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Latest from Russell Mills

    At the beginning of the film “The Outsiders,” the gang briefly visits a gas station where the character Sodapop and his buddy Steve work. The scene was shot in Sperry, just north of Tulsa. The D-X station's only onscreen briefly, but it's become the focus of a restoration project tied to the Outsiders House Museum. [CLICK HERE to hear KRMG's In-Depth Report on the restoration project, or use the audio player below] Danny Boy O'Connor, the man behind the museum (which opens August 9th), convinced Sperry resident Gary Coulson to take on the gas station restoration. Coulson calls O'Connor “very motivational,” and their plan is rather ambitious. It includes obtaining DX signs, a phone booth, a windshield wiper box, and even an old car which was used in the film. He's put up a Go Fund Me page to help pay for the project. And that's not all. Coulson's also part of “Upward Sperry,” a non-profit which has recently erected a new gazebo and has other projects designed to spruce up the small town. “We plan on opening a little shop with t-shirts, mugs, you know, all the memorabilia from DX,” he told KRMG Wednesday. And the station “will look just like it was in the movie, and all the 'outsiderheads' or whatever you want to call'em will be able to come here and take their selfies.” He says people are already visiting the station to take those selfies anyway, so he believes it'll get some traffic. The plan is to have the building restored and ready to unveil by October. Here's a clip from the film featuring the DX station:
  • When the Saturn V rocket lifted off from the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969 it included components built in Tulsa by a company called North American Aviation, later Rockwell.  A native Tulsan and former Congressman, Jim Bridenstine, once served as Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum; he is now Administrator of NASA. So it's no surprise that the TASM has big plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Alex London is Collections Manager and Exhibition Designer for the museum. He tells KRMG the exhibit, which opens with a special ceremony at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 18th, includes a full-sized replica of the Apollo 11 command module. The multimedia exhibit includes film and audio of the Apollo 11 mission, interviews with Mr. Bridenstine and several astronauts, models of the Saturn V rocket, and much more. For additional details, visit the exhibits page at the TASM website.
  • The first state lawsuit over the opioid crisis to actually go to trial, Oklahoma's case against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson wrapped up Monday as both sides presented their closing arguments. Oklahoma Attorney General Mark Hunter's case centers on the contention that the company and its subsidiaries used deceptive marketing which overstated the benefits of opioids while deliberately downplaying the potential dangers. The company argued that it followed the law in what is a tightly-regulated industry, and that it shouldn't be blamed for the crisis which has killed an estimated 6,100 Oklahomans since the turn of the century. Hunter's strategy included dropping several complaints, and focusing on a public nuisance claim. That allowed the lawsuit to be heard during a bench trial, meaning there was no jury - the judge alone will rule on the case. Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said he will likely issue that ruling in late August or early September. Oklahoma is seeking up to $17.5 billion to be paid out over 30 years.
  • Oklahoma competes against 49 other states for business and tourism, but it's handicapped by not having a catchy slogan, an appealing logo, or even a solid license plate design. That's the opinion of Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell - and he's not alone. Gov. Kevin Stitt ran for election with a promise to make Oklahoma a top ten state in several categories, and to use a businesslike approach to government. Businesses only thrive with a cohesive marketing message, and that's just not happening, Pinnell says. As an example - the much-maligned license plate design, featuring a stylized scissortailed flycatcher (the state bird) and the unofficial slogan, “Oklahoma is OK.” Pinnell says the state is more than just “OK,” and he's working with marketing and design experts to rebrand the state. The plan also includes new signs along state highways welcoming people to Oklahoma.
  • A new study from Swiss researchers says the best way to battle climate change is by planting trees - a lot of trees. In fact, it would take about a trillion of them. That translates, in rough numbers, to 130 trees for every man, woman and child on the planet. But, the scientists claim, there's enough land to get the job done, about 3.5 million square miles. Over the decades, it's calculated, the trees would remove 830 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Most of the benefit comes on the front end, because younger trees remove more carbon from the air. Taylor Melone, program director of Up With Trees! in Tulsa, recommends planting native species. Examples would be loblolly pines, several species of oak, and redbuds, the state tree.
  • Oklahomans will no longer surrender their license plates when they sell or trade a vehicle, and they'll be required to keep a current registration with the vehicle at all times under a new law which goes into effect July 1st. The law is designed to tackle the problems of unregistered and uninsured vehicles. Keeping the tag when a vehicle's transferred will force the new owner to register and tag it, which in turn will require them to insure the vehicle. The law should also alleviate the problem of people getting tickets for turnpike violations on a vehicle they no longer own. Oklahomans have never had to keep the registration with the vehicle before, so many people simply throw them away. That's not a major problem, however, as a new registration can be acquired at any tag agency for a fee of only one dollar. The Oklahoma Tax Commission can also issue a new registration. Under the law, an officer can seize a vehicle if the driver can't produce a physical copy of the registration. You can read the entire law on the Oklahoma Legislature website.
  • The manhunt for the suspect in two violent shootings that occurred in the space of two days ended Friday in east Tulsa when police surrounded a home, triggering a standoff that ended in gunfire. Police had named Barton Vann, 42, as the suspect in a homicide which occurred Tuesday near 15th and Sheridan. Wednesday, they say he got into a fight with an acquaintance over a motorcycle and shot the man, who survived his wounds. Friday, police surrounded a home near 21st and Mingo and demanded Vann surrender. Instead, officers say, he jumped on a motorcycle in the garage and attempted to flee. But as the garage door came up, a police sniper fired at least two rounds, striking Vann and ending the standoff. He was transported to the hospital, reportedly in serious condition. TPD Sgt. Shane Tuell said they hope Vann will recover from his wounds so he can face justice for his alleged crimes.
  • People who get the packet to apply for disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will find a Small Business Administration loan application inside. “Some people are like 'well I don't need a loan,' or 'I don't want a loan,' and they fail to fill it out,” FEMA spokesman Scott Sanders tells KRMG, “and then we have to kick the application back to them and say 'you still got to fill out the application.' So it holds up the process. So I tell people 'fill out the entire application, the FEMA part and the SBA part.'” Many of those people think it won't apply to them, because they're not business owners. But it's the SBA that handles long-term, low-interest loans for disaster victims - not FEMA. And that includes loans for homeowners, non-profits, even renters. SBA spokesman David Reetz tells KRMG there's a lot of assistance available. “Up to $200,000 for a homeowner, a renter. Up to $40,000 for personal property, cars, furniture, clothing you name it,” Reetz said Wednesday. “Businesses, of course we do that too, up to $2 million.” And importantly, a business doesn't even have to suffer actual physical damage to qualify for a loan. For example, if a restaurant had to close for several days because all the roads leading to it were flooded. “They have a cash flow problem, and the SBA has economic injury disaster loans available that are geared strictly to cash flow, if they've experienced no physical damage whatsoever,” Reetz said. To get started, storm or flood victims can contact the agencies online, by phone, or even by using an app on a smartphone. SBA: 800-659-2955 SBA Disaster Assistance website FEMA: 800-621-3362 FEMA Disaster Assistance websiteFEMA mobile app
  • After a devastating spring marked by severe weather and flooding, several agencies under the aegis of the Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) have banded together to hold several events to help those affected. They're dubbed Multi-Agency Resource Centers, or MARCs. Brittney Rochell, Communications Director for the Tulsa region of the American Red Cross of Oklahoma, tells KRMG that people often learn there is a lot more help for them than they may have thought. “We were reading on social media, there was a lot of comments about how people didn't realize all the assistance that the Red Cross and other organizations could give to them. But after coming to the MARC, it helped them so much,” she said Monday. Events have already been held in some hard-hit areas, including Fort Gibson and Sand Springs. More MARCs are scheduled in coming days in Coweta, Skiatook, Bartlesville, Miami, and Pryor.  For a full list of times and locations, visit the Oklahoma VOAD Facebook page or the American Red Cross of Oklahoma Facebook page.
  • The pursuit of a shooting with intent to kill suspect took a surprising twist when the suspect fell off of a bridge and tumbled to the ground some thirty feet below. The Tulsa police department released video of the incident this week. TPD says it happened April 30th of this year on the north leg of the inner dispersal loop downtown. The suspect, identified as Damico Taylor, is seen hanging from the bridge in video from an officer's bodycam. The officer commands him to “get on the ground,” and at that point Taylor either slips, or deliberately drops, to the ground below. When the officer gets to him, he doesn't pull a weapon - rather, he pulls out rubber gloves and begins assessing the suspect's condition. As of this writing, no charges have been filed yet in the case. Police say Taylor suffered multiple injuries, but will recover.
  • 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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  • Tulsa police and city water crews are asking drivers to avoid the intersection at 21st and 129th East Avenue.  A-36-inch water line burst there around three Friday morning, bringing officers and a repair crew to the scene.  “First step they said was to get the water shut off but then (workers) said the intersection is still going to be torn up for a considerable amount of time after that,” TPD Cpl. Matt Arnold said.  Power was shut off to the area for worker safety. We're told the intersection will be a mess until repairs can be made.
  • Registration opens for the Owasso city-wide block party. This year's event will be held Sept. 14. The city says these block parties are a great way to meet your neighbors, which could lead to a safer community. The deadline to register is August 28, 2019.
  • The 53rd Annual Porter Peach Festival is happening until Saturday night.  Bad weather damaged 90-percent of the crop last year, forcing growers to bring in peaches from Texas.  The festival features live music, local art and a parade Saturday morning. Porter is located at 201 Street South and North 4200 Road.
  • After a high profile confrontation in the first set of Democratic debates in the 2020 race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be paired together again on the same debate stage, as Democrats will gather in Detroit July 30-31. The makeup of the two debates were announced after a draw live on CNN, as the network randomly placed the 20 qualifying candidates for the second pair of Democratic debates. While Biden and Harris headline the second night, the debates will kick off with three of the top five Democrats on stage for the first debate:  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • An accident is under investigation affecting the eastbound lanes of the Turner Turnpike at the Tulsa gate.  The accident happened around 8 p.m. Thursday and involved two vehicles, including an SUV.  We're told a FedEx truck at the scene may have had hazardous material on board.  Sapulpa police say one person died in the SUV that was involved in the collision. The driver was traveling in the wrong direction on the roadway. One eastbound lane at the bridge was opened for traffic at 4:30 a.m.

Washington Insider

  • After a high profile confrontation in the first set of Democratic debates in the 2020 race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be paired together again on the same debate stage, as Democrats will gather in Detroit July 30-31. The makeup of the two debates were announced after a draw live on CNN, as the network randomly placed the 20 qualifying candidates for the second pair of Democratic debates. While Biden and Harris headline the second night, the debates will kick off with three of the top five Democrats on stage for the first debate:  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • With GOP lawmakers in Congress publicly expressing their concerns about a campaign rally chant aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), President Donald Trump on Thursday made clear he did not endorse the 'Send her back' call, as Democratic leaders expressed fears for Omar's security. 'I wasn't happy with that message that they gave last night,' the President told reporters at the White House. Asked several times by reporters why he didn't stop the chant, Mr. Trump said it was a 'packed arena,' very specifically saying he did not endorse the message against Omar. 'I was not happy with it,' the President added. 'I didn't like that they did it.' Here was the moment the chant started during his rally, in response to his criticism of four minority women Democratic House members, including Omar: On Capitol Hill, a number of Republicans expressed their concern about the message from the Trump crowd. 'No American should ever talk to another American that way,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'That's a very inappropriate sentiment in this country,' Cole told reporters just off the House floor. “The tweet was wrong & the chant last night grotesque,” wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Twitter. “What I’m hearing from Capitol Police is that threats are up across the board for all members,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who expressed his concern about the ‘send her back’ chant just a few hours after the rally had ended. As for Omar, she met on Thursday morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as reporters pressed her to respond to the chant. “We have said this President is racist,” Omar said as she walked from the Capitol back to her House office. Democrats said they were concerned about Omar’s safety and possible threats against her. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the head of the House Democratic Caucus, encouraged lawmakers and the Capitol Police to quickly share any information about threats to police back in their home districts. “We got to make sure every single person, Democrat, Republican, progressive, conservative, the left and the right, get through it together,” Jeffries said.
  • Pressing ahead with one of their main agenda items in the 116th Congress, Democrats are poised to push a bill through the House on Thursday which would more than double the federal minimum wage over the next six years, taking it from the current level of $7.25 an hour, and pressing it up to $15. 'This is a fair and overdue adjustment,' argued Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), as debate started Wednesday on the floor of the House.  'American workers haven't had the benefit of a federal minimum wage increase in over a decade, while the prices of everything have gone up,' said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed Democrats to stick together on the minimum wage bill, arguing it 'lifts 1.3 million Americans out of poverty.' But for most Republicans, the idea of raising the wage would be a giant economic mistake, hurting rural areas, and younger Americans looking for work. 'When Congress should be focused on pro-growth policies, this bill would be detrimental to American families, workers, and entrepreneurs,' said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). Republicans have pointed repeatedly to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, which estimated that the $15 minimum wage could cause job losses of 1.3 million - with a high estimate over 3.7 million. 'That's like firing the entire population of the state of Oklahoma,' said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), in a line that's been used by a number of GOP lawmakers in recent weeks. The original plan was to raise the minimum wage in five steps over five years - but because of resistance among some Democrats - the plan was changed to make it a six year increase. The bill would raise the wage in steps, first to $8.45 an hour, then $9.50 a year after that, followed by a jump to $10.60, then $11.70 an hour, $12.80 an hour, $13.90, and lastly to $15 an hour. After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to rise along with median wage growth in the United States. While Democrats will certainly celebrate the passage of the plan - the bill seems unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
  • Accusing the Trump Administration of intentionally withholding documents and information about the failed effort by President Donald Trump to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the House on Wednesday voted along party lines to find the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'Neither of the Departments have provided the documents we have asked for,' said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), as the House resolution targeted both Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. 'I even asked Secretary Ross to meet with me personally,' Cummings said on the House floor. 'He refused.' It was the second time Barr had been held in contempt by the current Congress; the first was a civil contempt citation passed by the full House for ignoring a subpoena for his testimony about the Russia investigation and the Mueller Report. Democrats said it was nothing but a cover-up by the White House. Just before the vote, Barr and Ross sent a letter to Democrats asking that the contempt vote be delayed, as Republicans argued that the Trump Administration has been cooperating with requests for documents - something Democrats say just isn't true. 'It is unfortunate that the House has scheduled a vote to hold two sitting members of the President's Cabinet in contempt of Congress given the clear record of cooperation,' Barr and Ross wrote, as they said 'any contempt vote is, at best, premature.' 'This is all about a show,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), as Republicans rallied around a message that Democrats were pursuing political attacks on the President, while ignoring major issues on Capitol Hill. 'Don't play politics with contempt,' said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'We're better than that.' Democrats countered that the courts have already shown that the Trump Administration didn't tell the truth about why the citizenship question was being pursued - as Democrats argued that the feds had held back information to Congress about the Census citizenship question. 'Wilbur Ross lied. William Barr lied,' said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In a defiant statement sent out just after the vote, the White House denounced the House action. “Today’s vote by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt is ridiculous and yet another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration,” the statement read.
  • Next summer will mark forty years since I drew my first paycheck on Capitol Hill as a Page in the House of Representatives. Between working for the Congress, and then covering lawmakers as a reporter, I've seen lawmakers almost come to blows, watched Speakers angrily denounce their critics, seen lawmakers block the doors to the House floor to keep lawmakers from leaving, and all sorts of other legislative mischief. But I have never seen what happened on Tuesday, when Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) did what amounted to a 'gavel drop,' as he refused to read a parliamentary ruling against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and simply walked away. 'I abandon the Chair,' Cleaver said, after getting my attention by clearly not reading the script in front of him, and speaking in the first person from the Speaker's Chair. Maybe it's happened before in the almost 230 years that the House and Senate have been at work - but what Cleaver did on Tuesday was something that left my jaw on the floor. In his off-the-cuff remarks, Cleaver seemed to indicate that he had given a pass to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), who during debate on a resolution condemning President Trump, had denounced a group of minority women Democrats as 'anti-American.' When one Democrat rose to ask that Duffy's words be 'taken down' and scrubbed from the Record, Cleaver brushed off the complaint. And he evidently thought the same should have been done for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she referred to the President's 'racist tweets,' directly going against precedents of the House which clearly state that such speech is against the rules. In a statement, Cleaver said he was simply frustrated at what was going on before his eyes. 'I have spent my entire life working with people of all faiths and stripes in an effort solve real-world problems with concrete solutions, but never have we been this divided and this unwilling to listen to countering opinions or accept objective truths,' the Missouri Democrat said. 'However, a house divided against itself cannot stand, regardless of how strong the foundation,' Cleaver added. Some of my colleagues were just as surprised at the turn of events. The rules rebuke of Pelosi was historic as well - it was the first time a Speaker had words 'taken down' in 35 years, since a famous floor spat between Speaker Tip O'Neill, and future Speaker Newt Gingrich (though not many people at the time would have predicted Gingrich's ascension to that leadership post).