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Latest from Russell Mills

    Friday, December 1st, the KRMG Morning News with Dan Potter will air an hour long in-depth report on the coming winter. National Weather Service Meteorologist-in-Charge Steve Piltz, along with NWS Hydrologist Nicole McGavock, FOX23 and KRMG Chief Meteorologist James Aydelott, and other experts will discuss the upcoming winter in terms of the long-range forecast, safety advice, and planning for potential storms. The show airs live from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Central on NEWS102.3/AM 740 KRMG in Tulsa. Listeners can also listen live on the KRMG website, or using the free KRMG app. The program will also be available on the website and the app shortly after it airs.
  • He went to work for then Governor Ronald Reagan of California in 1967, and fifty years later former US Attorney General Edmund Meese is still in the trenches. He visited Bartlesville and Tulsa this week, stumping for District 1 Congressional candidate Andy Coleman. KRMG spoke exclusively with General Meese prior to a town hall meeting held with Coleman at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Wednesday. Speaking about Coleman, he said “I was very much impressed with his background and experience, and his position on issues. And so it turned out that he asked me to be his special guest today here in Oklahoma, and I was happy to oblige.” Coleman, who retired as a Captain in the US Air Force, is in his first run for elected office. He told KRMG his qualifications for office separate him from the pack in the First District race. “I’m the only military veteran in this race, I’m the only one with national security experience in this race. The same hold true for foreign policy, the same holds true for experience in the Muslim world,” Coleman said. Asked if former President Reagan would be happy with the current state of the GOP, Meese said no, and yes. “Well, I’m not sure he’d be happy with the way things are going, because I think there was much more unity that he actually brought to the party when he ran for governor first in 1966, and then throughout his time. But, I think in terms of policies, particularly at the present time, he would be very comfortable with most of the policies of the Republican Party today.”
  • Sixteen months and two days after it was ripped apart by a tornado, a midtown Tulsa Panera Bread reopened Tuesday, and people were lined up outside well before the doors were unlocked at 6:00 in the morning. “We had our first guest outside the door at 5:33 this morning,” Panera spokeswoman Erin Barnhart told KRMG. “When we opened the doors, there was already a handful of people ready to come in, and it’s been a pretty steady flow of people.” In fact, the lunch hour found the place packed. Customer Mattie Gilliland, a local artist, told KRMG he had just gotten his oil changed at another nearby business, and noticed Panera was open. “The line was crazy,” he said. “It was like out the door when I got here.” Panera is one of dozens of businesses damaged or destroyed by the August 2nd tornado in Tulsa, most of which have relocated or reopened. Some are still in limbo, but the primary area of concern remains the 19-story Remington Tower, on the south side of I-44. After three months, the engineering report that will determine the building’s fate is apparently still not complete.
  • In September of 2016, enough signatures were certified on an initiative petition to put medical marijuana on a ballot in Oklahoma, but so far, Governor Mary Fallin has not designated a date for voters to decide the issue. Members of Oklahomans for Health, an advocacy group which favors State Question 788, aren’t happy with the delay, and have begun a campaign to turn the heat up on the governor’s office. Shawn Jenkins, a spokesman for Oklahomans for Health, spoke with KRMG on Wednesday. “We have started a phone campaign and an email campaign that is currently going, that started this week,” Jenkins said, “specifically requesting that it be put on the ballot - and some people are a little bit more not requesting, but demanding that it be put on the ballot - and not just on the ballot, not in November, because that’s too late. This issue was petitioned in 2016.” But the language of the ballot title became an issue when then state Attorney General Scott Pruitt removed the word “medical” from it, which sparked a court battle which restored it, but delayed the issue long enough to prevent a vote that year. Now 2017 has come and gone, and the governor still hasn’t acted, though she could do so at her discretion. Jenkins, a veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division, suffers glaucoma and also has a son with a rare disease. When KRMG asked him why he advocates for medical marijuana, he discussed the potential benefits for himself, his family, and his fellow veterans. But first, he talked about his rights. “I first got involved with advocacy for it because of being so conservative in my philosophy, and individual rights, and aspects of freedom and liberty,” he told KRMG. If the governor doesn’t call for an election, the issue will still appear on Oklahoma ballots, but not until November of 2018.
  • For those wanting the traditional Thanksgiving feast but who can’t, or don’t want to, do the cooking there are a few restaurants in Tulsa that traditionally use the holiday as a way to thank their customers by offering a free meal. In Tulsa, Tally's Good Food Café at 11th and Yale has offered free Thanksgiving for 30 years; they'll feed people from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Owner Tally Alame tells KRMG he loves Thanksgiving, and loves throwing his doors open to all comers on the holiday. “Coming originally from Lebanon, I experienced Thanksgiving when I came to the country here, and it has to be my favorite time of the year. You can look back and see everything that we are thankful for, and so I just want to share my gratitude with my customers.” This year, he’s also thankful that his success is about to lead to a second location, at 61st and Sheridan. He had hoped to have it opened by Thanksgiving, but says he’ll have to delay until (tentatively) December 11th. Duffy’s Restaurant at 706 S. Elm Place will serve its free meal from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Owner Eddie Chammat tells KRMG it’s about thanking his customers, but also about providing a welcoming place for those who might otherwise be alone on the holiday. Batman's at Pine and Mingo offers free Subway Sandwiches and pie from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
  • As the Oklahoma Blood Institute moves into the final stretch of its 40th anniversary year, it’s trying to get word out about what it does, and the need for extra help during the holidays. In those four decades, OBI has grown to become the ninth-largest non-profit blood center in the nation. OBI Recruitment Manager Kenda Burnham told KRMG Tuesday they serve about 90 percent of the hospitals in the state, and for most of them, are the only source of blood. “That includes all childrens’, all veterans’, and all Indian hospitals in the state,” she said. “We also supply St. Francis Health Systems, which is the largest user of blood here in northeast Oklahoma.” That requires a lot of donations. “It takes close to 1,200 donors every single day to ensure we meet the needs of patients all across our systems,” Burnham said. And that need does not go down during the holidays, but unfortunately donations often do. “Holidays are a little more challenging, because people just get out of their regular routine,” Burnham told KRMG. “People are busy doing other things, so sometimes they forget to take time to give blood. So we still have patients in those hospitals, no matter what day of the year it is, that are counting on life-saving blood donors.” The process takes about an hour for a standard donation, and she said most people actually qualify, even if they’ve traveled out of the country or had a tattoo. But only about one in ten who can donate, actually do. Anyone who can help is urged to visit the OBI website and make an appointment, or find a nearby blood drive.
  • Former Tulsa police officer Shannon Kepler was sentenced this week to 15 years in prison after a manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of Jeremy Lake, but like every aspect of the case, determining how long he may actually serve in prison is complicated. For starters his attorney, Richard O’Carroll, has already said they will appeal the conviction. There’s also the looming case of Patrick Dwayne Murphy, whose 1999 murder conviction was overturned by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals because it occurred in “Indian country,” and Lake’s death also occurred on what is - according to that ruling - part of a Creek Nation reservation which was never officially disestablished by the federal government. Since Kepler’s been on the roles of the Creek Nation since 1983, the pending appeal in the Murphy case could potentially land his case in federal court, obviating anything the state court did.
  • The budget bill passed by the special session of the Oklahoma legislature didn’t appear to make anyone happy, even those who voted “aye” last week. It certainly didn’t satisfy Gov. Mary Fallin, who vetoed nearly the entire package Friday,  a move that will likely mean another special session. For educators, it’s especially frustrating since despite much rhetoric and many promises, there is no raise for teachers in the bill.  Dr. Shawn Hime is Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He tells KRMG he’s frustrated that despite constantly hearing how important education is from voters and from the state’s elected leaders, once again teachers got passed over for a raise.  “Everyone who runs for office, it seems like, does tout education as being very important, top of their list,” he told KRMG Friday. “Every poll from voters has education at the top of the list for the most important things to fund, most important things to improve, teacher pay. But at the end of the day, to date, we haven’t been able to hit the finish line with that because of political squabbling over what the revenue source is, where the revenue source comes from, where the money goes - any number of things.” He said the number of emergency teaching certificates issued this year serves as a stark example of the problem.  In 2012, the state issued a total of 32. “This year, through November, we already have over 1,800 emergency certified teachers that have been approved and are in our classrooms,” Hime said, “and that is a direct reflection of not adequately funding education, not giving teachers a pay raise for over a decade, and continuing to have this partisan bickering at the state Capitol instead of doing what’s right for Oklahoma.” Things will be dire when the legislature re-convenes in February.  Estimates of the budget hole going into that session range from $500 million to as much as $800 million. 
  • Thursday, a local Subaru dealer handed over the keys to a brand new Outback SUV to a local Meals on Wheels program, thanks to a nationwide effort to “share the love.” Subaru is celebrating 50 years in the US by giving away 50 vehicles to Meals on Wheels around the country. The only one selected in Oklahoma was the metro Tulsa program. Lauren Danielson with Meals on Wheels tells KRMG the vehicle will help them serve their clients, especially when road conditions are bad and the normal volunteer routes can’t be covered. The keys for the new Outback were handed over personally by Larry Ferguson, owner of Ferguson Subaru in Broken Arrow, part of the Ferguson Superstore. He told KRMG Subaru of America has five charities it supports, including four national organizations.  Each dealership then chooses a local charity to support. Through January 2nd, Subaru of America will donate $250 to one of those charities for each new Subaru leased or purchased. “For every new Subaru sold, a portion of that goes to the charity, and that’s the customer’s choice,” Ferguson said. The local charity Ferguson chose this year is “Hope is Alive,” a group that works with people suffering addiction or alcoholism:
  • A month-long task force designed to take a bite out of violent crime in Tulsa netted more than a hundred arrests and took dozens of illegal firearms off the street, Tulsa police announced Wednesday. “Operation Blue Thunder” involved members of the Tulsa Police Department, FBI, BATF, and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, with support from the US Attorney and Tulsa County District Attorney. Beginning October 17th, officers and agents targeted high-crime areas and known felons, and by all accounts, enjoyed a lot of success. Wednesday, a large group gathered to discuss the results, including Mayor G.T. Bynum, TPD Chief Chuck Jordan, Sheriff Vic Regalado, FBI Asst. Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda, US Attorney Trent Shores, Asst. State Attorney General Julie Pittman, Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiler, and several members of the Violent Crimes Task Force, Gang Task Force, and robbery detectives. According to TPT, those results include: 102 felony arrests 55 felony warrants 48 illegally possessed firearms seized 17 stolen vehicles recovered 26 pounds of marijuana seized 26 grams of cocaine seized 8 grams of heroin seized More than a pound of methamphetamine seized $38, 511 in (suspected) drug proceeds seized KRMG rode along during part of “Operation Blue Thunder,” and we will be posting more details in coming days.
  • Russell Mills

    Anchor/Reporter

    Russell Mills came to Tulsa in 1991 with an AA degree in Broadcast Journalism and a new family. He worked in local television for more than 20 years as a show producer, assignment editor, and online content director. He built one of the first television news websites in the country and helped pioneer streaming audio and video, especially as it related to weather and live news coverage on the Internet. Russell says working for KRMG fulfills a longtime dream. "I worked in newsrooms for a long, long time before finally getting the chance to get out and cover the news in person. I can't tell you how much I love doing just that -- driving toward the big story to talk to the people involved gets my adrenaline going like almost nothing else in life." Russell grew up in Bozeman, Montana then spent several years as an "itinerant musician and restaurant worker," living in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and California before finally starting college at 28 and discovering broadcasting as a possible career path. He is married to Shadia Dahlal, a nationally-known Middle Eastern Dancer and instructor, and has two stepchildren. You can connect with Russell via TwitterFacebook, or Linked In

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  • Three people were hospitalized and 10 are homeless after a Cincinnati woman and started a house fire instead, authorities said. >> Teen trying to kill bedbug starts fire, causes $300,000 in damage, firefighters sayThe rubbing alcohol — which is extremely flammable — ignited because of a nearby open flame, according to authorities cited by the New York Post. The ensuing fire caused $250,000 in damage to the five-unit multi-family Ohio home. Three people had to be hospitalized for smoke inhalation, according to CBS News. Their injuries are not considered life-threatening. For now, the American Red Cross is assisting and providing housing for those displaced by the inferno, WXIX reported. >> Read more trending news This is the second time that a rubbing-alcohol-fueled fire has burned down a Cincinnati house in as many months. Just after Thanksgiving, a 19-year-old lit a match after dousing a bedbug in rubbing alcohol, causing a fire that did $300,000 in damage to six apartments and left eight people homeless. Cincinnati District 3 Fire Chief Randy Freel told WXIX that people should stay away from any home remedies for bedbugs, especially the more flammable kinds. “Get a professional,” he said. Read more here.
  • With two weeks until Christmas, the to-do list is a long one for the Congress, as GOP lawmakers try to finish work on a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code, fund the government into 2018, and look to deal with a number of other contentious issues that have eluded lawmakers and the White House, but it’s not clear how much the House and Senate will be able to accomplish before going home for the holidays “If things don’t get done, we are going to have quite a catastrophe,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), one of many GOP lawmakers who remain confident that Republican leaders will find a way to reach a deal on tax reform. “I think this is one that we’re going to get done,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). “There’s unanimity in the conference to get this done.” Here is what lies ahead for lawmakers in the Congress: 1. GOP must move quickly to finish tax reform bill. If Republicans are going to get a tax reform bill on the President’s desk before Christmas, they don’t have much time. Lawmakers certainly don’t want to be on Capitol Hill after Friday the 22nd; the first formal meeting of the House-Senate tax reform “conference” committee is on Wednesday, but that’s really more for show. Behind the scenes, key GOP lawmakers have already been trying to reach agreements on final language in the bill. If you want a full rundown on the differences between the House and Senate versions, read this comparison from the Joint Committee on Taxation. There have already been a number of stories about mistakes and loopholes in the GOP tax reform plan – we’ll see if those get resolved as well. This is no slam dunk, but the odds still favor the GOP. Tight squeeze. Conference draft by 11th. Many hairy issues. Must finish by 18th to do budget due on 22nd. Stephen Cooper and Dylan Moroses: 'Brady Says International Tax Changes May Need Transition' https://t.co/LutCCAUq2V — Martin Sullivan (@M_SullivanTax) December 8, 2017 2. Next stop gap budget runs out on December 22. There isn’t enough time to write a full “Omnibus” spending bill (Speaker Ryan said that last week), so the question is more likely how much will Congress get done on funding the operations of the federal government, and how much gets booted into 2018. Republicans have been making noise about approving a funding bill for the military, keeping all other agencies on a temporary budget, and then adding in a bunch of year-end sweeteners to the bill. It’s also possible that such a deal could increase the ‘budget caps,’ allowing for a larger defense budget, and maybe more domestic spending as well. The idea of increasing spending just before the holidays does not sit well with more conservative Republicans. And what about DACA and the immigrant Dreamers? There could be a lot of wheeling and dealing in the days ahead. Would Freedom Caucus support a CR compromise that includes CHIP, health CSR, or defense/non=BCA cap breaking? If not, Dems may be able to demand DACA in CR without getting full blame for shutdown or threat — Matt Grossmann (@MattGrossmann) December 10, 2017 3. Will there be more shoes dropping on Capitol Hill? After what was a historic week – where three members announced their resignations due to allegations of sexual misconduct – it’s not unreasonable to wonder if more stories will surface in coming days. There’s already pressure on Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) to resign – an ethics probe was announced last Friday on Farenthold, who says he will pay back an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement with a former staffer. Over the weekend, reports surfaced about another possible taxpayer payout related to a harassment lawsuit, involving Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). As a reporter, I cannot stress how unusual last week was on Capitol Hill. If you have one lawmaker announce a resignation, that’s a big deal. Two resignations was a major headline. And then a surprise third. One cannot discount the possibilities that more such stories are in the pipeline. Stay tuned. Taxpayers paid $220,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit involving Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings… https://t.co/j5dQct1nea — George Bennett (@gbennettpost) December 9, 2017 4. From member of Congress to anti-filibuster PAC? Last Thursday, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) stunned his colleagues by announcing his resignation, effective January 31. But on Friday, he decided to make it effective immediately, citing the hospitalization of his wife, after revelations that he had tried to get female staffers in his office to be a surrogate for his child (not a campaign surrogate). In between those events, a Minnesota television news crew that was in Washington to cover the resignation of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), stumbled into Franks at their hotel, as they overheard the Arizona Republican on the phone soliciting big money donations to start a political action committee that would fight to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate, which Franks, and other more conservative Republicans in the House have been blaming for inaction on the GOP agenda. The news crew that stumbled into that story must still be shaking their heads about their luck. Amazing: Minnesota news crew in DC for Franken overhears Trent Franks soliciting $2 million to start an anti-filibuster PAC https://t.co/TkAzUXx6Yz — Matt DeLong (@mattdelong) December 9, 2017 5. Roy Moore and the Alabama U.S. Senate race. Tuesday is finally Election Day in the Yellowhammer State, and no matter what else is happening in the halls of Congress this week, the outcome of this race will be a big deal. If Moore wins, a lot of GOP Senators won’t like the outcome. If Democrat Doug Jones wins, that will be a setback for President Donald Trump, who tried to stir support for Moore during a Fright night rally in Pensacola, Florida. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telegraphed last week that if Roy Moore wins, then the new Alabama Senator is certain to face a review by the Senate Ethics Committee. Alabama’s senior Senator, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), made it clear again on Sunday that he wrote in someone else – instead of voting for Roy Moore. Just that part of the story is highly unusual, let alone all the other news stories that keep coming out about Moore’s past actions and beliefs. It would be an unprecedented situation if Moore wins, since so many GOP Senators have made it crystal clear that they want no part of him.
  • As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and any ties to the campaign of President Donald Trump, Republicans in the Congress have joined Mr. Trump in stepping up attacks on the FBI, raising questions about political bias inside the top ranks of that agency, an effort that could well form the basis for partisan opposition to the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Those sentiments were on full display last Thursday at the first Congressional oversight hearing for the new FBI Director, as Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee repeatedly pressed Christopher Wray for answers on GOP allegations that partisan bias among top FBI officials had infected both the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the review of any ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. At the hearing, it didn’t take long for Republican frustration to boil over, as the FBI Director repeatedly refused to give detailed answers about the Clinton and Trump probes, saying – accurately – that the Inspector General of the Justice Department was reviewing how those matters were handled, as Wray sidestepped GOP requests for information. But that didn’t matter to GOP lawmakers. “I think you’re walking into a Contempt of Congress,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) snapped, criticizing Wray for fending off a variety of questions, as a number of GOP lawmakers all but asserted that the FBI was illegally withholding information from Congress on a number of fronts. Republicans also pressed for more background about two leading FBI officials, who were involved in both the Clinton and Trump probes, demanding more information about Peter Strzok and Andrew Weissman, who GOP lawmakers say expressed anti-Trump feelings to others inside the Justice Department, impacting both of those probes. Tied into all of this is the contention of some in the GOP that the FBI wrongly used the controversial “dossier” put together about President Trump during the 2016 campaign – which the GOP says was paid for by the Democrats – and possibly funneled to the FBI for its use. “I mean, there are all kinds of people on Mueller’s team who are pro-Clinton,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), as some Republicans suggested a top to bottom review of key people in the Russia investigation to see if they are harboring anti-Trump sentiments. During the over five hour hearing, Democrats asked Wray several times about President Trump’s recent assertion that the FBI was in “tatters” after the stewardship of former Director James Comey. NEW: FBI Director Chris Wray responds to Pres. Trump's claim that bureau's reputation is in 'tatters': 'The FBI that I see is tens of thousands of brave men and women…decent people committed to the highest principles of integrity and professionalism.' pic.twitter.com/e7hb6GjK2u — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 7, 2017 “I am emphasizing in every audience I can inside the bureau, that our decisions need to be made based on nothing other than the facts and the law,” Wray said. But judging from the reaction at this oversight hearing – which could have covered any subject – the biggest concern for Republicans right now is pursuing allegations that the FBI was too lenient on Hillary Clinton, and too quick to investigate Donald Trump.
  • All crimes are bad, but a theft on Saturday at a south Tulsa Walmart can be described as despicable. KRMG has learned someone drove up to the front of the store near 81st and Lewis and stole a Salvation Army donation kettle filled with money.  The thief even got away with the tripod.   Capt. Ken Chapman, area commander of the Salvation Army Tulsa Metro Command, summed up the situation. “They’re literally taking food out of the mouths of people who are hungry,” Chapman said.  “People who need clothing and shelter.”  It's believed the kettle could have had around $800 at the time.  Investigators hope they find a suspect by reviewing surveillance video.   Chapman adds the theft is especially distressing because they are running about 20 percent behind on donations. Anyone with information regarding the theft is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.   
  • Get ready for a major change in the weather today. National Weather Service Meteorologist Chuck Hodges says the sun will come out and the forecast is looking gorgeous. “We should bounce back into the 60s,” Hodges said.  “Probably the mid-60s for the high.  It’s going to feel considerably warmer than what we’ve had for the last several days.” The low Sunday night will drop to 33 degrees. Your work week is going to be up and down temperature wise.  Hodges reports we’ll see highs in the 60s and the low 50s.   One thing we won’t have in Tulsa is snow.   “At least looking out at the next seven days, no, we’re looking pretty dry,” Hodges said.   Would you like to see snow in the Tulsa area?  Let us know in the comments.