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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State Capitol
12:44 pm
Sat June 29, 2013

Lawmakers Seek To Increase Looting Penalties

Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Several state lawmakers want to increase the penalty for looting after numerous reports of theft from victims whose homes were damaged or destroyed in last month's tornadoes.

Legislators representing several areas hit by tornadoes in May said Friday that they plan to introduce a bill next session to change looting from a misdemeanor to a felony.

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May 2013 Tornadoes
8:22 am
Sat June 29, 2013

Fallin Tours Oklahoma Community After May Storms

Governor Mary Fallin tours tornado-damaged areas in Newcastle - June 28, 2013
Credit GovMaryFallin / Twitter

Governor Mary Fallin joined Newcastle lawmakers and officials Friday to view storm damage and recovery efforts in the community following last month's storms.

Fallin took a driving tour of the community Friday afternoon. After viewing the area, the governor met with responders and local officials at the City Command Center.

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State Capitol
6:02 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Fallin's Environmental Secretary To Resign Post

Oklahoma Secretary of Environment Gary Sherrer
Credit Provided

Gov. Mary Fallin's Secretary of Environment Gary Sherrer is resigning.

Sherrer says in a letter to Fallin dated Friday that he plans to resign by Monday, the start of the new fiscal year.

“Gary Sherrer is a strong voice for sensible, common-sense policies that have helped to protect Oklahoma’s environment while also making room for job growth and economic development,” Fallin says. “He has worked well with both Republicans and Democrats and was skilled at achieving consensus among people with diverse interests and agendas."

Fallin plans to consolidate the secretary of environment and energy positions into one cabinet post and Sherrer said he didn't feel like he had the knowledge and expertise to handle both positions.

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World Views
4:18 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

What Attitudes About Snowden Say About The Security State

Edward Snowden
Credit Voice of America / Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration appears to be trying to demote Edward Snowden's status to that of a common fugitive unworthy of extraordinary pursuit.

During a visit to Africa, Obama said Thursday that Snowden's case was "not exceptional from a legal perspective."

The University of Oklahoma's Center for Middle East Studies Director Joshua Landis says what he finds most perplexing is the public’s attitude toward Snowden.

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Affordable Care Act
3:58 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

UPDATE: Judge Says Hobby Lobby Won't Have To Pay Fines

Credit Fan of Retail / Flickr Creative Commons

A federal judge says Hobby Lobby and a sister company will not be subject to daily fines for refusing certain birth-control for workers.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton on Friday set a hearing for July 19 on claims by Hobby Lobby and the Mardel Christian bookstore chain that they should not have to provide some types of birth control, as required under the federal health care overhaul.

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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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