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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Shots - Health News
3:51 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Administration Clarifies Insurance Rules For Contraceptives

The federal rules for coverage of birth control by religiously affiliated groups are becoming clear.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 5:41 pm

The Obama administration is moving to end a long-running controversy over making no-cost birth control available under the federal health law.

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World Views
3:30 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Oklahoma’s Pamela Olson Describes The Hidden Realities Of Life In The Palestinian Territories

Author Pamela Olson
Credit Provided

Listen to Pamela Olson's conversation with Suzette Grillot and Joshua Landis.

When Pamela Olson traveled to the occupied West Bank on a whim in 2003, she only expected to stay for a week. She stayed for two years, though, and served as head writer and editor for the Palestine Monitor and as foreign press coordinator for Mustafa Barghouthi's 2005 presidential campaign – unlikely posts for a self-described “physics major, ex-bartender, volunteer from Oklahoma.”

“Of course I was intimidated,” Olson says. “I was worried because this was the first conflict zone I had ever been in, but just immediately I was made to feel so welcome.”

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World Views
2:08 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Why U.S. Military Aid Increases Uncertainty in Syria

An unmarked gravestone with a teddy bear and a rock painted with the Syrian flag to symbolize the children killed in the country's civil war.
Credit Bernd Schwabe / Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month President Obama told Charlie Rose the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus in the region, but not his goals for Syria.

Joshua Landis, the author of the blog Syria Comment and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says the United States supplying lethal aid to Syrian rebels is a big change that makes a big difference.

“Once you get all the CIA and everybody else in there - our trainers and Special Forces - then they want to win,” Landis says. “They're not going to do it to play patty-cake."

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Indian Times
1:55 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Labor Day Deadline Looms for Public Input on Indian Trust Reform

Commissioner Stacy Leeds
Credit courtesy of University of Arkansas website

The Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform is coming to the end of its two year appointment.  Commissioner Stacy Leeds says they “will hunker down and write this thing” in the fall, so that it may be presented to President Obama during his yearly meeting with tribal leaders in Washington, D.C.  in December.

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Education
12:02 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Lawyers Challenge Okla. Education Bond Program

The new state medical examiner's office would be built on the University of Central Oklahoma's campus
Credit Flickr/Creative Commons

A bond program used to fund facilities and equipment at state colleges and universities is being challenged as unconstitutional in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. 

The Tulsa World reports attorneys challenging the state's Master Lease Program argued their case Thursday before an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee.

The Oklahoma Development Finance Authority is seeking to sell bonds for various projects and wants the state's highest court to validate the projects.

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The Two-Way
8:32 am
Fri June 28, 2013

NSA Leaker's Father: Snowden Betrayed Government Not The People

Edward Snowden, seen during a video interview with The Guardian.
Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras EPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 10:13 am

Lonnie Snowden says he doesn't believe his son, Edward, committed treason when he leaked information about top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs.

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All Tech Considered
8:25 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Please Text And Tweet During This Theater Performance

A show called #Hashtag encourages audience members to tweet during the performance.
Quinn.Anya via Flickr

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 10:14 am

See if this sounds familiar: You're seated in a movie theater, watching the latest IMAX disaster flick when someone slides their iPhone out of their pocket and starts texting their significant other. The glow from the phone lights up their face like the man in the moon and somehow — despite the $75 million used on the pyrotechnic budget alone — that blue-white glow at the edge of your vision triggers instincts honed over millions of years of evolution, and you find yourself incapable of focusing on the movie.

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Thunder
8:15 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Thunder Goes Tall In Draft Pick

Oklahoma City has selected Pittsburgh center Steven Adams with the 12th pick in the NBA draft, hoping to add a complementary piece to play alongside stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

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Washington
7:10 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Oklahoma Senators Vote "No" On Immigration Plan

Marchers at a 2010 rally for changes to U.S. immigration law in Washington, D.C.
Credit Elvert Barnes / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma's two Republican U.S. senators both voted against legislation that offers a path to citizenship to millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.

Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe both say the bill grants too much authority to federal bureaucrats to determine whether the border with Mexico is secure.

The two were among 32 senators who voted against a measure that cleared the Senate on Thursday and now heads to the Republican-controlled House.

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The Two-Way
6:57 am
Fri June 28, 2013

With Mandela's Health As Backdrop, Obama Heads To S. Africa

Children release 95 balloons to mark Nelson Mandela's upcoming birthday outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where Mandela is being treated for a recurring lung infection in Pretoria, South Africa.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 3:10 pm

Update at 4 p.m. ET: President Arrives In South Africa

President Obama and his family landed in South Africa late Friday. It's the second stop on his one-week trip to the African continent.

Our original post continues:

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