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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The Two-Way
8:29 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Crimean Parliament Passes 'Declaration Of Independence'

A masked man, believed to be a Russian soldier, holds a Crimean flag as members of a pro-Russian self-defense unit stand in formation Monday in the regional capital of Simferopol.
Vasily Fedosenko Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 10:51 am

"Crimea's regional legislature on Tuesday adopted a 'declaration of independence of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea,' " The Associated Press reports. "The document specified that Crimea will become an independent state if its residents vote on Sunday in favor of joining Russia."

That's just one of several developments Tuesday as the crisis in Ukraine continues. Among the other news:

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Native American
8:21 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Chickasaw Nation Endows OU Law Position

Credit College of Law / University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma College of Law has received a gift from the Chickasaw Nation for the Chickasaw Nation Native American Law Chair.

The position is the first endowed chair of its kind in the nation. It will allow OU to attract and retain national scholars in Native American law.

OU Law offers three different programs providing specialization in Native American law: the Juris Doctor Certificate, the Master of Laws and the new Master of Legal Studies.

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Parallels
7:24 am
Tue March 11, 2014

In Tsunami's Wake, Fierce Debate Over Japan's 'Great Wall'

Workers build a concrete barrier along the coast of suburban Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, which was hard hit by the devastating tsunami in 2011. Nationwide, Japan has poured concrete to defend nearly half of its shoreline. Critics say much of it is unnecessary.
Lucy Craft for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 9:28 am

Three years after the massive tsunami that ravaged northeastern Japan, the government is building the biggest anti-tsunami barriers ever.

The vast network of supersized sea walls, mocked by some as "the Great Wall of Japan," is already underway and would stretch 230 miles and cost nearly $8 billion.

The wall is designed to protect places like the small port city of Kesennuma in Miyagi prefecture. With its dramatic hills, white fishing boats and seafood market, Kesennuma has the pleasant nautical feel of Seattle.

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Must Keep it locked in your car
5:12 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

If You Have A Permit, You Can Take Your Gun To School

Credit Oklahoma State Legislature

Oklahomans with a permit to carry a handgun could keep their weapon locked inside their vehicle on public school campuses under a bill approved by the Oklahoma House.

The House voted 76-17 Tuesday for the bill by Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Sally Kern, despite opposition from a lawmaker who is a former school principal and voiced concern about the safety of having guns on school campuses.

Kern says her bill is about protecting the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens.

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Additional Cracks Discovered by Workers
3:53 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

James C. Nance Bridge Closed "Indefinitely"

Credit J Stephen Conn / Flickr.com

Oklahoma transportation officials say repair work on a closed bridge that connects Purcell and Lexington will take longer than expected and the bridge will remain closed indefinitely.

Transportation officials briefed members of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission Monday on the status of the repairs to the US 77-State Highway 39 bridge over the Canadian River.

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Parallels
3:35 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

What If Ukraine Still Had Nuclear Weapons?

President Bill Clinton (from left), Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, clasp hands after signing documents whereby the U.S. and Russia agreed to stop aiming long range nuclear missiles at each other, and the Ukraine agreed to dismantle all of its 1,800 nuclear warheads. The event took place on Jan. 14, 1994, at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Diana Walker Time

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 1:38 pm

Ukraine appears rather helpless in the face of the Russian intervention in Crimea. But what if Ukraine still had nuclear weapons? The confrontation might look rather different, and perhaps much scarier.

When Ukraine gained independence in the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, it inherited a nuclear arsenal that included some 1,800 warheads, making it the third largest in the world, trailing only Russia and the U.S.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
3:09 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

New Study: Oklahoma’s Largest Earthquake ‘Potentially Triggered’ By Smaller Disposal Well Quake

A disposal well in Northern Oklahoma.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil and gas industry-related waste water injection may have triggered a cascading sequence of earthquakes that culminated in Oklahoma’s largest earthquake ever recorded, the 5.7-magnitude temblor that struck near Prague in November 2011, a new peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Researchsuggests.

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Public Safety
12:19 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Oklahoma Troopers Could Have Equipment Allowance Doubled

Graduates of the 60th Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper academy.
Credit Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers would have their equipment allowance doubled for things like uniforms and practice ammunition under a bill approved by the Oklahoma House.

The House voted 84-3 for the bill on Monday that would boost the amount from $150 to $300 a month. It would also increase the equipment allowance for cadets from $100 to $200 per month.

The House author of the bill, Rep. Steve Vaughn, says the measure is among several to help increase pay for troopers.

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Capital Punishment
11:46 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Oklahoma Judge Denies Execution Delays Over Lethal Injection Drugs

The main gate at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.
Credit duggar11 / Flickr Creative Commons

An Oklahoma County district judge says she's not the right judge to delay two executions while inmates challenge Oklahoma's execution procedures.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the OklahomaDepartment of Corrections to learn more about the drugs that would be used to execute them.

After state lawyers claimed District Court Judge Patricia Parrish didn't have jurisdiction, Parrish said Monday requests for delays should go to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, which sets execution dates. She says she can handle the actual challenge to the law.

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It's All Politics
11:45 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Governors' Races Offer Promise For Democrats

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett applauds a choir at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center during a Jan. 29 news conference in Philadelphia.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 1:49 pm

Elections for governor could provide some good news for Democrats this fall, giving them the chance to regain ground in a few states where the party has had good fortune recently.

At this early stage, Republicans are expected to hold control of the House and pick up seats in the Senate — maybe even win a majority in the Senate.

But the GOP has fewer opportunities when it comes to statehouses. Republicans dominated state elections back in 2010, leaving them few openings this year. (Governors serve four-year terms everywhere but Vermont and New Hampshire.)

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