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from Photographers' Blog:

Mars in the desert

Outside Hanksville, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

I may be a Red Shirt but I made it to Mars.

According to Urban Dictionary (the finest source of American literature), a Red Shirt is defined as; A character in a science fiction or adventure story whose sole dramatic purpose is to get killed by the story's villain and/or itinerant monster. Taken from the propensity of security officers on the original Star Trek series (who typically wore red uniform tops) to be killed in the episodes' pre-opening-credits teasers.

GALLERY: LIFE ON MARS

When I was young I wanted to be an astronaut but I never had the discipline to follow through. At one point I wanted to be a scientist but I barely made it out of high school and later dropped out of college but not until after I learned a little chemistry for recreational use in my younger days.

Even with my Red Shirts I have always been wanted to be around people that put their minds and bodies to the test. I even married a woman that has three Master's degrees and is working on her Ph. D. I have always prided myself in consuming as much science news as possible. To me, the mind and the search for tangible knowledge is the fuel for dreams and will lead you to adventures in life.

So with that said, when I heard about the Mars Desert Research Station in the desert of southern Utah I knew I had to go. I had tried for years to go but my story pitches never made the cut, maybe I wasn't an experienced enough photojournalist at the time for an agency to trust me with an assignment that took quite an investment to tackle. At times I had thought this place was going to be my Red Shirt assignment.

from Full Focus:

Mars in the desert

Photographer Jim Urquhart traveled into the Utah desert to document the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) where a crew of scientists work, study and live together in conditions designed to simulate being on Mars. The MDRS aims to investigate the feasibility of a human exploration to the red planet and uses the Utah desert’s Mars-like terrain to test working conditions and study geology. All outdoor exploration is done wearing spacesuits and carrying air supply packs and crews live together in a small communication base with limited amounts of electricity, food, oxygen and water. Everything needed to survive must be produced, fixed and replaced on site. Read Jim's personal account here.

from Photographers' Blog:

Portraying polygamy

Rockland Ranch community outside Moab, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

If patience is a virtue I am damned to burn forever but I've made some friends in the process.

Growing up in Utah, knowledge of polygamy has long been part of my experience. I can recall standing on the side of the residential road looking at a nondescript home with a large cinder block wall surrounding it. My friend leaned over to me to tell me that a polygamist family lived there. He tried to explain to me what plural marriage was in the best way a 10-year-old could explain to another. I was confused. I had a hard enough time trying to fully understand why my parents were divorced let alone trying to figure out how there could be a home with several moms and one dad.

from Unstructured Finance:

The Book of Goldman

View from Goldman Sachs office, Salt Lake City.

By Katya Wachtel and Lauren Tara LaCapra

Al Crutchfield, a 56-year-old cab driver who has spent most of his life in Salt Lake City, does not understand why so many Americans are angry at Goldman Sachs.

"Everyone seems to be so mad at them all the time, but I think it's a good thing for Salt Lake that Goldman's expanding here," he said. "I drive lots of Goldman Sachs employees, so it's good for my business, and their folks are really nice."

from MuniLand:

Christie wants to cut taxes while the cashbox is empty

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got a lot of media attention this week when he announced that Warren Buffett "should just write [the government] a check and shut up," on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight. His great one-liner obscured the more profound question he was being asked, which was: Shouldn't the wealthy pay a higher proportion of taxes? Beliefs about progressive taxation vary widely, but income taxes at every level of government are structured so that the wealthy pay a higher proportion of taxes.

If I had been asking the governor questions, I would have focused on his fetish for cutting income taxes when his state's cashbox is nearly empty. Or as the rating agency Standard & Poor's defined the problem:

from Photographers' Blog:

Sizzling on the salt flats

By Jim Urquhart

As soon as I got out of my car and stepped onto the salt I could feel the skin on the end of my nose begin to sizzle. Within five minutes I cracked open my first water bottle and was relatively uncomfortable. By the time 15 minutes had past I was already questioning why in the hell did I choose to go on this three day assignment.

When the bright sun began blinding me after it was reflected off the salt under my sunglasses into my eyes and I could feel it begin to burn under my chin I became thankful I didn't pay homage to the Scottish half of my ancestry and wear a kilt. In fact, within an hour of arriving I met a young couple that decided to tell me while waiting in a line the day before I arrived they had their nether regions sunburned because they didn't have on the right underwear under their shorts to protect them from the reflected sun.

from MuniLand:

Let’s stack the deck

Deficits at state-pension funds are the real monsters threatening municipal stability. Estimates of shortfalls at these funds range from $1 trillion from the Pew Center on the States to $3 trillion from Orin Kramer, the former chairman of New Jersey's State Investment Council.

There are numerous strategies that individual pension-plan sponsors are using to stabilize their funds, including:

from Photographers' Blog:

Utah gets Holi, Photographer gets dirty

People throw colored powder during Holi, the festival of colors, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah March 26, 2011.   REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

By Jim Urquhart

The Holi Color Festival is a yearly event in Utah that for years I have known of but never attended myself. I would be reminded of it after the fact when seeing it in images by other photojournalist friends. It is rooted in a Hindu tradition of celebrating the end of winter and beginning of Spring and takes place at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

What makes this festival so amazing is not just the crowds of people and the color but also that it is taking place in Utah County. The same county as the LDS Church's Brigham Young University. In my mind, Utah County is not known as a mecca of culture and was really only a melting pot of white bread, sugar and milk. I was about to have my stereotype blown away.

from FaithWorld:

Bus tours journey into U.S. polygamist town run by breakaway Mormon group

colorado cityA peek inside a polygamist community and their isolated way of life is now just a bus ride away for sightseers from around the world.

Billed as the "Polygamy Experience," the four-hour, $70 tour takes visitors through the middle of the polygamist enclave Colorado City on the Utah-Arizona border. Children play in yards, families picnic in parks and teenage boys gallop their horses away from the guests. Women with old-fashioned braided hair and pioneer dresses usher the little ones out of eyesight.

from Tales from the Trail:

Arizona immigration law controversy hits border governors’ conference

The simmering row over Arizona's tough-as-nails immigration law has led to a shift in venue for the U.S.-Mexico border governors' meeting, an annual event usually characterized by unity and good will.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, canceled the bash she was due to host after six border governors from Mexico pulled out in protest at the desert state's crackdown on unauthorized immigrants she inked into law in late April.

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