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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Broke A Gag Order
6:16 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Teenager's Lawyers Charged With Contempt Of Court

Credit J Stephen Conn / Flickr.com

Two lawyers for a teenager charged with murder in the death of an Australian baseball player in Oklahoma have been charged with contempt of court.

Howard Berry and Jim Berry pleaded not guilty to contempt of court charges shortly after a judge found that there was sufficient evidence for their client, 16-year-old Chancey Luna, to stand trial. Luna has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Christopher Lane. Lane, who was from Melbourne, Australia, was gunned down as he jogged near his girlfriend's parents' home in Duncan.

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SXSW
4:11 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Live Tonight: Damon Albarn, St. Vincent From SXSW 2014

Credit NPR Music

NPR Music returns to Austin with a star-studded SXSW showcase, featuring Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, and Kelis, plus emerging rock band Eagulls and more. Watch the live webcast tonight, starting at 8:50 p.m. ET.

Watch the webcast here>

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Palin calls Shannon "underdog"
4:11 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Sarah Palin Gives Facebook Endorsement To T.W. Shannon

Credit Gage Skidmore / Flickr.com

Sarah Palin is endorsing former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon of Lawton in his race for the U.S. Senate.

The GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee posted her endorsement of Shannon Wednesday on her official Facebook page.

In the post, Palin described Shannon as an underdog who has overcome diversity to become a "dynamic young conservative leader."

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World Views
2:48 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

On African Heritage, Activist Intellectual Says Knowledge Is Nothing Without Action

Molefi Kete Asante
Credit Provided / asante.net

Listen to Suzette Grillot's conversation with Molefi Kete Asante.

Born and raised in Georgia’s most rural county, Molefi Kete Asante’s path has led him on a quest to discover the roots of African Americans and African people. He is now recognized as one of the foremost contemporary African American scholars. 

Asante’s story begins with his name.

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Defense Cuts
1:08 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Defense Budget Could Force Cuts To Tinker AWACS Reservists

A United States Air Force AWACS does touch and go's over Midwest City - October 2013.
Credit Kool Cats Photography / Flickr Creative Commons

A reserve unit housed at Tinker Air Force Base that performs Airborne Warning and Control System missions would be deactivated if lawmakers pass the fiscal year 2015 defense budget.

The 513th Air Control Group partners with active duty military to provide crews and personnel during the AWACS missions. Unit commander Col. David Robinson says 345 citizen Airmen would be affected by the cuts.

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State Capitol
12:21 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Senate Targets Oklahoma's High Female Lockup Rate

Credit mikecogh / Flickr Creative Commons

A plan to target Oklahoma's highest-in-the-nation female incarceration rate with a prison diversion pilot program in Tulsa has unanimously passed the Oklahoma Senate.

The Senate voted Wednesday for the bill by Republican Sen. Kim David of Porter that targets women convicted of drug or other nonviolent crimes. David says female offenders first must enter a plea of guilty, which a judge can withhold and waive if the woman completes the 12-to-18-month program.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
11:41 am
Wed March 12, 2014

State Senate Easily Passes Bill That Could Make Mining Permits Harder To Get

U.S. Silica's sand processing plant north of Mill Creek, Okla.
Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Some landowners frustrated by the expansion of mining in south-central Oklahoma — particularly in the sensitive Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer — hope a slight change to the state’s mining law will make a major difference in the public’s ability to go up against large sand and limestone mining companies.

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State Capitol
9:44 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Looting Could Become Felony In Oklahoma

The aftermath of the May 2013 tornado in Moore, Okla.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation that makes looting a felony in Oklahoma.

The Senate passed the measure 36-1 Tuesday evening and sent it to the House for consideration.

The measure by Republican Sen. Anthony Sykes of Moore elevates the crime of looting from a misdemeanor offense to a felony, with a penalty for violations ranging from two to seven years in prison.

Sykes says the measure is a response to incidents of looting after a massive tornado destroyed homes and business in Moore last May.

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Death Penalty
9:10 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Oklahoma Attorney General To Respond In Execution Drug Appeal Case

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Credit Oklahoma Attorney General's Office

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office is scheduled to respond to an appeal by two death row inmates who are seeking a stay of execution.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt says a response will be filed by noon Wednesday to the appeal and emergency application for a stay filed with the state Supreme Court by lawyers for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner.

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The Two-Way
8:11 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Ukraine Won't Fight Russia In Crimea, Acting President Says

Their nation's flag was draped over a stop sign last week as Ukrainian soldiers stood guard inside part of the Belbek air base outside Sevastopol, Crimea. Other soldiers, said to be Russian troops, took over most of the base.
Maxim Shipenkov EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 3:54 pm

(This post was updated at 4:52 p.m. ET. to reflect President Obama's meeting with the interim prime minister of Ukraine.)

Conceding that "we cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected," Ukraine's acting president has told Agence France-Presse that his nation won't use force in a bid to keep Crimea from breaking off and joining the Russian Federation.

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