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Statewide News

Today's national average price for regular gasoline is $3.344 per gallon, just three-tenths of a cent below the nearly nine-month low registered one week ago of $3.347 according to AAA. The last time the national average was less than $3.34 was on January 25, when prices began a surge of 49 cents in 41 days toward a 2013 high of $3.79 per gallon on February 27. Today’s national retail average has fallen 14 cents in the past month and 33 cents over the past year.
AAA continues to expect that gas prices will fall even further approaching the end of the year. Due to sufficient supplies, flat demand and the shift to cheaper winter-blend gasoline, and barring a hurricane or other unexpected disruption to production and distribution, the Oklahoma average could fall to $2.90-$3.00 per gallon by Christmas and the national average is likely to fall to $3.10-$3.20 by then, which would be the lowest mark since February, 2011.
Continued crude oil prices above $100 per barrel could provide an effective floor for how low retail gas prices could go. However, yesterday, after nearly 16 straight weeks above $100, the price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil returned below this threshold and settled $1.59 lower at $99.22 per barrel at the close of formal trading on the NYMEX. If this slide continues, we would expect to see retail gas prices turn lower also.

Gas prices at the state level have been a mixed bag, with prices in 17 states and Washington D.C. more expensive today than one week ago, including two states where prices are at least a nickel higher (Ga. +5 cents and Ohio +6 cents). Prices in the remaining states have fallen, led by two states where they have decreased more than a nickel (Wash. -5 cents and Mont. -6 cents). Despite some variation in weekly price movement, motorists in every state with the exception of South Carolina are paying less to fill their tanks today than one month ago. Prices in seven states, including Oklahoma, have dropped by at least 20 cents.
AAA updates fuel price averages daily at www.FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com. Every day up to 120,000 stations are surveyed based on credit card swipes and direct feeds in cooperation with the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) and Wright Express. Average retail prices in this report are for a gallon of regular gasoline.

"Muscogee (Creek) Citizens gained nation-wide media attention for building Oklahoma Tornado Photo Recovery website" Air Date: 6/1/13

Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen and employee Becky Billingsly tells the story of how her, her sister and their cousin had an idea to help out after the devastating tornadoes that ravaged the state in late May. Several photos and personal belongings had been displaced several miles away by the strong winds, so they wanted to re-connect those folks with priceless memories. This is the story of http://www.oktornadophotorecovery.com

Free Medicare Open Enrollment Counseling Could Help Seniors Save Money

Opening of the Health Insurance Marketplace Causes Confusion

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Medicare Assistance Program (MAP) wants to help senior adults with the Medicare open enrollment process and clear up any confusion related to the Health Insurance Marketplace. The 626,000 Oklahomans on Medicare should not look for coverage on the Marketplace. They also need to know that it’s illegal for someone who knows they have Medicare to sell them a Marketplace plan.

Medicare open enrollment began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. During this time, Medicare-eligible consumers can sign up for coverage and Medicare recipients can change their options for the coming year. Personalized Medicare counseling is available by calling 1-800-763-2828.

“Our MAP counselors are here to help you weigh all your options and make an informed decision,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “I urge Oklahomans on Medicare to take advantage of this free service that can help you improve your coverage, save money, or both.”

While seniors do not need to enroll in the Marketplace, they are encouraged to review their Medicare options, including Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription plans. Already this month, a review resulted in an annual savings of $5,527 for one Oklahoman.

“Plan costs and coverage change each year, so everyone with Medicare should check to make sure their plan still meets their health needs and budget,” said Ray Walker, MAP Director. “They may be able to find a Medicare health or drug plan with better coverage or a lower premium.”

During last year’s open enrollment period, MAP counselors helped more than 7,000 Medicare beneficiaries review their plans. Their average annual savings was between $500 and $1,000. One individual, after reviewing her Part D drug plan, had the opportunity to save $33,000 alone.

How do you know you’re studying for a job that exists? And how do you show that you know how to do the job before you get it?

Both questions have the same answer: credentials.connecting industry needs with workers’ skills through credentials

“Industry credentials are an invaluable way to connect industry skill set needs with individuals’ skill sets,” said Robert Sommers, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education state director and Oklahoma secretary of education and workforce development. “Credentials are the communications tool between employers and potential employees. They also help education providers with understanding specific business needs. Industry credentials are the currency of workplace employment transactions.”

The CareerTech System offers paths to many different credentials, many of which are industry-certified or aligned to state or national standards. For the 2013-14 school year, more than 600 certification assessments are available to CareerTech students.

CareerTech offers preparation for all of the certification assessments, although technology centers administer only some of the tests, said Jennifer Nuttle, CareerTech assessment manager. Other agencies and industry organizations administer the other assessments.

CareerTech prepares students for six different kinds of assessments, five of which are industry-recognized, -administered or -endorsed or are aligned with national industry standards or state standards. The sixth type of assessment includes end-of-instruction tests developed by CareerTech that do not align to industry standards, usually because no standards have been created, said Kimberly Sadler, CareerTech associate state director for instructional systems.

In those cases, Nuttle said, “CareerTech works with industry employers to develop standards that will drive test development.”

Experts in the subject write the tests, and a panel of experts reviews them, she said.

“Since most CareerTech instructors were employed in the industry prior to teaching, they are an invaluable resource during the test development and review process,” she added.

CareerTech’s assessments also include the Oklahoma Career Readiness Certificate, which can be earned by taking three assessments in the ACT WorkKeys system: applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. The certificate is endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, NCCER and the Center for Energy Workforce Development.

“We offer the CRC as an avenue to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans,” said Susan Kuzmic, CareerTech CRC project specialist. “The job seeker has an opportunity to find out what skills he or she has and develop a road map for improvement. The CRC also takes the guesswork out of hiring for the employer and streamlines the hiring and promotion process.”

David Forgety, human resources manager at VF Jeanswear Seminole Distribution Center, said CRCs have helped his company reduce job training time and improve productivity and earnings because VF Jeanswear can identify applicants who already have a foundation of skills they need to do the job.
The number of students earning credentials through CareerTech is hard to come by because not all of the assessments are offered through CareerTech – or even at technology centers where the students learned the material. Privacy concerns often keep testing entities from releasing results to third parties, which means CareerTech must rely on students to report the information, Nuttle said.

“This makes it difficult not only to accurately determine the number of students taking outside industry-recognized tests, but also those receiving credentials as a result of passing one of these tests,” she explained.
In recent years, state and national legislation and initiatives have called for more assessments to ensure that students are ready for the workplace. CareerTech is well-placed to take on that task, Sommers said.

“CareerTech is especially well-suited to help individuals learn the academic and technical content required for industry-driven credentials and certificates,” he said. “These credentials, especially those that are gatekeepers to employment within a profession, are valuable to individuals seeking employment. They are also valuable to employers trying to make well-informed employment decisions.”

For more information about the CareerTech System, visit www.okcareertech.org


Youth Deer Hunts OklahomaYouth hunters and their mentors have been heading to the woods for the youth deer gun season for an entire decade now, and over the years this hunting opportunity has become an important part of Oklahoma's outdoor heritage. This year, the unique chance for youth to hunt deer with a firearm before anybody else runs Oct. 18-20.

The youth deer gun season made its debut as a three-day antlerless hunt in 2003. Since then it has grown in popularity and has also become an opportunity for youth to hunt both bucks and does in the same season, enjoying a limit of two deer (no more than one of which can be a buck). Last year, youth gun season hunters harvested almost 5,000 deer.

The youth season is open to hunters under 18 years of age who are accompanied by a hunter 18 years or older.

"The youth deer gun season is a win-win for Oklahoma," says Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "It provides an opportunity for youth to go hunting and emphasizes mentorship in the sport of hunting. It's also good practice for the regular deer gun season because if they don't harvest a deer, they can use their unfilled youth deer gun license during the regular deer gun season in November."

Hunters who do harvest a deer during the youth deer gun season may purchase another youth deer gun license and harvest a deer during the regular gun season. Complete details and regulations for the season, including information about the apprentice-designated hunting license that allows certain youth to hunt without having first completed the Oklahoma hunter education course, can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com or anywhere hunting licenses are sold.   

A detailed guide to participating during the youth deer gun season is printed in the current issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, and a link to the article is provided at the end of this report. Outdoor Oklahoma magazine is the official magazine of the Wildlife Department and focuses on information pertaining to hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation in Oklahoma.

"Along with getting the annual "Big Game Report" article, subscribers get a lot of other news and details about Oklahoma's outdoors from Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, which makes it a great gift for any youth hunter you might be mentoring during the youth deer gun season," said Michael Bergin, associate editor of Outdoor Oklahoma. "It's just $10 a year."

Subscriptions to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine are available by calling 1-800-777-0019.

Michael Norman caught this whitetail buck on a trail camera and shared it on the Wildlife Department's Facebook page, along with the question,"Wait until next year?"
Taming the temptation to harvest the first thing with antlers that walks into range is not something easily done for most deer hunters. But recent data indicate that Oklahoma hunters are harvesting fewer yearling bucks.

Indeed, deer hunters are realizing that each time they pull the trigger or let an arrow fly, they are making a management decision that can influence the deer herd in the future, and make future hunts more successful, too.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has embarked on a public awareness campaign to influence deer hunters to think about their choice before deciding to harvest a deer. The slogan "Hunters in the know ... let young bucks grow!" is intended to emphasize that herd management means more than simply harvesting more antlerless deer.

As the Oct. 1 opening day for archery deer season nears, hunters are being reminded that when they harvest a deer, they are in essence making a wildlife management decision that can affect future successes. Through its Facebook page, the Wildlife Department recently invited deer hunters to share their stories about passing up the first buck they saw when hunting.

"My theory has always been you will never kill a big one if you kill it before it grows," Michael Musgrove wrote. "I let five smaller bucks walk; killed a 155-inch with my Matthews during primitive, and had a bigger one pass by outside of recurve range a week later."

Matt Martinsen wrote that hunting is getting better every year. "If more people just let the little-basket eights or smaller walk, the deer woods would be so much better." Martinsen passed up "at least 10 different little guys last season, and shot one buck (130 inches) and five does."

Beatrice Loftin and her husband try to practice good deer management on their hunting property, and they make judgments about a buck's age before deciding whether to shoot. "This is good practice because it allows the deer to grow so they can 'be all they can be.'"

During the first week of the 2012 archery deer season, Caryn Williams of Coweta was faced with a tough decision while hunting. "I watched a real large-bodied six-point stop about 25 yards in front of me. I had a good opportunity to take him, but I passed. Looking at his rather large body, I kept thinking, 'Wow, if this guy has this nice of a body, and he appears to be only a year or two old, by next year he should be a beautiful typical, rather-large eight-point.' 

"I have never shot a buck that I would consider a wall-hanger, so I decided it would be a waste to kill him just for the meat, because next year he should be meat plus a nice trophy!" Williams wrote. "Hopefully he is growing a perfect eight or 10 points, and we will get to meet again this year!"

In March, the Quality Deer Management Association recognized Oklahoma in a report showing that bucks aged 3.5 years and older comprised 51 percent of the state's total buck harvest in 2011. Wildlife Department deer harvest data also show that the percentage of yearlings in the total buck harvest has continually declined over the years, from nearly 70 percent in the late 1980s to just 25 percent in 2011. (See accompanying graphs.)
Erik Bartholomew, the Wildlife Department's big-game biologist, said the fact that fewer younger bucks being harvested indicates that Oklahomans are enjoying good hunting opportunities.

"Hunters are better educated, and they are being more selective about what they harvest," Bartholomew said.
Hunter Drew Turner wrote that he has passed on numerous small bucks. "The most exciting thing I've ever done while hunting was let that first six-point walk on by with the intention of letting him grow."
Matt Ross made the choice to wait many times during the season. "I probably passed up more than a dozen bucks, all within bow range," he wrote. "Several were nice eight-points, just not quite old enough. I ended up shooting an old gnarly buck with a broken nose."
Despite deciding to pass up several smaller bucks, Emery Lamunyon of Luther wrote that "all in all, I had a great year!" He ended up with two nice does in the freezer.
Bartholomew said the state's 250,000 deer hunters can continue to improve the health and structure of the deer population by making conscientious decisions about what they are harvesting. "We encourage hunters to continue thinking about the bucks they are harvesting each year. Ask yourself each time you see a buck, 'Is he the one I want?' and look for opportunities to pass on younger bucks in order to wait for an older one."
The Wildlife Department urges hunters to visit its Facebook page, which is a great resource for those who want to see photos of older, larger bucks. The Department shares photos submitted by visitors, especially on "Trail Cam Tuesdays" when deer photos take center stage.
Hunter Kris Spivey summed up "letting young bucks grow" and the notion of putting some serious thought into a decision about whether to harvest a deer. "It might take three seconds, three minutes or three years, but patience will bring a big buck."

Join Waco 4 State Trail Ride wants to invite the Okmulgee area to a Trail Ride, Camp out, & Music Fest on Oct 4-5, 2013 at Dry Branch Farm, 1173 Clater Powell Rd, Waco, Tx 76705.

This will be a 2 day Fun filled Weekend for the Whole Family & No Horse is required.

There will be Live Country, Zydeco, & Blues Bands featuring The Chris Low Band, Rue Davis, Jabo, Ruben Moreno & The Re-Evolution Band. There will be Cash prizes, trophies a BBQ Pit raffle, a Kids Zone, & much more!

Delicious food & cold drinks $10 a day, or $15 for the weekend,  Kids 5 & under Free!Gates open 11:30am Fri, all day Sat. close both day at 2am.

Go to www.waco4statetrailride.com

Congressman Markwayne Mullin Comments on
Passage of Continuing Resolution that Defunds Obamacare

WASHINGTON—Congressman Markwayne Mullin made the following statement after the House passed H.J.R. 59, a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare and allows the federal government to remain open.

“There was no hesitation when it came to supporting this continuing resolution. Families and business owners across the nation were once told that under Obamacare they could keep their own insurance, that their premiums would go down and that this health care mandate would be budget neutral. We have seen too many examples where this will not be the case. In each of the 26 town halls I recently held throughout the Second District, I heard countless stories of how Obamacare is already crippling budgets and proving to be unworkable and unsustainable. The House stood with the American people today in voting to protect our nation from a burdensome mandate that will bankrupt our economy.”

Thanks to a $1.8 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery V federal grant, also known as TIGER, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will be making improvements to 15 miles of state-owned track between Erick and Sayre in Beckham County. Rail upgrades allow effective transportation of more products from western Oklahoma’s thriving energy and agriculture industries.

        New freight rail and public transit projects are coming to Oklahoma, thanks to two Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery V (TIGER) grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation was recently awarded a more than $1.8 million TIGER grant for freight rail upgrades to a previously unusable section of railroad in Beckham County and the City of Oklahoma City received a $13.6 million grant for the creation of a public transit hub.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who visited Oklahoma in late August to view the state’s transportation progress, announced the TIGER grant recipients on Sept. 5. A highly-competitive selection process was used to award the TIGER grants to only a handful of projects out of hundreds of applicants. A total of $474 million in discretionary grant funding was awarded to 52 projects in 37 states.

The TIGER grant awarded to ODOT will allow improvements to be made to 15 miles of state-owned track between Erick and Sayre, a section that has been out of service for a decade. Reopening of this railway will connect Erick to the freight rail corridor that serves major cities in western Oklahoma and was improved in 2012, when ODOT received a $6.75 million TIGER grant for rail upgrades between Clinton and Sayre. Construction associated with the recent TIGER grant is expected to begin in early 2014.

“Thanks to this TIGER grant, more communities will be connected by freight rail, which can grow existing businesses and bring in new businesses,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “Railroad upgrades in western Oklahoma will allow more products from the area’s thriving energy and agriculture industries to be transported safely and efficiently by train.”
The City of Oklahoma City was also selected to receive a $13.6 million TIGER grant to help create an intermodal transit hub at the Santa Fe Depot. The station is located in downtown Oklahoma City and houses Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, the state’s passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. Construction of the transit hub will combine the federal grant with funds from the city, ODOT and the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

“I applaud Oklahoma City for the initiative it is taking and we are proud to partner with them to improve public transit in the metropolitan area,” Patterson said. “Creation of this transit hub will actually benefit many areas of the state by linking the Heartland Flyer with other transportation options.”
Since inception of the TIGER program, Oklahoma has been successful in receiving grants benefiting several modes of transportation. Since 2009, nearly $78 million in TIGER grants have come to the state. In 2010, ODOT was awarded a nearly $50 million federal grant for construction of the new multi-modal bridge on I-244 over the Arkansas River in downtown Tulsa. The first of its kind constructed in the state, the double-decker bridge supports automobile, pedestrian and future passenger rail traffic. The department also assisted the Port of Catoosa in obtaining a $6.4 million TIGER grant to improve one of the nation’s largest and most inland ports.

A $13.6 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery V (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation was recently awarded to the City of Oklahoma City to construct an intermodal transit hub at the Santa Fe Depot. Located in downtown Oklahoma City, the depot houses Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, the state’s passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas. Construction of the transit hub will combine the TIGER grant with funds from the city, Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 08:16

Masters at Work Creating Beads of Courage Boxes

Broken Bow - A heartwarming combination of wood artistry and a project benefitting children with serious illnesses is coming together during a special competition and exhibit at the Oklahoma Forest Heritage Center in Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow. The Masters at Work: Woodturning Competition is partnering with the Beads of Courage program as artists from eight states including Oklahoma compete in four different categories.
What makes this year unique is the partnership with Beads of Courage, a program that began in 2004 to help children battling life-threatening illnesses. The program started in Arizona when Jean Baruch was working on her PhD in nursing and spent a summer helping with Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. She enlisted the help of the Arizona Society of Glass Beadmakers to create handmade beads to be given to patients as they move through different parts of their medical journey.  Each bead represents a different treatment milestone.
A child may receive hundreds of beads and that is how the idea of beautiful boxes started. Woodturning clubs across the region got involved and answered the call to create boxes for children to store their beads. The program has made it all the way to southeast Oklahoma; serving as inspiration for this five week exhibit.
“This year’s exhibit is really special to all of us,” said Doug Zook, FHC Program Director. “The boxes will be donated to the Beads of Courage program and a child participating in the program will be one of the judges for the competition.”
This special event kicked off Sunday, Sept. 15 with a reception to announce the competition winners. The exhibit remains open and free to the public until October 20. Over 100 boxes displayed in the exhibit will be sent to Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City and Saint Francis Children’s Hospital in Tulsa to be distributed to children.
“The Forest Heritage Center has been working diligently to increase awareness of woodturning as an art form. By implementing a competitive twist while working with the Bead of Courage Program, we hope to increase public interest while providing a unique and creative challenge for our artists,” said Zook.
This exhibit promises to be an enjoyable event that will showcase wood art. Gallery hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 10a.m. – 4p.m. and Sunday 1p.m. – 4:p.m. For more information contact the Forest Heritage Center at 580-494-6497.

This exhibit is made possible in part by Oklahoma Forestry Services, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, Oklahoma Arts Council, Regional Arts Council, Wood World of Texas and the Forest Heritage Center Advisory Board and staff. The Oklahoma Forest Heritage Center is part of Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and is located just north of Broken Bow.