Rep. Van Taylor drops Texas reelection bid and admits affair after news report : NPR


Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas, is pictured throughout a Home committee listening to on Capitol Hill in September 2020. Taylor introduced Wednesday he was dropping his bid for reelection.

Caroline Brehman/AP


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Caroline Brehman/AP


Rep. Van Taylor, R-Texas, is pictured throughout a Home committee listening to on Capitol Hill in September 2020. Taylor introduced Wednesday he was dropping his bid for reelection.

Caroline Brehman/AP

DALLAS — U.S. Rep. Van Taylor of Texas mentioned Wednesday that he was ending his reelection marketing campaign and admitted having an affair following experiences that he had been in a relationship with the widow of an American-born recruiter for the Islamic State group.

The North Texas congressman’s announcement got here the day after former Collin County Decide Keith Self compelled Taylor right into a runoff for the Republican nomination.

A number of days earlier than Tuesday’s major election, some right-wing web sites reported on an interview with Tania Joya, who mentioned she had an affair with Taylor that lasted from October 2020 to June 2021. Joya, of the Dallas suburb of Plano, instructed The Dallas Morning Information on Monday night time that she had met the congressman by way of her work as an ex-jihadist serving to to reprogram extremists.

Taylor apologized for the affair in a press release shared with supporters Wednesday. It did not point out Joya by identify or reference her late husband, the Islamic State group recruiter.

“A couple of 12 months in the past, I made a horrible mistake that has induced deep harm and ache amongst these I like most on this world,” he wrote. “I had an affair, it was mistaken, and it was the best failure of my life.”

The Dallas Morning Information reported Wednesday that Joya contacted Suzanne Harp, one other candidate opposing Taylor within the major, hoping Harp would confront Taylor privately and persuade him to drop out and resign from Congress.

“All I needed was for Suzanne Harp to simply say, ‘Hey, I do know your little scandal with Tania Joya. Would you prefer to resign earlier than we embarrass you?’ However it did not occur like that,” Joya instructed the newspaper.

As an alternative, the newspaper reported, Harp despatched a supporter to interview the lady, then shared the interview with a pair of right-wing web sites.

In a press release, Harp mentioned the revelations have been “deeply regarding, and I am praying for all concerned.”

“Politics ought to construct up our households, our communities, and our political events. This story breaks my coronary heart, each as a spouse and as an American. Politics ought to by no means tear these sacred establishments aside,” she mentioned.

Taylor, a former Marine and Iraq warfare fight veteran, was thought-about one of many Texas delegation’s most conservative members when he was elected in 2018. However he has been sharply criticized by the occasion’s proper wing for voting to certify the 2020 election outcomes and supporting a fee to analyze the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol.

Joya’s first husband, John Georgelas, grew up in Plano, transformed to Islam and have become a high recruiter for the extremist Islamic State group. In 2013, he took her and their three youngsters to northern Syria the place, as Yahya Abu Hassan, he grew to become a very powerful American preventing for ISIS. He was killed in 2017.

Three weeks after their arrival in Syria, a pregnant Joya fled to Turkey with the kids, then to Plano to stay close to her in-laws. The couple was lined for years by tabloids in her native Britain and profiled in U.S. publications.

Towards the tip of the affair with Taylor, Joya mentioned she requested for assist to repay a bank card debt and another payments. He gave her $5,000, she mentioned.

“I wanted assist. I used to be like, simply assist me out as a result of that is the least — the very least — he might do,” she instructed the newspaper. “For him, it was like, ‘OK, on the situation you do not inform anybody.’ … I did not need to inform anyone something.”

Taylor tallied 48.7% of the vote on Tuesday, falling 823 votes in need of what he wanted to keep away from a runoff with 63,981 ballots solid. Self scored 26.5% of the vote, whereas Harp tallied 20.8%.

Self is an Military veteran and graduate of the U.S. Navy Academy. He has claimed Taylor drifted from his conservative roots within the GOP-dominant district. He was amongst those that closely criticized Taylor’s votes on the election outcome and riot investigation and Taylor’s vote to take away Accomplice statues from the Capitol.

Provo MTC drops COVID-19 vaccination, testing; masks now optional


Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pay attention as Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks on the Missionary Coaching Heart in Provo on Aug. 24, 2021. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret Information)

Estimated learn time: 3-4 minutes

PROVO — New Latter-day Saint missionaries now not want a COVID-19 vaccination or have a adverse COVID-19 check to enter the Missionary Coaching Heart in Provo, Utah, in keeping with a letter despatched by e-mail from the MTC to missionaries.

Masks are non-compulsory, too, in keeping with the e-mail.

“You’ll now decide for your self whether or not to make use of a facemask in all settings on the Provo MTC based mostly by yourself particular person circumstances,” the letter stated. “We encourage all to increase love and respect to others and their choices.”

The modifications had been confirmed by church spokesman Sam Penrod.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has operated Missionary Coaching Facilities all through the world since final summer time, sustaining strict COVID-19 necessities,” Penrod stated in a press release offered Tuesday to the Deseret Information. “Following the current steerage of native well being departments and authorities officers, church leaders have lowered a few of these necessities at varied coaching facilities, comparable to permitting masks to be non-compulsory, eliminating testing earlier than arrival and inspiring however not requiring vaccination for missionaries who’re coaching in particular person.”

In April 2021, the church included the COVID-19 vaccination among the many required immunizations for all missionaries. Since then, those that decline vaccination are assigned to serve inside their house nation.

“Up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination continues to be required for all missionaries to serve in assignments outdoors of their house nations,” Penrod stated Tuesday.

Missionaries coaching on the Provo MTC will proceed to be required to put on masks when attending the Provo Utah Temple, the letter to missionaries stated. Masks stay required in all temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After missionaries depart the MTC for his or her assignments all over the world, they are going to be required to observe their mission’s masks tips.

“Please keep in mind that these modifications apply to MTC coaching solely,” the letter stated. “You should still be required to put on masks, be examined, and/or be vaccinated relying on journey necessities or necessities on your assigned mission.”

The rules had been up to date because the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention relaxed masks tips for almost all of the nation, together with Utah County, the place Provo is the county seat. The Utah Legislature ended a statewide masks mandate practically a yr in the past.

The replace comes two months after the Omicron variant prompted a COVID-19 outbreak on the Provo MTC. Over 15% of the MTC’s trainees examined optimistic in late December. Most skilled no or delicate signs. That very same week, Omicron-driven circumstances rose 60% nationally. Instances have subsided since then.

The up to date tips apply solely to the Provo MTC. As Penrod indicated, modifications might be instituted on the church’s 9 different MTCs “as COVID circumstances and native authorities restrictions permit,” the e-mail stated.

The up to date tips permit each vaccinated and unvaccinated missionaries to attend on-site coaching on the Provo MTC. All missionaries who started or will start the at-home portion of their coaching on Feb. 21 or later ought to plan to reach on the MTC starting on March 30 to finish their coaching, the letter stated.

A missionary participates in the training for two missions and the MTC in Bogotá, Colombia, on Nov. 17, 2021.
A missionary participates within the coaching for 2 missions and the MTC in Bogotá, Colombia, on Nov. 17, 2021. (Photograph: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Some missionaries should still require a COVID-19 check previous to arrival on the Provo MTC whether it is required for airline journey to the MTC. Testing is also required if a missionary has chilly or flu-like signs within the days earlier than coming into the MTC, the letter stated.

Totally vaccinated missionaries with callings to serve in English started to return to the Provo MTC on June 23, ending a 14-month hiatus. The church had closed all 10 MTCs as a result of COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the 14 months the MTCs had been closed, missionaries had skilled solely on-line from house.

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Utah case rate for COVID-19 drops another 49%


The Rev. Heather Hennessey of Pilgrim Congregational Church, left, inserts small flags into the lawn outside Redding (Calif.) City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, as a memorial to the 545 Shasta County residents who have died from COVID-19.

Utah reported far fewer coronavirus circumstances within the week ending Sunday, including 3,734 new circumstances. That is down 49% from the earlier week’s tally of seven,322 new circumstances of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Utah ranked thirty fourth among the many states the place coronavirus was spreading the quickest on a per-person foundation, a USA TODAY Community evaluation of Johns Hopkins College knowledge reveals. Within the newest week coronavirus circumstances in the USA decreased 33.7% from the week earlier than, with 461,986 circumstances reported. With 0.96% of the nation’s inhabitants, Utah had 0.81% of the nation’s circumstances within the final week. Throughout the nation, 5 states had extra circumstances within the newest week than they did within the week earlier than.

Throughout Utah, circumstances fell in seven counties, with one of the best declines in Salt Lake County, with 1,398 circumstances from 2,594 every week earlier; in Davis County, with 379 circumstances from 993; and in Utah County, with 650 circumstances from 1,189.

>> See how your group has fared with latest coronavirus circumstances

Utah ranked twenty seventh amongst states in share of individuals receiving no less than one shot, with 71.2% of its residents no less than partially vaccinated. The nationwide fee is 76.3%, a USA TODAY evaluation of CDC knowledge reveals. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, that are probably the most utilized in the USA, require two doses administered a couple of weeks aside.

Biden approval rating drops in Utah poll ahead of State of the Union


President Joe Biden listens throughout an occasion within the South Court docket Auditorium within the Eisenhower Government Workplace Constructing on the White Home advanced on Feb. 22, in Washington. As Biden prepares for his first State of the Union tackle on Tuesday, he’ll have a dwindling fan base in Utah. (Alex Brandon, Related Press)

Estimated learn time: 7-8 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — As President Joe Biden prepares for his first State of the Union tackle on Tuesday, he’ll have a dwindling fan base in Utah.

Biden’s approval ranking within the decidedly crimson state took a nosedive within the newest Deseret Information/Hinckley Institute of Politics ballot, dipping to under 30% for the primary time. Even Barack Obama did not sink that far amongst Utah voters. Biden has hit a brand new low within the Beehive State.

Solely 11% of Utahns “strongly” approve and 18% “considerably” approve of the president’s job efficiency, in keeping with the ballot. It reveals 61% of residents disapprove of the job Biden is doing, together with 44% who strongly disapprove. One other 9% do not know.

“These approval scores characterize an exceptionally robust month for Biden after a really troublesome first yr in workplace,” stated Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics on the College of Utah.

“When individuals see the present state of affairs each time they go to the grocery retailer, replenish their automobiles, or watch the information, it’s clear they’re pissed off and are blaming President Biden.”

Biden approval rating drops in Utah poll ahead of State of the Union
Picture: Deseret Information

Scott Howell, a former Democratic Utah Senate chief and surrogate for Biden, stated the ballot outcomes did not shock him on condition that persons are “disgruntled” over the financial system. He additionally stated progressives bought within the president’s ear and he has some “wokiness” round him.

“My Republican associates who voted for him did not vote for that. They voted for a centrist that might respect their beliefs and elementary beliefs of capitalism, of religion and respect for the person,” he stated.

Howell predicted Biden’s approval ranking in Utah can be “a lot, a lot increased” as individuals come to comprehend he’s a centrist and a caring and robust chief.

“If he have been sitting with us, he’d most likely say, ‘You realize what? I made some errors and I am studying from this,'” Howell stated.

Simply final month, the Deseret Information/Hinckley Institute ballot discovered 37% of Utahns gave Biden a thumb’s up, which was 5 factors increased than final November. Shortly after he took workplace in 2021, his approval ranking in Utah reached as excessive as 45%.

The brand new ballot was performed earlier than Biden responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and earlier than he nominated the primary Black girl, Choose Ketanji Brown Jackson, to fill an upcoming emptiness on the U.S. Supreme Court docket. Biden’s 2022 State of the Union tackle Tuesday could be coming at an opportune time.

The president will converse to a nonetheless sharply divided nation going through rising inflation however one which seems to be via the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and has rallied round Ukrainians preventing for his or her freedom.

White Home press secretary Jen Psaki stated Biden’s speech would tackle a special tone due to the struggle in Ukraine.

“There is not any query that within the State of the Union, the American individuals and anyone watching world wide will hear the president discuss in regards to the efforts he has led over the previous a number of months to construct a worldwide coalition to battle towards the autocracy and the efforts of President Putin to invade a international nation,” she stated Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The president, she stated, would additionally give attention to issues nearer to residence.

“What individuals may also hear from President Biden is his optimism and his perception within the resilience of the American individuals and the power of the American individuals,” Psaki stated.

Biden’s speech may give his approval ranking a small bounce, however one that might most likely be short-lived. Long run, it’ll have way more to do with the state of the financial system, particularly inflationary pressures, and extremely salient occasions, such because the struggle in Ukraine, stated Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Middle for the Research of Elections and Democracy.

“That stated, I count on him to say extra about how the struggle in Ukraine represents a key second for Europe, the West, and liberal democracy,” he stated. “Given the overwhelming help of each Democrats and Republicans for Ukraine, this can be a uncommon second of unity throughout the political spectrum, with the famous exception of Donald Trump’s reward for Vladimir Putin.”

Karpowitz stated the State of the Union represents an “extraordinary” alternative for Biden to emphasise his variations from Trump’s method to world affairs and to make the case for the centrality of america to the success of liberal democracy in Europe and throughout the globe.

Howell desires the president to name out Putin on his nuclear menace.

“I feel we have to see a president rise up tomorrow who’s filled with power and dedication and robust, sturdy management. … Somebody who says one thing that might make Putin start to assume, ‘Possibly I did this flawed,'” he stated.

On the home entrance, Karpowitz stated he anticipates the president would emphasize the historic nature of Jackson’s nomination to the excessive court docket and his plans for the way the nation will transition from the disaster footing of the pandemic to a world wherein COVID-19 is endemic.

Biden’s approval scores have sagged in Utah and nationally over the previous 13 months.

Since taking workplace, his help amongst Democrats nationwide has fallen from 90% to 78%, whereas his backing amongst independents has tumbled from 51% to 34%. These core constituencies have been essential to Biden’s 2020 victory, and any enchancment can be a balm to this beleaguered president, in keeping with The Hill.

In Utah, the brand new ballot reveals 74% of Democrats approve of the job Biden is doing as president, which hasn’t modified a lot since he took workplace, give or take a few share factors, in keeping with previous Deseret Information/Hinckley Institute surveys.

Biden’s help amongst unaffiliated or unbiased Utah voters is 34%, the brand new ballot discovered.

Solely 16% of Republicans within the state approve of his job efficiency.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, director of the Georgetown College Middle on Religion and Justice, stated it’s crucial that Biden provide greater than coverage prescriptions in his speech.

“He should search to unite us as fellow residents and persuade us to place apart our private and ideological pursuits,” Wallis wrote in an op-ed for USA Immediately. “Our fractured union may be healed solely by inspiring our ‘higher angels,’ as President Abraham Lincoln as soon as stated throughout one other time of deep civil strife.”

The survey discovered Biden does just a little higher with Utahns ages 25-56, ladies and school graduates than he does with older and youthful voters, males and people with some school or a highschool diploma. However even amongst these teams, his approval ranking hovers round 30%.

Of these within the ballot who recognized themselves as “very lively” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the predominant faith in Utah — solely 21% approve of the job Biden is doing. The president’s approval ranking amongst “considerably or not lively” Latter-day Saints is 24%.

Dan Jones & Associates performed the ballot of 808 registered Utah voters Feb. 7-17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.45 share factors.

Biden approval rating drops in Utah poll ahead of State of the Union
Picture: Deseret Information

Whereas Utahns do not give Biden excessive marks for his presidency usually, he does higher in relation to his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third yr.

The ballot reveals 41% of individuals approve of his dealing with of the pandemic, whereas 54% disapprove.

The survey discovered an enormous disparity between political events on that query, with 86% of Democrats approving in comparison with solely 26% of Republicans. Thirty-four % of independents approve of his COVID-19 response.

Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandates did not play properly in Utah, which was among the many states that efficiently challenged his directives in court docket.

Karpowitz stated the president might do a terrific deal in his Tuesday speech to assist People perceive what to anticipate with COVID-19 within the coming months and what preparations the nation is making for extra outbreaks or to comprise future threats.

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Eurovision drops Russia from this year’s contest : NPR


The Eurovision Music Contest was held within the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in 2017. Russia has been excluded from the 2022 version following its invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Photos


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Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Photos


The Eurovision Music Contest was held within the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in 2017. Russia has been excluded from the 2022 version following its invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP through Getty Photos

It seems Russia has misplaced its spot on at the very least one world stage.

Organizers of the Eurovision Music Contest introduced on Friday that no Russian act will take part on this yr’s occasion in mild of the nation’s assault on Ukraine.

The European Broadcast Union — the worldwide public media affiliation that organizes the wildly fashionable songwriting competitors — mentioned in an announcement that the choice was made “primarily based on the principles of the occasion and the values of the EBU.”

It is a swift departure from organizers’ public stance on Thursday, after they characterised Eurovision as a “non-political cultural occasion” and mentioned Russian acts can be allowed to compete. The EBU’s govt board has since determined in any other case.

“The choice displays concern that, in mild of the unprecedented disaster in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry on this yr’s Contest would deliver the competitors into disrepute,” organizers mentioned on Friday.

Russia had not but introduced its contestant for the competitors, whose web site says international locations have till mid-March to selected their entries. This yr’s occasion is about to happen Might 10 to 14 in Turin, Italy.

Organizers famous that there was broad consensus amongst competitors stakeholders.

They mentioned the EBU govt board made its resolution after “consulting extensively amongst its membership” and following a advice from the competition’s governing physique, which is called the Reference Group. The Reference Group’s advice was additionally supported by the EBU’s Tv Committee, they added.

There was additionally public stress, as NPR has reported.

The Ukrainian public broadcast community UA:PBC despatched an open letter to the EBU on Thursday asking that Russian media be faraway from the EBU and requesting that Eurovision’s 2022 Russian competitor be faraway from the tune contest.

Ukraine will likely be represented within the competitors by rap group Kalush Orchestra, who completed second within the nationwide ultimate however received the general public vote. Singer Alina Pash was initially set to be the nation’s contestant, however UA:PBC suspended its settlement along with her as authorities examine complaints that she toured Crimea in 2015, following its occupation by Russian forces.