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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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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Winter Storm
10:15 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

OKC Officials Urge Caution When Using Generators

Portable generators can be a useful tool when power loss occurs due to extreme weather conditions.

The Oklahoma City Fire Department walks you through proper use of portable generator equipment as a backup power supply for your home.

Winter Weather
8:13 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

UPDATE: Ice Storm Hits Oklahoma; Roads Improve In OKC Metro

An ice storm warning remains in effect until 6 a.m. Sunday for much of Oklahoma.
Credit Norman Forecast Office / National Weather Service

UPDATE 12/21/13 8:15 a.m.:

The wind remained light overnight, sparing much of central Oklahoma from widespread power outages.

Conditions on roads in the Oklahoma City metro improved overnight as the temperature increased a degree or two, but authorities are still discouraging travel, especially due to icing on bridges and overpasses.

A winter storm warning remains in effect through 6 a.m. Sunday, with light icing expected through around noon Saturday.

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Unemployment Rate
6:38 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Oklahoma's Jobless Rate Ties At 13th Lowest In Country

Credit Kate Hiscock / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma labor officials say the state's unemployment rate dropped slightly in November and that all major employment sectors report month-to-month job increases.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported Friday that Oklahoma's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in November, down from 5.5 percent in October.

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Affordable Care Act
6:20 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Injunction Prevents Enforcement Of Health Care Mandate To Provide Access To Morning-After Pill

Credit steakpinball / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge has granted an injunction in a class-action lawsuit by almost 200 religious organizations that prohibits the government from enforcing the federal health care law's requirement that insurance coverage include access to the morning-after pill and similar contraceptives.

A preliminary injunction was granted Friday by U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti. The injunction prevents the government from enforcing the mandate on the religious groups as the lawsuit is litigated.

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Code Switch
4:42 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

The Truth Behind The Lies Of The Original 'Welfare Queen'

The Chicago press covered Linda Taylor's 1977 trial extensively, and she dressed to court the cameras.
Charles Knoblock Associated Press

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 9:36 am

If you haven't read Josh Levin's amazing story at Slate — the woman upon whom the term "welfare queen" was originally bestowed — you're missing out on a fascinating and disturbing profile of an unlikely political figure.

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World Views
3:34 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Chemical Weapons Watchdog OK’s Syria Plan Even As Civil War Worsens

Credit Bernd Schwabe / Wikimedia Commons

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has drawn up a timeline for the destruction of Syria's poison gas and nerve agent program by mid-2014.

The most toxic chemicals are to be destroyed on a U.S. ship. Denmark and Norway are providing ships to transport the chemicals out of Syria and more than three dozen private companies have offered to destroy less toxic chemicals.

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World Views
2:33 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

North Korea Projects Unity On Anniversary Despite Purges, Execution

Credit (stephen) / Flickr Creative Commons

North Korea marked the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il Tuesday with vows to unite behind his son, Kim Jong Un, and a series of events to show the world that the regime has returned to business as usual despite the execution last week of Kim's once-powerful uncle.

“Both his father and his grandfather were known to have these purges as well as a means of gathering power and showing their might,” says Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies. “It was very public. It's a family member, and what message does that send but that no one is safe from this individual?”

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10:12 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Judge Orders Opening Of Shadid Divorce Court Files

Lead in text: 
While Oklahoma City council member and mayoral candidate Ed Shadid has publicly discussed details of his divorce, records from that court case have remained sealed. The Oklahoman newspaper sued to have them opened.
A judge Friday made public Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Ed Shadid's divorce records. The Oklahoman sought the records after the Ward 2 city councilman announced in August he is running for mayor. Reporters plan to review the records once the court clerk makes them available.

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