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
8:16 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Soaring Personnel Costs Threaten Readiness, Hagel Warns

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 7:57 am

  • On 'Morning Edition': Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel talks with NPR's Steve Inskeep

Health care and retirement costs that already account for a large part of the U.S. military's budget and are on a path to go even higher could leave the nation with "a military that's heavily compensated, but probably a force that's not capable and not ready," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel tells NPR.

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Native American
8:07 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Veronica's Parents Seek Legal Fees From Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma Dad

Dusten Brown with his daughter, Veronica, before her return to her adoptive parents in South Carolina.
Credit Cherokee Nation

Attorneys for the adoptive parents of a 4-year-old girl caught up in a custody dispute are seeking $1 million in legal fees from the Cherokee Nation and the girl's biological father, who is a member of the tribe.

Attorneys representing Matt and Melanie Capobianco have filed paperwork seeking the legal fees incurred while fighting the lengthy custody battle over 4-year-old Veronica.

In September, Dusten Brown handed Veronica over to the Capobiancos after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay keeping the girl in Oklahoma.

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NPR News Investigations
8:00 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Secret Persuasion: How Big Campaign Donors Stay Anonymous

A composite image shows part of the NPR/Center for Responsive Politics reporting team's whiteboard at NPR headquarters that was used to map out how Wellspring connects to other social welfare groups. (Click the enlarge button to see a full-size image.)
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 3:48 pm

Part two of our "Secret Persuasion" story reported with the Center for Responsive Politics. Read the first part here.

As tax-exempt organizations become a vehicle of choice for big political donors, one powerful appeal is the anonymity. Federal laws allow tax-exempt groups — unlike political committees — to withhold their donor lists from disclosure.

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The Two-Way
6:15 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Your Election News In Five Headlines

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who won a close election Tuesday to become Virginia's next governor, hugged wife Dorothy at the campaign's victory celebration in Tysons Corner, Va.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 9:57 am

  • From the NPR Newscast: A roundup of election results

Here's a cheat sheet about Tuesday's elections, starting with the most surprising news:

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Democrat Holmes Blasts Fallin
6:25 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Governor's Criticism Misconstrued

Credit Okla. National Guard / Flickr.com

 A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin says the governor's recent criticism of a report on the new A-F public school grading system should not be construed in any way as a threat to educators.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said Tuesday that the governor, school superintendents and teachers "are all on the same side."

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Million Mask March
4:23 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Protest At Capitol Takes A Turn For The Worse

Credit courthouselover / Flickr.com

An Oklahoma Highway Patrol official says four men and a woman have been arrested at the Oklahoma state Capitol after a protest turned raucous and participants knocked over barricades.

Maj. Rusty Rhoades says the five were arrested early Tuesday afternoon on complaints of destruction of state property, obstruction and violating their protest permit. Their names were not immediately released. Rhoades said they were being transported to the Oklahoma County Jail.

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Higher Education
3:23 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

College Officials Say Oklahoma Schools More Efficient

Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Oklahoma's higher education chancellor says the state's 25 colleges and universities are on track to save $451 million in five years.

Chancellor Glen Johnson told members of a legislative panel Tuesday that the state's higher education institutions have made it a priority to reduce their operating costs between 2011 and 2015.

Johnson says the savings are due to energy conservation, changes in salaries and benefits and changes in some university positions.

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Shots - Health News
2:13 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Wondering If You Need A Strep Test? Crowdsourcing Might Help

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to skip the strep test sometimes?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 1:35 pm

Most sore throats aren't strep. But because strep bacteria can in rare cases cause rheumatic fever, people often feel like they should get tested for possible strep infection.

It might be possible to skip that step someday by checking whether your neighbors have been getting strep throat, researchers say. Aside from reducing the cost and inconvenience of needless clinic visits, the neighborhood strep check could reduce the risk of being needlessly treated with antibiotics.

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Elections
1:57 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Oklahoma Early Voting Days Shifting To Thursday

Voters line up in Tulsa for early voting - October 31, 2008.
Credit thefixer / Flickr Creative Commons

The days for early voting are changing in Oklahoma, thanks to a new state law.

Beginning this week, voters can cast in-person absentee ballots at their county election board offices on Thursday and Friday before an election.

Early voting on Saturdays will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but only for state and federal elections. Because next week's election is a special election, not state or federal, there will be no early voting on Saturday.

Previously, early voting days were Friday, Saturday and Monday. The new state law took effect last week.

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Politics and Government
1:05 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Oklahoma Senator Coburn Has Recurrence Of Cancer

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Credit U.S. Senate

A spokesman for Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn says the lawmaker has had a recurrence of prostate cancer and is undergoing further evaluation and treatment.

Spokesman John Hart said in a brief statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday that the 65-year-old Republican will be out for the rest of the week but will be back "as soon as he's able, hopefully next week."

Coburn was treated for the same thing in 2011 and returned to work within days. He's also survived malignant melanoma and colon cancer.

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