Happy Monday from OPUBCO HQ, where we had some great stories in the paper and online this past weekend. Here’s what you might have missed if you were out doing yard work like everyone else in my neighborhood:
–Watchdog reporter Ann Kelley and photographer Jim Beckel were in the right place at the right time on Friday. They were in Fairview getting an exclusive interview with the adoptive parents of the Liberian girls when the state sent a social worker to pick up the girls. That story appeared in Saturday’s paper. Then on Sunday, Kelley had the main story, a long-sought-after interview with the parents. (Read previous stories on this issue at our DHS coverage page.)
–State Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, continues to dodge questions about his campaign finance reports. We had a follow-up story on Sunday about Terrill’s amended reports with the state Ethics Commission. He did not list almost $13,000 in campaign contributions last year until reporters with the Oklahoman asked him about discrepancies between his reports and the reports of several political action committees. Terrill, who was fairly open about the discrepancies a few weeks ago, has declined to answer follow-up questions from the paper. (Take a look at Terrill’s latest Ethics Commission amended report and copies of canceled checks here.)
–Most Oklahoma Catholics know the story of Okarche’s Father Stanley Rother, who was murdered in Guatemala’s bloody civil war almost 30 years ago. Even if you’ve heard the story before, it’s worth checking out reporter Ron Jackson’s Story of the Ages, a multimedia package about Father Rother.
Within a month, Rother reluctantly fled for his life after being told he was on a government hit list. Finally, after months of agonizing, Rother concluded his place was among the people of Santiago Atitlan.
“I said, ‘Why do you want to go back?’” recalled Tom Rother, Stanley’s brother and the youngest of five children. “I said, ‘They’re waiting on you, and they’re gonna kill you.’ He said, ‘Well, a shepherd cannot run from his flock.’
–Watchdog reporter Randy Ellis details the difficulty some surviving spouses of disabled veterans are facing when it comes to benefits.
–Education reporter Megan Rolland had a story today comparing the budget woes–and plans–of the Oklahoma City and Tulsa school districts.
–Metro reporter John A. Williams had an interesting story about how Census officials are reaching out to the gay and lesbian community.
–Nonprofit journalism group ProPublica had a very detailed look at a secretive hedge fund that played a key role in delaying the fallout from the current financial crisis.
From what we’ve learned, there was nothing illegal in what Magnetar did; it was playing by the rules in place at the time. And the hedge fund didn’t cause the housing bubble or the financial crisis. But the Magnetar Trade does illustrate the perverse incentives and reckless behavior that characterized the last days of the boom.
Dan Yost insists he could eliminate the worry that comes with news of a stolen laptop containing personal information of about 1 million Oklahoma residents.
Yost, who heads Stillwater-based MyLaptopGPS, said his company could have recovered that sensitive data as soon as it was discovered a state Department of Human Services-owned computer had been stolen.
Had our technology been in place on the stolen DHS laptop, it is quite likely that we would already have the thief in custody and the data recovered–if not simply deleted remotely,” Yost wrote in his blog on the company’s Web site.
Yost said the company can track stolen laptops via the Internet then return important files to their owners.
The company claims a 99.6 percent success rate, but Yost said he has been unable to sell its services to state officials despite repeated attempts.
For more information on the company’s services, click here.
Do you think this is a worthwhile investment? Is such protection something you would consider for your own laptop computer?
The nation’s economic downtown is affecting people in many ways, but it hasn’t impacted Oklahoma’s child support collections.
“We haven’t seen any change in collections month-to-month over last year,” a state Department of Human Services spokesman said.
Jeff Wagner, spokesman for Oklahoma Child Support Services, cited two factors in keeping Oklahoma on track: the availability of IRS stimulus payments and the time it takes to change a child support order if a parent’s income changes.
Wagner said Oklahoma collected a record $281 million in child support payments last year.
Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights, said the audit documents some of the problems cited in a federal lawsuit the group filed in Tulsa last year.
The lawsuit seeks to fix the state’s foster care system, which attorneys claim is broken.
Lowry said the audit shows the state Department of Human Services needs significant reform.
Children’s Rights wants to turn its lawsuit, filed on behalf of nine children in foster care, into a class-action case for all children in state custody.
A federal judge in Tulsa will hear arguments on the matter March 30.
An Oklahoma City father has taken to the Internet as he tries to change how the state Department of Human Services deals with allegations of child abuse.
Clarence W. Cooper II has set up a Web site, www.sq745.org, to draw attention to his attempt to force a vote on his proposal.
Cooper needs to collect more than 117,000 signatures by mid-April in order to get his plan for a DHS overhaul before Oklahoma voters as State Question 745.