Seminole Oklahoma hit by two tornado events leading to massive power outage

Important Takeaways:

  • 2nd tornado cluster ravages towns in Oklahoma and Texas
  • The community of Seminole, Oklahoma, has been ripped apart by two tornado events in three days, including a multi-tornado outbreak Wednesday evening, leading to massive structural damage and power outage in the city.
  • The second tornado of the evening touched ground at approximately 8:48 p.m. CDT, after the area was already shaken from the prior hour’s damage. Seminole County was unable to sound the area’s tornado sirens due to power outages, leading to a potentially dangerous situation for those needing to take safety precautions.

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Oklahoma House votes 70-14 on Pro-Life Bill

Exodus 20:13 ““You shall not murder.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Oklahoma Legislature Passes Near-Total Abortion Ban
  • Oklahoma’s Republican-led State Legislature passed a law on Tuesday which would ban abortion in nearly every circumstance and punish physicians who perform abortions with heavy fines, jail time, or both.
  • The Oklahoma House voted 70-14 to pass SB 612, sending it to Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who has previously vowed to sign “every piece of pro-life legislation” that comes across his desk
  • The House also passed a resolution on Tuesday designating January 22, 2022, the “Day of Tears” in Oklahoma because the Supreme Court “erroneously ruled” that abortion was a constitutional right in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.
  • “Since that ill-fated day, over sixty-one million (61,000,000) preborn children in the United States have perished,” the text states.

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Oklahoma State Officials investigating first case of Avian Flu in bird population

Revelations 6:8 “And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.”

Important Takeaways:

  • First case of avian influenza detected in Oklahoma
  • Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry say a wild duck in Payne County is the first wild bird in Oklahoma to be confirmed to be infected with Eurasian H5 type of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
  • “I encourage poultry owners of all kinds to continue to remain vigilant, practice good biosecurity and report sick or dying birds immediately.”
  • At this point, the virus is considered low-risk to people. However, it can be detrimental to poultry species.

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Kingston Oklahoma hit by Tornado

Important Takeaways:

  • Monster tornado sweeps Oklahoma, leaving residents trapped in their homes: report
  • While several injuries have been reported through the Kingston area, there have been no reported deaths.
  • The Oklahoma Department of Transportation was forced to close US-70 as its crews cleared the roadways for safe use, Fox 25 of Oklahoma City reported.
  • Photos taken at the scene show the carnage left behind as homes were wrestled down to their foundations, vehicles were flipped over, and debris sprawled for miles.

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Multiple Tornados Roll Through Texas

Important Takeaways:

  • Devastation in Texas as severe storms track through the South
  • Round Rock, Texas, was one of the hardest-hit areas by a violent outburst of severe weather, forecasters are warning that a serious tornado threat remains for the South
  • 66 tornado warnings issued across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana
  • Officials confirmed one fatality and several injuries in Sherwood Shores, Texas, located north of Dallas, after a tornado ripped across the area and damaged homes and power lines.
  • To the south between Cooper and Crockett, Texas, three people were severely injured when two mobile homes were destroyed and roads blocked by fallen trees.

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U.S. demand for oil surges, depleting tanks in Oklahoma

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Crude oil tanks at the Cushing, Oklahoma storage and delivery hub for U.S. crude futures are more depleted than they have been in the last three years, and prices of further dated oil contracts suggest they will stay lower for months.

U.S. demand for crude among refiners making gasoline and diesel has surged as the economy has recovered from the worst of the pandemic. Demand across the globe means other countries have looked to the United States for crude barrels, also boosting draws out of Cushing.

Analysts expect the draw on inventories to continue in the short-term, which could further boost U.S. crude prices <CLc1> that have already climbed by about 25% in the last two months. The discount on U.S. crude futures to the international Brent benchmark should stay narrow.

“Storage at Cushing alone has the potential to really rally the market to the moon,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho.

Cushing stockpiles have dropped to 27.3 million barrels, the lowest since October 2018, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, or about half of where inventories were at this time a year ago.

Inventories have fallen because of a ramp-up in U.S. demand, which has encouraged domestic refiners to keep crude at home to provide fuel such as gasoline and distillates to U.S. consumers, said Reid I’Anson, senior commodity analyst at Kpler.

In addition, U.S. production has been slow to recover from declines seen in 2020. At the end of 2019, the nation was producing roughly 13 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), but in recent weeks has been less than 11.5 million bpd. At the same time, product supplied by refineries – a proxy for demand – is about just 1% below pre-pandemic peaks.

As a result, the spread between U.S. crude and Brent, has collapsed. The spread narrowed to roughly $1.09 a barrel this week from $4.47 earlier this month, which had been about the widest spread since May 2020.

In an additional sign of high short-term demand for U.S. crude, the premium for U.S. crude delivered this December versus December 2022 reached a high this week of $12.48 per barrel, most since at least 2014, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

In the next three months, Rystad Energy expects refinery runs in the United States to increase by 500,000 to 600,000 barrels per day. This would outpace production gains of 300,000-400,000 bpd, and keep the spread between the two benchmarks narrow.

“Only if OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) intervenes with more supply of crude or if COVID rears its ugly head again, curbing demand, this high volatility will come off,” said Mukesh Sahdev, senior vice president and head of downstream at Rystad Energy.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by David Gregorio and Marguerita Choy)

U.S. Supreme Court again protects police accused of excessive force

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday granted requests by police officers in separate cases from California and Oklahoma for legal protection under a doctrine called “qualified immunity” from lawsuits accusing them of using excessive force.

The justices overturned a lower court’s decision allowing a trial in a lawsuit against officers Josh Girdner and Brandon Vick over the fatal shooting of a hammer-wielding man in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

They also overturned a lower court’s decision to deny a request by Union City, California police officer Daniel Rivas-Villegas for qualified immunity in a lawsuit accusing him of using excessive force while handcuffing a suspect.

The brief rulings favoring the police in the two cases were unsigned, with no public dissents among the justices. They were issued in cases that were decided without oral arguments.

The qualified immunity defense protects police and other government officials from civil litigation in certain circumstances, permitting lawsuits only when an individual’s “clearly established” statutory or constitutional rights have been violated.

The decisions on Monday indicate that the justices still think lower courts are denying qualified immunity too frequently in excessive force cases involving police, having previously chided appeals courts on that issue in recent years.

Reuters in 2020 published an investigation that revealed how qualified immunity, with the Supreme Court’s continual refinements, has made it easier for police officers to kill or injure civilians with impunity.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

Drug distributors strike 1st opioid settlement with Native American tribe for $75 million

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -The three largest U.S. drug distributors will pay more than $75 million to resolve claims they fueled an opioid epidemic in the Cherokee Nation’s territory in Oklahoma, marking the first settlement with a tribal government in the litigation over the U.S. addiction crisis.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin on Tuesday said the settlement, which will be paid over 6-1/2 years, would “enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover.”

The deal announced by the Cherokee Nation came after distributors McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc, along with the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay up to $26 billion to resolve similar claims by states and local governments.

That settlement did not cover any of the country’s Native American tribes. The three distributors are in talks to resolve those cases, and other companies continue to face similar lawsuits.

Drugmakers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Endo International Plc on Tuesday separately said they agreed to pay $15 million and $7.5 million, respectively, to resolve claims they contributed to the opioid epidemic in Louisiana. Teva will also donate $3 million worth of medications.

The distributors in a statement called the deal “an important step toward reaching a broader settlement with all federally recognized Native American tribes across the country.” The companies deny wrongdoing.

The Cherokee Nation became the first Native American tribe to sue drug distributors and pharmacy operators in 2017. The sovereign Cherokee Nation has more than 390,000 citizens.

It accused the distributors of flooding its territory with millions of prescription opioid pills, an oversupply of addictive painkillers that resulted in abuse and overdose deaths that disproportionately affected Native Americans.

More than 3,300 similar lawsuits have been filed by states, counties, cities and tribal governments. Nearly 500,000 people died due to opioid overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Cherokee Nation, represented by the law firms Boies Schiller Flexner, Fields PLLC, and Whitten Burrage, also sued pharmacy operators CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Walmart Inc. They deny wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in BostonEditing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. weekly deaths from COVID fall to lowest in 14 months

(Reuters) – U.S. deaths from COVID-19 last week fell to their lowest in nearly 14 months and the number of new cases continued to decline for a fifth week in a row, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data.

Deaths for the week ended May 16 totaled 4,165, the lowest weekly death toll since March 2020, when the country reported 2,293 deaths. On average about 600 people died from COVID each day, down from a peak of over 3,000 deaths per day for most of January.

About 37% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, and 47% has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Hampshire leads the country with 85% of its residents receiving at least one dose, followed by Vermont at 65% and Massachusetts at 62%.

The rate of vaccinations, however, has been slowing for four straight weeks. In the past seven days, an average of 2 million vaccine doses were administered per day, which is down 2% from the previous week after falling 17% in the prior week.

New cases of COVID-19 fell 20% last week to 233,000, the lowest since June, according to the Reuters analysis. Only four out of 50 states logged week-over-week increases in new cases, including Alabama which reported over 9,000 new infections last week after processing a backlog of tests.

Excluding that backlog, Colorado led the nation in new cases per capita, overtaking Michigan, although new infections are falling in both states.

The lowest rates of infection based on population were in New Jersey, Oklahoma and California.

Nationwide, the average number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals fell 12%, the fourth weekly drop in a row.

(Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu)

Biden admin discusses tribes’ broader oversight in oil-rich Oklahoma

By Valerie Volcovici and Jennifer Hiller

(Reuters) – The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is in talks with Oklahoma tribes over whether they should have a bigger say over a range of environmental regulations in much of the eastern half of the oil-rich state that was recognized last year as reservation land by the Supreme Court, officials told Reuters.

The discussions have triggered concern within Oklahoma’s Republican government that it risks losing control of a big tax base and has stirred uncertainty over future regulation of natural resources extraction, industry and other development in the region.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator Michael Regan last week had separate calls with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and leaders from several tribal nations about the tribes’ desire to have broader oversight on the land recognized by the court, an EPA official said.

“It is a priority of the Biden-Harris Administration to respect tribal sovereignty, fulfill federal trust and treaty responsibilities, and engage in robust consultation with tribal nations in policy deliberations that affect tribal communities,” an EPA official told Reuters in a statement.

Days earlier, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement notified Oklahoma officials that it would begin discussions with the state and tribes on how to achieve a “responsible and orderly transition” of regulatory responsibility for surface mining in the area.

One Oklahoma official said the move would impact just a handful of mines, but said there is broader concern in the state that this could be a first step toward transferring control over more substantial operations.

The Interior Department declined to comment.

Most of Oklahoma’s oil and gas production is in the western part of the state, but some fields in the eastern part of the state could potentially be affected.

At issue is a July 2020 decision by the Supreme Court recognizing the ongoing existence of the historic Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation covering about half the state of Oklahoma, the result of legal wrangling over criminal jurisdiction in a rape case known as McGirt vs. Oklahoma.

After that decision, the Trump administration approved a state request to then EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to retain regulatory jurisdiction over environmental issues on the land, upsetting tribal authorities who complained they were not consulted.

The governor this week said that he wants to take the case back to the Supreme Court to challenge the 5-4 decision.

“My big fear for the sake of Oklahoma’s future is if it goes into taxation or it bleeds into regulation, then the state of Oklahoma doesn’t have any rights in eastern Oklahoma,” Stitt said on a local news broadcast on Monday night.

Oklahoma Energy Secretary Kenneth Wagner, who participated in a call last week with Regan and Stitt, said the state does not believe the McGirt decision should apply to civil matters.

The tribes, which include the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, on along with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole, meanwhile, are working toward an agreement on shared jurisdiction that they want to present to the federal government.

“The next steps, as we understand it, are for the current EPA administration to report findings of their review of this issue and potentially advise tribes on ways to find a resolution to our concern,” said Tye Baker, senior director of Environmental Protection Services for the Choctaw nation.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy)