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AM NewsBrief: Oct. 21, 2022

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.

Oklahoma executes Benjamin Cole

57 year old Benjamin Cole was executed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Thursday, 20 years after he killed his baby daughter Brianna.

Leading up to the execution, Cole’s attorneys argued he should not be executed because he had brain damage and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia since his trial, though Cole was determined to be competent for execution.

This execution follows the Pardon and Parole Board denying Cole a recommendation of clemency and the Supreme Court of the United States denying an emergency appeal the night before.

23 more executions are scheduled through the end of 2024.

New COVID-19 strains

The federal government has detected two new COVID strains that appear to be more contagious and more resistant to a preventative treatment used for people who are immunocompromised.

The two new strains are Omicron subvariants. They’re known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. They account for more than one in 10 cases nationwide, according to data from the CDC.

Health officials say the state’s public health laboratory has been screening samples for the strains, but no cases have been detected.

Those subvariants don’t seem to be more resistant to vaccines or Paxlovid treatments, but according to reporting by Politico, they do seem to be more resistant to Evusheld. That’s a monoclonal antibody treatment used as preventative protection for people with compromised immune systems.

Altered OTA agendas for the ACCESS turnpike project

Metadata from publicly posted meeting agendas appear to indicate Oklahoma turnpike staff altered agendas for two meetings leading up to the announcement of the proposed $5 billion dollar ACCESS turnpike project.

Attorney Richard Labarthe produced documents showing metadata taken from agendas indicate the OTA’s January and February agenda documents were modified after the meetings took place. StateImpact independently verified this data.

For the January 25 meeting, data show the agenda was last modified on February 13.

For the February 22 meeting, which occurred just hours before the ACCESS project was announced, data show the agenda was last modified the next day, February 23.

The OTA says the modifications aren’t nefarious, but were done to add certification signatures. After-the-fact modifications aren’t found on any other agendas posted by the agency for the last two years, nor are certification signatures.

StateImpact filed an Open Records Request Wednesday, October 19th for the original agenda documents.

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