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Hillary and Obama Fight for New York's Rich Kids

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The next behind-the-scenes battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is shaping up between their young and potentially rich campaign pawns: The HillBlazers vs. Generation O. Gen-O is a different kind of concept to match a different kind of politics, the Obama camp says, more about "friendraising" than the charmless money grabs that usually come with cutthroat, celebrity politics. But the Hillary camp insists the Obama kids are just HillBlazers with a different kind of branding.

RIP Rudy's Gun-Control Plan, 1980–2006

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One of the unpleasant side effects of the Virginia Tech tragedy is that every presidential candidate is scrambling to reiterate his stance on gun control. In Rudy Giuliani's eyes, per the ex-mayor's campaign statement, the massacre "does not alter the Second Amendment." Funny thing, though: As the Politico's Jonathan Martin notes today, with a YouTube clip to back him up, Old Rudy used to argue for federal firearm regulation. Giuliani's big idea — one he's been pushing, in his own words, "since at least 1980" — is to treat gun licenses like driver's licenses: to institute a written test and a physical test (for marksmanship?) under a federal law, with state-specific tweaks here and there. Leave it to Rudy to sidle up to the my-cold-dead-hands base at the moment when even some gun-loving Virginians are doubting their beliefs in the wake of a senseless bloodbath. Oh, Rudy: They still won't like you, and now you'll hate yourself too. Rudy No Longer Interested in Federal Mandate on Handguns [Politico]

At Last Minute, Bill Clinton Hits the ACORN Gala

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The 25th anniversary gala for ACORN, the national nonprofit that advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-income families, was held at Citigroup Center last night, and the group had a major headliner as their guest: Bill Clinton. It's no surprise that Clinton would support a social-justice organization like ACORN — indeed, the Clinton Foundation and ACORN work together on several projects — but, as it happens, ACORN officials were pretty surprised that Clinton was actually on hand last night. According to one insider, both Bill and Hillary were invited to the event about a month ago, and both declined to attend. But just a few days ago, the insider says — and, we should note, after a week of great week of publicity in New York for Barack Obama, Hillary's rival from the Democratic presidential nomination — Bill's people called ACORN to re-invite him. He was set to join mayoral contenders Adolfo Carrion, Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner, and Bill Thompson, former Mets slugger Mo Vaughan, and actress Cynthia Nixon (who ultimately didn't show) at the gala. Hillary, according to her schedule, stayed in Washington. —Geoffrey Gray

Starrett-Crossed

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• Clipper Equity's ingenious PR notwithstanding, the would-be Starrett City buyer was thwarted again. On Saturday, the state's Housing Commissioner rejected the firm's second bid for the complex, concerned with the group's poor track record in the area. [TheStreet.com] • A blaze in a Bronx apartment building injured 53 people by AM New York's count (the Post has the number at 41), including 14 firefighters. The three-alarm fire began on the first floor and quickly spread up and out through hallways. [amNY, NYP] • Barack Obama (who evidently can't just come to a city; he either "swings through" or "invades" it) is back in New York for more fund-raising. He'll hang at a couple of good addresses before stopping by the Letterman show. Obama's previous New York City take is estimated at $3 million. [NYDN] • Bush knew. About Bernie Kerik's past, that is, when NYC's then-top cop was nominated to head Homeland Security. Thus, the doomed pick could have been a purely political gesture. Oh, and Alberto Gonzales had a hand in it, too. [NYP] • And East Hampton becomes a two-newspaper town: The Press, an import from one town over, is taking on the 122-year-old local institution the Star (as New York reported last month). Get ready for war. [NYT]

Gee, Man

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• Friendly fire from fellow FBI men killed an agent in the middle of an operation in Readington, New Jersey. The Feds were taking down a gang of armed bank robbers, one of whom escaped and remains on the loose. [NYP] • David Bistricer of Clipper Equity, the thwarted would-be buyer of the Starrett City housing megacomplex, is back. This time, he cobbled together a camera-ready coalition: a lobbyist with Spitzer connections, an architect, and two black ministers. [NYT] • More awesomeness from Rudy Giuliani's traveling road show: The presidential candidate began a stump speech in California with a Godfather impersonation, then referred to his wife as "a civilian, to use the old Mafia distinction." Yeah, he's a shoo-in. [amNY] • Geese are driving ducks out of Central Park, so the city is bringing in border collies to drive out the geese. Before we make a "who's going to drive out the dogs" joke, let's pause and reflect on the fact that there's a company called Geese Police Inc. on the city payroll. [NYT] • And a strong contestant for the dumbest con ever: An unemployed Brooklynite siphoned off $3.6 million from a city account at JPMorgan Chase (by rigging up 604 individual electronic transfers), spent it through Jewelry TV, then tried to pawn the baubles for cash. [NYDN]

Jersey Jackals

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• The Times reveals that the Garden State has been regularly raiding its own state-worker pension fund, funneling billions into other government projects. Given the size of its public sector, disaster looms; New Jersey, we thought better of you. [NYT] • Activists in East Harlem faced bulldozers in a dramatic, and failed, showdown over a community garden. The site, on 110th and Fifth, is being cleared for the future Museum for African Art — and, of course, a luxury condo tower. [amNY] • The Giuliani campaign, God's gift to tabloids, has turned to Rudy's international-policy experience: "I've probably been in foreign lands more than any other candidate" as a private consultant, he assured New Hampshire and hinted he'll hit Iraq next. [NYDN] • The Knitting Factory, the Tribeca music institution, is promising not to go the way of Tonic, Sin-é, CBGB, and many others: Should the rent skyrocket when its lease runs out, the club will try buying the whole building. [MetroNY] • And midtown's old-money hangout/tourist trap '21' Club has even longer arms than previously thought: It just stopped the Pittsburgh Pirates from naming a stadium sports bar "Club 21." Because otherwise the two would be indistinguishable. [NYP]

Someone, Think of the Children!

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• The state budget is here — virtually on time! — and guess what provision made it in while everyone was busy arguing about hospital cuts? A program that makes 400,000 uninsured children eligible for near-free health care. [NYT] • Hillary Clinton set a record for pre-primary fund-raising, drumming up $26 million in the first three months of 2007. Her war chest now totals $36 million, with ten left over from the layup Senate campaign. Obama is at $20 million. And Chris Dodd apparently has subway fare. [NYDN] • Q: When does the Post become touchy-feely about animal welfare? A: When it helps torpedo a Giuliani. Turns out that in the seventies, Judith then-Nathan used to shill for a medical-supply firm that put surgical staples on live dogs during sales demonstrations. Ew. [NYP] • Today's USA Today profiles, in heroic prose ("tempers flare as forklifts dart"), the armed federal agents patrolling the Fulton Fish Market for illegal clams. It seems 750 probes into local seafood-smuggling operations were launched in the last year alone. [USAT] • And a new Arabic middle school will take up the top floor of Park Slope's P.S. 282, which put the nabe's parents in a somewhat un–Park Slope–ian nativist tizzy — with some threatening to pull their kids out. Thing is, it'll be an Arabic language school, not a madrassa. [MetroNY]

Giuliani Loses a Second Bushie

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Rudy Giuliani's front-running presidential campaign has lost a key staffer with connections to Karl Rove. Margaret Hoover joined Giuliani's Solutions America PAC in September to help direct fund-raising operations, but her greater value was to shore up the former mayor's credentials with conservatives and to signal Giuliani's seriousness about a White House run. Hoover, a great-granddaughter of the 31st president and an intergovernmental-affairs aide to Rove before taking the Giuliani job, brought important national campaign experience to the team, having worked for Bush-Cheney '04.

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

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• We were kinda hoping this wouldn't come out until, say, a week before the primaries, but take it away, Times: Rudy Giuliani was briefed on Bernie Kerik's unsavory dossier, including the commish's possible mafia ties, in 2000. Then Rudy made him the city's top cop. [NYT] • New Jersey governor Jon Corzine has already picked a side of the Dem roster for 2008: He's officially endorsing Hillary. (The State Senate president, Richard Codey, is a John Edwards man.) This is not insignificant considering N.J.'s extra-early primary date. [WNBC] • Long Island police are investigating nightmarish scenarios after severed limbs "with pink toenail polish" washed up in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. There's also a torso in a Wal-Mart suitcase, and revolting details galore for the curious. [Newsday] • Since we're reminiscing about Rudy, how about a big fat Catholic controversy around a work of art? Cosimo Cavallaro is planning an Easter exhibit of an anatomically correct (of course) chocolate (of course) Jesus (of course), and he swears the timing is coincidental (yeah, right). [NYDN] • And meanwhile a polyester-resin security guard named Artie, installed in the lobby of a Uniondale office tower, causes no controversy whatsoever. Probably because he's inedible. [NYT]

The Eartha Kitt Primary: Go Obama!

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Obama and Bloomberg get a thumbs-up, and Hillary gets a raised eyebrow, from the inimitable Eartha Kitt. The still very spry singer and dancer, who turned 80 in January, plays a fortune-teller in a Kander and Ebb musical, All About Us, coming to the Westport Country Playhouse. At a sneak peek of the show this week, we asked about her '08 presidential picks. "I'm for my country, not politicians who go blah blah blah," purred the eternal Catwoman, who spent a decade shut out of gigs in this country after she denounced the Vietnam War during a 1968 White House visit.

Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of San Gennaro?

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• Now that's not very Italian! A subcommittee of Little Italy's community board voted against approving the annual San Gennaro feast, calling it a noisy nuisance. (The CB's votes are merely recommendations to the city, though.) Zeppoles will fly! [NYDN] • Every night can be a night at the museum if you're the lucky (and rich) person who paid $276,000 for a dinosaur skull, or $4,500 for a mummy's hand, at yesterday's I.M. Chait Gallery natural-history auction. [NYT] • Hillary sets a new early fund-raising record, trotting out five-star attraction Bill and netting an Obama-and-Edwards-are-gagging-worthy $10 mil over four events in one week. [NYDN] • Not just the real thing, but kosher, too. The just-for-Passover version of Coca-Cola — made with real sugar, not corn syrup, because corn's among the Passover no-nos — is again available in area supermarkets. [NYP] • State Senator Jeff Klein wants to rat out (ha!) dirty restaurants by giving eateries an A-through-F health grade they must post at their doors. Can penitent taco chains earn an "E" for effort? [amNY]

The British Are Coming!

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• Remember Steven Johnson, the freak who terrorized Bar Veloce in 2002, splashing kerosene on patrons? Well, he just got 240 years in prison. Yeah, we don't know what took five years, either. [NYP] • Renaming corners, part one: A coalition of local businesses, backed by no less than Virgin Airways, is campaigning to call a slice of the West Village "Little Britain." The stage-one strategy apparently involves sub–Benny Hill humor. ("What's one more queen in the Village?") [MetroNY] • Renaming corners, part two: Elaine Orbach may yet get the intersection of 53rd and Eighth named after her late husband, Jerry. After striking out with the grumpy Community Board 5, she found fans on Board 4 — which controls the west side of the same avenue. [NYT] • In a high-tech twist on a classic, a married couple is suing a Park Avenue clinic for allegedly inseminating the wife with the wrong man's sperm: The father is white, the mother Dominican, the baby black. [NYDN] • And New York has joined more than twenty states moving their presidential primaries up to February 5. With any luck, Assemblyman Keith Wright's coinage for the occasion — "Super-Duper Tuesday" — won't get any kind of traction in the media. Oh, crap, we just did it. [NYT]

America Loves Rudy More Than Ever; New York, Not So Much

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The Gallup Poll people released new numbers on the Republican presidential contenders today, and they only buttress the emerging consensus that Rudy Giuliani, who used to be New York’s tyrannical mayor before he came America’s beloved one, is the nominal front-runner. Forty-eight percent of liberal and moderate Republicans — granted a group that might be about twelve people big these days — said they preferred Giuliani; 26 percent picked the second-place finisher, John McCain. But even among conservative GOPers, the thrice-married moderate came in first, with 38 percent of respondents picking him to McCain’s 20 percent. And here’s the knockout punch: A whopping 80 percent of all Republicans holds a favorable impression of Giuliani. That’s huge — and “until he's not defined by 9/11," the Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes, "those fav/unfav numbers probably don't come down.” But, then, those are national numbers. Contrast them with local poll results reported today by Crain's New York Business. There, 70 percent of respondents agreed that Rudy lacks the temperament to be president, presumably recalling his performance up through September 10, 2001. Of course, this Crain's poll, unlike Gallup’s, was online and unscientific. On the other hand, its respondents were people who have actually, you know, been governed by the guy. Ah, memories. Gallup on Rudy's Lead [The Politico] Giuliani Not Fit for the White House: Poll [Crain's]

Blazin' With Hillary

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About 40 young moneymakers with neat hair and well-fitting suits arrived at a midtown restaurant last night for the first, unpublicized meeting of the HillBlazers Committee. HillBlazers is the oddly Young Republican–sounding name — we imagine those blazers in navy, accented by repp ties and pleated khakis — the Hillary-for-president folks have given to the wealthy under-45ers who will spend the next two years fund-raising for the campaign. "Interestingly, there were more men than women," at the meeting, a spy told us. "I would say it was a 60-40 ratio. There were clearly a lot of hedge-funders, people who work in finance. It was very crew cut."

Rudy and Donna: The Way They Were

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Today's Times reminds us that Rudy Giuliani, America's Mayor, used to be and likely still is a "mean-spirited," cross-dressing, twice-divorced guy who used to call his old gay roommate "mother" as he left for work each day. But that's not all there is to Rudy. He's also "strong, and at the same time gentle," according to a testimonial Ben Smith reports today on the Politico. Who'd that endorsement come from? His then-wife, Donna Hanover, in a 1993 TV commercial that featured the whole Giuliani family. It's a misty, water-colored campaign ad, about the way the Giulianis were. RudyTube 1993: Rudy and Donna [Politico] New York Label May Not Fit All in Giuliani Run [NYT]

The Bronx Was Burning

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• A brutal fire in the Bronx engulfed a four-story house filled with immigrant families, killing eight children and one adult. Witnesses relate terrible images of children tossed out of the windows in a last-ditch attempt to save them. A basement space heater is cited as the cause. [NYT] • A Barack Obama fund-raiser scheduled for tomorrow in midtown has caused what the Daily News terms a "ticket-buying frenzy." The $100 event at Grand Hyatt will be aimed at "younger people" — for the moneyed elders, there's a $1,000-a-head reception at the same hotel, but earlier. [NYDN] • Know those ubiquitous, slightly nagging TV ads telling women to vaccinate against the human papillomavirus? Funny thing: None of the city's STD clinics and immunization centers have the vaccine. [MetroNY] • And now he's a lawyer: George Pataki is joining Chadbourne & Parke, a law firm housed in 30 Rock, as a consultant on environmental issues. Wait, wasn't he supposed to be running for president? [NYP]

Six Theories on Why the ‘Times’ Finds a $13,000 Stock Loss to Be Front-Page News

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The No. 2 story on the front page of today's Times breaks the news that Barack Obama's blind (or at least going-blind) trust invested $50,000 in two companies linked to campaign donors, that when he learned of the investments he sold the stock, and that he took a $13,000 loss on the investments. And so we wonder, this is big news because…? After the jump, some hypotheses.

Hill Wins in Obama Spat, Edwards Aide Says

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Barack Obama should have ignored the Hillary Clinton camp's moral-minded broadsides over David Geffen's the-Clintons-are-liars comments last week, one of John Edwards's strategists says. "They made it a five-day story, and it knocked Barack off his pedestal," the strategist says. "They shouldn't have answered back. It would have gone away. I think Barack definitely lost that round." The Edwards people know of what they speak. In January, the strategist recalls, Edwards spoke at Riverside Church, where he said that "silence is betrayal" on the Iraq war. As if on cue, Hillary's longtime attack dog, Howard Wolfson, said the wording was "clearly aimed" at Hillary, and he lashed out at Edwards, claiming the ex–North Carolina senator was violating a campaign promise he made back in '04 to keep races among Democrats "positive." Edward's didn't take the bait. And the issue, unlike this time, disappeared. —Geoffrey Gray

Hillary's Barack-Bashing: Too Soon?

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Did Hillary Clinton's longtime PR attack dog, Howard Wolfson, try to take a bite out of Barack Obama's hide a bit too early? Wolfson demanded earlier this week that Obama take the extreme steps of removing Hollywood mogul David Geffen from his campaign and return his contributions after Geffen dissed the Clintons in an interview. It's a dis that some strategists think didn't need to be addressed. "It's weird they let this happen," says Basil Smikle Jr., a former senior Hillary aide turned political strategist. "That was a mistake." How so?

Candidate Books: Coming Soon to a Shelf, Remainder Bin Near You

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Today the Times turns its publishing-world attention from Nascar lit to a different kind of race, the presidential one, and specifically to presidential books. It seems there are distinct types of candidate tomes, and publishing insiders provide a detailed taxonomy of them: There are "introduction," "manifesto," and "off-topic" works. (Generously, if inexplicably, the experts put Al Gore's Earth in the Balance in the third category and not the second.) The article is full of unsurprising facts: Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope has opened a can of Amazon whup-ass on the reissue of Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village; Bush absolutely did not write A Charge to Keep (we sort of recall news in 2000 that he hadn't read it, either, but maybe we just feel that's the case because no one else did), and that if book sales were ballots, John McCain would be finishing his second term. Those best-sellers notwithstanding, though, the quoted experts agree that, as one puts it, "most of these books are going to be wastes of trees." Hey, in the grand scheme of things, bad books are the least bad things paper can do to a presidential election. Time to Throw Their Books Into the Ring [NYT]