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Pets Rescued from Southern Flooding, Tornadoes Need Homes

Comstock/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- The tornado outbreak that struck the southeastern United States two weeks ago was the worst one in nearly 40 years.

At least 248 people were killed in Alabama; 34 in Mississippi; 34 in Tennessee; 15 in Georgia; five in Virginia; two in Louisiana; and one in Kentucky.

But the situation was not just devastating for people.  Hundreds of pets were abandoned or stranded, and many families that were left homeless were forced to relinquish their animals, said Beth Ostrosky Stern of the North Shore Animal League.

The Port Washington, New York organization deployed emergency rescue teams to help hard-hit animal shelters in Alabama.  The teams rescued dozens of animals.  The pets were brought to New York and given medical and emotional evaluations.  They will be put up for adoption on May 12.

North Shore is the largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization in the world, according to its website.  The organization works with a national network of shelter and rescue partners and provides information, education, and resources about pet adoption.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dalia Dippolito Trial: Cops Admit Lie in Hitman Sting to Kill Husband

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Police admitted that as part of an elaborate sting operation they lied to a Florida woman on trial for allegedly hiring a hit man to murder her husband.

The wife's defense has claimed that she thought the whole thing was part of a reality TV show her husband wanted to do.

Boynton Beach Police Sgt. Paul Sheridan testified Tuesday that he misled Dalia Dippolito about the purpose of the waiver she signed for the police sting, to be taped for the fictional reality show, Cops.

When asked if he lied to the woman about what the waiver was for, he said, "yes."

Dalia Dippolito is facing charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.  In 2009, she allegedly hired an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to kill her husband, Michael Dippolito.

"If the defense had just been about what the cops did here, that the cops were negligent…this would become a very significant point," said said Dan Abrams, ABC News legal analyst.  "The more the defense can make this feel icky and make it muddle what the investigators did, the better off they are."

Dippolito and her defense team contend that the murder-for-hire plot was part of her husband's elaborate plan to get his own reality television show and that no one was actually going to be killed.  She expected her husband to tell police of the plot once she'd been arrested, defense attorneys argued.

The trial is close to wrapping up and Abrams said it's crucial for Dalia Dippolito to take the stand for her defense to have a chance.

Dalia Dippolito's former husband, Michael, has denied that the incident was a reality show plot.  He testified in April that he was absolutely shocked to discover that six months into his marriage, his wife was plotting to have him killed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arnold Schwarzenegger: Maria and I 'Love Each Other Very Much'

Gov [dot] CA [dot] gov(LOS ANGELES) -- One day after Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver announced they've separated after 25 years of marriage, the actor and former governor of California thanked friends for their support and said he and Maria “both love each other very much.”

Schwarzenegger made the comments Tuesday night while speaking at the 63rd Israel Independence Day Celebration in Los Angeles.

Schwarzenegger told the audience, “I want to take a moment and thank our many friends and family for the tremendous amount of support and love that you have given us in the last 24 hours.”

The former governor continued, saying, “I just spoke to Maria an hour ago before I came here.  We both were saying the same things -- we’re extremely blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful people, by so many wonderful friends.”

Schwarzenegger told the audience, "We both love each other very much.  We're fortunate to have four extraordinary children.  And we're taking it one day at a time.”

Shriver reportedly moved out of the family home in Brentwood, California several weeks ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Baby Patdown Followed Procedure, TSA Says

PRNewsFoto/Transportation Security Administration(WASHINGTON) -- Airport Security screeners may face a new round of scrutiny following the online posting of a picture showing two officers patting down a baby at the Kansas City International Airport.

The picture, posted on Twitter, has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.  It shows two security screeners patting down the baby as the infant's mother holds the child, face down, in her arms. 

In a statement, TSA says the agency has reviewed the screening and determined that proper procedure was followed.  The baby was selected for a pat down because a test of the child's stroller set off explosives detectors. 

TSA adds that the family was very cooperative.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Bus Driver Saves Students from Gun-Wielding Seventh Grader

George Doyle/Stockbyte(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- A bus driver in North Carolina is being hailed as a hero after convincing a gun-wielding seventh grader to hand over his loaded weapon during a terrifying bus ride.

The 12-year-old boy tried to hijack the school bus to Washington so he could shoot government officials, witnesses told ABC News Charlotte affiliate WSOC-TV.

Driver Evans Okoduwa said Tuesday that while he was scared during Monday's incident, he knew that if he didn't get the child to drop his weapon he "could have been shot."

The student has not been identified because he's a minor. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools police say the suspect has been charged with eight counts of kidnapping and two counts of possession of a weapon on school grounds.

In addition to the gun the student held in his hand, police say he had also given a second gun to a fellow classmate.

"[The classmate] was asked to participate and didn't," said CMS Deputy Police Chief Randy Hagler.

Although witnesses on the bus claimed the boy wanted to be taken to Washington to attack government officials, police have declined to discuss a motive.  Okoduwa said that the student did not tell him what his intentions were.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


National Jukebox Website Launched by Library of Congress

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The "National Jukebox" went online Tuesday offering a vast catalogue of free music and historic recordings from the days when records were made of thick plastic instead of vinyl.

The selections, provided by the Library of Congress, range from the foxtrot to songs by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and presidential speeches.

In conjunction with Sony Music Entertainment, the Library of Congress unveiled the "National Jukebox" Tuesday, which provides access to thousands of sound recordings spanning from 1901 to 1925 for the first time in a digital format free of charge.

Harry Connick Jr., a Grammy award winning pianist, singer, and actor, helped kick off the launch of the jukebox, saying it was important for future generations to have access to some of the country's earliest music recordings.

Users can search the national jukebox by artist or genres and can consult curator created playlists. The recordings are available for streaming, but cannot be downloaded.

The collection provides access to Sony Music's entire pre-1925 catalog, including recordings from Columbia Records, Okeh, and Victor Talking Machine Co. Sony Music licensed the recordings to the Library of Congress to stream online through the National Jukebox website.

The jukebox also features political speeches by three presidents -- Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and William Howard Taft -- as well as popular poems, readings from the Bible, and early sound-effect records such as a collection of snores and sneezes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mississippi Rising: Man-Made or Mother Nature?

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- As the Mississippi River continues to rise and the threat of flooding moves south with the current, many critics of the Army Corps of Engineers are blaming man rather than Mother Nature for the high water.

"This is largely a man-made disaster -- to point it only to rainfall is naive," said H.J. Bosworth Jr., civil engineer and director of research for Levees.org. "Yes, there was lots of rainfall, but there was also lots of development. Every time you build a parking lot or a Walmart you add to the burden of the drainage system and all that drainage goes into the Mississippi River."

Bosworth says many parts of the water system including the levees were built prior to the creation of the fully developed urban areas and that this transition from soil to cement created major problems.

"If the rainfall increased in a forest the forest is going to suck up 90 percent of that rainfall. But if it happens in a urban area the pavement and roofs aren't going to suck up anything," Bosworth told ABC News.

The affect is multiplied on the mighty Mississippi because rivers in 31 states drain into it or its tributaries.

Robert Criss, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, attributes the rise in devastating floods to the continued constriction of the waterways and increased building in vulnerable areas. He says that as levees continue to be built higher it creates water that has enough power to tear through a landscape like a tsunami if the levee is breached, destroying everything in its path.

Both Criss and Bosworth agree that part of the problem is inaccurate assessments by the Corps.

"There are plenty of people living in designated 100-year flood plain areas and by government standards that's more like 10-year flood estimates," said Criss. "Every year is a 10-year flood now or worse...In terms of the Army Corps of Engineers' flood statistics I was able to show that there's not one chance in a thousand that their statistics are correct."

According to Criss, the "fraudulent statistics" encourage people to live in flood plains because based on the Corps' assessment, people receive subsidized insurance and other financial benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


MTV Producer Found with Gunshot to the Head

KABC-TV/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Police have yet to determine a motive in the execution-style killing of a promising young MTV producer, found dead outside his home in an affluent section of Los Angeles.

Gabriel Ben-Meir, 30, was found face down, shot at least once in the back of the head, on the sidewalk outside his Mid-Wilshire district home early Sunday morning by a neighbor.

Ben-Meir, who coordinated music for MTV shows, including Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd, had parked his BMW outside his apartment building and was shot just feet from his front door, police said.

LAPD would not say whether he had been robbed.

Ben-Meir was killed from a blast from a shotgun, reported the Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed source. Police would not confirm the weapon used to ABC News.

There are currently no suspects in the shooting. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mississippi Flooding: River Cresting, Louisiana Preps for Rising Waters

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- As the swollen Mississippi River continues to rush downstream, flood-level water is heading directly for some Louisiana communities still recovering from last year's devastating oil spill and possibly forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate. Many neighborhoods of Memphis, Tenn., remain submerged in dirty, debris-strewn and reptile-infested water.

The National Weather Service said the Mississippi River has reached 47.85 feet.

The river will continue to press against Memphis levees for at least the next few days, officials said. The Mississippi there has swollen to six times its average width.

Further south, residents of Vidalia, La., have been warned to start working on an evacuation plan. City officials have already evacuated the local hospital. Vidalia is directly located across the river from Natchez, Miss.

Officials said the river is expected to crest at a record level there on May 21. Businesses owners and residents have been preparing for the worst by filling sandbags.

Record flooding is also expected in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

In Memphis, though the river has crested, the danger of flooding has not disappeared. While the river's maximum elevation may have been reached, officials said they will continue to monitor the levees. Authorities expected the levees will protect the city's landmarks, Graceland and Beale Street.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Emergency Alert System Being Unveiled for Cellphones

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government unveiled a major upgrade Tuesday of the national emergency alert system that will send warnings directly to cellphone users.

Similar to the alerts heard over the radio and on TV -- a loud, piercing sound followed by the words "This is a test of the national emergency alert system" -- the new alerts will be sent via text messages.  They will inform cellphone users of alerts issued by the president, emergencies like natural disasters that pose an imminent threat, and cases of child abductions or missing children.

Called the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), the expanded service will work on newer cellphones that contain a special chip.  The text messages will be free of charge and will be available to customers of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The alerts are scheduled to be rolled out in New York and Washington, D.C. later this year, with a nationwide launch to follow by next spring.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio