Friday, December 29, 2006

Model Niki Taylor marries NASCAR driver

Model Niki Taylor marries NASCAR driver

1 hour, 47 minutes ago

Supermodel Niki Taylor and NASCAR driver Burney Lamar have tied the knot, Taylor's spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

The couple were married Wednesday before 60 guests at the Grande Colonial Hotel in the La Jolla area of San Diego, publicist Lesley Burbridge-Bates told The Associated Press. The bride wore a Vera Wang Couture dress.

Taylor lives in Nashville, Tenn., where she owns a clothing boutique.

The wedding ceremony was officiated by Pastor Rob Taylor of Calvary Chapel Brentwood, where the couple attends church.

Taylor, 31, and Lamar, 26, met at a charity event in January, Burbridge-Bates said.

"I looked at Burney and said to myself, `This is the guy I'm going to marry,'" Taylor told Us Weekly magazine, which first reported the news on its Web site Thursday night.

It is the first marriage for Lamar and the second for Taylor, who has 11-year-old twin boys, Jake and Hunter Martinez, from her previous marriage to former football player Matt Martinez.


On the Net:

Niki Taylor:

Us Weekly:

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Judge: Saddam to be executed by Saturday

Judge: Saddam to be executed by Saturday

13 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein has been transferred from U.S. custody, his lawyers said, and an Iraqi judge authorized to attend the former dictator's hanging said he would be executed no later than Saturday.

The physical hand-over of Saddam to Iraqi authorities was believed to be one of the last steps before he was to be hanged, although the lawyers' statement did not specifically say Saddam was in Iraqi hands.

"A few minutes ago we received correspondence from the Americans saying that President Saddam Hussein is no longer under the control of U.S. forces," according to the statement faxed to The Associated Press.

"Saddam will be executed today or tomorrow," said Munir Haddad, a judge on the appeals court that upheld Saddam's death sentence. "All the measures have been done."

Haddad is authorized to attend the execution on behalf of the judiciary.

"I am ready to attend and there is no reason for delays," Haddad said.


Bill's Comment: There is one song, I know, that Saddam Hussein will not be playing- "The Hanging Tree" by Marty Robbins. Another candidate song could also be "Highwayman" by either Glen Campbell or The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and the late greats Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former All-Star Brown dies after fire

Former All-Star Brown dies after fire

12/27/2006 6:50 PM ET
The Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Chris Brown, an All-Star third baseman who played six seasons in the majors in the 1980s, died Tuesday, nearly a month after he was burned in a fire at his home outside Houston. He was 45.
Brown died at Memorial Hermann Hospital. An autopsy has been performed but the cause of death is still pending, said Beverly Begay, a spokeswoman for the Harris County medical examiner's office.

Authorities say they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire and how Brown was burned. Doug Adolph, a spokesman for the Sugar Land police and fire departments, said arson is suspected.

Brown played with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers. He is the second member of the mid-1980s Giants infield to die this month. Jose Uribe played shortstop for the team from 1985-92. He died at 47 in a Dec. 8 car crash in the Dominican Republic.

A few years ago, Brown took a job with Halliburton Co. and ended up in Iraq driving, inspecting and repairing 18-wheel fuel trucks. In a 2004 telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said he'd faced enemy fire several times.

"It's a place I would've never thought 20 years ago that I'd be," Brown told the AP.

Firefighters arrived about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 30 at the home Brown owned in Sugar Land and found it "fully engulfed" in flames, Adolph said. Firefighters found no people or furniture inside, he said, and neighbors told authorities no one had lived there for some time.

Adolph said officials at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital told the Sugar Land fire department later that morning that Brown was there being treated for burns he suffered in a fire at his house. How Brown got from the burning house to the hospital about 9 miles away is part of the investigation, Adolph said.

Brown was transferred a few hours later to the main Memorial Hermann Hospital, Begay said. Sugar Land authorities never formally interviewed Brown because of his deteriorating condition, Adolph said.

Brown, who played with Darryl Strawberry at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, debuted in the majors in 1984 and made the All-Rookie team in 1985 after batting .271 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. Brown made the NL All-Star team in 1986, when he hit .317 with seven homers and 49 RBIs for San Francisco.

He underwent shoulder surgery after the '86 season and his statistics tapered off. He hit .242 in the first half of the 1987 season and the Giants traded him to the Padres. He batted .235 with only two homers in 1988 and the Padres dealt him to Detroit. He appeared in only 17 games with the Tigers in 1989 and batted .193 before he was released. He never returned to baseball.

Brown finished his big league career with a .269 average, 38 home runs and 184 RBIs.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bush Calls Ford 'A Great American'

Bush Calls Ford 'A Great American'

Dec 27 12:56 AM US/Eastern

Bush Calls Ford 'A Great American'
Dec 27 12:56 AM US/Eastern

President Bush issued a statement Tuesday night in response to the death of former President Ford:

Laura and I are greatly saddened by the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford.

President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On Aug. 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as vice president, he assumed the presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, commonsense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency.

The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation's memory. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to Betty Ford and all of President Ford's family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them in the hours and days ahead.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Gerald Ford Hailed As Selfless Leader

Gerald Ford Hailed As Selfless Leader

By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer

1 hour ago

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - President Bush hailed Gerald R. Ford for his administration's honor. His former opponent, President Carter, called him "a man of highest integrity." And Nancy Reagan hailed his dedication to the country.

In the uncertain days after the Watergate scandal, those qualities were enough.

Ford, who died Tuesday at 93, was remembered for getting and keeping the country on course in shaky times.

Carter, who defeated Ford in 1976, said he was "one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known."

"An outstanding statesman, he wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history," Carter said. "He frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation. I will always cherish the personal friendship we shared."

Though one of his most significant moves _ pardoning President Nixon for any crimes committed in office _ was widely derided at the time, many have since come to see it as a gesture that healed the country as much as it hurt Ford's aspirations to be elected president in 1976.

"With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency," President Bush said in a statement. "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, whose late husband mounted an intraparty challenge to Ford in 1976, praised Ford for his service to the nation during and after his time in office.

"His accomplishments and devotion to our country are vast, and even long after he left the presidency he made it a point to speak out on issues important to us all," she said.

Ford died at his home in Rancho Mirage, about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, where he retired.

"He accepted the enormous responsibilities of the Presidency during a dark hour in our history, fully knowing the daunting challenge he faced," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "No man could have been better suited to the task of healing our nation and restoring faith in our government."

Alexander Haig, Ford's former chief-of-staff, said on CNN that Ford "had to bring our country back and make it whole again and he did it with dignity, he did it with great, great skill and sensitivity."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Former President Gerald Ford Dies at 93

Former President Gerald Ford Dies at 93

By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 27, 0:47 AM

LOS ANGELES - Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected president in America's history, has died, former first lady Betty Ford said Tuesday. He was 93.

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."

The statement did not say where or when Ford died or list a cause of death. Ford had battled pneumonia in January 2006 and underwent two heart treatments _ including an angioplasty _ in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

He was the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Ford had been living at his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

"I was deeply saddened this evening when I heard of Jerry Ford's death," former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement. "Ronnie and I always considered him a dear friend and close political ally.

"His accomplishments and devotion to our country are vast, and even long after he left the presidency he made it a point to speak out on issues important to us all," she said.

Ford was an accidental president, Nixon's hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straight-forward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

Minutes after Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal and flew into exile, Ford took office and famously declared: "Our long national nightmare is over."

But 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, cost Ford 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 also earned a place in the history books as the first unelected vice president, chosen by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew who also was forced from office by scandal.

He 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, the presidency of Jerry Ford 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 Richard 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.

They liked her for speaking openly about problems of young people, including her own daughter; they admired her for not hiding that she had a mastectomy _ in fact, her example caused thousands of women to seek breast examinations.

And she remained one of the country's most admired women even after the Fords left the White House when she was hospitalized in 1978 and admitted to having become addicted to drugs and alcohol she took for painful arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck. Four years later she founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, a substance abuse facility next to Eisenhower Medical Center.

Ford slowed down in recent years. He had been hospitalized in August 2000 when he suffered one or more small strokes while attending the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

The following year, he joined former presidents Carter, Bush and Clinton at a memorial service in Washington three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. In June 2004, the four men and their wives joined again at a funeral service in Washington for former President Reagan. But in November 2004, Ford was unable to join the other former presidents at the dedication of the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

In January, Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia for 12 days. He wasn't seen in public until April 23, when President Bush was in town and paid a visit to the Ford home. Bush, Ford and Betty posed for photographers outside the residence before going inside for a private get-together.

The intensely private couple declined reporter interview requests and were rarely seen outside their home in Rancho Mirage's gated Thunderbird Estates, other than to attend worship services at the nearby St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.

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 then, 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 it was. He became the first vice president appointed under the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

On Aug. 9, 1974, after seeing Nixon off to exile, 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."

It was rare that Ford was ever as eloquent as he was for those dramatic moments of his swearing-in at the White House.

"My fellow Americans," he 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."

For Ford, a full term was not to be. 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.

Even as president, Ford often talked with reporters several times a day. He averaged 200 outside speeches a year as House Republican leader, a pace he kept up as vice president and diminished, seemingly, only slightly as chief executive. He kept speaking after leaving the White House, generally for fees of $15,000 to $20,000.

Ford was never asked to the White House for a social event during Reagan's eight years as president.

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 area 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.

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 unconditionally. 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, 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."

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 real 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 beat Rep. Bartel Jonkman by a 2-to-1 margin 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.

He had proposed to Elizabeth Bloomer, a dancer and fashion coordinator, earlier that year, 1948. She became one of his hardest-working campaigners and they were married shortly before the election. They had three sons, Michael, John and Steven, and a daughter, Susan.

Ford 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.

Clifford, an adviser to presidents since Harry Truman, summed up his legacy: "About his brief presidency there is little that can be said. In almost every way, it was a caretaker government trying to bind up the wounds of Watergate and get through the most traumatic act of the Indochina drama.

"Ford ... was a likable person who deserves credit for accomplishing the one goal that was most important, to reunite the nation after the trauma of Watergate and give us a breathing spell before we picked a new president."


Associated Press writer Harry F. Rosenthal, who retired from the AP Washington bureau, contributed to this report.


On the Net:

Gerald Ford presidential library site:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Court: Execute Saddam within 30 days

Court: Execute Saddam within 30 days

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer
27 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein in his first trial and said it must be carried out within 30 days. The sentence "must be implemented within 30 days," chief judge Aref Shahin. "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Legendary singer James Brown dies at 73

Legendary singer James Brown dies at 73

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer
4 minutes ago

ATLANTA - James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

Copsidas said the cause of death was uncertain. "We really don't know at this point what he died of," he said.

Pete Allman, a radio personality in Las Vegas who had been friends with Brown for 15 years, credited Brown with jump-starting his career and motivating him personally and professionally.

"He was a very positive person. There was no question he was the hardest working man in show business," Allman said. "I remember Mr. Brown as someone who always motivated me, got me reading the Bible."

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie's "Fame," Prince's "Kiss," George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" and Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" were clearly based on Brown's rhythms and vocal style.

If Brown's claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator.

"James presented obviously the best grooves," rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. "To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close."

His hit singles include such classics as "Out of Sight," "(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Say It Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud," a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.

"I clearly remember we were calling ourselves colored, and after the song, we were calling ourselves black," Brown said in a 2003 Associated Press interview. "The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song can change society."

He won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (best R&B recording) and for "Living In America" in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.

He triumphed despite an often unhappy personal life. Brown, who lived in Beech Island near the Georgia line, spent more than two years in a South Carolina prison for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police officer. After his release on in 1991, Brown said he wanted to "try to straighten out" rock music.

From the 1950s, when Brown had his first R&B hit, "Please, Please, Please" in 1956, through the mid-1970s, Brown went on a frenzy of cross-country tours, concerts and new songs. He earned the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business."

With his tight pants, shimmering feet, eye makeup and outrageous hair, Brown set the stage for younger stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince.

In 1986, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And rap stars of recent years overwhelmingly have borrowed his lyrics with a digital technique called sampling.

Brown's work has been replayed by the Fat Boys, Ice-T, Public Enemy and a host of other rappers. "The music out there is only as good as my last record," Brown joked in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

"Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I'm saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 percent of their music is me," he told the AP in 2003.

Born in poverty in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933, he was abandoned as a 4-year-old to the care of relatives and friends and grew up on the streets of Augusta, Ga., in an "ill-repute area," as he once called it. There he learned to wheel and deal.

"I wanted to be somebody," Brown said.

By the eighth grade in 1949, Brown had served 3 1/2 years in Alto Reform School near Toccoa, Ga., for breaking into cars.

While there, he met Bobby Byrd, whose family took Brown into their home. Byrd also took Brown into his group, the Gospel Starlighters. Soon they changed their name to the Famous Flames and their style to hard R&B.

In January 1956, King Records of Cincinnati signed the group, and four months later "Please, Please, Please" was in the R&B Top Ten.

While most of Brown's life was glitz and glitter, he was plagued with charges of abusing drugs and alcohol and of hitting his third wife, Adrienne.

In September 1988, Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants if they were using his private restroom.

Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck.

Brown received a six-year prison sentence. He spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991. In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.

Soon after his release, Brown was on stage again with an audience that included millions of cable television viewers nationwide who watched the three-hour, pay-per-view concert at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

Adrienne Brown died in 1996 in Los Angeles at age 47. She took PCP and several prescription drugs while she had a bad heart and was weak from cosmetic surgery two days earlier, the coroner said.

More recently, he married his fourth wife, Tomi Raye Hynie, one of his backup singers. The couple had a son, James Jr.

Two years later, Brown spent a week in a private Columbia hospital, recovering from what his agent said was dependency on painkillers. Brown's attorney, Albert "Buddy" Dallas, said singer was exhausted from six years of road shows.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Toyota auto forecast would move it past GM

Toyota auto forecast would move it past GM

By Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press
December 24, 2006
12:48 AM EST (05:48 GMT)

NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota announced on Friday a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for 2007, increasing the odds that the Japanese manufacturer will surpass troubled General Motors Corp. as the world's No. 1 automaker.

Toyota will expand into the Nextel Cup Series next year with at least three full-time teams fielding the Camry: Michael Waltrip Racing, Team Red Bull and Bill Davis Racing. The company's Tundra won the 2006 Craftsman Truck Series championship with Todd Bodine.

The latest figure, announced by Toyota in a release, marks a 4-percent increase over the 9.04 million vehicles the company expects to produce this year and easily clears the 9.2 million vehicles GM is estimated to have produced this year.

GM does not give targets for next year, but it has been forced to scale back production recently, seeing its market share eroded by Asian automakers, including Toyota, which have a reputation for better mileage.

The numbers weren't a surprise, given the recent achievements of Toyota, said Tsuyoshi Mochimaru, auto analyst with Deutsche Securities in Tokyo.

"The growth highlights the fantastic reputation Toyota has won for its cars," he said. "Toyota may need to set the next goal to keep its motivation up if it becomes No. 1."

Although Detroit-based GM says the perception that its cars are gas-guzzlers is unfair and inaccurate, it is undergoing massive restructuring after racking up more than $10.6 billion in red ink last year and $3 billion more the first nine months of this year.

Toyota, on the other hand, is on a roll, reporting record profits, churning out best-sellers like the Camry and Corolla as well as carving out a reputation in hybrids, which use a fine-tuned technology of switching between a gasoline engine and electric motor to save gas at a time when oil prices are rising.

Toyota, which passed up Ford Motor Co. as the world's No. 2 automaker in 2003, also painted a bright picture of sales in 2007. It is expecting to sell 9.34 million vehicles globally next year, up from 6 percent from 8.8 million expected for this year.

The bullish outlook lifted Toyota's stock to an all-time closing high of 7,800 yen (U.S. $66.10) in Tokyo.

But Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe barely said anything when asked about the possibility that his company may soon beat GM in global output.

"That's just what the results may be," he said quietly at a news conference at a hotel in Nagoya, central Japan, near Toyota city where the automaker is based.

""There will be no growth without quality. We'd like to continue our efforts to make good products that win support from our customers."
- Katsuaki Watanabe

Watanabe spent far more time talking about how Toyota must strengthen quality controls if it hoped to continue growing.

Toyota has been plagued with a rising number of recalls as it standardizes parts to cut costs and develops and sells more vehicles at a faster pace. Its challenge is to maintain its reputation for quality cars and customer satisfaction at the same time that it continues to rev up production.

"There will be no growth without quality," Watanabe said, adding that quality will be closely monitored at all levels of production, including design, development and procurement. "We'd like to continue our efforts to make good products that win support from our customers."

Although Toyota's production methods, which empowers assembly line workers and trims inventory, are praised by experts, transporting that production to new places remains a challenge.

Toyota is opening new plants in Russia, Thailand and China next year to keep up with demand.

Watanabe said the company was considering adding another plant in North America to keep up with growing demand, although he did not give details.

Of Toyota's projected volume for next year, overseas production will rise 8 percent to 4.27 million vehicles while its domestic output will increase 1 percent to 5.15 million vehicles, the company said. The projections include Toyota Motor Corp.'s subsidiaries, truck-maker Hino Motors, Daihatsu Motor Co., which makes small cars.

In the U.S., the first Tundra pickup trucks rolling off of Toyota's Texas plant will arrive in showrooms in 2007, a sign of Toyota's ambitions in a lucrative sector dominated by American automakers.

Toyota has used its ample coffers to purchase significant stakes in two of GM's former Japanese alliance partners -- Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars, and truck-maker Isuzu. Toyota will be even using Fuji's Indiana plant to make Camrys starting in spring 2007.

GM used to be the top shareholder in Fuji, but sold its entire 20-percent stake last year as part of its efforts to raise cash for restructuring. Toyota bought an 8.7-percent stake in Fuji for about $315 million to become the top shareholder.

Last month, Toyota bought a 5.9-percent stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd., well known for its diesel technology that Toyota is eager to gain -- half a year after GM sold its entire 7.9-percent stake in Isuzu.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Former 21 Club owner dies at 99

Former 21 Club owner dies at 99

By PAT MILTON, Associated Press Writer
Thu Dec 21, 9:38 PM ET

NEW YORK - Jerry Berns, the affable host to New York's rich and famous during a half-century connection with the celebrated 21 Club, died Thursday, restaurant officials said. He was 99.

Berns — or Mr. Jerry, as he was known — was a familiar face at the club, warmly greeting guests, grinning, shaking hands and making certain that both friends and strangers were treated royally.

"He was a goodwill ambassador," said Bryan McGuire, general manager of the club. "Over the 50 years that he was associated with the 21, Jerry met more people than most people could meet in 10 lifetimes."

The 21 Club, in a four-story townhouse in midtown Manhattan, served as a glamorous speakeasy in the Prohibition era. Despite police raids, its owners were never caught operating an illegal bar because of an ingenious system of levers used to tip the shelves of the bar down a chute.

Berns left his job as a theater critic at the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1938 to join his older brother, Charlie Berns, and partner Jack Kriendler, who opened the club on New Year's Eve 1929.

Jerry Berns and Kriendler's cousin Pete Kriendler became co-owners of the club in 1970 after both co-founders died. Pete Kriendler died five years ago on the same date as Berns — Dec. 21.

Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has dined at the 21. Authors John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra had favorite tables there. Humphrey Bogart proposed to Lauren Bacall there.

Berns sold the club in 1985 — for $21 million.

Rudd returning to Cup, Yates full time in 2007

Rudd returning to Cup, Yates full time in 2007

RYR announces sponsorship with Masterfoods USA on second car
December 21, 2006
04:46 PM EST (21:46 GMT)

After a one-year hiatus, The Rooster returns. Ricky Rudd has signed to drive the 2007 Cup Series season for Robert Yates Racing, an organization with which Rudd already has a solid history.

Rudd, 50, replaces 1999 series champion Dale Jarrett, who has signed to drive with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Rudd will be sponsored by several Masterfoods USA brands, primarily Snickers and also including Pedigree dog food and Combos snacks. Pedigree and Combos will hold the primary sponsorship for a combined seven events.

"It's good to be back and it's really good to be back in the Snickers Ford Fusion and to team back with Robert Yates Racing," Rudd said at a Thursday teleconference officially announcing the deal. "In today's market, you have to have a multi-car organization to be competitive and win races and with Masterfoods' support I believe we have the ability to do both of those next year.

"I'm really looking forward to the new season and can't thank the Masterfoods company enough for participating and stepping up and sponsoring both cars at Robert Yates Racing and, again, thanks to Robert Yates and all of his family for having me back."

Yates will team Rudd with David Gilliland, who replaced Elliott Sadler last season.

"I look forward to working closely with David and Todd [Parrott, crew chief of the No. 38 team] next season," Rudd said. "Having a teammate to work with is something that I haven't had the luxury of in quite some time. We've already practiced a couple times and hit it off real well.

"David has shown tremendous talent in his time behind the wheel of a Nextel Cup car and with the resources we will share at RYR, our goal is to put Robert Yates Racing back on top."

The 38 car is sponsored by M&M's, another brand of Masterfoods USA, making it the only sponsor to have two brands from the same company on one team.

"The sponsorship of a second team will strengthen Robert Yates Racing and will define it as a multi-car Nextel Cup team in the coming season," said William Clements, director of sponsorships and sports marketing for Masterfoods USA.

"When I took a break from racing at the end of 2005, I knew that I would return to competition if the right opportunity presented itself."
- Ricky Rudd

"The addition of Ricky Rudd, who provides 30-plus years of experience, will bring added leadership for the entire organization as well as assisting in the continuing development of David Gilliland. We feel that veteran Ricky Rudd and Snickers is a perfect complement to David Gilliland and the M&M's racing team."

A Yates-prepared car failed to win a race for the first time since it began racing in 1989 with Davey Allison, and the organization has been the center of speculation from everything between closing its doors to merging with other race shops.

"It's time to go, but this is Christmas and this is a wonderful deal for Masterfoods to support us in this way," Yates said. "We are excited to welcome Ricky back to the team. We all realize Ricky's talent and to have him return to the organization is a huge plus for us."

Rudd previously drove for Yates from 2000-02, accumulating three wins, 34 top-five finishes and 53 top-10s in 106 starts.

"Hopefully we can start off equally or better than we were and we're looking forward to that," Yates added. "I think we have the strength and the depth. We certainly have the desire. Ricky has that and we have the desire and we have the belief that we can go out and have a great year, so we're excited about this."

Rudd originally planned to retire after the 2002 Cup Series season, however, he signed on with the Wood Brothers and drove the No. 21 Ford from 2003-05 and ended his streak of 788 consecutive starts.

Rudd, who was named one of NASCAR's "Top 50 Drivers of All Time" in 1998, stepped away after the '05 season with 23 victories, 194 top-five finishes and 373 top-10s in 875 starts. His highest points finish was second to Dale Earnhardt in 1991.

A 31-year Cup Series veteran, Rudd made his debut on March 2, 1975, at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. He was the 1977 rookie of the year and went on to win at least one race in 16 consecutive seasons (1983-98), an honor he shares with Rusty Wallace.

"When I took a break from racing at the end of 2005, I knew that I would return to competition if the right opportunity presented itself," Rudd said. "Returning to Robert Yates Racing and partnering with Snickers was the ride to get me back into competition full time."

It is not known what the car number will be. Rudd previously drove the No. 28 for Yates, but the car was re-numbered to its current 38 when Sadler took over in 2003. The 88, driven by Jarrett since 1996, is still a possibility.

Monday, December 18, 2006

NASCAR, ESPN join search for title sponsor

NASCAR, ESPN join search for title sponsor

By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
December 18, 2006
04:54 PM EST (21:54 GMT)

NASCAR considers the title sponsorship of its No. 2 series to be "a significant opportunity for brand exposure," so it's going to the unusual step of asking broadcast partner ESPN to join in the search to replace Anheuser-Busch at the end of the 2007 season.

Anheuser-Busch officials confirmed Monday that the company will not renew sponsorship of the Busch Series when the contract expires next season, which allows NASCAR to search for a replacement title sponsor at what industry analysts believe is worth between $35-$40 million per year, which is estimated to be at least three times the current deal.

"We didn't feel like we needed to make a big announcement on it, but we felt it was important to alert NASCAR that we were not going to renew after '07 as a courtesy of our long-term relationship," said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch. "We wanted to give them time to consider and look for a new sponsor."

With that in mind, NASCAR and ESPN will be doing something unique: they will be combining efforts to replace the Busch brand over the next 12 months, according to NASCAR's director of business communications, Andrew Giangola.

"No one could come up with another example of league and broadcast partner selling a sponsorship," Giangola said. "We will be enjoined to find the right series sponsor to support our efforts and elevate the series."

With the growth of the Busch Series in recent years, coupled with the brand loyalty shown by NASCAR fans, Giangola said it makes sense that NASCAR and its broadcast partner be involved in the title sponsorship process.

"The Busch Series will have more of a presence on ESPN, so we're going to be looking for a national brand that's going to promote the series," he said. "The Busch Series is an extremely strong motorsports property. It's a significant opportunity for a company to gain $100 million in brand exposure. It's a unique situation, because the company is literally branded to the sport."

Giangola said there's no specific timeline to the process, which is in initial stages.

"Clearly, we hope to have somebody in place before 2008," he said. "We'll go out with ESPN and begin meeting companies across a range of categories."

Giangola said there is constant communication between prospective sponsors and NASCAR. In some cases, companies have inquired about future title sponsorship. In others, NASCAR has initiated talks.

For now, Giangola doesn't believe the current economic situation will have any bearing on NASCAR's ability to find a replacement for Busch.

"We don't think that's going to be much of a factor," he said. "You could make the argument that when economic times are tighter, the cream tends to rise to the top. In good times and bad, NASCAR remains a great choice.

"Our fans are very passionate about the sport. There is an extremely high level of awareness about the sport."

There's a good possibility that the new sponsor may not be one traditionally connected to auto racing, like when Sprint-Nextel replaced Winston as title sponsor of NASCAR's premier series in 2003.

The key, according to Giangola, is finding the right fit, especially when it comes to exposing new fans to the sport.

"The Holy Grail seems to about bringing in the casual sports fan, no matter what the property," he said. "When you look at ESPN, it's a gathering place for a lot of casual sports fans, that's for sure."

NASCAR's Late Model Sportsman Division was renamed the Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series in 1982, with the Busch brand taking over as title sponsor in 1984.

Barry Gibb Plans Country Record in Tenn.

Barry Gibb Plans Country Record in Tenn.

By Associated Press

Sat Dec 16, 6:04 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If former Bee Gee Barry Gibb was looking for some inspiration for the country album he plans to record here, he couldn't have picked a more hallowed piece of ground to put down stakes.

Gibb bought and is restoring the lakefront house belonging to the late Johnny and June Carter Cash.

"It's going to be nice," Gibb said Wednesday during a reception in his honor by the performance rights organization BMI. "We'd like to use it as our second home. I would like to come here and write songs. I am planning on making a country album. That is really who I am."

Gibb, known for Bee Gees disco hits including "Staying Alive," said he and his two sons have about three completed songs and several others in the works.

"I am a country artist, always have been a country artist, and this is my chance to get some self-expression out because the group is no longer the group," he said. The Bee Gees disbanded after the 2003 death of his brother, Maurice.

And if Cash's old property doesn't stir his creativity, maybe Roy Orbison's will. Orbison, who died in 1988, lived right next door.

"Do you realize how many hit songs have been written in that 4- or 5-acre area, including Roy Orbison next door? The inspiration, being surrounded by the musical atmosphere that has been there for 35 years, we just had to do it."

Sometimes, Gibb says, he can sense Cash's spirit in the house.

"You feel like someone is watching," he said. "You feel like there is a presence in the house of both Johnny and June. I still haven't seen a tall man wearing black clothes yet, but I am very much into it and hope that I do."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Bill's Comment: Honestly, I am looking forward to Barry Gibb's country album. He has written a couple well-known country hits in the past, such as "Islands In The Stream" (Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton) and "Rest Your Love on Me" (Conway Twitty). If I remember, both songs went to number one on the country charts.

Yogi Bear Creator Joe Barbera Dies at 95

Yogi Bear Creator Joe Barbera Dies at 95

By SUE MANNING, Associated Press Writer
2 hours ago

LOS ANGELES - Joe Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones, died Monday, a Warner Bros. spokesman said. He was 95.

Barbera died of natural causes at his home with his wife Sheila at his side, Warner Bros. spokesman Gary Miereanu said.

With his longtime partner, Bill Hanna, Barbera first found success creating the highly successful Tom and Jerry cartoons. The antics of the battling cat and mouse went on to win seven Academy Awards, more than any other series with the same characters.

The partners, who teamed up while working at MGM in the 1930s, then went on to a whole new realm of success in the 1960s with a witty series of animated TV comedies, including "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Yogi Bear," "Scooby-Doo" and "Huckleberry Hound and Friends."

Their strengths melded perfectly, critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons." Barbera brought the comic gags and skilled drawing, while Hanna brought warmth and a keen sense of timing.

"This writing-directing team may hold a record for producing consistently superior cartoons using the same characters year after year _ without a break or change in routine," Maltin wrote.

Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer called Hanna and Barbera's characters "not only animated superstars, but also a very beloved part of American pop culture."

The team's cartoons spanned "the Stone Age to the Space Age and from primetime to Saturday mornings, syndication and cable," Meyer said. "While he will be missed by his family and friends, (Barbera) will live on through his work."

Hanna, who died in 2001, once said he was never a good artist but his partner could "capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I've ever known."

The two first teamed cat and mouse in the short "Puss Gets the Boot." It earned an Academy Award nomination, and MGM let the pair keep experimenting until the full-fledged Tom and Jerry characters eventually were born.

Jerry was borrowed for the mostly live-action musical "Anchors Aweigh," dancing with Gene Kelly in a scene that became a screen classic.

After MGM folded its animation department in the mid-1950s, Hanna and Barbera were forced to go into business for themselves. With television's sharply lower budgets, their new cartoons put more stress on verbal wit rather than the detailed _ and expensive _ action featured in theatrical cartoons.

Like "The Simpsons" three decades later, "The Flintstones" found success in prime-time TV by not limiting its reach to children. The program, a parody of "The Honeymooners," was among the 20 most popular shows on television during the 1960-61 season, and Fred's shout of "yabba dabba doo!" entered the language.

The Jetsons, which debuted in 1962, were the futuristic mirror image of the Flintstones.

"It was a family comedy with everyday situations and problems that we window-dressed with gimmicks and inventions," Barbera once said. "Our stories were such a contrast to many of the animated series that are straight destruction and blasting away for a solid half-hour."

The show ran just one season on network TV but was often rerun, and the characters were revived in the 1980s in a syndicated show. Barbera said he liked the freedom syndication gave the producers, with none of the meddling from network executives.

"Today, Charlie Chaplin couldn't get his material by a network," he once said.

Even so, the influence of Hanna-Barbera was felt for decades. In 2002 and again in 2004, characters from the cartoon series "Scooby-Doo" were brought to the big screen in films that combined live actors and animation.

Hanna-Barbera, meanwhile, received eight Emmys, including the Governors Award of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1988.

"Joe Barbara was a passionate storyteller and a creative genius who, along with his late partner Bill Hanna, helped pioneer the world of animation," said friend, colleague and Warner animation President Sander Schwartz. "Joe's contributions to both the animation and television industries are without parallel _ he has been personally responsible for entertaining countless millions of viewers across the globe."

Neither Hanna, born in 1910, nor Barbera, born in 1911, set out to be cartoonists. Barbera, who grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, originally went into banking. Soon, however, he turned his doodles into magazine cartoons and then into a job as an animator.

Hanna, who had studied engineering and journalism, originally went into animation because he needed a job.

Although not the hit factory it was in the '50s and '60s, the Hanna-Barbera studio remained active through the years. It eventually became a subsidiary of Great American Communications Co., and in 1991 it was purchased by a partnership including Turner Broadcasting System, which used the studio's library when it launched cable TV's Cartoon Network in 1992. Turner is now part of Time Warner.

Funeral arrangements were pending, Miereanu said. In addition to his wife, the animator is survived by three children from a previous marriage, Jayne, Neal and Lynn.


Associated Press Writer Polly Anderson in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gingrich: GOP needs new kind of campaign

Gingrich: GOP needs new kind of campaign

By Beverley Wang, Associated Press Writer | December 15, 2006

MANCHESTER, N.H. --Even Republicans are impressed with the reception of Democratic superstar Barack Obama.

Speaking Friday night in Manchester to a ballroom full of Republicans, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "I do think every Republican ought to look at the reception Barack Obama got a week ago."

Gingrich, who like Obama, is weighing a presidential run in 2008, said, "the interest in him tells you something about Americans more than it tells you about him."

Visiting New Hampshire for the first time on Sunday, Obama, an Illinois senator, acknowledged he's become a symbol of the change Americans want in government.

Gingrich, echoing comments from state Republican Chairman Wayne Semprini before him, urged state Republicans to consider a new kind of campaign in 2007-2008.

Americans, he told about 100 people attending the Manchester Republican City Committee dinner-dance, are tired of negative attack ads. He said state Republicans should invite Democrats to their candidate forums, too.

Voters would be able to compare candidates side by side more frequently, and candidates would have a chance for more genuine dialogue, "for the purpose of discussing solutions for America," he said.

"If the Republican and Democratic parties in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina would agree to do a series of bipartisan events in 2007, we could create a year of solutions and dialogue," Gingrich said.

When speaking about Iraq, people should understand that "Iraq is a campaign in the real world," Gingrich said. "If this larger war didn't exist, I would say we should leave Iraq this weekend.

"When I look at Iraq, I see Iran. I see Afghanistan. I see Hamas. I see Hezbollah. What's the totality of the war we're dealing with? The answer is not to abandon Iraq."

Americans must maintain a strong presence in Iraq because "when our enemies think we are weak, it gets dangerous everywhere very fast," Gingrich said.

Gingrich is critical of the Iraq Study Group, comparing its findings -- and efforts to use them as an exit strategy from Iraq -- to World War II-era "efforts to appease Nazi Germany" according a posting this week on his Web site,

He opposes reaching out to Iran for help with Iraq. However, "if Bush's promised change of direction isolates Iraq as the only world danger and if he offers only more of the same in fighting that conflict, then Gingrich believes America might as well pull out its troops and quit," according to the same posting.

Gingrich helped Republicans sweep to power in Congress in 1994 with his "Contract with America" which called for a rolling back of federal programs and waste. Yet he proposes a social overhaul in Iraq along the lines of a hybrid New Deal/Marshall Plan to boost safety and stability, according to his Web site. Flood the region with goods and provide resources to create jobs and infrastructure, and Iraqis will be standing on their own feet, he believes.

Potential GOP rivals Rudy Giuliani, Sens. John McCain and Sam Brownback already have formed presidential exploratory committees and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who leaves office Jan. 4., is widely expected to announce his candidacy. Gingrich, meanwhile, has said he won't decide whether to run until September. But he's following the prospective candidate playbook, speaking out on Iraq, courting New Hampshire -- home of the nation's first presidential primary contest -- and making appearances on national news programs. He last visited New Hampshire on Nov. 28.


On the Net:

Newt Gingrich:

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Bill's Comment: While Obama-mania runs wild across America, do not be hoodwinked. Senator Obama is trying to do his best Bill Clinton "centrist" impression. If you look at his voting record, he is a diehard liberal. Besides, he has only been a U.S. Senator for only two years. What makes him qualified? I honestly do not think that Obama will get the nod in 2008, but we shall see.

Apprentice Star E!ngaged

Apprentice Star E!ngaged

Sat Dec 16, 9:13 PM

Forget that Trump character—original Apprentice champ Bill Rancic's found somebody he'd rather partner with: E! News' Giuliana DePandi.

Rancic proposed to DePandi Friday night during a cozy helicopter ride over his hometown of Chicago. He sealed the deal with some deep-dish pizza, champagne, chocolate cake and a generous sprinkling of rose petals.

The couple, who have been dating for nearly a year, are planning a late 2007 wedding in DePandi's native Italy, she says.

It will be the first marriage for both.

Although DePandi and Rancic first met when she interviewed him following his Apprentice hiring in April 2004, they didn't get romantic until earlier this year. During an interview for a Boys & Girls Club charity event, DePandi asked Rancic onair if he was dating anyone. He said no and, when the cameras stopped rolling, asked her out.

Rancic, 35, has worked in various capacities for the Trump Organization since his reality show win, and will again appear as one of Donald Trump's sidekicks during the upcoming season of The Apprentice, which kicks off Jan. 7.

DePandi, 31, anchors E! News opposite Ryan Seacrest.

© 2006 E! Entertainment Television, Inc. All rights reserved.,

Friday, December 15, 2006

Alabama site picked for $600M Earnhardt project

Alabama site picked for $600M Earnhardt project

Earnhardt siblings invest in racetrack and entertainment complex

By Garry Mitchell, The Associated Press
December 15, 2006
05:59 PM EST (22:59 GMT)

MOBILE, Ala. -- A $600 million Dale Earnhardt racetrack and entertainment complex will be built on 2,500 acres in the Prichard-Saraland area just north of Mobile, the track's investors announced Friday after ruling out two sites in south Baldwin County.

It could take about two years to build the four-track motorsports park off Alabama 158, near Interstate 65, with a full season of activity expected in 2010, track spokesman Bill Futterer of Raleigh, N.C., said. The chosen site faces the University of Mobile campus.

A 5,000-space RV park, a theme park and a 7,000-seat arena also are planned, along with hotels, retail, restaurants and music theaters. The site, while near the busy north-south I-65, also would benefit from its proximity to the east-west Interstate 10 on Mobile's southern edge.

Investors in the track include Dale Earnhardt Jr.; his brother, Kerry Earnhardt; and sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge.

It is the Earnhardt siblings' first professional collaboration. The 20 investor partners are operating as Gulf Coast Entertainment LLC.

The Earnhardts will help design the seven-tenths-mile, lighted oval track in the complex. There also will be a three-eighths-mile dirt track; a 3-mile road course; and a quarter-mile drag strip.

Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine said that while no monetary commitment by the county has been made to the investors, the county will offer infrastructure improvements.

A project of this size would be a windfall for Prichard, which has a population of about 28,000 and is one of Alabama's poorest cities. Prichard Mayor Ron Davis said it's an "exciting day" for Prichard and he pledged to "focus on the partnership" to make the complex a success. Construction on the complex could generate 5,000 jobs.

Baldwin County sites in Loxley and Summerdale were considered. While Summerdale courted the track investors, Loxley was less than enthusiastic about the proposal because residents voiced concerns about racing noise and traffic.

"Most people I talked to were not in favor of it," Loxley Mayor Billy Middleton said.

Summerdale Mayor David Wilson said the cost of the land knocked his city out of the competition. He said property near the toll highway to Alabama beaches was considered.

Wilson said two of the investors already owned some of the Mobile County property needed for the project.

"We were humbled to have been considered," a disappointed Wilson said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fred Marsden, Merseybeat Drummer, Dies

Fred Marsden, Merseybeat Drummer, Dies

By Associated Press
Thu Dec 14, 12:47 AM

LONDON - Fred Marsden, the drummer in the Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers, has died at age 66, his family said.

Marsden died of cancer Saturday in Southport, England, according to a family death announcement published Tuesday in the Liverpool Echo newspaper.

The band, fronted by Marsden's brother, Gerry, was the second group signed by Brian Epstein, whose first band was The Beatles.

Gerry and the Pacemakers become the first from Liverpool to have a No. 1 single with "How Do You Do It?" in 1963, followed that year by another chart-topper, "I Like It."

Later hits included "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Ferry Cross the Mersey," and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," co-written by Fred.

The group disbanded in 1967. Gerry Marsden reformed the Pacemakers in 1973 but without Fred, who had given up the music business to be a telephone operator and later established the Pacemaker driving school.

Marsden is survived by his wife, Margaret, and two children. A funeral will be held Friday at Our Lady's Church in Formby.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Music Pioneer Ahmet Ertegun Dies at 83

Music Pioneer Ahmet Ertegun Dies at 83

5 hours ago

NEW YORK - Ahmet Ertegun, who helped define American music as the founder of Atlantic Records, a label that popularized the gritty R&B of Ray Charles, the classic soul of Aretha Franklin and the British rock of the Rolling Stones, died Thursday at 83, his spokesman said.

Ertegun remained connected to the music scene until his last days _ it was at an Oct. 29 concert by the Rolling Stones at the Beacon Theatre in New York where Ertegun fell, suffered a head injury and was hospitalized. He later slipped into a coma.

"He was in a coma and expired today with his family at his bedside," said Dr. Howard A. Riina, Ertegun's neurosurgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Ertegun will be buried in a private ceremony in his native Turkey, said Bob Kaus, a spokesman for Ertegun and Atlantic Records. A memorial service will be conducted in New York after New Year's.

Ertegun, a Turkish ambassador's son, started collecting records for fun, but would later became one of the music industry's most powerful figures with Atlantic, which he founded in 1947.

The label first made its name with rhythm and blues by Charles and Big Joe Turner, but later diversified, making Franklin the Queen of Soul as well as carrying the banner of British rock (with the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin) and American pop (with Sonny and Cher, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others).

Today, the company, part of Warner Music Group, is the home to artists including Kid Rock, James Blunt, T.I., and Missy Elliott.

Ertegun's love of music began with jazz, back when he and his late brother Nesuhi (an esteemed producer of such jazz acts as Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman) used to hang around with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in the clubs of Washington, D.C.

"My father was a diplomat who was ambassador to Switzerland, France and England before he became ambassador to the United States, and we lived in all those countries and we always had music in the house, and a lot of it was a kind of popular music, and we heard a lot of jazz," Ertegun recalled in an interview with The Associated Press. "By the time we came to Washington, we were collecting records and we amassed a collection of some 25,000 blues and jazz records."

Ertegun parlayed his love of music into a career when he founded Atlantic with partner Herb Abramson and a $10,000 loan. When the label first started, it made its name with blues-edged recordings by acts such as Ruth Brown.

Despite his privileged background, which included attending prep school and socializing with Washington's elite, Ertegun was able to mix with all kinds of people _ an attribute that made him not just a marketer of black music, but a part of it, said Jerry Wexler.

"The transition between these two worlds is one of Ahmet's most distinguishing characteristics," Wexler said.

Black music was the backbone of the label for years _ it was Atlantic, under Wexler's production genius, that helped make Franklin the top black female singer of her day.

"We had some pop music _ we had Bobby Darin ... and we developed other pop artists such as Sonny and Cher and Bette Midler and so on," said Ertegun. "But we had been most effective that set a style as purveyors of African-American music. And we were the kings of that until the arrival of Motown Records, which was long after we started."

But once music tastes changed, Ertegun switched gears and helped bring on the British invasion in the '60s.

"If Atlantic had restricted itself to R&B music, I have no doubt that it would be extinct today," Wexler said.

Instead, it became even bigger.

In later years, Ertegun signed Midler, Roberta Flack and ABBA. He had a gift for being able to pick out what would be a commercial smash, said the late producer Arif Mardin, who remembered one session where he was working with the Bee Gees on an album _ but was unsure of what he had produced.

"Then Ahmet came and listened to it, and said, `You've got hits here, you've got dance hits,'" Mardin once told the AP. "I was involved in such a way that I didn't see the forest for the trees. ... He was like the steadying influence."

One strength of the company was Ertegun's close relationships with many of the artists _ relationships that continued even after they left his label. Midler still called for advice, and he visited Franklin's home when he dropped into Detroit.

His friendships extended to the younger generation, too, including Kid Rock and Lil' Kim.

Besides his love of music, Ertegun was also known for his love of art, and socializing. It was not uncommon to find him at a party with his wife, Mica, hanging out until all hours with friends.

Although he was slowed by triple-bypass surgery in 2001, he still went into his office almost daily to listen for his next hit.

Finding those hits were among the most wonderful moments in his life, he said.

"I've been in the studio when you go through a track and you run down a track and you know even before the singer starts singing, you know the track is swinging ... you know you have a multimillion-seller hit _ and what you're working on suddenly has magic," he said. "That's the biggest."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Exclusive breaking news--GORDON AND VANDEBOSCH 'EXPECTING'

Exclusive breaking news--GORDON AND VANDEBOSCH 'EXPECTING'

12/13/06 10:35 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (December 13, 2006) - Ingrid Vandebosch, wife of four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, is pregnant.

"We're obviously very excited," said Gordon, who announced his engagement at Infineon Raceway in June and married Vandebosch on November 7. "Christmas came early for us this year.

"This is a very special gift for us – one that we're both looking forward to. The due date is early July, and Ingrid and I can't wait to be parents.

"We've known for a little while, but we couldn't wait any longer to share the good news with our friends and fans."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Waltrip hires Borland to head Jarrett's team

Waltrip hires Borland to head Jarrett's team

Team also names Carter, Hyder as team's other crew chiefs
Team News Release
December 8, 2006
02:00 PM EST (19:00 GMT)

CORNELIUS, N.C. -- Michael Waltrip Racing announced Friday that Matt Borland, Larry Carter and David Hyder have been named crew chiefs of the organization for the 2007 Nextel Cup Series season.

Borland has been designated as crew chief of the No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry with former champion Dale Jarrett. Carter will reside as crew chief of the No. 00 Toyota Camry co-sponsored by Burger Kind and Domino's Pizza with driver David Reutimann. Michael Waltrip has assigned Hyder as crew chief of his No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry.

"We are pleased to announce our crew chiefs today," Waltrip said. "We concentrated on pairing personalities to find the perfect qualified individuals for each position. Matt is a proven winner and we're proud to have him steering the No. 44 UPS Toyota team.

"I've known David for a while and look forward to him leading the NAPA team. I love his enthusiasm and the way he thinks. Obviously, Larry was vitally important in building our teams and I know he will be instrumental in building David Reutimann's future while driving his Toyota co-sponsored by Burger King and Domino's Pizza. We are fortunate to have all three of them under one roof."

Borland led Ryan Newman to 12 wins, 37 poles, 54 top-fives, 83 top-10s in 186 Nextel Cup Series starts. The 35-year-old joined Penske Racing South in November 1999 originally as an engineer. In 2001, Borland was then instrumental in his driver's success as he participated in a combination schedule in the ARCA, Busch Series and Nextel Cup Series.

Borland looked on as Newman amassed eight poles, two wins, five top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes.

In Borland's first full-time season in the Nextel Cup Series as a crew chief, he claimed one win, six pole awards, 14 top-five and 22 top-10s. Borland, also received trophies from winning The Winston and his driver clinched the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title and finished sixth in the championship standings.

After years of success with Penske Racing South, Borland makes the move to Michael Waltrip Racing.

"I'm looking forward to making a new home at Michael Waltrip Racing and working with Dale Jarrett," Borland said. "Dale is a champion and he has a ton of respect in the garage. He's obviously proven himself as a driver. Also, Toyota will be great to work with. I think Toyota is one of the most technologically advanced manufacturers."

Jarrett is equally happy to have Borland on his team.

"There are a lot of smart, innovative individuals in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and I am thrilled that Michael Waltrip Racing was able to secure one of the best in Matt Borland," Jarrett said. "He's obviously had a lot of success in the few years he's been in this position. I think Christmas came a little early for Michael Waltrip Racing and myself. This announcement just adds to my excitement about 2007. I think he'll truly be a valuable asset to this No. 44 UPS Toyota team and will complement Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole."

"Dale expressed his ideal crew chief was someone like Matt Borland," Waltrip added. "We were actually able to deliver Matt Borland. Matt's spirit and determination will permeate throughout our shop."

Carter aligned with Michael Waltrip Racing after a successful stint as Rusty Wallace's crew chief at Penske Racing South. Joining Penske in 2004, Carter led Wallace to his 55th career victory in April of that year at Martinsville Speedway, snapping a 105-race winless streak for Wallace. It was only his 10th race with Wallace. Carter has been an integral part of Michael Waltrip Racing's growth.

"We've set some realistic goals and assembled a solid team," Carter said. "David Reutimann is very talented and we're going to have a lot of fun working with him. He's been fast at all the tests and I think he'll do well next year. Fortunately, we were able to run five races last season with Bill Elliott to help prepare us for 2007."

Reutimann also is optimistic.

"I've known of Larry for years, but I've just recently got to know him," Reutimann said. "I'm real happy to have him in my corner. I needed a veteran crew chief to help me through everything I will experience as a rookie. We get along great and I know we will have success together."

"David's plate will be full this year and Larry's extensive experience and knowledge of the sport will help David in his first year as a Nextel Cup Series competitor," Waltrip added. He will be able to help David's rookie season run smoothly."

Hyder brings a different aspect to Michael Waltrip Racing with having nearly 20 years of experience as a Late Model driver with close to 100 victories. In 1999, he stopped driving and building his own cars and joined Petty Enterprises as a mechanic. Almost three years later, he became a car chief for the Petty's in the Nextel Cup Series. At the end of the 2004 season, he transitioned from being a car chief at Petty Enterprises to becoming a crew chief at BAM Racing with driver Ken Schrader. In 2006, Hyder was named crew chief of the No. 21 Nextel Cup Series entry at Wood Brothers. Midseason, Hyder returned to BAM Racing. Waltrip approached Hyder not long after.

"Michael has the same mentality as other drivers I've worked with," Hyder said. "Michael approached me at the end of the 2006 season and asked me what I was going to do the next season. He gauged my interest in being his crew chief. I got really excited about everything he has planned for his race team and I accepted."

"David was someone that I was interested in from the beginning because he speaks my language," Waltrip said. "He's someone that has built and raced cars his whole life. He has a respect and knowledge for engineering, which coupled with Borland's engineering background, we hope to continue our creation of a strong team atmosphere."

The Allen Iverson Era Is All but Over

The Allen Iverson Era Is All but Over

By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer
2 hours ago

PHILADELPHIA - Allen Iverson is no longer Philadelphia's headache. Then again, maybe it's the other way around. Either way, this much is sure: One of the great players in franchise history has likely played his last game for the 76ers. Iverson wants out and Philadelphia will grant his wish.

"It's just time for him to go his way and for us to go our way," Sixers chairman Ed Snider said Friday night.

During a bizarre day, Iverson was first banished by the club for two games and then Snider said the Sixers would trade their disgruntled franchise player after he asked to be dealt. It would end Iverson's 11-year stint with the team that made him the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft.

The A.I. era is all but over.

"As hard as it is to admit, a change may be the best thing for everyone," Iverson said. "I hate admitting that because I love the guys on the team and the city of Philadelphia. I truly wanted to retire a 76er."

Team president Billy King and coach Maurice Cheeks said Iverson was sent home before Friday night's 113-98 loss to the Washington Wizards because he didn't practice a day earlier and left Wednesday's blowout loss at Chicago with back spasms. King said the move was not a suspension and Iverson's future would be re-evaluated after Saturday night's game at Orlando.

"Allen was not able to practice (Thursday) because of the back and today Mo made a decision not to play him tonight or tomorrow," King said. "We told him to just take the night off and tomorrow."

Snider confirmed that Iverson did ask this week to be dealt.

"We're going to trade him," Snider said. "At a certain point, you have to come to grips with the fact that it's not working. He wants out and we're ready to accommodate him."

Snider said Iverson has "probably" played his last game with the Sixers, ending a career that placed him with Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and Wilt Chamberlain among the team's greats.

"I really didn't see it coming because Allen says all the right things, and I thought that he really was behind Mo and what we were trying to accomplish," Snider said. "Obviously, he's not."

Iverson, whose off-court behavior and coaching clashes often overshadowed his gritty, highlight-reel play, released a statement through agent Leon Rose stating that he told the Sixers he was healthy enough to play.

Iverson said he was told not to participate in shootaround and instead watched from the sideline. He joined the Sixers in the huddle, then was told by Cheeks not to come to the Wachovia Center.

"In my entire career, even the doctors haven't been able to tell me not to play," Iverson said. "I've played through injury and illness. I think everyone knows how much I love being out on the court, competing and winning. That's why it was so disheartening to be told that I couldn't play, knowing that I was ready. It hurt even more to be told not to come at all."

Iverson, who is second in the NBA in scoring at 31.2 points per game, left Wednesday night's 121-94 loss at Chicago in the second half, complaining of back spasms, and didn't practice Thursday. The Sixers are 5-13 and have lost six straight and 13 of 15 overall.

"This season has been very frustrating for everyone," Iverson said. "I have expressed my frustration to my teammates, however, I have continued to give 100 percent night in and night out. Apparently, it hasn't been enough to help our team win."

Even with the Sixers sinking toward another lottery-bound season, Snider said Cheeks' and King's jobs were safe.

The losses and Iverson's petulance also have led to a splintered relationship with Cheeks. Iverson left a practice last week reportedly after a disagreement with Cheeks and skipped a team bowling function for season-ticket holders later that night. He apologized and was fined by the organization.

"It happens," Cheeks said. "Sometimes coaches and players disagree."

The foundering Sixers missed the playoffs last season for the second time in three seasons, leaving King to proclaim at the NBA draft lottery it was time to "change the culture." It has changed, but arguably for the worse.

Iverson reportedly was nearly dealt last offseason to Boston, and complained the trade talk took a toll on him and his family. A late July visit from King finally assured Iverson he wasn't going anywhere, and Iverson repeated a familiar pledge in training camp that he wanted to end his career with the Sixers.

"I always wanted to stay here because of the loyalty, but it's all I know," he said then.

Iverson, the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft and a seven-time All-Star, has won four scoring titles, two All-Star game MVPs and the league MVP award in 2001 after taking the Sixers to the NBA finals.

"He's one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he has incredible talent, he's done a lot of great things for this organization and we wish him well," Snider said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Ex-Giants Shortstop Uribe Dies in Crash

Ex-Giants Shortstop Uribe Dies in Crash

By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press Writer
4 hours ago

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Former San Francisco Giants shortstop Jose Uribe was killed early Friday in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic.

The Dominican National Police said the 47-year-old Uribe's sport utility vehicle crashed about 3 a.m. on a highway about 30 miles west of the capital, Santo Domingo. Police said the cause of the crash was under investigation.

Uribe owned a hardware store and other businesses in his hometown of Juan Baron in recent years, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor earlier this year.

Police said he was driving to his hometown, in San Cristobal province, at the time of the crash.

Uribe played in the major leagues from 1984-93, mostly with the Giants. He began his career with one season in St. Louis, when he was known as Jose Gonzalez Uribe, and ended it with one in Houston.

He had a career batting average of .241 and a fielding percentage of .969.

"I was very saddened to hear the news of Jose's passing this morning," Giants owner Peter Magowan said. "He meant so much to the Giants during his playing days. He was such an important part of the team's success in the late 1980s.

"When you saw Jose on the field, he exuded happiness and pure joy for the game and life. Personally, I was really looking forward to catching up with him this season during the 20th reunion of the 1987 NL West championship team. On behalf of the Giants family, I want to pass along our condolences," he said.

Sgt. Major Juan Quezada de los Santos of the National Police said Uribe, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene of the crash on a mountainous road along the country's southern coast. Quezada said a passenger in the SUV was uninjured.

Uribe's death was confirmed by Glovis Reyes, a longtime friend of the ballplayer and a former member of the Dominican Congress.

"Uribe was a very loved person in Juan Baron. He was like the lord of the town," Reyes said.

Uribe is survived by his second wife, Wendy Guerrero, with whom he had four children. He had at least 14 children in all, Reyes said.

A funeral in Juan Baron was planned for Saturday.


Associated Press Writer Dionisio Soldevila contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Schrader to drive 18 for Bobby Hamilton Racing

Schrader to drive 18 for Bobby Hamilton Racing

Team Release
December 7, 2006
04:26 PM EST (21:26 GMT)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ken Schrader has been tabbed to drive the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge for Bobby Hamilton Racing during the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series season.

Schrader will drive the BHR entry in the majority of NCTS events with a to-be-determined driver filling in when Schrader has Nextel Cup responsibilities that prevent him from competing in NCTS races.

Schrader and 2004 Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton have been both friends and competitors throughout their NASCAR careers and now they have joined forces to help re-establish BHR as a championship caliber NCTS team.

"I am thrilled to get the opportunity to drive the Fastenal Dodge," Schrader said. "Bobby Hamilton and I have been friends for a long time, so to get the chance to work with him is just an ideal situation for me. BHR has always had some of the most competitive equipment in the series and I look forward to climbing into the seat and racing hard.

"Fastenal is a great company, I don't think there is a race team out there that doesn't use most of their products in some form or fashion and I can't wait to represent them proudly next year."

Schrader has four Nextel Cup wins, two Busch Series wins and one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win to his credit. He has logged an amazing 283,398 miles in Cup, Busch and Truck series events that is equal to racing around the world 12 times or from New York to Los Angeles 94 times. In other words, Schrader has raced enough miles to go the moon and is now almost a fourth of the way back.

Inside the Numbers
Ken Schrader's NCTS stats
Starts 68
Wins 1
Top-5s 6
Top-10s 25
Poles 1
Avg. Start 14.5
Avg. Finish 16.9

"We are really happy to be able to get a driver the caliber of Ken Schrader for the Fastenal Dodge," Hamilton said. 'We looked at a number of different drivers as a possibility for this job but Kenny was just a perfect fit for both BHR and Fastenal. He is a proven winner both on the track and off and he will provide us with great feedback that will help us win races and compete for championships in the future."

In 2007 the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will run 25 races on 22 separate racetracks across the United States. All of the NCTS events will be broadcast live nationally on the SPEED Channel.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Plans scrapped for Staten Island track

Plans scrapped for Staten Island track

By Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press
December 5, 2006
09:58 AM EST (14:58 GMT)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- International Speedway Corp. has scrapped plans to build a track on Staten Island, stalling NASCAR's dream to bring a race to the New York area.

"While we are disappointed that we could not complete the speedway development on Staten Island, our enthusiasm for the metropolitan New York market is in no way dampened," ISC president Lesa France Kennedy said Monday. "We continue to view the region as a prime location for a major motorsports facility."

France Kennedy heads ISC, the publicly traded sister company of NASCAR -- which was founded by her grandfather and currently chaired by her brother, Brian France

Both companies badly want to expand NASCAR into the New York metropolitan area, and moved toward that goal in 2004 when a subsidiary of ISC paid about $100 million for a 440-acre former oil tank farm on Staten Island. The company later bought another 236 acres to gain the necessary land for a race track.

The goal was to build a 0.8-mile state-of-the-art track that would have accommodated 80,000 fans and had the New York City skyline as its backdrop.

But the proposal has been met by severe resistance, including a a hotly contested April public meeting in which tempers reached dangerous levels -- forcing police to end the meeting over safety concerns.

Residents complained of traffic tie-ups and argued that the two major roads leading into the property would likely need major renovations to handle the increased loads.

Environmental concerns were also cited by opponents of the plan.

ISC's decision to call off the plan was immediately trumpeted as a "monumental victory for the people of Staten Island," by New York City Council Minority Leader James S. Oddo.

"After all was said and done, NASCAR was simply an inappropriate fit," he said.

ISC cited an "inability to secure the critical local political support that is necessary to secure the required land-use change approvals" in ending the Staten Island project. In all, the company said it spent about $150 million on the project.

ISC said it may now sell the land, which it believes will be worth more than $100 million and is described as the largest undeveloped acreage in the five boroughs of New York City.

France Kennedy expressed disappointment over not getting a chance to present the entire proposal to residents.

"We clearly believe that if we had been able to proceed through the full public process, the significant benefits this project represents would have generated a more positive reaction," she said.

NASCAR and ISC have long targeted both the New York and Pacific Northwest as areas where it would like to expand. The New York project is now uncertain, with ISC forced to find new land and an accepting public if it plans to continue.

France Kennedy said ISC, which owns 11 major tracks and hosts more than 100 annual events, would move forward.

"We remain committed to the pursuit of a motorsports entertainment facility development in the nation's number one media market," she said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Bill's Comment: To me, it was a bad idea from the get-go. MASCAR desperately wants to have a race in the New York metropolitan area. Teh only time NASCAR comes to this area is primarily at Watkins Glen, NY; however, that is closer to Canada than the Gotham City. The only other options for New York NASCAR fans would either be Pocono, Loudon, NH, or even Dover, DE, from a driving distance standpoint. As far as the Staten Island deal goes, I would not be surprised if the unions prevented this from coming to fruition.

It is a shame that the casino lobby from Atlantic City, NJ did not back up an idea to build a racetrack just outside of Atlantic City. They said that they would lose money. HELLO! NASCAR has two races in the Las Vegas area, and it is a win-win situation there. They just opened a casino up near Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. It would give the fans something else to do while they are spending the weekend at the track.

In conclusion, as NASCAR expands, both national and international, they will find another location which will benefit both them and the community in which will host them. It would be a definite economic winner for the locals. If only the arrogant, self-absorbed politicians in New Jersey would entertain the thought.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Laura Ingraham's Weekly E-Blast, 11/21/06

Laura Ingraham's Weekly E-Blast, 11/21/06

E-Blast Archive
November 21, 2006
It's getting drafty in here!
Less than two weeks after the Democrats won both houses of Congress, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) went on a Sunday talk show to push for a military draft. What's going on here? One of two things--
First, he knows that a draft--even as just one option in compulsory national service--would never be approved. So this move is not a serious effort to strengthen the U.S. military but merely another attack on Bush--a cynical ploy to frighten Americans and erode support for the war. The commanders I have interviewed bristle at the idea of messing with the all-volunteer force. Leading reluctant soldiers into battle is the last thing they need.

And let's not forget, Rangel is using the tired old left-wing tactic of class warfare, based on the faulty premise that the military is only comprised of poor people who have no other options. But this is nonsense. As we saw with the blowback from Sen. Kerry's "botched joke"--our military is diverse, professional, and better educated than the civilian population!

But there is always the possibility that Rangel could be totally serious. And heck, in theory, the idea of national service seems attractive--a great way to encourage patriotism, sacrifice and an appreciation of our military. But in practice, any compulsory service program would become one more bloated, unrestrained government bureaucracy.

Rangel's plan would require you either to join the military or go to work for some "government-approved" organization. Oh, like what? The separation-of-church-and-state-mafia would never stand for church work as "national service." The PC police would wail if anyone suggested that the Boy Scouts get government service approval. However, I am guessing that in Rangel's perfect world, joining an anti-global warming coalition, Planned Parenthood, or would be ideal ways to fulfill a "national service" requirement. Plus, let's not forget that our most recent experience with a draft (which ended in 1973) failed to foster a greater affection and respect for our armed forces among members of the '60s generation.

This draft or national service talk is probably a lot of hot air, and even the Democratic leadership is shooting down the Rangel proposal. They know that pushing this would create a huge backlash from moderates, libertarians, and many conservatives who want less government intrusion into their lives, not more. And it probably wouldn't be too popular with most Democratic voters either.

Let's remember--we don't serve the government. The government is supposed to serve us.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Look Who's Cutting and Running Now

Fighting words: A wartime lexicon.

Look Who's Cutting and Running Now
James Baker is the last guy we should listen to about Iraq.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, at 4:39 PM ET

According to the Associated Press, Henry Kissinger made it official Sunday morning in London, when he told a BBC interviewer that military victory was not possible in Iraq. Actually, what he said was this:

If you mean by "military victory" an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible.

There are a couple of qualifications in there, and what Kissinger is describing is really more the definition of a political victory than a military one, but say what you will about our Henry, he wasn't born yesterday. He must have known that the question would come up, what his answer would be, and what the ensuing AP headline ("Kissinger: Iraq Military Win Impossible") would look like.

Taken together with the dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld, the nomination of Robert Gates, and the holy awe with which the findings of the Iraq Study Group are now expected, this means that the Bush administration, or large parts of it, is now cutting if not actually running, and it is looking for partners in the process. (You have to admit that it was clever of the president to make it appear that Rumsfeld had been fired by the electorate rather than by him.) It seems that Kissinger has been giving his "realist" advice even to the supposedly most hawkish member of the administration, namely the vice president, and at a dinner in honor of the president-elect of Mexico a few nights ago, I saw him mixing easily with such ISG elders as former Rep. Lee Hamilton. Members of this wing or tendency were all over the New York Times on Sunday as well, imputing near-ethereal qualities of leadership to Robert Gates, so a sort of self-reinforcing feedback loop appears to be in place.

The summa of wisdom in these circles is the need for consultation with Iraq's immediate neighbors in Syria and Iran. Given that these two regimes have recently succeeded in destroying the other most hopeful democratic experiment in the region—the brief emergence of a self-determined Lebanon that was free of foreign occupation—and are busily engaged in promoting their own version of sectarian mayhem there, through the trusty medium of Hezbollah, it looks as if a distinctly unsentimental process is under way.

This will present few difficulties to Baker, who supported the Syrian near-annexation of Lebanon. In order to recruit the Baathist regime of Hafez Assad to his coalition of the cynical against Saddam in the Kuwait war, Baker and Bush senior both acquiesced in the obliteration of Lebanese sovereignty. "I believe in talking to your enemies," said Baker last month—invoking what is certainly a principle of diplomacy. In this instance, however, it will surely seem to him to be more like talking to old friends—who just happen to be supplying the sinews of war to those who kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Is it likely that they will stop doing this once they become convinced that an American withdrawal is only a matter of time?

At around the same time he made this statement, Baker was quoted as saying, with great self-satisfaction, that nobody ever asks him any more about the decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power in 1991. It's interesting to know that he still feels himself invested in that grand bargain of realpolitik, which, contrary to what he may think, has not by any means been forgotten. It's also interesting in shedding light on the sort of conversations he has been having in Baghdad. For millions of Iraqis, the betrayal of their uprising against Saddam in 1991 is something that they can never forget. They tend to bring it up, too, and to fear a repetition of it. This apprehension about another sellout is especially strong among the Shiite and Kurdish elements who together make up a majority of the population, but it seems from its public reports so far that the ISG has not visited the Kurdish north of the country. If Baker thinks that the episode is a closed subject, it shows us something of what the quality of his "listening" must be like.

In 1991, for those who keep insisting on the importance of sending enough troops, there were half a million already-triumphant Allied soldiers on the scene. Iraq was stuffed with weapons of mass destruction, just waiting to be discovered by the inspectors of UNSCOM. The mass graves were fresh. The strength of sectarian militias was slight. The influence of Iran, still recovering from the devastating aggression of Saddam Hussein, was limited. Syria was—let's give Baker his due—"on side." The Iraqi Baathists were demoralized by the sheer speed and ignominy of their eviction from Kuwait and completely isolated even from their usual protectors in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing. There would never have been a better opportunity to "address the root cause" and to remove a dictator who was a permanent menace to his subjects, his neighbors, and the world beyond. Instead, he was shamefully confirmed in power and a miserable 12-year period of sanctions helped him to enrich himself and to create the immiserated, uneducated, unemployed underclass that is now one of the "root causes" of a new social breakdown in Iraq. It seems a bit much that the man principally responsible for all this should be so pleased with himself and that he should be hailed on all sides as the very model of the statesmanship we now need.