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
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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Doerflinger Says To Tighten Belts
6:25 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

State Tax Collections Down Compared To Same Time Last Year

Preston Doerflinger
Credit Oklahoma PCA / Flickr Creative Commons

The state's top finance official is warning state agency directors to prepare for potentially flat budgets next year after a report that collections to the state's General Revenue Fund this quarter are trailing those from the same three months last year.

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Opening Day of NCAI
4:55 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Fallin Says Tribes "Integral" To Oklahoma

Credit National Congress of American Indians

The 70th annual National Congress of American Indians has opened in Tulsa with tribal ceremonies and a speech from Gov. Mary Fallin.

The Tulsa World reports that Fallin welcomed up to 3,000 attendees from tribes across the country on Monday.

Fallin congratulated tribes on their work to improve tribal health care, tying tribal efforts to national reforms.

Fallin also addressed the government shutdown, urging lawmakers to "see the light and get their act together."

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Public Health
11:33 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Judges Tosses Tulsa Oral Surgeon Civil Suit

Credit KWGS News

An Oklahoma judge has tossed out a lawsuit against an oral surgeon accused of keeping filthy office conditions at his two Tulsa-area clinics.

Judge Rebecca Nightingale dismissed Sharon Fairchilds' lawsuit against Dr. W. Scott Harrington after Fairchilds' lawyer failed to show up for a hearing on Monday in Tulsa.

Fairchilds sued saying that Harrington was negligent when he allowed two of his office clerks to perform sedation on a child.

Harrington's attorneys had asked that Fairchilds' lawsuit be dismissed.

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OTRS
10:26 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Wilbanks Fired As Head Of Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System

James Wilbanks
Credit State of Oklahoma

The executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System was fired after trustees found out he granted severance packages to a dozen employees without obtaining the required approval.

Trustees of the retirement system voted to fire James Wilbanks on Oct. 2.

The Oklahoman reported Monday that decision comes after trustees found out Wilbanks granted severance packages to a dozen employees without obtaining required approval from the director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

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Oklahoma Voices
10:02 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Reporting On The Middle East: Syria And Egypt After The Arab Spring

Participants during an October 2, 2013 panel discussion about Syria, Egypt, and the Arab Spring. Left-to-right: NPR correspondent Kelly McEvers, Egyptian scholar Samer Shehata, Syria expert Joshua Landis, and KGOU's "World Views" host Suzette Grillot
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

NPR assigned correspondent Kelly McEvers to Iraq in 2010 with instructions not to miss a day ahead of the expected troop withdrawal by the end of 2011.

“Then in late 2010, a young man in Tunisia set himself on fire, and literally changed everything,” McEvers says. “At first I was watching it on TV in Baghdad, sitting there thinking, ‘Do we really have to stay in Baghdad? C’mon, you know? Put me in coach!’ asking to be sent out on the stories.”

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9:53 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Sex Crimes Are Most Common Reason Police Lose Certification

Lead in text: 
From 2010 to 2012, of the 66 officers who had their certifications revoked or suspended, were given a letter of reprimand, or surrendered their certification, according to records from the Council on Law Enforcement and Education, or CLEET, 18 were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, sex crimes.
More than a quarter of Oklahoma peace officers who were disciplined by the state's certification agency or surrendered their certifications over three years were convicted of or pleaded guilty to sex crimes, according to records analyzed by Oklahoma Watch.
Planet Money
8:45 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Economics Nobel: Nobody Knows What Stocks Are Going To Do Today

The Nobel Foundation

If you want to honor today's Nobel laureates in economics, turn off CNBC and ignore everyone who says they know what the stock market is going to do today, tomorrow, or next week.

The award went to three economists — Eugene F. Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert J. Shiller — for their work studying asset prices.

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Oklahoma Watch
8:33 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Despite Convictions and Guilty Pleas, Law Officers Keep Certifications for Years

Shawn Theo Thomsen, a former Kingfisher County deputy, received a five-year suspended sentence in July 2010 after pleading to a felony charge of lewd acts with a child under 16. Thomsen has since moved to Texas, where he is a registered sex offender. According to state records, though, Thomsen still has an active Oklahoma peace officers certification.
Credit Texas State Offender Registry

View a map showing officers with certification actions.

In July 2010, a former Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office deputy pleaded no contest to a charge of committing lewd acts with a child when he was an officer two years earlier.

Shawn Theo Thomsen, then 43, was given a five-year suspended sentence, court records show. Now living in Texas, he’s required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Despite the crime, Thomsen is still certified as a peace officer by the Council on Law Enforcement and Education, or CLEET. State law requires that the state agency take away certification for an officer who pleads guilty or no contest to a felony charge, thus removing him or her from law enforcement.

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