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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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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The Two-Way
7:10 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Book News: Efforts To Ban Books On The Rise

Joe Songer AL.COM/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 9:03 am

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

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The Two-Way
5:31 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Repairs Done, Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk

Astronaut Mike Hopkins during Saturday's spacewalk. He's going out again Tuesday.
NASA.gov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 3:12 pm

Spacewalking astronauts have successfully replaced a failed coolant pump on the International Space Station.

NPR's Joe Palca reports that American spacewalkers Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio had to bolt the massive pump in place (on the ground, it weighs 780 pounds), connect four ammonia lines and plug in five electrical cables. The ammonia is a refrigerant used in the station's two-part cooling system, which is necessary to dissipate heat from the onboard electrical equipment.

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Anyone With A Computer Can Access
6:18 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Court Documents To Be Available For Viewing Online

Credit OklahomaJudicialProcessServers / Flickr.com

A plan to publicly release court documents from all 77 Oklahoma counties online and make them free to the public is slowly moving ahead. Noble County in north-central Oklahoma is going live as a test for the ambitious information technology upgrade.

Documents dating back decades, even more than a century in some cases, that have been filed in Noble County are available for anyone with a computer to view from home. This includes marriage licenses, traffic tickets, and criminal and civil filings, among other court documents.

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Long-term Effects Unknown
5:21 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Fallin Bans Electronic Cigarettes And Vapor Devices

Credit planetc 1 / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin has issued an executive order that bans the use of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices on state property, saying the potential long-term health effects of the products are unknown.

Fallin's office released the order Monday that applies to all land and property owned or leased by the state, including state vehicles, effective Jan. 1. The only exception in the order is to residents of state residential facilities for veterans.

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Same-Sex Marriage
9:23 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Utah Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Spurs Oklahoma Court Filing

Credit Ronny Richert / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawyers for two same-sex couples suing for the right to marry in Oklahoma and to have a marriage from another jurisdiction recognized in the state have filed a brief pointing to a recent ruling in Utah that found a same-sex marriage ban violated the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians.

Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin filed the lawsuit along with another couple back in November 2004. That was shortly after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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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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