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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Winter Weather
8:22 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Freezing Fog Ices OKC Bridges, Snarling Traffic

Traffic sits at a standstill I-40 eastbound through downtown Oklahoma City early Thursday morning. Freezing fog caused icy bridges and overpasses in parts of Oklahoma.
Credit Oklahoma Dept. of Transportation

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has closed part of Interstate 40 eastbound in Oklahoma City because of multiple accidents and icy conditions.

The highway patrol says it closed I-40 eastbound at the Dallas and Fort Smith junctions because of the accidents and road conditions. A freezing fog advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. Thursday.

The highway patrol says the closure includes the ramps for southbound Interstate 235 and northbound Interstate 35 to eastbound Interstate 40.

There were no immediate reports of injuries with the crashes.

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The Two-Way
6:47 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Apologies, Promises From UPS And FedEx About Delivery Delays

UPS delivery man Vinny Ambrosino was dressed for the holiday season on Tuesday as he delivered packages in New York City. Not all the things ordered for Christmas got to their destinations on time.
Carlo Allegri Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 7:28 pm

Update at 8:20 p.m. ET. Amazon, UPS, Offer Refunds:

The Washington Post reports:

"Amazon and UPS said Thursday they would offer refunds to customers who did not receive their Christmas orders on time, after a surge in last-minute online shopping caught the shipping giant off guard."

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It's All Politics
2:17 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Gun Control Lobby Takes Note Of Opposition's Success

Supporters for gun rights gather outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters in Newtown, Conn., on March 28.
Jessica Hill AP

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:13 pm

For gun control advocates hoping to see federal gun laws tighten after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., 2013 was a disheartening year. A narrow provision to expand background checks failed in the Senate.

For gun rights activists, the death of that legislation proved once more their single-issue intensity and decades-long grass-roots organizing were enough to prevail. Those are also valuable lessons for their opponents.

A 'Voice' For Lost Children

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World Views
12:04 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

How Technology Is Transforming Poetry, Literature, And Activism

Credit Jeroen Bennink / Flickr Creative Commons

Listen to Suzette Grillot's conversation with Lauren Camp and Deji Olukotun

Author and attorney Deji Olukotun compares the growth and development of digital technology over the last decade to a spectrum, with highly-polished published work on one end, and tweeting and texting on the opposite.

“It’s making writing and communicating and expressing yourself more democratic, and that includes repressive countries,” Olukotun says. “At the same time, there’s still a value for quality and for craft.”

Olukotun works on digital freedom cases for the PEN American Center in New York.

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Planet Money
9:50 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

The Great Handbell War

Malmark handbells on the left and Schulmerich bells on the right.
malmark.com/schulmerichbells.com

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 11:21 am

Jake Malta left his job as chief engineer at Schulmerich, the world's biggest handbell company, in 1973.

But Malta couldn't stop thinking about bells. He had a vision for a perfect bell — a bell he had never quite achieved at Schulmerich.

So he set up shop in his living room. "He had a folding table, two of them, stretched out with all of his drafting supplies and piano behind him," his daughter, Joann, says.

He traveled to Europe and studied the physics of bells. He made sketch after sketch. "He knew that he could make it better," his daughter says.

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It's All Politics
3:35 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Amid Declining Popularity, The Tea Party Prepares To Fight

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) greets supporters during a tea party rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in June. Paul was a rising star in the tea party movement this year, filibustering a CIA nomination in March.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 7:02 pm

It's easy to forget that the tea party movement is still less than 5 years old. Its successes include the 2010 midterm elections, when it helped the GOP win back the U.S. House.

It was once again a noisy and resurgent player in American politics in 2013. But that doesn't mean it was a year of victories: The movement's campaign to repeal Obamacare failed, and public approval hit near-record lows after the tea party forced a partial government shutdown. Even tea party events aren't as large as they once were.

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Politics
3:12 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

'Living Wage' Effort Eclipsed By Minimum-Pay Battles

Wheelchair attendant Erick Conley (left) assists an elderly passenger at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Wash. The small city recently raised the minimum wage to $15 for many airport jobs.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 4:08 pm

The close of 2013 has been marked by a vigorous national debate over income inequality, the plight of low-wage workers in America and the effect of boosting mandatory minimum wages.

The debate was magnified when Wal-Mart got unwanted attention for a store-based holiday food drive for its own needy workers, and when President Obama announced his support for legislation that would raise the national minimum hourly wage of $7.25 for the first time since 2007.

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Shots - Health News
2:40 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Could Pot Help Veterans With PTSD? Brain Scientists Say Maybe

There's data to support the notion that pot, or a drug based on its active ingredient, could help ease the fears of PTSD.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 10:50 am

Veterans who smoke marijuana to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder may be onto something. There's growing evidence that pot can affect brain circuits involved in PTSD.

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The Two-Way
10:20 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Mass Graves Discovered In South Sudan; Is Civil War Coming?

Troops sent to South Sudan by the U.N. watch as men walk to a camp for refugees near Juba, the nation's capital.
James Akena Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 2:20 pm

The already alarming news from South Sudan grew even more worrisome Tuesday with word from the United Nations of mass graves.

In a statement, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "we have discovered a mass grave in Bentiu, in Unity State, and there are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba," the new nation's capital.

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Affordable Care Act
8:36 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Judge Grants Oklahoma Religious Colleges Injunction Against Federal Birth Control Mandate

Credit James Martin / Flickr

A federal judge says four religious schools in Oklahoma don't have to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and other contraceptives as a lawsuit challenging the health care mandate is pending in court.

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