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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Special Education
9:17 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Study To Examine Options For Students With Severe Disabilities

State Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton)
Credit Oklahoma House of Representatives

Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton) hopes to find a good solution for children with disabilities in her interim study: placement options for students with severe disabilities.

Coody said the study was requested because state and federal laws require school districts to provide free public education for special education students. Currently 95,000 individuals, ages 3 to 21, are identified as having some sort of disability.

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Shots - Health News
9:06 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Penn State To Penalize Workers Who Refuse Health Screenings

Penn State hopes to reduce its health care costs by helping employees become healthier. But some faculty members complain that charging them $100 a month for refusing to participate in a health improvement program is unfair.
Jeff Brady NPR

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 1:02 pm

If you work for Penn State and don't agree to step on a scale or have your waist measured, it could soon cost you $100 a month. The Pennsylvania State University is joining a growing list of employers penalizing workers who want company-sponsored health benefits but refuse to participate in health improvement programs.

University officials say they need to take dramatic steps to reduce health care costs, and getting their workers in shape is one way to do it.

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Oklahoma State University
8:59 am
Fri August 2, 2013

OSU Sexual Assault Court Hearing Delayed

The Spirit Rider statue on Oklahoma State University's Stillwater campus.
Credit thecollegerag / Flickr Creative Commons

A judge has rescheduled the arraignment for a former Oklahoma State University student accused of sexual assault.

Nathan Cochran was due in court Friday for an arraignment in Payne County, but a judge delayed that until Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m. Cochran is charged with four counts of sexual battery and is accused of groping male students while they slept.

Cochran has pleaded not guilty. Affidavits filed in the case allege that the incidents occurred in August and November in 2012.

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It's All Politics
7:13 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Could North Carolina Lead A 'Red-State Resurgence'?

Cozzie Watkins of Charlotte, N.C., holds a sign while joining a "Moral Monday" protest against recent actions of the North Carolina Legislature, in Raleigh last month.
Al Drago MCT /Landov

Pat McCrory hasn't fared too well with protesters.

The Republican governor of North Carolina has signed off on a vast array of conservative legislation this year, cutting taxes, slashing unemployment benefits and abolishing teacher tenure. So much change so fast has led to protests, including "Moral Monday" events staged at the capitol a dozen weeks in a row by the NAACP.

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StoryCorps
2:18 am
Fri August 2, 2013

A Mother And Son Live, And Cope, With Mental Illness

Liza Long's son, 13, struggles with rage and violent outbursts. After the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., Long wrote a blog post advocating for better care for mentally ill youth.
StoryCorps

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 10:08 am

One day after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last December, Liza Long wrote a blog post urging the country to focus on treatment for the nation's mentally ill youth. In it, she shared the story of her own son, "Michael" (not his real name). "I live with a son who is mentally ill," she wrote for The Blue Review.

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Water Safety
7:13 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Bodies Of Three Fishermen Recovered From Arkansas River

The Arkansas RIver near Tulsa where authorities recovered the bodies of three fisherman Thursday.
Credit TexasExplorer98 / Flickr Creative Commons

Authorities say the body of a third fisherman has been recovered after they all accidentally fell into the Arkansas River early Thursday.

Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May says the third man was pulled out of the river late Thursday afternoon after an all-day recovery effort in and along the river.

Authorities say one of the men went into rushing water near a low-water dam in midtown to go noodling — or attempt to catch a fish with his hands.

May says the first man started to struggle in the water, so two others went in to help him.

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Science and Technology
6:19 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Whistle-Blowers Ignored By Dept. of Fish And Wildlife Director

Spectaclecase Mussel
Credit US Fish And Wildlife / Flickr.com

A report says the Fish and Wildlife Service director failed for more than a year to act against two supervisors who retaliated against whistle-blowers at an Oklahoma field office.

Mary Kendall is deputy inspector general for the Interior Department. Kendall says in a harshly worded letter that lack of action by Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe has damaged the agency's credibility and integrity.

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World Views
4:56 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

How An "Al-Qaida 2" Is Re-Emerging In The Middle East

Free Syrian Army rebels clean their AK47s in Aleppo during the civil war - October 19, 2012.
Credit Scott Bobb / VOA News

Last month, at least 500 prisoners reportedly escaped from the Baghdad Central Prison in Abu Ghraib during an attack al-Qaida’s Iraq arm claimed responsibility for.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment, says the audacious prison break re-energized al-Qaida in Iraq.

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Native American
4:03 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Quapaw Tribal Chairman Supports Building Mill By Newly Discovered Ancient Native Village

The Caddo, Osage and Quapaw in Arkansas.
Credit Aldo Fonticiella / Flickr.com

The chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma says he supports the building of a $1.1 billion steel mill that is to be built in northeast Arkansas at the site of a recently discovered American Indian village.

John Berrey said at a gathering at Osceola City Hall that the tribe is "pro-jobs" and supports the building of the Big River Steel plant.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/13EAFdk) that Berrey met Wednesday with Mississippi County government officials, the director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and other officials about the mill.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
3:31 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Oklahoma’s Kiowa Tribe Says Gravel Mining Will Ruin Sacred Mountain

The Kiowa Tribe is worried about the impact of gravel mining on Longhorn Mountain, near the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve in southwestern Oklahoma.
Credit jaxx2kde / Flickr Creative Commons

For almost 150 years, the Kiowa Tribe has used Longhorn Mountain for ceremonies and to gather the cedar used to purify their homes. But tribal leaders say the sacred site is being threatened by gravel mining.

Two of the mountain’s five private landowners have leased water and property rights to Cushing-based Material Service of Oklahoma, Inc. Kristi Eaton reports with the Associated Press reports:

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