive about 40 books at a time from the library. Books are checked out to the individual students, who do not need a Provo City library card.

Carter said the program is always looking for volunteers.

While the program requires homebound patrons to have a library card in good standing, Carter said librarians can go to the patron’s home to help them fill out an application. Interested patrons also need to fill out a separate application for the program.

LDS Church's role in 2015 Lovell death penalty case again discussed in court

OGDEN — Testimony by a former attorney for a man on Utah’s death row, continued last week in an Ogden courtroom.

The testimony included the attorney’s experiences with counsel representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during Lovell’s 2015 trial and the church’s alleged meddling in the case.

The 23B hearings regarding the appeal case for Lovell, a 61-year-old man twice convicted of capital murder and twice given a death sentence, continued as scheduled and again featured one of Lovell’s former attorneys, Sean Young.

Young testified that he and his then co-counsel, Michael Bouwhuis, were contacted by attorneys for the church during the second week of the 2015 trial. The attorneys, employed at the Salt Lake City legal firm Kirton McCronkie and representing the LDS Church at time, told the defense counsel they wanted to cut down the number of Lovell’s former prison bishops testifying on his behalf from five to three, according to Young.

Young went on to say that the attorneys told the defense that if the number of church leaders testifying was not reduced, they would file motions to quash any subpoenas and seek to have no church leaders take the stand.

According to Young, he and Bouwhuis were in the midst of the trial and overwhelmed with the workload, so they went along with the suggestion by the Kirton McCronkie attorneys. Young said the church attorneys later asked him and Bouwhuis to avoid asking church leaders about certain topics, however Young did not elaborate during the Tuesday hearing as to what topics were discussed.

Young went on to say that after a former prison bishop testified in the 2015 trial, the Kirton McCronkie attorneys were “upset” with the cross examination by state prosecutors.

The Tuesday testimony was similar to what Bouwhuis told the court earlier this month regarding the attorneys representing the former prison bishops, and their request to limit the number of those set to testify.

“They appeared to be trying to manhandle us, saying you can’t call these people,” Bouwhuis said on Aug. 6.

These allegations of alleged witness tampering are not new, as the question of whether or not the LDS Church meddled in some way has been a point of discussion in previous hearings regarding Lovell’s case.

In a July 29 motion, attorneys representing the church called the allegations made by Lovell’s current defense counsel and any connections to possible witness tampering were untrue.

“Lovell’s mischaracterizations and accusations are baseless and offensive,” wrote one of two attorneys representing the church in Lovell’s case.

Young’s actions during the 2015 jury trial are one of the main points of investigation for the ongoing series of hearings. Young testified Tuesday that his performance during the Lovell trial was one of the main reasons his public defender contract with Weber County was terminated in the years following the trial.

In October 2018, Young had his license to practice law in Utah suspended for three years after it was found that he mishandled a number of cases, including Lovell’s 2015 trial.

When he testified Monday, Young said that he signed an agreement with the Utah State Bar outlining his reported misconduct as an attorney, despite the fact that he says the agreement had numerous inaccuracies. At the time, Young’s brother, also a Utah attorney, advised him not to sign the agreement unless the inaccuracies were corrected.

At one point, Young asked the Utah State Bar to continue his attorney discipline case until after Lovell’s 23B hearings, which at its core would determine whether Young performed deficiently in the 2015 trial. The state bar refused, and Young said he later signed the supposedly inaccurate agreement despite being aware of the faults in the agreement, adding he signed the document to “make the complaints go away.”

The agreement ultimately led to his three-year suspension, instead of his total disbarment, Young said.

The 23B hearings are slated to continue throughout the month of August, and they are scheduled to conclude on Friday.

US tech industry becomes hotbed for employee activism

SAN FRANCISCO — When Liz O’Sullivan was hired at the New York City-based artificial intelligence company Clarifai in 2017, she felt lucky to find work at the intersection of two of her main interests: technology and ethics. Two years later, she encountered a moral dilemma.

Clarifai was developing aerial photography and object detection tools as one of several companies working on Project Maven, a Pentagon drone surveillance program. After talking to friends and colleagues, O’Sullivan realized this type of technology eventually could be used for autonomous weapons.

In January, she wrote to Clarifai CEO Matt Zeiler on behalf of a group of employees, asking whether the technology would be used for weapons and urging him to commit to a series of ethical measures. After Zeiler later acknowledged Clarifai likely would provide tech for autonomous weapons, O’Sullivan quit.

“I was very surprised and had to follow my conscience,” she said. Zeiler and Clarifai did not respond to a request for comment, though Zeiler has previously said Clarifai’s Project Maven involvement aligns with its mission.

O’Sullivan, 34, considers herself part of a “growing backlash against unethical tech,” a groundswell in the past two years in which U.S. tech employees have tried to remake the industry from the inside out — pushing for more control over how their work is used and urging better conditions, job security and wages for affiliated workers.

While some speak out and others sign petitions, workers are collectively taking action like never before:

Amazon and Microsoft employees demanded the companies stop providing services to software company Palantir, which provides technology to the U.S. Army and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Employees also have urged Amazon to transition to renewable energy.

Following last year’s walkouts over Google’s handling of sexual misconduct cases, employees signed a letter protesting Project Dragonfly, a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.

Salesforce, Microsoft and Google staff have protested their companies’ ties to Customs and Border Protection, ICE and the military.

Despite six-figure salaries, many tech employees are questioning the effects of their work and siding with their service- and contract-worker counterparts, who have pressed for better work conditions and pay.

“It’s unprecedented, both the magnitude of the power of these companies and the willingness of white-collar employees to shake themselves of the privilege that they have and to really see the impact of the work they’re doing,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law who has interviewed dozens of tech workers involved in organizing.

They’re feeling emboldened because of global “existential crises” and the realization that tech companies “have more power than any multinational corporation has had in a long time,” Dubal said.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on employee activism but said the Seattle-based company is committed to sustainability and provides good pay and benefits and humane warehouse conditions. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company, headquartered in the Seattle area, appreciates employee feedback, respects differing views and provides “many avenues for all voices to be heard.”

A Google spokesperson did not comment on specific incidents but said retaliation is prohibited and pointed to CEO Sundar Pichai’s previous statements on worker dissent. “There are many things good about giving employees a lot of voice,” he said at a November conference. “There are decisions we make which they may not agree with.”

Congress started aggressively scrutinizing the industry in recent years, and the Justice Department last month launched an investigation into Big Tech amid antitrust allegations. A recent Pew Research Center survey indicated Americans have increasingly negative views of tech’s effect on the country.

“As an employee in the tech sector right now, there is a fair bit of guilt or (asking), ‘What is my responsibility?’” said Kellie McElhaney, a Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley professor.

Google engineer Amr Gaber, 32, was among those at a recent demonstration in San Francisco for Facebook cafeteria workers seeking a new contract. White- and blue-collar employees are “all working people,” he said.

“If the (companies) can’t even treat the people who work for them well, then how can we expect them to have a positive impact on society?” Gaber said.

Some companies are listening.

Google and Facebook pledged to pay contract workers better and provide some benefits. Google ended forced arbitration for sexual misconduct cases after employees walked out, and declined to renew its Project Maven contract.

When employees asked Microsoft to cancel its ICE contract, CEO Satya Nadella clarified that the company was not contributing to family separations but supporting email, calendar and document systems.

A Salesforce spokesperson said conversations with employees led the company to create the Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology.

Such responsiveness is good for business and builds trust with customers and employees, McElhaney said.

“Those who are not responding are ... missing a huge ocean liner that’s already left the dock,” she said.