Special Report: Auditing The Disaster Aid For 2013 Tornadoes And Storms

Federal public-assistance funds are paying for the rebuilding of Plaza Towers Elementary School, in which seven children died in the May 20, 2013, tornado. The school is expected to open next month.
Clifton Adcock Oklahoma Watch

The tornadoes and storms that devastated Oklahoma and killed 34 last year triggered the release of tens of millions of dollars in federal and state aid that will keep flowing for years.

To date, the federal government has approved up to $257 million in disaster assistance of various kinds to help re build damage and help victims of the winds and flooding that struck between May 18 and June 2, 2013, and to mitigate future risks.

The state has contributed an additional $10.5 million, and private insurers are paying about $1.1 billion. Charities also have pumped in aid.

The relief aid stemming from Disaster No. 4117, as it is called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is arriving through several channels, heading ultimately to state and local agencies, contractors, businesses and individuals.

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Bill Passes on second try
4:07 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Oklahoma House Passes Bill To Extend Tax Credit To Film Industry

Credit popturfdotcom / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma House has — on its second try — passed a bill to extend a tax credit for the film industry.

The House voted 65-28 for the measure Tuesday after reconsidering the bill. It had fallen three votes short of passing on Monday.

The state provides rebates to filmmakers amounting to $1 for every $3 dollars they spend on movie productions in Oklahoma, up to a total of $5 million. The program is scheduled to expire July 1. The bill by Republican Rep. Todd Thomsen of Ada extends the credit for 10 years to 2024.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:28 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Most Of The State Abnormally Dry As Drought Creeps East Into Oklahoma City

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map of Oklahoma as of February 25, 2014.
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor

Save for a tiny corner of far southeast Oklahoma, the entire state is either abnormally dry, or already in drought.

Areas of severe, extreme, and exceptional drought, the worst categories, are still confined to the western part of the state, with far southwest Oklahoma suffering the most. But the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show moderate drought conditions moving east and into Oklahoma City.

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The Two-Way
1:09 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

After 5-Decade Career, NPR's Carl Kasell Will Retire

Doby Photography NPR

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 1:33 pm

After a five-decade career in broadcasting, Carl Kasell announced his retirement on Tuesday.

Carl will record his final broadcast for Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! this spring. He will, however, remain "scorekeeper emeritus" for the show. Before becoming the official scorekeeper for the NPR news quiz show in 1998, Carl anchored the newscast for Morning Edition.

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Oklahoma News
12:42 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Hearing On Oklahoma Executions Moved To U.S. Court

Credit T Woodard / Flickr Creative Commons

A lawsuit challenging Oklahoma's law that shields details of drugs used in executions has been moved to federal court.

The suit filed by death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner was set for a hearing Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court, but the hearing was canceled after the case was transferred to federal court at the request of the state.

Lockett faces a March 20 execution while Warner is set to be executed March 27.

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The Two-Way
11:57 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Obama's $3.9 Trillion Budget Would Produce $564 Billion Deficit

Copies of President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal 2015, after they were delivered to the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 12:53 pm

As expected, President Obama on Tuesday unveiled a $3.9 trillion budget plan for fiscal 2015 that his number crunchers say would produce a $564 billion deficit.

The gap between spending and revenue, while large, would be down from more than $744 billion this fiscal year and a record $1.4 trillion in 2009 — a fiscal year that began when President George W. Bush was still in office. Since then, deficits during the Obama years have topped $1 trillion three times.

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The Two-Way
10:31 am
Tue March 4, 2014

At Last, No News Is Good News When It Comes To The Weather

For one day at least, an "all clear" has been issued.
National Weather Service

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 8:37 am

We wouldn't normally post a map that basically says there's nothing happening.

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Oklahoma News
9:06 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Oklahoma City Airport Lands New Flights To North Carolina

Credit BriYYZ / Flickr Creative Commons

New nonstop flights to Charlotte, N.C., are coming this summer to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

The new service will be operated by US Airways Express and regional partner Mesa Airlines. US Airways merged with American Airlines in December, forming American Airlines Group Inc.

The airlines say the new flights will begin July 2. The service includes two departures and two arrivals daily to and from Charlotte. The Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft seats up to 70 passengers and includes nine first-class seats.

Flights will be open for sale beginning Saturday.

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Oklahoma News
8:00 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Pro-Pot Petition Seeks To Decriminalize Cannabis In Oklahoma City

Proponent Brittney Guest signs the petition to decriminalize marijuana in Oklahoma City at City Hall Monday afternoon.
Credit Provided / Reform OKC

A group of marijuana advocates filed an initiative petition Monday to decriminalize marijuana in Oklahoma City.

Reform OKC will start gathering signatures Friday.

State Senator Constance Johnson (D-Oklahoma City) has been an outspoken supporter of cannabis legalization at the state Capitol. She says Oklahoma City’s petition could pave the way for a larger, statewide effort to legalize the drug.

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Monkey See
6:11 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Book Club Meeting: Come Talk About Steinbeck's 'Grapes Of Wrath'

The Grapes Of Wrath opens in Dust Bowl Oklahoma.
AP

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 3:44 pm

Late last week, an email exchange between NPR Books' team members went something like this:

Camila: OH MY GOD PIGS EAT BABIES!?!?

Nicole: YUP. But then, later, people eat pigs. So, does that make them even?

Colin: I trust this isn't a spoiler. Ahem.

Tanya: SPOILERS PEOPLE.

Camila: Not a spoiler cus it's NOT EVEN A BIG DEAL. That's the worst part. It's just like "Oh yeah, remember the time that pig ate that baby? Memories."

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Some House Committees Get New Leaders
6:19 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

New Speaker Of The House Hickman Announces Changes In Leadership

Credit Oklahoma State Legislature

The newly elected speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has announced several changes to the chairs and vice chairs of various House committees.

Republican Speaker Jeff Hickman announced the leadership changes on Tuesday.

Among the major changes were Norman Rep. Aaron Stiles replacing Rep. Leslie Osborn as chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Mike Reynolds replacing Rep. Jason Murphey as chair of the Government Modernization and Accountability Committee. Osborn will now chair a budget subcommittee instead.

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