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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The Two-Way
5:38 pm
Sun September 1, 2013

Radioactive Water Leak At Fukushima Worse Than First Thought

This photo taken Aug. 6 shows local government officials and nuclear experts at Fukushima after contaminated water was discovered.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 9:48 am

Radiation surrounding Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has increased 18-fold following a report last month that radioactive water had leaked into the ground around the plant, which was badly damaged in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, reports that radiation around the site is at 1,800 millisieverts per hour, a level that Reuters says is "enough to kill an exposed person in four hours."

Previously, the utility, also known as Tepco, said the leaking water was at around 100 millisieverts per hour.

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Religion
4:04 pm
Sun September 1, 2013

Cowboy Church: With Rodeo Arena, They 'Do Church Different'

A Western motif greets visitors to the Cowboy Church of Ellis County, in Waxahachie, Texas. About 1,700 people attend the church on Sundays.
Matt Slocum AP

Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 7:36 pm

It's Sunday morning at the Cowboy Church of Santa Fe County, N.M. You know you're there because of the chuck wagon parked by the highway.

You couldn't find a more nonreligious-looking building. The church is a charmless metal warehouse on a concrete slab. Inside, the altar is decorated like a set from a 1950s western — complete with saddles, hats, boots, a lasso and wagon wheel.

The band has just kicked off with "I Think God Must Be a Cowboy at Heart," and about 30 people in folding chairs are tapping their feet.

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The Two-Way
9:14 am
Sun September 1, 2013

Kerry: Tests Indicate Sarin Used In Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria at the Department of State last week.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 3:46 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry says that tests have shown evidence of Syria's use of the chemical agent sarin in an attack on the opposition last month that the White House has blamed on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"I can share with you today that blood and hair samples that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from East Damascus, from first responders, it has tested positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry told CNN on Sunday.

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The Two-Way
11:40 am
Sat August 31, 2013

Obama To Seek Congressional Approval For Action Against Syria

At the White House Saturday, President Obama said he would seek congressional approval before taking action in Syria.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 10:48 am

  • President Obama's Full Speech
  • NPR Special Coverage Of Obama's Speech

(Post updated at 10 p.m. ET)

President Obama said Saturday he had decided that the U.S. should take military action against Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons, but that he will seek a congressional authorization for the action that could come "tomorrow, or next week or one month from now."

Speaking from the Rose Garden, the president said he believed that he had the authority to act without Congress, but said, "I know the country will be stronger if we take this course."

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Indian Times
10:56 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

How A Granddaughter’s Memory And Her Persistent Husband Relocate Bust of Ancestor

Evelyn Trumbly Taylor with the bust of her grandfather Albert Penn
Credit Larry Taylor

100 years ago, give or take a year, according to whom you are speaking, the Smithsonian sent an artist out to different reservations to make busts of Native Americans, the thinking being that these were a “vanishing people” and should be preserved for posterity.

Then, these busts were forgotten, becoming just more acquisitions for the Smithsonian Institution’s vast holdings.

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Labor Day Celebrations
6:23 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Oklahoma Tribes Celebrate Labor Day

Example of stickball instruments
Credit upwiththemooses / Flickr.com

Several Native American tribes across Oklahoma are holding celebrations this weekend to recognize their culture and heritage.

In Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation is hosting the Cherokee National Holiday. The holiday commemorates the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution. The event runs through Sunday and will feature arts and crafts, softball and basketball tournaments, fireworks and more.

The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur is hosting a stomp dance, stickball and cultural demonstrations as part of a Labor Day celebration on Saturday.

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Highway Improvement Project
4:57 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Highway Interchange Called "Obsolete"

Secretary Foxx being sworn in.
Credit US Department of Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said after touring an interchange redesign project in Oklahoma City that the project is an example of investing in America.

Foxx joined Gov. Mary Fallin, Sen. Jim Inhofe and Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation in touring the Interstate 44/I-235/ Broadway Extension interchange project in north Oklahoma City on Friday.

The interchange redesign is the second phase of a seven-part project to improve the interchange that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation says has about 100,000 vehicles on it each day.

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World Views
4:25 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Shut Up And Give? Oklahomans Rethinking International Development And Philanthropy

A family in rural Bangladesh that sells milk to Grameen Danone Foods.
Chad Jordan Cornerstone International

Chad Jordan volunteered in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, but seeing the state of infrastructure, sanitation conditions, and the lack of financial services after decades and billions of dollars of humanitarian aid affected him even more than the temblor’s destruction.

“It’s really been used for projects that are corrupt,” Jordan says. “It doesn’t really go toward projects that are really sustaining people and focusing on business.”

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World Views
4:12 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

UPDATE: Obama Says He's Considering "Narrow" Syria Action

President Barack Obama meets with his National Security Staff to discuss the situation in Syria, in the Situation Room of the White House, Aug. 30, 2013.
Credit Pete Souza / The White House

President Barack Obama says he hasn't made a final decision about a military strike against Syria. But he says he's considering a limited and narrow action in response to a chemical weapons attack that he says Syria'sgovernment carried out last week.

“We don't know how hard they're going to hit [President Bashar] Assad, but clearly they're going to hit Assad,” says Joshua Landis, a leading Syria watcher and the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “What Obama articulated very clearly is that we can hit him hard enough to dissuade him from using chemical weapons again. So it's worth it to try to extend that and punish Assad and make him think twice about using again.”

Obama says that attack was a challenge to the world and threatens U.S. national security.

 

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Tornado Recovery
11:08 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Feds Give Oklahoma $37 Million In New Storm Aid

Survivors of May's tornado look at a car damaged in the storm.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The city of Moore and state of Oklahoma will receive nearly $37 million in federal aid to help recover from the May and June tornadoes and storms that killed dozens of people and caused damage estimated at more than $1 billion.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced Friday that Moore will receive $23.6 million for recovery efforts from the May 20 tornado and the state will receive $10.6 million for storms that occurred from May 18 to June 2.

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