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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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:13 am
Thu December 12, 2013

A Wet Year Doesn’t Mean Any Part of Oklahoma Is Safe From Drought In 2014

The latest update of drought conditions in Oklahoma.
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor

Parts of Oklahoma have been suffering from severe and exceptional drought conditions for three straight years. That is a long time, especially for communities in western Oklahoma.

But this drought might be closer to its beginning than its end, and with little warning could encompass the entire state next year.

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Camera In Women's Restroom
6:44 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

McAlester Man Charged With Three Counts of Video Voyeurism

Credit Tim Dobson / Flickr.com

A 55-year-old McAlester man is charged in federal court with three counts of video voyeurism for allegedly setting up a hidden camera to record women in a restroom.

Authorities said Wednesday that Kenneth Elkins, who worked at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, allegedly installed the camera in a women's bathroom there and viewed at least three separate victims.

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ACLU Files Lawsuit
6:36 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Hindu Leader Wants To Place Statue Of Deity At Capitol

Credit arjuna_zbycho / Flickr.com

A Hindu leader from Nevada is the latest to inquire about erecting a monument at the Oklahoma Capitol.

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U.S.
3:46 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

After Fight Over Colo. Gun Laws, Two Sides As Dug In As Ever

A man holds a sign advocating the recall of state Sen. John Morse in Colorado Springs, Colo., in September. Morse and a second state senator who backed the state's new gun control measures were recalled during a special election that month.
Matthew Staver Landov

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:47 pm

John Morse was president of the Colorado Senate until September, when he became the first elected official recalled in the state's history.

Three months later, he's climbing the rotunda steps of the gold-domed Capitol building — his office for seven years. He hasn't been here since October. Gazing up at the dome, he says, "This is one of my favorite things to do. That's my version of smelling the roses."

Morse's political career ended over the gun bills he pushed through these chambers eight months ago. But he says he would do it all again.

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Oklahoma News
3:25 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Feds: 1,600 Oklahomans Enroll In Federal Plan

Credit Omono / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal officials say more than 1,600 Oklahoma residents have successfully signed up for health insurance coverage in the first two months of the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

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State Capitol
2:18 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Oklahoma Revenue Collections Continue To Fall Short

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger
Credit Oklahoma PCA / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma finance officials say collections to the main operating fund used to pay for state government continue to trail the official estimate, a trend that could lead to budget cuts for state agencies if it continues.

Oklahoma's Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger released figures on Wednesday that show collections to the state's general revenue fund trail by nearly 8 percent the official estimate upon which the state budget is based. So far for the first five months of the current fiscal year, collections have trailed the official estimate by about 6.5 percent.

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It's All Politics
1:21 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

6 Things Missing From The Budget Agreement

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., walk to announce a tentative agreement Tuesday between Republican and Democratic negotiators on a government spending plan.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 2:46 pm

The essence of the budget deal reached by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is better understood by looking at what's missing, rather than what's included in it.

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Shots - Health News
12:37 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Health Exchange Enrollment By State, In 2 Charts

HHS

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:48 pm

Numbers released by the Obama administration show enrollment in health exchanges edged up in November, but the uptake remains far short of the administration's initial targets.

Roughly 264,000 people signed up for private insurance coverage last month through the federal and state exchanges, according to data from the Health and Human Services Department. That brings the total to about 364,000 for October and November.

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The Salt
9:59 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Robots Could Help Farmers Rein In Fertilizer Pollution

Rowbot is designed to fit in between the rows of crops. Moving up and down each row, a fleet of 20 bots could fertilize and monitor the corn crops during the growing season.
Courtesy of Kent Cavender-Bares

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:00 am

Lately, robots have been taking over all kinds of jobs that humans used to do on the farm — from thinning lettuce to harvesting spinach.

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Federal Budget
8:44 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Sen. Coburn Calls Budget Deal "Patch Work"

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) greeting President Barack Obama.
Credit Tom Coburn / Facebook

A leading congressional deficit hawk says a bipartisan budget agreement hammered out on Capitol Hill is mostly a patch-work approach that fails to address wasteful spending that is contributing to a ballooning federal debt.

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma says the accord announced by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state likely was the best that could be achieved, but says he can't support it.

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