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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U.S.
4:51 am
Sat May 4, 2013

At NRA Convention, Dueling Narratives Displayed With Guns

An ammunition display at the NRA's annual convention in Houston on Friday.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Sat May 4, 2013 11:50 am

The National Rifle Association is holding its annual convention in Houston this weekend. More than 70,000 people are expected to attend for speeches and demos and acres of guns, ammo and camo.

The NRA is coming off of a major victory: the defeat of gun control legislation in the Senate. While the talk in the convention hall is about keeping up the fight and staying true to the Constitution, a small protest against gun violence is being held outside.

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Politics and Government
5:58 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Lawmakers Delay Pension Board Reform

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Late timing and skepticism among legislators have pushed into next year an effort by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Treasurer Ken Miller to consolidate the state's pension boards.

The plan would combine the administration boards of Oklahoma's seven pension systems, which cover more than 200,000 teachers, judges, police and other employees and retirees. The pensions' funds would be kept separate. The governor says the change would save millions of dollars.

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Indian Times
4:32 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Native American Women, Once Denied, Can Now Recieve Emergency Contraceptives

Executive Director of NAWHERC Charon Asetoyer (Comanche)
Credit courtesy of indiancountrytodaymedia.com

Emergency contraception is now being offered at most Indian Health Service clinics around the country but it’s not certain the medication will be offered in the future.

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World Views
4:30 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

World Views: May 3, 2013

Listen to the entire May 3, 2013 episode

On Tuesday President Obama reiterated that the U.S. has evidence chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and regular contributor and Syria expert Joshua Landis discusses "game changers" and crossing "red lines."

Universidad de Chile industrial engineering professor and Educación 2020 founder Mario Waissbluth joins the program for a conversation about socio-economic segregation in the South American country's schools.

World Views
3:17 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Over 1,000 Militias Make Syria "Like L.A. Riots Gone Berserk"

Syrian refugees shout slogans against Assad at Boynuyogun refugee camp in Hatay province on the Turkish-Syrian border March 16, 2012.
Credit FreedomHouse / Flickr

U.S. and other diplomatic officials say discussions within the Obama administration in favor of providing arms to the Syrian rebels are gaining ground amid new indications that President Bashar Assad's regime may have launched additional chemical weapons attacks.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says eliminating Syria's air defenses would be the first step before inspectors could determine if the regime did indeed use chemical weapons.

"Once you've destroyed the Syrian military, you're in Iraq in a sense," Landis says. "We were criticized in Iraq because we only had 100,000 troops to protect an entire country."

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State Capitol
6:45 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Okla. Legislators, Governor Reach Deal on Budget

Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) and other legislative leaders announce Thursday's budget agreement at the State Capitol.
Credit Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

Lawmakers have until the end of this month to complete their work, including the passing of a state budget. The adjournment date might come sooner with the announcement of an agreement on how to spend the state’s money.

The budget to pay for Oklahoma’s government will be $7.1 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, under an agreement between Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders. For most state agencies the amount of money they’ll receive in the new budget year is the same as last, but Fallin says the largest increase in the budget is for public schools in Oklahoma.

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Health
5:49 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Middle-Aged Suicide Rate Rises in Past Decade

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A government report says the rate of suicide among middle-aged Oklahomans rose 34.4 percent from 1999 to 2010.

The Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday that there were 231 suicides among the 35-64 age group in 1999 for a rate of 18.2 suicides per 100,000 population. The report says there were 345 suicides in that age group in 2010 for a rate of 24.4 per 100,000.

The CDC report is based on death certificates and says people ages 35 to 64 account for about 57 percent of suicides.

1:54 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

DOC Officials Misrepresent Funds By Millions

Lead in text: 
Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials grossly underreported, by millions of dollars, the balance in their accounts to Governor Mary Fallin's office for her use during budget preparations.
  • Source: Newsok
  • | Via: Randy Ellis
It's "clear that the manner in which the DOC accounts for its funds needs to be more accurate, more transparent or both," Fallin administration spokesman Alex Weintz said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "The governor is not comfortable giving the agency more resources until it has thoroughly investigated these issues."
8:39 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Is Coal Mining Making a Comeback in Eastern Oklahoma?

Lead in text: 
Coal mining plays a key role in the history of eastern Oklahoma. Without immigrant miners flooding into the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some towns might not even exist.
When coal mining began to die off, so did many of the towns founded around it. Oklahoma’s coal is just too high in sulfur to be of much use in the U.S. Burning it in large quantities is against federal clean air regulations.
World Views
6:37 am
Thu May 2, 2013

How Segregation in Chile’s Education System Breeds Discontent

Protesters gather in Santiago, Chile - August 21, 2011
Credit Francisco Osorio / Flickr

Listen to Mario Waissbluth's full interview with Suzette Grillot

Students in Chile took to the streets of Santiago again last month protesting for reform of the country’s education system.

The BBC reports the students started a second wave of protests this decade in 2011, but the April demonstration was the first of 2013.

Mario Waissbluth teaches industrial engineering at Universidad de Chile. In 2008 he founded Educación 2020, a nongovernmental organization that wants to improve primary and secondary education in the country.

“Forty percent of the kids that go out to university don't understand what they read,” Waissbluth told KGOU’s World Views. “And they are grabbed by a university sector completely and fully deregulated, for profit, which abuses them to the point that we've had the explosions that we've had.”

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