StateImpact Oklahoma
10:45 am
Thu December 18, 2014

StateImpact’s Biggest Stories Of 2014 And A Preview Of Reporting In The Coming Year

Brothers and business partners Fred and Wayne Schmedt stand in their family's wheat field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact racked up thousands of miles traveling across the state this year, filing more than 40 radio stories and hundreds of web posts on how government energy, environmental and economic policy affects ordinary Oklahomans. And many of those stories involve issues that are ongoing.

EPA Regulations

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Politics and Government
9:29 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Cole, Inhofe Want To See More Democratic Progress From Cuba Before Lifting Sanctions

A street in Havana, Cuba in March 2014
Credit Gareth Williams / Flickr

Two members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation have voiced their concerns after President Obama’s Wednesday announcement of steps to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) says he strongly opposes lifting the embargo against the Communist country. The state's senior Republican senator says he doesn't expect to see freedom of speech or free elections in Cuba, and said he would oppose any efforts to lift sanctions on the island nation if they come to the Senate floor.

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The Two-Way
7:49 am
Thu December 18, 2014

New Era For Cuba? Voices From Miami And Havana

Anti-Castro protester Lazaro Lozano (left) argues with an unidentified pro-Obama supporter in the Little Havana area of Miami on Wednesday.
Alan Diaz AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 11:22 am

Just hours after the United States and Cuba announced they were moving toward normalizing relations, crowds gathered in Havana and Miami trying to come to grips with a historic shift.

NPR covered the reaction in those two places with two pieces on Morning Edition.

NPR's Greg Allen reported from Miami:

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Politics and Government
7:23 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Bingman Names Republican Committee Members

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman
Credit Oklahoma Senate

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman announced his committee assignments for the 55th Legislature on Wednesday. 

"Oklahomans have given Republicans a historic majority in the state Senate," said Bingman (R-Sapulpa). "With 40 Senators, there is a considerable diversity of leadership and talent in the Republican caucus. I am proud to work with such a fine group of public servants as we advance an agenda to further our economic momentum."

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The Two-Way
7:13 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

U.S. Officials Believe North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack

U.S. intelligence officials believe North Korea was centrally involved in the recent attack on Sony Pictures' computer network — possibly out of retribution for its film The Interview. Above, a security guard stands outside a theater during the film's premiere in Los Angeles last week.
Kevork Djansezian Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:29 pm

The recent attack on Sony Pictures' computer network that resulted in a flood of embarrassing emails and pirated movies has its origins in North Korea, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

More details about the U.S. investigation into the hacking attack could emerge as early as Wednesday night.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
6:47 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Depletion Of Ogallala Aquifer Likely Caused By Irrigation, USGS Says

Center pivot irrigation in southwestern Oklahoma.
cstoddard Flickr Creative Commons

Groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation is likely responsible for substantial depletions of the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies 175,000 square miles in Oklahoma and seven other states, a report by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests.

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Politics and Government
6:34 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

FY16 Projected State Revenue Triggers Tax Cuts But Some State Departments Will Have Less To Spend

Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger
Credit Oklahoma PCA / Flickr Creative Commons

General Revenue Fund collections for fiscal year 2016 are forecast to increase, tripping the trigger for an individual income tax rate cut in calendar year 2016, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston Doerflinger announced Wednesday.

Total revenue available for appropriations for the next fiscal year, however, is forecast to decline by nearly $300 million, he said.

Under Senate Bill 1246, which lawmakers approved during the 2014 legislative session and Gov. Mary Fallin signed, the state’s top personal income tax rate will drop from 5.25 percent to 5.0 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2016 if the FY2016 General Revenue Fund estimate made by the Board of Equalization at its meeting Thursday is equal to or greater than the FY2014 estimate approved in February 2013.

According to the estimate to be presented to the board Thursday, the FY2016 estimate will be $60.7 million more than the FY2014 estimate.

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Environment
5:24 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Feral Hogs And Pseudorabies A Threat To Oklahoma Panhandle

Credit Josh Henderson / Flickr.com

 State and local law enforcement authorities are working to eradicate feral swine that were illegally brought to the Oklahoma Panhandle and released and later tested positive for pseudorabies.

Pseudorabies is a viral disease that's not considered a risk to humans, but can be transmitted to dogs, cattle, sheep, goats, cats and raccoons and can be fatal to those animals.

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Stored In Stolen Trailer
4:39 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Device Containing Radioactive Material Stolen From Hotel Parking Lot

Credit Blake Burkhart / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality says a gauge containing radioactive material has been stolen from the parking lot of an Oklahoma City hotel near Interstate 40.

The gauge is called a Humboldt Scientific 5001 EZ and is used to measure the moisture content and density of construction materials. It is not considered a health risk to humans unless it's opened and DEQ spokeswoman Skylar McElhaney said Wednesday that it would be difficult to open for a person unfamiliar with it.

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Oklahoma News
1:36 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Prosecutors Drop Terrorism Hoax Charge For Beheading Threat

Credit creationc / Stock.XCHNG

Prosecutors are dropping a terrorism hoax charge against a former Oklahoma City nursing home employee who told his co-worker that he was going to cut off her head.

An Oklahoma County judge dismissed the felony charge Monday at the request of prosecutors.

District Attorney David Prater tells The Oklahoman the charge was withdrawn because the credibility of the co-worker came into question. Other witnesses at the nursing home said the ex-employee was clearly joking.

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