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• The Post stokes Giuliani's presidential fire by reporting that the ex-mayor leads Hillary 48 to 43 percent nationwide and ties her in "blue states" (including New York). Don't ever stop printing those, lest he change his mind! [NYP] • Four gay couples have already not-quite-married in New Jersey, which on Monday became the third state in our fair country to offer civil unions. (Why just now and not Monday? There's a 72-hour waiting period.) In Asbury Park, the mayor officiated. [WNBC] • Here's a nice little companion item to yesterday's report that Manhattan workers take home twice the national average in wages: They also, according to a strangely balanced-sounding statistic, pay 47 percent more in taxes. [MetroNY] • Having solved every problem that has ever plagued the State of New York, the Assembly turns its attention to the inadequate enforcement of the "pooper scooper" law within the city. Apparently, a $50 to $100 fine is not enough of a deterrent to the cash-rich Manhattanites (see previous item). Would a $250 one help? [amNY] • Dr. Denton Sayer Cox, a onetime prominent physician who treated Andy Warhol, is hospitalized himself after a stranger beat and burned him with an unknown chemical in his Upper East Side triplex. Police allege, and the News relishes, a gay pickup gone awry. [NYDN]

Parking Wars

• A riot is brewing — or, more likely, the tabloids are picking up some easy populist points — over Mayor Bloomberg's failure to lift alternate-side parking rules during this week's snowstorm. [NYDN, amNY] • Guess which single mayoral action is "tragic and misguided", and will "degrade societal standards" — the smoking ban, LES rezoning, the 2012 Olympic bid? Wrong: it's those damnable free condoms, according to Cardinal Egan and Brooklyn Bishop DiMarzio. [NYP] • We all know about the sex-offender registry, but what does one do with homeless sex offenders? Suffolk Country found one, vaguely medieval, solution: put them in trailers that are periodically rotated around the county. [Newsday] • MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry is even richer than we (and the IRS) knew: In addition to a jaw-dropping salary of $1.28 million a year, Lowry has been getting millions through a murky tax-exempt trust set up by the Museum's benefactors. [NYT] • And in parting, this, from today's OMG-straight-men-can-cook "trend" profile in the News : "I'm constantly bringing wild game back to my apartment, and my girlfriend and I sit outside and pluck it." Don't we all?[NYDN]

Music and Lyrics

Music and Lyrics
The case of Paul Cortez, the personal trainer–musician accused of murdering a dancer who snubbed him, took an odd turn yesterday when the prosecution offered the defendant's song lyrics as evidence of his violent tendencies. The Times quotes Cortez's attorney, Dawn Florio, who claimed that songs like “The Killin Machine” were perfectly normal for her client to have written: “Rock stars don’t write about tulips and butterflies,” she explained. Objection, hearsay. — Lori Fradkin Lyrics and Diaries Offered as a Portrait of a Killer [NYT]

It's Giuliani Time

• Rudy and Hillary, together again for the very first time. That's right — Giuliani all but declared his presidential bid yesterday, filing a "Statement of Candidacy" with the FEC, meaning that the two candidates' aborted Y2K power grapple for the Senate could finally be revived on a national stage. [NYT] • Mayor Mike Bloomberg rips into the $330 million hole in city funding created by Governor Eliot Spitzer's new budget, claiming the cuts will rob NYC of twice that amount — and questioning Spitz's claim that closing up some tax loopholes will balance out the loss. [NYP] • Six panhandlers sue the city for illegally arresting them after one of their own, Eddie Wise, scored $100,000 after a similar suit. They are just a few of a possible 7,000 such wrongful haul-ins. [NYDN] • Having obviously visited the wrong debt-management counselor, a Queens man beats a cop with a bat and steals his gun, aiming to pull off robberies to pay back $16,000. The cop is in critical but stable condition and the arrested thug faces 25 to life, with the debt still unpaid, presumably. [Newsday] • President Bush is putting $1.3 billion into the federal budget to help complete the Second Avenue subway — not to mention $215 mil to aid in bringing the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal. [amNY]

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Today's metro-crime headline is that Eliot Spitzer wants to close some prisons, at least in part, because declining crime rates have led to a smaller inmate population. But Saturday's metro-crime headline was quite different: Seems the NYPD's stopping and frisking New Yorkers in unprecedented numbers these days — five times more people were stopped last year than in 2002 — and that those stops, overwhelmingly of black New Yorkers, are leading to more arrests and summonses. Some numbers: Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD last year: 508,540 Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2002: 97,296 Average number stopped per day in 2006: 1,393 Average number stopped per day in 2002: 266

Spitzer: Budget Cuts for Everyone!

• First hospitals, now prisons. Governor Eliot Spitzer considers closing or consolidating some correctional facilities, in part because crime has plummeted in New York City. But he'll face opposition from pols upstate, where the clinks employ thousands. [NYT] • And he also wants to cut $328 million in aid to the city, which has Bloomberg none too pleased and on his way to Albany to complain about it. [NYT] • Seabiscuit meets Snakes on a Plane in a bizarre grand-jury probe of whether Saratoga racehorses were doped up with painkilling serpent venom to enhance their game last summer. [NYP] • The Reverend Al Sharpton may file a racial-profiling lawsuit in response to new NYPD stats that 55 percent of cop stop-and-frisks in the city happen to blacks. Such data were mandated after the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo. [NYS] • Talk about rolling out of bed: An actor on the HBO hit Oz was arraigned in the death of a Bronx man who fell five flights to his death down the elevator shaft of trendy Chelsea nightclub BED. [amNY]

So Dark the Con of Man

• The Times declares Spitzer's political honeymoon over; the governor's first state budget, which cuts $1.2 billion from health care and increases spending by 6 percent, seems guaranteed a hard time in both the State Senate and the Assembly. [NYT] • Firefighters: Every time we come dangerously close to deifying them, they do something crazy. Like, in this case, by buying fake "St. Regis College" diplomas online, at $500 a pop, and submitting them to the Fire Department for promotions. [Newsday] • A Long Island con-artist duo lured married marks into one-night stands, videotaped the trysts, then proceeded to blackmail them. The scammers' photos, printed in the Post, make the "luring" part positively puzzling. [NYP] • In a feat of participatory journalism, a Daily News reporter spends a "day dressed like Sienna" (Miller). For our money, she looked more like JT LeRoy. [NYDN] • And a New York marketing firm scared the bejesus out of Bostonians with promo signs for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which the Boston Police Department somehow mistook for bombs. Nobody objected here, where "a box of fries … giving passerby the finger" is a relatively normal sight. [amNY]

Free at Last, Free at Last

• What were we doing in the days before DNA testing? Well, apparently jailing busloads of innocent people, for one thing. The eighth — eighth! — New York State convict in thirteen months to be exonerated by DNA evidence was released yesterday after fifteen years in jail. [NYT] • Both tabloids look at the State of the Union address through the eyes of Ceasar Borja Jr., the son of a WTC cop whom Hillary Clinton had flown to Washington. His father died of lung disease hours before Bush's speech. [NYP, NYDN] • It's not exactly the Oscars, but a consortium of community activists got to nominate the city's worst landlords last night. The runaway winner: Adam Mermelstein of TreeTop Development, who used fake inspectors with prop badges and invalid eviction papers to harass his tenants. [NYDN] • Now this is a divorce case. Four children, $55 million in assets, $5 million in legal bills, and the heaviest dueling allegations in recent memory (kiddie porn and spousal rape versus drug addiction and mental disease). Welcome to Westport. [NYP] • And you know you love the Mets a little too much when they have to take out a restraining order against you. An 18-year-old Piazza fan was barred from Shea for three years after faking a press pass to get closer to his idol. [amNY]

Jared Paul Stern Now Officially Less Scummy Than We Thought

Well, call us a little dumbstruck. The Observer's Daily Transom is reporting this afternoon that former "Page Six" reporter Jared Paul Stern, who we were under the distinct impression had been caught on videotape last April demanding money from supermarket mogul Ron Burkle in exchange for favorable coverage from the New York Post gossip column, has been notified by the U.S. Attorney's Office that he will not be charged with a crime. The Observer promises more coverage in tomorrow's edition of the weekly paper. And so we wait, eagerly. Jared Paul Stern to Not Be Charged [Daily Transom/NYO]

State Regulators Make It Official: Con Ed Sucks

• Con Ed might want to change its slogan from "On It" to "In It." State regulators, in what even the Times calls "a devastating condemnation," place full blame on the utility giant for last July's Queens blackout. (Even better: Regulators determined Con Ed also lied about the number of affected customers.) [NYT] • In a Dickensian tableau of class inequality, an Upper East Side antiques dealer is suing a homeless man — for a million dollars! — for loitering in front of his windows and obstructing the view of the wares. Be sure to catch the A-grade Post prose ("dingy socks, soiled shoes and layers of odorous old clothing"). [NYP] • Carlton Ingleton, a well-known local sculptor who taught art at Medgar Evers College, is dead after a violent confrontation with his son. Cops say the artist was beaten to death "with a pipe and a hatchet." The son, Carl Assawa, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation after attacking police officers while in custody. [amNY] • Mayor Bloomberg's expectedly upbeat State of the City speech — the state of the city is "alive with hope" — included a novel law-enforcement initiative: Crime witnesses and victims will be able to send camera-phone pictures straight to 911 operators. Also, the property tax goes down 5 percent. [NYDN] • Also on the hopeful techy note: OMG Internet over power lines! "Broadband over power lines is coming to New York, says the City Council's technology commission. Get ready for Web-enabled toasters, blenders, and hair dryers. [GG]

Wherein We Suddenly Start to Feel Bad for Jeanine Pirro

We never thought we'd reach this point, but now we're starting to actually feel bad for Jeanine Pirro. Turns out that the fearless prosecutor and failed attorney-general nominee has a jewelry-making hobby; the "company" is called JP Styles and consists, from what we understand, of Jeanine herself, some thread, and some beads. And now the Feds are investigating it for tax fraud. (It seems that Jeanine sold some baubles, at a couple hundred dollars each, to "courthouse acquaintances," with profits earmarked toward charity. She also tried to put her handiwork on consignment at Neiman Marcus, unsuccessfully.) We don't know if JP Styles has paid its taxes or not; what we know is that we can't shake an image of Jeanine wistfully threading beads at home, alone, by nightlight, while Al is otherwise engaged. Poor girl. Pirro's Jewel of Denial in Fed Biz Probe [NYDN]

39 More at Ground Zero

• The most recent search for human remains at Ground Zero has yielded 39 more bones — as well as computer parts and other World Trade Center debris. Most were hidden under a service road that was hastily constructed in 2002 after the original cleanup. [amNY] • Two girls were stabbed — one in the back — in the course of a teenage rumble at Landmark High School, a block away from Carnegie Hall. According to the police, the girls, with their boyfriends, were settling a beef. Both are in stable condition; the stabbers remain at large. [NYP] • Add this to the bizarre scrapbook of factoids from the Freak Winter of 2007: Dolphins have been splashing around in Sag Harbor. It has happened before — but, you know, in the summer. [Newsday] • Two people — a moving contractor and his mother-in-law — are under arrest for stealing two Picassos from a late collector's house they were hired to clean out. Ironically, the collector in question was the infamous William Kingsland, most of whose art was "hot" in the first place. [NYT] • And a theft at once far more and far less impressive: someone swiped 500,000 pounds of concrete and brick from the future Ikea site in Red Hook. The stuff is valued at about $2,000. Cheap and hard to assemble — it's like we have an Ikea already. [NYDN]

For Chinatown Barber Shop, an Unhappy Ending

Thought Chinatown barber-shop brothels were a thing of the past? Not so fast. Recently Good Friends Barber Shop, at 72 Forsyth Street, was closed under the Nuisance Abatement Law after detectives made three arrests: one in February 2006, after a female employee offered an unlicensed massage for $45, and two more in September, when a manager offered an undercover cop a massage plus a sexual act for $90. (There's a larger image of the restraining orders here.) According to posts on a so-called "hobbyist" bulletin board — an online spot where men exchange information on these things — the chop shop has had a reputation as a massage parlor for at least three years, though it seems to have been unreceptive to non-Chinese clientele. (The only bulletin-board member who was able to "crack" the back rooms was an Asian.) So will the busted rub-and-tug joint give way to a drinking den, as has happened in so many other spots across Chinatown? If the troubles of across-the-street neighbor 205 are any indication, not even that will save it from the long arm of the Nuisance Abatement Law. —Daniel Maurer

Queens Man Now Down to Three Lives

Rasputin was, notoriously, poisoned and shot before being drowned — and they still found water in his lungs. On Tuesday, 24-year-old Anthony Albaricci did the Mad Monk one better. He was choked with a belt, stabbed with a knife, slashed with a razor, beaten with a chair, and twice run over with an SUV — and survived. Four Queens teens are charged with attempted murder and felony assault, and there's no Count Yusupov in the bunch. The foiled execution was the result of a "money dispute," according to the D.A.'s office. Oh, and if you've noticed that the above-listed litany of assaults conspicuously lacks a good old-fashioned shooting, worry not. Somewhere between the stabbing and the slashing, one of the teens allegedly tried to shoot Albaricci at point-blank range. The gun didn't go off. NYC Man Choked, Stabbed, Run Over But Doesn't Die; 4 Charged [AP via NYDN]

Further Adventures in Fierce, Low-Stakes Battles: Do You Care If the Rushkoffs Leave Brooklyn?

Has any mugging generated a higher word count — both written and aural, now that there's a WNYC audio clip available — than the fateful moment that parted writer Douglas Rushkoff from his wallet? We've read the writer's original Christmas Eve post, "Merry Christmas: Gimme Your Money" (on his own blog, now temporarily disabled), which led to blanket coverage and furious discussion on other city blogs. We've read his wife, Barbara, also a blogger, thrice denying the Borough of Kings: "Brooklyn, Schmooklyn. Yeah, it's pretty here, but we are surrounded by crime … It costs $2,000 a year to insure my wedding ring." One can hear the faint rustle of public sympathy falling away at this point. "Nah, I am not liking it here much now … We outta here." (That original post is now gone, too). And we've read well-meaning bromides from the Rushkoffs' colleague and neighbor, Steven Berlin Johnson, who's trying to keep his friends from leaving: "Where else in the country can you go from the houses of world-famous authors and movie stars to Hasidic Jews and working-class African-Americans all in the space of about twenty blocks?" (Um, ever cross 110th Street?)

Oh Mother

• So who's to blame for yesterday's sulfuric odor across Manhattan that today has tabloid headline writers gleefully trafficking in fart puns? The leading version is an emission from a swamp across the Hudson. New Jersey, we thought better of you. [NYP] • A security guard employed at the Office of the State Comptroller in Albany is being charged with exposing himself to two 13-year-old girls this past Saturday — at the office. Kinda puts Hevesi's indiscretions in perspective. [AP via amNY] • A Bronx mother who had earlier claimed her baby was stolen at gunpoint on New Year's Eve is now suspected of abandoning the 1-month-old in a Dumpster. The cops are frantically searching landfills. [WNBC] • Meet Stavon Simpson, a slightly less evil mom. According to the D.A., she took the $186,000 life-insurance payout from the dead father of her child — bequeathed expressly to the daughter's education — and decided it would be better spent on a Land Rover and things like the cable bill. Because the most important lesson is confidence. [NYDN] • And, you still can't get gay-married in New York, but you can get gay-divorced. One half of a feuding ex-couple cited the union's illegality to get out of a separation agreement; in a Solomon-esque decision, a city judge has ruled that the contract stands even if the marriage itself doesn't. [NYT]

Questionable Links

• The city's comptroller has red-flagged a $10 million contract between the Parks Department and Dominick Logozzo, a Brooklynite with serious mob ties; the deal entrusts Logozzo with the management of a city-owned golf course. Best part: Logozzo is also an investor in the Zone Diet, which the Feds claim is a front to hide Mafia profits. [NYP] • Governor Spitzer unveiled his initiatives for New York in his first State of the State speech yesterday, and it left half of Albany slack-jawed. Among other things, the Spitz wants to guarantee health insurance for all children, reduce the cost of worker's comp to boost business, and spend billions on school aid — all that while cutting taxes. Sounds, uh, good. [NYT] • According to a suit filed by "several disgusted janitors," there is hanky-panky afoot in New York's Equinox fitness clubs — as the Daily News puts it, "sleazy gay sex." Gay sex in gyms?! Say it ain't so. [NYDN] • Busta Rhymes turned himself in to the cops on a misdemeanor assault charge, having allegedly roughed up an associate in a money dispute. Not too exciting, but an upgrade over Rhymes's previous brush with the law: a ticket for talking on a cell while driving. [amNY] • And a metallic, gold-colored lump of rock, most likely a meteorite, crashed through the roof of a New Jersey home and embedded itself in the floor, delighting scientists. Okay, progressive politics or not, Jersey is still freaking weird. [NYDN]

First Things First

• Not everything changed on Day One, but — with five executive orders signed before 9 a.m. yesterday — newly minted Governor Eliot Spitzer came as close to making good on the slogan as any politician in recent memory. The big ones concern state workers: restrictions on lobbying and, famously, a near-total ban on gifts. Oh, sure — after Christmas. [NYT] • The city took all of twelve hours to put the year's first murder on the books: Brooklyn's Jonathon Ridley, 26, received a fatal bullet in the back. He was merely the unluckiest of the ten people shot citywide during New Year's celebrations. [NYDN] • A belated note to the writer of the Post headline "Leona Lackeys Caught 'Inn' Drug Sting": You can't really pun on prepositions. Also, duh. [NYP] • Coney Island's indefatigable Polar Bear Club made news for the wrong reason after a swimmer knocked his head and almost drowned during the annual fund-raising mass dip. The water, for the record, was 48 degrees, falling well short of polar and more into a cold-shower category. [NYDN] • And fainting maidens are to blame for subway delays, says the MTA; in fact, overzealous dieters who skip breakfast and proceed to get sick on the train have emerged as — are you ready for this? — the No. 3 cause of late trains. So, by extension, it's patriarchy's fault. [amNY]

Three Simple Rules for Attempting to Extort Millions From Yoko Ono

1. Make sure you have something better on her than a "revealing" nightgown photo and an audiotape on which you and she discuss Brokeback Mountain. (Perhaps a CD of Blueprint for a Sunrise?) 2. When caught, refrain from embarrassing yourself, and repulsing the nation, with a sexual-harassment countercharge. 3. Make sure you're in the United States legally. Koral Karsan, Ono's would-be blackmailer, violated all three rules, and he now has an Immigration warrant against him in addition to the grand-larceny charge. Even though he raised the $250,000 for bail through friends, he may not be going anywhere (except, that is, his native Turkey). His lawyer, taken aback by the brand-new immigration angle, says he will not be posting the bail until things are straightened out. More Troubles for Suspect in Ono Case [amNY]