“If Gay is a choice, Who Cares?” says NYT’s Bruni

By Neal Broverman

Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM
Christine Marinoni (left) and Cynthia Nixon

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, himself gay, takes on the controversy involving actress Cynthia Nixon, who last week told the media she chose to be a lesbian after living as a straight woman for decades.

Bruni says those outraged over Nixon’s comments are missing the point. There is no conclusive evidence whether sexual orientation is hard-wired at birth or possibly influenced by outside factors, Bruni writes. If it is indeed something that someone chooses, whether actively or not, they should be entitled to that choice, the writer argues. Even if it is proven that being gay is purely genetic, it won’t necessarily bring an end to homophobia and discrimination.

“The born-this-way approach carries an unintended implication that the behavior of gays and lesbians needs biological grounding to evade condemnation,” Bruni writes. “Why should it? Our laws safeguard religious freedom, and that’s not because there’s a Presbyterian, Buddhist, or Mormon gene. There’s only a tradition and theology that you elect or decline to follow. But this country has deemed worshiping in a way that feels consonant with who you are to be essential to a person’s humanity. So it’s protected.”

Belechick to blame for loss at Indy

Tom Brady discusses the problems the Giants' defensive line presents

Lombardi Trophy

hat alone revealed just how different this Super Bowl trip is for the New England Patriots.

Four years ago, the Patriots arrived for Super Bowl XLII tighter than a Tom Brady spiral. Belichick’s first news conference was filled with questions about New England’s quest for a perfect season and his quarterback’s then-gimpy ankle. Those topics were as pleasant for Belichick to talk about as the lingering stink of the Spygate scandal from earlier in the 2007 season.

Compared to then, Belichick was downright jovial when meeting with Super Bowl XLVI media for the first time Sunday in Indianapolis. Looking uncharacteristically sharp in a suit and tie rather than his customary athletic garb, Belichick drew laughter when asked whether he’s received some “Hoosier hospitality.”

“I never had too much hospitality here until I went for it on fourth-and-2,” cracked Belichick, referring to an ill-fated coaching decision that greatly contributed to a 2009 loss against the Colts. “Since then, I’ve been greeted in a lot more friendly manner than I was in the past.”

Belichick also displayed some fatherly charm when asked by a pint-sized reporter what it would feel like to tie Chuck Noll’s NFL record with his fourth career Super Bowl victory.

“It would make me feel pretty good,” Belichick said with a wide grin spread across his face.

The fact Belichick was feeling good bodes well for the Patriots entering next Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants. Not that Belichick will ever tolerate on-field slacking in practice or outrageous media comments from his players. But the laid-back demeanor he displayed is a reminder of how much less outside pressure this New England squad is facing than the last one that played for a Lombardi Trophy.

The stakes were so much higher for the 2007 Patriots. They were on the verge of posting the first 19-0 record in NFL history. They also had beaten the Giants in the regular-season finale. Dubbed a 13-point underdog by oddsmakers, New York entered as a far looser team and posted a 17-14 upset victory.

NFL photos

Where does the first Giants-Pats Super Bowl matchup rank among the10 best Super Bowl games?

The Patriots are a 2.5-point favorite for Super Bowl XLVI. But that spread already has dropped by one point from where it opened, revealing the betting public has far more faith in New York than the last time the two clubs met in the Super Bowl.

The Giants should have confidence from having beaten New England on the road in October. This New York squad also is being favorably compared to the 2007 Giants because of its late-season winning streak and strong pass rush.

When it comes to New England, there is resemblance to another championship squad.

The 2001 Patriots were heavy underdogs entering their Super Bowl XXXVI showdown with St. Louis. Brady, in his first season as an NFL starter, had to outduel the NFL’s best quarterback in Kurt Warner. New England’s defense was perceived as a rag-tag group much like this year’s unit that includes veteran castoffs from other squads, undrafted college free agents and two wide receivers (Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman) playing in nickel and dime packages.

The Rams were the ones seemingly poised to start an NFL dynasty, having won the Super Bowl two years earlier with members of the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense still in their prime. Instead, it was New England that began its decade-long reign atop the NFL with a 20-17 upset.

Asked to reflect upon Brady’s growth as a player since then, Belichick said, “He’s come a long way since 2001. We all have.”

That includes a head coach who could soon have another Super Bowl ring to smile about

Deadline in Washington stirs up protesters

An Occupy DC demonstrator packs up his camping gear, in compliance with new restrictions, at McPherson Square in Washington January 30, 2012.   REUTERS-Kevin Lamarque
In compliance with the new restrictions, an Occupy DC demonstrator packs up her camping gear at McPherson Square in Washington January 30, 2012.  REUTERS-Kevin Lamarque
An Occupy DC protester points to a sign invoking the movie classic 'High Noon' at McPherson Square in Washington January 30, 2012.    REUTERS-Kevin Lamarque
By Lily Kuo and Ian Simpson (Reuters) – Defiant anti-Wall Street protesters in Washington vowed to dig in on Monday as a police midday deadline for them to remove their belongings from two camps within sight of the White House passed without incident.

In its first challenge to the demonstrators, U.S. National Park Service said last week it would enforce a ban at noon against sleeping in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, where “Occupy” protesters have camped out since October. It ordered sleeping bags, pillows and other gear removed but said tents may remain as a protest symbol if flaps stayed open. Protesters at McPherson Square set up a huge tent off of a statue in the middle of the one-block square surrounded by office and government buildings – a makeshift “Tent of Dreams” to protest the order. “The people united will never be defeated,” participants chanted on Monday. While similar “Occupy” protests against social and economic inequality in other U.S. cities have been shut down by police, the demonstrations in the capital have survived an unusually warm winter and a permissive approach by federal authorities reluctant to provoke confrontation. Despite their small numbers, the Washington protesters enjoy outsized media attention because their camps are just blocks from President Barack Obama’s official residence and one is next to K Street, a wide thoroughfare that is home to many lobbyists and is synonymous with corporate influence in the capital. Fears of clashes mounted after police used a stun gun Sunday on one protester, who was later arrested. The deadline in Washington follows a new burst of unrest at “Occupy” protests in Oakland, California, over the weekend. Some protesters interviewed pledged peaceful resistance. “We’re not going to fight but we’re just going to make it difficult,” said Jake Roszack, 22, from New York, who had built a barricade of spare wood, tents and cardboard, around his personal belongings and those of his friends. More than 100 passersby, journalists and others gathered at McPherson Square to see what action authorities would take but the noon deadline passed without police intervention.   A U.S. Park Police spokesman, David Schlosser, said arrests would be made on a case-by-case basis but that none had been made so far. “We’re very pleased that we’re getting some voluntary compliance,” he said. At McPherson Square, participants turned their tents and sleeping bags into symbols of protest using donated art supplies. One tent read, “We’re still here.” A sign on a bench read “Eviction?? Bring it!!” Inspired by the Arab Spring, “Occupy” demonstrations began in New York City in September and spread across the United States and to other countries. Protesters are targeting the growing income gap, corporate greed and what they see as unfair tax structure favoring the richest 1 percent of Americans. Protesters in Washington also cite other pet causes, including joblessness, big agriculture and the homeless, some of whom sleep in the park. The U.S. capital, site of historic demonstrations over the decades, had so far done little to deter the protesters, drawing a rebuke from congressional Republicans who accuse the Obama administration of sympathizing with the groups and refusing to enforce park rules – a charge denied by park officials. The National Park Service regulates both parks and forbids camping on federal land not designated as a campground. The protests have also has irked local city officials who are concerned about squalor, rats and trash. Protesters had issued multiple calls on Twitter for reinforcements from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other cities, but so far no large groups had arrived. The number of protesters in the Occupy DC camps fluctuates, but city officials estimate there are less than 100 in total. The Occupy protests had faded over the last few weeks but flared anew on Saturday when violence broke out in Oakland, California and 400 demonstrators were arrested during a night of skirmishes with police. Oakland has become a flashpoint of the protests and the arrests there were one of the largest mass detentions since the movement began. Obama has seized on the debate to call for higher taxes on the richest Americans and has made economic inequality a central theme of his administration and bid for re-election.

6.3 Earthquake shakes Lima leaving 96 injured

By the CNN Wire Staff
Lima, Peru (CNN) — Civil defense officials reported nearly 100 injuries after a strong earthquake shook coastal Peru early Monday.

The magnitude 6.3 quake hit about 15 kilometers (9 miles) southeast of Ica, at a depth of 39.2 kilometers (24.4 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

At least 96 people were injured in the quake, state-run TV Peru reported, citing civil defense officials. Police were patrolling the area while officials assessed damages, TV Peru said. At least one home was uninhabitable and two others were damaged, the state television station reported.

Hotels in the area reported brief power outages but no damage.

A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck the same region in October, leveling dozens of buildings and leaving some homeless.

In 2007, an 8.0-magnitude quake struck southwestern Peru, killing more than 500 people and injuring more than 1,000.

The most serious damage from that quake occurred in towns and cities along the country’s Pacific coast south of Lima, including Chincha, Canete, Pisco and Ica.

Obama’s plan to control college costs

Obama unveils plan to control college costs

From Alan Silverleib and Tom Cohen, CNN

Click to play
Obama to amend college affordability
(CNN) — President Barack Obama unveiled a new college affordability plan Friday, proposing to further expand student financial aid while providing more assistance to schools that hold tuition down and cutting aid to those that do not.

The plan is part of a populist White House pitch to middle class families that promises to play an integral role in the Democrats’ 2012 campaign.

Appearing before a raucous student crowd in Michigan — a potentially critical swing state this year — Obama outlined plans to boost total federal spending on Perkins loans from $1 billion to $8 billion. He also announced plans to push for the creation of a $1 billion competition encouraging states to contain public tuition rates, among other things.

“We want a country where everybody has a chance,” Obama declared while visiting the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. America should be a “big, bold, generous country where everybody gets a fair shot.”

Noting that student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt, the president said Washington is “putting colleges on notice. You can’t assume you’ll just jack up tuition every year.”

“We should push colleges to do better,” he said. “We should hold them accountable if they don’t.”

Obama also proposed establishing a $55 million competition to spur new college strategies encouraging greater educational productivity and student outcomes. The president said he wants to create a “college scoreboard,” giving families easy-to-read information about individual college costs and graduation rates, among other things.

Finally, the administration announced plans to push Congress to keep interest rates low for current student loan borrowers while doubling the number of work-study jobs over the next five years.

Obama warned Friday that rising tuition costs are now threatening to surpass the ability of government to help pay for them. Between 1999 and 2010, inflation adjusted prices for undergraduate tuition, room and board rose 37% at public schools and 25% at private colleges, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department.

“We can’t keep subsidizing (skyrocketing) tuition,” he said. “Sooner or later we’re going to run out of money.”

College affordability has been a recurring theme for Obama. In 2010, Congress approved a bill that restructured the federal student loan program and redirected $61 billion towards post-secondary education spending, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan also included a temporary $2,500 tax credit for higher education expenses, which the president has now proposed making permanent.

The trip to Michigan capped a three-day presidential tour that also took Obama to Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, and Arizona — all states that are likely to be hotly contested in November.

On Thursday, Obama hit another key reelection theme — clean energy. At the same time, he also discussed plans to sell off oil and gas leases on 38 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico seafloor as part of a sweeping new domestic energy push.

The leases could yield as much as 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the Interior Department estimates. The sale scheduled in June will be the second since the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 when nearly 5 million barrels of crude spewed into the Gulf.

Obama mentioned the planned lease sales in his remarks at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, which has a 1-megawatt solar array and last year test-piloted jets that run on advanced biofuels.

Republicans have been fiercely critical of Obama’s energy stance, questioning investments in certain clean energy companies as well as the recent rejection of a permit to build a pipeline to transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama, however, insisted Thursday that his energy plan is an “all-out, all-in, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.”

Among other things, the president also promised more federal assistance for local governments to upgrade their automotive fleets while also pushing new tax incentives for cleaner corporate vehicles.

Obama said the administration is working to develop up to five highway natural gas corridors, and he announced a new competition to encourage the development of breakthroughs for natural gas vehicles.

Dead count at 13 for collapsed building in Brazil

Hope fades of finding more survivors in Brazil buildings collapse

By the CNN Wire Staff
<br/>Three buildings collapsed in the historic center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday January 25, 2012, sending rubble and dust flying through the air.
Three buildings collapsed in the historic center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday January 25, 2012, sending rubble and dust flying through the air.

Sao Paulo (CNN) — The death toll in the collapse of three buildings in Rio de Janeiro rose to 13 on Friday as rescuers said they held out little or no hope of finding more survivors, state media reported.

A woman’s body was discovered Friday in the rubble, said Col. Sergio Simoes, secretary of civil defense, according to the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency.

One survivor was located Wednesday night. The city’s fire department has said 20 people were missing, but it was not clear if that number had dropped because of the discovery of more bodies.

“Although the culture of the fire department is driven by hope, motivation, given the scenario that we’re checking, and time passed since the accident, I must say that we do not work with the possibility of more survivors,” said Simoes, according to Agencia Brasil.

Simoes, who also serves as fire brigade commander, said he was concerned about large chunks of concrete possibly falling on crews.

Rescue efforts may be completed by Sunday.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse of a 20-story building and adjacent 10- and 4-story buildings on Wednesday night. Officials said they were investigating both the possibility of a gas leak and a structural failure.

Sergio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Among those who died in the collapse was Cornelio Ribeiro Lopes, 73, who was the doorman for one of the buildings, Agencia Brasil reported. He lived there with his wife, Margarida Vieira de Carvalho, who is among the missing, the agency reported.

Rescuers said that one of the biggest challenges in finding people was the dust cloud that floats in the area.

The accident came at a delicate time for Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later.

Frank marries partner and is the first openly gay member of Congress

Kris Alingod – AHN News Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (AHN) – Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the first openly gay member of Congress, is engaged to his long-time partner. The wedding will be the first same-sex marriage for a U.S. congressman.

New England Cable News reported late Thursday night that the lawmaker plans to marry Jim Ready, a 42-year-old small business owner from Maine.

The 71-year-old Frank has not issued a statement but a spokesman, Hank Gural, told the Boston Globe the marriage will be held in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage is legal only in six states and the District of Columbia.

Frank, former chair of the House Financial Services Committee and one of the most vocal liberals in Congress, has been partners with Ready since 2007. He announced his decision not to seek re-election in November. He retires at the end of his term next January after being in office since 1981.

Explaining his decision, Frank had cited his long-held plans to focus on writing, the increasingly partisan politics in Washington, and a redrawn congressional district that would require him to introduce himself to 325,000 new constituents.

Frank began his career in politics in 1967 as an aide for then-Boston Mayor Kevin White. A Harvard Law School graduate, he chaired the powerful Financial Services Committee from 2007 until 2010, when Republicans gained majority control of the House.

It was during his chairmanship of the panel that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed to address the financial crisis. Conservative lawmakers have tried to repeal the landmark financial reform law, citing “job-killing” regulations and the continuing weak economy.

Gingrich gets knocked out by Romney

The Romney campaign appears to have uploaded the indignation app to the Mitt-bot before last night’s debate, and to good effect. The former Massachusetts governor performed some clever political jujitsu on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, turning his biggest selling point against him.

Romney took the fight to an unexpectedly-back-on-his-heels Newt Gingrich last night, lashing him for an immigration-related radio ad which the Gingrich campaign had had to modify after Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio criticized it. The ad had called Romney “anti-immigrant,” a charge which the Miitt-bot, with realistic looking outrage, called “simply inexcusable.” Then Romney stopped Gingrich’s attacks about his investments cold by pointing out that Gingrich himself has investments in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (“Have you checked your own investments?”)

As MSNBC’s “First Thoughts” declares this morning, “Romney owned Gingrich.” They add: “If  Mitt Romney wins the nomination, we’ll look back and say the first hour of last night’s debate and say that was when he finally put it away.”

Here’s why the debate was a critical fumble for Gingrich: His biggest selling point has been the idea that he alone could “go toe-to-toe” with Barack Obama in a debate. Now he faces the transitive property of politics: If Romney can own Gingrich, then Romney must also have the capacity to face down the president. If Newt’s no longer the only one who can face down the dread Obama, what is the raison d’etre of his candidacy? To colonize the Moon?

[See editorial cartoons about Gingrich.]

(And let’s take a quick moment to marvel, once again, at conservatives’ schizophrenic view of Obama: They simultaneously believe him to be bumbling amateur incapable of public utterance without a Teleprompter … but also so uncommonly skilled that he will be hard near impossible to match in a debate; conservatives view him as a terminally ineffective president incapable of accomplishing anything … but also a malevolent force single-handedly transforming the nation into a Eurosocialist Hell on Earth. They’ve elevated cognitive dissonance to a new and mind-boggling level.)

This is not to say that Romney had a perfect debate. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, as the MSNBC gang, notes “at least rented Romney.” Santorum repeatedly scored Romney on his Massachusetts healthcare law, though when Romney told him that the issue wasn’t “worth getting angry about,” he missed the opportunity for a Goldwater-ian moment: The erosion of liberty is absolutely something to get angry about, governor.

Romney also did himself no favors with his blind trust response to questions about his wealth. But the debate capped a good week for Romney. Polls are trending in his favor and the GOP electoral , with a strong push from the establishment (which now seems to include the Drudge Report), has had a stinging case of morning after regret after their Palmetto State dalliance with Gingrich—aided by Gingrich’s self-described grandiose vision of a 51st state on the Moon. Maybe President Romney can put him in charge of NASA.

Concordia survivors offered 11,000 Euros in compensation

By the CNN Wire Staff
Salvage work begins on the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia.
Salvage work begins on the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia.
Rome (CNN) — Surviving passengers on the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship are being offered a lump sum of 11,000 euros ($14,400) each in compensation, the cruise line said Friday.

The decision was reached during a meeting between Costa Cruises and consumer groups, the Italian Association of Tour Operators said.

The massive liner struck rocks and rolled over onto its side in shallow waters off an island on Italy’s Tuscan coast on January 13, leading to a panicked overnight evacuation and at least 16 deaths. Another 16 people are missing.

Franco Gabrielli of Italy’s civil protection agency, who is heading the rescue operation, said 14 of the bodies found have now been identified.

Efforts were under way Friday to open up new passages in the ship’s hull so rescuers could access more areas, he told reporters.

Operations to remove 2,400 tons fuel from the liner’s tanks will begin Saturday afternoon or Sunday, after a slight delay, he said.

Weather and sea conditions are expected to worsen Saturday, leading to higher waves, Gabrielli said. While this will not prevent the removal of fuel, it could present more risk to the environment if anything goes wrong, he added.

Residents of Giglio island near the site of the shipwreck have complained of seeing white filaments in the sea, he said, but further testing is needed to confirm the origin of the substance.

Outlining the compensation deal, Costa expressed “its profound condolences to the families of the victims, our continued sympathy to the families of the missing, and our deep regret and sorrow for the damages and hardship the Costa Concordia accident caused to all its guests.”

The compensation will be paid to each passenger regardless of age and will cover damage to and loss of property and any psychological distress suffered, it said.

The payout will include reimbursement for the cost of the cruise and additional travel expenses. Costa will return the contents of cabin safes to their owners where possible, and it will also set up a psychological counseling program for those passengers who request it.

Separate agreements will be reached with those passengers who were injured and needed treatment at the scene and with the families of those who died, the statement added.

A spokesman for the Italian Association of Tour Operators said none of the passengers was obliged to sign the agreement but, if they do, they will no longer be able to file a lawsuit against Costa.

Jesus Garcia Heredia, who was on the cruise with his wife, told CNN he would not accept the payout.

“If we can reach an agreement, I am willing to agree not to sue, no problem,” he said, “but not for 11,000 euros. I don’t accept this.”

Heredia said he has not yet been contacted by anyone in the company to talk about compensation, but says “it’s not that easy” just to accept a lump sum.

“There was a lot of loss that day,” he said, referring to personal belongings and the emotional toll of the disaster. “We had it really bad there.”

Another passenger, Mark Plath, said he also wants to be compensated for the $6,000 worth of possessions he still has on the ship. He wants further compensation because he and his wife, Sarah, had to swim to shore.

“Also, I helped people quite a bit, to calm down on the boat, as well as leading them to shore and to cars awaiting above, quite a while later. My wife assisted a lady with blood all over her face (my wife is a nurse),” Plath wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

“I am not a fan of class-action lawsuits, but I think that Costa needs to take individual experiences and actions into account.”

Roberto Corbella, president of the tour operators’ association, said the compensation offer “aims to give, after such a serious disgrace, a quick, concrete and adequate answer.”

The 11,000 euro lump sum reflects Italian and international law, he said, with Costa likely to pay out about 3,000 euros more per passenger on top of that in refunds and travel costs.

He estimated the total cost of the offer at more than 40 million euros ($59 million), not counting separate agreements with the injured and families of those missing or killed.

Corbella said cruise cancellations are only running about 10% higher than average.

Costa has said anyone who booked before January 13 for a future cruise and wishes to cancel may do so without penalty, provided they get in touch by February 7.

Meanwhile, the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest and faces possible charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.

Prosecutors Friday were questioning Ciro Ambrosio, Schettino’s deputy on board the ship.

Entering the tribunal, his lawyer told reporters: “‘We have many arms to defend us with honor. We don’t feel responsible.”

Schettino has admitted to prosecutors, defense attorneys, and a judge that he made a “mistake” in colliding with the rocks off shore. But he has brushed aside suggestions that he was going too fast, as prosecutors allege.

In a 126-page transcript, Schettino said he ran the ship aground to keep it from sinking and limit the tilting.

Paterno’s memorial receives angry comments

By GENARO C. ARMAS and MICHAEL RUBINKAM | 

  • Phil Knight adjust the microphones before he speaks during a memorial service for former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa. Thursday Jan. 26, 2012. Knight, the Nike founder, got a standing ovation at Paterno's public memorial for defending the late coach's response to an accusation of child sex abuse against a former assistant. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Phil Knight adjust the microphones before he speaks during a memorial service for …
  • Penn State University Worthington/Scranton campus students watch a live telecast of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno's memorial service on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, in Dunmore, Pa. Paterno died on Sunday from lung cancer. (AP Photo/The Scranton Times-Tribune, Butch Comegys) WILKES BARRE TIMES-LEADER OUTPenn State University Worthington/Scranton campus students watch a live telecast …

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The near-capacity crowd of 12,000 seemed to be just waiting for somebody to bring up the subject. Finally, when someone rose in Joe Paterno’s defense to argue that he had been made a scapegoat, the audience was instantly on its feet, applauding thunderously.

Anger and resentment came spilling out at a campus memorial service Thursday for the football coach, two months after he was summarily fired by the trustees.

It was Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight who broke the dam, defending Paterno’s handling of child-sex allegations that were leveled against a former coaching assistant.

“If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno’s response,” Knight said. Paterno’s widow, Sue, was among those rising to their feet.

Later, Paterno’s son Jay received a standing ovation when he declared: “Joe Paterno left this world with a clear conscience.”

Capping three days of mourning on campus, the 2½-hour ceremony was filled with lavish praise that probably would have embarrassed Paterno, who died Sunday of lung cancer at 85 after racking up more wins — 409 — than any other major-college football coach and leading his team to two national championships in 46 seasons.

One by one, Penn State football stars and others credited Paterno with building not just better athletes but better men — and women. He was saluted for his commitment to sportsmanship, loyalty, teamwork, character, academics and “winning with honor.” He was called a good father, a good husband, a good neighbor, a good friend, a good teacher.

Players from each decade of Paterno’s career spoke affectionately about him, saying he rode them hard but always had their best interests at heart and encouraged them to complete their educations and make something of themselves.

Though the Penn State campus has been torn with anger over the child-sex scandal and Paterno’s dismissal, Jay Paterno said his father didn’t hold a grudge.

“Perhaps his truest moment, his living testimony to all that he stood for, came in the last months of his life. Faced with obstacles and challenges that would have left a lesser man bitter, he showed his truest spirit and his truest self,” Paterno said.

Only one member of the university administration — the dean of the college of liberal arts — and no one from the Board of Trustees spoke at the memorial, which was arranged primarily by the Paterno family.

Among the speakers were Michael Robinson, who played for Paterno from 2002 to 2005, quarterback Todd Blackledge from the 1980s and Jimmy Cefalo, a star in the 1970s. All three went on to play in the NFL.

Former NFL player Charles V. Pittman, speaking for players from the 1960s, called Paterno a lifelong influence and inspiration.

Pittman said Paterno pushed his young players hard, once bringing Pittman to tears in his sophomore year. He said he realized later that the coach was not trying to break his spirit but instead was “bit by bit building a habit of excellence.”

“He was building a proud program for the school, the state and the hundreds of young men he watched over for a half-century,” said Pittman, now a media executive on the board of The Associated Press.

Similarly, Chris Marrone, whose playing career at Penn State was cut short by injuries, said Paterno molded him into a young man with “the strength to overcome any challenge, any adversity.”

Paterno was fired Nov. 9 after he was criticized for not going to police in 2002 when he was told that a former member of his coaching staff, Jerry Sandusky, had been seen sexually assaulting a boy in the showers. Sandusky was arrested in November and is awaiting trial on charges that he molested 10 boys over a 15-year span.

As the scandal erupted, Pennsylvania’s state police commissioner said Paterno may have met his legal duty but not his moral one. Penn State president Graham Spanier was also fired in the fallout.

Among those at the memorial was former athletic director Tim Curley, who is awaiting trial on charges he lied to the grand jury that investigated Sandusky.

About midway through the ceremony, Knight became the first speaker to explicitly address the scandal. He said the coach “gave full disclosure to his superiors, information that went up the chains to the head of the campus police and the president of the school. The matter was in the hands of a world-class university, and by a president with an outstanding national reputation.”

Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for the board, responded after the service by saying: “All the reasons for the board’s difficult and anguished decision — made unanimously, including former football players and everyone who still loves Coach Paterno and his memory — reached a decision which was heartfelt. All 32.”

“The facts speak for themselves” and include the grand jury testimony, he said.

After the memorial, Marrone said Knight was his “new hero” for expressing the “pent-up frustration” many people are feeling.

“I think the response that he got is indicative of how folks feel,” Marrone said.

Jay Paterno, who served under his father as quarterback coach, began his remarks by imitating his father’s raspy, high-pitched voice, telling the audience, “Sit down! Sit down!”

Growing serious, Paterno described his last moments with his father. As Paterno lay dying, his son kissed him and whispered in his ear.

“Dad, you won,” Jay Paterno said he told him. “You did all you could do. You’ve done enough. We all love you. We won. You can go home now.”