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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Law
2:12 pm
Sun July 6, 2014

Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

The recent Supreme Court term resulted in an unusual number of unanimous decisions — but that doesn't mean there wasn't disagreement.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 2:10 pm

The nation greets the coming of July each year with fireworks on the National Mall and, days earlier, explosive decisions at the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the Mall fireworks dissipate within moments, the court's decisions will have repercussions for decades. Indeed, no sooner was the ink dry on this term's contraception decision than the court's three female justices accused their male colleagues of reneging.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:00 am
Sun July 6, 2014

Out-Of-State Students More Than Double At Oklahoma Colleges

Lindsay Whelchel Oklahoma Watch

The number of out-of-state students attending Oklahoma’s public universities and colleges has more than doubled in just over a decade as schools increasingly rely on nonresident tuition to supplement their budgets.

From 2000 to 2013, the number of nonresident undergraduate students enrolled in public colleges and universities jumped to 22,169 from 10,129, an increase of 119 percent. The nonresidents hail from all 50 states. Nearly half of them are Texans.

In-state enrollment rose by 12 percent, to 135,842, according to data obtained from the State Regents for Higher Education and analyzed by Oklahoma Watch. That rate matched state population growth.

The portion of what colleges call their “educational and general primary budgets” provided by out-of-state tuition also jumped significantly over the 13-year period. The enrollment figures do not include graduate or international students.

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Politics and Government
6:00 am
Sun July 6, 2014

Will State Questions Drive Voter Turnout In November?

Credit JTobiason Photography / Flickr.com

Efforts are underway to place initiatives involving storm shelters and marijuana sales on this November's ballot.

Whether this year's measures would help one candidate or party is unclear. A cockfighting initiative on the 2002 ballot drew large numbers of rural Democrats to the polls, and that was the year an underdog Democratic state senator from Shawnee named Brad Henry won the governor's race.

Henry won with 43.3% of the vote, compared to Republican Steve Largent with 41.6% and conservative independent Gary Richardson with 14.1%. 

Ballot initiatives must be submitted 60 days for inclusion on the ballot, so both petitions must be submitted by September 5th. Oklahoma ballot initiatives have 90 days to gather all signatures, and at the latest must be submitted 60 days before an election -- in this case, September 5th. The medical marijuana initiative began June 3rd. The recreational marijuana initiative began June 16th. The storm shelter initiative began July 2nd.

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Certificate Used To Determine Age
8:00 am
Sat July 5, 2014

Health Officials Urge Birth Certificate Plan

Credit comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

The Oklahoma Department of Health is urging parents to avoid the last-minute scramble and long lines by getting their children's birth certificates now as they prepare to enroll their children in school.

Health Department officials say many parents wait to obtain the birth certificates until August, which is typically the busiest time to obtain them. Parents can avoid the rush and by contacting facilities in Oklahoma City, Tulsa or McAlester to obtain their children's birth records.

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Ceremony on Tuesday
7:31 am
Sat July 5, 2014

Cherokees Reflect On Start Of Tribal Government

Cherokee Square & Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex
Credit J. Stephen Conn / Flickr Creative Commons

Cherokee Nation officials are planning to mark an 1839 date that began the creation of what became the tribe's current form of government.

Tuesday's ceremony in Cherokee Nation Capitol Square will recognize the 175th anniversary of the 1839 Act of Union.

The act created a unified political body for Cherokees who relocated west years before the tribe's forced removal and those who settled in the area after the Trail of Tears.

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Indian Times
3:00 pm
Fri July 4, 2014

Culture As Medicine

Dolores Subia Bigfoot
Credit OU Health Sciences Center

Dr. Dolores Bigfoot is one of the authors of the article Cultural Enhancement of Mental Health Services for American Indian Children found in the spring 2014 edition of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC). Bigfoot explains how age-old ceremonies and values from tribal life can help abused native children today.

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Two Systems Will Operate Side By Side
8:18 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Court Changes Cause Delays In Worker Comp Cases

Credit J Stephen Conn / Flickr.com

Hearings for thousands of injured workers will be delayed this month while the state's workers compensation system is split into two agencies— each with its own staff, offices and equipment.

Hearings scheduled in the state's workers compensation courts in Tulsa and Oklahoma City between July 21 and Aug. 1 have been postponed and will be rescheduled, according to letters from the court to attorneys.

Court Administrator Michael Harkey told the Tulsa World that he did not know how many cases were affected.

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The Two-Way
7:44 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Weakened Arthur Heads Up U.S. East Coast

Hurricane Arthur brought strong winds and heavy surf to Highway 64 in Nags Head, N.C., on Thursday.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sat July 5, 2014 12:00 pm

Updated at 9:34 a.m.

Hurricane Arthur weakened to a Category 1 storm on Independence Day after hitting the coast of North Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center said Arthur packed maximum sustained winds of nearly 90 mph as it moved offshore. The center predicted the storm would weaken in the next 48 hours.

"Arthur is expected to become a post-tropical cyclone tonight or Saturday," the center said.

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Pauls Valley
7:13 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Spitting Watermelon Seeds A July 4th Tradition In Pauls Valley

Credit K.R. Harsha / Flickr Creative Commons

For some Americans, the Independence Day holiday is all about celebrating the country's history through good food, good friends and good fireworks.

In Pauls Valley, July 4 is also about watermelon seeds — spitting them, actually.

The south-central Oklahoma city of 6,000 is once again hosting the annual World Championship Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest to see who can use their saliva to propel the fruit's seeds the farthest.

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The Protojournalist
7:12 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Bored On The Fourth Of July? Try These Movies

A promotional image for Jaws.
Universal The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Fri July 4, 2014 6:03 am

Cinema sites abound with lists such as Top 10 Movies ForThe Fourth Of July from Forbes and 12 Patriotic Movies by the Los Angeles Times. After all, Hollywood knows that Americans love to celebrate American celebrations.

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