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Rep. Ben McAdams introduces resolution to protect children from inappropriate content on digital apps

U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, introduced a House resolution this month calling for tech companies to do more to protect minors from exploitable and inappropriate content made available by digital applications.

House Res. 721, introduced with Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., on Nov. 20, calls for “the establishment of an app ratings board to enforce consistent and accurate age and content ratings of apps on internet-ready devices” and for “technology companies to ensure the implementation of user-friendly and streamlined parental controls on devices used by minors.”

Additionally, the federal resolution asks Congress to impose sanctions on tech companies that do not comply with these requirements.

“As a parent to four kids, this issue really hits home for me,” the 4th District representative said in a press release. “This resolution is a common sense step that parents, tech companies and law enforcement can all support. Nothing should get in the way of keeping our children safe from online exploitation.”

While it is ultimately parents that monitor their child’s online behavior, McAdams said tech companies have an obligation to give parents streamlined app ratings and provide parental control resources.

McAdams cited Salt Lake County arrest records to emphasize the danger of exploitative apps, saying Salt Lake police “arrested 30 online predators in four days last month alone … in a crackdown on cybercrimes.”

The resolution was referred to and will be discussed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It is supported by national groups including the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and the Fix App Rating Coalition, according to the press release.

Hands on, lights on at Thanksgiving Point's Luminaria

Luminaria is lighting up Thanksgiving Point for yet another holiday season, but this year the attraction is more interactive than ever.

“This year we wanted to make things more interactive, so instead of just seeing lights, people can participate with them,” said Amanda Lundberg, signature experiences manager at Thanksgiving Point.

Most of the hands-on experiences take place at Luminaria Village, formerly Reindeer Woods, which is the attraction’s main hub along the one-mile walk. There, visitors can test their accuracy at Santa ski ball, create a composition with light and sound with the Snowflake Symphony, and plug in their own designs with colorful dots on Lite-Brite inspired light boards.

Additionally along the way, visitors can walk along pathways of changing lights as part of an art installation, called Aqueous, from the Jen Lewin Studio. The installation from the New York City-based studio will only be at Luminaria for this year, according to Lundberg. Near the Winter Wonderland section along the latter half of the main pathway, visitors can spin intricately-designed lanterns of light, and also pet reindeer and warm up near fire pits.

“If you came last year, you’re not going to see all the same things,” said Lundberg.

According to Lundberg, Luminaria uses approximately 1,000,000 lights, features a 120-foot tree of lights and uses 30 of the 55 acres of the Ashton Gardens. For more information about tickets and hours, visit the attraction’s website at https://thanksgivingpoint.org/events/luminaria.

Utah County group to feed homeless at Pioneer Park

Addicts Fighting Back, a local organization founded by Jason DeGraw, is giving back to the community in a special project to feed the homeless.

Area residents are invited to participate in a special soup dinner event for the homeless at 4 p.m. Sunday at Pioneer Park in Provo, at 500 West and Center Street.

Addicts Fighting Back will be serving up warm homemade soup and handing out sleeping bags, hand warmers, hygiene kits and other items.

“We have been going to the park every Sunday for the past month to help the homeless with warm clothes and food,” DeGraw said in an email. “We are teaming up with Addict to Athlete for this event.”

DeGraw said Addicts Fighting Back is trying to spread the word that they are here to help the homeless in any way they can and said the group will continue to show up on Sundays to help provide the things that individuals may need.

“A close friend of mine passed away due to exposure to the cold about a month ago here in Provo,” DeGraw said. “We are just trying to spread the word that we are here to help keep them safe and warm.

Addicts Fighting Back is a group of individuals uniting to fight back against the disease of addiction while building connections with each other and the community.

DeGraw, a recovering heroin addict, started Addicts Fighting Back on May 26, while he was in treatment for substance abuse.

“I felt like treatment was such a small part of recovery. I’ve seen many people graduate treatment, and never see them again,” DeGraw said. “It’s like they get done with treatment and have no support after they graduate. So I had an idea to start a Facebook group and try to keep the connection with people who can relate to what I’m going through the best.”

Since the group started back in May the Facebook group now has over 2,000-plus members.

“It grew so fast that I couldn’t keep up with it all. So I asked AFB members for help,” DeGraw said in an email. “I asked the most active people in the group if they wanted to have a bigger part in AFB.”

The group now have a board of directors that consist of nine people. They meet twice a month for a board meeting to go over upcoming events, share ideas and interests. They are currently working on becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation.

“Six months ago I didn’t know any of those people, they were complete strangers to me. By taking a risk and getting out of my comfort zone I have built strong connections with each one of them. It has saved my life,” DeGraw said.

The group gives addicts in recovery a place to connect with those who understand the hardship of addiction, according to McGraw.

“We are active in community service projects like helping those less fortunate,” McGraw said in an email.

The group also participates in addiction awareness events like overdose awareness, Salt Lake City and Utah County recovery day as well.

For information on Addicts Fighting Back, email addictsfightingback@gmail.com

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6-year-old boy killed in Provo snow removal accident

A 6-year-old boy was killed Friday morning in a snow removal accident in Provo Canyon, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Sheriff’s Office said the boy was riding on a skid-steer loader with his father and 9-year-old brother near Aspen Grove when he “fell forward and out of the seating area” and was injured by either the loader bucket or the arms of the loader bucket.

The father began CPR but paramedics with the North Fork Fire Department determined the boy had died, Cannon said.

The boy’s body was taken to the medical examiner’s office in Taylorsville.

Cannon said the incident appeared to be a “tragic accident” and that the sheriff’s office doesn’t anticipate an autopsy to reveal any new information.

Neither the 9-year-old boy nor the father were physically injured.

The boy’s name will be released once more family members have been notified, Cannon said.