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LDS Church and United Nations discuss partnership in worldwide effort providing food assistance

David Beesley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, would like to be put out of business by 2030.

But first, partners like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must continue to step up the pace in a world where natural and man-made disasters are competing for lives.

“I have an exit strategy to put the food programme out of business,” Beesley said.

Beesley was in Salt Lake City on Monday to tour the LDS Church’s Welfare Square, Bishop’s Storehouse and Temple Square, and to meet with the staff of LDS Charities.

The church has partnered with the World Food Programme for the past six years and is looking at ways that partnership can grow and flourish in areas of the world in the greatest need.

Sister Sharon Eubank, president of LDS Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, said when partnering with organizations like the UN, the church must be very careful that red tape and bureaucracy don’t get in the way of actually caring for the needs of children, families and individuals throughout the world.

Eubank said there are two reasons why the partnership is so important. It gives the church a presence where there are no members of the faith, and where the church does have members, there is access to help through humanitarian aid, missionaries, members and more.

“(The church) is one of the largest non-governmental partners we have,” Beesley said.

Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the church, said that as a church of 16-17 million members, it still is not that big of an organization on a global level and resources to help are limited.

“What we provide reaches out further (with the partnership),” Waddell said.

Eubank added, “When you have a good partnership you want to build on it.”

The three had further discussions on where the needs are and how to address growing problems.

All are concerned about climate change and how it is affecting places already hit hard by drought or flooding. Right now, the food programme has 86.7 million beneficiaries in 83 countries. About 52% of those receiving food assistance are women and girls.

Beesley said the Sahara Desert is moving 1 kilometer a year. The animals that graze are having to move and the only place to go is where the farmers are farming. That has caused great tensions and has allowed groups like Isis and Al-Qaida and others to move in.

The growing seasons are hotter and the other times of year colder. The heat makes it necessary to change the kinds of crops farmers are growing, which is difficult for them to change eating habits. Then, they have to find the markets that will buy so they can make money.

Beesley is seeking ways to help rehabilitate land so local farmers and families will be able to grow their own food. This also keeps them in their own countries without worrying about migrating.

More than half a million acres of land have been rehabilitated so far, but there is much more to be done.

The LDS Church is hoping to help with that effort. Beesley said he had no idea how much farmland the church owned and the methods in which it keeps the lands producing.

“Africa could feed the world,” Beesley said. “But we are feeding it.”

In Syria, it costs only 30 cents a meal. But if they migrated to say Germany it cost several euros. The programme and the church want to feed people where they live, rather than where they migrate to where it typically costs far more.

Beesley said he wants to end migration by giving people food security.

“Then it will be migration by choice,” Beesley said. He adds the migration numbers would be much less.

Beesley, Eubank and Waddell said their organizations want to move beyond just the emergencies of starvation and help mitigate what is causing those emergencies.

Orem rolls out the fall fun with festival, emergency preparedness and Li'l Sebastian

The cooler weather didn’t keep Orem residents away Monday from the Orem Fall Festival held on the lawns at Orem Community Hospital.

The festival gave out 2,000 pumpkins, had pony rides, numerous information and game booths, an inflatable slide and, of course, the famous Li’l Sebastian Shetland pony, whose name is inspired by the television show, “Parks and Recreation.”

The free event had more than 4,000 in attendance, and according to Orem resident Allison Garcia, “The weather was good, the carnival feel was really fun, it was really nice.”

In the past Orem Community Hospital has used the event to sponsor health awareness for the city, but this year, leaned toward emergency preparedness.

Laura Salazar, marketing and communications at Orem Community Hospital, said her team participated in emergency preparedness with FEMA earlier in the year. The takeaway was that Orem residents needed to be better prepared for natural disasters.

“We just have a heightened awareness of preparedness,” Salazar said. “We thought of fun ways and fun games to teach it. We hope it sparked the right thinking to have 72 hour kits at home.”

IHC gave out the free pumpkins and small first aid kits to every child that came through their booth.

“It’s all about emergency preparedness and how to respond in an emergency,” said Steven Downs, city spokesman. “It’s fun to see families connect with each other too.”

Downs also said the event was for neighbors to connect with first responders as well. Fire and police vehicles were on hand, as well as a Utah Transit Authority bus and the LifeFlight helicopter for children to look at while they talked to police officers and fire personnel.

Even the Senior Friendship Center got in on the party. According to Gena Bertlesen, center director, the center’s booth was helping retirees understand how to transition into retirement and stay active.

But when it comes to fun for many attending, there was nothing better than getting their photo with Li’l Sebastian. Li’l Sebastian is a lookalike of the famous Shetland pony from Pawnee, Indiana of the popular “Parks and Recreation.”

An engraved rock honoring the horse will likely be planted in the hospital’s community gardens on the east side of the emergency entrance, considering this is Li’l Sebastian’s final year at the fall festival.

“The community loves this stuff,” Downs said. “These are the types of things that say community.”

This is the third year for the event, which continues to grow in space and attendance. Orem and Intermountain Healthcare hope this yearly event continues and children will accompany their families to celebrate the start of fall.

Almost one year later, Utah governor lifts emergency drought order

Persistent rain and snowfall gradually put an end to statewide severe drought conditions this year and on Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert rescinded an emergency order that lasted nearly an entire year.

Almost 99% of the state was experiencing moderate drought last year when the governor declared a state of emergency in October 2018.

An exceptionally dry water year led to 88% of Utah having severe or extreme drought including several rural counties like Box Elder, Carbon, Grand, Emery, San Juan and Wayne.

Courtesy of Utah Department of Natural Resources 

Persistent rain and snowfall gradually put an end to statewide severe drought conditions this year and Governor Gary Herbert rescinded an emergency order on Monday, September 30, 2019.

The annual snowpack had melted early and reached about 50 to 60% of normal across the state, impacting agribusiness, livestock production and wildlife habitats, according to the executive order.

But this year, precipitation hit levels above normal statewide with regional averages around 110 to 200%, according to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.

“What a difference a year makes. Utah experienced unprecedented drought conditions last year, which harmed the livelihood of many families and strained agricultural producers, industry and even wildlife and recreation,” Herbert stated in a press release.

Currently, no area of the state has severe drought conditions, although about 15% of Utah has seen moderate drought near San Juan, Kane and Washington counties, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The rest of the state is either abnormally dry or experiencing average conditions, the press release reported. Utah County is experiencing average conditions.

Last year’s executive order under the recommendation of the Utah Drought Review and Reporting Committee allowed communities and agriculture workers to access state or federal resources.

“Even in a normal year, water in Utah is a scarce natural resource,” Herbert stated. “We should appreciate what we received, but not take it for granted. Let us continue to do all we can to conserve water as communities, industries, neighborhoods and families.”

Trial rescheduled for man charged with starting Brian Head Fire

Although defense attorneys wanted to dismiss charges against a Taylorsville man accused of starting the Brian Head Fire two years ago, a 4th District Court judge ruled on Monday that the case will proceed.

The three-day jury trial is currently set for Dec. 17-20 after being rescheduled three times.

Prosecutors and Judge James Brady expressed concerns about finding jury members during the holiday season, but defense attorneys pushed for the December date.

Robert Ray Lyman, 62, listened intently on Monday as his attorney, Andrew Deiss, argued in a Provo courtroom that the term “reckless” does not accurately describe the actions Lyman took before burning weeds near his cabin in June 2017.

“Did Mr. Lyman consciously disregard the risk?” Deiss said. “The facts show he did not.”

Lyman reportedly sprayed water on the ground around his cabin, filled gallon jugs with water and prepared a water hose before he raked tree debris into piles and lit one of the piles using a lighter and lighter fluid.

But as the flames spread out of control, Lyman allegedly realized the hose he prepared did not reach the burn pile and the water jugs were too heavy to carry. He called 911, but the wildfire continued to burn, eventually exceeding more than 71,673 acres in Iron and Garfield counties.

“He never intended to start a forest fire,” Deiss said. “He did take precautions, multiple precautions.”

Deputy Iron County attorney Shane Klenk argued the statute for recklessness is an objective term determined by the supposed actions an “ordinary” person would take to prevent a forest fire, not whether or not Lyman thought his actions were enough.

The judge agreed, adding that evidence like the time of year, the temperature, the location and size of the fire along with Lyman’s efforts to stop the wildfire should be examined and judged by jury members rather than a judge.

“State of mind is usually not provable by direct evidence,” Brady said. “The arguments come down to circumstances that need to be weighed.”

Deiss also filed to allow the definition of the word “reckless” to be repeated during opening and closing arguments during the trial to help the jury adjust to the legal definition.

“The laymen term ‘reckless’ does not overlap with the definition of ‘recklessness’ under our criminal code. Presentation of the applicable definition at the beginning of the proceedings will promote a fair trial by giving the jury the information it will be asked to apply during the deliberations,” Deiss wrote in the court filing.

The judge ruled he plans to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to the word “reckless” during the trial to avoid influencing the jury.

“Admittedly, the term recklessness is difficult to define in legal terms,” Brady said.

Lyman pleaded not guilty to a class A misdemeanor for reckless burning and a class B misdemeanor of burning during a closed season.

The Brian Head Fire caused more than a thousand residents living near Brian Head Ski Resort to evacuate for nearly two weeks as firefighters battled the blaze.