Salt Lake City’s Kelsey Chugg is taking on the golf world, thanks to a national victory

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kelsey Chugg recently won a national golf title, the U.S. Mid-Amateur. She plays the Salt Lake City courses seen here at Forest Dale Golf Course.

Not long afterward, the message arrived in her in-box. Lewis was inviting her to play a practice round during the U.S. Women’s Open in May. Chugg had forgotten that Lewis’ husband, Gerrod Chadwell, coached her for a year in junior college.

That’s just another sign of how everything came together perfectly for Chugg during her week in Houston, with the latest United States Golf Association championship for a Utah golfer creating all kinds of possibilities for her in 2018. Chugg’s schedule of major events starts Saturday in the South American Amateur in Argentina, as one of four players representing the USGA.

It will be a year filled with big-time golf for Chugg, 26, who works as the Utah Golf Association’s membership director. Her USGA victory created those opportunities, with performance that stemmed from her experience in Utah golf.

As a four-time winner of the Utah Women’s State Amateur, Chugg becomes “like a different person” in match play, said Lynsey Myers, her coach. “I’d put her up against anyone.”

The summary of the Women’s Mid-Am, for golfers 25 and older, is how Chugg dominated her six opponents in match play. The back story is even better – how she opened the stroke-play portion of the tournament with an 85, cried in the parking lot, then practiced for a while and drove to the home where the tournament provided her housing.

In that setting, Chugg regrouped. She posted an even-par 72 in the second round and thrived in match play, never having to play the 18th hole of Champions Golf Club in Houston in those six matches.

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Anna Kennedy (BYU) tees off on 18 during the 111th Utah WomenÕs State Amateur Championship held at Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights, Friday, August 4, 2017. Kennedy finished second to Kelsey Chugg of Weber State.

Utah’s history of USGA winners now covers 91 years, dating to George Von Elm’s defeat of Bobby Jones in the 1926 U.S. Amateur. Other victories for Utah-born golfers have come more recently. In the 1995 U.S. Junior Amateur in North Dakota, West Bountiful’s Scott Hailes defeated future PGA Tour winner James Driscoll in the finals. Annie Thurman Young of Alpine, then an Oklahoma State golfer, claimed the 2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title. And in 2005, former Davis High School golfer Clay Ogden defeated Michelle Wie in the quarterfinals on his way to victory in the U.S. Amateur Public Links in Ohio.

Chugg is a self-described “blue-collar person” and “golf nerd.” Raised by a mother who moved frequently, she grew up mainly in California and Arizona and spent summers with her grandparents in the Ogden area. Merlin Judkins, a relative, would take her to Davis Park Golf Course and Schneiter’s Riverside. “That’s how we sort of bonded,” Judkins said. “You could tell she was athletic; you could tell she loved the game.”

Judkins is one of many strong influences in Chugg’s golf development. She worked at a semi-private course in Arizona, where noted instructor Kene Bensel took an interest in her. She became a junior college star at Redlands, becoming even more devoted to the game, and thrived for two years in Weber State’s program, coached by the late Jeff Smith.

People like to help her. In Houston, where Myers counseled her by phone after that poor opening round, Chugg benefitted from having Don Goldberg, the husband of Utah golfer Annette Gaiotti, caddy for her in the second round. As the father of an Olympic skier, “He knows a lot about the mental game,” Chugg said. “He definitely kept me calm.”

Kelsey’s MajorsNational and international tournaments in 2018 for Salt Lake City’s Kelsey Chugg, stemming from her 2017 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur victory:South American Amateur – Saturday-Tuesday, Martindale Country Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina.U.S. Women’s Open – May 31-June 3, Shoal Creek Country Club, Shoal Creek, Ala.U.S. Open (exhibition of USGA champions) – June 12, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y.U.S. Women’s Amateur – Aug. 6-12, The Golf Club of Tennessee, Kingston Springs, Tenn.U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur – Sept. 22-27, Norwood Hills Country Club, St. Louis, Mo.

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Biskupski at midterm: What’s accomplished, what’s ahead for Salt Lake City

By the calendar, Mayor Jackie Biskupski is at the midpoint of her term leading Salt Lake City government, but she sees both more, and less.

More, because, in her calculation, she’s achieved more, and in less time, than she anticipated — or that her detractors might concede.

Biskupski, who turns 52 on Thursday, was speaking on one of the last days of a bumpy year that ended on a high note: In its final meetings of 2017, the City Council approved, with some tweaks, her administration’s proposals for creating a faster, cleaner transit system, as well as plans to subsidize and support affordable housing development in a city confronting a huge shortage of it.

“We set a course that in my mind was really for eight years, and so you look at it, we have accomplished our clean energy plan, we have our transit plan, we have our housing plan,” Biskupski said. “We created the Department of Economic Development, and they’ve brought 4,000 jobs into our economy since a year ago July. We have really bolstered our role in the state of Utah and are taking on the leadership as a capital city as we should be and that is very exciting.”

Add to that, she mentions, a utility agreement that puts the city on course to meet her goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving 100 percent clean energy use by 2032.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski reflects on the past year and looks ahead during a sit down interview in her office at the Salt Lake City and County Building on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017.

The Economic Development office, in a year-end announcement, upped the projected jobs number to more than 6,000, along with a projected $483 million in new capital investment, including economic activity generated by new distribution centers Amazon and UPS are bringing to the city’s northwest quadrant.

And yet, Biskupski, who has gained national attention as an outspoken climate-change fighter, not to mention as the progressive lesbian mayor of crimson-red Utah’s capital, still contends with criticism at home — thinly veiled and, at times, out in the open.

Two years after her close win over two-term Mayor Ralph Becker — the first loss by an incumbent mayor since the 1979 introduction of mayor-council government — detractors grumble that she remains thin-skinned, combative and defensive, with a habit of claiming all credit for initiatives or successes that aren’t fully hers, and a governing style that puts her frequently in conflict with others — primarily, the City Council.

An end-of-year bonhomie between council and mayor’s office rode on the transit and housing plan approvals, not to mention an approved plan to hire dozens more police officers. But the good feelings on display seemed to mask lingering antagonism: At year‘s end, two departing council members had tough parting words about their difficulties working with her administration.

The mayor’s office gave a measured response, praising the council members for their service and blaming friction on a tough and busy two years for everyone. That de-escalation was taken as a promising harbinger, a hint that relations between mayor and council might be heading for a thaw — if the mayor’s office, as skeptics predict, doesn’t try to dominate.

Though their paths have often diverged, the mayor and council “ultimately want the same thing,” said council member Erin Mendenhall, elected last week by her colleagues as chairwoman.

“It’s just not efficient for the branches of government to be battling,” she said. “It is inefficient for us to work separately and expect that we will come together at the end on big issues. We’re building those opportunities to work together already.”

Mayor Jackie Biskupski signs an executive memo on housing policy Tuesday night, Dec. 12, 2017, moments after the City Council approved a new comprehensive housing policy for the city to guide development over the next five years.

“It’s been an interesting time for me,” she said. “When I first came into office, mayors across the country took note of my election. They were surprised and curious: ‘Who is this lesbian in a red state that is a single mom’” — she has since married — “’and became mayor of a capital city?’”

“What’s unique for me is that there are other organizations out there that have taken notice,” she said, citing former New York City Michael Bloomberg’s What Works Cities philanthropic initiative that helps cities run better.

“Those kinds of opportunities are happening because of me being recognized as a leader, but also, as we were working with the experts in our departments, it became very clear that there is capacity and capability to make the most of the opportunity.”

There have been a fair share of unscripted events that put her in the national news, or set her up for criticism. Take, for example, last summer’s police manhandling and arrest of a University of Utah hospital nurse, which brought an emphatic, but delayed response. For another, the city’s effort to deal with rising homelessness, including the August launch of the Operation Rio Grande enforcement initiative it prompted, was not universally supported and created its own moments of friction.

Biskupski was not the pick of the six of seven council members who endorsed a candidate in the 2015 mayor’s race, and her early moves on staffing her administration drew criticism, both coming and going. She let go of the city’s public services director, who had served more than 30 years. Her first choice to replace him didn’t last 30 days.

Those and other early missteps are almost two years behind her. She now praises a “very conscientious” and diverse administration — members of her immediate staff together speak a half-dozen languages — that is “driven by a strong moral code. They truly care about the people in this city, and they want to be proud of the work they do.”

Working with a council that endorsed her election opponent, she acknowledged, engendered “some hard feelings coming in as the new mayor.” But with changes in council leadership, “I can already feel a difference in the working relationship.”

“I’m very grateful for that because I think it’s time to let go and be moving forward and working together in a very collaborative way,” Biskupski said. “We all have the same goals. We all want these same issues to be at the forefront, and we have a real opportunity now to really work very closely together to effect change.”

A conversation tangent brings up the subject of 2017’s emergent #MeToo movement — social media’s branding for the year’s transformational response to sexual aggression against women. The mayor applauded the efforts that put the spotlight on the issue and said they must continue, “because the oppression that comes with sexual assault or sexual harassment really has an impact on women in our society in a very negative way.”

“I certainly can say that I have felt judged more harshly as a leader than my male peers,” she added when asked for her personal experience. “Consistently, ever since I’ve been elected, I’ve always had to work harder and smarter to make sure that my goals could be achieved.”

“Because if you look at it, my budgets have been passed with very little change. We’ve been very fiscally responsible. We have taken action on just about everything that I talked about in my State of the City address. We’re at about an A-minus,” she said.

“We haven’t gotten everything done or launched,” she added. “But again, that vision I laid out in my State of the City [address] was something that I felt was an eight-year plan, but almost all of it happened in the first two years. That’s pretty amazing.”

As for the public’s assessment, the latest poll on her popularity is nearly a year old: The Salt Lake Tribune/Hinckley Institute survey, conducted amid a public hue and cry over the announcement of new homeless shelter sites, put her approval/disapproval rating at 51-43. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

That middling result, if it persists, could play into how she governs this year — hiring new police officers is likely to require a property tax hike, never a favorite option for a politician facing re-election — not to mention who might step up to challenge her in 2019. Stan Penfold, who left the council this month after two terms, deflected questions last month about whether he planned to run.

Biskupski said she wants “very much to have a strong partnership” with the city’s school system. The district is fully independent, but the mayor speaks of partnering to support and respond to unmet needs, like pre-K education for all city children and a new elementary school. She mentions her move to name a new top-level adviser for education, Angela Doan, a former teacher turned lawyer.

“There’s really a desire by the city, and I believe by the council as well, to help on education, and we have community partners that are in the wings waiting also to be helpful,” she said. “What we’re trying to say to the school district is ‘you are doing great things but there are still needs we are being told about by people who live in this community and we want to be able to help. We’re not trying to tell you how to do your jobs. We’re showing up and saying we have partners with resources.‘“

She said the city’s slow-burn housing crisis “weighs on me” and that she wants “more truly affordable housing coming online very quickly.” Projects put forward by a mayor-appointed commission — four in all, with a total 262 affordable units — got tax-credit funding in December. The first units built under those projects could be occupied by June 2019, she said.

Besides affordable housing, which also counts toward alleviating homelessness, the city has an overall shortage of 8,000 homes and also needs to create the transitional housing required for those who will be moving out of new planned homeless resource centers on their way to permanent housing.

Work on implementing the initial stages of the new transit master plan will get underway, she said. Besides transit, she wants the city to take advantage of an upcoming opening in its borrowing capacity to invest in long-overdue road and streetscape improvements.

“We’re looking at a potential bond,” she said. “We have a bonding capacity of up to $87 million, and the cost per household is less than $4.50 per year.”

Biskupski said she would offer more detail in her Jan. 31 State of the City address. But her plans clearly carry past the horizon of her current term.

“I definitely came in wanting two terms,” she said. “I want to make sure that all the plans that we are getting passed through the council get implemented, that we make real progress, that we create foundational shifts that the next leadership that comes in can just springboard from and continue to make progress.”

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Great Salt Lake boat patrol added to search for missing plane out of Ogden

Image by: Photo supplied/Adobe Stock/janifest/Fotolia

This story was updated at 4:28 p.m. with additional information.

BOX ELDER COUNTY — No new leads had developed in the search for two men and a missing aircraft out of Ogden as of Sunday afternoon, but family is asking for photos from people who were at the Golden Spike Historical Site Friday.

The search for pilot Denny Mansell, 71, and passenger Peter Ellis, 74, continued Sunday morning, with an added boat patrol from the Utah Department of Parks and Recreation checking the Great Salt Lake, according to a news release from the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office.

“There have been several tips that have come in and all have been investigated, however no definitive leads have developed. Search efforts will continue until nightfall,” Box Elder Chief Deputy Dale Ward said in the release.

The search area has been covered from the air at least once and, in some areas, multiple times, Ward said.

Search efforts will begin to scale back, starting with the dismissal of the Department of Public Safety helicopter and the Civil Air Patrol. A joint meeting was held with ground and air search units and search track records were compared.

Ground search efforts will be also scaled back, the release said, but the sheriff’s office, Box Elder Search and Rescue, and the Utah Division of Natural Resources will continue to search on the lake.

Mansell and Ellis left the Ogden-Hinckley Airport around 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29, in a red and white Cessna 172 to fly to the Promontory area to watch the trains during the Steam Festival at the Golden Spike Historical Site. The two planned to return around 4:30 p.m. the same day.

The family of the missing men asks that anyone who was at the festival on Friday afternoon and has evidence that the plane was there, such as photos, to send them to The plane was likely in the area between 3-5 p.m.

“If we can establish that they flew the Golden Spike Site, it will help narrow the search area,” Ward said in the release.

The search for the missing men began Friday night with sheriff’s deputies searching at ground-level and a helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety searching from the skies, the release said.

Reach digital producer Jessica Kokesh at 801-625-4229 or You can also follow her on Twitter at @JessicaKokesh or

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It’s time to take note of Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell

SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell turned off his phones, crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling for what felt like forever, still in a giddy sense of shock.

He had about as good of a chance of getting a good night of sleep as the New Orleans Pelicans did of stopping him hours earlier.

The 21-year-old was fresh off breaking the Utah Jazz’s franchise rookie record for points in a game. Mitchell had poured in 41 points in the win, including 17 in the fourth quarter, picking apart the Pelicans with a combination of 3-pointers and drives that made Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey think, "That’s what it feels like [when] Damian Lillard gets it going against us."

PLAYERTEAMPTSSEASONLeBron James*CLE412003-04Carmelo AnthonyDEN412003-04Kevin Durant*SEA422007-08Eric GordonLAC412008-09Stephen CurryGS422009-10Blake Griffin*LAC44, 472010-11Donovan MitchellUTA412017-18* won Rookie of the Year

"I don’t think I stopped smiling from the time I had 35 points until 3:30 in the morning," Mitchell says. "The whole thing is just crazy to me. This whole experience is just a whirlwind. The fact that I’m doing what I’m doing is just amazing to me, and I just want to keep it going."

You didn’t see Donovan Mitchell coming? Neither did he.

Mitchell didn’t expect to emerge as the go-to guy the Jazz desperately needed after Gordon Hayward’s summer departure in free agency. He didn’t anticipate leading all rookies in scoring. Mitchell, the No. 13 overall pick, certainly didn’t think that he’d be building a convincing case that he’s the best player in his draft class.

Heck, Mitchell didn’t even plan on being part of this draft class. He paid all of his expenses when he traveled to Thousand Oaks, California, in the spring to participate in the Creative Artists Agency pre-draft camp because he wanted to maintain his eligibility at Louisville.

He figured he’d measure himself against legitimate draft prospects, get a feel for what aspects of his game needed development and head back to school for his junior season.

"When I left school, my room was still clean, full of stuff," Mitchell said. "I never packed. I was coming back for a third year. In my head, 100 percent, coming back."

Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, a couple of CAA clients who worked out with Mitchell at the camp, changed his mind. They convinced Mitchell that he belonged in the NBA. Mitchell didn’t trust agents when they told him he should enter the draft. It was different to hear it from established All-Stars.

"He’s really good," George told reporters recently, calling Mitchell the steal of the draft. "He’s a tough, fearless kid. We all saw that working out with him this past summer. I knew he was going to blossom."

Paul, who invited Mitchell to his summer camp in North Carolina and still talks to him several times a week, scoffs when it’s suggested that the Jazz guard’s success is surprising.

"He can really, really play," Paul said. "I’m not surprised by it at all. He can play. He’s strong, and he loves the game — both ends, whether it’s offense or defense. I don’t know if it’s because he’s in Utah, everybody’s surprised by it. I’m not."

So what’s Mitchell’s ceiling?

"He controls it," Paul says. "He’s that good."

Lindsey listened intently when he was invited to sit in on the pregame scouting report for his son Jake’s Baylor team when it faced Louisville during a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas last year.

"The whole game plan was Donovan Mitchell," Lindsey said. And the more he learned about Mitchell, the more he liked him.

Mitchell impressed the Jazz brass when he interviewed with them at the Chicago pre-draft camp. Lindsey loved the makeup of Mitchell, the son of a school teacher and the New York Mets’ director of player relations, believing that he developed a "competitive etiquette" by growing up around baseball, a sport Mitchell also played into high school.

"This whole experience is just a whirlwind. The fact that I’m doing what I’m doing is just amazing to me, and I just want to keep it going."

Lindsey came away with the feeling that Mitchell would be a cultural fit with the Jazz due to his character, competitiveness and desire to be developed.

The 6-foot-3 Mitchell, whose 6-foot-10 wingspan factored into his nickname of "Spider," wowed the Jazz with his workout in Utah weeks later, adding to Lindsey’s urgency to trade up to get the guard.

Utah packaged power forward Trey Lyles, a 2015 lottery pick who had fallen out of Utah’s rotation, with the No. 24 overall pick to get the No. 13 overall pick from the Denver Nuggets. The hope was that Mitchell could contribute right away as a defensive-minded role player who complemented Hayward and steadily develop as an offensive threat.

But Hayward, who steadily developed into an All-Star during his seven seasons in Utah, bolted for the Boston Celtics in free agency. Suddenly, the Jazz offense had a massive void to fill. Hayward’s departure has been a huge blow, but Mitchell’s production (17.9 points, 3.4 assists per game) has provided long-term hope and allowed the Jazz to compete for a playoff spot.

"Necessity is the mother of invention here," Lindsey said. "We’re down a very significant player here in Gordon Hayward, and we’re just trying to fight to figure out what’s next.

"We’re sure glad to have the kid."

The kid keeps getting better. Mitchell has developed in subtle ways, such as learning how to finish off of one foot in traffic after always leaping off two feet in college, and made dramatic statistical jumps.

Mitchell got off to a slow start, averaging only 9.3 points and shooting poorly (32.9 percent from the floor) in seven October games. He was much better in November (18.1 points on 41.3 percent shooting). The rookie has been a bona fide star in December, which started with his 41-point performance. Mitchell has averaged 23.1 points this month, shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from 3-point range.

Mitchell, an explosive leaper on pace to break Lillard’s rookie record for 3-pointers made in a season, has started next to Ricky Rubio since mid-November but also plays a lot of point guard. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder calls Mitchell "just a guard," adding that labeling him as one particular position does a disservice to Mitchell’s game.

It’s notable that Snyder increasingly hands Mitchell the keys to the Jazz offense late in close games, a wise decision considering Mitchell’s ability to create and his clutch production (27 points on 10-of-18 shooting in 32 minutes). He’s the only rookie leading his team in clutch scoring this season, although Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons and Boston’s Jayson Tatum have also been remarkably productive and efficient in such situations.

"You trust him because he cares and he wants to improve," Snyder said. "When he makes a mistake, we’re coaching him hard, and he’s willing to accept that. As a result, his teammates respect him. That’s how you grow — not just your game, but your contribution to the team. We haven’t been concerned about him being a rookie. He’s just a player, and we try to help him, use him the best way we can to help our team. It’s evolved into that.

"He’s pretty selfless. He has a leadership component because of his commitment to the team that for a young guy is unique. Usually, you find that over time. He has not asked for that, he’s not trying to become that, but the way he plays and the fact that he’s able to create for other people allows guys to embrace him."

PLAYERTEAMPTS/36FG%3P%Donovan MitchellUTA30.755.633.3Jayson TatumBOS20.966.775.0Lauri MarkkanenCHI19.735.733.3Ben SimmonsPHI16.372.20.0Frank NtilikinaNYK16.240.042.9De’Aaron FoxSAC14.841.70.0Kyle KuzmaLAL14.733.329.4* Among rookies with at least30 clutch time minutes

Mitchell is probably more proud that his assists average has increased from 2.3 in October to 3.6 this month. He said it was embarrassing watching the film of his first big scoring night — a 22-point, two-assist outing in an Oct. 28 win over the Los Angeles Lakers — because of all the open teammates he missed. Mitchell cringes when he mentions his awful outing in a Nov. 7 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, when he was 3-of-21 from the floor and had only one assist.

Mitchell and Snyder have daily film sessions focused on reads, teaching him how to see the whole floor instead of focusing solely on getting a shot.

"Stuff like that, that’s who I am," Mitchell says. "Scoring has just started. I’ve never been a scorer in my life. Maybe last year a little, but I was just a great teammate who played defense and made the right plays. I realized that’s who I need to get back to. That’s who I’ve always strived to be."

That’s an attitude that endears Mitchell to his teammates.

"We’re happy he’s learning, and he wants to make the right play at the right time," said center Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s franchise player, who it currently sidelined with a PCL sprain. "He doesn’t think the world revolves around him. He’s trying to win, and he’s also trying to fit on the team. He’s a good kid. He’s listening, and he’s learning."

And Mitchell is starring, much to his surprise.

"I didn’t expect any of this at all," Mitchell said. "There’s so many things that are like taking me by surprise. I’m honored to have this opportunity. I think that’s the biggest thing — staying humble, because the story you hear a lot of times is that guys who have success let it get to their head.

"I just try to be the same kid from New York and Greenwich, Connecticut, who is just lame and watches TV and Netflix."

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Keeping up with the Kims: The Salt Lake blogger who watches North Korea’s elite

Michael Madden, a largely self-taught analyst of North Korea with an encyclopedic knowledge of the government elite, works on his website in this 2015 photo. (Eric Gay/AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — North Korea’s leadership might just be the toughest intelligence nut to crack.

Kim Jong Un hasn’t traveled outside the country since becoming its leader at the end of 2011. In those six years, he’s met only a handful of outsiders. They include the usual cast of communist-linked characters — Chinese, Cubans, Syrians — as well as the less-expected delegations led by American former basketball star Dennis Rodman.

Otherwise, there’s no human intelligence on Kim and his cronies. Just state propaganda and satellite photos and rumors. Lots of rumors.

But Michael Madden has become, as he puts it, an “accidental expert” on the men, and the occasional woman, who run the world’s most isolated country. From his couch in a dark basement here, Madden operates the website North Korea Leadership Watch, documenting the appearances — and the telling absences — of Kim and the people around him.

“This regime is the longest-lasting totalitarian system for a reason,” said Madden, an idiosyncratic 37-year-old who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the North Korean elite.

He’s prone to rattling off their family trees or minutiae about their educations or jobs — such as the previous positions held by the current director of the agricultural affairs department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

“Sure, there is a powerful strongman around which the system vests its attention and affection, but the strongman still needs subordinates who ensure that the trains launch on time,” he said. “So it is important we know some things about these subordinates, however expendable they might be.”

Through his website, which is now hosted by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and through his work for government agencies and contractors, Madden has been keeping tabs on the people at the top of the Kim regime for almost a decade.

“It’s just a matter of keeping track of 300 people at a time,” he said.

Madden has become influential in this small field — and some North Koreans have noticed. He was in contact with Kim Jong Nam until he was killed early this year, apparently on the orders of Kim Jong Un, his half brother.

Unusually, he also talks to North Koreans inside the regime. In fact, while a Washington Post reporter was in Pyongyang for the Workers’ Party congress last year, it was Madden, sitting 6,000 miles away in Salt Lake City, who was telling her what agenda item the delegates in the hall across town had come to.

“He does a good job pulling together available open-source material, and he is one of the people that I follow on nitty-gritty North Korea leadership issues,” said Jung H. Pak, who until recently was a Korea analyst at the CIA and is now at the Brookings Institution.

Although he spends all his time in a darkened room drinking venti cups of coffee with an extra shot, Madden is not your stereotypical intel nerd.

He has tattoos of the Star Wars character Boba Fett and a Japanese lucky cat on his arms, and barely goes a sentence without swearing. In forging analogies about North Korea, he’s prone to allude to everyone from Bette Midler to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Madden happened upon North Korea by an unusual route.

When he was a student at Suffolk University in Boston, he had a part-time job in the administration section, which led to him traveling to Prague, where the university had a satellite program. The Czech Republic was also a base for many North Koreans, either as diplomats or students.

He got interested in North Korea, and in 2006, when the collaborative mapping site Wikimapia was launched, he started identifying sites in North Korea for it. Then he moved into words, writing a piece for an academic journal about the Ryugyong Hotel, an ill-fated skyscraper that stands as a pyramid-shaped blight on the Pyongyang skyline but has never opened, because of faulty construction and a lack of investment.

One thing led to another, and back in Prague, he was invited to a local restaurant frequented by North Koreans smoking and playing checkers. Slowly, he started making North Korean contacts.

He started his website in September 2009 — fortuitously, just at the time a young man called Kim Jong Un was emerging as his father’s successor.

Madden began documenting Kim’s public appearances with his father and pulling together media reports about the third-generation leader and the people around him, from both inside and outside North Korea. Madden does not speak Korean, so relies on translations.

He memorizes details about all these people — and types out reports from the state-run Korean Central News Agency word by word, instead of copying and pasting, to help the information stick in his head.

“I’m interested in all the mundane details,” he said. “I’m a very elderly millennial.”

But Madden’s work has become increasingly important as the North Korean leadership has changed under Kim. His wife, Sierra, has started writing for the site, too.

“North Korea doesn’t have an order of succession or seniority system like the U.S. government. There’s no parliamentary system with prime ministers, whips and secretaries of state,” he said.

Instead, North Korea has a Politburo containing the country’s top 25 officials. “It was ceremonial under Kim Jong Il, but in the Kim Jong Un system, it has become much more important. The politburo is very much the center of power.”

The upper echelons have been closely watched for signs of Kim Jong Un’s strength — or otherwise — as he has consolidated his leadership after only a two-year apprenticeship under his father, Kim Jong Il.

Just as people have entered the inner circle, they have also dropped out of it. Kim Jong Un has purged and sometimes executed some of his closest aides, including men who helped him make the transition into power. Kim had his own uncle executed (using an antiaircraft gun) for apparently amassing too much of his own power.

The latest rumor revolves around Hwang Pyong So, who had been elevated to be head of the army’s General Political Bureau, which mobilizes the military for Kim. South Korea’s intelligence service reported last month that Hwang, who was often seen at Kim’s side during missile launches, had fallen from grace. Now, it’s saying he’s been sent to a reeducation camp.

But a sizable number of people reported purged or executed have shown up just fine some months later, so Madden likes to sit on these reports and wait for proof. If the officials reappear after six months, it means they’ve been “reeducated.” But if they are edited out of videos, it generally means they’re no longer of this world.

“I’ve just got to put it all together,” Madden said of his work assembling small pieces of information. “It’s like Mr. Potato Head.”

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Cavaliers pile up wins and LeBron James’ triple doubles on homestand, beat Utah 109-100

CLEVELAND — This Cavaliers’ homestand was about two things: wins and triple doubles for LeBron James.

Cleveland swept its four-game stay at The Q by finishing off the Utah Jazz, 109-100, for coach Tyronn Lue’s 100th win. James posted yet another triple double with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

It was James’ second consecutive triple double, third on the homestand, and 60th (in the regular season) of his career, moving him past Larry Bird for sixth place in NBA history.

The Cavs have won 17 of 18 games and 11 in a row at home. James is averaging a triple double during the home winning streak, entering Saturday’s game averaging 29.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 10.2 assists.

James, who turns 33 in two weeks, scored 10 in the fourth quarter. He shot 9-of-15 from the field and was a perfect 10-of-10 from the line.

"I know what I’m doing has not been done a lot in the history of the game, even at my age and if you look at the minutes I’ve played, the consecutive Finals I’ve been a part of and just the toll on my body, it hasn’t been done," James said.

Kevin Love scored 15 points, and three more Cleveland reserves scored in double figures, including rookie Cedi Osman. His 10 points were a career high, and he played the entire fourth quarter. He scored five, including a 3-pointer with 6:14 left for a 94-86 lead, and he contributed a crucial steal late.

"He was playing well and it was a tough game for Channing (Frye) because they played five smalls in that second half," Lue said of Osman, who was 4-of-5 from the field and contributed four rebounds in a career-high 23 minutes. "In that fourth quarter they went small, so the matchups were better having Cedi being able to guard the point guards, guard the 2s and 3s. He made some big shots, played hard, played well. We needed him tonight and he gave us a great lift."

Kyle Korver scored 12 and Jeff Green added 11 points.

The Jazz are in the midst of a brutal six-game road trip. Sure, they beat the Celtics on Friday, but lost Rudy Gobert (knee injury) and Derrick Favors (cut above his eye) in that game and neither played against the Cavs.

After games on consecutive night against the East’s top two teams, Utah must play West-leading Houston Monday.

Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Royce O’Neale and Thabo Sefolosha scored 12 apiece off of Utah’s bench.

The Jazz stayed close with 17 3s on 34 attempts, including four from O’Neale.

For the Cavs, Tristan Thompson looked strong in seven minutes, scoring four points with two rebounds and two steals. His minutes overlapped the first and second quarters and, as planned, he sat the entire second half.

Lue told Thompson would likely be out for Sunday’s game against the Wizards, as he’s not yet ready to play on consecutive nights. He missed Thursday’s game with soreness in his left calf — which he first injured Nov. 1.

James stunned the crowd, and may have even surprised himself, with his finish of Green’s alley-oop pass with 58.7 seconds left in the first quarter.

They were on a fastbreak, with Green on the left and James from the right. James caught Green’s lob with his left hand (wrong side) and dunked it as his body drifted away from the rim. Then, he stared at his left hand for a couple seconds, maybe in disbelief.

James’ bullish drive to the hoop with one second to go in the third quarter put Cleveland ahead 80-73 heading to the fourth.

"He’s great making guys better around him, making guys comfortable, guys liking to play with him," Lue said of James. "He enjoys that. He enjoys getting guys open shots and getting guys to score points. So that’s who he is."

With 10 3s, the Cavs extended their team-record streak to 19 games with at least 10 3-pointers. They’ve also scored at least 100 points in 23 consecutive games.

NEXT: The Cavs hit the road Sunday to play the Washington Wizards at 6 p.m.

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Utah man demands school change over mascot name sounding like ‘penises’

Farmington High School in Utah has chosen the phoenix as their mascot. A Utah man is fighting the name over the plural version of the word. Photo courtesy of Davis School District/


Nov. 15 (UPI) — A Utah parent has started a petition to change a new high school’s mascot because he thinks the plural version of phoenix sounds too much like the word "penises."

"I am starting this petition on behalf [of] many concerned students and parents in our community whose children will be attending the new Farmington High School," Kyle Fraughton wrote in his petition, which has amassed over 3,000 signatures.

"We were horrified to hear that the phonetics of the word Phoenices are far too close to the word penises," Fraughton wrote. "I don’t mean to be crass, but don’t want there to be confusion around the point I am trying to make."

Phoenices, along with phoenixes, is one of the acceptable plural versions of phoenix.

The mascot was chosen by children who live in the Davis School District, where Farmington High School will open for the 2018-2019 school year.

Davis School District Spokesman Chris Williams explained to the Salt Lake Tribune that the district has already reached out to other schools who use the phoenix as a mascot, noting that other schools only use the singular form of phoenix in place of the plural one.

"He’s entitled to his opinion," Williams said of the petition. "We don’t agree with it at all."

"The whole thing is kind of funny," he said. "I understand that this is not the most serious thing in the world."

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Wharton, Fowler build early leads in bids for open Salt Lake City Council seats

| Courtesy of Chris Wharton Chris Wharton, a candidate for Salt Lake City Council.

In bid for the two open seats, attorney Chris Wharton led Phil Carroll, an affordable housing developer, in the District 3 duel to succeed two-term incumbent Stan Penfold, who did not seek re-election.

| Courtesy of Amy Fowler Amy Fowler, a candidate for Salt Lake City Council.

In District 5, first-term incumbent Erin Mendenhall, a graduate student, appeared headed to another four-year term with a comfortable advantage over community activist George Chapman in initial returns, 83 percent to 17 percent.

| Courtesy Erin Mendenhall Salt Lake City council member Erin Mendenhall has been named to the Utah Air Quality Board.

In August’s primary, Wharton, 33, edged the 73-year-old Carroll by just 52 votes of out nearly 3,500 cast.

Fowler nearly doubled Smith’s vote total in the primary. The candidates, both 39, also cited housing as a top concern in addition to homelessness and transportation issues. The southeast district covers Sugar House.

Mendenhall, 37, cruised in the primary by capturing nearly 74 percent of the vote before taking on the 66-year-old Chapman in the fall showdown in District 5, covering central Salt Lake City, including the Liberty Wells and Liberty Park areas.

Rogers, who won his District 1 primary with 78 percent of the vote, ended up running opposed in the general election after the second-place finisher dropped out.

Council members serve part time and earn a base salary of $25,525. Three others, Andrew Johnston (District 2), Derek Kitchen (4) and Charlie Luke (6), face re-election in 2019.

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Portland Trail Blazers’ crunch time woes continue in loss at Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — It started in Milwaukee where two turnovers doomed the Portland Trail Blazers in a last-second loss to the Bucks.

It happened again versus the Clippers when a missed free throw left the door open for three-point dagger.

And on Wednesday night, more failed late game execution cost the Blazers in a 112-103 overtime loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. For the third time in the first eight games of the season, the Blazers (4-4) failed to close out a game in crunch time.

The Blazers had the ball and a lead with just over three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, needing a few crisp possessions to preserve their six-point edge and leave with a road victory.

"When you have a six-point lead … with two or three minutes to go," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "You got to make the plays to hold the lead and come out with the win and we didn’t do that."

Instead things went wrong almost immediately. Coming out of a timeout, CJ McCollum dribbled the ball off his foot while trying to navigate a double team and Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio stuck a three-pointer in transition seconds later.

Portland came up empty on three offensive possessions before a miscommunication in transition led to a game-tying three-pointer. With the clock running under 1:40, the Jazz pushed off a missed Damian Lillard three-pointer and Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha ended up wide-open in the right corner. He promptly drilled a three-pointer to tie the game.

"We gotta do a better job getting back on defense," McCollum said. "Obviously it doesn’t help when you turn the ball over. We still have to learn from that and continue to make it difficult on them. We don’t really get a lot of wide open threes in transition so we can’t allow that to happen."

Even after that debacle the Blazers briefly grabbed another lead only to give it back when they surrendered an offensive rebound and game-tying dunk.

"Rebounding and turnovers in a possession game," Stotts said, highlighting two late-game themese that cost his team the game. "In a close game possession matters."

The Blazers had two more chances to win the game in regulation, but Lillard was off the mark on a three-pointer and then had a floater in the lane blocked at the buzzer. Utah scored the first six points of overtime and Portland wasn’t able to mount its own comeback after letting the lead slip away at the end of regulation.

The loss to Utah was symptomatic of Portland’s crunch time woes early in the season. There isn’t one glaring issue. Instead, the Blazers have struggled in myriad ways when things get tight in waning moments. When they have come up with stops on defense they haven’t capitalized on offense and when the offense falters the defense hasn’t been stout enough to make up for it.

For Lillard, the crunch time issues come down to the minutiae of execution.

"Each thing has to be done a little bit sharper," he said. "We could take pressure off each other by screening a little bit better, throwing better passes on time and on target so guys are not having to reach back in awkward positions. But I think part of it is our execution. We’ve got to get to our spots, we gotta screen for each other, sprint, make hard cuts and just be strong with the ball."

It should be noted that the Blazers pulled out home wins over New Orleans and Phoenix by making plays down the stretch of close games. Those victories weren’t masterpieces, but Portland didn’t wilt in crunch time. However against stiffer competition in losses to Milwaukee, L.A. and Utah, the Blazers came up short with the game in the balance.

That’s why the key lesson to be learned from Wednesday night’s meltdown, is that there will be plenty more nights that post similar challenges. The Blazers’ success will depend on how they adapt.

"We just gotta figure out how to move forward," McCollom said. "And figure out how to close out games because that’s going to be the season, a lot of close games."

Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu shoots as the Portland Trail Blazers face the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 at Moda Center. | Photo by Sean Meagher/Staff

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Wildfires in Utah force evacuations, threaten structures

SALT LAKE CITY – Wind-driven wildfires in Utah forced evacuations and threatened structures on a big weekend for deer hunters in the fire zone.

KUTV reports two separate wildfires of 600 acres each and two miles apart raged near Strawberry Reservoir about 80 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. By Sunday evening the winds died down, enabling fire crews to make progress fighting the flames.

The U.S. Forest Service said one of the fires was the biggest threat in a popular hunting area. Hunting camps and camping trailers were being evacuated from the area.

The TV station reported that officials believe both fires could be human caused but no official cause has been determined. It is not yet clear if the fires are related.

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