September 18, 2006

Hart to Hart - The Complete Second Season
DVD Release Date: September 19, 2006

If you don't have the first season on DVD yet:

September 13, 2006

Lopez, Lawrence wow on Dancing With the Stars

The moves! The grooves! The nuttiness! Yes, Dancing With the Stars is back for a third season of low-level celebs so starving for a comeback that they'll transform themselves into show-off shakers, fox-trotters and mambo kings if it kills them.

Tuesday's two-hour premiere made several things clear, including the fact that, as a dancer, Tucker Carlson makes a good political journalist. The man was even worse than last season's no-try, no-cry Master P. Carlson somehow did even less, spending much of his first dance sitting in a chair. He should have stayed there. Dressed drably, he was a flat-footed "awful mess," as judge Bruno declared, and his score of 12 was the night's low.

Also clear is that the judges seem about as reliable as Soviet judges were at the Olympics during the Cold War. Yes, the fix is in, or seems to be. Why? Because the night's leadoff dancer, actor Joey Lawrence, was easily the best of the bunch, or at no worse second to eventual top scorer actor Mario Lopez. Yet the judges sent Joey to the middle of the pack. It reeked of their muted praise last season for Lisa Rinna, who couldn't buy a break despite dancing circles around those coddled by the judges. At any rate, Lawrence and Lopez both showed more snap, precision and athleticism than anyone else by far.

The male celebs danced cha-cha-chas with their pro partners, while the women were stuck gliding and looking pretty with fox trots, so there was some built-in disadvantage there, except for ballroom traditionalists.

Tom DeLay's support didn't help country singer Sara Evans, whose slow, dull dance "looked very conservative," judge Carrie Ann said (well, yeah -- perhaps in several ways). Her yawner drew a next-to-last score of 15.

A pleasant surprise was former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith, who danced in superb harmony with partner Cheryl (of last season's winning team) and seemed a natural. He was far, far better than last season's awkward Jerry Rice, another NFL ex whom the judges nudged along far past his legitimate shelf life on the show. Smith finished second with a score of 24. Look for him to stick around -- legitimately.

Also impressive was singer Willa Ford, who brought good moves and a bright, fun-loving, self-effacing personality to the show and tied for third with the overrated Vivica Fox (coddled for being the oldest female contestant), at 22 points.

But after Lawrence, it was Lopez who stole the show, performing with stacatto precision and a vitality to match his hyper personality."Do you have extra batteries in your pants?" Bruno asked, while Carrie Ann called Lopez and pro partner Marina "the couple to beat."

Disappointing, after his wife's fine showing last year, was Rinna's husband, Harry Hamlin. Lead-footed and mechanical, he won't last long unless he steps up.

Surprisingly not-awful was extreme talk-show host Jerry Springer, whose partner designed a superb, fun-loving routine that he could handle. He also seemed in tune with the cheesy spirit of the show, much like its great host, Tom Bergeron. "Obviously, you've been to the George Hamilton school of dancing," Bruno said, alluding to last season's oldest gent, who slid by on humility and charm. But Jerry -- that sash, belt, cumberbund or whatever around your tux looked uncomfortably like a truss. That goes under your clothes.

Tonight, viewer votes will combine with judges' scores to send the first of the 11 couples packing. Surely, Carlson is done, while Lopez, Lawrence, Smith and Ford are in for the long haul. But on this show you never know, which is part of the fun of it.

Dancing With the Stars airs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays on ABC.

September 11, 2006

Ground zero falls silent to mark 9/11

NEW YORK - The World Trade Center site fell silent four times — twice each to mark jetliner crashes and the collapse of its iconic towers — and solemn remembrances were held around the nation Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At ground zero, a cavernous pit still largely unchanged from the first anniversary, family members of the 2,749 people lost held photos of loved ones, crossed themselves and sobbed quietly.

The 16-acre site went quiet at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., the moments American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 hit, and again at 9:59 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., when the south and north towers fell.

"We've come back to remember the valor of those we've lost, those who innocently went to work that day and the brave souls who went in after them," former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said.

As they read the victims' names aloud, the spouses and partners added brief personal tributes.

"My love for you is eternal," said Maria Acosta, who began the annual reading of the names, including her lost boyfriend, Paul John Gill. "And we all love you very much."

President Bush opened the day at a historic New York firehouse, mingling with firefighters and police officers who were among the first to rush to the burning skyscrapers. He was to visit the crash sites in Shanksville, Pa., and the
Pentagon later in the day before giving a prime-time address from the Oval Office.

At ground zero, family members clutching bouquets of roses had descended to the lowest level of the trade center site, gathering around two small reflecting pools that marked where the two towers once stood.

The scene has played out on each of the five anniversaries of the al-Qaida attack. And the landscape has remained mostly the same: Construction on a Sept. 11 memorial and on the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower began only this year.

"I think it's important that people remember as years go on," said Diana Kellie, of Acaconda, Mont., whose niece and niece's fiance were killed on one of the planes. "The dead are really not dead until they're forgotten."

At the Pentagon, where 184 people died when American Flight 77 plowed into the building, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld walked side-by-side to a platform. They sang along to "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and observed a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the time the plane struck.

"We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history's latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power," Cheney said.

In Shanksville, where United Flight 93 crashed into the ground, killing 40, hundreds of people gathered at a temporary memorial — a 10-foot chainlink fence covered with American flags, firefighter helmets and children's drawings. They opened the ceremony with prayer.

United 93 crashed after passengers apparently rushed the cockpit in an effort to wrest control from the terrorists.

"These men and women stood in solidarity so others would receive salvation," said Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and the nation's first homeland security secretary.

At Logan International Airport in Boston, where the two planes that hit the trade center towers took off, security screeners stopped checking passengers for a moment and turned to an American flag. Passengers in line joined in the silent tribute.

"It's a difficult moment for everybody," said National Guard Cpl. Christopher Jessop, who joined the Guard on Sept. 12, 2001.

In Chicago, people filled churches to pray and remember the victims. In Virginia Beach, Va., firefighters and residents planned to form a human flag. And in Ohio, volunteers aimed to put up 3,000 flags over 10 acres at a spiritual center.

Around the world, heads bowed at Sept. 11 remembrances.

"Nine-Eleven will be in our memory forever," Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said at a downtown piazza. "We all remember where we were, what we were doing, what our first reaction was."

German Chancellor Angela Markel warned that "tolerance and respect for other cultures" must be hallmarks of the international fight against terror, and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the world was not safer since 2001.

"It took about 30 years for this terrorism to develop," Giuliani said Monday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America" as he stood at the trade center site. "It's going to take more than five years to deconstruct them."

"I'm kind of surprised at the progress we've made," he said. "We haven't been attacked in five years. I thought we would be. I thought for sure we would be. I thank God we haven't. But we have to prepare for it."

The anniversary dawned on a nation unrecognizable a half-decade ago — at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, governed by a color-coded terror alert system, newly unable to carry even hair gel onto airplanes.

Bush administration officials had made the case Sunday it was no accident that the United States had not faced an attack since Sept. 11.

On the anniversary, there were indications of the tension that remains.

New York's bustling Pennsylvania Station was briefly evacuated Monday and rush-hour train service was suspended when a suspicious bag was found. In the skies, a United Airlines jet headed from Atlanta to San Francisco was diverted to Dallas when an unclaimed BlackBerry e-mail device was found on board. A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman later said the flight was secure.

There was also a fresh reminder of the terrorist threat: An hourlong videotape posted online Sunday showed previously unseen footage of Osama bin Laden, smiling, and other commanders apparently planning the New York and Washington attacks.

An unidentified narrator said the plot was devised not with computers and radar screens and military command centers but with "divine protection" for a brotherly atmosphere and "love for sacrificing life."

Al-Jazeera aired a new videotape Monday in which bin Laden's top deputy warned that Persian Gulf countries and Israel would be al-Qaida's next targets, and urged Muslims to intensify their resistance of the United States.

Bush had made a more private visit to the trade center site on Sunday, when he and first lady Laura Bush set wreaths in small, square reflecting pools in the pit of the trade center site, one for each tower.

September 10, 2006

Indianapolis at NY Giants
Game Info: 8:15 pm EDT Sun Sep 10, 2006

The Manning family will still be watching, but the venue will be a bit bigger than their childhood backyard.

In the first game in NFL history to have brothers starting at quarterback, Indianapolis Colts star Peyton Manning faces younger sibling Eli and the New York Giants as teams with Super Bowl aspirations meet at the Meadowlands on Sunday night in perhaps the opening weekend's marquee matchup.

Both were No. 1 draft picks, played college football in the SEC, led their teams to the playoffs in their second NFL season and grew up in a football family that included another pro quarterback, their father, Archie who played for New Orleans in the 1970s.

"I pull for him every single Sunday," said Peyton, a two-time MVP. "Obviously, this Sunday will be a very different scenario."

The brothers have their teams in line for title runs after both came up short last season. The Colts went unbeaten for 13 games, clinched home-field advantage in the AFC with four games to go, then fell to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh in their first playoff game.

The Giants, meanwhile, made the playoffs for the first time in three years, but lost to Carolina in the first round.

"They've both said it's a game between two teams, and it is," Archie said. "The media is trying to make it out to be Tiger (Woods) vs. Phil (Mickelson) or something, but it's not like that."

Peyton has had six more seasons to build a resume that includes three straight AFC South titles, back-to-back MVP trophies in 2004 and 2005, and records that he is breaking almost annually.

The 25-year-old Eli has made only 23 pro starts but has shown that he's still improving, still learning and still trying to outdo his older brother.

"I'm just looking forward for the regular season and to get in there and play all four quarters where everything counts for real," Eli said. "I'm looking forward to it to just get back in the flow of things and get to play a full game."

The Manning family would prefer to downplay the meeting but the stakes are high and the loser may have to live with the legacy for not days, but years. The Giants and Colts aren't scheduled to meet again until 2010.

"I don't know how I'll feel, we've never done this before," Archie said. "But I look at it as an honor and we're going to have fun with it. Everybody's hoping for a good game and that nobody gets hurt."

Teammates and coaches of the Mannings wouldn't mind if one could offer a few secrets about the other.

"Absolutely," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "We're in this to win and I'm sure they are, too. Really, Peyton's more concerned with their defense and how to block those two guys (Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora) and what we will do on offense. I'm sure they're the same way."

Peyton and Eli both said during the preseason they're more concerned with the opposing defensive ends than their own showdown. Strahan and Umenyiora are Pro Bowlers, as is Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney. And Robert Mathis, the Colts' other starting defensive end, had more tackles than Freeney, 11 1/2 sacks, 13 pressures and eight forced fumbles -- all career highs despite averaging about 20 plays per game and missing the last three contests with a sore foot.

Peyton's teammates aren't planning to give their quarterback's younger brother any special treatment.

"We can't hit ours, so we've got to hit one of them," Mathis said.

The Colts should field one of the NFL's better offenses again with receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne returning. There are some concerns, though.

Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai are expected to share the burden of replacing Edgerrin James, the franchise's career rushing leader who signed with Arizona as a free agent. Rhodes, a veteran, and Addai, the Colts' first-round pick, combined to rush for just 78 yards on 38 carries in four preseason games.

The Colts signed Adam Vinatieri, the NFL's best clutch kicker, to replace Mike Vanderjagt. Indianapolis hopes Vinatieri's addition will do three things: add a proven kicker for the playoffs, where Vanderjagt endured his greatest failures; provide better kickoffs, a concern for the Colts over the past several seasons, and eliminate the controversy the brash Vanderjagt occasionally created.

Expectations are also high for the Giants after winning the NFC East last season.

"Super Bowl. That's all I care about, Super Bowl," Giants running back Tiki Barber said.

The offense returns all 11 starters from a unit that scored the second-most points (422) in franchise history. With all its weapons, though, the offense struggled in a 23-0 playoff loss to the Panthers.

Eli, whose 24 touchdown passes last season was the most by a Giant since Fran Tarkenton threw 29 in 1967, was limited to 113 yards passing and sacked four times. Barber, who rushed for a team-record 1,860 yards, was held to a season-low 41 yards rushing.

Jeremy Shockey, whose 65 receptions earned him a third Pro Bowl berth in four years, also needs to avoid nagging injuries that have slowed him the past few seasons.

Strahan and Umenyiora apparently will have more help this year on defense.

Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce is healthy again, LaVar Arrington was signed to a $49 million contract to play beside Pierce, and the secondary was revamped and improved with the free-agent signings of cornerbacks Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters and safety Will Demps.

The Giants beat the Colts 44-27 in Indianapolis on Dec. 22, 2002, in the last meeting between the teams.

September 06, 2006

Leslie begs off Team USA; Ford, Parker, Snow added

DURHAM, North Carolina - On a day when Cheryl Ford, Michelle Snow and Candace Parker were named to the 2006 Women's World Championship team, the main focus was on who is not going to Brazil.

WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie announced Wednesday she has withdrawn for personal reasons and will not play in the tournament later this month.

Leslie, 34, is a three-time Olympic and two-time World Championship gold medalist. In collecting her third MVP award, the star center of the Los Angeles Sparks averaged 20.0 points and 9.5 rebounds this season, leading the WNBA in double-doubles (17) and defensive rebounds (240).

The Los Angeles Daily News reported last week that Leslie wants to remain near the side of her uncle, Craig Simpson, who is recovering from a recent car accident.

"I really wish I could be there to help my teammates win gold at the World Championship," Leslie said. "I've been playing for USA Basketball since 1989 and I will really miss it this year. However, with everything going on right now with two close members of my family, I have to put my family first."

"Obviously it's a big disappointment that Lisa won't be with us," said Team USA coach Anne Donovan of the Seattle Storm. "Our hearts go out to Lisa and her family and we hope that her uncle recovers fully and that Lisa, emotionally, gets better and stronger every day. She will definitely be missed on this World Championship team."

Ford will be called on to pick up the slack in the paint in Leslie's absence. A three-time WNBA All-Star and the daughter of former NBA star Karl Malone, she averaged 13.8 points and 11.3 rebounds for the Detroit Shock and helped them advance to the WNBA Finals.

Snow, a 6-5 center who averaged 13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Houston Comets, will help Ford in the middle. Parker, a 6-4 forward at Tennessee, is the lone college player on the roster.

"Michelle Snow and Candace Parker have both done a great job for us here in camp and both trained with us in the spring," Donovan said. "They've been working hard to fill the void that we have in the post and both will be good additions to this team in our quest to win another gold medal.

"Cheryl Ford has proved all season long what a great player she is. It is unfortunate that we were unable to have her in our spring training period, but we feel real confident that she'll be able to help us when we get to Sao Paulo."

In addition to Ford, Parker and Snow, previously named to the 2006 USA World Championship Team were Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx, Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones of the Washington Mystics, Sue Bird of Seattle, Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever), Katie Smith of Detroit, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson of the Houston Comets and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury.

The Americans will play an exhibition game here against Australia on Thursday before heading to Brazil. The tournament begins Tuesday and runs through September 23.

Team USA captured its record seventh gold medal and second straight gold at the 2002 World Championships in China.

September 01, 2006

Bob O'Connor Dead At 61

PITTSBURGH -- Mayor Bob O'Connor died today at UPMC Shadyside hospital, where he had been battling a rare form of cancer for nearly two months. He was 61.

According to the city charter, City Council President Luke Ravenstahl becomes mayor in the event of death. There has been no word on when a swearing-in ceremony will be held, but at 26, Ravenstahl would be the youngest mayor in Pittsburgh history.

O'Connor was diagnosed with primary central nervous system lymphoma on July 10. Doctors found four small tumors on his brain and began chemotherapy.

The chemo failed to shrink the tumors, so doctors changed their approach and quickly began whole-brain radiation, followed by intensity-modulated radiation therapy that directly targeted the affected part of O'Connor's brain.

O'Connor's medical team said brain scans on Sunday night and Monday indicated seizure activity, and tests showed that infection may have involved his drain and spinal fluid.

He underwent a 30-minute surgical procedure Monday evening in which a drain to remove fluid buildup from his brain was replaced with a new antibiotics-coated drain, the hospital said.

Listed in serious condition after the surgery, O'Connor's condition apparently worsened quickly.

After 3 p.m. Tuesday, the hospital and a mayoral spokesman stopped providing the twice-daily media updates that had been common earlier in O'Connor's illness.

During the mayor's hospitalization, many Pittsburghers showed their support by signing a large "Get Well" sign outside the City-County Building downtown.

More than 10,000 black-and-gold rubber bracelets with the saying "Everybody's Mayor ... Bob O'Connor" were sold throughout the city. Proceeds from the $2 wristbands benefited the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.