Elaine Taylor

5:30 News Co-host / Reporter

After graduating with a B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Utah, Elaine developed a love of radio while working long hours in remote parts of Utah as an archaeological field technician. She eventually started interning for the radio show Science Questions and fell completely in love with the medium. Elaine is currently taking classes at Utah State University in preparation for medical school applications. She is a host of UPR’s 5:30 Newscast and a science writer for the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station. Elaine hopes to bring her experiences living abroad in Turkey and Austria into her work.

Cold air from the polar vortex will not reach Utah.
National Weather Service

Temperatures across much of the eastern U.S. are hitting record lows this week, but meteorologists say the arctic air won’t be reaching Utah.

Air flow at the poles creates year-round vortices, also known as an arctic cyclone. A weakening of the North American winter jet stream can lead to distortions in the shape of the polar air mass and allow for cold air to push southward, like what’s happening now.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Larry Dunn explained it’s not the vortex itself that’s reaching much of the eastern U.S.

sunset, sun
APRIL ASHLAND / UTAH PUBLIC RADIO

Saturday is the day the Earth will be closest to the sun this year, but don’t expect a heat wave. NASA Ambassador Patrick Wiggins said the change is such a small percentage of the total distance to the sun that mere earthlings like us won’t notice any difference.

“At closest, like now, we’re about 147 million kilometers out. At the furthest, it’s about 152 million,” he said.
What does make a difference to Earth’s temperatures and seasons, Wiggins said, is the 23.4 percent tilt of our planet on its axis.

“This time of year we here in the northern hemisphere are tilted away from the sun which means the sun is lower in the sky, it hits us at a much lower angle and it’s also in the sky for much less time than it is when we’re tilted toward the sun, so all of that works together to make it cold,” Wiggins said.

A new report shows there were 22 domestic violence related deaths in 2013, down from 30 the year before. Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Director Peg Coleman said the number is still too high, but does show that progress has been made.

“The good news is that the number of fatalities did go down and I think it is because more systems this past year really have started to work together more closely and understand the intersections of domestic violence with other issues,” Coleman said.

Domestic violence is often paired with factors such as substance abuse, mental health issues, and suicide. Coleman said one of the coalition’s objectives is to bring together domestic violence fighting non-profits with service providers in these areas.

The H1N1 influenza strain is behind the majority of flu related hospitalizations in the state this season.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Salt Lake County Health Department has confirmed the first influenza deaths of the season. Two Salt Lake County residents between the ages of 35 and 64 died in the second half of December. 

According to officials at the Utah Department of Health, the number of flu related hospitalizations statewide this season is closely tracking last year’s higher than average numbers. Salt Lake County saw 21 deaths last year compared to 6 the year before, said Nicholas Rupp of the Salt Lake Health Department.

27 bald eagles have died across the state in the past month.
Phil Douglass, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Utah wildlife officials say the mystery deaths of more than 25 bald eagles across the state have been solved. Laboratory results have confirmed that West Nile Virus was the cause of illness, ruling out lead, toxic chemicals and bacterial infections.

West Nile is typically seen during the summer when mosquito populations, which carry the virus, are high.

Assistant State Veterinarian Warren Hess said the eagles may have been sickened by eating the carcasses of eared grebes, a small water bird that lives on the Great Salt Lake. 

Jacob Anderegg
utah.gov

State Rep. Jacob Anderegg is proposing a new state amendment that would ask Utahns to once again vote on the issue of marriage. The amendment, which Anderegg said is still in the works, would protect religious clergy from being required to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs or doctrine.

Anderegg (R-Lehi) said the proposal is a response to the Federal Government, not to the recent decision by Judge Robert J. Shelby.

Five eagles from across northern Utah have died from a mystery illness.
nps.gov

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports that another bald eagle has died from the mysterious illness that has caused the deaths of multiple birds across the state in the past two weeks.

By Monday four birds held in rehab facilities had died and one was in stable condition after showing symptoms including paralysis and tremors. However, after experiencing worsening symptoms the surviving bird was euthanized.

15 super-volcanoes similar in size to the one located beneath Yellowstone National Park today erupted 30 million years ago in Utah.
nationalatlas.gov

After nearly 30 years of geological research, a team from BYU said they have found evidence of some of the largest volcanic eruptions in the history of the planet.

Around 30 million years ago, when large mammals roamed North America, Utah was the site of 15 super eruptions. Head researcher Eric Christiansen said one of the largest eruptions happened near Wah Wah Springs in central Utah.

“Compared to what erupted out of Mount St. Helens in 1980, it’s about 5,000 times bigger,” Christiansen said.

The Utah Food Bank has seen more online donations this holiday season than in years past.
cabq.gov

Increased need during the government shutdown in October led many Utah food banks to voice concerns over reduced food supplies for the upcoming holiday season. Jeanette Bott from the Utah Food Bank said Utahns have reached out with donations, keeping pantries across the state stocked. 

Bott said the portion of donations made online has grown this year, while typical food donations are down statewide.

The pantry said donations of high protein foods like tuna and beef stew are always needed, as well as kid-friendly products like mac and cheese.

eagle, bald eagle
US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

Four eagles have died over the past two weeks from an unexplained illness that has left a fifth, discovered on Saturday, paralyzed but in stable condition. The eagles were discovered across northern Utah in Weber, Box Elder, Tooele and Utah counties.

Dalyn Marthaler is a wildlife specialist with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, which has cared for four of the birds, and said the birds are coming in with the same symptoms.

“They’re coming in with paralysis and tremors, and showing neurological issues. We don’t yet have the cause of that. It’s kind of a mystery at this point,” Marthaler said.

Two new species of spider wasps were discovered by USU researchers in Brazil.
Waichert and Pitts

Two new species of wasps have been discovered by a pair of researchers from Utah State University. Professor James Pitts and graduate student Cecilia Waichert found the new species of spider wasps while examining a century-old Brazilian museum collection.

Named for their method of reproduction, spider wasps lay a single egg on a spider they capture and paralyze. When the egg hatches, the young wasp feeds on the immobile spider.

bilingual, study, students
NYC Department of Education

One Utah State University researcher has found a way to better identify language impairments in bilingual children through English language testing. It can be difficult to identify delayed language development in bilingual children, who show impairments in both of the languages they speak.

Older methods identified problems by testing children bilingually, but USU professor Ronald Gillam said this method has limits.

air quality, mandatory action
UTAH DIVISION OF AIR QUALITY

As a familiar winter haze settles over the state, the Utah Division of Air Quality has issued mandatory action warnings for five Utah Counties. The use of wood stoves and fireplaces is prohibited in Cache, Box Elder, Salt Lake and Davis counties, as well as Utah and Weber counties until the Department of Environmental Quality lifts the limit with the improvement of air quality.

Utah Division of Air Quality Environmental Scientist Ken Simmons said the early warnings were issued to inform the public.

Lauryn Schroeder/ The Medill Justice Project

Northwestern University’s Medill Justice Project released some of their findings from an investigation into the rate of legal cases surrounding shaken baby syndrome on Tuesday. The Justice Project is an investigative journalism program that researches criminal justice issues, including wrongful convictions.

Project director Alec Klein said the investigation was difficult because few of the crimes had witnesses and because little data has been collected to understand national trends.

One BYU senior is filming a documentary about his journey to find lasting love. Film student Stephen Nelson is on a mission to find true love and get engaged in six months. He said he woke up one morning with the idea, which has now grown into a documentary called 6 Till Engaged.

gay marriage
blogs.sos.wa.gov

A federal judge heard arguments from both sides of a lawsuit surrounding Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. Three couples who were denied Utah marriage licenses filed the lawsuit in March, saying the ban violated their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby heard arguments Wednesday from both sides, who had each asked for a summary judgment—meaning that a ruling could be made without material facts.

John Majia the legal director for the ACLU, which is in support of the couples, explains the arguments in the case.

Rescuers are searching for a white and maroon BE-36 Beech Bonanza.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Rescuers continue to search for a small aircraft carrying five people that disappeared in rural Idaho on Sunday.

The six-seat, single engine Beech Bonanza left Baker City, Oregon on Sunday morning headed for Montana. The plane reported engine trouble as it crossed central Idaho around 1 p.m. before it lost contact with air traffic controllers.

Rescue crews have been searching near the Johnson Creek airstrip, where last contact was made.

Over five hundred Utahns died of drug overdose in 2012.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State representative Carol Moss is sponsoring a bill she hopes will reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in the state. Moss’ “Good Samaritan” bill is her second piece of legislation on the topic. The first, which was introduced in 2006 and died in committee, would have penalized a person for abandoning someone who was overdosing on drugs.

Moss’ new bill adopted suggestions from people who work in substance abuse and addiction programs, and instead uses incentives to solve the growing problem.

Permits for Christmas tree cutting are still available across most of the state.
United States Department of Agriculture

Thousands of Utahns cut their own Christmas trees in national forests every year, and the day after Thanksgiving remains one of the most popular days to do so.

Though some areas like the Heber-Kamas Ranger District have sold out of tree cutting permits, the Forest Service’s Kathy Jo Pollock said most forests in the state have permits available.

Aggie Blue Bikes is a USU organization that provides refurbished bicycles to Sub for Santa.
Aggie Blue Bikes

With winter fast approaching, children around the state are making their holiday wish lists. Still, many families are continuing to struggle with the implications of the Great Recession and high poverty levels, making the holidays an especially stressful time of year.

One Cache County organization is looking to ease some of that stress by donating refurbished bicycles. Utah State University’s Aggie Blue Bikes will continue its tradition of donating fixed up bicycles to Sub for Santa.

The group has donated nearly 90 bikes over the past eight years and expects to help even more families than average this holiday season.

Biking in Utah has increased by nearly 60 percent over the past 7 years.
austintexas.gov

Biking to work is up in Utah according to a new study released by the League of American Bicyclists. The study, based on data collected in 2012, shows that Utah is ranked number 9 in the nation for growth in commuters getting to work by bike. Nearly 1 percent of Utahns biked to work in 2012, that’s compared .6 percent in 2005—an increase of 59.8 percent in 7 years.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday the Provo City Council asked their staff to begin researching housing and employment discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Provo.

Councilman Rick Healey said the issue was brought to the council by a special interest group, and that he has not personally heard of any discrimination in the city.

Healey said he is interested in seeing how ordinances have been implemented in other Utah cities like Salt Lake and Ogden—specifically, how common complaints are received and how they have been handled.

Nov. 22, the Utah State University Department of Physics will enthrall and inform the public as they put on a demonstration about the physics of light.
Utah State University

An upcoming event at Utah State University sets out to dispel the idea that science, especially physics, can’t be fun.

The Department of Physics will host the sixth annual November Demo Show this Friday, which is quickly becoming a Thanksgiving tradition. The theme of this year’s show is "The Physics of Light."

ISON is expected to be nearest to the sun on Thanksgiving Day. It is unknown how the comet will react to the sun's high temperatures.
Mike Hankey of Auberry, CA

A comet new to the inner solar system from the distant Oort Cloud has made its way into Earth’s orbit and is now headed for the Sun. Astronomers hope the comet named ISON, discovered just last year, will put on a good show as it heats up. But so far, it has not been as bright as originally predicted.

Many Northern Utah residents woke up to a blanket of white on the ground Friday morning—a signal the seasons may finally be changing. Another greener indication that winter is upon the state is changing green waste collection schedules.

In Logan, the city will soon be asking residents to put their green waste bins into hibernation until March.

Logan’s green waste program started in 1994 and expanded to include roadside service in 2000. Conservation Coordinator Emily Malik said the city collects thousands of pounds of waste each year.

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