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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Energy
7:06 am
Sat February 1, 2014

State Dept. Delivers Unwelcome News For Keystone Opponents

A protest of the Keystone XL pipeline last March along its proposed route near Bradshaw, Nebraska.
NH AP

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 10:45 pm

The U.S. Department of State says Canada's production of tar sands crude, which has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than other types of oil, is unlikely to be affected by the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

That assessment came Friday as part of a massive environmental review by the State Department — the analysis fills 11 volumes.

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Five Oil And Gas Companies Pledge Land
6:15 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Lesser Prairie Chicken Gets 1.5 Million Acres

Credit USDAgov / Flickr.com

Five oil and gas companies have pledged to give 1.5 million acres of land in five states toward conservation of lesser prairie chicken habitat.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says in a statement Friday this represents the first enrollment in a broad state initiative that aims to engage ranchers, landowners and the oil and gas industry in a sweeping conservation effort designed to prevent the chicken from being federally protected as a threatened species.

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Study Says No Major Environmental Concerns
4:13 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Fallin Calls For Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline

Oil Pipeline Pumping Station
Credit shannonpatrick17 / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin is calling on the Obama Administration to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Fallin renewed calls to approve the project Friday after the State Department released a study raising no major environmental objections to the project. The crude oil pipeline would run through Cushing and connect oil reserves in Canada to markets throughout the United States, ending on the Gulf Coast.

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The Two-Way
2:33 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

U.S. Issues Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Review

Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline's southern portion outside Tulsa, Okla., last January.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 4:11 pm

The State Department says that production of Canadian tar-sand crude, which has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than other types of oil, is unlikely to be increased if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead — and therefore would do little to contribute to climate change.

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World Views
1:28 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Criticism And Contradiction Cloud State Of The Union’s Foreign Policy

President Obama delivers his 2014 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday, January 28, 2014.
Credit The White House / YouTube

President Obama’s international outlook remains heavily oriented toward decreasing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. In his State of the Union address, the president promised to declare an end to the 12-year war in Afghanistan.

Joshua Landis, the author of Syria Comment and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says President Obama’s address “claimed big successes” in a September Syria chemical weapons deal and a November interim agreement with Iran halting uranium enrichment programs in exchange for lifted sanctions.

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Public Schools
10:45 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Oklahoma Per-Pupil School Spending Remains Below 2009 Levels

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi
Credit Oklahoma Department of Education

 Oklahoma's Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is outlining the agency's request for nearly $175 million in new funding for public schools in next year's budget.

Barresi testified Thursday before a House budget subcommittee responsible for overseeing funding for K-12 schools in Oklahoma.

The Department of Education received about $2.4 billion appropriation for the current fiscal year. The agency is requesting $2.57 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

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U.S. Senate
9:01 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Inhofe Fundraising: $1.6 Million Campaign Cash On Hand

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Credit Gage Skidmore / Flickr

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe says he raised more than $400,000 for his re-election campaign during the last three months of 2013.

Inhofe's campaign released his financial report on Thursday that shows the Tulsa Republican had nearly $1.6 million in cash on hand at the end of the period, which covers campaign contributions and expenditures from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

The federal campaign finance reports are not due until midnight Friday, but Inhofe's campaign released the report early.

Inhofe reported total receipts of more than $3.5 million for the election cycle to date.

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State Capitol
7:57 am
Fri January 31, 2014

After Friday, New Oklahoma Workers' Compensation System Begins

Credit James Martin / Flickr

Oklahoma workers who are injured on the job soon will have their legal claims handled through a new administrative system instead of the current court-based system.

The Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission will begin handling claims for any employee injured on the job after Friday. Workers with injury dates before Feb. 1 will be handled in the court system that is being renamed the Court of Existing Claims.

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7:53 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Keystone Report Said Likely To Disappoint Foes On Climate

Lead in text: 
Bloomberg News reports the State Department's document on the pipeline will "likely disappoint" opponents of the Keystone XL. Several people familiar with the report have told Bloomberg News the study will say that the pipeline will have only a minimal affect on carbon emissions. President Obama has said he would take the report's conclusion on the Keystone XL's impact on climate change while deciding whether to allow construction. Once the State Department is released, it kicks off another review for the President focused on whether the pipeline is in the U-S national interest.
The U.S. State Department is preparing a report that will probably disappoint environmentalists and opponents of the Keystone pipeline, according to people who have been briefed on the draft of the document.
The Two-Way
7:00 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Brain Surgeon Walks 6 Miles Through Storm To Save Patient

Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw, who made a long, cold trek to save his patient in Birmingham, Ala.
Frank Couch AL.com/Landov

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 7:46 am

As cities in the southern U.S. continue to recover from the ice and snow storm that brought life to a standstill in many places this week, stories are emerging about the incredible things some people did to help out others.

Let's start Friday with one of those tales.

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