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Monday
May232011

Missouri Reeling from Deadliest American Tornado in 60 Years

Julie Denesha/Getty Images(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- The death toll from the monster tornado that ripped through Joplin, Mo., has soared to 116, making it the deadliest single tornado in nearly 60 years. The lethal Joplin twister has also made 2011 the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1953, with 454 deaths in 1,000 tornadoes so far, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This past April also set a record as the deadliest month on record with 361 tornado related deaths, according to NOAA's records. The Joplin tornado was rated as an EF-4, the second-strongest classification with winds ranging between 166 and 200 mph. The nearly mile-wide funnel touched down at 5:41 p.m. CT Sunday and blasted a six mile wide path through the city and left trapped survivors crying out for help Monday morning.

Rescuers shifted through rubble Monday looking for survivors as high winds and hail continues to plague the area. The storm and its aftermath included amazing stories of survival.

One man was saved by rescuers after texting his friend his location and the words, "I'm alive."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Sunday evening and activated the Missouri National Guard in response to the destruction.

Four people were killed at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin when it took a direct hit from the tornado. Patients and staff have been evacuated as damage suffered during the storm has affected the structural integrity of the building. Every window in the facility was blown out and the top two floors were blown off, ABC News affiliate KMBC reported.

Hospital spokeswoman Cora Scott told the station that 183 patients were in the hospital at the time and the facility only had five minutes warning that the tornado would strike. More than 100 patients have since been evacuated to other hospitals, Scott said.

Seven people have been reported dead at a nursing home, according to police reports.

In the city of about 50,000 people 160 miles south of Kansas City, the tornado was reported to be a mile wide, with winds of nearly 200 mph that ravaged the area. Authorities estimate 25 to 30 percent of Joplin has been damaged by the tornado, with highly populated areas having been hit by the storm.

Cries could be heard early this morning from people trapped below the wreckage, while crews have been pulling out bodies and lining them up in the streets for loved ones to identify, according to ABC News affiliate KODE.

More severe weather, including high winds, rain and hail, is expected Tuesday before the storms finally abate later in the week, according to Accuweather meteorologist Mark Paquette.

There is also a fear of gas explosions in the storm's aftermath and authorities are telling people not to light any cigarettes because so many gas pipes are broken, causing concern that what's left of Joplin might go up in flames, KODE reported.

In total, 70 tornadoes were produced by the storm system since Friday, including at least 47 tornadoes Sunday. Tornadoes were reported in seven states from the Canadian border to Oklahoma. Warnings and watches were posted from Texas to Michigan.

President Obama released a statement on the emergency late Sunday night, saying, "Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri as well as communities across the Midwest today. We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time."

Regarding the government's response to the disaster, the president's statement continued, "At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas' state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed.

Earlier Sunday, tornadoes had torn across other parts of the region, killing at least one person in Minneapolis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Dominique-Strauss Kahn's Wife Uses Family Fortune to Fight His Sex Assault Charges

Shannon Stapleton-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Anne Sinclair, the wife of former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is using her millions to help her husband fight sexual assault charges.

Sinclair, 62, was spotted leaving the luxury high-rise in lower Manhattan where Strauss-Kahn is temporarily living during his house arrest. Sinclair is arranging for the couple to transfer to a new luxury apartment.

Since Strauss-Kahn's arrest on May 14 for allegedly sexually assaulting a maid at the Sofitel hotel, Sinclair has defended her husband.

Sinclair was a prominent television journalist in France when she married Strauss-Kahn in 1991. It was his third marriage and her second. Sinclair retreated from her career and became a driving force behind Strauss-Kahn's political ambitions. She used her considerable family fortune to finance his political career.

Sinclair's grandfather amassed a fortune representing artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Now Sinclair is using that same family fortune for her husband's court battle and house arrest.

Already, Sinclair has put up a $1 million cash bail and posted her husband's $5 million insurance bond on Friday when he was released from Riker's Island. She's rented a temporary $4,400 a month apartment near Wall Street and will pay for her Strauss-Kahn's $200,000 round-the-clock security for the duration of his trial.

Strauss-Kahn's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Sunday that his client will "plead not guilty and in the end, he'll be acquitted."

New York police have spent the past week poring over 48 hours of surveillance footage and interviewing hundreds of Sofitel employees. Strauss-Kahn's next court appearance is set for June 6.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Lance Armstrong Doping Investigation Widens

Morne de Klerk/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A federal investigation into Lance Armstrong and doping in cycling continues to expand, as now a second and a third teammate are reportedly telling investigators that the seven-time Tour de France champion used performance enhancing drugs during his reign at the top of the cycling world.

Tyler Hamilton, a close friend and U.S. Postal Service teammate of Armstrong's, told CBS 60 Minutes in a report that aired Sunday night the same thing that he says he told a federal grand jury -- that he saw Armstrong use a variety of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) when they raced.

The statements from Hamilton, who rode with Armstrong from 1999 to 2001, match the story that another former Armstrong teammate, Floyd Landis, told ABC News in an exclusive interview last year. It was Landis who first put authorities on the trail of Armstrong.

Armstrong is under federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, which is looking into whether the cyclist, once one of the world's most-revered professional athletes, committed fraud by allegedly taking illegal or banned drugs to win races for the U.S. Postal Service team.

The case against Armstrong is now no longer just about whether he as an individual used drugs to win the Tour de France, but whether there was a team-wide doping program, an offense that could lead to fraud and conspiracy charges.

Lance Armstrong and his lawyer both have categorically denied that he has ever cheated. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Harold Camping, Doomsday Preacher, Ready to Explain Failed Rapture Prediction

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(ALAMEDA, Calif.) -- Harold Camping, the radio evangelist who predicted the Apocalypse would begin Saturday, May 21, 2011, said Monday he is ready to make a statement about his failed prediction.

Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer, is the head of a media empire that includes radio stations, TV channels and a website.

On Sunday, after the Rapture failed to occur Saturday as he had predicted, Camping was "mystified" and "a little bewildered," an associate of the California preacher told ABC News.

Tom Evans, a board member of Family Radio International, said Camping's wife told him her husband was at their home and had no intention to speak or issue any statement Monday.

Camping's wife described him as being "somewhat bewildered" and "mystified" that events did not unfold on May 21 as Camping had predicted, Evans said.

Evans said his personal position is that the public is owed an apology and he wanted the board -- and Camping -- to meet to figure out what to say and do next.

Camping had pinpointed May 21, at 5:59 p.m. as the exact time the Rapture would occur, when those chosen by God would ascend to heaven while cataclysmic earthquakes would begin to rock Earth. He spread the word on billboards, posters, fliers and digital bus displays across the country.

"I am utterly absolutely, absolutely convinced it's going to happen," Camping said earlier in the week.

Robert Fitzpatrick of New York had put his money where his faith is: The 60-year-old retiree spent $140,000 -- almost everything he had -- on hundreds of billboards proclaiming the Armagedon that Camping predicted.

When it didn't come, he was standing in New York's Times Square, surrounded by jeering tourists in a drizzling rain.

"I can't tell you what I feel right now," he said. "Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here."

While Camping has his followers, his preaching also drew criticism from many Christians who pointed out that the Bible says no person can know when the end will come.

This is not the first time Camping was mistaken about the end of the world. He once predicted the End of Days to be Sept. 6, 1994, but later said that date was a result of a mathematical error.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Endeavour Crew Chats with Tucson School Kids from Space

NASA(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Elementary school classmates of the youngest victim of the deadly January Tucson, Ariz., shootings that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. severely wounded, chatted Sunday with space shuttle Endeavour astronauts Mark Kelly and Mike Fincke while they were in orbit.

The Sunday night talk at Mesa Verde Elementary School was a priority for Kelly, the father of two teenage girls, and the husband of Rep. Giffords. Kelly has been haunted by Christina's death, and he told ABC News' Diane Sawyer earlier this year it agonized him when he thought about it.

One thing Kelly could give was his time, and that's why students crowded into school on a Sunday night to talk to the astronauts. He told them that when he was Christina's age, "I was watching Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, and I told myself that if I worked really hard, maybe one day I would have the opportunity to fly in space, and I did work hard and it did work out. It was those early Apollo astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan that inspired me."

Endeavour Cmdr. Mark Kelly Answers Questions From Orbit

Q: How long does it take to get to space?

Kelly: We go from zero to 17,500 mph in 8 minutes and 20 seconds. When those main engines start, it's like being on a runaway train that is going 1000 mph.

Q: How fast do you go?

Kelly: Right now, we are going 17,500 mph. We see a sunrise and sunset every 45 minutes. If you go outside in spacewalk, it is in the vacuum of space. Even though you are going fast it is not like sticking your arm out the window of a car. You don't feel the air rushing by.

At the end of the session, Kelly showed the students a scrapbook he brought into space for them that he would give to Mesa Verde Elementary School after Endeavour lands in June.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Mumbai Terror Trial Gets Underway in Chicago

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The Chicago terrorism trial set to begin on Monday, of Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana, is going to reveal information that could cause serious diplomatic heartburn between the United States, Pakistan, and India.

The trial could also renew calls in Congress to cut foreign aid to Pakistan; there may be testimony that highlights that Pakistan's intelligence service had a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 164 dead, including six Americans.

Rana has been charged with three counts of providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba terrorist group, assisting Chicago resident David Headley, the operational planner of the Mumbai attacks.  Headley, who pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, conducted surveillance for the attackers, used a GPS to program in key location markers for the Mumbai terrorists as they moved to their targets and ravaged the city for three days in November 2008.  They struck luxury hotels, the train station, restaurants and a Jewish center.

Rana, who owned and oversaw the First World Immigration Services in Chicago and other cities, allegedly allowed Headley to use his business as a cover.  The indictment filed against Rana and other conspirators in the case alleged that in June 2006 Headley "advised…[Rana] of his assignment to perform surveillance for potential targets in India and obtained Rana's approval for opening a First World office in Mumbai, India as a cover for these activities."

Last month a superseding indictment revealed the names of additional plotters in the case: Sajid Mir (Headley's handler), Abu Qahafa, Mazhar Iqbal, and a man known only as "Major Iqbal" who is believed to be in either the ISI or Pakistani military.

Court watchers, journalists and the victims of the Mumbai attacks hope to learn more about the mysterious Major Iqbal and who he may be.  Several of the U.S. family members who lost their loved ones in the attacks have sued the Pakistani government and the ISI.

According to court records in the civil lawsuit, the attorneys representing the families attempted to serve subpoenas to Major Iqbal and members of the ISI to find out information about the attacks.  Several of the subpoenas were returned unopened but the subpoena for Major Iqbal, which was delivered to a location in Pakistan, was returned to the New York attorneys and had been opened.

A jury of eight women and four men will be hearing extensive testimony in a trial that is expected to last four to five weeks.  The judge has ordered that the jury remain anonymous given the security concerns and nature of a high profile terrorism trial. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Elizabeth Smart Wants to Make Sentencing Message of Hope

George Frey/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- When Elizabeth Smart speaks at the sentencing this week of the man who kidnapped her from her bedroom nine years ago, her words might be directed to the judge, but she hopes her message will reach others who have gone through ordeals like hers.

At Brian David Mitchell's sentencing, scheduled for Wednesday, Smart will get the final word, telling her tormenter, and the judge, about the horrors she endured and why no one should ever have to face Mitchell again.

Smart said she also knows she can serve as an example and an inspiration to others.

"I will be able to reach out and help other children, other survivors speak out about what's happened to them and give them real hope and courage to take a stand," she said.

Smart was the picture of poise throughout the trial, holding her head high while telling a jury of the horrors Mitchell put her through.  But she said she hasn't decided what she will tell the court.

"I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to say yet," she said.  "So we'll just see when the time comes."

In June 2002, Mitchell broke into the Smart house in an affluent neighborhood of Salt Lake City and kidnapped the then 14-year-old from the bedroom she shared with her sister.  For the next nine months, Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet, and his accomplice, Wanda Barzee, held her captive.  He claimed she had become his wife and repeatedly sexually assaulted her.

In March 2003, two women in Sandy, Utah -- just miles from Smart's home -- called police when they saw a man who they thought looked like Mitchell, whose face they knew from the extensive coverage of the girl's story.  The man was walking with a woman and a girl, all carrying rolled sleeping bags.

When police tracked the trio down, they thought the girl looked like Smart and took them into custody.

It took years for the case to finally go to trial because of questions over Mitchell's mental health.  When it finally began last year, the trial spanned five weeks, during which Smart took the stand to describe in frank language what happened during her nine-month captivity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Doomsday Prophet 'Bewildered' by Failure of Rapture

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Harold Camping is "mystified" and "a little bewildered" that the Rapture did not go as he predicted, an associate of the California preacher told ABC News.

Tom Evans, a board member of Camping's Family Radio International, said that Camping's wife told him her husband is at their home in Oakland and has no intention to speak or issue any statement on Sunday or Monday.

Camping's wife described him as being "somewhat bewildered" and "mystified" that events did not unfold on May 21 as Camping had predicted, Evans said.

Evans said his personal position is that the public is owed an apology and he wants the board -- and Camping -- to meet on Tuesday to figure out what to say and do next.

Camping, 89, had pinpointed May 21, at 5:59 p.m. as the exact time the Rapture would occur, when those chosen by God would ascend to heaven while cataclysmic earthquakes would begin to rock earth.  He spread the word on billboards, posters, fliers and digital bus displays across the country.

Robert Fitzpatrick of New York had put his money where his faith is: The 60-year-old retiree spent $140,000 -- almost everything he had -- on hundreds of billboards proclaiming the Armagedon that Camping predicted.

When it didn't come, he was standing in New York's Times Square, surrounded by jeering tourists in a drizzling rain.

"I can't tell you what I feel right now," he said.  "Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

'Cheating' Website Makes Schwarzenegger a $10 Million Offer

Chelsea Lauren/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie career is now on hold in the wake of his escalating paternity scandal, but at least he's gotten one new, lucrative job offer.

ABC News Radio has confirmed the parent company of the website AshleyMadison.com -- which helps facilitate marital affairs between its more than 9.3 million anonymous members -- has offered the disgraced former California governor star a five-year, $10 million contract to be its spokesman.

Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman has sent a copy of the contract to Schwarzenegger's agent, Richard Lovett.  The offer is for Schwarzenegger to be the official German language spokesman in his native Austria, as well as Germany and Switzerland.

Biderman explained to ABC News Radio, "Powerful men, particularly those in politics and the public eye, tend to take multiple risks on their way to the top, and so taking a risk within their personal life, since they feel they are made of Teflon, is a natural extension.  Simply put, the more successful you are, the more prone to cheating you are."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May232011

Dozens Feared Dead as Tornadoes Tear Across Midwest

ABC News' Sam Champion in Joplin, Missouri. ABC News(JOPLIN, Mo.) -- Fierce storms ripped through several Midwestern states, and officials have confirmed that at least 89 people are dead while an unknown number are injured and trapped after a nearly one mile wide, three-mile long tornado slammed Joplin, Missouri.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Sunday evening and activated the Missouri National Guard in response to the destruction the storm left in its wake.

In Joplin, St. John's Regional Medical Center was fully evacuated after it took a direct hit from the tornado, and seven people have been reported dead at a local nursing home, according to police reports.  In the city of about 50,000 people, which sits 160 miles south of Kansas City, the tornado was reported to be one mile wide, while winds of nearly 200 miles per hour ravaged residents.

State and local law enforcement agencies, including fire mutual aid, are coordinating search and rescue operations.  The Missouri State Highway Patrol sent troopers from other regions to help local officers in southern Missouri deal with the destruction, according to a statement from Nixon's office.

Authorities estimate that 25 to 30 percent of Joplin has been damaged by the tornado, with very populated areas having been hit by the storm.

Cries could be heard early Monday morning from people trapped below the wreckage, while crews have been pulling out bodies and lining them up in the streets for loved ones to identify, according to ABC News affiliate KODE-TV in Joplin.

There is now fear of gas explosions in the storm's aftermath, and authorities are telling people not to light any cigarettes because so many gas pipes are broken, KODE-TV reports.

In total, 70 tornadoes were produced by the storm system since Friday, including at least 47 tornadoes on Sunday.  Tornadoes were reported in seven states from the Canadian border to Oklahoma.  Warnings and watches were posted from Texas to Michigan.

President Obama released a statement on the emergency late Sunday night, in which Obama said "Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives in the tornadoes and severe weather that struck Joplin, Missouri as well as communities across the Midwest today. We commend the heroic efforts by those who have responded and who are working to help their friends and neighbors at this very difficult time."

The president also addressed the government's response, saying, "At my direction, FEMA is working with the affected areas' state and local officials to support response and recovery efforts, and the federal government stands ready to help our fellow Americans as needed," he added.

Earlier Sunday, tornadoes had torn across other parts of the region, killing at least one person in Minneapolis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio