Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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Woody Guthrie
10:35 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Concert To Benefit Rebuilding Of Woody Guthrie's Okemah Home

Woody Guthrie
Credit Courtesy of the Woody Guthrie Archives.

Singer Kris Kristofferson is scheduled to play a benefit concert in Tulsa to help a project to rebuild folk legend Woody Guthrie's boyhood home.

The concert is Sunday night at the Mabee Center.

Organizers want to raise about $500,000 to rebuild Guthrie's home in Okemah. The rebuild of the property will use original planks of wood salvaged from the site decades ago.

Guthrie, best known for the song "This Land is Your Land," wrote hundreds of folk songs and ballads. His lyrics celebrated American workers, lamented the woes of the poor and advocated for civil rights.

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Planet Money
7:44 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Everyone The U.S. Government Owes Money To, In One Graph

Who Holds Our Debt?
Quoctrung Bui / NPR

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 9:58 am

If Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling soon, the U.S. government won't be able to pay its debts. Here's who the government owes money to — all the holders of U.S. Treasury debt, broken down by category and by how much government debt they hold.

For more, see our story: What A U.S. Default Would Mean For Pensions, China And Social Security

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OHP
7:43 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Pettingill Stepping Down As Head Of Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Col. Kerry Pettingill
Credit Oklahoma Dept of Public Safety

The chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is retiring early next year.

Col. Kerry Pettingill says he'll step down Feb. 1, 2014, after serving three years as the agency's chief. Pettingill started off as a trooper with the highway patrol in 1982 and worked his way up to chief.

He is a native of Mangum.

Pettingill has also served as director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security and as commander of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's bomb squad.

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The Two-Way
6:39 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Shutdown Day 10: Obama, GOP To Meet Amid Signs Of Possible Thaw

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Ryan has outlined the framework of a possible deal on the federal shutdown and the debt ceiling.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 10:04 am

It's Day 10 of the partial federal government shutdown, and the big news is a meeting between President Obama and a select group of House Republicans.

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Massive Computer Glitch
4:02 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Oklahoma Education Officials Report To Legislators On Computer Failure

Credit jmeriac / Flickr.com

Oklahoma education officials are briefing legislators on the different tests used to measure student performance in Oklahoma and providing details of a massive computer glitch in April that affected thousands of test taking students in the state.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. John Ford requested the joint House and Senate study to help bring individual members up to speed on what was happening with testing in the state.

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Energy
12:24 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

One Thing Obama Can Do: Decide The Fate Of The Keystone Pipeline

President Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline in Cushing, Okla., in March 2012.
Tom Pennington Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 2:58 pm

Journalist Ryan Lizza says there's one far-reaching, controversial issue President Obama will soon get to decide all by himself, without having to ask Congress. He alone can approve or reject construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to take heavy crude oil extracted from Alberta, Canada, through America's heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

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The Government Shutdown
12:15 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

How The Shutdown Is Hurting The Housing Market

If interest rates go up due to the fear or reality of a debt default that would have major consequences for real estate sales.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 7:57 am

As with so many other types of economic activity, the government shutdown is causing more fear than actual harm in the housing market thus far.

But that doesn't mean things won't start going wrong in the very near future.

Various federal agencies play greater or lesser roles in real estate transactions. With most of them sidelined, simple matters such as closing on mortgages are becoming more complicated.

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Grand Jury
10:01 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Board Certifies Rogers County Grand Jury Petition

Janice Steidley
Credit Oklahoma District Attorneys Council

The Rogers County Election Board has certified a petition calling for a grand jury to investigate county officials, including District Attorney Janice Steidley.

The board verified 6,994 signatures on the petition turned in last week. Petitioners needed 4,487 verified signatures of registered voters to convene the grand jury.

The Claremore Daily Progress reports the election board spent four days verifying the signatures and eliminated 717 of the 7,711 submitted signatures.

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Parallels
8:54 am
Wed October 9, 2013

A Recurring Tragedy: Death In A Bangladesh Garment Factory

A Bangladeshi firefighter stands inside a damaged garment factory after it caught fire in Gazipur outside the capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday. The fire killed at least 10 people at the factory.
AP

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 2:06 pm

There's been a deadly fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh — the latest in a series of such tragedies and just six months after the worst disaster in the history of the global garment industry.

At least 10 people were killed at the Aswad garment factory outside the capital, Dhaka, early Wednesday. The immediate cause was not known. This factory, like others where tragedy has struck, produced clothes for a number of Western companies.

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The Two-Way
8:22 am
Wed October 9, 2013

3 Scientists Win Chemistry Nobel For Complex Computer Modeling

A screenshot of the Nobel Prizes webpage showing the 2013 chemistry laureates Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel.
Claudio Bresciani AP

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 11:34 am

Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their development of powerful computer models used to simulate how chemical reactions work, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday.

The technology they pioneered is now used to develop drugs and to perform other vital tasks in the laboratory.

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