Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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Says He Was Honored To Be Considered
4:46 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Chickasaw Nation Governor Will Not Run For Senate Seat

Credit Chickasaw Nation

The longtime governor of one of the state's most powerful Native American tribes says he has no plans to run for Oklahoma's open U.S. Senate seat this year.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby released a statement Monday that said while he's honored to be mentioned as a potential candidate, he doesn't intend to run. Anoatubby says he hopes to continue in his role as head of the tribe "if it is the will of the Chickasaw people."

Anoatubby has been governor of the tribe since 1987.

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Indian Times
2:59 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Indian Times: Weekly Review

Credit Susan Shannon

Contempt Charges Dropped Against Dusten Brown

A South Carolina judge has dismissed contempt of court charges filed against the biological father of a young girl caught up in a custody dispute. The contempt case was dropped on Jan. 16 after Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation reached an agreement with Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who are the adoptive parents of 4-year-old Veronica.

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The Two-Way
11:06 am
Mon January 20, 2014

U.S., EU Lift Some Iran Sanctions After Assurances On Uranium

An IAEA team checks the enrichment process inside the uranium enrichment plant Natanz in central Iran on Monday.
Kazem Ghane EPA/Landov

Originally published on Mon January 20, 2014 3:46 pm

This post was updated at 11:40 a.m. ET.

The United States and European Union say they will lift some sanctions against Iran after reports from international inspectors that Tehran has suspended high-level enrichment of uranium under an interim pact to scale back its nuclear program.

The Associated Press reports:

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U.S. Senate
9:54 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Cole, Pruitt Decide Not To Run For U.S. Senate Seat

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
Credit U.S. House of Representatives

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole and Attorney General Scott Pruitt are taking their names out of contention as a possible successor to retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

Both Cole and Pruitt released statements late Sunday saying they would not seek the open seat in 2014, and instead plan to run for re-election to their current posts.

A six-term congressman from Moore, Cole said his seniority in the House and seats on major committees make him more valuable to Oklahoma than he could be as a freshman senator.

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The Two-Way
9:48 am
Mon January 20, 2014

U.N. Rescinds Offer For Iran To Take Part In Syrian Peace Talks

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the media during a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sunday.
Jason Szenes EPA/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 5:06 am

This post was updated at 4:35 p.m. ET.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has withdrawn an invitation to Iran to participate in Syrian peace talks after groups opposing President Bashar Assad's regime threatened a boycott of the discussions if Tehran got a seat at the table.

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Higher Education
9:44 am
Mon January 20, 2014

New Oklahoma Website Shares Research

Credit SHAREOK

The libraries at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma have joined together to create a website that makes published research results easily accessible to the public.

The website includes digital dissertations, faculty publications and research, open-access publications and more.

The project is called SHAREOK and is an effort to make federally funded research results freely available to the public. The White House has called for greater transparency in scientific research projects.

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Tax Cuts
8:41 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Experts Disagree With Movement To Cut Oklahoma Income Taxes

Credit 401(K) 2013 / Flickr Creative Commons

Cutting income taxes. The state's been here before, and quite recently.

"The [Oklahoma] Supreme Court threw the legislature a lifeline by striking down 2032," said Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt at the organization's budget summit last week. 

As passed, House Bill 2032 would have cut the state income tax to 5 percent in 2015 and 4.85 percent after that. The state Supreme Court threw it out in December because it also provided money for capitol repairs.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Animal Welfare Groups Seek Clearer Chain Of Command After May Tornadoes

Credit Animal Resource Center

In the days and weeks following the May 20 tornado, an estimated 850 pets were lost and shuffled between individuals’ homes, triage clinics and shelters. Most of them were eventually reunited with their owners, but eight months later, nearly a third have been adopted by new families, since their original owners were never able to be found. 

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Shots - Health News
2:39 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Can Probiotics Help Soothe Colicky Babies?

You tried burping. You tried bouncing. You tried swaddling. Now what?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 2:53 pm

When Melissa Shenewa and her husband imagined their first weeks with their new baby, they pictured hours of cuddling. Instead, they're enduring hours of inconsolable crying.

Their 6-week-old son, Aladdin, is a colicky baby. He cries for hours, usually in the middle of the night. They've tried everything they could think of. Nothing helps.

"Being a parent when your child is screaming in pain for hours on end and there's nothing you can do, you feel helpless," says Shenewa, 24, who lives in Houston. "You feel like you're not a good parent."

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The Two-Way
5:16 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Obama: Marijuana Is Not 'More Dangerous Than Alcohol'

President Barack Obama.
Getty Images

Originally published on Sun January 19, 2014 3:02 pm

The New Yorker has just dropped an extensive profile of President Obama by David Remnick, who wrote a major book on the president published in 2011.

It's nuanced and touches on issues like gay marriage and Israel and Palestine. But Obama also drops this bombshell about marijuana: "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."

Obama goes on to add more nuance to the statement. Here's the context for the statement:

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