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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Certified Healthy Oklahoma Award
4:28 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Cherokee Nation's Health Services Receives Good Review

Three Rivers Health Center
Credit Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation's health services department is receiving accolades for meeting certain health criteria.

Cherokee Nation Health Services and the tribe's Head Start program recently received the Certified Healthy Oklahoma award from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Three of the tribe's health centers also received the award. They are the Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee and Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw.

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The Protojournalist
2:26 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

What Winter Will Be Like In 100 Years

iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 4:57 pm

One of the upsides to the seemingly endless winter of 2014 was that you had time to think.

And to ask futuristic questions, such as: What will the American Winter of 2114 be like?

Here are some of the answers.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:24 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Bill to Allow New Tax On Limestone And Sand Mines Dead Until Next Year

State Rep. Charles McCall (R-Atoka)
Credit Provided / Oklahoma House of Representatives

Representative Charles McCall’s bill to allow counties to impose a tax on sand and limestone mining operations that sell their product elsewhere didn’t make it through the full House by the March 14 deadline.

But McCall, R-Atoka, says he will try again next year.

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Economic Development
12:54 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Study: $6 Billion Spent On Oklahoma Wind Energy

A wind turbine near Calumet, Okla.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A study commissioned by The Wind Coalition says developers have invested more than $6 billion in Oklahoma's wind energy industry.

The study released Wednesday says there are 26 active wind farms in the state. Oklahoma ranks sixth in the nation in the amount of wind energy generated for consumers. That's enough to power almost 770,000 homes each year.

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Oklahoma Watch
12:02 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Many Of State’s Lowest-Achieving Students Show No Improvement In Reading, Math

Shelly Deas, principal of Lee Elementary School in Oklahoma City, shows the school’s system for tracking achievement and improvement levels of each student. Students in blue are at the highest performing level; students in red are at the lowest.
Credit Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Four in 10 of Oklahoma’s lowest-performing students showed little or no improvement in language arts and math last year, raising questions about whether the state and schools are focusing enough attention on students who struggle the most.

In public schools where at least three-fourths of students were from low-income families, about half of test takers made no significant improvement over the previous year, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of state test results in spring 2013.

Interactive: How Bottom 25 Percent Scored at Each School

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Death Penalty
10:42 am
Wed March 26, 2014

UPDATE: Judge Finds Execution Drug Secrecy Unconstitutional

Oklahoma's death row is housed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.
Credit duggar11 / Flickr Creative Commons

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that the state's execution law is unconstitutional because it doesn't allow inmates access to the court system.

Under Oklahoma law, no one may disclose the source of drugs used in executions — even if an inmate sues and wants the information as part of the discovery process. 

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish said Wednesday that provision violates due process rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

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Shots - Health News
5:03 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Most People Don't Know The Health Insurance Deadline Looms

Yudelmy Cataneda, Javier Suarez and Claudia Suarez talk with insurance agent Yosmay Valdivian at a session to sign up for health insurance in a Miami mall March 20.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 12:51 pm

Next week is the last chance for most people without insurance to sign up for individual health coverage for the remainder of 2014.

Yet according to the latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 60 percent of those without coverage still don't know that.

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Politics
2:15 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Say Goodbye To The Taxpayer-Funded Political Convention

Ever since the Watergate era, taxpayers have been able to check a box on their federal tax returns and designate a little bit of their tax payment to help finance the presidential campaigns and wean politicians away from big donors.

The public financing program has had its ups and downs. But now President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that, for the first time, takes taxpayer money out of the fund.

First of all, let's pause to reflect on some of the great moments of American political conventions brought to you by presidential matching funds.

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Affordable Care Act
6:15 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Justices Divide By Gender In Hobby Lobby Contraception Case

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 8:12 pm

There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical.

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Received $6000 bill for back taxes
6:01 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Widow Of Oklahoma Soldier May Get Tax Relief

Credit donkeyhotey / Flickr.com

The widow of an Oklahoma soldier killed in the Fort Hood shooting could get relief from a $6,000 tax bill under a measure that would grant some families benefits similar to those given after acts of terrorism.

Jennifer Hunt, 30, had been married just short of three months when her husband, Jason, was killed in the rampage at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009.

Hunt said she was misinformed at the time of her husband's death and believed that she qualified for a property tax exemption, but this year received a $6,000 bill for back taxes.

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