December 30, 2006

Cheney hails Ford's pardon of Nixon

WASHINGTON - The nation honored Gerald R. Ford in funeral ceremonies Saturday that recalled the touchstones of his life, from combat in the Pacific to a career he cherished in Congress to a presidency he did not seek. He was remembered as the man called to heal the country from the trauma of Watergate.

Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon, so divisive at the time that it probably cost him the 1976 election, was dealt with squarely in his funeral services by his old chief of staff, Vice President Dick Cheney.

"It was this man, Gerald R. Ford, who led our republic safely though a crisis that could have turned to catastrophe," said Cheney, speaking in the Capitol Rotunda where Ford's body rested. "Gerald Ford was almost alone in understanding that there can be no healing without pardon."

Hundreds of ordinary Americans lined up for a chance to view the closed, flag-draped casket of the 38th president late into the night and through the weekend. From teenagers in sweat shirts to mothers pushing infants in strollers, they flowed into the night in two steady streams along velvet ropes encircling the casket, pausing only for the periodic changing of the military guard standing watch.

The Washington portion of Ford's state funeral opened with a procession that took his casket from Maryland to Virginia and then over the Memorial Bridge — dressed in flags and funeral bunting — to the World War II memorial, past the White House without pausing and on to the U.S. Capitol for the first service and a lying in state that continues until Tuesday morning.

Although Ford's family planned the state funeral to emphasize Ford's long service in the House, Watergate quickly set the tone of the proceedings.

"In our nation's darkest hour, Gerald Ford lived his finest moment," said Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska told the Rotunda service. "He was the man the hour required."

Said House Speaker Dennis Hastert: "In 1974 America didn't need a philosopher-king or a warrior-prince. We needed a healer, we needed a rock, we needed honesty and candor and courage. We needed Gerald Ford."

The Rotunda ceremony was interrupted when William Broomfield, 84, a former Michigan congressman who served with Ford in Congress, collapsed. He was laid out on the floor of the Rotunda, and attended to by Sen. Bill Frist, a physician, before being taken out on a wheelchair. Frist later indicated Broomfield was OK.

Lights bathed the granite arch of the memorial commemorating the Pacific theater as Ford's nighttime funeral procession, bearing his wife, Betty, and the casket of the 38th president, stopped there in tribute to his years as an ensign and gunnery officer. The other arch, representing the Atlantic theater, stood in darkness.

Mrs. Ford sat stoically in the line of gleaming limousines, clutching a tissue and dabbing her face on occasion, then walked slowly at the Capitol in the arm of her military escort, soon followed by the casket bearing her husband of 58 years. Another round of cannon fire rang out.

After the ceremony, Mrs. Ford walked to the casket with the aid of her son and rested her clasped hands briefly on top of it.

The pageantry was muted, as Ford wanted, but the ritual unfolded with regal touches and according to exacting traditions dating back to the mid-1800s.

In one departure from tradition, pallbearers placed his casket outside the House chamber before it was taken to the Rotunda to lie in state. That honored Ford's years of service in the House as a congressman from Michigan and minority leader.

Similarly, Ford's body will rest briefly outside the Senate chamber on Tuesday, commemorating his service as vice president, which also made him Senate president.

On the way to Capitol Hill, World War II veterans and Boy Scouts gathered by the memorial and saluted at the brief, poignant stop. Mrs. Ford waved through the window. A bos'n mate stepped forward to render "Piping Ashore," a piercing whistle heard for centuries to welcome officers aboard a ship and now to honor naval service.

The event, without words, recalled Ford's combat service aboard the aircraft carrier USS Monterey. In December 1944, when a typhoon struck the Third Fleet, Ford led the crew that battled a fire sparked by planes shaken loose in the storm, taking actions that some credited with saving the ship and many lives. He sought no award, and received none.

The Capitol commemorated a man whose highest ambition, never realized in an era of Democratic control of Congress, was to become House speaker.

History intervened; he became vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned in scandal, then president when Nixon left office in disgrace. "A funny thing happened to me on the way to becoming speaker," he once cracked.

In Palm Desert, Calif., a 13-hour period of public viewing ended just as the sun rose over the resort community where Ford and his wife settled nearly 30 years ago. People waited up to three hours to pay their respects at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church before an aircraft from the White House fleet flew Ford's remains and the funeral party to Washington.

The funeral procession to the Capitol lacked the full trappings, by the design of Ford and his family. A motorcade was arranged instead of the horse-drawn caisson most familiar to Americans from the funerals of Ronald Reagan in 2004 and John Kennedy in 1963.

Ford, a man of modest character whose short presidency lacked the historic drama of JFK's and Reagan's, also was mourned without the riderless horse customarily included in the procession.

The thundering military flyover that is also part of a full-throttle state funeral in Washington will happen instead in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Ford will be entombed Wednesday on a hillside near his presidential museum. Ford represented the city in the House for 25 years.

Ford died Tuesday at age 93. He became president when Nixon resigned in August 1974 and then was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election.

Six days of national mourning began Friday with military honors and a simple family prayer service at St. Margaret's, where the Ford family has worshipped for many years. Mourners ranging from children to the elderly had walked through quickly and then reboarded their buses — a process taking less than two minutes.

Barbara Veith, 69, said Ford's "everyman" persona drew her to the viewing.

"There is something personal about his passing even though we didn't really know him," Veith said. "He just kind of had an everyman quality to him though he was far from it — he was the president."

During his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Bush called Ford a "courageous leader, a true gentleman and a loving father and husband."

"He always put the needs of his country before his own, and did what he thought was right, even when those decisions were unpopular," Bush said. "Only years later would Americans come to fully appreciate the foresight and wisdom of this good man."

When they return to Washington from their Texas vacation on Monday, Bush and first lady
Laura Bush plan to pay their respects to Ford while he lies in state at the Capitol. On Tuesday, the president will speak at Ford's funeral service at Washington National Cathedral before Ford's remains are taken to Grand Rapids.
Funeral plans for President Ford (all times are local):

Saturday, Dec. 30

_9:45 a.m.: President Ford's casket departs from St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, Calif.

_10:15 a.m.: The remains will depart Palm Springs Regional Airport and be flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

_5:20 p.m.: Ford's body arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, traveling to the U.S. Capitol. The motorcade will travel through Alexandria, Va., in remembrance of Ford's long residence in that city as a congressman and as vice president. The motorcade also will pause at the World War II Memorial.

_6:20 p.m.: The casket will be carried up the east steps of the Capitol to the door of the House of Representatives.

_6:30 p.m.: The casket will be received with ceremony at the east steps to the U.S. House of Representatives. The casket will proceed up the steps in honor of Ford's 24 years as a House member. Ford's remains will be met by a group of his former House colleagues. The casket will lie in repose at the open House doors. The casket will then be carried through Statuary Hall to the Rotunda for the Lying in State portion of the state funeral.

After the arrival ceremony, the Rotunda will open to the public until midnight. The public waiting area will be at the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds, across from the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Sunday, Dec. 31, and Monday, Jan. 1

_Ford's body continues in state. Rotunda open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 2

_9:15 a.m.: Lying in State ends.

_9:30 a.m.: The remains will depart the Rotunda and rest at the closed Senate doors in honor of Ford's service as vice president of the United States and president of the Senate. The motorcade will then proceed to the Washington National Cathedral, passing the White House.

_10 a.m.: The remains will be received with ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral.

_10:30 a.m.: National funeral service begins.

_11:30 a.m.: The remains will depart with ceremony from Washington National Cathedral. A motorcade will transport the casket from the cathedral to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a departure ceremony at approximately.

_12:15 p.m.: Departure ceremony from Andrews.

_2:15 p.m.: Body will arrive at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Grand Rapids, Mich. The casket will then be moved by motorcade to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, for a brief private service. During the service, wreaths will be placed at the casket by the presidents of Yale University and the University of Michigan in honor of President Fords law degree and undergraduate degree, from those institutions respectively.

Following the service, Ford's remains will lie in repose beginning at 5 p.m., until 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3. The public is invited to pay respects at the museum during repose.

Wednesday, Jan. 3

_1 p.m.: Remains will depart the museum with ceremony and proceed to Grace Episcopal Church, East Grand Rapids, for a private funeral service for invited guests only.

_1:30 p.m.: Remains arrive at the church with ceremony. Following the service, the remains will depart the church with ceremony.

_3 p.m.: Remains will proceed to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum for a private interment service.

_3:30 p.m.: Interment service and burial.

December 27, 2006

Ford's state funeral begins Friday

WASHINGTON - Gerald R. Ford's state funeral will begin Friday in his beloved California, with the late president then to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol over the weekend, a family representative said Wednesday.

Giving the first details of funeral arrangements for the 38th president, Gregory D. Willard said events will last until Wednesday, when Ford will be interred in a hillside tomb near his presidential museum in his home state of Michigan.

Ceremonies begin Friday, with a private prayer service for the family at St. Margaret's Church in Palm Desert, Calif., visitation by friends and a period of public repose.

On Saturday, Ford's body will be flown to Washington in late afternoon, his hearse pausing at the World War II memorial in joint tribute to the wartime Navy reserve veteran and his comrades in uniform, Willard told a news conference in Palm Desert.

The state funeral will be conducted in the Capitol Rotunda that evening and after that, the public will be able to file in to pay last respects. Ford was expected to lie in state until Tuesday morning.

In a departure from tradition meant to highlight Ford's long service in Congress, his body will also lie in repose outside the main door of the House and, later, outside the main doors of the Senate chamber.

"I know personally how much those two tributes themselves meant to President Ford," Willard said.

The last major event in Washington will be Tuesday morning, with a funeral service at the National Cathedral. Ford's remains will leave shortly after noon for a service and interment near his Grand Rapids, Mich., museum.

It will be only the nation's third state funeral in more than 30 years.

The ceremonies form a tribute to a man who rose to the White House in the collapse of

Richard Nixon's presidency, and who served the longest term in the House of any president.

"The nation's appreciation for the contributions that President Ford made throughout his long and well-lived life are more than we could ever have anticipated," his wife, Betty, said in a statement thanking the multitudes who offered condolences after her husband died Tuesday at age 93.

"These kindnesses have made this difficult time more bearable."

Ford is to become the 11th president to lie in state in the Rotunda.

One open question was how involved the funeral procession to the Capitol, often the most stirring of Washington's rituals of mourning, would be for a man whose modest ways and brief presidency set him apart from those honored with elaborate parades.

Planners are guided by the wishes of the family and any instructions from the president himself on how elaborate the events will be, how much of it takes place in Washington and more.

Ex-presidents routinely are involved in their funeral planning with the Military District of Washington, which turned to the task quietly but with increasing urgency as Ford went through several bouts of ill health in recent years.

The nation has only witnessed two presidential state funerals in over three decades — those of

Ronald Reagan in 2004 and Lyndon Johnson in 1973.

Nixon's family, acting on his wishes, opted out of the Washington traditions when he died in 1994, his presidency shortened and forever tainted by the Watergate scandal.

What happens in Washington, particularly, unfolds according to guidelines that go back to the mid-1800s and have been shaped over time.

No longer are government buildings draped in black, as they were in the time of Abraham Lincoln and before.

But if a chosen ceremony requires mourners to be seated, for example, seating arrangements are detailed with a precision dictated by tradition. The presidential party is followed by chiefs of state, arranged alphabetically by the English spelling of their countries.

Royalty representing chiefs of state come next, and then heads of governments followed by other officials.

Two presidents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy and William H. Taft. Reagan was buried on the hilltop grounds of his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., in a dramatic sunset ceremony capping a week of official public mourning.

Former President Gerald Ford dies at 93

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Former President Gerald R. Ford, who declared "Our long national nightmare is over" as he replaced Richard Nixon but may have doomed his own chances of election by pardoning his disgraced predecessor, has died. He was 93.

The nation's 38th president, and the only one neither elected to the office nor the vice presidency, died at his desert home at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.

"His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country," his wife, Betty, said in a statement.

Ford was the longest living former president, surpassing Ronald Reagan, who died in June 2004, by more than a month.

Ford's office did not release the cause of death, which followed a year of medical problems. He was treated for pneumonia in January and had an angioplasty and pacemaker implant in August.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced Wednesday.

"President Ford was a great man who devoted the best years of his life in serving the United States," President Bush said in a brief statement to the nation Wednesday morning. "He was a true gentleman who reflected the best in America's character."

Former President Carter described him Wednesday as "one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known." Former President Clinton said, "all Americans should be grateful for his life of service."

Ford was an accidental president. A Michigan Republican elected to Congress 13 times before becoming the first appointed vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew left amid scandal, Ford was Nixon's hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straightforward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

Ford took office moments after Nixon resigned in disgrace over Watergate.

"My fellow Americans," Ford said, "our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule."

And, true to his reputation as unassuming Jerry, he added: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers."

He revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president.

That single act, it was widely believed, contributed to Ford losing election to a term of his own in 1976. But it won praise in later years as a courageous act that allowed the nation to move on.

The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the U.S. during his presidency with the fall of Saigon in April 1975. In a speech as the end neared, Ford said: "Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned." Evoking Abraham Lincoln, he said it was time to "look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the nation's wounds."

Ford was in the White House only 895 days, but changed it more than it changed him.

Even after two women tried separately to kill him, his presidency remained open and plain.

Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for Nixon, the transition to Ford's leadership was one of the most welcomed in the history of the democratic process — despite the fact that it occurred without an election.

After the Watergate ordeal, Americans liked their new president — and first lady Betty, whose candor charmed the country.

In a long congressional career in which he rose to be House Republican leader, Ford lit few fires. In the words of Congressional Quarterly, he "built a reputation for being solid, dependable and loyal — a man more comfortable carrying out the programs of others than in initiating things on his own."

When Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal in October 1973, Ford was one of four finalists to succeed him: Texan John Connally, New York's Nelson Rockefeller and California's Ronald Reagan.

"Personal factors enter into such a decision," Nixon recalled for a Ford biographer in 1991. "I knew all of the final four personally and had great respect for each one of them, but I had known Jerry Ford longer and better than any of the rest.

"We had served in Congress together. I had often campaigned for him in his district," Nixon continued. But Ford had something the others didn't: he would be easily confirmed by Congress, something that could not be said of Rockefeller, Reagan and Connally.

So Ford became the first vice president appointed under the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

On Aug. 9, 1974, after seeing Nixon off, Ford assumed the office. The next morning, he still made his own breakfast and padded to the front door in his pajamas to get the newspaper.

Said a ranking Democratic congressman: "Maybe he is a plodder, but right now the advantages of having a plodder in the presidency are enormous."

In 1976, he survived an intraparty challenge from Ronald Reagan only to lose to Democrat Jimmy Carter in November. In the campaign, he ignored Carter's record as governor of Georgia and concentrated on his own achievements as president.

Carter won 297 electoral votes to his 240. After Reagan came back to defeat Carter in 1980, the two former presidents became collaborators, working together on joint projects.

"His life-long dedication to helping others touched the lives of countless people," Carter said Wednesday. "He frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation."

At a joint session after becoming president, Ford addressed members of Congress as "my former colleagues" and promised "communication, conciliation, compromise and cooperation." But his relations with Congress did not always run smoothly.

He vetoed 66 bills in his barely two years as president. Congress overturned 12 Ford vetoes, more than for any president since Andrew Johnson.

In his memoir, "A Time to Heal," Ford wrote, "When I was in the Congress myself, I thought it fulfilled its constitutional obligations in a very responsible way, but after I became president, my perspective changed."

Some suggested the pardon was prearranged before Nixon resigned, but Ford, in an unusual appearance before a congressional committee in October 1974, said, "There was no deal, period, under no circumstances." The committee dropped its investigation.

Ford's standing in the polls dropped dramatically when he pardoned Nixon. But an ABC News poll taken in 2002 in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in found that six in 10 said the pardon was the right thing to do.

The late Democrat Clark Clifford spoke for many when he wrote in his memoirs, "The nation would not have benefited from having a former chief executive in the dock for years after his departure from office. His disgrace was enough."

The decision to pardon Nixon won Ford a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2001, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), acknowledging he had criticized Ford at the time, called the pardon "an extraordinary act of courage that historians recognize was truly in the national interest."

While Ford had not sought the job, he came to relish it. He had once told Congress that even if he succeeded Nixon he would not run for president in 1976. Within weeks of taking the oath, he changed his mind.

He was undaunted even after the two attempts on his life in September 1975. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles Manson, was arrested after she aimed a semiautomatic pistol at Ford on Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif. A Secret Service agent grabbed her and Ford was unhurt.

Seventeen days later, Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old political activist, was arrested in San Francisco after she fired a gun at the president. Again, Ford was unhurt.

Both women are serving life terms in federal prison.

Asked at a news conference to recite his accomplishments, Ford replied: "We have restored public confidence in the White House and in the executive branch of government."

As to his failings, he responded, "I will leave that to my opponents. I don't think there have been many."

In office, Ford's living tastes were modest. When he became vice president, he chose to remain in the same Alexandria, Va., home — unpretentious except for a swimming pool — that he shared with his family as a congressman.

After leaving the White House, however, he took up residence in the desert resort of Rancho Mirage, picked up $1 million for his memoir and another $1 million in a five-year NBC television contract, and served on a number of corporate boards. By 1987, he was on eight such boards, at fees up to $30,000 a year, and was consulting for others, at fees up to $100,000. After criticism, he cut back on such activity.

Ford spent most of his boyhood in Grand Rapids, Mich.

He was born Leslie King on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Neb. His parents were divorced when he was less than a year old, and his mother returned to her parents in Grand Rapids, where she later married Gerald R. Ford Sr. He adopted the boy and renamed him.

Ford was a high school senior when he met his biological father. He was working in a Greek restaurant, he recalled, when a man came in and stood watching.

"Finally, he walked over and said, 'I'm your father,'" Ford said. "Well, that was quite a shock." But he wrote in his memoir that he broke down and cried that night and he was left with the image of "a carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son."

Ford played center on the University of Michigan's 1932 and 1933 national champion football teams. He got professional offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but chose to study law at Yale, working his way through as an assistant varsity football coach and freshman boxing coach.

Ford got his first exposure to national politics at Yale, working as a volunteer in Wendell L. Willkie's 1940 Republican campaign for president. After World War II service with the Navy in the Pacific, he went back to practicing law in Grand Rapids and became active in Republican reform politics.

His stepfather was the local Republican chairman, and Michigan Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg was looking for a fresh young internationalist to replace the area's isolationist congressman.

Ford got twice as many votes as Rep. Bartel Jonkman in the Republican primary and then went on to win the election with 60.5 percent of the vote, the lowest margin he ever got.

"To his great credit, he was the same hard-working, down-to-earth person the day he left the White House as he was when he first entered Congress almost 30 years earlier," Clinton said Wednesday.

Ford had three sons, Michael, John and Steven, and a daughter, Susan. He was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

After Ford's death, the U.S. flag over the White House was lowered to half-staff. The New York Stock Exchange held a moment of silence Wednesday in Ford's honor, while at Ford's presidential museum in Grand Rapids, a steady stream of visitors lit candles and lined up to sign condolence books about the former president.

December 19, 2006

Cartoon legend Joseph Barbera dies at 95

LOS ANGELES - Legendary Hollywood animator Joseph Barbera, whose characters Fred and Wilma Flintstone and Scooby-Doo made generations of people laugh, died on Monday at age 95, the Warner Bros. film studio said in a statement.

Barbera founded Hanna-Barbera Studios with his partner William Hanna nearly 50 years ago, and it grew to become one of Hollywood's best known animation companies producing hundreds of cartoons and winning numerous awards.

He died at his home in the Los Angeles-area community of Studio City with his wife Sheila by his side, Warner Bros. said. No further details were disclosed.

"The characters he created with his late partner William Hanna are not only animated superstars, but also a very beloved part of American pop culture. While he will be missed by his family and friends, Joe will live on through his work," Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer said in a statement.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, flowers were already being placed on Barbera's star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Barbera and Hanna, who died in 2001 at age 90, met at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in 1937 and first worked together on the cartoon, "Puss Gets the Boot," which led to the creation of famous cat and mouse friends, Tom and Jerry.

The animation creators won wide acclaim in 1945 when they were responsible for getting Tom and Jerry to dance on movie screens alongside the very real Gene Kelly in "Anchors Aweigh." The pair of crazy critters are still kicking their way to stardom in "Tom and Jerry Tales," which continues to be broadcast.

Barbera, the animator, and Hanna, the director, left MGM in the 1950s when the studio shut down its cartoon unit believing TV would eventually end animation on movie screens.


Spurred by the challenge of creating cartoons for the new medium, the pair formed Hanna-Barbera Studios in 1957, where over the years they created characters like the stone age Flintstone family, the space age Jetson clan, the ghost-hunting dog Scooby-Doo and the goofy Yogi Bear.

The prehistoric Flintstones, which were first dreamed up in 1960, featured father Fred Flintstone, his wife Wilma and their best friends Betty and Barney Rubble, who all simply tried to live normal lives in their complicated world.

"The Flintstones" became the first animated TV series to air on prime time U.S. television, the first to feature animated human characters and the first to run beyond the standard six or seven-minute format. Its cartoons still air in over 80 countries around the world.

In the 1970s, the pair landed a hit with the Scooby-Doo character, a lovable Great Dane who worked with teenage ghost hunters to solve mysteries in "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" It was produced for 17 years and was made into a hit movie.

By the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera had taken cartoon characters the Smurfs and developed a U.S. TV show for them. That program, which is populated by the small, blue human-like characters called Smurfs. "The Smurfs" still air in some 30 countries.

Over the years, Hanna-Barbera won numerous Emmys, U.S. TV's highest awards, and in 1994 Joseph Barbera and William Hanna were elected to the U.S.-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame.

Barbera penned his autobiography, "My Life in 'Toons," in 1994, detailing his rise to cartoon legend from a childhood in New York City, where he was born on March 24, 1911. He is survived by his wife and three children from a previous marriage.

December 18, 2006

Pittsburgh 37, Carolina 3

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It may be too late, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are finally playing like last season's Super Bowl team.

Willie Parker rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a score and ran for another to lead Pittsburgh past the Carolina Panthers 37-3 on Sunday, delighting the thousands of their loyal fans who turned Bank of America Stadium into a virtual Steelers home game.

The Steelers (7-7) also blocked a punt and returned another for a touchdown as they won their third straight game and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers, who started 2-6, have allowed 13 points in the past three games.

"We've been there before. We've played on the road in December and we've played on the road in January," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "This football team knows that mind-set you have to have to win."

It's still going to be difficult for the Steelers to make the playoffs, but Carolina's chances are virtually over after it turned in another stinker.

Chris Weinke, starting for the second straight week because of Jake Delhomme's thumb injury, threw for 170 yards and an interception and was sacked five times for the Panthers (6-8), who lost their fourth straight game and rank as one of the NFL season's biggest busts.

"It's embarrassing. I feel bad for our owner, obviously, to have paid for the talent we displayed on the field," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said.

Injuries continued to plague Carolina, as defensive end Mike Rucker left in the second quarter with a knee injury and receiver Drew Carter was knocked out in the third with a bad ankle.

The offensive line, without injured guard Mike Wahle (shoulder), gave Weinke little time to throw as he fell to 1-16 as a starter.

The Panthers were also limited to eight yards rushing in the first half and 43 for the game.

"We're just not a very good football team right now and it showed today," Panthers coach John Fox said.

But the Steelers are hitting stride behind Parker, who grew up nearby and was a little-used running back in college at North Carolina. He ran all over his local team, including a 41-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to put it away.

"I never did anything in the state of North Carolina before, so you know how much that meant to me, coming back and playing the Panthers," Parker said.

That touchdown run produced big cheers, with nearly half the crowd rooting for the Steelers and thousands waving yellow Terrible Towels.

The ratio grew when many Carolina fans left at halftime with Pittsburgh leading 17-3.

"It is frustrating that fans give their tickets away and the other teams get that many fans," Panthers fullback Brad Hoover said. "But in reality we just have to deal with it. Right now we're not playing very good football and when you don't play well, people don't want to come watch you."

Pittsburgh's lead grew to 27-3 on Parker's run and 34-3 on Santonio Holmes' 65-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter. In a telling sequence to sum up the Panthers' season, Holmes' touchdown came after Carolina recovered a muffed punt deep in Pittsburgh territory, only to have the play wiped out by a penalty.

In the fourth quarter, rookie Anthony Smith intercepted Weinke and high-stepped out of bounds while holding the ball by his ear. The hot dog move led to a shoving match between several players and a lecture to Smith from Cowher.

"I didn't appreciate his gesture," Cowher said. "We don't do that around here. He understood that. You won't ever see that again."

Roethlisberger, who was 11-of-18 for 140 yards and went over 3,000 yards passing for the first time, was replaced by Charlie Batch late in the game.

After going three-and-out on their first three possessions, the Steelers took control.

Five plays after Rucker was helped off the field, Roethlisberger hooked up with Najeh Davenport for an 18-yard pass play on third-and-12. Roethlisberger followed with a 1-yard touchdown run off a bootleg on the first play of the second quarter.

Jeff Reed's 19-yard field goal midway through the second quarter made it 10-0.

Then after another three-and-out for Carolina, James Harrison smothered Jason Baker's punt deep in Carolina territory, the Steelers' first blocked punt since Sept. 2002.

Three plays later Roethlisberger threw a screen pass to Davenport, who rumbled down the center of the field for a 13-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

John Kasay's 37-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half gave the Panthers their only points.

"We allowed a team to come in here, that was playing for nothing, and ruin our season for us," Johnson said. "That's not what I signed up for."

Notes:@ The Steelers have won 11 of their past 12 games against NFC teams. ... Panthers tight end Kris Mangum (hip) and running back Nick Goings (shoulder) did not play. ... Steelers S Troy Polamalu (knee) sat out his third straight game.

December 07, 2006

Parker gets 223 as Steelers beat Browns

PITTSBURGH - The weather was nasty, windy, miserable. For Willie Parker, it was a record cold night. Parker broke the Steelers' single-game rushing record with 223 yards — a game better than either Franco Harris or Jerome Bettis enjoyed — and Pittsburgh excelled as usual in inferior weather by roughing up the offense-less Cleveland Browns 27-7 Thursday night.

Parker, the first player in Steelers history to have two 200-yard games in a season, broke John "Frenchy" Fuqua's record of 218 yards against Philadelphia in 1970, two years before Fuqua was the intended receiver on Harris' famous Immaculate Reception against Oakland.

Parker broke Fuqua's record early in the fourth quarter and might have approached 300 yards if the game had been closer. Because it was a Browns-Steelers game in December it wasn't — no surprise there.

The Steelers (6-7) withstood temperatures in the teens, a wind chill that was below zero in the second half and an occasional snow flake to win their seventh in a row against their Rust Belt rival, following up a 41-0 rout in Cleveland last December and a 24-20 comeback victory last month in Cleveland. Pittsburgh is one of the NFL's best clubs when the weather gets bad and the games usually are more important, going 21-6 past Dec. 1 since 2001.

For the Browns (4-9), this time of the year simply is a case of going from bad to worse. Assured now of their fourth consecutive losing season, they are 2-11 in December the last three seasons.

Parker went over the 1,000-yard mark for the second season in a row on Pittsburgh's opening drive and kept on going, following up his 213-yard game against New Orleans on Nov. 12. He had been limited to 129 yards in his last three games, but there was no stopping him Thursday as he helped lead the Steelers' two longest drives of the season.

Parker, a non-drafted free agent three years ago, ran for 26 yards on five carries during a 97-yard drive ended by Ben Roethlisberger's 49-yard TD pass to Nate Washington that made it 7-0 during the first quarter.

Later, Roethlisberger (11-of-21, 225 yards) finished off a 91-yard drive with a 2-yard bootleg TD run, crossing up a Browns defense that was expecting Parker to get the ball.

Cleveland never did find a way to slow down a Steelers running game that only two weeks ago was limited to 21 yards in a 27-0 loss to Baltimore. Pittsburgh gained 304 yards on the ground for the night — the Browns just 18.

Parker also had a 3-yard TD run on a 74-yard drive during the third quarter as the Steelers continued to wear down the Browns.

Cleveland appeared to be headed toward its second shutout loss in three weeks until Derek Anderson, making his first NFL start for the injured Charlie Frye, threw a 45-yard TD pass to Braylon Edwards with 5:20 remaining. Anderson couldn't replicate his dramatic debut Sunday when he threw two TD passes to lead a 31-28 overtime win over Kansas City.

Until then, the Steelers hadn't allowed a touchdown on defense in nine quarters, or since the second quarter in Baltimore. Pittsburgh beat Tampa Bay and its inexperienced quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski, 20-3 on Sunday.

The only trouble with this latest Steelers late-season surge is it apparently comes too late to save a season that was all but over after the Super Bowl champions lost six of their first eight.

Fittingly enough given Parker's big night, it was this week a year ago that Bettis, in one of the most memorable runs of his long career, ran through Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher during a 5-yard TD run on a snow-covered field. That score keyed a 21-9 Steelers victory that began their drive to the Super Bowl.

The announced crowd of 55,246 was about 10,000 below Heinz Field's capacity, and there weren't nearly that many fans around even by the third quarter.

December 05, 2006

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" dress fetches $800,000

LONDON - The iconic black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" sold for 410,000 pounds ($800,000) on Tuesday, around seven times its pre-sale estimate.

The sale room at London auctioneers Christie's broke into applause at the end of a long and tense bidding session.

The dress, designed by Givenchy and worn by Hepburn in the memorable opening scene of the classic romantic comedy, was being auctioned on behalf of the City of Joy Aid charity which helps underprivileged children in India.

It was the star lot of the annual film and entertainment sale at Christie's.

Hepburn, who plays Holly Golightly in the movie, is wearing the dress as she emerges from a cab onto a deserted, early-morning 5th Avenue in New York and peers through the window of jeweller Tiffany while she eats her breakfast from a brown paper bag.

December 03, 2006

Mountaineers slam door on Rutgers' hopes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Given extra chances on a championship stage, Rutgers couldn't finish the job. No. 15 West Virginia knocked down Mike Teel's 2-point conversion pass in the end zone to preserve the Mountaineers' 41-39 triple-overtime win over No. 13 Rutgers on Saturday night, denying the Scarlet Knights their first BCS berth and handing Louisville the Big East's automatic bid as conference champion.

"There's a lot of hurt in there," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "There are a lot of sad young men. They have invested a lot in this season and in this week and in this game. Emotionally and physically, it's just sad."

Jarrett Brown ran for one touchdown and threw the go-ahead score in triple overtime to help West Virginia (10-2, 5-2 Big East) cap its second straight 10-win season. Brown started for Pat White, who missed the game because of a sore ankle.

Brown, a sophomore, finished 14-of-29 for 244 yards in his first extensive play.

"We have every confidence in Jarrett Brown," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He did a great job of using the opportunity he was given. I'm really proud of Jarrett and the way he kept his composure."

The ending was a peculiar finish to an improbable regular season for Rutgers (10-2, 5-2). A loser for so long, the Scarlet Knights started 9-0 before being upset at Cincinnati, then rebounded by beating Syracuse to set the stage for what would have been a historic win against WVU.

But while Rutgers produced its best season since going 11-0 in 1976, it wasn't enough to get the BCS berth the Scarlet Knights were hoping for.

Rutgers now could have to settle for the Texas Bowl. The Scarlet Knights dropped to 0-15 in Morgantown, dating to 1920.

"They have nothing to be ashamed of," Schiano said. "They played their hearts out."

West Virginia, which began the season with national championship aspirations, is headed to either the Gator or Sun bowls. The Gator notified the Big 12 that it will wait until Sunday to choose a team from the Big East or the Big 12. The Sun Bowl has the next choice after the Gator.

A month ago, the Mountaineers were third in the BCS standings before a Nov. 2 loss to Louisville dashed their national title hopes, then their BCS chances were lost with a shocking loss at home to South Florida.

"This football team has been through a lot this year, a little adversity," Rodriguez said. "You know we didn't play very well at times (Saturday), but nobody panicked."

Starting with the third overtime, teams are required to go for 2-point conversions following touchdowns. Brown hit Brandon Myles across the middle from 22 yards out for the go-ahead score against No. 13 Rutgers (10-2, 5-2), then found Dorrell Jalloh with a 2-point pass for a 41-33 lead.

Rutgers' Ray Rice then scored from 2 yards out. On the 2-point try, Teel scrambled to his right and threw toward Rice but Vaughn Rivers broke up the pass and several thousand fans in the sellout crowd ran onto the field in celebration.

Rice carried 25 times for 129 yards, including 90 yards after halftime. Teel completed 19-of-26 passes for 278 yards and made West Virginia's secondary look susceptible for the second straight game.

"Tonight, they made one more play than us," Teel said. "You felt that whoever had the ball last was going to have a chance to win the game. And we had a chance, but they made the play. We didn't."

No. 6 Louisville beat Connecticut 48-17 earlier Saturday, then waited for the Rutgers-West Virginia result.

It took awhile longer than expected.

Rutgers came from 10 points down for a 23-20 lead late in the fourth quarter on Jeremy Ito's 31-yard field goal. West Virginia's Pat McAfee kicked a 30-yarder with 53 seconds left to tie it at 23.

Both kickers made field goals in the first overtime.

In the second overtime, Rice's 12-yard run set up Leonard's 2-yard touchdown run and gave the Scarlet Knights their first lead since early in the third quarter.

Brown then found Myles with a 19-yard pass to the 1 on third down and Steve Slaton scored on the next play to tie the score at 33-33.

Slaton bounced back from his worst game of the season with 112 yards on 23 carries, including a pair of 1-yard TD runs. Without White, the nation's No. 2 rushing team was held to 195 yards on the ground.