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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World Views
1:32 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Exploring Large-Scale Human Influence On Landscape And Ecology

Erle Ellis investigated nitrogen cycling across an entire village in China under pre-industrial, nitrogen-limiting conditions relative to the nitrogen-saturated conditions of 1994 to assess the role of nitrogen cycling in sustainable agricultural management.
Credit Erle Ellis

Listen to Suzette Grillot's conversation with Erle Ellis.

Over the last three decades, certain environmental scientists have started characterizing a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, to mark the moment when humans started profoundly affecting ecological landscapes.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County ecologist Erle Ellis studies how agriculture, hunting, settlements, and other human activity have changed landscapes. He estimates three-quarters of earth’s land could be characterized as anthropogenic. But even as humans influence their environment, the mass influx of residents into urban centers can reverse that process.

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The Two-Way
12:53 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Senate Votes To Move Ahead On Extending Unemployment Benefits

President Obama listens as Katherine Hackett of Moodus, Conn., speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Tuesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 12:25 pm

This post was updated at 12:00 p.m. ET.

A three-month extension of federal unemployment benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans won a key procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

The 60-37 vote indicates there's enough Republican support to move the Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which expired on Dec. 28, forward to a full vote. As The Associated Press writes, the measure "is the leading edge of a Democratic program that also includes raising the minimum wage and closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations."

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Energy
12:02 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

OKC-Based SandRidge Sells Gulf Of Mexico Assets

SandRidge rig drilling for oil near Alva, Oklahoma in the Mississippi Oil Play.
Credit Provided / SandRidge Energy

SandRidge Energy is selling all of its holdings in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company announced early Tuesday morning Fieldwood Energy will pay $750 million in cash and assume $370 million in abandonment liabilities for its Gulf and coastal properties.

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Transportation
10:59 am
Tue January 7, 2014

ODOT No Longer Concerned With Decreasing Trust Fund

Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said Monday they will set aside plans created over the holiday break about how to handle projects or lettings in 2014, after the mid-December budget deal approved by Congress generated some funds for states.

The new budget calls for $9.6 billion to be infused into the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which reimburses ODOT for eligible projects.

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Congress
9:38 am
Tue January 7, 2014

VIDEO: Coburn On Emergency Unemployment Insurance

Senate Democrats are scratching for votes to pass a White House-backed bill that would renew unemployment benefits that lapsed last month for the long-term jobless.

Speaking on Fox & Friends Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says states that have cut the benefits back have lowered their unemployment rate and increased job formation.

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Business and Economy
8:40 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Treasurer: Oklahoma Economy Continues To Improve

State Treasurer Ken Miller
Credit State of Oklahoma

State finance officials say Oklahoma's economy is continuing to grow, but the pace appears to have slowed in 2013.

State Treasurer Ken Miller released figures on Monday that show overall gross collections to the state treasury in 2013 increased by 3.2 percent over the previous year.

Miller says all major sources of revenue saw improvement in 2013, although not as robust as growth during the previous few years.

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State Capitol
7:01 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Group Unveils Satan Statue Design For Oklahoma

Monday the New York-based Satanic Temple unveiled their design for a proposed monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Credit The Satanic Temple / Facebook

A group has unveiled designs for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan that it wants at the Oklahoma state Capitol.

The New York-based Satanic Temple released an artist's rendering of the monument Monday. A spokesman says the group has formally submitted its application to a panel that oversees the Capitol grounds.

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Shots - Health News
6:02 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Health Care Costs Grew More Slowly Than The Economy In 2012

NPR

Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 3:55 pm

Health care spending grew at a record slow pace for the fourth straight year in 2012, according to a new government report. But the federal officials who compiled the report disagree with their bosses in the Obama administration about why.

The annual report from the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published in the journal Health Affairs, found total U.S. health spending totaled $2.8 trillion in 2012, or $8,915 per person.

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Fire In Second Floor Apartment
6:36 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Baby Dropped To Arms Of Police Officer From Burning Building

Credit Thomas's Pics / Flickr.com

A Tulsa police officer caught a baby that was dropped to him from the second floor of a burning apartment complex.

Officer Alan Franks was among several officers leaving a morning meeting when they saw the apartments in east Tulsa on fire.

The mother of the baby told the Tulsa World that she was screaming for help when she dropped the child to Franks. Franks said he was nervous and "was just thinking don't drop the baby."

The child was not injured and the mother and her boyfriend escaped the flames.

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Sponsored By The Oklahoma City Thunder
4:59 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Black History Heroes Challenge Contest

Credit RMTip21 / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma City Thunder is launching its sixth annual Black History Heroes Challenge.

The contest, which commemorates Black History Month, will remain open through Feb. 7.

Students throughout Oklahoma in kindergarten through 12th grade can enter the contest by submitting an essay or visual arts piece portraying an outstanding individual in black history or an African-American who has impacted their life. Entrants are encouraged to employ creativity in their entries, including photography, music, video, art or writing.

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