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AM NewsBrief: March 17, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, March 17, 2023.

Fire's Strong Start

The Potawatomi Fire is back. Oklahoma's first tribally owned basketball team is off to a strong start in their second season. Last year, the Fire ended up in the semifinals of their league playoffs only to get knocked out by the Shreveport Mavericks. Now, new head Coach Mark Danhoff wants to make sure they go all the way.

"We have a list of 12 standards of excellence we hold ourselves to. But in terms of our success for the entire year and the season, we're trying to take it one step at a time and we kind of picture it as a staircase. And each game is a different step," he said.

The Potawatomi Fire have won their first three games -- all on the road. Their first home game tips off Friday where they'll play the Rockwall 7'ers at the Fire Lake Arena in Shawnee. Citizen Potawatomi Nation bought the basketball team last year in an economic development effort between the tribal nation and the City of Shawnee.

Medical Data Portal

State health officials are building a central medical data portal for doctors, hospitals and other providers. But therapists are raising concerns about their patients’ privacy.

Digital medical records are notoriously hard to share. Some clinics and offices still rely on fax machines. Competing software companies can make their products incompatible with others. Some argue this is good because it protects patient privacy. But it can cause problems too.

The new central database for medical providers would operate under privacy restrictions like HIPAA. It is scheduled to go live this summer with all licensed health providers required to participate. Some of the most vocal critics have been therapists. Dr. Shannon Beach, president of the Oklahoma Psychological Association, said it’s unclear what exactly therapists would have to share. He said some patients might not want records showing they’re engaged in behavioral health at all.

"There are some pretty negative stigma around that, including stigma held by medical providers who have less of an understanding about behavioral health," Beach said.

In a survey of the organization’s members, nearly all said they’re concerned this could violate privacy ethics.

Suing the EPA

Regulators are working to cut down on smog-causing emissions that travel across state lines. But Oklahoma officials are at odds with the EPA on how to do that.

The EPA says reducing emissions, which generate low-lying ozone smog, will improve health and quality of life for millions of people living downwind of industrial smog sources. The EPA’s Good Neighbor Plan covers 23 states, including Oklahoma, that were found to be exporting significant amounts of pollution to downwind neighbors.

Last month, the EPA fully rejected Oklahoma’s proposed plans for cutting those emissions, saying it didn’t include any permanent and enforceable measures. Now the agency has announced a federal plan to curb emissions. Under it, Oklahoma’s power plants and other industrial emitters will need to produce nearly 10,000 tons less pollutants each year by 2026.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has filed a lawsuit against the EPA for its rejection of Oklahoma’s implementation plan, calling the federal plan “overreach of the first order.” In Oklahoma City,

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