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KOAM News to Know (6/21/21)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Biden is back at the white house as the nation inches closer to his goal of having 70-percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4th. The highly contagious Delta variant of the virus has now been identified in more than 40 states and could soon become America’s dominant covid threat. The president is due to travel to North Carolina this week to encourage people to roll up their sleeves.

MONTGOMERY, Al. – Storm watches and warnings are up all along the Carolina coasts…as a deadly storm system heads northeast.  Claudette is being blamed for several deaths, including nine children, in Alabama. The children, all from a youth ranch, were riding in a vehicle that crashed on Interstate 65 about an hour South of Montgomery.

MIAMI, Okla. – Plenty of people packed Miami’s Riverview Park pavilion Saturday, all for the Miami NEOK Pride 2021 celebration. Organizers say they wanted to bring people together as a show of equality, tolerance, and love. The event featured tons of cool things to check out, including local vendor booths, drag pageants, live music, a dj, and plenty of activities for the kids. One attendee tells KOAM, she came to the event to celebrate who she is and show that same support to others in her community.

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. – The Carl Junction Chamber of Commerce held its annual Expoland. The business expo is an opportunity for area businesses and organizations to get out into the community and let people know about what they do. The event was for all ages, and had activities for kids such as a balloon artist. One non-profit aimed at promoting adult literacy was at the event to spread the importance of their mission. The chamber says the event gave businesses from all over the area including, Joplin, Neosho, and Carthage a chance to come to Carl Junction and interact with parts of the community they normally wouldn’t. Carl Junction’s Expoland helps out local businesses

KOAM InstaPoll: What do you think of the “For the People Act?” http://koamnewsnow.com/vote

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Defense: Man lost consciousness before driving into students

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — A man on trial for murder for driving into an Oklahoma high school cross-country team, killing three, had lost consciousness after choking on an energy drink before the crash, his attorney said during opening statements.

Max Townsend, 58, is charged with three counts of second-degree murder and with leaving the scene of an accident in the February 2020 crash that killed three Moore High School cross-country runners in suburban Oklahoma City.

Defense attorney Kevin Butler said Townsend choked on the drink as he drove to the home of his 29-year-old son, who had been killed in a auto accident the day before, to plan his son’s funeral.

“He never even had the opportunity to form the criminal intent necessary to do this,” Butler said.

Prosecutors say Townsend accelerated his pickup truck to 77 mph (124 kph) before crashing into the group.

“The evidence before will show you that he acted with imminently dangerous conduct that endangered the lives of the children who were running outside of the Moore High School,” Assistant District Attorney Christy Miller said.

Townsend faces life in prison if convicted in the crash in Moore that killed Yuridia Martinez, 16, Rachel Freeman, 17, and Kolby Crum, 18 and injured five other team members.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

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Electric vehicle company picks Oklahoma for assembly plant

PRYOR, Okla. – An electric vehicle company is coming to Oklahoma and bringing 2,000 jobs.

Los Angeles-based Canoo and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the company’s decision on Thursday. Canoo chose Oklahoma for its U.S. manufacturing facility.

The company plans to build a 400-acre campus at MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, near Tulsa. The company says its factory will include a paint and body shop, along with a general assembly plant. They are hoping to open in 2023.

“At MidAmerica Industrial Park, we have been preparing for our next mega-employer for more than 10 years. We have made significant capital investments in speed-to-market capability by building new infrastructure, expanding shovel-ready sites, and strengthening workforce training, recruitment and retention,” said MidAmerica CEO David Stewart. “As the largest industrial park in the Central United States, with abundant renewable resources in power and water, Canoo’s selection of MidAmerica as the site for its inaugural production facility is testament to our competitiveness for new jobs.”

“Oklahoma has always been a pioneer in the energy industry, and this partnership with Canoo shows that our state is an innovation leader in electric vehicle technology,” Governor Stitt said. “We are thrilled to partner with Canoo and Chairman and CEO Tony Aquila to provide high-paying jobs for Oklahomans and position America as the global leader for vehicle manufacturing for decades to come.”

Tulsa was in the running last year for a Tesla electric vehicle manufacturing facility, but it went to Austin, Texas.

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Oklahoma native land ruling affecting case jurisdiction

WYANDOTTE, Okla. – The McGirt vs Oklahoma Supreme Court decision ruled that certain major crimes committed within reservation boundaries must be prosecuted in federal court if a Native American is involved.

Less serious crimes involving a native person on tribal land will be handled in tribal courts. 

“Essentially any criminal case that goes through Ottawa County, they have to determine if the offender is native or non-native, and they have to determine if the victim is native or non-native. If either party is native then it can be affected by the McGirt decision,” said Lisa Arnold, Family Violence Prevention Program supervisor for Wyandotte Nation.

She said although it is not determined whether all Oklahoma tribes are included in this ruling, so far cases in Wyandotte Nation are being dismissed because of it.

Wyandotte Nation tribal police department Chief of Police Ronnie Gilmore said because of this ruling cases are being put on hold.

“Well as far as when the officers are responding to the calls, we aren’t seeing really any difference at all, we’re handling them as we always have, and then the complications from McGirt are happening in the courtroom. That’s where the cases, our local judges are ruling that these cases, in these cases that the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute them,” Gilmore said.

Arnold added that the federal government hasn’t acknowledged that they have jurisdiction to prosecute them, causing these cases to fall into limbo.

“What happens is the victim has to wait to find out if it’s gonna go federal if it’s gonna go state, if it’s gonna go tribal, and they may not be picked up for a while. If it does go tribal, we haven’t had these cases, and so we can only sentence up to a year within Wyandotte Nation courts. Some of the tribes can sentence up to three years, so what happens is if you’ve got somebody with a really serious crime it gets pushed over to the tribal court and we can only sentence to that extent, they’re not getting the sentencing that they would’ve gotten when they still had it within the state court,” Arnold said.

Gilmore says that the ruling really is affected the victims of these crimes.

“Sometimes the offender is released, sometimes the offender remains in jail on other charges, sometimes we honestly don’t know, what is going on with them sometimes, it’s a difficult situation to be in, but the person that its by far the most difficult for would be the victims in these cases.”

Arnold sees these cases being let go first hand. 

“Right now those decisions have not been hammered out to determine if all the tribes are gonna be included, however, cases are being dismissed at a rapid rate…If a case is dismissed in the state court then they transfer it over to tribal court or federal court, depending on the severity of the case and where that offense occurred. So, when that happens, it has to be picked up.  What’s happened is the federal office is been inundated by cases because it’s counties all over the state that are dismissing these cases, and when that happens the feds have to pick up each one of those cases, process those cases, assign an investigator, and press charges again. So essentially these victims are having to go through the process all over again, not only that if it goes to the tribal court because the tribal courts weren’t taking care of these cases up until this date, now we’ve got extra cases that  we hadn’t had in the past, right now Wyandotte Nation we can’t  try cases on McGirt yet.”

And due to lack of jurisdiction and cases being dismissed, offenders committing these crimes could get away with them.

“We have had cases where the offenders that were incarcerated for a crime, the person who was incarcerated had argued in court that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear a case, the court agreed that they lacked  jurisdiction to hear a case and that offender was subsequently released from custody back into the public.”

Now, tribal police must wait to see if all tribes will be affected by this decision, and cases continue to be dismissed.

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Oklahoma expands eligibility for back-to-work cash incentive

OESC Reports Increases in Initial and Continued Unemployment Claims

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) reports increases in initial and continued unemployment claims, with the initial claims’ four-week moving average increasing while the continued claims’ four-week moving average declined. The agency also reports that it updated the eligibility for the $1,200 Return-to-Work Incentive the governor announced in May. 

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“The agency is continuing to focus on providing benefits to those in need, while also focusing on connecting job seekers with employment opportunities through our re-employment services and upcoming career fairs,” said Shelley Zumwalt, OESC Executive Director. “We are hopeful that as federal unemployment benefits come to an end this month, we will begin to see decreases in the state’s unemployment numbers.”
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OESC has updated the eligibility requirements for the $1,200 Return-to-Work Incentive. Now, the eligibility requirements have been extended to those who work two part-time jobs that equal 32 hours or more with an Oklahoma employer for six consecutive weeks. Previously, only claimants who worked a full-time job of 32 hours a week or more qualified. 
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“We made this change to ensure that we can accommodate as many individuals as possible as they rejoin the workforce,” said Zumwalt. “Claimants will have more opportunities to connect with potential employers at our upcoming career fairs on June 23 and June 25 where employers are looking to fill both full-time and part-time positions. I encourage any claimant in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas to attend these in-person career fairs.”
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OESC is also hosting a virtual career fair through the end of June to allow Oklahomans from across the state access to employment opportunities. The agency’s Tulsa career fair will be held at the Tulsa Expo Square – River Spirit Expo on June 23 and the Oklahoma City career fair will be held at the Oklahoma City Convention Center on June 25. Although not required, individuals can pre-register to attend the events at http://regpack.com/reg/oesc21. Employers can register at http://regpack.com/reg/oesc.
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(Information Released from the OESC)  – The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) reports increases in initial and continued unemployment claims, with the initial claims’ four-week moving average increasing while the continued claims’ four-week moving average declined. The agency also reports that it updated the eligibility for the $1,200 Return-to-Work Incentive the governor announced in May.

“The agency is continuing to focus on providing benefits to those in need, while also focusing on connecting job seekers with employment opportunities through our re-employment services and upcoming career fairs,” said Shelley Zumwalt, OESC Executive Director. “We are hopeful that as federal unemployment benefits come to an end this month, we will begin to see decreases in the state’s unemployment numbers.”

OESC has updated the eligibility requirements for the $1,200 Return-to-Work Incentive. Now, the eligibility requirements have been extended to those who work two part-time jobs that equal 32 hours or more with an Oklahoma employer for six consecutive weeks. Previously, only claimants who worked a full-time job of 32 hours a week or more qualified.

“We made this change to ensure that we can accommodate as many individuals as possible as they rejoin the workforce,” said Zumwalt. “Claimants will have more opportunities to connect with potential employers at our upcoming career fairs on June 23 and June 25 where employers are looking to fill both full-time and part-time positions. I encourage any claimant in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas to attend these in-person career fairs.”

OESC is also hosting a virtual career fair through the end of June to allow Oklahomans from across the state access to employment opportunities. The agency’s Tulsa career fair will be held at the Tulsa Expo Square – River Spirit Expo on June 23 and the Oklahoma City career fair will be held at the Oklahoma City Convention Center on June 25. Although not required, individuals can pre-register to attend the events at http://regpack.com/reg/oesc21. Employers can register at http://regpack.com/reg/oesc.

Weekly Unemployment Numbers for Week Ending May 29

(Information Released from the OESC) 

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  • For the file week ending May 29, the number of initial claims totaled 12,722, an increase of 4,362 from the previous week’s level of 8,360.
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  • For the same file week, the less volatile initial claims 4-week moving average was 9,800, an increase of 436 from the previous week’s average of 9,364.
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  • The number of continued claims totaled 33,446, an increase of 738 from the previous week’s level of 32,708.
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  • Continued claims’ four-week moving average was 34,253, a decrease of 1,039 from the previous week’s average of 35,292.
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Due to a reporting discrepancy, the numbers reported by the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) may not be consistent with the number OESC reported. However, OESC has provided updated information to the U.S. DOL so they can update their data.
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Nationally, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ending June 5 was 376,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level, the U.S. Department of Labor reports. The four-week moving average was 402,500, a decrease of 25,500 from the previous week’s unrevised average. For the week ending May 29, U.S. DOL reports the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5%, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.
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The national weekly seasonally adjusted initial claims report is one of 10 components in the Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators. To smooth out the volatility in the weekly initial claims data, a four-week moving average is used to assess trends.
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  • For the file week ending May 29, the number of initial claims totaled 12,722, an increase of 4,362 from the previous week’s level of 8,360.
  • For the same file week, the less volatile initial claims 4-week moving average was 9,800, an increase of 436 from the previous week’s average of 9,364.
  • The number of continued claims totaled 33,446, an increase of 738 from the previous week’s level of 32,708.
  • Continued claims’ four-week moving average was 34,253, a decrease of 1,039 from the previous week’s average of 35,292.

Due to a reporting discrepancy, the numbers reported by the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) may not be consistent with the number OESC reported. However, OESC has provided updated information to the U.S. DOL so they can update their data.

Nationally, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ending June 5 was 376,000, a decrease of 9,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level, the U.S. Department of Labor reports. The four-week moving average was 402,500, a decrease of 25,500 from the previous week’s unrevised average. For the week ending May 29, U.S. DOL reports the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5%, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the previous week’s unrevised rate.

The national weekly seasonally adjusted initial claims report is one of 10 components in the Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators. To smooth out the volatility in the weekly initial claims data, a four-week moving average is used to assess trends.