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
8:26 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Ice Storm Leaves Tens Of Thousands In The Dark

Heather Griffin, of Buffalo, N.Y., and her dog Sal walk beneath ice-covered trees on Sunday in Buffalo.
Mike Groll AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 12:06 pm

About 200,000 households are in the dark across the country, after a massive ice storm swept through Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard.

The Associated Press estimates that some 95,000 households are without power in New York, Vermont and Maine. MLive.com reports that 155,000 are without power in Michigan.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Take Shelter Oklahoma Lacks Signatures, Seeks Supreme Court Support

Credit hyku / Flickr / Creative Commons

The 90-day time period for collecting those signatures ran out last week, and supporters were 35,000 signatures short. They’re now awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge, claiming the deck was stacked against them.

After Kristi Conatzer lost her daughter Emily in the tornado that hit Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School on May 2o, she got together with others to form “Take Shelter Oklahoma.”

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The Two-Way
5:55 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Their Release Is Just A 'PR Stunt,' Pussy Riot Member Says

Maria Alyokhina, after her release from prison on Monday in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
Sergei Karpukhin Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 12:03 pm

The remaining members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot have been released from prison in Russia, a few months short of serving their full two-year sentences for "hooliganism" — a charge that the band's supporters say was just a trumped-up effort to quash free speech.

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Parallels
5:15 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

'Jihad Tourism': From Germany To The Syrian Battlefield

Burak Karan was a rising German-Turkish soccer player before leaving Germany to fight in the Syrian civil war. He was killed in northern Syria in October at age 26. Karan is shown here in Aachen, Germany, in 2008.
Marcel Decoux EPA/Landov

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 1:57 pm

More than 240 people have left Germany to join the civil war in Syria — the largest reported number from a European country.

One was Burak Karan, a rising German-Turkish soccer player who died in northern Syria in October at age 26. Bild newspaper quoted his brother saying Karan had gone to the border region between Turkey and Syria to help distribute aid.

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Politics
1:40 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

Pension Cut Angers Senate's Staunchest Military Supporters

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., left, is urging her Senate colleagues to change the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for current and future military retirees.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 1:33 pm

In the two-year, $2 trillion budget deal that cleared the Senate last week, one item, worth just one-sixth of 1 percent of that total, was the reason many senators said they voted against it.

That item would produce some $6 billion in savings by shaving a percentage point off annual cost-of-living adjustments, and it would apply only to military pensions. Not all military pensions — just the retirement paid to veterans younger than 62.

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Africa
1:38 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

CAR Atrocities Must Be Answered, Says U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power

Samantha Power greets children on Thursday at a makeshift refugee camp in Central African Republic, where more than 40,000 people have found refuge from sectarian violence.
Jerome Delay AP

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 7:56 am

The vicious sectarian violence in the Central African Republic continued last week as Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, visited on Thursday to make an appeal for peace.

It was a particularly significant trip for the ambassador: She began her career as a journalist and an activist, and was a vocal critic of the U.S. response to past atrocities and genocides.

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Manager's Desk
6:00 am
Sun December 22, 2013

Season's Greetings!

Credit Creative Commons/Flicker/spcbrass

December 21, 2013

This is from the Manager’s Desk.

On behalf of the staff of KGOU, I am sending the warmest of good wishes to you and your family for the holiday season.

We have a lot to be thankful for, including you.  You kept listening to KGOU, and you were inspired to financially support this service.   We appreciate the fact that you understand public media is a relationship of sharing and listening, and that both ensure the future for KGOU. 

May your holidays be filled with family, friends, food and warm memories.  Please enjoy!

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The Two-Way
10:39 am
Sat December 21, 2013

Closure: 94-Year-Old Widow Receives Remains Of Fallen Husband

Clara Gantt, the 94-year-old widow of U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Gantt, weeps in front of her husband's casket.
Andrew Renneisen AP

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 8:42 am

The sun had not yet risen, when the United Airlines jetliner made its way into Los Angeles International Airport on Friday.

Clara Gantt, 94, had been waiting for this moment for six decades. Of course, for six decades, she expected that this would be a happy reunion. She expected that the love of her life would come bounding off an airplane after two wars and come back home, resuming the life they had planned for each other.

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Politics
8:04 am
Sat December 21, 2013

The Life Of A Lobbyist In A Do-Nothing Congress

After casting their final votes of a session in which few laws were passed, members of Congress leave for a five-week recess.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 3:00 pm

The 113th Congress has finished its first session, and lawmakers enacted fewer than 60 laws. No Congress since 1947 has done so little legislating.

That's bad news for many of Washington's lobbyists. Howard Marlowe, for one, hasn't been feeling the joy of his job.

"One of the driest periods in the 35 years that I've been lobbying," he says.

An old Washington hand, Marlowe has a small, boutique lobbying firm specializing in local infrastructure projects. His client base includes airports, shipping ports and local governments.

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Europe
8:04 am
Sat December 21, 2013

Khodorkovsky, A Free Man After A Decade In Russian Prison

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, left, shakes hands with former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher at the airport in Berlin on Friday.
AP

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 11:05 am

Russia's best-known prisoner has been freed, after spending more than 10 years in jail.

After receiving a pardon from President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in Germany, where he's expected to meet with his mother.

For now, he's not saying much in public beyond a statement thanking supporters, but his sudden release has raised a storm of speculation in Russia.

Within hours of the announcement that Putin had granted the pardon, Khodorkovsky was on a private jet that whisked him to Berlin.

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