Outside the Outbreak: 5 state ballot measures include racial justice, France mourns beheaded teacher

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Mitt Romney calls for U.S. commission to deal with wildfires

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, near Neffs Canyon in Salt Lake City. Romney announced legislation to establish a national wildfire commission that would make policy recommendations aimed at diminishing future wildfire disasters. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah announced legislation on Oct. 15 to establish a national commission focused on diminishing future wildfire disasters. The proposed commission would study and recommend fire mitigation policies to Congress, including forest management tactics and federal spending, Romney said.

Romney’s announcement came as wildfires have raged across the West this year. Blazes have grown more intense and dangerous as the changing climate dries out forests thick with trees and underbrush.

“Wildfires represent an enormous threat to our country and to the people of our country,” Romney told reporters in Salt Lake City. “Doing things the way we’ve always been doing them does not make any sense.”

French premier joins nationwide tributes to beheaded teacher

Hundreds of people gather on Republique square during a demonstration Sunday Oct. 18, 2020 in Paris. Demonstrations around France have been called in support of freedom of speech and to pay tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded near Paris after discussing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class. Samuel Paty was beheaded on Friday by a 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee who was shot dead by police. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

France’s prime minister joined demonstrators on Sunday who rallied together across the country in tribute to a history teacher who was beheaded near Paris after discussing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class.

The demonstrations came hours after U.S. President Donald Trump sent France a message of solidarity in the wake of the attack.

Samuel Paty was beheaded on Friday in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee who was shot dead by police.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex stood with citizens, associations and unions demonstrating Sunday on the Place de la Republique in Paris in support of freedom of speech and in memory of the 47-year-old slain teacher.

Racial justice movement a factor for 5 state ballot measures

FILE – In this Tuesday, June 30, 2020 file photo, Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration employees Willie Townsend, left, and Joe Brown, attach a Mississippi state flag to the harness before raising it over the Capitol grounds in Jackson, Miss. State legislators voted in June to retire the last state flag in the U.S. bearing the Confederate battle emblem, and voters will decide on Nov. 3, 2020 whether to accept a new flag with a magnolia design. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t named in any of the 120 statewide ballot measures up for a vote on Nov. 3. But this year’s nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice are major factors in the campaigns in several states for measures with distinctive racial themes.

In California, voters will decide whether to allow affirmative action in public hiring, contracting and college admissions — 24 years after Californians approved an initiative outlawing programs that give preference based on race and gender.

Elsewhere, the topics include a replacement for Mississippi’s Confederate-themed state flag, a proposed change in Rhode Island’s official name to remove the word “plantations,” and efforts in Nebraska and Utah to strip language from the state constitutions providing an exemption to the ban on slavery.

Leader of dark-web opioid drug ring gets life sentence

FILE – In this Nov. 22, 2016, file photo, a man in protective suit exits a residence as local and federal law enforcement agencies respond to a drug bust in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. In the raid on Aaron Shamo’s home in the upscale suburb of Cottonwood Heights, agents found a still-running pill press in the basement, thousands of pills and more than $1 million in cash stuffed in garbage bags, according to court documents. Shamo, an Utah man convicted of building a multimillion-dollar dark-web drug ring from his suburban basement was sentenced Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, to life in prison. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, File)

A suburban millennial convicted of becoming an online drug kingpin was sent to prison for life Thursday, but not before he was confronted by a grieving mother.

Tova Keblish said her son thought he was buying painkillers online to cope with his agony after leg surgery. Instead, authorities say the pills were fakes pressed in the suburban Salt Lake City basement where Aaron Shamo built a multimillion-dollar drug ring with little more than a computer and some friends. The pills contained the opioid fentanyl, a drug that authorities say can be deadly with just a few flakes.

Gavin Keblish of Long Island, New York, died soon after buying them, leaving his family to mourn his big hugs and loud laugh, she testified.

Shamo, 30, was convicted in federal court last year of shipping hundreds of thousands of fake prescription drugs all over the country, helping fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic.

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