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State and Regional News

    The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is recommending that sentences be commuted for nine more prison inmates convicted of various nonviolent offenses that would mostly be misdemeanors today. The five-member panel voted Wednesday to forward the recommendations to Gov. Mary Fallin, who is expected to take action on the recommendations before her term ends next month. The nine inmates, mostly women convicted of drug crimes, were among a group of 46 inmates targeted for early release by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. That bipartisan group of civic and business leaders is working to reduce Oklahoma's incarceration rate, which is the highest in the nation. A term-limited Republican, Fallin has pushed for changes to reduce Oklahoma's prison population and last week signed commutations for 21 other inmates .
  • Oscar-winning movie director Ron Howard says he still feels connected to the Oklahoma town where he was born but never lived, after visiting the now-shuttered hospital of his birth. Howard this week posted a photo of himself on Instagram posing outside the boarded-up building in Duncan, 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Oklahoma City. Howard says his family lived in Biloxi, Mississippi, but that his mother wanted to give birth in Duncan, her hometown. Howard says he never lived there but feels 'a connection to the town & people.' The family later moved to California where Howard's father, Rance Howard, was an actor. His mother, Jean Speegle Howard, also acted. Both appeared in their son's movies 'Cocoon' and 'Apollo 13.' Jean Howard died in 2000. Rance Howard died in 2017.
  • Police in Midwest City say a 7-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair was left alone for hours on a school bus. Police Chief Brandon Clabes says the girl was picked up shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday. Other students were taken to various schools but the girl was overlooked. Clabes says the bus was parked for five or six hours before the driver and bus monitor found the child. Clabes says that instead of notifying school officials, the girls' parents or medical personnel, the girl was taken to a daycare, which contacted her mother who took her to a hospital. Clabes says the girl was released in good condition. Clabes says a report will be presented to the district attorney to determine if charges are warranted.
  • The FBI is investigating the death of an inmate at a federal prison in Oklahoma. Officials say 34-year-old inmate Justin Clark was found unresponsive Tuesday at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City. Clark was discovered in his cell about 2 p.m. Staff members performed CPR and rushed him to a nearby hospital, but Clark was later pronounced dead. Clark was serving a 293-month sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in Texas. He had been in custody at the El Reno facility since Sept. 6, 2016. Neither prison officials nor the FBI immediately returned phone or email requests for more details, including if there is a preliminary cause of death.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will soon consider food safety rules on marijuana edibles, which advocates say should help bring clarity to the cannabis-infused food market. The Oklahoma Board of Health voted Tuesday to send the rules to Fallin for approval, The Oklahoman reported . The rules follow similar guidelines for foods that don't have THC, but do include additional labeling and testing requirements, said Buffy Heater, the project manager for the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. THC is the compound in marijuana that causes a high. Processers will be required to include the amount of THC on the label of all edible products, as well as the number to Poison Control in case of accidental ingestion. Processors must also conduct quarterly tests on products for contaminants, such as bacteria, mold, metals and chemical residues. Products that fail testing would then be recalled. Chip Paul, the founder of pro-marijuana group Oklahomans for Health, said some processors are already producing edibles, but were operating in uncertainty because the rules hadn't been finalized. Paul said he believes the rules are 'very responsible.' The state Health Department worked with the attorney general's office to verify that the rules didn't exceed the department's authority after facing backlash this summer over another set of marijuana guidelines, said Kim Bailey, chief legal counsel and chief operating officer at the department. The state Board of Health initially adopted strict rules July 10 after voters approved medical marijuana in June. The board revised the rules Aug. 1 following an attorney general's opinion saying the board overstepped its authority . An effort to get recreational marijuana on the November ballot fell short . ___ Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com
  • The mayor of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond has died. Matthews Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Edmond says Mayor Charles Lamb died Tuesday. He was 72. A cause of death has not been released, but The Oklahoman reports that Lamb complained of fighting a cold during a Monday night City Council meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Waner, who is now acting mayor, said in a statement that 'we are incredibly saddened and shocked' by Lamb's death. Lamb served on the City Council from 1993-2011, when he was appointed mayor after the resignation of then-Mayor Patrice Douglas, then was elected mayor in 2013. He was re-elected in 2015 and 2017 and was again running for re-election in 2019. Funeral services are pending. ___ This story has been corrected to show the spelling of the funeral home is Matthews, not Mathews.
  • A jury has rejected a mental incompetence claim from a man accused of shooting and decapitating his grandmother and her husband at an in-home day care in Oklahoma City. The criminal case against 23-year-old Quinton Laster has been on hold for more than two years because of questions over his mental state. The Oklahoman reports jurors rejected the incompetence claim on Tuesday, which will allow the case to move forward. Laster is charged with first-degree murder in the February 2016 killings of his grandmother, Sharon Reed, and her husband, James Earl Reed. The killings occurred at the couple's home, which was also used as a day care center for children. Three children were found unharmed after the attack. Authorities have said they don't believe the children witnessed the incident. Police have said Laster 'fully confessed' to the killings. Laster's attorneys argued that Laster suffers from schizophrenia and is unable to assist in his defense. Laster has 'difficulty grasping the reality of the situation,' defense attorney Melanie Freeman-Johnson told jurors. But prosecutor Ryan Stephenson said the issue was whether Laster had the ability to understand the court proceedings and the charges he faces. He argued that Laster had been coached by relatives to act incompetent 'because they don't want to see Baby Boy go to prison.' State mental health experts who evaluated Laster concluded he is competent, Richardson said. ___ Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com
  • The winning numbers in Tuesday evening's drawing of the 'Mega Millions' game were: 04-38-39-54-59, Mega Ball: 12, Megaplier: 2 (four, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, fifty-four, fifty-nine; Mega Ball: twelve; Megaplier: two) Estimated jackpot: $245 million
  • These Oklahoma lotteries were drawn Tuesday: 04-12-13-28-35 (four, twelve, thirteen, twenty-eight, thirty-five) 04-38-39-54-59, Mega Ball: 12, Megaplier: 2 (four, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, fifty-four, fifty-nine; Mega Ball: twelve; Megaplier: two) Estimated jackpot: $245 million 9-2-1 (nine, two, one) Estimated jackpot: $230 million
  • The winning numbers in Tuesday evening's drawing of the Oklahoma Lottery's 'Pick 3' game were: 9-2-1 (nine, two, one)
  • Scientists are seeing surprising melting in Earth’s polar regions at times they don’t expect, like winter, and in places they don’t expect, like eastern Antarctica. New studies and reports issued this week at a major Earth sciences conference paint one of the bleakest pictures yet of dramatic warming in the Arctic and Antarctica. Alaskan scientists described to The Associated Press Tuesday never-before-seen melting and odd winter problems, including permafrost that never refroze this past winter and wildlife die-offs. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tuesday released its annual Arctic report card, detailing the second warmest year on record in the Arctic and problems, including record low winter sea ice in parts of the region, increased toxic algal blooms, which are normally a warm water phenomenon, and weather changes in the rest of the country attributable to what’s happening in the far North. “The Arctic is experiencing the most unprecedented transition in human history,” report lead author Emily Osborne, chief of Arctic research for NOAA, said Tuesday.
  • “Kids’ stuff. Kids’ stuff and children books.” Home surveillance cameras captured that conversation between two Florida women Monday afternoon as they snatched five packages from the porch of a Tampa-area home, WFTS reported. In a news release, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said the thefts occurred around 1:30 p.m. in a Riverview subdivision. The women drove away in a dark-colored Volvo SUV, WTVT reported. In a Facebook post, Neal Rivera posted the surveillance video and still shots of the porch pirates. 'These nice young lady’s (sic) were worried that someone would steal our unattended packages so they thought they would take them home and keep them safe. I’m sure they will bring them back later,” he wrote. Rivera said his phone went off with camera notifications when the packages were delivered, and then it went off again when they were taken, WTVT reported. “I’m not upset about the items they took,” Rivera told the television station. “It was the attitude they came in and they made a comment, 'Oh, look it's kids’ clothes. It's Children's Place.' And they were like excited about it. So, they knew they were talking little kids stuff.” On Tuesday, Rivera’s phone went off again, but this time his surveillance camera recorded an act of kindness, WTVT reported. >> Woman steals package, finds it’s filled with superworms “I got a notification on the front door, and of course I quickly went to my phone. And as I look at my front door, it's our church family coming and dropping off gifts here, waving at the camera saying ‘I hope you get your stuff back, but here's something in the meantime,’” Rivera told the television station. “I don’t have to worry about my kids not having something. That's not my concern. I just want the people caught.' In his Facebook post, Rivera said he would not have cared if the women had stolen items he bought for himself. “If they would have just asked I would have bought their kids even more than they stole,” he wrote. Another Riverview man, Mike Hayes, filed a report with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, including video that appears to show the same two women taking packages from his porch, WFTS reported. The Sheriff’s Office is asking anybody with information to call them at (813) 247-8200.
  • Delta Air Lines said it will ban service and support animals under 4 months old, and will also ban emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours. The change, effective Dec. 18, is the latest tightening of policies on service animals and emotional support animals by the airline.  >> Read more trending news  The company said in a Monday announcement that it has seen an 84 percent increase in incidents reported involving service and support animals in 2016 and 2017, “including urination/defecation, biting” and a mauling by a 50-pound dog. Delta said its new policy aligns with the CDC vaccination policy, and the limit on emotional support animals on long flights lines up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act. “These updates support Delta’s commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs -- such as veterans with disabilities -- to travel with trained service and support animals,” John Laughter, Delta senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance, said in a statement. Some of the airline’s policy changes earlier in the year have prompted criticism from groups representing people who use service animals, including those who use pit bulls.  The new policy takes effect for tickets booked Dec. 18 or later. Regardless of booking date, it will also take effect for flights Feb. 1 or later. Delta said it will contact customers to adjust reservations if the policy affects them. More information on the airline’s service and support animal policy is at Delta.com. 
  • People in Georgia and Tennessee were woken up by an earthquake early Wednesday.  >> Read more trending news  The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake happened about 4:15 a.m. near Decatur, Tennessee. It had a magnitude of 4.4. A smaller 3.3-magnitude quake followed about 13 minutes later, according to the USGS. Atlanta’s WSB-TV received dozens of phone calls in the minutes following the quake. Please return for updates.
  • As President Donald Trump on Tuesday vowed to force a partial government shutdown before Christmas if he doesn’t get $5 billion for a wall along the Mexican border, Congressional leaders were trying to clear the decks in the House and Senate for a final surge of legislative work in the 115th Congress, in hopes of getting lawmakers out of town before the holidays. “With maximum cooperation, magic things happen at Christmas,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, even as he threatened to keep the Senate in session between Christmas and New Year’s in order to finish work for the year. Hanging over the schedule was the President’s threat to force a showdown over government funding, unless he wins more money for border security. “I don’t think the President’s bluffing,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) to a group of reporters just off the Senate floor. “I think he’s a serious as four heart attacks and a stroke.” . @SenJohnKennedy leaving GOP lunch with @VP after the Trump/Pence/Schumer/Pelosi meeting: 'I don't think the president is bluffing, I think he's serious as four heart attacks and a stroke and I think he's prepared to shut it down.' — Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) December 11, 2018 Here’s where we stand: 1. Trump: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.” In a highly unusual Oval Office meeting that went off the rails in front of television cameras and reporters, President Trump sparred with Democratic leaders over what to do on the border wall issue, as he repeatedly proclaimed that he would gladly be responsible for a partial funding lapse on December 21. “I’m going to shut it down for border security,” the President said. “But we believe you shouldn’t shut it down,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer answered, as the President publicly sparred with Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Much of the government has already been funded for 2019, so any shutdown before Christmas would be more limited than usual. You can watch part of the Oval Office exchange here: CLIP: Exchange between President Trump, @NancyPelosi & @SenSchumer on border security and government shutdown. Watch full video here: https://t.co/5Y6NEITjCe pic.twitter.com/kVmcJKkEbx — CSPAN (@cspan) December 11, 2018 2. $5 billion for border wall not a GOP slam dunk. President Trump on Tuesday repeatedly made clear that he wants $5 billion for his wall along the Mexican border, arguing Democrats are the ones who are blocking that funding. But the truth is that GOP leaders in the House aren’t sure they have a majority of votes for $5 billion for the border wall – one reason the funding bill for the Homeland Security Department was never voted on before the elections. There was some talk on Wednesday that the House might try to vote on such a bill, but House Speaker Paul Ryan instead was talking about supporting whatever can get through the Senate. In other words, the President may want $5 billion, but the Republican Congress may not be able to deliver. For what it's worth, it's very doubtful that Ryan/McCarthy have 218 votes on their side a gov't funding bill, even one including $5b for the wall. Some conservatives will balk at other spending, moderates will oppose the wall & some midterm losers might not show to vote. — Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) December 11, 2018 3. McConnell agrees to move on criminal justice reform. After refusing to get on board with a bipartisan plan that has the backing of the President, the Senate Majority Leader announced on Tuesday that he will push for action in the Senate in coming days on a criminal justice reform measure, which backers say could get 70 votes in the Senate. But – there are strong opponents, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), and it wasn’t known whether Cotton would try to string out the debate because of concerns over changes in early release of certain criminals, changes to mandatory minimum sentences, and press new reforms in federal prisons for inmates. In a major announcement, Mitch McConnell said he'll bring the FIRST STEP Act up for a vote this month. The bipartisan bill would be the biggest reform of our justice system in a generation, and would move us closer to ending mass incarceration. https://t.co/wvuzvRY8rf — Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) December 11, 2018 4. New Farm Bill on its way to Congressional approval. One clear sign that the Congress is moving to finish work for the year is that the Senate voted 87-13 on Wednesday to approve a massive new farm policy bill. The “Farm Bill” includes all sorts of tweaks and changes to agricultural programs in the United States, which touch all fifty states. Also, it includes the SNAP program – more commonly known as food stamps – which House Republicans wanted to make major changes in terms of work requirements. But in order to get a final deal, many of those GOP changes did not happen. The 807 page bill is chock full of all sorts of local items, like one provision which could possibly establish a “Natural Stone Research and Promotion Board.” Overall though, it was a bipartisan bonanza for lawmakers to tout to the folks back home. Today I supported the Farm Bill Conference Report, which passed w/ a bipartisan vote of 87-13. It will help provide #Ohio farmers w/ the certainty & predictability they deserve & promote economic development & #job creation in our rural communities https://t.co/I6xXZozLIo — Rob Portman (@senrobportman) December 11, 2018 5. GOP tries second version of late tax bill. After a 297 page package of tax relief ran into the ditch because of a lack of support in the House after Thanksgiving, Republicans re-tooled the plan and released a new 253 page version on Monday, which deals with an array of tax issues – disaster relief, an expansion of 529 college savings accounts, delays in several taxes from the Obama health law, changes and technical corrections to last year’s GOP tax law, and a number of IRS reforms. No longer in the bill are an array of provisions known as the “tax extenders” – special interest tax breaks which get approved every year or two, along with a lot of grumbling by lawmakers about the cost involved. But like the first version, it isn’t clear if this GOP tax bill is going anywhere. Extenders have been removed. Instead, health care taxes are being delayed. The medical device tax is delayed until 2025, and the Cadillac Tax is delayed until 2023. — Nicole Kaeding (@NKaeding) December 10, 2018 6. House and Senate still at odds on sex harassment changes. While members of the House and Senate agree that changes are needed in how the Congress handles sexual harassment accusations in Congressional offices – and against lawmakers – getting a final bill has not been easy. That’s come as a surprise to some lawmakers, who assumed the Congress would swiftly finish such a plan. But there’s been opposition to major changes from Senators, which has left House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi saying that if the Congress doesn’t go far enough, then the House will change its own rules to deal with the issue. “We can take other action that applies to the House,” Pelosi said last week. Q: Why is this #MeToo bill taking so, so long? Pelosi: 'The bills were quite different. But now they're coming closer together.' They're almost out of time to do this. — Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) December 6, 2018 7. House moves to prevent any War Powers vote on Yemen. While the Senate is ready to debate and vote measures related to U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia in the civil war in Yemen, GOP leaders in the House have evidently decided that they want no part of anything related to that. On Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee reported out a resolution which provides for action on the Farm Bill – but tucked into that was a provision which squashes the opportunity for debate on any War Powers resolution dealing with Yemen. “Despicable,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who said Speaker Paul Ryan “is shirking responsibility for debating our involvement in the Yemen war by hiding the war resolution in a procedural vote on the farm bill.” The GOP rule for House floor debate on the Farm Bill has a provision that squashes debate on any Yemen resolution pic.twitter.com/IeT2nZ9WIV — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) December 12, 2018