Friday, November 10, 2006

Oscar-Winning Actor Jack Palance Dies

Oscar-Winning Actor Jack Palance Dies

By Associated Press
2 hours ago

LOS ANGELES - Jack Palance, the craggy-faced menace in "Shane," "Sudden Fear" and other films who turned successfully to comedy in his 70s with his Oscar-winning self-parody in "City Slickers," died Friday. Palance died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family, said spokesman Dick Guttman. He was 87.

When Palance accepted his Oscar for best supporting actor he delighted viewers of the 1992 Academy Awards by dropping to the stage and performing one-armed push-ups to demonstrate his physical prowess.

"That's nothing, really," he said slyly. "As far as two-handed push-ups, you can do that all night, and it doesn't make a difference whether she's there or not."

That year's Oscar host, Billy Crystal, turned the moment into a running joke, making increasingly outlandish remarks about Palance's accomplishments throughout the show.

"I am deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of my dear friend Jack Palance, a true movie icon," Crystal said in a statement Friday. "Winning the Oscar for that movie and the one-arm push-ups he did on the show will link us together forever, and for that I am grateful."

The push-ups not only created a magic Oscar moment, but also epitomized the actor's 40 years in films. Always the iconoclast, Palance had scorned most of his movie roles.

"Most of the stuff I do is garbage," he once told a reporter, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too.

"Most of them shouldn't even be directing traffic," he said.

Movie audiences, though, were electrified by the actor's chiseled face, hulking presence and the calm, low voice that made his screen presence all the more intimidating.

His film debut came in 1950, playing a murderer named Blackie in "Panic in the Streets."

After a war picture, "Halls of Montezuma," he portrayed the ardent lover who stalks the terrified Joan Crawford in 1952's "Sudden Fear." The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination for supporting actor.

The following year brought his second nomination when he portrayed Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the Western classic "Shane."

That role cemented Palance's reputation as Hollywood's favorite menace, and he went on to appear in such films as "Arrowhead" (as a renegade Apache), "Man in the Attic" (as Jack the Ripper), "Sign of the Pagan" (as Attila the Hun) and "The Silver Chalice" (as a fictional challenger to Jesus).

Other prominent films included "Kiss of Fire," "The Big Knife," "I Died a Thousand Deaths," "Attack!" "The Lonely Man" and "House of Numbers."

Weary of being typecast, Palance moved with his wife and three young children to Lausanne, Switzerland, at the height of his career.

He spent six years abroad but returned home complaining that his European film roles were "the same kind of roles I left Hollywood because of."

His career failed to regain momentum upon his return, and his later films included "The Professionals," "The Desperadoes," "Monte Walsh," "Chato's Land" and "Oklahoma Crude."

When he appeared as Fidel Castro in 1969's "Che!" about Latin American revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, he told a reporter: "At this stage of my career, I don't formulate reasons why I take roles _ the price was right."

He also appeared frequently on television, winning an Emmy in 1957 for his portrayal of an end-of-the-line boxer in "Requiem for a Heavyweight."

He and his daughter Holly Palance hosted the oddity show "Ripley's Believe It or Not" and he starred in the short-lived series "The Greatest Show on Earth" and "Bronk."

Forty-one years after his auspicious film debut, Palance played against type, to a degree. His "City Slickers" character, Curly, was still a menacing figure to dude ranch visitors Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby, but with a comic twist. And Palance delivered his one-liners with surgeon-like precision.

"He was one scary, intimidating, big hulking guy with a huge heart," said Ron Underwood, who directed Palance in "City Slickers" and in the actor's last role, as a man celebrating his 100th birthday in the 2004 TV movie "Back When We Were Grownups."

"It was a joy working with him," Underwood told The Associated Press.

Through most of his career, Palance maintained his distance from the Hollywood scene. In the late 1960s he bought a sprawling cattle and horse ranch north of Los Angeles. He also owned a bean farm near his home town of Lattimer, Pa.

Although most of his film portrayals were as primitives, Palance was well-spoken and college-educated. His favorite pastimes away from the movie world were painting and writing poetry and fiction.

A strapping 6-feet-4 and 210 pounds, Palance excelled at sports and won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He left after two years, disgusted by commercialization of the sport.

He decided to use his size and strength as a prizefighter, but after two hapless years that resulted in little more than a broken nose that would serve him well as a screen villain, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1942.

A year later he was discharged after his B-24 lost power on takeoff and he was knocked unconscious.

The GI Bill of Rights provided Palance's tuition at Stanford University, where he studied journalism. But the drama club lured him, and he appeared in 10 comedies. Just before graduation he left school to try acting professionally in New York.

"I had always wanted to express myself through words," he said in a 1957 interview. "But I always thought I was too big to be an actor. I could see myself knocking over tables. I thought acting was for little ... guys."

He made his Broadway debut in a comedy, "The Big Two," in which he had but one line, spoken in Russian, a language his parents spoke at home.

The play lasted only a few weeks, and he supported himself as a short-order cook, waiter, lifeguard and hot dog seller between other small roles in the theater.

His career breakthrough came when he was chosen as Anthony Quinn's understudy in the road company of "A Streetcar Named Desire," then replaced Marlon Brando in the Stanley Kowalski role on Broadway. The show's director, Elia Kazan, chose him in 1950 for "Panic in the Streets."

Born Walter Jack Palahnuik in Pennsylvania coal country on Feb. 18, 1919, Palance was the third of five children of Ukrainian immigrants. His father worked the mines for 39 years until he died of black lung disease in 1955.

In interviews, Palance recalled bitterly that his family had to buy groceries at the company store, though prices were cheaper elsewhere.

Yet, he told a Saturday Evening Post writer, he had "a good childhood, like most kids think they have."

"It was fine to play there in the third-growth birch and aspen, along the sides of slag piles," he said.

In addition to his daughter, Palance is survived by his second wife, Elaine Rogers Palance; another daughter, Brook Palance Wilding; grandchildren Lily and Spencer Spottiswoode and Tarquin Wilding; his brother, John Palance, and sister Anne Despiva.

A memorial service was planned for Dec. 16.


Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen contributed to this story.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 09, 2006



Posted on Thu, Nov. 09, 2006

I'M DOING a personal political sanity check in the aftermath of Tuesday's vote to determine if I'm registered in the party that best reflects my views.

I have doubts. And I see a battle coming for the direction of the party of Lincoln. Will we become a party epitomized by individuals with names like Giuliani, Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg - or Frist, Coulter and Dobson?

I turned 18 in 1980 and registered in the GOP, which seemed to fit what I was thinking. It was the party of my parents, and like many Americans, I followed in their footsteps. When it came time to cast my first ballot, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were still competing for Pennsylvania votes. I met them both on the stump, and was thrilled when they joined forces.

I have never missed voting in the 26 years that I have been registered as a Republican, though I don't recall ever pulling a party lever in a general election. Along the way, I've run for office, served as an alternative delegate to a GOP convention and as a presidential appointee in a Republican administration.

But is the GOP still for me? Help me decide. Here is how I see 15 hot issues:

Bin Laden: I want a commitment of manpower directed toward finding and killing Osama bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri. I want them hunted, found and caused to suffer a heinous death. The full court press should never end.

Profiling: Let's look for terrorists who look like terrorists. In virtually every instance, they have race, gender, ethnicity, religion and appearance in common. Those characteristics should be considered as we seek to prevent strikes against us. Everyone must screened, but some more than others.

Torture. Once we identify the bad guys, we have to get from them the info on impending attacks by any means necessary, and that includes torture. If you believe it NOT to be efficacious, tell me why our best interrogators continually seek to use it as a technique? Answer: It works.

Preventing terror: We need to implement all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, entrusted to study what went wrong pre-9/11 and recommend how to prevent its recurrence.

Iraq: We need an end game. And don't call it "cut and run." It's time to articulate an exit strategy to let the Iraqis know they need to stand on their own two feet sooner rather than later.

Immigration: Our borders are porous. Only when they are closed should we decide what to do with the millions already here illegally. It is impractical to believe we will ship them back. But attrition, and ensuring no more friends and relatives join them, will probably diminish the herd.

Gays: Homosexuals don't threaten my marriage. As we seek to find some accommodation for same-sex couples, we need to end that false argument.

Abortion: I want a party with room for pro-life and pro-choice views. Plan B should be sold over the counter if you're 18. And I don't want politicians determining my end-of-life plan.

Embryonic stem-cell research: Pardon my callous nature, but that which exists in a petri dish is undeserving of the full rights that are afforded a viable fetus.

Term limits: We need citizen politicians, not professionals. Two Senate terms and six in the House will ensure we get grounded folks who are capable of earning a living when not serving us.

Campaign finance: Stop trying to regulate donations. Someone will always find a loophole. Let anyone spend whatever they are willing, as long as there is full and immediate disclosure.

Entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and other programs make up more than half our federal spending. The number of people on Social Security and Medicare will double in 15 years, and life expectancy continues to grow. We can't afford to continue the status quo. Yo, AARP: The retirement age has to be raised to 70. "Balanced budget" shouldn't be dirty words. I don't want my children and grandchildren saddled with paying for our wasteful spending.

Death taxes: We work hard trying to lead a comfortable life and leave a nest egg for our children. It's un-American that when we check out, Uncle Sam will stand there with his hand out to tax our earnings for the second time. The estate tax must go.

Global warming: Beats the hell out of me. But given the apparent stakes if the concerns are valid, err on the side of caution.

Guns: A symptom, not a cause. Single-parent households pose more of a threat to safety than firearms. Let's address that issue.

So what am I? (And would anyone want me?)

Michael Smerconish can be heard weekdays 5:30-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Contact him via the Web at

Lisa Marie's Marriage on the Rocks

Lisa Marie's Marriage on the Rocks

Lisa Marie's 10 month marriage to Michael Lockwood is on the rocks
After a series of bitter rows over her refusal to have a baby Lisa Marie 38 has left the couples luxury Beverley Hills home and moved into the Bel-Air hotel
It seems Michael is hell-bent on securing their union with child.
Lisa Marie is furious since Michael has reneged on their pre-nuptial agreement which included that she would not any more children &
restricting Michael to a mere 13 million if they split - however, he would be entitled to triple that if they had a child.

Used to having it her way, friends & family doubt that Lisa Marie will return home, believing it will be only a matter of time before she
files for a divorce.

Reese Witherspoon Files for Divorce

Reese Witherspoon Files for Divorce

By Associated Press
Wed Nov 8, 9:01 PM

LOS ANGELES - Nearly two weeks after Reese Witherspoon announced her separation from Ryan Phillippe, the actress has filed for divorce. In Wednesday's filing, Witherspoon cites "irreconcilable differences" and seeks physical custody of the couple's two children _ 7-year-old Ava and 3-year-old Deacon.

Witherspoon, 30, also seeks visitation for Phillippe, 32, and "exclusive use of the family residence." Witherspoon also asked for the court to terminate its ability to award spousal support to Phillippe.

A call to Phillippe's publicist, Nancy Ryder, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The filing does not list separate or community property, saying the nature of the assets has yet to be determined.

The couple, who costarred in the 1999 release "Cruel Intentions," married that year. Their separation was announced Oct. 30 by a publicist who declined to elaborate on the reason for the split.

In March, Witherspoon won an Academy Award for her role as June Carter Cash in 2005's "Walk the Line." Phillippe costarred in the best-picture Oscar winner, "Crash," and is starring in Clint Eastwood's latest film, the World War II drama "Flags of Our Fathers."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Howard named MVP of All-Star Series

Howard named MVP of All-Star Series

11/08/2006 8:51 AM ET
By Ian Browne /

FUKUOKA, Japan -- The Most Valuable Player of the Japan All-Star Series walked into his press conference cradling a victory Big Mac. A man's got to eat, right? Especially one who had done as much heavy lifting as Ryan Howard these past few days.
The Phillies slugger made himself the story of this international showcase for baseball, hitting .558 with eight runs, three doubles, four homers and eight RBIs.

Howard wrapped it up with a modest 2-for-4 performance in Game 5 -- a 5-3 victory which capped a sweep over Nippon Professional Baseball.

Could there be another MVP in Howard's near future? The National League MVP will be handed out on Nov. 20, and Howard (58 homers) is a leading candidate.

"Had to go there, didn't you?" quipped Howard.

The humble man is not one to talk about his chances against the likes of Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran and the like. But he was more than happy to talk about the show he put on in Japan.

"It was great to win the MVP with the talent we had on this team," said Howard. "To do something like that is special. I just wanted to come out here and have fun and try to put on a good show and help the team win. To be able to win the MVP here is great."

Howard was a show on to himself in Japan. His smile lit up the cameras and his bat never stopped tormenting pitchers he'd never faced before.

He is the next, big star in baseball and it's a role he seems ready to embrace, be it back in Philadelphia or on the other side of the world.

"Baseball transcends just where we are, it's global," said Howard. "For people to cheering for Jose [Reyes] and anybody and everybody on the team is a good feeling."

Reyes was the one who ended the series with a walk-off homer. But Howard, who stroked a game-tying double in Game 5, seemed to be in the role of hero more often than not.

"We came all the way over from the States to come here and play and to play to win," said Howard. "The Japanese team was great, they never stopped fighting. They were in every game. They gave us a good run for our money."

It's just that in the end, there was no stopping the MLB hitters, a powerful group led by a certain slugger who makes his living in Philadelphia.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Former pitcher Sain passes away at 89

Former pitcher Sain passes away at 89

Three-time All-Star spent most of career with Braves, Yankees
Associated Press

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Johnny Sain, a three-time All-Star who teamed with Warren Spahn to make up one of baseball's most fabled pitching tandems, died Tuesday. He was 89.
Sain's best year was 1948, when he and Hall of Famer Spahn led the Boston Braves to the World Series, which they lost to Cleveland. It was during that season when the famous saying was born: "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."

The Boston Post ran a poem by sports editor Gerald Hern that led to the catchy phrase about the Braves' two dominant pitchers -- and the rest of their unheralded rotation.

"First we'll use Spahn, then we'll use Sain, Then an off day, followed by rain. Back will come Spahn, followed by Sain, And followed, we hope, by two days of rain," it read.

Sain was 139-116 with a 3.49 ERA in 11 seasons in the 1940s and 1950s, mostly with the Braves and New York Yankees. He won three straight World Series titles with Casey Stengel's Yankees from 1951-53.

The right-hander made his Major League debut in 1942, then spent from 1943-45 in the military during World War II. He returned to the big leagues in 1946.

Sain had a stroke in 2002 and had been in poor health. The Knollcrest Funeral Home in Lombard, Ill., said it was handling the arrangements.

The Chicago Tribune reported Sain's death earlier on its Web site.

Sain was a four-time 20-game winner and later became a top reliever, leading the AL with 22 saves in 1954.

Sain topped the Majors with 24 victories and 28 complete games in 1948. He beat Hall of Famer Bob Feller and the Indians 1-0 in Game 1 of the World Series that season.

Later, Sain became a popular pitching coach with the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Detroit and Atlanta.

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

The Democratic victory was not as sweeping as it might have been By Janet Daley


These elections clearly were a referendum on the Bush presidency, but they were about more than the conduct of the war.

Click to enlarge

The country was deeply disillusioned by the administration’s failures in handling the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, but it was probably angered as much by the collapse of promises on immigration and fiscal responsibility.

To the disgust of its traditional party base, the Bush White House spent money at record levels.

To the disappointment of its more radical supporters, it backed away from its major project to reform social security.

And perhaps most damagingly, it dithered over controlling illegal immigration.

So defending the war became the only story that Bush had to tell: his adherence to the Rumsfeld-Cheney strategy came to look like a pathological state of denial rather than courageous consistency.

But for all that, the Democratic victory was not as sweeping as it might have been.

The average number of net Congressional gains for the opposition party in a sixth-year election (half-way through a president’s second term) is around 31, and this result does not look much different from that.

The Democrats may take the Senate but, if they do, it will be only by a knife-edge.

And many of the Democrat wins have been made by candidates who are extreme social conservatives.

How will this pro-life, anti-gay marriage contingent get along with the very liberal Nancy Pelosi-led leadership of its party in the House?

Will the Democrats – who ran on a campaign theme of “change” without ever specifying what the change was to consist of – put forward a coherent programme?

They now talk of wanting a bi-partisan policy in Iraq – and these election results may force the White House to listen to its critics – but it is difficult to see how vague Democratic proposals will change things substantially on the ground.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Shiites Cheer, Sunnis Protest Conviction

Shiites Cheer, Sunnis Protest Conviction

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer
1 hour ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi Shiites broke into wild celebration on Sunday after Saddam Hussein was sentenced to hang, but his fellow Sunnis paraded through the former dictator's hometown chanting, "We will avenge you Saddam."

In Sadr City, the Shiite stronghold of northeast Baghdad, youths took to the streets dancing and singing, despite a curfew declared for the capital and two neighboring provinces.

"Execute Saddam," they chanted. Many carried posters bearing the image of Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric whose Mahdi Army militia effectively runs the district.

Breathing heavily as he ran along the streets, 35-year-old Abu Sinan said, "This is an unprecedented feeling of happiness ... nothing matches it, no festival nor marriage nor birth matches it. The verdict says Saddam must pay the price for murdering tens of thousands of Iraqis."

Saddam and his seven co-defendants were on trial for a wave of revenge killings carried out in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former dictator. As the verdict was read on Sunday, people in Dujail celebrated in the streets and burned pictures of their former tormentor.

Saddam was sentenced to death by Iraq's High Tribunal for crimes against humanity, along with his half brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of the former Revolutionary Court. Three other defendants received lesser sentences and one was acquitted.

Similar celebrations were reported in other Shiite districts of the capital and other cities, although the size of crowds seemed to have been reduced due to the open-ended curfew declared Saturday. Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops mounted additional patrols.

Clashes broke out in north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district where police were battling men with machine guns. At least seven mortar shells slammed to the ground around the Abu Hanifa mosque, the holiest Sunni shrine in the capital.

In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, 1,000 people defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city's favorite son through the streets.

Some declared the court a product of the U.S. "occupation forces" and decried the verdict.

"By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you Saddam" and "Saddam your name shakes America."

Celebratory gunfire also rang out in Kurdish neighborhoods across the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where Khatab Ahmed sat on a mattress in his living room to watch trial coverage with his wife and six children.

"Thank God I lived to see the day when the criminals received their punishment," the 40-year-old taxi driver exclaimed on hearing of Saddam's death sentence.

His brother and uncle were arrested by Saddam's security forces in the 1980s and disappeared forever. Two cousins died in a 1991 Kurdish uprising.

The trial proceedings were shown on Iraqi and pan-Arab satellite television channels with a 20-minute delay. Ahead of the verdicts, several channels aired documentaries about Saddam's crackdowns on Kurds and Shiites. They also aired videotape of mass graves being uncovered after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Al-Masai television, run by the prominent Shiite Dawa party, played solemn music as it scrolled through snapshots of Iraqis who went missing under Saddam's 23-year rule.

Another Shiite channel, al-Furat, aired archive footage of Saddam from the 1980s proclaiming, "Everyone stands against the revolution, whether they are 100 or 2,000 or 10,000, I will chop their heads off and this doesn't shake a hair of me at all."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Saddam, 2 Others Sentenced to Death

Saddam, 2 Others Sentenced to Death

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer
58 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces.

The trial brought Saddam and his co-defendants before their accusers in what was one of the most highly publicized and heavily reported trials of its kind since the Nuremberg tribunals for members of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime and its slaughter of 6 million Jews in the World War II Holocaust

"The verdict placed on the heads of the former regime does not represent a verdict for any one person. It is a verdict on a whole dark era that has was unmatched in Iraq's history," Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime minister, said.

Some feared the verdicts could exacerbate the sectarian violence that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly 3 1/2 months ago. Clashes immediately began Sunday in north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district. Elsewhere in the capital, celebratory gunfire rang out.

"This government will be responsible for the consequences, with the deaths of hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands, whose blood will be shed," Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni political leader, told the Al-Arabiya satellite television station.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants were on trial for a wave of revenge killings carried out in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former dictator. Al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa party, then an underground opposition, has claimed responsibility for organizing the attempt on Saddam's life.

In the streets of Dujail, a Tigris River city of 84,000, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read.

Saddam's chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi condemned the trial as a "farce," claiming the verdict was planned. He said defense attorneys would appeal within 30 days.

The death sentences automatically go to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdicts and sentences are upheld, the executions must be carried out within 30 days.

A court official told The Associated Press that the appeals process was likely to take three to four weeks once the formal paperwork was submitted.

During Sunday's hearing, Saddam initially refused the chief judge's order to rise; two bailiffs pulled the ousted ruler to his feet and he remained standing through the sentencing, sometimes wagging his finger at the judge.

Before the session began, one of Saddam's lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, was ejected from the courtroom after handing the judge a memorandum in which he called the trial a travesty.

Chief Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman pointed to Clark and said in English, "Get out."

In addition to the former Iraqi dictator and Barzan Ibrahim, his former intelligence chief and half brother, the Iraqi High Tribunal convicted and sentenced Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of Iraq's former Revolutionary Court, to death by hanging. Iraq's former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Three defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid were party officials Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.

Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Dujail Baath Party official, was acquitted for lack of evidence and immediately freed.

He faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians _ a trial that will continue while appeals are pending.

The guilty verdict is likely to enrage hard-liners among Saddam's fellow Sunnis, who made up the bulk of the former ruling class. The country's majority Shiites, who were persecuted under the former leader but now largely control the government, will likely view the outcome as a cause of celebration.

Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, told AP his client called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and called on them to refrain from taking revenge on U.S. invaders.

"His message to the Iraqi people was 'pardon and do not take revenge on the invading nations and their people'," al-Dulaimi said, quoting Saddam. "The president also asked his countrymen to 'unify in the face of sectarian strife.'"

In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, 1,000 people defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city's favorite son through the streets. Some declared the court a product of the U.S. "occupation forces" and condemned the verdict.

"By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you Saddam" and "Saddam your name shakes America."

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued a statement saying the verdicts "demonstrate the commitment of the Iraqi people to hold them (Saddam and his co-defendants) accountable."

"Although the Iraqis may face difficult days in the coming weeks, closing the book on Saddam and his regime is an opportunity to unite and build a better future," Khalilzad said.

U.S. officials associated with the tribunal said Saddam's repeated courtroom outbursts during the nine-month trial may have played a key part in his conviction.

They cited his admission in a March 1 hearing that he had ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were eventually executed, insisting that doing so was legal because they were suspected in the assassination attempt against him. "Where is the crime? Where is the crime?" he asked, standing before the panel of five judges.

Later in the same session, he argued that his co-defendants must be released and that because he was in charge, he alone must be tried. His outburst came a day after the prosecution presented a presidential decree with a signature they said was Saddam's approval for death sentences for the 148 Shiites, their most direct evidence against him.

About 50 of those sentenced by the "Revolutionary Court" died during interrogation before they could go to the gallows. Some of those hanged were children.

"Every time they (defendants) rose and spoke, they provided a lot of incriminating evidence," said one of the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Under Saddam, Iraq's bureaucracy showed a consistent tendency to document orders, policies and minutes of meetings. That, according to the U.S. officials, helped the prosecution produce more than 30 documents that clearly established the chain of command under Saddam.

One document gave the names of everyone from Dujail banished to a desert detention camp in southern Iraq. Another, prepared by an aide to Saddam, gave the president a detailed account of the punitive measures against the people of Dujail following the failed assassination attempt.

Saddam's trial had from the outset appeared to reflect the turmoil and violence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

One of Saddam's lawyers was assassinated the day after the trial's opening session last year. Two more were later assassinated and a fourth fled the country.

In January, chief judge Rizgar Amin, a Kurd, resigned after complaints by Shiite politicians that he had failed to keep control of court proceedings. He, in turn, complained of political interference in the trial. Abdul-Rahman, another Kurd, replaced Amin.

Hearings were frequently disrupted by outbursts from Saddam and Ibrahim, with the two raging against what they said was the illegitimacy of the court, their ill treatment in the U.S.-run facility where they are being held and the lack of protection for their lawyers.

The defense lawyers contributed to the chaos in the courtroom by staging several boycotts.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Bill's Comment: First, AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! Finally, I will bet that somebody will spin this, saying that this will favor both President Bush and the Republican Party, with Election Day less than forty-eight hours away.