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We've Got a Lot of What It Takes to Get Along

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• We've been good little New Yorkers, and we're getting a $1 billion tax cut. Mayor Bloomberg has unveiled his talking points for tonight's State of the City address, and an upbeat bunch they are: a booming economy, a $2 billion surplus, and his own 75 percent approval rating. [amNY] • Barack Obama is officially in the running for '08, and the Post picks the unusually restrained "Barack Is On Track" while the News goes nearly incomprehensible with "Hil Better Not Look Barack." [NYP, NYDN] • A lawyer is suing Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the city's most prominent law firms, for discriminating against him because he was gay and retaliating when he lodged an internal sexual-harassment complaint. What is this, 1993? [NYP] • Naomi Campbell pleaded guilty to throwing a cell phone at her maid. The move resulted in a sentence of five days of community service, which Campbell will eventually get around to (after fashion shows in "California, Brazil, London, Paris and Milan.") [NYT] • And in another celebrity-justice vignette, Jerry Seinfeld was ordered to pay $100,000 to his real-estate broker, whom he stiffed after she refused to give him a house tour on Shabbat. Strange, this sounds like more of a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. [Newsday]

Airplanes and Stem Cells

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• A single-engine plane crashed into the driveway of a New Jersey home last night, killing the pilot and barely missing a row of houses. Details are still murky at the moment; the flight originated in North Carolina and was headed for the Essex County airport in bad weather. [WNBC] • Governor Spitzer is about to sign off on a $1 billion government-financed stem-cell research initiative. Before we get too proud, however (or scream godless pinko), let's recall that California is spending three times the amount on the same. And their governor used to kill clones personally. [NYT] • The NYPD has been cracking down on one of its formerly invincible nemeses — diplomats who use their immunity to park wherever they want. The city's already collected $3 million and is still owed $18 million more, from 77 countries. Worst offender? Egypt ($1.9 million in unpaid tickets). [NYDN] • Miss New Jersey USA has resigned because she's pregnant, and you can't compete while pregnant. (By the way: Why not?) The runner-up, Erin Abramson, is presumed to be running around the living room yelling "I won I won I won I won." [amNY] • And a French-born New Yorker got slapped with an insulting "foreigner fee" at Aquagrill; the story is remarkable for marking the first time in the years the Post published a photo of a French person without Photoshopping a weasel head on him. [NYP]

Pay Dirt

20070115heds_sm.jpg • With impeccable timing he would likely disavow, Governor Spitzer made his first judicial appointment yesterday — picking Theodore T. Jones Jr., an African-American judge from Brooklyn, for the Court of Appeals (the highest in our state's counterintuitive hierarchy). Jones, by the way, is the guy who threw Roger Toussaint in jail after the transit strike. [NYT] • We knew that if we stuck with the story of the Joseph Bruno probe, it would eventually get interesting. Pay dirt! The state GOP leader had hung out at Rachel's, a West Palm Beach strip club, on his businessman friend's dime. Dear Feds: More of this and less murky real-estate deals, please. [NYDN] • Speaking of: Real-estate data is infinitely malleable, but here's an upbeat nugget that's hard to misinterpret — property values in New York City rose 19 percent in 2006. That, if you still want to talk about a "cooldown," is double the gain of 2005. The bad news: Taxes will jump in July. [Newsday] • Scientists are struggling to rescue dolphins stranded in shallow waters near East Hampton; four cetaceans have died and fifth was "euthanized." Long Island has been reporting bizarre dolphin behavior all month long, triggered by the freakishly mild winter (coming, by the way, to a bitter end with tomorrow's cold snap). [amNY] • And, not so fast, Jay-Z: While Beyoncé's mom is already sewing Nets' uniforms, the team may first end up in Newark. Mayor Cory Booker is making a play for the franchise, offering to house it temporarily until its New Jersey contract runs out. In other news, Frank Gehry unveiled plans for "Miss Newark." [NYP]

39 More at Ground Zero

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• 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]

We Ain't No State Senator's Son

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• Joe Bruno's lobbyist son emerges as the crucial link between the embattled State Senate GOP leader and pony-loving businessman Jared Abbruzzese. The Feds allege an unsummarizable roundelay of sweetheart deals, lobbying stints, and commission fees. [NYT] • Three central New Jersey high schoolers are dead after a head-on collision between their car and a van less than a mile from campus. The van's driver was also killed, and her unidentified teen passenger hospitalized with serious injuries. [AP via amNY] • A Brooklyn principal barred a special-ed student from entering a district spelling bee, telling him, "You don't have the brains to do it." This after organizing a special schoolwide bee seemingly aimed at eliminating him. [NYDN] • City firefighters are putting up flag decals on their lockers in defiance of Fire Department's order to remove all personal adornments from department buildings. Expect an interesting debate on whether a locker is a private or a public space (and a staggering amount of porn in the trash bins behind firehouses). [IHT] • And speaking of trash, New Yorkers generate a lot of it. Almost twice as much food waste, in fact, as any other city. Best recyclers? No surprise there: Park Slope. [NYP]

The Cost of Utopia

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• The city's doing so well financially that some City Council members — Democrats, even — are raising the specter of a tax cut. With the Independent Budget Office projecting a $688 million surplus in 2008, why not? [NYP] • A souped-up playground is coming to South Street Seaport. One suggested game: groups of children "loading containers with sand, hoisting them up with pulleys and then lowering them down to wagons." David Rockwell designs the kiddie labor camp, pro bono. [NYT] • Time to check in with our pal Koral Karsan, Yoko Ono's driver turned attempted blackmailer, now that the full text of his demand is public. Stalking points: Karsan frames his $2 million demand as compensation for "pain and suffering," threatens to expose John as a "wife-beating asshole," and boasts friendship with "NY media." And yet, Koral, you never call anymore. [NYDN] • Say what you want about the new Village Voice, but at least it's not afraid of readers' letters. From the new issue's crop: "You … take a dying paper and kill it over and over again." "The Village Voice is dead." "Reader's Digest is edgier than you are." [VV] • And a city Department of Sanitation cap is apparently a huge seller and a nascent fashion staple; Scorsese, Liv Tyler, et al have been spotted in them. So reports the Scotsman, our trusted source for apparel news. [Scotsman]

Oh Mother

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• 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]

Who Comptrols the Comptroller?

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• So, with Hevesi out, who's the state's next comptroller? Assembly Democrats get to chose, but Spitzer says he wants someone who is (a) not an assemblyman and (b) not necessarily a Democrat. The stance has blue Albany grumbling that Spitzer seems to distrust the legislature. We wonder why. [NYT] • It's not every day you see Jews chant "Get back to Iran" at other Jews, but that was the scene in Rockland County last night, as religious protesters set upon members of Neturei Karta — an anti-Israel Hasidic sect. The latter had just returned from the famously bizarre Holocaust conference in Tehran. [NYDN] • "Non-lethal force" is sometimes a misnomer: A Brooklyn man died last night after being maced and Tasered by the cops. Blondel Lasseque, reportedly a mental patient off his meds, went into cardiac arrest shortly after his actual arrest — but not before sending three officers tasked with restraining him into a hospital. [amNY] • Esther Elizabeth Reed, 28, stole other people's identities and used them to gain entrance to Harvard and Columbia graduate schools, where she proceeded to study (what else?) psychology and criminology. Investigators are "most shocked" someone could "talk their way in[to]" a grad school. They should have seen our application essay. [NYP] • And the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting is aggressively lobbying shows like CSI: New York to move production from California studio lots to the actual streets of New York. Angelenos indignantly counter that their NYC is better than the real thing. [LAT]

Petty Cash

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• New Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, in a Spitzerian move, will go after Albany's hot potato du jour: "member items" (the lawmakers' richly funded discretionary-spending kitty). The AG's office promises to look into more than 6,000 individual items. Come on, that Elks clubhouse totally needed a new humidifier. [NYT] • The bizarrely warm weather (66 degrees tomorrow, kids!) is wreaking havoc on every seasonal business: Apparel shops are stuck with non-selling winter gear, cafés are making a killing on outside tables, you can rent a boat in Central Park, and city pothole crews are aimlessly wandering the streets. [NYP] • The city's all but throwing a parade for Wesley Autrey, the Playboy hat-wearing Samaritan who jumped in front of a subway train to save a fellow commuter. Among the fruits of his good deed so far: the Bronze Medallion (NYC's highest award), $10,000 from Donald Trump, and a year's worth of free MetroCards. [NYT] • Civic heroism being infectious, two Bronx friends are credited with a spectacular rescue of a 3-year-old boy dangling off a fire escape. One cushioned the fall with his body, and the other caught the child as he bounced off. Heartwarming, and just a teeny bit slapsticky. [amNY] • Finally, the Daily News catches a great throwaway moment in its Busta Rhymes item. The arrested rapper covered his $3,500 bail (on an assault charge) when an associate pulled the needed amount in cash out of his pocket. [NYDN]

Questionable Links

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• 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]

A Third-Rate Burglary?

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• As we cynically predicted, the story of Giuliani's suddenly public '08 battle plan swiftly moved from the plan's contents to who obtained it and how; the Giuliani camp says it was "borrowed" from an aide's suitcase, photocopied, and returned. Exciting stuff. [NYS] • A construction worker dubbed a "Subway Superman" (by both tabs) leaped in front of an oncoming train to drag a stranger to safety. Better yet, he did it while wearing a ski cap with a Playboy Bunny, which is mysteriously logo-free on the Post cover. [NYDN; NYP] • Subpoenas continue to fly in the Joe Bruno probe. The State Senate chief — and, as of two days ago, New York's top Republican — is under scrutiny for corruption, and the latest FBI target is an Albany investment firm Bruno did consulting for. [NYDN] • NYC taxis will help map out the city's many pesky cell-signal dead zones: Ericsson, the Stockholm-based phone maker, got the Taxi & Limousine Commission to install sensors in cab trunks. The Swedes are under the cute illusion that "cabs go everywhere." [Fox News] • And in a bit of truly silly timing, Cites — an international environmental agency — lifted its ban on sevruga and osetra caviar imports from the Caspian Sea. The news should send corks popping at Petrossian and become relevant to the general consumer in, let's see, about 362 days. [NYT]

First Things First

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• 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]

No Justice, No Peace, as They Say

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• Several hundreds of people took over Wall Street to protest the police's killing of Sean Bell and what they see as the NYPD's failure to punish the guilty. They were met with almost as many police officers, some undercover; for a march that called for a "war on the NYPD," the protest went without an incident. [amNY] • The State Liquor Authority is cracking down on all-night New Year's Eve parties, nixing dozens of bars' requests to stay open late on December 31. (The permit is usually easily granted.) [NYP] • In a similar crypto-Prohibitionist vein, the proposed alcohol ban on Metro-North and LIRR is about to deny suburban commuters one of their few remaining joys in life. Or is it? Meet Commuters Aligned for Responsible Enjoyment, or CARE, a quickly assembled opposition group. Vive la Resistance! [NYDN] • It's a bit unexpected after all those mayoral pronouncements about the coming population boom, but NYC's birth rate is way down, at a 25-year low, in fact. Officials call it a quality-of-life achievement, however, since the most rapidly declining subset is teenage births. [NYS] • And the Times tut-tuts the "phantasmagoric, Disney-esque experience" sweeping the suburbs: giant inflatable lawn figures causing an "intramural disagreement among the Christmas crazed." [NYT]

It's Over, and It's Over

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• The Public Authorities Control Board gave its unanimous "yes" to Atlantic Yards. In the one change that might somewhat placate borough purists, Gehry's Miss Brooklyn is now scaled down to below the Williamsburgh Savings Bank height. The big loser: Moynihan Station, sacrificed in exchange. [NYDN] • Alan Hevesi is putting an end to the sorry spectacle his troubles became for the media: The beleaguered state comptroller will plead guilty and resign from office as part of the plea deal. [NYP] • Just in time for Atlantic Yards: The city has approved a new tax break for developers that encourages them to build more lower-income housing in more areas. The Real Estate Board appears displeased, so Bloomie must be doing something right. [NYT] • A cover of amNew York explores the outrage! that met the news of the record Goldman Sachs bonuses. (The cited instances of outrage appear limited to a harrumph from one City Council member, and a Post cartoon). [amNY] • And the police finally I.D.'d the man they found wandering the streets of the Bronx two weeks ago; yesterday, we broke the case by suggesting that the cop-stumping inscription "G-A-R-F-I" on his pajamas might have something to do with the cartoon cat. Today, the NYPD claimed it was "teddy bears," clearly to hide the former incompetence. For shame! [WNBC]

Say It Ain't So, Joe

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• Because not enough Albany politicians are under indictment — only seven indictments among the city's delegation in the last three years, for example — the Feds are now investigating State Senate leader and Republican top dog Joseph Bruno, along with his "private consulting business" and his love of the horseys. [AP, NYDN] • As if Sheldon Silver would let Bruno have the spotlight alone. The Assembly speaker grabs some attention, too, thanks to the vote he controls on an obscure but powerful state board that's scheduled to vote today and can make or break (or substantially delay) Atlantic Yards. To maximize the excitement, aides claim the speaker hasn't even made up his mind yet. [amNY] • We're all for brawls on the NYSE trading floor, but choking a trader may be too much. Choking a trader because he's a gloating Eagles fan and you're the son of a legendary Giants owner, well, the jury is split on this one. [NYP] • Police are helpless to identify the Asian man they found two weeks ago, clad only in pajamas, roaming the streets of the Bronx: John Doe has not been reported missing and doesn't speak English. The police thoughtfully release the information that "the pajamas had the letters G-A-R-F-I" on them. Dare we guess the name might be "Garfield"? Cops. [WNBC] • Meet Michael Ennes, who runs the "Four-Star Soup Kitchen" and feeds the needy with stuff like endives in basil vinaigrette, wine-simmered bison, and turkey with mango-ginger glaze. He also gives nutrition lectures, at which, the Times reports with uncharacteristic cruelty, "people dozed or babbled." [NYT]

Something's Gotta Give

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• Just in time for Bloomberg's $150 million help-the-poor initiative, the Times unloads a "Giving" section. It comes complete with an attempt to launch a word ("philanthropreneurs," and, um, keep trying) and, best of all, a graphic titled "Bono's Beneficent Universe." [NYT] • A shocking! new! poll! has Hillary Clinton pulling ahead of Giuliani and McCain in a presidential matchup. Buried in the cover story's eighth graph: Her advantage falls within the margin of error, so it's a tie. But you've already bought the Post. [NYP] • The good news is that you are now able to swipe your cell phone at subway turnstiles. The bad news is that it necessitates "a consortium of credit card and wireless providers." So the future is now — if you're a Cingular customer with a Citi card. [amNY] • Andrea Peyser, a noted expert on Crips and Bloods, is disappointed that not enough gang members showed up to a Sean Bell protest, because the press release promised gangs. Oh, just read it. [NYP] • And Brooklyn hip-hop scenesters mourn the closing of Beat Street on Fulton, an iconic vinyl store; everyone cites digital age as the culprit. This is the store where Fannypack formed — is nothing sacred, iTunes? Is nothing sacred? [NYDN]

It's Shelly's Turn

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• The fate of Atlantic Yards now rests with State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, who controls one of three votes on the Public Authorities Control Board, which requires unanimity to pass a project — and he boasts an impressive megaproject kill ratio, having already done in the West Side stadium and put the brakes on Moynihan Station. If we were Ratner, we'd find some Lower East Side charities to fund right about now. [NYT] • Rudy Giuliani is out being presidential — or presidential candidate–ish, really. He's hitting the fund-raisers for "friends and family money," whatever that means; the first round starts tomorrow in midtown. He also booked a major appearance in California — the keynote address at the state GOP convention. [NYP] • The News' New Yorker of the Year: Bloomberg. Hizzoner is picked, among other things, for "restoring civility," the gun-control crusade, encouraging major construction, and defusing the Sean Bell situation. [NYDN] • Except we're not sure that last one's such a done deal: There's a growing push for police commissioner Ray Kelly to resign and for a special prosecutor to replace the Queens D.A. on the case. [amNY] • And, hardly anyone's New Yorker of the Year: Isiah Thomas, the underperforming Dolan hire who can't fire up the Knicks to win a game — but evidently has no trouble goading opponents into brawls. [NYDN]

Murder, Blackmail, Larceny, Underage Drinking

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• The first surveillance video of the 50-bullet Sean Bell shooting in Queens is out, and it doesn't look good for the cops. A camera at a JFK AirTran terminal captures stray shots coming through windows and narrowly missing bystanders — including two Port Authority police officers seen diving for cover. [WNBC] • New Jersey lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex civil unions. Though not unexpected (it was mandated by a court), the vote is still controversial; Governor Corzine's stirring endorsement: "I think we're doing the right thing." [NYT] • The Post enumerates the materials in the folder with which chauffeur Koral Karsan has been attempting to blackmail Yoko Ono, and it's quite a list: a photo of Yoko in a "revealing nightgown," copies of all her e-mails for 2006, and an audiotape of Karsan and Ono talking about Brokeback Mountain. [NYP] • Donald Trump, one of the nation's foremost arbiters of social propriety, says he will strip the current Miss USA of her title after learning of her underage drinking (she turns 21 next week).The takeaway here is not the drinking revelation but, rather, that the Donald has official power to strip beauty queens of anything he wants. [NYDN] • And, you can die but you can't leave Brooklyn: an enterprising morgue worker is under arrest for swiping a dead man's wallet and, in a fit of tactical brilliance, using his debit card at an ATM across the street from the morgue. The man was caught soon after the widow noticed the otherworldly withdrawals. [amNY]

Cops and Yoko

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• The NYPD is developing a scary trend in the people-killing arena. Another man, this one in the Bronx, was fatally shot by the cops last night — four times and at very close range, witnesses say. He was armed, at least. [amNY] • Both tabloids lead with Yoko Ono's extortion news, which we reported yesterday; today's added value is the following tidbit: The driver claims that rock's First Widow is just trying to stop him from proceeding with a valid sexual-harassment case against her. Eww. [NYP] • It's hard to top If I Did It, so Judith Regan's next book project is a "biographical novel" about Mickey Mantle. Tame enough, except it calls Billy Martin a rapist and includes fictional scenes of Mantle sexin' Marilyn Monroe, who just "lies there staring at him." [NYDN] • The Times continues its disturbing — and sometimes darkly hilarious — series on New York's deranged small-town justice. In this one, a judge sentences young male cons to "judge's probation," which involves them hanging out with him, driving his car, and, in one case, moving in with him. [NYT] • And Peter Boyle is dead at 71. Judging from the headlines, the press seems intent on remembering this fantastic character actor (one of John Lennon's best friends, by the way) as the dad on Everybody Loves Raymond, to which we can only respond: Go rent Taxi Driver. Now. [WNBC]

We're Dreaming of a Wall Street Christmas

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• Goldman Sachs is about to set a Christmas-bonus record by lavishing its employees with $16.5 billion after posting a 93 percent jump in quarterly earnings. Top traders and investment machers will be taking home up to $50 million (per Times) or even $100 million (per Post) each. Well, someone has to buy apartments in that William Beaver nonsense. [NYP] • It wasn't just driving, you know. A settlement agreement between Alan Hevesi and the AG's office discloses that the state worker who chauffeured Mrs. Comptroller also shopped for her and "helped her rehabilitation from knee surgery" (code for "foot massage"?). [NYT] • A man stole a delivery truck, tooled around Manhattan sideswiping taxicabs, and finally crashed into the lobby of an Upper East Side building. John Doe was DOA. Some crime just really, really, really doesn't pay. [amNY] • The News gets results! The paper has tut-tutted City College into stripping the name of Assata Shakur, a militant and a convicted cop killer, from a student center. Of course, it also accidentally re-triggered discussion of whether Shakur was framed. [NYDN] • The Transportation Department publishes, and Gothamist annotates, a fascinating schematic of which subway lines are taxed to capacity now and which will be by 2030. Alarmingly, in the latter drawing, the Second Avenue line is still not on the subway map. [Gothamist]