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PM NewsBrief: Oct. 14, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

New Stitt appointments

Gov. Kevin Stitt made several changes in state appointed offices Thursday.

The Secretary of Budget is a new position, created through an executive order, and will be filled by John Laws, who comes from the corporate world, most recently serving as the executive vice president for Enable Midstream, LP.

Stitt also announced the appointment of Steven Harpe as the executive director of the state Department of Corrections. Harpe previously was Oklahoma’s chief operating officer, executive director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, and deputy secretary of digital transformation and administration.

Those duties will now fall on John Suter, also from the corporate oil and gas sector as CEO and COO of Sandridge Energy.

Flooding research

With extreme floods all over the world filling headlines, researchers at the University of Oklahoma are predicting things will only get worse. New findings that show how climate change could leave much of the country under water.

OU researchers partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use computer modeling to predict just how much climate change will affect extreme flooding — and the outlook is pretty wet.

"More widespread and more frequent flooding is what we’re looking at in the future," said JJ Gourley, a research hydrometeorologist with NOAA.

Their study predicts double the number of floods and a 45% increase in the extent of flooding. They also found more seasonal variability, which means fall and winter will likely see more extreme rainfall.

Gourley says much of the state’s aging infrastructure is based on a climate we no longer live in.

"Some of our design criteria are based on some older assumptions that may need to be updated. So basically, now’s a good time to start preparing with the infrastructure."

A study earlier this year from the same researchers found climate change will cause the central U.S. to emerge as a flash flood hotspot.

Iranian demonstration at Scissortail Park

The impact of ongoing protests in Iran over the death of a young woman at the hands of the country’s morality police is being felt across the globe, and here in Oklahoma.

Hundreds of people met in Scissortail Park in Oklahoma City Thursday evening. Their cry - “woman, life, freedom”, in Persian.

They gathered to speak in support of Iranians who have been protesting for weeks following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who eyewitnesses say was beaten to death by the country’s morality police for not following mandatory hijab law.

Mehrnoush Nourbakhsh, a local activist, says spreading awareness is essential.

"We owe it to them to rise up, to be their voice.We cannot let this spirit of hope die out or die down," said Nourbakhsh.

Though the numbers cannot be verified, partly because the Iranian government has restricted the internet, activists say hundreds of people - many of whom are young adults and teenagers - have been shot or beaten to death by police and thousands have been arrested in Iran.

Adolescent overdoses

Advocates say overdose deaths have been rising among teens. At an interim study focused on adolescent substance abuse, Tulsa social worker Brittne Thompson said the increase in overdoses among kids is being driven by a familiar culprit.

"And so when we look at what has caused most of the overdose deaths within teenagers in 2021, 77% of those deaths were tied to fentanyl use. That is an increase of 169% just in the year of 2019-2020," Thompson said.

Stephanie Morcom from Duncan, who founded a support group for families, said one possible way to get more kids treatment is higher SoonerCare payments to providers.

"We need to make sure that the providers can at least like, keep the lights on. And I think that if providers were being reimbursed at a rate that allowed them to at least break even, we would have more providers willing to start offering these services," said Morcom.

Morcom and Thompson also mentioned allowing parents to sign their children into treatment as another possible solution to child overdoses. Currently, children can refuse treatment even if their parents want it.

Cherokee Nation broadband grant

A federal broadband grant is expected to help more than 6,000 Cherokee households receive high-speed internet access.

The Cherokee Nation received a $34 million grant through the U.S. Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

The funds will build more than 240 miles of fiber internet connectivity, including telephone towers.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says the federal grant will help rural Cherokee communities lacking broadband access in Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Cherokee and Sequoyah counties.

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