Each week, we scour the Web for the most interesting Okie-related news being reported both in the state and outside of it. We’re always looking for new links, so if you’ve read something you think we should see, let us know in the comments.
- The country is reeling from news that a gunman opened fire in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater at about 12:30 a.m. today, 30 minutes into a showing of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. The rampage left 12 dead and 50 injured, prompting USA Today to recount the country’s worst mass shootings, including one that happened at an Oklahoma post office in 1986.
- News of another unintended death—the fourth since last October—at the Narconon Arrowhead center in Canadian, Oklahoma, has sparked an OSBI investigation and increased scrutiny of the flagship Scientology drug treatment facility, New York’s The Village Voice reported. The paper’s source, Chris Henderson, is a former patient there who’s been “trying to get the word out about Narconon’s quack science, its reliance on low-paid non-medical staff, rampant drug abuse among patients, and dangerous conditions for patients in withdrawal” since his stint in 2007. “Henderson says that he’s been sending hundreds of messages about Narconon’s unscientific methods and its real purpose—to recruit patients into Scientology—and has targeted in particular his state representative, T.W. Shannon, who is slated to become Oklahoma’s next Speaker of the House if Republicans hold a majority after the next election,” the paper reported. Last year, Shannon brushed off Henderson’s warning, but today, when Henderson called again, Shannon’s assistant said he was “on the phone with the Department of Mental Health for the first time, discussing Narconon.”
- Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist have been spatting over a “no-new-taxes pledge” Norquist has been pushing on Congressional Republicans that “forbids tax hikes unless accompanied by dollar-for-dollar deductions,” The Huffington Post reported. In an editorial for The New York Times, published Sunday, Coburn argued “Senate Republicans—and many House Republicans—have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code.” He continued:
The problem with the pledge is that it is powerless to prevent future automatic tax increases and has failed to restrain past spending. The “starve the beast” strategy to shrink the size of the federal government by cutting revenue but not spending was a disaster. Every dollar we borrow is a tax increase on the next generation.
And in a debt crisis, higher interest rates and the debasement of our currency would be additional tax hikes. In that sense, no one is doing more to violate the spirit of the pledge than Mr. Norquist himself, who is asking Republicans to reject the very type of agreement that could prevent future tax increases.
- Chesapeake Energy Corp. made more headlines this week; the major ones are laid out in the next four bullet points. Reuters released another exclusive report, revealing that “if control of the company changes, the change obligates Chesapeake to pay the group (of about 1,600 employees, including title attorneys, land men, lab technicians and senior security officers) a total of at least $100 million and as much as $140 million in cash.” Chesapeake officials wouldn’t say why the perk exists in about 12 percent of it’s employees’ contracts, but Reuters speculated that it “might be used to lure prospective hires.”
- Rosland Gammon, for the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism wrote about the “secret to Reuters’ Chesapeake coverage,” which began with curiosity about Chesapeake’s shell companies, LLCs owned by the company—and by its CEO Aubrey McClendon—but whose ownership, on the outset, isn’t entirely obvious. Reporters like Brian Grow started digging, and they hit a gold mine. “It was one part curiosity, one part stamina, one part knowing where to look and a dash of luck,” Grow told Gammon. “There was an existing paper trail and one ever went looking for it.”
- Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Chesapeake could collapse Oklahoma City’s real estate market, if it starts to sell off the $805 million worth of commercial investment property it owns. From Bloomberg:
“If something were to happen to Chesapeake, the whole northwestern market would collapse,” said Don Karchmer, a local developer and investor who’s been involved with some of the company’s real estate activities. “The whole community has a fear of what could happen. It would be a huge hurt.”
Chesapeake, the second-largest private employer in Oklahoma City, is seeking to sell as much as $14 billion in assets in 2012 to raise cash.
- Meanwhile, Chesapeake is working on the construction of a 284-acre campus in Louisville, Ohio, to headquarter its Utica Shale operations, the Canton Repository reported. Louisville officials are calling it “a good opportunity” for the city, expecting “Chesapeake jobs will generate ‘tens of millions of dollars’ in income taxes in the coming years.” The city’s council approved an income tax rebate for the company on Monday night, to help lure Chesapeake to the location. “Beginning in 2016 the city will return to Chesapeake 25 percent of the income taxes collected from employees. The tax rebate will be good for 10 years,” the Rep reported.
- The ESPN sports blog Grantland offered an interesting profile of Bruce Kittle, the University of Oklahoma assistant football coach “in charge of the Sooners’ offensive tackles and tight ends.” From Grantland:
He’s a strange pilgrim in Norman. When Kittle was hired a couple years ago, he’d just returned from a vision quest that spanned two decades and had nothing to do with football. “I wanted to explore some of the unanswered questions the universe presents,” he says. Kittle had spent time as a pastor. A prison mediator. A lawyer. I’ve come to Norman to ask Kittle why he once bolted from college football and how odd it must feel—after exploring the mysteries of the universe—to have returned.
- Half of the U.S., including parts of Oklahoma, are in the throes of a drought that has reached “Dust Bowl proportions,” The Atlantic reported. “The 54.6 percent figure (not counting Alaska and Hawaii) makes this year’s drought the sixth worst on record in terms of area covered, behind only the brutal droughts of the mid-1950s and the ‘Dust Bowl’ era of the 1930s,” the magazine reported. The Huffington Post published an AP report yesterday about the impacts the drought has had on Oklahoma in particular.
- The two shooters accused in the so-called “Good Friday murders” that killed three black Tulsans and injured two others had their first hearing this week, with family members testifying that the two confessed to having “ ‘a contest’ to see who could shoot the most people,” Reuters reported. “The hearing will resume on August 14. Prosecutors have not yet said if they plan to seek the death penalty.”
- Even more UFO sightings have been reported in Oklahoma this month. (See last week’s UFO-related news here.) The Tahlequah Daily Press reported several incidences of area residents spotting “strange lights hovering in the sky over the northern and eastern sections of the county.” Then it burst their bubble:
Tahlequah Municipal Airport Manager Greg Blish said what people were actually seeing were “Chinese lanterns.”
“I watched one of them launched over the holiday,” said Blish. “They look exactly like what those people are describing. On the night [Dreadfulwater] is talking about, we had an easterly flow of air, which could have carried the lantern in that direction. They’re kind of orangey-looking.”
—Holly Wall, News Editor