Hits & Misses | Shrinking Salk Lake, Hatch Saves Drug Dealers & Port O' Eviction 

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Damned Birds
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A new study by two Utah state agencies finds wetlands on the shore of the Great Salt Lake have shrunk drastically over the past 40 years. Flow from springs that feed the lake has dropped 80 percent, meaning an increasingly smaller refuge for the birds that use the area as a migration stopover. Recent measurements find the Great Salt Lake with less water in it than at any time since the 1970s, exposing remaining birds to predators. State scientists note the drying has occurred as groundwater pumping by farmers upstream from the lake has increased and area rainfall decreased. The results should give state water officials pause about plans to dam the Bear River (which feeds the Great Salt Lake) to slake the thirst of new subdivisions. n n

Freed Jailbirds
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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has done it again—freed another convicted record producer from prison, that is. Following advocacy by singer Carly Simon and the songwriting senator, President Bush has commuted the 14-year sentence of producer John Forte, caught with 31 pounds of liquid cocaine at the Newark airport. Forte is the third drug convict released with the senator’s help. Two years ago, it was record producer Dallas Austin, arrested in Dubai with coke and ecstasy en route to Naomi Campbell’s birthday party. Opponents of mandatory minimum drug-sentencing laws applauded Forte’s release. But Hatch can’t free all drug-war victims alone. Many more continue to rot in prison, including Utahn Weldon Angelos—a record producer without famous friends still serving a 55-year sentence for marijuana possession.

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Closed for Business
nThe one thing Salt Lake City needs to cheer us up in these economic times is another vacant lot. So, apparently, goes the thinking of the geniuses who build federal courthouses. The feds have filed paperwork to condemn the Shubrick Building on 400 South & West Temple, their chosen spot for a brand new federal courthouse. They have told the owners of Port O’Call, the private club located inside, that they want the business closed by Dec. 31. This despite the fact that it doesn’t appear the government has the money required to build a courthouse once the nearly 100-year-old Shubrick Building has been shuttered or bulldozed. At earliest, construction could begin in 2010, assuming the federal government has money for building monuments by then.

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