Axios Salt Lake City

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  • Today's weather: ☀️ Sunny, with a high near 43.

Today's newsletter is 895 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Utah National Guard headed to southern border

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to members of the media after meeting with President Biden. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is the latest GOP governor to announce plans to deploy National Guard troops and law enforcement to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Driving the news: Cox announced Friday that he will send five Utah National Guard soldiers to the southern border for two weeks beginning Feb. 26 to maintain military equipment.

  • Five members from a Utah Highway Patrol drug investigation team will join for a month.
  • The deployments are estimated to cost a combined $150,000 in taxpayer dollars. The amount will be pulled from the governor's emergency fund.

What they're saying: "Open borders threaten our national security, and if the president and Congress won't solve the influx of people and drugs, states have to step up," Cox said in a statement on Friday.

The big picture: As the showdown between the Biden administration and Texas over immigration enforcement and federal authority unfolds, border security has emerged as the GOP's focal point ahead of the 2024 elections.

  • Louisiana Republican Gov. Jeff Landry announced on Thursday that he would send 150 National Guard members to the southern border.
  • GOP governors in Florida and Indiana have also committed to sending National Guard members.

Context: Cox's announcement comes less than a week after he joined 14 GOP governors at the border city of Eagle Pass, Texas, in support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's controversial border initiative, Operation Lone Star.

Reality check: Operation Lone Star, a border enforcement program created by Abbott in 2021, has been criticized by National Guard troops and has faced scrutiny over its effectiveness.

Background: Cox, who has previously expressed support for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, is running for re-election in this year's gubernatorial race.

  • He faces two GOP challengers: Utah Republican Party Chair Carson Jorgensen and Blanding state Rep. Phil Lyman.

The other side: Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis in a statement accused Cox of "playing political games" and "fearmongering."

  • "We deserve a governor who is more focused on doing work for the people of Utah than building his own personal brand on the national stage or protecting his own political ambitions," she said.

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2. 🗞️ Old News: Olympics vs. porn

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

It was 22 years ago this week that Utahns learned they'd have to wait a while to peep some T&A on PBS.

  • This is Old News, where we transmit truths from Utah's past.

What happened: In February 2002, PBS Frontline had just released an episode with a lot of buzz.

  • "American Porn" covered the millions of dollars flowing through the adult entertainment industry, and the Bush administration's efforts to prosecute obscenity.
  • It was scheduled to air just as 750,000 people were rolling into Utah for the Olympics.

The intrigue: PBS promoted the episode with "more warnings than over-the-counter drug labels," the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

  • "Even with censoring, you still have to wade through sex acts so out there that even Larry Flynt thinks they're bad for business," wrote the Chicago Sun-Times.

Reality check: The excitement amounted to some foul language and distant shots of nudity, Variety disclosed.

  • PBS released two versions, one more explicit than the other.

Yes, but: Even the "clean" cut was wrong for the Olympic crowds, Salt Lake's PBS station, KUED, determined.

The bottom line: The station instead "decided to load the schedule with documentaries on Utah history" and air the porn report a month after it was released, according to The Tribune.

  • Smith said programming managers thought they could achieve higher ratings in February with shows "discussing Brigham Young, Park City and polygamy."

What we're watching

3. Fry Sauce: Snack on these headlines

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🎤 Rapper Post Malone, who owns a home in Cottonwood Heights, sang "America the Beautiful" at the Super Bowl LVIII yesterday. (Deseret News)

🗳️ A proposed bill would stop automatically mailing ballots to voters who miss voting in two elections. (

Delta Air Lines has been accused of over-serving a man who police say killed 29-year-old Charlotte Sturgeon in 2022 while drunk at the Salt Lake City International Airport, according to a lawsuit. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

4. 🛸 Utah's UFO winner

👽 Reported UFO sightings per 100k residents
Data: National UFO Reporting Center, U.S. Census; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Grand County — home to Moab — is Utah's No. 1 spot for UFO sightings, with more reports per capita than any other county in the state.

  • The tourism-heavy area ranked No. 22 for all U.S. counties, according to data from the National UFO Reporting Center.

Zoom out: 24 of the state's 29 counties tallied more UFO sightings per capita than the national average of 34.3 sightings per 100,000 residents between 2000 and 2023, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Erin Davis report.

By the numbers: The Salt Lake metro area reported 47.1 sightings per 100,000 residents, a fraction of Grand County's 340.9.

  • Wayne County came had 315, with Emery, Kane and Rich counties each above 200.

Details: Anyone can submit a report to the UFO center, but volunteers there work to weed out what they consider obvious hoaxes or false reports.

  • Only a fraction of people who see something unusual file a report, says Christian Stepien, the organization's chief technology officer.
  • "I would estimate that people who see stuff that they think is a UFO or that is an actual UFO — we think maybe 5% report it, maybe not even that."

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5. Pic du jour: Skijoring downtown

Skijoring in downtown Salt Lake City.
Skijoring in downtown Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy: Zineb Baaout

West Temple was the backdrop of Visit Salt Lake's inaugural skijoring competition, bringing together horse riders, skiers and spectators.

😮‍💨 Kim is glad she didn't take her mom to go see "Poor Things."

Erin finished her last ski lesson of the year and made a lot of progress!

This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell and copy edited by Natasha Danielle Smith and Yasmeen Altaji