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Far, Far Away

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As president-elect Barack Obama flashed his six-pack on the beaches of Hawaii, thousands of miles from the Rod Blagojevich scandal, others indulged their own escapist fantasies. Caroline Kennedy, now officially campaigning to replace Senator Hillary Clinton, toured chilly upstate cities and sketched out her positions on key issues: in favor of gay marriage and health-care reform; against capital punishment and voting in off-year elections. Governor Paterson skipped off to Iraq after planning new taxes on iTunes downloads, sugary sodas, and rich people. Council Speaker Christine Quinn simmered over the choice of Proposition 8 supporter Rick Warren to lead the invocation at next month’s Inauguration. Queens State Senator–elect Hiram Monserrate stopped by the precinct house after his girlfriend suffered a nasty gash on her face. (He denied assault charges and said the twenty-stitch cut was “a terribly unfortunate accident.”) State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said early estimates of the city’s budget deficit had been woefully short; his best guesses were $3.5 billion in 2010 and $8 billion in 2011. The MTA threatened to hike the single-ride MetroCard fare to $3. A former client of Bernie Madoff’s named Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Madison Avenue office. Five Jersey immigrants were sentenced for plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix. Three construction supervisors were charged with manslaughter in the deadly 2007 Deutsche Bank fire. The number of families with children in city shelters reached a new record. Apartment prices in Manhattan were reported down 15 to 20 percent since the summer. Staten Island considered seceding from the other four boroughs (again). The South Street Seaport was put up for sale. The Giants’ ground game nailed down home-field advantage for the playoffs, while Brett Favre’s arm went on an interception-throwing spree. Sopranos actor Lillo Brancato was found not guilty of murdering an off-duty cop. Tom Cruise dropped a Teuton bomb in Valkyrie. Broadway reacted toxically to Jeremy Piven’s quicksilver exit from Speed-the-Plow owing to “mercury poisoning.” And AIG’s top exec explained that if the insurance giant doesn’t use some of its $85 billion in federal funding to dole out huge retention bonuses, “we will not be able to pay back the federal government.”

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