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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Weather and Climate
7:45 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Climate Data Shows Last Month Second-Wettest June On Record

30-day rainfall accumulation in Oklahoma as of 7:35 a.m. on July 2, 2014.
Oklahoma Mesonet

Preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet show the state averaged about 5.8 inches of rain in June - about an inch-and-a-half above normal for this time of year.

Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus says six Mesonet stations in northern Oklahoma recorded at least 9 inches of rain this month...Buffalo had the highest rainfall total at 10.4 inches.

An inch of rain fell somewhere in Oklahoma on 19 of the months 30 days, and that helped relieve some of the drought in the state as well.

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Health
6:16 am
Wed July 2, 2014

CDC Ranks Oklahoma 5th In The Nation In Painkiller Prescription Rate

Oklahoma ranked lower than only Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky in the number of opioid painkillers prescribed to residents.
Centers for Disease Control And Prevention

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Oklahoma tied for fifth in the nation in the rate  of painkillers prescribed to its residents.

The CDC says Oklahoma doctors wrote about 128 opioid pain reliever prescriptions, drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone, per 100 state residents.

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6:46 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Oklahoma Is Winning Its Medicaid Standoff With The Feds — For Now

Lead in text: 
The one-year extension announced by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday keeps Insure Oklahoma on life support through the end of 2015. In her statement, the governor talked about buying more time to negotiate a permanent place for Insure Oklahoma — but nothing about expanding coverage.
Oklahoma is one of about two dozen states that hasn't expanded Medicaid - and it's tangled in a unique standoff of sorts with the Obama administration. Oklahoma and the federal agency overseeing Medicaid are still wrestling with the fate of a decade-old state program covering almost 20,000 low-income adults.
Environment
5:59 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Rain Not Only Lessens Drought, It Brings Back The Lesser Prairie Chicken Population

Credit J.N. Stuart / Flickr.com

An aerial survey shows good rains in parts of the five-state range of the federally threatened lesser prairie chicken have brought a 20 percent increase in the grouse's population from last year.

A release Tuesday from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies says there were 22,415 lesser prairie chickens in this year's survey, up from 18,747 last year.

The increase came in the northeast Texas Panhandle, northwestern Oklahoma and south central Kansas — areas where more rain produced better prairie habitat. The bird is also in New Mexico and Colorado.

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Trail of tears
4:09 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Tennessee Acknowledges And Apologizes To Cherokees For Removal

Cherokee Nation Secretary Of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. and Tribal Councilor Jack Baker
Credit Lawrence Boothby / Anadisgoi

Tennessee lawmakers have apologized to the Cherokee Nation for actions taken by President Andrew Jackson that forced up to 16,000 Cherokees off Tennessee lands 175 years ago.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 553 at an event Friday to commemorate the anniversary of the Trail of Tears.

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Immigration
1:35 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Oklahoma Officials Call For Immigration Reform

A group of current and former Oklahoma Republican elected officials is urging Congress to pass an immigration reform measure this year, saying the current system isn't working for the state's business owners and farmers.

In a letter Tuesday to the state's five U.S. House members and two U.S. senators, the group says there is broad support among Republican voters to make significant changes to the country's immigration system.

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The Two-Way
11:06 am
Tue July 1, 2014

U.S.-Belgium Match Could Be A Game Of Goalkeepers

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard pumps his fist after qualifying for the next World Cup round following the team's 1-0 loss to Germany last week.
Ricardo Mazalan AP

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 12:27 pm

Win or go home. Do or die. Lose and you're done. Choose your sports cliche, and for the United States team, it's true. The U.S. takes on Belgium at 4 p.m. EDT today in Salvador, Brazil. It's the Americans' first game in the knockout stage. The victor moves on to the quarterfinals, and the loser books a flight home.

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Shots - Health News
9:37 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Skimpier Health Plans Could Impose Big Out-Of-Pocket Costs

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 2:02 pm

People are worried about being able to pay for health insurance. So the insurance industry and a group of Democratic senators have proposed offering cheaper, skimpier "copper plans" on the health law's marketplaces that could draw in people who were unhappy with the cost of available plans.

But consumer advocates and others who study the insurance market suggest that there may not be a big demand for these plans and that they could expose people to unacceptably high out-of-pocket costs if they got sick.

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Politics and Government
8:38 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Earthquake Insurance Sees Rise In Oklahoma, Gets More Attention

Credit Great Beyond / Flickr Creative Commons

The recent increase in earthquakes has been alarming citizens and legislators who are questioning the causes and also preparing for more, making earthquake insurance all the more prevalent.

Only a single bill pertaining particularly to earthquakes was filed during the 2014 session.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:45 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Oklahoma Medicaid Providers Face More Possible Cuts

Images Money Flickr Creative Commons

In its second round of sweeping budget cuts, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on Tuesday will consider reducing payments to doctors and other Medicaid providers by $159 million, effective immediately.

The authority will meet in special session to vote on provider reimbursement cuts affecting up to 13,932 physicians, 2,097 advanced practice nurses, 1,561 therapists, 1,285 physician assistants, 1,277 pharmacies, 1,255 personal care providers, 1,133 dentists and several thousand other providers.

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