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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Health
1:06 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Death Toll From Flu In Oklahoma Rises To 51

Credit NHSE / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports three more deaths in the state due to the flu.

The department said Thursday that 51 people have died as a result of the flu during the current flu season to add to the record number of flu-related deaths.

The previous record of 46 flu-related deaths in 2009 was broken last week.

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State Capitol
12:19 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Senate Approves Quarter Percent Oklahoma Income Tax Cut

The Senate passed a bill by Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) that would lower Oklahoma's income tax rate to below 5 percent if the state’s economy continues to improve.
Credit Oklahoma Senate

KGOU's Kurt Gwartney reports Senate Democrats focused their questions about the tax cut bill on the lack of funding for core state services like education and public safety.

The state Senate approved a bill Thursday morning that would cut the Oklahoma income tax rate a quarter of a percent down to five. The bill passed on a 32-10 margin, with mostly Democrats opposing it.

Minority leader Sean Burrage (D-Claremore) argued nearly 40 percent of residents won't see any tax break, and would rather have the state pay for good schools, rather than receive less than $100 back on their income taxes. 

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StateImpact Oklahoma
10:09 am
Thu February 27, 2014

The Reason Toxic ‘Releases’ Are Up In Oklahoma, And Why It’s Not That Scary

Toxic waste from New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin is brought by rail to Oklahoma, where it's treated and stored at the Lone Mountain Landfill.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

New data from the federal government show a drop in the amount of toxic chemicals being released into the nation’s air, water and land. In Oklahoma, however, so-called toxic “releases” have soared.

But it’s not as scary as it sounds.

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OneSix8
9:24 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Entertaining The Hours Of Your Week With Beatlemania, Mardi Gras And Native Film

Credit Ludovic Bertron / Flickr Creative Commons

The 20th annual Norman Mardi Gras Parade hits Main Street Saturday, March 1 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. This year’s theme, “Come Together! Que l’on se Rassemble”, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in the United States. 

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The Salt
6:36 am
Thu February 27, 2014

First Look: The FDA's Nutrition Label Gets A Makeover

The proposed Nutrition Facts label (right) has a few subtle differences from the current label, including bolder calorie counts and added sugar information.
Food and Drug Administration

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 10:33 am

Ready for a reality check about how many calories you're eating or drinking?

The proposed new nutrition facts panel may help.

The Obama administration Thursday released its proposed tweaks to the iconic black and white panel that we're all accustomed to seeing on food packages.

The most visible change is that calorie counts are bigger and bolder — to give them greater emphasis.

In addition, serving sizes start to reflect the way most of us really eat. Take, for example, ice cream. The current serving size is a half-cup. But who eats that little?

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The Two-Way
6:10 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: New Government Takes Shape As Crimea Simmers

Flags fly outside the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol on Thursday during a rally by pro-Russian protesters. Gunmen seized government buildings in the city.
David Mdzinarishvili Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:58 pm

  • On the NPR Newscast: Peter Kenyon reports from Kiev
We're adding updates throughout this post as the day continues.

Tensions continue to rise in Ukraine, where months of public protests led last week to the downfall of President Viktor Yanukovych's government. His opponents are now installing pro-Western ministers to replace the pro-Russian leaders who worked for Yanukovych. The interim government is expected to be in charge at least until new elections can be held, perhaps in late May.

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6:18 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

A Think-Twice Proposal for Divorcing Couples

Lead in text: 
A house committee has approved a bill that would require couples with children considering divorce to take a course on the effects of divorce on children.
Feb. 26: Bill Would Require Marriage Program A House committee has approved a bill that would require certain couples who have children and are seeking a divorce to go through an Oklahoma Marriage Initiative program before the divorce is granted. House Bill 2249 by Rep.
Worried about out-of-state influences
4:15 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Rep. Joe Dorman Criticizes Common Core National Standards

Credit Oklahoma State Legislature

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Joe Dorman is criticizing a set of national educational standards in math and English known as common core.

The Rush Springs Democrat criticized the standards Wednesday as "an unfunded nightmare." Dorman is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

The standards are part of an initiative of the National Governors Association, which is currently chaired by Fallin. They have been adopted in 45 states, including Oklahoma, but there has been growing opposition to them, especially among conservatives.

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The Two-Way
2:19 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Federal Judge Voids Texas Gay Marriage Ban

Couples Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman and Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss speak with reporters outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in San Antonio earlier this month. The judge in their case ruled Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional Wednesday.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 6:01 am

Saying that a Texas law barring same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and demeans the dignity of homosexuals, a federal judge struck down the law Wednesday. The ruling from U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia doesn't mean gay marriages can be held in Texas, however; he placed a stay on the decision, anticipating an appeal by the state.

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State Capitol
1:27 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Texting-While-Driving Ban Passes Oklahoma House Committee

Credit IntelFreePress / Flickr Creative Commons

An Oklahoma House committee has passed a bill that would prohibit texting, emailing and instant messaging while driving a vehicle.

The House Public Safety Committee voted 8-4 Wednesday and sent the bill to the full House for a vote.

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