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 Edge
2:31 am
Thu January 30, 2014

'Mariachi Olympic Prince' Takes Glamour To Sochi Ski Slopes

Mexican-born Hubertus Von Hohenlohe, a German prince, plans to ski in style for the Winter Olympics.
Courtesy of Alex Jorio

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 7:38 am

In Sochi, Russia, Hubertus Von Hohenlohe will compete in his sixth Winter Olympics. The 55-year-old downhill skier and German prince won't be skiing under the flag of his royal heritage, however. He'll be with the team of his birthplace, Mexico.

In honor of his Querido Mexico (beloved homeland), Hohenlohe says he will race down the Russian slopes decked out in a state-of-the-art mariachi ski suit.

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Seeking House's Top Seat
6:27 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Trio Of Republicans Want To Lead The House If Current Speaker Steps Down

Credit zrim / Flickr.com

At least three House Republicans are trying to line up support from their GOP colleagues to become the next leader of the House in case current Speaker T.W. Shannon steps down.

Reps. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma, Mike Jackson of Enid, and Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City all confirmed Wednesday they are interested in seeking the House's top spot should Shannon resign.

Shannon announced Wednesday that he is running for the U.S. Senate.

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Seeger Died Monday
5:00 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Woody Guthrie Center Moving Forward With Plans To Honor Pete Seeger

Credit PAVDW / Flickr.com

The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa says it is moving forward with plans to honor American folk singer Pete Seeger next month.

Seeger was scheduled to be the first recipient of the inaugural Woody Guthrie Prize at an event Feb. 22 at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York. Seeger died Monday at the age of 94.

Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, says event guests won't just take a moment of silence to honor Seeger, but will honor him by singing.

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Agriculture Policy
12:57 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Oklahoma Delegation Splits As House Passes Compromise Farm Bill

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
Credit Carl Sandburg College / Flickr Creative Commons

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a five-year farm bill, and Oklahoma's all-Republican House delegation split on the nearly $100 billion-a-year legislation.

The measure included small cuts to the food stamps program, and preserved some farm subsidies. The vote in the House was 251-166.

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State Capitol
11:40 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Fallin Proposes Election For School Safety Plan

Gov. Mary Fallin addresses reporters during Tuesday's Associated Press Legislative Forum at the State Capitol.
Credit Governor Mary Fallin / Facebook

Gov. Mary Fallin says Oklahoma voters should weigh in on what to do about school safety.

Fallin on Wednesday suggested that schools be given one-time authority to increase their bond limits so they can build tornado shelters or make other safety improvements on campus. She said she was heartbroken by the loss of life at a Moore elementary school last May.

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Same-Sex Marriage
11:29 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Appeals Judges To Hear Oklahoma, Utah Gay Marriage Cases

Credit Cavan Images / Flickr Creative Commons

Appeals of same-sex marriage rulings from Oklahoma and Utah will be heard by the same panel of federal judges.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Tuesday saying the briefing and hearings will remain separate in the two cases.

Federal judges in both states recently overturned same-sex marriage bans passed by voters in 2004.

Both cases are on expedited schedules. A decision on Utah's ruling is expected in a few months.

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Affordable Care Act
10:36 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Oklahoma AG Files Brief In Hobby Lobby Case

Credit Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt / Facebook

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed a brief in support of Hobby Lobby as its challenge to a portion of the Affordable Care Act moves forward at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hobby Lobby is challenging a portion of the nation's new health care law that would require it to supply certain types of contraception to its employees. The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in March.

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U.S. Senate
9:53 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Bridenstine Says He Won't Run For Open Senate Seat

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) speaking during a 2013 town hall meeting.
Credit Congressman Jim Bridenstine / Facebook

Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine says he won't run for the Oklahoma U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn.

Bridenstine said Wednesday in a statement that he has been "honored and overwhelmed" by people encouraging him to run ever since Coburn announced his resignation earlier this month. But Bridenstine said he decided not to enter the race after "serious consideration and prayer."

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Politics and Government
7:46 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Oklahoma Congressional Delegation Not Impressed With State Of The Union

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

Most of Oklahoma’s all-Republican Congressional delegation panned President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address he delivered to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe says the President made it clear he would continue to bypass Congress, and use a “pen and phone” to get work done. Inhofe says Americans will see this play out with a Climate Action Plan the president unveiled last summer.

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It's All Politics
5:29 am
Wed January 29, 2014

5 Things We Learned From The President's Speech

President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Larry Downing Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 8:21 am

Much of what was in President Obama's fifth State of the Union address was expected — it was signaled for days leading into the speech. Even so, there were a few revealing moments.

Here are five that stood out:

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