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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New DOC Director reviewing policies
6:13 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

No Cameras Or Recording Equipment Allowed In Oklahoma's Prisons

Credit Danny Choo / Flickr.com

Oklahoma's Department of Corrections has temporarily banned news media from bringing cameras or any recording equipment inside its prisons.

The Tulsa World reports that DOC officials notified the newspaper this week that requests to bring photographers inside prisons for two interviews had been denied. They instead said a reporter would be allowed to conduct the interviews, so long as no recording equipment was brought into the facility.

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Will be demolished for office building
4:16 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

No More Appeals For Stage Center

Credit Preservation Oklahoma

The executive director of a historic preservation nonprofit says he will not appeal a decision to demolish a historic downtown theater complex.

Preservation Oklahoma executive director David Pettyjohn says he's disappointed the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment voted to sustain the decision by the Downtown Design Review Committee to demolish the Stage Center, but he won't appeal the decision.

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World Views
3:03 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

'Enough Unrest To Go Around': Updates On Ukraine, Thailand, Venezuela

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris, France, on Wednesday.
Credit U.S. Department of State / Flickr Creative Commons

Stuck In The Middle With Ukraine

The United States and the European Union differed this week in their response to Russia’s role in the crisis in Ukraine.

While Washington is imposing sanctions and strongly criticizing Moscow, the EU has taken softer measures.

As University of Oklahoma political scientist Paul Goode explained two weeks ago, Western media are eager to portray the crisis as a “Cold War 2.0.”

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The Two-Way
12:36 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

MasterCard, Visa Team Up To Improve Payment Security

Visa and MasterCard have formed an industry-wide group to improve payment security.
Damien Meyer AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 1:48 pm

Credit-card rivals Visa and MasterCard said Friday they have formed an industry-wide group aimed at improving payment security in the wake of a number of breaches that compromised customers' data.

"The recent high-profile breaches have served as a catalyst for much needed collaboration between the retail and financial services industry on the issue of payment security," Visa President Ryan McInerney said in the statement.

According to Reuters:

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The Two-Way
9:23 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Russian Lawmakers Welcome Separatist Steps By Crimea

Vladimir Konstantinov (in purple tie) is the speaker of Crimea's parliament. He was welcomed with flowers Friday during his meeting with Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament. She is at the far right of this photo.
Yuri Kadobnov AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 10:22 am

One day after President Obama condemned steps taken by Crimea's parliament to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, Russian lawmakers are welcoming such a move by Crimean separatists.

"Russia's parliament gave its defiant support Friday to Crimean lawmakers who want to see their region split from Ukraine and join Russia," CNN reports from Moscow.

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Native American
9:20 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Gov. Fallin's Daughter Drawing Criticism For Native American Headdress

The Pink Pony response to the headdress controversy.
Credit Pink Pony Music / Facebook

The daughter of the governor of Oklahoma is defending herself after she posted a photo wearing a Native American headdress on social media sites.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Gov. Mary Fallin's daughter, Christina Fallin, says that with age, she feels a "deeper and deeper connection to the Native American culture."

The 26-year-old posted a photo of herself on her Instagram account and the Facebook page for her band on Thursday evening.

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The Two-Way
7:08 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Jobless Rate Ticks Up, But Job Growth Is Better Than Expected

The scene at a job fair for veterans earlier this year in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 10:14 am

This post has been updated.

The nation's unemployment rate edged up to 6.7 percent in February from 6.6 percent the month before, but employers added more jobs than expected, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

According to BLS, the number of jobs on public and private payrolls grew by 175,000 last month — about 25,000 more than economists had expected.

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The Two-Way
5:13 am
Fri March 7, 2014

U.S. Knew Of 'Imminent' Move In Crimea, Top Official Says

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.
Lauren Victoria Burke AP

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 10:39 am

Senior U.S. officials were warned of imminent Russian military action in Crimea about a week before the troop movements that have sparked a major international crisis over Ukraine, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency tells NPR.

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Tax cuts for individual & corporate taxes
6:17 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Oklahoma House Votes For Reduction To Income Tax

Credit LendingMemo / Flickr.com

A plan to cut both Oklahoma's corporate and individual income tax rates has cleared the Oklahoma House over the objections of Democrats who contend the resulting loss of revenue will decimate critical state services like education, public safety and health care.

The House voted 57-34 Thursday for the bill that includes triggers for both cuts that would require certain revenue collections to grow by enough to offset the lost revenue to the state. Bartlesville Republican Rep. Earl Sears described it as a "modest income tax reduction."

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Bridge Back By Easter
4:16 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities: Lexington And Purcell

Credit J Stephen Conn / Flickr.com

Purcell and Lexington are only about 4,000 feet apart as the crow flies, but much farther as the car drives.

Travel between the communities now requires a 45-minute trip through the Oklahoma City suburbs after an emergency closure on Jan. 31 of the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge between the communities.

The cities have partnered with the Department of Transportation to provide a shuttle, but residents say not enough is being done.

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