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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Memo Sent From Secretary of Finance
6:16 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Fallin Says No State Funds To Ease Federal Programs

Credit Steve Wampler / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin is ordering state agency leaders not to use any state money to temporarily fund federal programs during the ongoing partial government shutdown unless they've been guaranteed federal reimbursement.

Fallin's Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger sent a memo on Tuesday to all state agency directors and finance officers to that effect. The memo urges agency heads to discontinue any federally funded programs that could result in a permanent loss of state funds.

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Residents Face Economic Hardship
3:58 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Five Oklahoma Counties Have Faced Unrelenting Drought

Credit Al Jazeera English / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a drought emergency for parts of southwestern Oklahoma and a portion of the far western Panhandle.

Despite recent rainfall across much of Oklahoma, information released Tuesday by the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates extreme-to-exceptional drought conditions in the western part of the state. The counties included in the drought emergency are Jackson, Tillman, Greer, Harmon and Texas.

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Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center
3:34 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

The Illuminated Garden Comes To Oklahoma

One of Ana Maria Hernando's prints.
Credit Ana Maria Hernando

Listen to the story as it aired on KGOU.

While Argentinian artist Ana Maria Hernando now lives in Boulder, Colo., she remains closely connected with South America. She continues to make regular visits to women on the continent who provide both inspiration and material for her works.

Hernando’s new exhibit at Oklahoma Contemporary features paintings, drawings, prints and resin plates grouped on the wall and floor. The title, El Jardin Illuminado or The Illuminated Garden, refers to the garden and flower themes in her work.

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Native American
1:11 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Father Of Cherokee Girl Honored In Tulsa

Dusten Brown and now-four-year-old Veronica.
Credit Cherokee Nation

The National Congress of American Indians is honoring the biological father of a Cherokee girl at the center of a lengthy custody dispute.

At a meeting in Tulsa on Tuesday, the group honored Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation who is the father of 4-year-old Veronica. Brown was also recognized for his service with the Oklahoma National Guard.

Last week, Brown announced he was dropping all custody claims and was working with the South Carolina couple who adopted Veronica on ways he could be involved in her life.

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Environment
12:55 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Declining Prairie Chicken Population Further ‘Decimated’ By Drought

Credit USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

The declining population of lesser prairie chickens has been an issue for years. It was during the 1990s — and another drought — that the species was first proposed for federal protection.

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Oklahoma Politics
11:55 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Panel Shoots Down Oklahoma Legislator Pay Hike

Credit russavia / Creative Commons

Oklahoma state legislators — who earn $38,400 annually plus benefits and expenses — won't be getting a raise any time soon.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted 7-1 on Tuesday for the base pay, retirement and benefits package for Oklahoma's senators and House members to stay in place. Former Republican state Sen. Charles Ford of Tulsa was the lone dissenting vote. Ford urged the panel to consider hiking the base pay for legislators to $44,000 annually. The board meets every two years.

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Corrections
9:20 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Oklahoma County Officials Wait For Federal Word On Possible Jail Tax Hike

Oklahoma County Jail
Credit Oklahoma County

Leaders in Oklahoma County are awaiting feedback from the Department of Justice on whether the agency will force a tax increase to pay for improvements to the county jail.

District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn says the county informed the department they've done all they can to improve conditions at the lockup without any new funding from a tax increase.

Vaughn tells The Journal Record that the commission sent a letter updating the federal government shortly before the shutdown Oct. 1. The county has not yet received a response.

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The Two-Way
7:59 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Leaders Express 'Cautious Optimism' Over Iran Nuclear Plan

Catherine Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif share a light moment Tuesday at the start of two-day talks on Iran's nuclear program.
Fabrice Coffrini AP

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 2:39 pm

Iran's proposal for easing the standoff over its nuclear program got seemingly positive initial reviews at Tuesday's start of multiparty talks in Geneva.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the Iranian delegation had made a PowerPoint presentation outlining the plan at the beginning of the two-day session. The spokesman said the plan had been received with "cautious optimism" but gave no further details of the close-door meeting, describing the proceedings as "confidential."

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The Two-Way
7:21 am
Tue October 15, 2013

On Capitol Hill, A Flurry Of Activity But Still No Deal

House Speaker John Boehner (center) and House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (right) arrive for a Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 10:16 pm

(This post was last updated at 11:05 p.m. ET)

With a little more than a day to go before the nation potentially defaults on its debts, there's still no solid plan on the table in Washington.

There was a flurry of activity on Tuesday, but it produced little significant movement.

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Fall Membership Drive
6:57 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Consider the Suspension Bridge: It's Public Radio

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Manish Rai Jain Flickr Creative Commons

Yes, I'm really going to compare public radio to a suspension bridge. They're very similar, don't you think?

And not just in the obvious ways.

It's easy to see that like a suspension bridge, public radio is a connector between communities, a way to get from Here to There, a conduit for the free exchange between points -- geographic or intellectual -- that seemed forever destined to be separated.

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