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Beach Boys Reunion! 40 City Tour

By DERRIK J. LANG 04/30/12 08:35 AM ET APBURBANK, Calif.

— A "miracle."

That's the word Al Jardine not-so-jokingly uses to describe the latest Beach Boys reunion – this one consisting of himself and fellow founding Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Mike Love, as well as longtime players Bruce Johnston and David Marks.

After decades of prolonged separations, legal spats and near reunions, the core Beach Boys are back together, both on stage and for an upcoming new album. Their rebirth, which became a reality earlier this year when the group performed "Good Vibrations" with Maroon 5 and Foster the People at the Grammys, has reawakened musical memories for 69-year-old Jardine.

"When I'm rehearsing over there, I'm hearing stuff I haven't performed for many years," Jardine said during a recent break from rehearsals for the iconic band's 50th anniversary tour, which kicked off last week in Tucson, Ariz.

"It's wonderful to rediscover the music that way. When you're recording three albums a year, as we did in the early days, it's yesterday's news," he said. "You're on to the next thing. Boom. That stuff gets parked somewhere though, and now it's becoming unveiled again."

When the Beach Boys formed in 1961, it was mostly a family affair: school pal Jardine established the group with Wilson and his late brothers, Carl and Dennis, and their cousin, Love. Their breezy harmonic tunes and embodiment of freewheeling West Coast sensibilities captured the nation's attention just before the Beatles invaded the United States, and continued for much of the 1960s with timeless songs like "I Get Around" "Surfin' USA" and many more.

Following the 1998 death of Carl Wilson, the group fractured and began moving in different directions. Over the past 20 years, the Beach Boys' legacy has been mired in messy conflicts that the group's members agreed to squash in honor of their fans and the band's 50th anniversary, a hallmark occasion even in this jaded age of reboots and comebacks.

"They sense that we love each other and that we really want to share that love with them (the fans)," said 69-year-old Wilson, the visionary songwriter of such classics as "Help Me Rhonda," "Surfin' USA" and "California Girls." Wilson, who has released solo albums in recent years and now speaks with a slight slur, had a turbulent tenure with the Beach Boys, notoriously leaving then returning to the band at one point as he battled mental illness and drug abuse.

"When it comes to the music, all the pretensions are aside," said 71-year-old Love, who reached a settlement with Jardine in 2008 after launching a lawsuit against him in 2003 over his usage of the Beach Boys name (he also has sued Wilson on more than one occasion, most recently in 2005).

"All the egos are aside. It's just all about those group harmonies," he added. "The effect that it has on ourselves and other people is just fantastic."

Love said that the Beach Boys, who will be supported by a backing band composed of members from the group's various touring entities, have rehearsed more than 50 songs spanning all their albums, including "Pet Sounds" and "Smile." The band noted the biggest challenge has been figuring out who is singing lead on which songs, not recapturing their chemistry.

"The chemistry is there," said 63-year-old Marks, who recorded four Beach Boys albums and has moved between the band's camps. "We pick up right where we left off, especially the five of us together. The magic bubble comes around us. It's the chemistry that's behind all successful bands, like the Beatles and the Stones. It has to be there. It's special for us."

The 40-city tour will take the band's members to bigger venues than in recent years, including headlining performances at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. To honor Carl and Dennis Wilson's contributions (Dennis died in 1983), the band will play alongside videos of the late founding Beach Boys during a tribute in the show.

"We haven't gotten the holograms together yet," joked Marks, referencing the hologram of late rapper Tupac Shakur that appeared at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival earlier in April.

For a group who could hardly be considered boys anymore, they're surprisingly unfazed by the prospect of a sweeping tour that will take them across North America, Europe and Japan. Johnston noted that "hotels are great" nowadays, while Marks was reminded that they no longer have to unload or haul their own equipment in a "U-Haul trailer and station wagon."

"The heavy lifting is the writing, arranging and recording," said 69-year-old Johnston, who joined the group in 1965. "This is not the heavy lifting. This is the chocolate cake for me because we get to pull all of these magnificently arranged parts out and sing them live. We don't have to write them now. We just have to pull them out of the trunk."

The Beach Boys will stuff more tunes into that trunk with the release of an as-yet-untitled album of new material this summer. Love said the new songs will recall their classic harmony-stacked style. The group plans to perform their new single, "That's Why God Made the Radio," while on tour and may add new tracks to the set list when the album is released.

"We're slaves to the Beach Boys legacy," said Marks. "We're just out there trying to keep that legacy alive. I can't count how many times people have come up to me after shows and told me that they sing their children to sleep with `Surfer Girl.' I look in the audience and little children know the words to `Help Me Rhonda,' and 80 year olds are dancing in the aisles."

Australian billionaire to build Titanic II

AFP 4/30/2012 1:21:08 AM
One of Australia's richest men, Clive Palmer, has unveiled plans for a 21st century version of the Titanic to be built in China, with its first voyage from England to New York set for 2016.

Palmer, a self-made mining billionaire, said he has commissioned state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to construct Titanic II with exactly the same dimensions as its predecessor.

"It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic but of course it will have state-of-the-art 21st century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems," Palmer said in a statement, released on Monday.

"Titanic II will sail in the northern hemisphere and her maiden voyage from England to North America is scheduled for late 2016.

"We have invited the Chinese navy to escort Titanic II on its maiden voyage to New York."

His announcement comes just weeks after the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic, which went down on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

Palmer said the new ship would be a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who worked on the original.

 "These people produced work that is still marvelled at more than 100 years later and we want that spirit to go on for another 100 years," he said.

Titanic was commissioned by White Star Line and was the largest liner in the world at the time.

Palmer said he has established his own shipping company, Blue Star Line, with the new ship having the same dimensions as its predecessor, with 840 rooms and nine decks.

May Day: Occupy Wall Street Plans Global Protest

By Henry Goldman and Esmé E. Deprez - Apr 30, 2012 1:28 PM ET
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, whose anti-greed message spread worldwide during an eight-week encampment in Lower Manhattan last year, plan marches across the globe today calling attention to what they say are abuses of power and wealth.

Organizers say they hope the coordinated events will mark a spring resurgence of the movement after a quiet winter. Calls for a general strike with no work, no school, no banking and no shopping have sprung up on websites in Toronto, Barcelona, London, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, among hundreds of cities in North America, Europe and Asia.

Filipino anti-riot police block Occupy protesters heading to camp out near Manila's historic Mendiola Bridge leading to the presidential palace, in the Philippines.

 In New York, Occupy Wall Street will join scores of labor organizations observing May 1, traditionally recognized as International Workers’ Day. They plan marches from Union Square to Lower Manhattan and a “pop-up occupation” of Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue, across the street from Bank of America’s Corp.’s 55-story tower.

“We call upon people to refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo,” organizers said in an April 26 e-mail.

Occupy groups across the U.S. have protested economic disparity, decrying high foreclosure and unemployment rates that hurt average Americans while bankers and financial executives received bonuses and taxpayer-funded bailouts. In the past six months, similar groups, using social media and other tools, have sprung up in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Pooling Resources

The Occupy movement in New York has relied on demonstrations and marches around the city since Nov. 15, when police ousted hundreds of protesters from their headquarters in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, where they had camped since Sept. 17.

Banks have pooled resources and cooperated to gather intelligence after learning of plans to picket 99 institutions and companies, followed by what organizers have described as an 8 p.m. “radical after-party” in an undetermined Financial District location.

“If the banks anticipate outrage from everyday citizens, it’s revealing of their own guilt,” said Shane Patrick, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press team. “If they hadn’t been participating in maneuvers that sent the economy into the ditch, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
Police Prepared

New York police can handle picketers, according to Paul Browne, the department’s chief spokesman.

“We’re experienced at accommodating lawful protests and responding appropriately to anyone who engages in unlawful activity, and we’re prepared to do both,” he said in an interview.

About 2,100 Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York have been arrested since the demonstrations began, said Bill Dobbs, a member of the group’s media-relations team.

In U.S. District Court in Manhattan yesterday, four City Council members accused JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Brookfield Office Properties Inc. (BPO), Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, of suppressing free speech and using excessive force against protesters.

Organizers describe the May Day events as a coming together of the Occupy movement, with activists also calling for more open immigration laws, expanded labor rights and cheaper financing for higher education. Financial institutions remain a primary target of the protests.
Bigger Banks

“Four years after the financial crisis, not a single of the too-big-to-fail banks is smaller; in fact, they all continue to grow in size and risk,” the group’s press office said in an April 26 e-mail.

Five banks -- JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup Inc. (C), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) together held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy, compared with 43 percent in 2006, according to central bankers at the Federal Reserve.

Occupy Wall Street began planning for May Day in January, meeting in churches and union halls with a decision-making system that avoids a single leader. Instead, participants rely on group “break-out” sessions in which clusters discuss such tasks as crowd-building, logistics and communications.

About 150 attended an April 25 meeting at the Greenwich Village headquarters of the Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union, making last-minute preparations for how to deploy legal and medical help; site selection for picketing; purchasing, production and distribution of protest signs; and how to talk to reporters.
Blockades Planned

The meeting convened inside the union hall basement, where attendees arranged chairs in a circle as three facilitators asked each of the assembled to identify themselves by first name and gender -- he, she or they. Most appeared under age 30, though gray-haired baby boomers also participated. One of the older attendees pulled a ski mask over his head to protest the presence of a photographer from Tokyo.

Today, beginning at 8 a.m. in Bryant Park, scheduled events include teach-ins, art performances and a staging area for “direct action and civil disobedience,” such as bank blockades.

Tom Morello of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Rage Against the Machine along with 1,000 other guitar-playing musicians will accompany a march to Union Square at 2 p.m., according to the maydaynyc.org website. That will be followed by a “unity rally” at Union Square at 4 p.m.; a march from there to Wall Street at 5:30 p.m.; and a walk to a staging area for “evening actions,” which organizers at the April 25 meeting said would be the so-called after-party.
Golden Gate

Occupy-related events are planned in 115 cities throughout the U.S., from college towns such as Amherst, Massachusetts, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

In San Francisco, a group calling itself the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition abandoned a plan to close the span while carrying on with a day of picketing to support bridge, ferry and bus workers seeking reduced health-care benefit costs, according to its website. Protesters still plan a rally at 7 a.m. at the toll plaza, without blocking the bridge, the group said in a statement.

Across the bay in Oakland, protesters said they intend morning marches on banks and the Chamber of Commerce, followed by an afternoon rally and a march downtown.

“We’re looking forward to vigorously asserting our constitutional right to protest and giving a loud outcry about Wall Street and greed,” Dobbs said. “We’re hoping this will make a splash. We hope it will bring a lot of more people into the Occupy movement.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Goldman in New York at hgoldman@bloomberg.net; Esmé E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

Columbian prostitutes could've been Russian spies?

By MACKENZIE WEINGER | 4/24/12 1:04 PM EDT Updated: 4/24/12 3:48 PM EDT

The Colombian prostitutes entangled in the Secret Service sex scandal could have been Russian spies, Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested Tuesday.

“We’re looking at something that is very, very serious when national security might not be protected properly,” Grassley told Radio Iowa. “Who knows who might be using prostitutes? The Russians are famous for that to get information out of us.”

In a letter last night, the Iowa Republican called on the White House to answer questions about an internal review that cleared the advance team of any involvement in the scandal. Secret Service agents and military personnel are accused of bringing prostitutes back to their hotel before President Barack Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month.

“You find a lot of problems come from a culture within the agency,” Grassley said on Radio Iowa. “Now, I don’t think the Secret Service would have that sort of a culture, but this may be the tip of an iceberg.”

This is less about prostitution than the president’s safety, he added.

“The issue here isn’t just people messing around with prostitutes, the issue is the security of the president of the United States and the issue is any national security implications that it might have because of the secrecy and the documents and things of that nature,” Grassley said.

Dutch government collapses after far right pulls plug

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:58 PM EDT, Mon April 23, 2012
(CNN) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned Monday after a far-right party withdrew its support for his government, a government spokesman said.
The move may clear the way for early elections in the Netherlands, possibly as soon as this summer, the government said.
The resignation came after the far-right party withdrew from talks about an austerity package worth €14.2 billion, the equivalent of $18.6 billion, according to a news report reprinted on a parliamentary website.
Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday to decide how to go forward.
Queen Beatrix asked Rutte and his ministers to stay in their positions until new elections.
Rutte's government had depended on the support of Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom, which came in third in parliamentary elections two years ago.
No party won enough seats to govern alone in 2010, so Rutte cobbled together a coalition with another center-right party.
But even that alliance did not command a majority in parliament, so they relied on the support of Wilders' anti-Muslim party.
The Party for Freedom did not get control of any government ministries, but the coalition agreement included elements it pushed for, such as a burqa ban.
No ban has been put in place.
Wilders' Party for Freedom defied predictions by taking 24 seats in parliament in June 2010, more than doubling the number of seats it held before the vote.
Wilders himself has been in and out of court for years, accused of inciting hatred against Muslims with his controversial film "Fitna."
The movie, which he released online in March 2008 to international outcry, features disturbing images of terrorist acts superimposed over verses from the Quran in an apparent attempt to paint Islam as a threat to Western society.

Secret Servive scandal spreads to second hotel

By Whit Johnson
(CBS News) Suspicion is spreading in the Secret Service scandal beyond the agents in just one Colombian hotel.

CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson reports that a law enforcement official told CBS News that the latest agent under investigation brought a woman back to the Hilton Hotel in Cartagena, Columbia, just five days before the president would be staying there.

Until now, the Hotel Caribe had been the focus of the scandal, where the other 22 members of the Secret Service and military accused of inappropriate behavior were checked in.

"Now you're into the hotel where the president of the united states was going to stay, and it just gets more troubling," Sen. Joe Lieberman said on "Face the Nation."

Three more Secret Service agents resign
Ex-Secret Service director on scandal: "This is an aberration"
Cabbie unlikely celebrity in Colombia sex scandal

Lieberman is now joining some of his Senate colleagues like Republican Chuck Grassley who are also calling for a broader investigation into whether White House staffers could have been involved.

While the scandal is getting a lot of attention on Capitol Hill, when asked directly, most lawmakers have voiced support for the way Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has handled the fall-out.

Glenn Nowak singer on the rise!

Several summers ago I worked on a music video with Glenn just before his move to Vegas.  Glenn Nowak is a remarkable solo acoustic artist who has played professionally for over 20 years. In addition to his own music, Glenn brings a unique approach to many of the top songs by contemporary singer/guitarists such as; Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, and Jason Mraz, to name just a few. He is also known for his stirring renditions of classics by such artists as Peter Gabriel, U2, Dream Academy, and Sinead O'Conner. An "Unapologetic Romantic", Glenn consistently brings an energetic and undeniably elegant tone to every event. In addition to his tasteful use of looping style effects, it is his finger-picking style and broad vocal range that give him a "larger than life" sound. Glenn has been in Las Vegas a little over a year. He has already become a regular solo performer at hotspots such as Tommy Bahamas, Fireside, John Cutters, and J.C. Wooloughans Irish Pub. He also fronts the highly dynamic Whispering Giants, who have played at Remedy’s, Whiskey Dicks, and B.A.R (Born and Raised.) Glenn has also performed at numerous weddings, corporate events, and private parties. In addition to solo performances, Glenn enjoys partnering for duo and trio work.

For more information visit:

Bronze statue of Singer Willie Nelson unvieled in Austin,Texas

Concert photo by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2012

Story by Corrie MacLaggan
AUSTIN, Texas | Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:01am EDT
(Reuters) - An 8-foot-tall bronze statue of country singer Willie Nelson  in his trademark braids and weighing more than a ton was unveiled in Austin, Texas, on Friday, an unofficial pot-smoking holiday.

Nelson's carefree attitude helped give Austin its music reputation. So much so, the city decided to give back. Three years ago, Capitol Area Statues commissioned sculptor Clete Shields to capture Nelson's spirit in a sculpture.

"It's a challenge to try and embody what everyone thinks they know of Willie," explained Shields. "When they think of him in their mind's eye that's what I wanted to capture."

"I thought he did a pretty darn good job," Nelson, an Austin resident, said of Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields after the cover was lifted off the 2,000-lb statue.

Nelson, who has long advocated legalizing marijuana, sang "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die." The statue features the country music legend sitting on a stool with his acoustic guitar, Trigger. Even the W sign at the nearby W Hotel wore braids on Friday.

Lawrence Wright, president of the board of the nonprofit Capital Area Statues Inc, which raised private donations for the statue, said it was not easy to find an artist who could capture Nelson.

"We wanted the sense of connection Willie and his fans have, which is so electric and so human," Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, told Reuters before the unveiling.

Nelson, an Austinite, is "the man who really, more than I think any other person, made the city of Austin, Texas, the live music capital of the world," Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told a crowd that included musician/actor Kris Kristofferson at the entrance to the Moody Theater at a plaza along Willie Nelson Boulevard.

Among the fans at the unveiling were Austin residents Alli and Richard Roberts - who said they own all Nelson's albums - and their 6-month-old son, Richard.

"I've always loved Willie Nelson," Alli Roberts said. "He's an awesome guitar player and singer. And he's good people."

To the delight of fans, Nelson sang a couple of songs in an impromptu performance. He is in town for a Johnny Cash tribute concert Friday night.

That the ceremony took place on April 20 - 4/20 - at about 4:20 p.m. local time drew a lot of chatter on social media given that 420 is widely known among the cannabis subculture as a symbol for all things marijuana.

Nelson had this question for the crowd: "What time is it?" He added: "I can feel it's getting close to something."

By then it was already 4:30, and there was a slight smell of marijuana in the air.

(Concert photo by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2012
Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)

Neil Diamond Weds His Manager, Katie McNeil

Neil Diamond and his manager Katie McNeil wed Saturday in Los Angeles, the star’s representative told People Magazine.

The 71-year-old star, known for hits like “Sweet Caroline” and “Cherry, Cherry,” announced his engagement on Twitter on Sept, 7, 2011.

“Good news coming from sunny LA/ and you’re the first I want to tell/ Katie & I just got engaged/ and I hope you wish us well. Neil,” the musician tweeted.

The same day, Diamond tweeted a picture of 42-year-old McNeil and wrote, “I’d like you to meet Katie. I’m lovestruck. I took this photo in London last month. Neil.”

On Dec. 30, 2011 Diamond tweeted, “What a year! R&R Hall of Fame, Kennedy Ctr Honor, Billboard Icon Award, a Grammy nom., and best of all the hand of the girl of my dreams!”

This is McNeil’s first marriage.

Diamond has been married twice before. In 1963, he wed his high school sweetheart Jaye Posner, with whom he had two daughters. The couple divorced in 1969, and in December of that year, Diamond married Marcia Murphey, a production assistant, with whom he had two sons. Diamond and Murphey divorced in 1995.

Disney studio chief Rich Ross steps down in wake of 'John Carter' disaster

BURBANK - Disney movie studio boss Rich Ross is stepping down, a month after the family entertainment giant booked a huge loss on the mega-budget sci-fi movie "John Carter."

Ross, the former head of Disney Channels Worldwide, had taken over for then-studio chair Dick Cook just two and a half years ago with a mission to cut costs and develop new hits.

But the losses continued under Ross despite major restructuring efforts.

A month ago, Disney said it would book a $200 million loss on "John Carter," a special-effects-laden movie based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs book series.

The movie starring Taylor Kitsch had an estimated budget of $250 million, which matched what 20th Century Fox spent on "Avatar."

The problem is "John Carter" made only $269 million at box offices worldwide. After splits with theater owners and paying for marketing expenses, Disney estimated its losses on the movie will pull the entire studio into a loss of $80 million to $120 million in the quarter through March.

Ross, 50, said in a memo to staff Friday that the role of chairman of Walt Disney Studios was no longer right for him.

"The best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities," he said. "I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me."

Ross' resignation is effective immediately. The Walt Disney Co. did not name a

Disney CEO Bob Iger wished Ross well in a statement.

"Rich Ross's creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney, redefining success in kids and family entertainment and launching franchises that generate value across our entire company," Iger said. "I appreciate his countless contributions throughout his entire career at Disney, and expect he will have tremendous success in whatever he chooses to do next."

'Hero' Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny brings plane home

By Angela Saurine news.com.au
Richard de Crespigny, the pilot responsible for safely landing the A380 in 2010, with the repaired plane. Picture: AP

Captain Richard De Crespigny will be on the Nancy Bird Walton when it returns to Sydney. Picture: Alan Pryke

He was flying the Qantas plane which suffered an engine explosion mid-air, but "hero'' pilot Captain Richard de Crespigny said he had no hesitations getting back on the same aircraft for its return to Sydney today.

Captain de Crespigny even took his wife on the flight, which was scheduled to land at 9.20am after leaving Singapore last night.

But this time he was not at the controls - instead he was a guest on the flight, along with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

"I'm proud to be back on an Airbus and an A380 and back in the aircraft that we flew a year ago,'' Captain de Crespigny said.

"I have complete confidence in the A380.

"The investigation that has gone on into this flight has been the most comprehensive in the history of aviation.

"We're all confident that we know exactly what happened and we and our partners have addressed the issue.

"Everything has been analysed and assessed.''

Seventeen of the original cabin crew who were on board the famous QF32 flight will also be working to finally "bring the plane home'', but there will be a different crew in the cockpit.

Captain de Crespigny was labelled a hero after coolly landing the packed jet and saving the lives of 466 when flames burst from an engine shortly after take-off from Singapore's Changi airport on November 10, 2010, damaged the wing and left a trail of debris across the Indonesian island of Batam.

Investigations found the engine failure was caused by an oil leak in the turbine section of the engine, leading to the intermediate turbine disc overheating and being expelled through the engine casing at high speed.

An oil feed pipe in this part of the engine was discovered to have suffered fatigue cracking as a result of a manufacturing error by Rolls-Royce.

The aircraft has undergone a $139 million repair and undergone rigorous testing over the past fortnight, including individually shutting down each of the four engines and restarting it, flying at slow speeds to test anti-stall systems and turning off engine-powered hydraulic systems to ensure that the aircraft remains controllable.

Around 250 tests have also been done on the aircraft while it has been on the ground.

The plane will undergo more testing by engineers before its first commercial flight from Sydney to Hong Kong on Saturday.

It will also fly to London via Singapore and to Los Angeles.

Thieves Steal Penguin, Swim With Dolphins at Seaworld

The weekend may have been hazy for two Brits and an Aussie, but the trio woke up to a displaced penguin, a bad hangover and serious legal troubles.

The three drunk friends allegedly made a Queensland, Australia  SeaWorld their personal playground, swimming with the dolphins, capturing their adventure on cell phone video and bragging about their exploits on Facebook.

On the way out, the trio decided to take a souvenir from their night at the water park. They  scooped up a 7-year-old penguin named Dirk, who had never spent a night outside of captivity, officials for the water park said.

After waking up with a penguin guest, police said one of the men panicked and let Dirk go in a waterway known to have sharks. Witnesses who found Dirk said something chased him out of the water. On land, the frightened penguin was chased by a dog before witnesses came to his rescue.

“He was extremely disheveled, he was quite exhausted last night after we did catch him but … he’s settled down well,” Trevor Long, Sea World’s director of marine sciences, told reporters.

As for the three mates, ages 18, 20 and 21 who broke into the water park?

The men have a court date next month where they’ll have to answer to charges of trespassing, theft and unlawfully keeping a protected animal.

Sarkozy camp insists race not over as France vote looms

AFPBy Michael Mainville | AFP
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's camp insisted that France's election race was …Declarations of faith from French 2012 presidential candidates, France's President and Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) candidate Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and France's Socialist Party (PS) candidate Francois Hollande, are put in an urn in front of a voting booth in Bethune, northern France. (AFP Photo/Denis Charlet)

President Nicolas Sarkozy's camp insisted Thursday that France's election race was far from over as the top candidates sought to lure a large number of undecided and apathetic potential voters.

Despite his strong and persistent lead in the opinion polls, Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande urged voters to show up for Sunday's first round, worried that a low turnout could benefit Sarkozy.

"It is in these next hours that many in France will make their choice. I can see that there is still some hesitation on whether or not to go out to vote," Hollande told AFP in an interview.

"My approach is clear: to convince voters in order that the first round carries the second," he said.

Polls show French voters are set to turn their backs on Sarkozy after a single five-year term and choose Hollande in Sunday's first round of the presidential vote and a run-off two weeks later.

But they also show a large portion of voters remain undecided -- nearly one in four according to an OpinionWay-Fiducial poll released Wednesday -- and Sarkozy's spokeswoman said the election was still up in the air.

"The pollsters themselves say they have never seen such an uncertain campaign with so little time to go," Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told the Direct Matin newspaper.

"The proportion of voters who say they could change their minds is extremely high," she said.

The right-wing president's aides have said he needs a victory in the first round to reverse his poll deficit before the May 6 run-off.

But, with three days to go before the vote, most polls show Hollande, a 57-year-old moderate Socialist with no government experience, ahead in the first round and the clear favourite in the second.

Pollsters say 57-year-old Sarkozy has failed to overcome disappointment over his term since 2007, fuelled by his aggressive style and France's increasing joblessness despite his vows to create wealth and jobs.

The OpinionWay-Fiducial poll showed 24 percent of voters remain undecided and, after a campaign many have described as lacklustre, up to 26 percent of those registered planned not to vote all.

It also showed more than a quarter of voters backing three less fancied candidates -- far-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, centrist Francois Bayrou and the Greens' Eva Joly -- could change their minds before Sunday.

Hollande is hoping for a resounding first-round win to keep up his momentum and is worried a lower turnout could favour Sarkozy or far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, whose hard-core supporters are more likely to vote.

"I can feel each day the support but also the apprehension, as if something could happen to prevent us from succeeding," Hollande said.

"And it is true, the game is not over, nothing is done," Hollande said.

The record for the highest first-round abstention rate was in 2002, when 28.4 percent of voters stayed home and Le Pen's father Jean-Marie stunned observers by getting to the second round before losing to Jacques Chirac.

Polls mostly show Hollande slightly ahead in the first round with between 26 and 29 percent of the vote, followed by Sarkozy with 24 to 28 percent.

Hollande is the clear favourite in the second round, where he is expected to defeat Sarkozy with between 53 and 58 percent of the vote.

The polls show Le Pen with between 14 and 17 percent, Melenchon with 12 to 15 percent and Bayrou with 10 to 12 percent.

With France reeling from the eurozone debt crisis and unemployment recently hitting a 12-year high, the economy and public finances have topped the list of voters' concerns during the campaign.

Hollande has vowed to balance France's budget by 2017 while boosting taxes on the rich, increasing spending and creating thousands of state jobs.

He has scored populist points by declaring the world of finance his "enemy", vowing a 75-percent tax bracket for incomes over a million euros and promising to re-negotiate the EU's fiscal austerity pact to focus on growth.

He has also vowed to tone down the presidency if he wins, telling AFP his would be a "modest" presidency in contrast to Sarkozy and vowing to be "a president in service to his country and not to his own ambition."

Sarkozy has hit back at Hollande's inexperience and with predictions that a Socialist victory will spark a "massive crisis of confidence" among investors and a speculative run on the euro.

Nugent says had "solid" meeting with Secret Service

By Steve Olafson
OKLAHOMA CITY | Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:43pm EDT

(Reuters) - Musician and gun-rights advocate Ted Nugent said on Thursday he had a positive meeting with U.S. Secret Service agents investigating his recent criticism of President Barack Obama, and the agency confirmed the issue had been resolved.

Nugent, who told NRA supporters in St. Louis last week that he would be "dead or in jail" next year if Obama was reelected, said in a statement that he had "met with two fine, professional Secret Service agents" in Oklahoma.

"Good, solid, professional meeting concluding that I have never made any threats of violence towards anyone. The meeting could not have gone better," the 63-year-old singer and guitarist said. He was due to perform a concert in Ardmore, Oklahoma on Thursday.

The Secret Service, which is tasked with protecting the U.S. president, senior officials and other figures, confirmed the meeting with Nugent.

"The Secret Service interview of Ted Nugent has been completed," agency spokesman Brian Leary said. "The issue has been resolved. The Secret Service does not anticipate any further action."

Earlier Leary said the agency respected freedom of speech, but also had a responsibility to "investigate intent."

Nugent, a Michigan-born conservative who has endorsed Obama's presumed Republican challenger in the November elections, Mitt Romney, drew Secret Service attention with his blunt remarks about Obama and administration officials at the NRA event.

"We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November," Nugent said at the convention.

U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention, responded earlier this week, saying "threatening violence - or whatever it is that Nugent's threatening - is clearly beyond the pale."

A Romney spokeswoman said the Republican candidate believed "everyone needs to be civil," but stopped short of condemning Nugent's original remarks.

Nugent is best known for hit 1970s songs such as "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Motor City Madhouse."

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Paul Simao)

Three Secret Service agents forced out of agency!

April 18, 2012

Three Secret Service agents have been forced out of their positions as officials investigate the alleged hiring of prostitutes and other questionable behavior during a presidential visit to Colombia.
"Although the Secret Service's investigation into allegations of misconduct by its employees in Cartagena, Colombia, is in its early stages, and is still ongoing, three of the individuals involved will separate or are in the process of separating from the agency," said Paul S. Morrissey, the assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service Office of Government and Public Affairs, in a written statement.
One supervisory employee was allowed to retire and another was "proposed for removal for cause," the statement said. In addition, a non-supervisory employee resigned.
The employee proposed for removal has been given notice and will be allowed to fight the move, the Secret Service said.
Eight other Secret Service employees remain on administrative leave with suspended security clearances.
In addition, some Secret Service personnel are now under investigation for possible drug use.
ABC News has learned that Secret Service investigators are probing reports from a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel worker, who said he saw a line of white powder, which he believed to be cocaine, on a table in a Secret Service agent's room. The hotel worker told the New York Post he responded to clean up the room after there was a dispute between a Secret Service agent and a prostitute over payment.
"When I went upstairs, I walked into a messy room. The room was littered with two whiskey bottles -- and a line of white powder, I believed to be cocaine, was on top of a round glass table in the room," the staffer told the Post.
According to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who was briefed by the Secret Service, the agency is taking the hotel worker's allegations seriously.
"This is one of the things the Secret Service is investigating," King told ABC News. "Agents are randomly tested for drugs. I know the director will take further action if more information on this becomes available."
The Secret Service declined to comment on the records, but sources familiar with the investigation say inspectors in Colombia have yet to be told that information directly. However, sources said the agency will follow up anyway and question agents who travelled to Colombia about possible drug use.
According the New York Post story, the hotel worker described a chaotic, morning-after scene in the hotel lobby, with the prostitute screaming in the lobby that she had not been paid.
The worker said, "The agent was supposed to pay her a [bar] fine on top of the pay rate for her sexual services, but he didn't."
The worker explained that visitors to area strip clubs are expected to pay a fee to the club, and then pay the woman directly for any sexual services.
As part of the prostitution probe, agents have agreed to polygraph tests. It wasn't clear whether drug questions would be included.
ABC News' Michael S. James contributed to this report.

Tom Petty guitar theft leads to arrest

A security guard has been arrested following the theft of five of US musician Tom Petty's guitars from a rehearsal space in California.
The instruments, worth an estimated £100,000 ($160,000) have also been returned to Petty and his band.
Writing on his Facebook page, Petty said he was "extremely grateful" to the police and "touched by the outpouring of good wishes" from fans.
The arrested man was Daryl Emmette Washington, 51, of Los Angeles.
He was a private security guard at The Culver Studios lot, which is used for filming music videos and tour rehearsals.
Police Chief Don Pedersen said the break in the case came when the suspect attempted to sell one of the guitars at a Hollywood pawn shop for $250 (£157).
Washington was booked on suspicion of grand theft, said a police spokesman, adding: "We believe that there is a very strong and compelling evidence in this case."
The instruments included Petty's blond 1967 maple 12-string Rickenbacker and his Gibson SGTVJunior.
Three other guitars belonging to his band-mates also went missing.
The band had previously set up an email address for tip-offs about the instruments' whereabouts, with a "no questions asked" reward of $7,500 (£4,712) for information leading to their return.
Known for hit singles including American Girl, Learning To Fly and Breakdown, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers are due to kick off their US tour in Colorado on Wednesday night.
They come to Europe in June for a string of festival dates, as well as two nights in London's Royal Albert Hall.
The shows will mark the band's first major UK shows for more than 20 years.

Moyer becomes oldest pitcher to win game in majors

By PAT GRAHAM Apr 18, 12:55 AM (ET)
DENVER (AP) - Baseball's old man is still fending off Father Time.
Jamie Moyer showed there remains a place for a vintage lefty in a young man's game as the 49-year-old became the oldest pitcher to ever win a major league contest.
He threw seven strong innings and Dexter Fowler hit a two-run homer to help the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Moyer (1-2) was sharp all evening as he picked up his 268th career win, tying him with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for 34th on the career list.

Relying on a consistent cutter and mixing in a 78-mph fastball, the crafty pitcher gave up just six hits and two runs - both unearned - as he kept the Padres hitters at bay and off balance.

"Today, for me, just like it's been my previous two starts - going out and trying to give my best effort," Moyer said.

That's been a winning recipe for Moyer over a career that's stretched nearly a quarter century and included 689 games.

Anthony Bass, a pitcher half Moyer's age, went five innings and gave up three runs. Bass (0-2) also had a career-high seven strikeouts.

Moyer earned that elusive win for the ages in his third start of the season. His age is 49 years, 150 days old.

That's important to note since before Moyer's effort the oldest pitcher to win a game in the majors was Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers on Sept. 13, 1932, when he was 49 years, 70 days old.
Not that Moyer knows much about Quinn.

"I wish I was a baseball historian," Moyer conceded. "I'm a little embarrassed to admit that. As players, we should know more about the game, the history of the game. You need to respect the game and the people that came before you."

He's definitely a part of history now.
However, he doesn't think this mark will stand the test of time.

"The way athletes are going in today's game, I think it could be broken," he said.
This game got a little dicey at the end.

Rafael Betancourt survived a rocky ninth - giving up a solo homer to Nick Hundley and putting two more runners on - before striking out Yonder Alonso to earn his third save in as many chances.
About the only blemish to the night were two more errors by smooth-fielding shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, giving him six already this season. The Gold Glove winner had six all of last year.

His fielding error in the seventh proved quite costly and nearly spoiled Moyer's place in the record books. With two on and one out, Tulowitzki had a routine double play ball go right through his legs, leading to a run. Jason Bartlett brought in another with a sacrifice fly to right to cut the lead to 3-2.

Moyer ended the threat by getting pinch hitter Jeremy Hermida to ground out to second on a 76-mph cutter.

The Rockies added two insurance runs in the eighth as Michael Cuddyer doubled in a run off former Rockies closer Huston Street and Wilin Rosario added a sacrifice fly.

Away from the mound, Moyer hardly looks like a kid anymore. He has gray streaks in his hair and frequently dons reading glasses that sit perched on the tip of his nose. This betrays his age too: He's on the verge of receiving his AARP card.

But once he steps on the mound that youthful exuberance returns.
He's transformed into a kid again, sprinting out to the mound after each inning. He looked more like a spry rookie than a veteran nearing retirement.

Moyer enticed the Padres to hit into three double plays, despite warnings before the game by Mark Kotsay - the one player who's consistently hit Moyer - to remain patient. Then again, it's difficult to lay off a pitch that looks so juicy.

The aged wonder used his wealth of experience to his advantage against the young Padres, six of whom weren't even born when Moyer made his major league debut in 1986. That included Bass, who has fond memories of Coors Field after winning his debut in the hitter friendly stadium last June.

Kotsay's first plate appearance of the season was a single in the opening inning. Kotsay was activated off the disabled list on Monday after missing the first 10 games with a strained right calf muscle.

That his first hit should be against Moyer hardly comes as a surprise since the 36-year-old Kotsay has a .538 lifetime average against Moyer. They even exchanged friendly grins after each of Kotsay's two singles.

"He wears me out. He knows it. I know it," Moyer said. "We joke in the offseason."
Kotsay also has a lot of respect for Moyer.

"It says something about how much he loves to compete and his willingness to work, and at 49, to go out and throw the ball and have success," said Kotsay, who faced the veteran for the first time since June 13, 2006, when Kotsay was with the Oakland A's and Moyer a member of the Seattle Mariners.

Before the game, Kotsay was giving pointers to his impressionable teammates on how to hit Moyer's methodical pitches.

"Be patiently aggressive," Andy Parrino recounted. "Make him come to us a little bit more. Oh, and make him stay in the strike zone."

Moyer doesn't have a blazing fastball, but he does have this - pinpoint precision.
Padres manager Bud Black certainly appreciates the cleverness of Moyer, marveling from the dugout at the vintage pitcher who went to spring training without a guaranteed roster spot and performed his way onto the team. He missed all of 2011 as he recovered from a surgically repaired ligament in his elbow.

"It's a great story," Black said. "It's wonderful that he's continued to get the results needed to stay in the major leagues. This is a performance-driven game and the last 15 years of his career have been outstanding."

NOTES: Padres RHP Tim Stauffer (strained elbow) threw Tuesday in San Diego. He's scheduled for a bullpen session this weekend. ... OF Carlos Gonzalez (strep throat) returned the lineup, going 0 for 2 with two walks. ... Moyer said he will donate some memorabilia to the Hall of Fame from the game.

Music Icon Dick Clark has died at 82

By TODAY.com staff and wire services

Famed television personality Dick Clark died of a heart attack Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, his spokesman confirms. Clark was 82.

Clark is best known for hosting long-running television shows such as "American Bandstand," the game show "Pyramid" and "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve."

He was nicknamed "America's oldest teenager" and maintained his youthful looks into his 70s.

Clark had been in St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., after undergoing an outpatient procedure Tuesday night. He suffered the heart attack following the procedure and attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Clark is survived by his wife, Kari, and his three children.

Clark, who started out as a TV announcer in Utica, New York, parlayed his "Bandstand" fame into a career as a producer and host of dozens of other shows, including ABC's annual New Year's Eve telecast, which he launched in 1972.

With his clean-cut image and youthful appearance, he presided over more than three decades of pop music and dance trends as host of "American Bandstand," the first network TV show to feature rock 'n' roll.

He also produced such perennial TV events as the American Music Awards and the Golden Globes telecast.

Musicians of all ages quickly took to Twitter to remember Clark.

"REST IN PEACE to the DICK CLARK!! U were pioneer n a good man!! Thank u sir" wrote Snoop Dogg.

And Isaac Hanson of the band Hanson tweeted, "Dick Clark was a Rock 'n' Roll Radio/TV icon with an influence on pop culture for more than 50 years. Rest in peace."

Comedian Joan Rivers tweeted, "Very sad to hear about Dick Clark. What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end. He will be missed!"

DreamWorks Animation SKG joins Wal-Mart disc-to-digital plan

By The Associated Press
Posted:   04/16/2012 06:13:32 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES - DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., the maker of "Shrek," "Madagascar" and "Kung Fu Panda," is teaming up with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to help people convert their old DVDs into an online movie library.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks' chief executive, says that the new "Disc to Digital" service will help consumers adapt to technological change. The service launches Monday at Walmart stores nationwide.

DreamWorks joins five other participating studios: Viacom Inc.'s Paramount, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp.'s Universal, News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros.

Consumers who bring in physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs can pay $2 per disc to be able to access the movies through Wal-Mart's Vudu online movie service on computers, mobile devices, Internet-connected TVs and game consoles. To start, 4,000 titles are convertible.

For more information visit DreamWorks Animation SKG at:
DreamWorks Animation SKG

Australia's most wanted fugitive arrested in Philippines

Philippine immigration and police agents have arrested Australia's most wanted man in his home in a posh area of southern Manila.

Police Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona said Monday that officers arrested Brett Ronald Maston in Muntinlupa City's Ayala Alabang subdivision. He had apparently hid in the Philippines for years.

The 45-year-old was allegedly involved in a string of bank robberies.

Estipona said Australian authorities had sought Maston's arrest. The immigration bureau issued a deportation warrant and after receiving information of his whereabouts, arrested him on Friday.

Estipona says Maston was earlier reported to be armed, but he did not resist arrest and no guns were immediately found in his possession.


Titanic Anniversary: Memorial Prayers And Silence Mark Sunken Ship's 100-Year Anniversary

APABOARD MS BALMORAL — With prayers, a hymn and a moment of silence broken by a ship's deep whistle, passengers and crew on a memorial trip marked 100 years to the moment since the Titanic sent more than 1,500 people to a watery grave.

As the 1912 disaster was commemorated around the world, the city that built the vessel – Belfast, Northern Ireland – looked back on the tragic sinking with a distinctive mixture of sorrow and pride.

In the North Atlantic, passengers lined the decks of the MS Balmoral, a cruise ship that has been retracing the route of the doomed voyage, as the ship stopped early Sunday at the spot where the Titanic went down in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

After a short service and a moment of silence, three floral wreaths were cast onto the waves as the ship's whistle sounded in the dark.

Jane Allen from Devon in southwest England, whose great-uncle perished on the Titanic, said the moment vividly reminded her of the horror of the disaster.

"All you could hear was the swell splashing against the side of the ship. You could see the white breakers stretching out to sea," she told the BBC. "You are in the middle of nowhere. And then you look down over the side of the ship and you realize that every man and every woman who didn't make it into a lifeboat had to make that decision, of when to jump or stay on the ship as the lights went out."

Another cruise ship, Journey, which traveled from New York, also held a service at the site, 400 miles (640 kilometers) off the coast of Newfoundland.

The Titanic, the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner, was traveling from England to New York when it struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. It sank less than three hours later, with the loss of all but 700 of the 2,208 passengers and crew.

A century on, events around the globe marked a tragedy that retains its grip on the world's imagination.

In Belfast, a memorial monument was unveiled Sunday at a ceremony attended by local dignitaries, relatives of the dead and explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985.

A brass band played as the granite plinth bearing bronze plaques was uncovered beside Belfast City Hall. Officials say it is the first Titanic memorial to list all victims alphabetically, with no distinction between passengers and crew members, or between first-, second- or third-class travelers.

"We remember all those who perished and whose names are herein inscribed – men, women and children – who loved and were loved, their loss still poignantly felt by their descendants," the Rev. Ian Gilpin told the crowd.

After a minute's silence, a choir sang "Nearer My God To Thee" – the hymn Titanic's band is reported to have played as the ship went down.

Belfast spent decades scarred by its link to the disaster, but has come to take pride in the feats of engineering and industry involved in building the ship. Last month, a gleaming new visitor attraction, Titanic Belfast, opened on the site of the shipyard where the doomed vessel was built.

"The focus of the world is on Belfast and we are doing her proud," said Una Reilly, chair of the Belfast Titanic Society. "We are all proud of this ship. What happened was a disaster; she was not."

On Saturday, thousands attended a memorial concert in Belfast featuring performances by Bryan Ferry and soul singer Joss Stone. At St. Anne's Cathedral in the city, a performance of composer Philip Hammond's "The Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic" was followed by a torch-lit procession to the Titanic memorial garden in the grounds of city hall.

The requiem – performed by male choristers dressed as ship's crew and female performers in black – also included words by Belfast novelist Glenn Patterson, who imagined the victims reflecting on all they had missed in the last 100 years.

"We passed instead into myth, launched a library full of books, enough film to cross the Atlantic three times over, more conspiracy theories than Kennedy, 97 million web pages, a tourist industry, a requiem or two," Patterson said. "We will live longer than every one of you."

Remembrance ceremonies also were being held in the ship's departure port of Southampton, southern England – home to hundreds of Titanic crew who perished – and in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where more than 100 victims of the tragedy are buried.

The most famous maritime disaster in history was being marked even in places without direct links to it.

Venues in Las Vegas, San Diego, Houston and Singapore hosted Titanic exhibitions that include artifacts recovered from the site of the wreck. Among the items: bottles of perfume, porcelain dishes, and a 17-foot piece of hull.

Helen Edwards, one of 1,309 passengers on the Balmoral memorial cruise who spent the past week steeped in the Titanic's history and symbolism, said the story's continuing appeal was due to its strong mixture of romance and tragedy, history and fate.

"(There are) all the factors that came together for the ship to be right there, then, to hit that iceberg. All the stories of the passengers who ended up on the ship," said Edwards, a 62-year-old retiree from Silver Spring, Maryland. "It's just a microcosm of social history, personal histories, nautical histories.

"Romance is an appropriate word right up until the time of the tragedy – the band playing, the clothes. And then there's the tragedy."

As the world paused to remember the victims, a U.S. official revealed there may be human remains embedded in the ocean floor where the Titanic came to rest.

James Delgado, director of maritime heritage at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, said Saturday that one photograph taken during a 2004 expedition shows a coat and boots in the mud. He said the way the items are laid out makes a "compelling case" that it is where "someone has come to rest."

Delgado released the full image this week to coincide with the disaster's centenary. It was previously seen in a cropped version.

Jill Lawless reported from London. She can be reached at: http://twitter.com/JillLawless

Titanic Tea Ladies
Women who dressed up for the Detroit Lakes Library Titanic tea event include, front from left, Steph Hogan, Sally Oja and Cindy Sauer; back from left, Joann Knapp, Pam Bergeson, Carol Tharaldson, Holly Heisserer, Lavonne Nordgulen, Bev Hilde and Jane Frank. A room full of men and women gathered Wednesday in the Detroit Lakes Library to hear about the sailing and sinking of the Titanic, which happened 100 years ago. Several dressed in period clothing, and Becker County Historical Society and Museum Executive Director Amy Degerstrom told attendees about that fateful day.

Tornadoes hit Midwest

By ROXANNA HEGEMAN, Associated Press – 23 minutes ago
WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) — The television was on and tuned to forecasters' dire warnings of an impending storm when Greg Tomlyanobich heard a short burst from a tornado siren blare after midnight. Then silence. Then rumbling.

The 52-year-old quickly grabbed his wife and grandson, hurrying them into the emergency cellar as debris whirled around their heads at their mobile home park in northwest Oklahoma. They huddled inside with about 20 other people before the tornado — among more than 100 reported to have swept across the nation's midsection during the weekend — roared across the ground above, ripping homes from their foundations.

"It scared the hell out of me," Tomlyanobich said.

The storm killed five people and injured more than two dozen in and around Woodward, a town about 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, but it was the only tornado that caused fatalities. Many of the touchdowns raked harmlessly across isolated stretches of rural Kansas, and though communities in Iowa and Kansas were hit, residents and officials credited days of urgent warnings from forecasters for saving lives.

When Tomlyanobich emerged from the underground shelter after the storm had subsided, he saw a scattered trail of destruction: home insulation, siding and splintered wood where homes once stood; trees stripped of leaves, clothing and metal precariously hanging from limbs.

"It just makes you sick to your stomach. Just look at that mangled steel," he said Sunday, pointing to what appeared to be a giant twisted steel frame that had landed in the middle of the mobile home park, which is surrounded by rural land dotted with oil field equipment.

The storms were part of an exceptionally strong system that the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., which specializes in tornado forecasting, had warned about for days. The center took the unusual step of warning people more than 24 hours in advance of a possible "high-end, life-threatening event."

Woodward suffered the worst of the destruction from the storms, which also struck in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Bloodied survivors in the 12,000-resident town emerged to find flipped cars, smashed trailers and mangled power lines. Streets were left dotted with mangled vehicles, toppled power lines and leveled buildings.

 Retired firefighter Marty Logan said he spotted the tornado when it knocked down power lines, causing flashes of light, and saw a radio tower's blinking lights go black. He later saw a man emerge from a twisted, wrecked sport utility vehicle that had been tossed along the side of the road.

"The guy had blood coming down his face," Logan said. "It was scary, because I knew it was after midnight and a lot of people were in bed."

Authorities said a signal tower for Woodward's tornado sirens was struck by lightning and hit by a tornado early Sunday morning. Police Chief Harvey Rutherford said the tower that was supposed to send a repeating signal to the town's tornado siren system was knocked out.

 Considering the tornado struck at night and the sirens were damaged, it's remarkable that there wasn't a greater loss of life, Rutherford said. "We had the hand of God take care of us," he said.

In the tiny western Iowa town of Thurman, piles of toppled trees lined the streets in front of homes where missing walls and roofs exposed soaked living rooms. Longtime resident Ted Stafford recalled feeling his home shake, then hearing three windows shatter as the storm hit. He was amazed that no one in town was seriously injured.

"We're all OK, fortunately. Nobody's hurt. We can fuel this recovery with beans and coffee," the 54-year-old said while standing on the broken concrete of what had been his home's new basement foundation.

A reported tornado in Wichita damaged McConnell Air Force Base and the Spirit AeroSystems and Boeing plants late Saturday. A mobile home park was heavily damaged in the city, and Wichita's surrounding county was declared a disaster area with preliminary estimates suggesting damages that could be as high as $283 million.

In an interview with CNN, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback acknowledged that the damage could have been far worse, noting that residents appeared to have heeded warnings to get to safety. "God was merciful," he said.

Yvonne Tucker rushed to a shelter with about 60 of her neighbors at Pinaire Mobile Home Park in Wichita. She said people were crying and screaming, and the shelter's lights went out when the twister hit. When they came back outside, they found several homes destroyed, including Tucker's.

"I didn't think it was that bad until I walked down my street and everything is gone," said Tucker, 49. "I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. I've seen it on TV, but when it happens to you it is unreal.

"I just feel lost."

A hospital in Creston, about 75 miles southwest of Des Moines, suffered roof damage and had some of its windows blown out by the storm, but patients and staff were not hurt. Medical center officials were calling other area hospitals to help.

Kristin Dean, who was also among the Wichita mobile home residents taking shelter from the storm, said she was shaking as she was being pushed from home in her wheelchair. She was able to grab a bag of her possessions before going into the shelter and that was all she had left. Her home was gone.

"It got still," the 37-year-old woman, who is in a wheelchair after hurting her leg a month ago, recalled. "Then we heard a wham, things flying. Everybody screamed, huddling together.

"It is devastating, but you know, we are alive."

Hegeman reported from Wichita, Kan. Associated Press reporters Grant Schulte in Thurman, Iowa; Rochelle Hines in Oklahoma City; Timberly Ross in Omaha, Neb.; David Pitt in Osceola, Iowa; and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo. contributed to this report.