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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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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Shots - Health News
2:03 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Rep. Waxman Leaves Behind A Legacy Of Health Laws

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California stands in his Capitol Hill office beside a wall displaying his legislative accomplishments. Waxman, 74, said Thursday that he would retire after 40 years in the House of Representatives.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 10:43 am

California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, one of the last remaining members of the huge post-Watergate class of 1974, is calling it quits at the end of this term.

Most people who live outside his Los Angeles district and off Capitol Hill have likely never heard of Waxman. He was never a fixture on the Sunday talk shows, or in Washington's social scene.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:08 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Feds Investigating Tulsa's Avalon Halfway House

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. More Oklahoma Watch content can be found at www.oklahomawatch.org

Federal investigators are looking into allegations against a Tulsa halfway house that resulted in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pulling its inmates from the facility, Oklahoma Watch has learned.

Edward Evans, acting director of the Corrections Department, told legislators at a House public-safety subcommittee meeting Tuesday that the federal government was investigating issues at the Avalon Correctional Services facility in Tulsa.

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School Storm Shelters Still Controversy
6:46 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Legislative Leaders Don't Agree On All Oklahoma Mandates

Credit Katsrcool / Flickr.com

Legislative leaders in Oklahoma say not all mandates are equal.

House and Senate leaders say it's appropriate for Oklahoma to set academic guidelines, but they don't see telling school districts that they must build storm shelters.

Two competing shelter plans have emerged ahead of next week's opening of the Oklahoma Legislature. One legislator's plan would see the state raise $500 million, while one by Gov. Mary Fallin would let districts raise more money locally.

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First Elected In 2006
6:34 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

State Sen. Tom Ivestor Will Not Seek Re-Election

Credit Oklahoma Senate

State Sen. Tom Ivester of Sayre says he will not seek re-election to his Senate seat.

Ivester is a Democrat from Sayre who was first elected in 2006. He is eligible to serve one more term before term limits would affect him.

Ivester said in a statement released Thursday that he and his wife have decided it's time for someone else to represent the district and that he wants to spend more time with his family.

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World Views
3:55 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Iranian, Palestinian Authors Reflect On Migration And Identity In Literature

Laleh Khadivi reading from her work during the 2013 Neustadt Festival - October 30, 2013.
Credit Jen Rickard Blair / World Literature Today

Listen to Suzette Grillot's conversation with Laleh Khadivi and Fady Joudah.

Novelist Laleh Khadivi grew up with a Kurdish father, and was raised in a “household full of stories” about that experience, even though she identifies more with her Iranian heritage.

She’s in the process of completing a trilogy of novels exploring Kurdish migration. Khadivi’s research examines the challenges the modern state system places on diaspora communities.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:48 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Oklahoma Attorney General Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Review Air Pollution Ruling

The Grand River Dam Authority's coal-fired plant in Chouteau, Okla., which is impacted by the Regional Haze Rule.
Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Oklahoma’s largest utility company, OG&E,have been fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Haze Rule since the federal agency rejected Oklahoma’s plan to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution at its coal-fired power plants in 2011.

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The Two-Way
8:41 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Economy Ended 2013 With Growth Still Strong, Data Suggest

FedEx employees sorted through mounds of packages in December at one of the company's facilities in Miami. Consumer spending helped fuel the economy in the third quarter. Gross domestic product grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate (a figure that adjusts for holiday spending to show the "real" growth).
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 8:36 am

The U.S. economy grew at a healthy 3.2 percent annual rate in fourth-quarter 2013, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday morning.

Coming on the heels of the third quarter's even better 4.1 percent pace, the news suggests the economy finished 2013 in better shape than it had been a year earlier.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:29 am
Thu January 30, 2014

The Legacy And Challenges Of A State Question That Shapes Bills Decades Later

Credit LLudo / Flickr Creative Commons

When the 2014 legislative session starts Feb. 3, state lawmakers will face more than 2,000 bills and resolutions, and are expected to have $170 million less to spend than last year. They will also be confronted by agency heads, most of which will argue, publicly, for more money.

Many of the bills under consideration this year address revenue and spending, directly. Republican measures to cut the income tax, for example, or gross production taxes on oil and gas activity the energy industry would like to reduce.

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The Salt
7:38 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Meet The Cronut's Humble Offspring: The Doughscuit!

The honey-glazed doughscuit is a combination of "doughnut," "biscuit" and "life-changing."
NPR

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 10:11 am

I first met the doughscuit at last weekend's Donut Fest in Chicago, where 15 doughnut-makers get together to try to kill you, for charity. They serve 1/4 portions of doughnuts, but still, after a few tables you feel yourself slowing down and thinking there's no way you'll make it through.

Everything starts to taste the same. Your mustache, if you have a mustache, is glazed. You look around at the thousands of doughnuts and wonder if you totaled up the calories in this room, how many delicious pounds it would be.

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