World Views
10:33 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Despite Rough Start, Uncertain Transition, U.S.-Vatican Relationship Personal, Principled

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Francis Rooney with First Lady Laura Bush and daughter Barbara during a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI - Feb. 9 2006
Shealah Craighead The White House

The United States has had a long-but-rocky relationship with the Vatican and didn’t formally establish diplomatic relations and appoint an ambassador until 1984. That 21-year stretch of U.S. representatives serving with a single pope ended when John Paul II died in 2005.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
9:30 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Thousands Of Disaster-Aid Requests End In Rejection

Susan Montesano and her two children, Aspen, 4 and Braden, 2 escaped from her and her fiancé’s rented house in Moore before it was leveled by the May 20 tornado. They received a $15,000 disaster-aid check within days.
Clifton Adcock Oklahoma Watch

Although millions of dollars in federal aid money began pouring into Oklahoma shortly after the spring 2013 storms, not all who asked for help received it.

The Oklahoma National Guard sought $22,074 for taking Gov. Mary Fallin on a helicopter survey of the damage from the May 20 tornado, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the request.

Mid-Del Public Schools had seven of its requests denied for roof repairs and other projects — the most rejected among applicants as of early June — because inspectors found the damage was unrelated to the storms.

The most dramatic rejection trend was for individuals: Of the 13,714 people who  were referred for help by FEMA under its “Individuals and Households Program,” nearly three-fourths were denied.

State and FEMA officials say the denials don’t necessarily mean FEMA was acting carelessly or callously. The agency encourages disaster victims and other groups to apply for funds even when it’s likely their requests will be rejected or scaled back because damage to their properties or belongings is mostly covered by private insurance.

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Oklahoma News
8:58 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Hearing Set In Lawsuit Over Oklahoma DUI Arrests

versageek Flickr Creative Commons

A judge has set a hearing on whether to grant class-action status to a lawsuit involving drivers whose licenses were revoked because of a faulty affidavit once used by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

The lawsuit seeks refunds for an estimated 40,000 drivers cited for alcohol-related offenses whose licenses were revoked between 2008 and October 2013.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Assistance Is Hit And Miss For Individuals After 2013 Tornadoes

Victims embrace amid the devastation in Moore after the May 20, 2013 tornado.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

After last year’s deadly tornadoes, private insurers paid out over $1 billion in claims. FEMA also chipped in $15 million as part of its individual and household assistance program. But nearly three-quarters of that program’s applicants were denied.

As part of our series tracking the federal aid money, we look at the decision-making process that left much of Central Oklahoma out of luck. 

On the evening of May 20th, 2013, James and Sheryl Pennington stepped outside their home in Moore to find debris everywhere. The tornado had left a devastating trail, and they weren’t exempt from its destruction. 

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Goes Into Effect Nov. 1
6:11 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

New State Gun Law Could Affect Licensing This Year

Credit Scott Beale / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says a new state law could affect people who are applying for gun licenses this year.

The agency said Tuesday that the law going into effect Nov. 1 modifies the state's Self-Defense Act, making certificates expire after three years. Previously, the certificates did not expire.

OSBI says residents who have completed a gun safety training course should begin the application process for a license as soon as possible.

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8-1 Decision
3:47 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Legislature Had The Power To Repeal Common Core

Credit Michael Surran / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had the authority to repeal Common Core education standards for English and math in the state's public schools.

The state's highest court took the action Tuesday a little more than four hours after attorneys presented oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the Legislature's action.

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Education
1:40 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

State Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Common Core Lawsuit

Credit LLudo / Flickr Creative Commons

An attorney says the Oklahoma Legislature engaged in "unprecedented expansion" of its authority when it passed legislation repealing Common Core education standards for English and math.

Attorney Robert McCampbell made the comments Tuesday during oral arguments before the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit that alleges the legislation is unconstitutional.

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Parallels
10:14 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Who Is Smuggling Immigrant Children Across The Border?

Child detainees in a holding cell at a Border Patrol facility in Brownsville, Texas. Some human smugglers who bring children across the Rio Grande make sure to treat their clients well.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 8:00 am

"They call me the Wolf," said the 25-year-old human smuggler sitting in front of me, sipping a Coke and stepping away for frequent cellphone calls.

"Everybody says we're the problem, but it's the reverse. The gringos don't want to get their hands dirty. So I bring them the Mexicans and Central Americans to do the dirty work for them," he says, smiling.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
9:30 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Disaster 4117 - Moore Public Schools

A new Briarwood Elementary School in Moore is near completion, paid for by insurance and federal public assistance money.
Lindsay Whelchel Oklahoma Watch

The smell of freshly cut lumber rides a south breeze to the front of the steel and concrete skeleton rising out of red clay. Construction workers and machines move about.

The new incarnation of Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died in the May 20, 2013, tornado, is set to open this fall. And in front on this day stand Mikki Davis and family members, there for a rally calling for the state to help pay for safe rooms in schools. Davis holds a picture of her 8-year-old son Kyle, one of the seven children who died.

“I didn’t want him taken (from life),” Davis said. “I expected to come here (on May 20) and find him looking for mama to pick him up.”

Returning to the site brings back memories and emotions. But knowing that the new school will have a safe room gives Davis some consolation.

“If my son’s life was taken so that others in the future could be saved in the future, then that makes me proud to be his mom,” Davis said.

The inclusion of safe rooms in the three schools damaged or destroyed in last year’s tornadoes is part of the FEMA disaster aid enabling the district to  rebuild. The assistance covers three-fourths of the cost of what is not paid for by insurance and donations.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Public Assistance Helps Moore Schools Rebuild

Tornado damaged classroom in the Plaza Towers Elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma. An F5 tornado struck the area on May 20th, causing widespread destruction.
Andrea Booher FEMA

When tornadoes damage buildings, there are a number of things to account for when it comes to insurance and federal aid: how many square feet were there? Is the building a total loss? How much will it cost to repair?

But you often don’t think about the contents of a building. For example, what about the number of beakers in a school science classroom?

Robert Romines had been the superintendent of Moore Public Schools for just one week when the May 20th tornado devastated the town, leveling two schools, damaging multiple buildings and taking the lives of seven children. Romines promised the town that the district would rebuild, and it would do so quickly.

“We made a lot of promises early on, and I'll be honest with you, there were a lot of nights I went home shortly after May 20th, 2013 and thought to myself, ‘Holy cow, we have made promises not only to our community, but worldwide media was here,’” he said.

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