New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a man of his word Monday, skipping the traditional Columbus Day Parade up 5th Avenue in Manhattan because its organizers banned two "Sopranos" cast members invited as the mayor's special guests.
Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show that he would not march in the parade if actors Lorraine Bracco and Dominic Chianese were unwelcome. Bracco plays Dr. Melfi, a psychiatrist treating mob boss Tony Soprano on the HBO hit, and Chianese plays Uncle Junior, who is on trial for racketeering.
The Columbus Citizens Foundation, which has organized the parade for 58 years, said The Sopranos are demeaning stereotypes that perpetuate negative stereotypes of Italian-Americans.
Bloomberg marched in a Columbus Day parade Sunday in the Bronx with an Italian flag draped around his neck. He took Bracco and Chianese to lunch at Dominick's Restaurant in the borough Monday afternoon.
"Everybody should lighten up a little," he said.
Bush stumps for Mich. Republicans
President George W. Bush appeared at a campaign rally and a political fund-raiser for GOP candidates in the Detroit area Monday kicking off two weeks of stumping for the party ahead of Election Day.
Bush spoke at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford before heading to nearby Dearborn for a fund-raiser for Republican state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter of Liviona, who is in a tight race for a newly drawn U.S. House seat in the 11th Congressional District against Redford Township Supervisor Kevin Kelly.
Bush also stumped for Republican gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus.
The trip was Bush's seventh to Michigan and with control of Congress up for grabs likely will not be his last before Nov. 5.
Bush spokesman cheered and jeered
Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was met with both jeers and cheers when he returned to his alma mater, Middlebury College, in Vermont Sunday night to receive an alumni achievement award.
While Fleischer addressed some 700 mostly supporters inside the college chapel, more than 1,000 area residents and students protested outside against the Bush administration's Iraq policies.
Fleischer said his boss has made no decision for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, and that Bush's position is meant to avoid such an attack rather launch one.
Most in the audience gave Fleischer a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage, but some in the crowd called out in anger over the potential war with Iraq.
"Shame on you," some yelled.
"How do you sleep at night?" others asked.
Many of those who spoke out left the chapel after making their comments and were greeted with cheers by the protesters outside.
In his address, Fleischer talked about his job, the president and relations with the news media.
"The hardest part of my job," he said, "is knowing what not to say."
N.H. senate foes agree on Iraq resolution
The rivals for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire found common ground Sunday in supporting President Bush and a possible confrontation with Iraq.
"I support the president in his efforts to build support among our allies" in the war against terrorism, said Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic candidate at a candidate's forum in Nashua. "We need to continue battle against terrorism as part of our effort against Saddam Hussein and Iraq."
"This is a new kind of threat," Republican nominee Rep. John E. Sununu said of Hussein and the potential he would use weapons of mass destruction. "This is a threat that can wreak enormous destruction in a very short amount of time. You say, well, 'He hasn't yet applied these weapons.' Well, I say, if we wait until he has access to these weapons, the world has waited too long."
Ill. governors race tightening
The Illinois governor's race is getting tighter.
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll found Democratic Rep. Rod Blagojevich's 19 percent lead over Republican Attorney General Jim Ryan three weeks ago has fallen to 11 percent with just three weeks to go until the Nov. 5 election.
Blagojevich had 47.5 percent to Ryan's 36.6 percent in a poll of 800 registered voters. The poll had a 3.5 percent margin of error.
On Thursday a WBBM-Channel 2 poll in Chicago had Blagojevich 19 points ahead of Ryan, the same margin as in the station's Sept. 27 poll. Ryan, who has trailed by double-digits much of the campaign, chose to look at the more positive survey.
"There is no question that we have momentum in this race," he said.
The two men were to meet in the second of four scheduled debates at the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield Monday evening.
"Two-headed" chicken making tracks
"JimRod," a man in a two-headed chicken suit appearing with Illinois Libertarian candidate for governor Cal Skinner, is still making the rounds.
Skinner, a political maverick with a sense of humor, began debating the yellow two-headed chicken when he was not invited to debates between Republican Jim Ryan and Democrat Rod Blagojevich.
Mock debates were held in Chicago, Rockford, Champaign and Peoria last week and another Monday afternoon at the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, where the major party candidates were to debate.
"Two former Golden Glove boxers and they're afraid to get in the ring with me," Skinner said. "Because I have been, so far excluded from the debates, JimRod and I are doing our own state tour."
Poll: Two Minn. gov. candidates deadlocked
If the election were held today you could pick Minnesota's next governor with the flip of a coin, according to a television poll.
The KSTP-TV telephone survey of 503 registered voters found 34 percent favor Independence Party candidate Tim Penny to 30 percent for Democrat Farm Labor nominee Roger Moe. Republican Tim Pawlenty had 23 percent and Green Party candidate Ken Pantel 3 percent, with 10 percent undecided.
The poll had a 4.5 percent margin of error.
Actor and comedian Andy Griffith, who was Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry 1960-68, has recorded radio spots for about a dozen state Senate Democrats.
State senator A.B. Swindell began running his ad last week.
Griffith, who also starred as the folksy TV lawyer Matlock, did an ad for Swindell for his first Senate campaign. The Charlotte News Observer said he volunteered to tape the ads for the Democrats this year just as he did in the 2000 election.
Iowans offered absentee voting help
It's not unusual for Iowa residents to find messages from President Bush and Gov. Tom Vilsack on their answering machines offering help if they plan to vote absentee.
The Des Moines Register reports county elections officials are being swamped with requests for absentee ballots for the Nov. 5 election. Republicans believe lost absentee ballots cost Bush a victory in the state in 2000, when Al Gore won Iowa by 4,100 votes.
"Of the votes cast on Election Day, we would have won," Iowa Republican party official Joel Hannahs told the newspaper. "It was absentee votes that put the Democrats over the top."
Both Republicans and Democrats are going door-to-door in a grass-roots effort to assist people who haven't completed their absentee ballots. Iowa law allows members of political parties to drop off applications and pick up completed ballots.
Las Vegas newspaper supports pot law reform
National drug czar John Walters' vocal opposition to a Nevada referendum that would legalize possession of modest amounts of marijuana attracted criticism from the Las Vegas Review Journal Monday.
The newspaper's editorial writers chided Walters for making two personal appearances in the state to urge opposition to Question 9, a ballot measure that would allow adults in the Silver State to possess up to three ounces of marijuana.
"Nevadans are capable of acting like grown-ups and deciding whether we wish to maintain the current, Draconian set of penalties against the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana," the newspaper said. "We need no help from our 'betters' in Washington, D.C."
The Review Journal was critical of what it said was an extensive commitment of "a considerable amount of energy and money to defeating Question 9."
The editorial also took exception to what it saw as scare tactics when Walters called Question 9 a public safety issue even though the proposal restricted marijuana possession to private homes preserved current penalties for driving under the influence.
(Dave Haskell in Boston and Hil Anderson in California contributed to this report)
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