Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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Native American
12:39 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Cherokee Chief: End Of Trail Of Tears Worthy Of Celebration

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker
Credit Cherokee Nation

The principal chief of the Cherokee Nation says the 175th anniversary of the end of the Trail of Tears is a cause for celebration.

Several thousand Cherokee Indians died as they were forced from their homelands in the southeast into Indian Territory, beginning in 1838.

Monday marks the anniversary of the arrival of the final group to present-day Oklahoma.

Chief Bill John Baker says tribal members feel a sense of pride from the Trail of Tears. He says that, despite the trials and tribulations, Cherokee ancestors survived and the tribe has thrived.

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Oklahoma Voices
11:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Immigration Inspiration: Oklahoma Novel Framed By Controversial 2007 Law

HarperCollins Publishers

In 2007, Gov. Brad Henry signed some of the country’s strictest anti-immigration legislation into law.

House Bill 1804 by state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) made it a felony for the state to provide education and health care services to illegal immigrants, and requires police to investigate the immigration status of anyone “suspected” of being in this country illegally.

Seven years later, the controversial law and its effect on people form the basis for Oklahoma native Rilla Askew’s fourth novel Kind of Kin, now out in paperback.

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Common Core
10:51 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Senate Panel: No Common Core Standards For Oklahoma Schools

Credit Terrapin Flyer / Flickr Creative Commons

A state Senate committee has passed legislation that would limit federal control over so-called Common Core standards for math and English instruction in Oklahoma's public schools.

The Senate Education Committee voted 11-0 for the measure Monday. The House-passed bill authorizes development of new English and math standards and prohibits the state Board of Education from entering into any contract that would limit state control.

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U.S. Supreme Court
9:58 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Justices Reject Oklahoma Plea To Restore Death Sentence

Credit Mark Fischer / Flickr Creative Commons

The Supreme Court has refused Oklahoma's plea to reinstate the death sentence for a man convicted of killing two people in 1994.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place a federal appeals court order granting a new sentencing hearing for Rocky Eugene Dodd.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Dodd's death sentence because seven relatives of Dodd's victims were allowed to call for the death penalty in their testimony during the sentencing phase of Dodd's trial.

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U.S. House
9:26 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Oklahoma Congressman Mullin Ethics Update Expected Today

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.)
Credit Congressman Markwayne Mullin

The House Ethics Committee is expected to release an update Monday in its review of Republican Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma.

Ethics Committee chairman Michael Conaway and ranking Democrat Linda Sanchez said in February they had received a referral about Mullin from the Office of Congressional Ethics. The OCE is an outside organization that can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee. The committee has not disclosed the subject of the potential investigation.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Serve Moore's Spring Break Renews City Park, Restores Community Pride

University of Hartford students spend their spring break planting trees at Little River Park in Moore.
Credit Kate Carlton / Oklahoma Tornado Project

During spring break, most college kids escape school and work for a simpler life at the beach. But sometimes, groups of teenagers and 20-somethings venture away from the sand and into the dirt. 

One Oklahoma group has decided to use those students to revitalize areas of Moore affected by the May 20 tornado. 

Spending your spring break planting trees in a muddy park thousands of miles from your home may not sound like the most relaxing and rewarding way to spend a week. 18-year-old Tyler Lawson from Connecticut realizes he’s working a lot harder than many of his classmates.

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The Two-Way
6:17 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Ukraine Orders Its Troops Out Of Crimea As G-7 Meets On Crisis

President Obama tours the Rijksmusuem with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (left) and others ahead of the G-7 summit in The Hague, Netherlands, which is certain to focus on the situation in Crimea.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 12:12 pm

Ukraine announced the pullout of its troops from Crimea after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula and took control of the military bases there. The decision comes as President Obama arrived in the Netherlands on Monday for a summit of the G-7 group of industrialized nations that is certain to focus on discussion of the international crisis.

Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said Monday that the Defense Ministry has been ordered to redeploy Ukrainian servicemen from the Crimea to Ukraine's mainland, in remarks confirmed by his office.

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Code Switch
11:33 am
Sun March 23, 2014

The Most Powerful Nerd In The Universe Is A Scientific Anomaly

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is remarkable, in part because he's a black astrophysicist — seemingly as elusive a phenomenon as the Higgs boson.
NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 12:41 pm

Neil deGrasse Tyson — astrophysicist, irreverent tweeter, vanquisher of Pluto, frequent Stephen Colbert foil — is America's "It" Nerd.

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Shots - Health News
8:30 am
Sun March 23, 2014

Doctors Say Don't Give Birth To Baby In A Tub, But Midwives Disagree

Proponents of water birth say it's easier on the mother and more peaceful for the baby.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 1:49 pm

Hospitals are increasingly giving women the option of going through labor or giving birth in a pool of warm water. Laboring in the tub is fine, the nation's obstetricians and pediatricians say, but there's not enough proof that it's safe to actually give birth in one.

The doctors' statement has raised eyebrows among nurse-midwives, who have been helping women deliver in water for decades in order to ease pain and speed delivery.

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The Two-Way
7:48 am
Sat March 22, 2014

More Satellite Images, But Still No Sure Sign Of Missing Jet

This satellite image, taken on March 18, has intensified the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia. The image was released Saturday by Chinese authorities.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 3:05 pm

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. "The Object Was Not Sighted" Today Australian Authorities Say:

Aircraft searching the Indian Ocean on Saturday for any sign of a Malaysia Airlines jet that's been missing for two weeks did not spot the large object seen in a newly analyzed satellite image, Australia's Maritime Safety Authority reports.

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