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New York City building collapses

By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An explosion ripped through a New York City building this morning, causing it to collapse and catch fire, CNN's Katy Byron and Cheryl Bronson report.

Firefighters are on the scene, and at least three people including a firefighter, have been transported to the hospital, firefighters tell CNN. The building, located at E. 62nd Street, housed doctors' offices and residential units. FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta tells CNN he thinks it "appears to have been a gas explosion."

Smoke from the fire could be seen across Midtown and Upper East Manhattan. Emily Rahimi, a spokeswoman for the New York Fire Department, said they first received a call reporting the explosion at 8:40 a.m. ET.

Tune into CNN to see the latest in this developing story.

Rudy hits the road

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) is back on the campaign trail this week helping to raise money for two embattled incumbent Republican senators, a GOP governor and three other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls. Giuliani's latest fundraising tour comes as syndicated columnist Robert Novak writes that the former Big Apple mayor "intends" to run for the White House. Novak notes that Giuliani's positions on "abortion, gay rights, and gun control" will not be embraced by the conservative wing of the party, seriously hindering his presidential bid. But here in July 2006, Giuliani could really help an embattled Republican who is "right" on all of the issues. Giuliani will be in Pittsburgh Tuesday night to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), who is trailing in the polls to Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr.

CNN's Dana Bash spent last week in Pennsylvania and reports that Santorum is highlighting aspects of his legislative record other than his positions and sometimes fiery rhetoric on the hot button issues.

Primary support, but ...

Sen. Barbara Boxer (California) is the latest Democrat to say she will support Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary, but would not commit to backing him if he loses and launches an independent bid for re-election. Appearing on CNN's 'Late Edition,' the left-of-center Boxer said she plans to campaign for the right-of-center Lieberman and praised him for his work on the environment and his position on abortion.

"I am going to spend a couple of hours there in Connecticut, just telling the people what I know about Joe," Boxer said on Sunday. "He and I disagree completely on the war on Iraq. I disagree with a lot of people on the war in Iraq. It is up to the people in Connecticut. And they're going to make a decision, and let's see what it is."

When pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about backing Lieberman if he loses the primary to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, Boxer said, "I think we'll all have something to say at that time. But the people of Connecticut will make their choice."

Let the "Republican" debate begin

The South Carolina Republican Party is planning a presidential debate in May 2007 for GOP candidates running for the White House.

"Since 1980, no candidate has ever lost the (South Carolina) primary and gone on to be elected president," Scott Malyerck, executive director of the state GOP, writes in an e-mail. "We believe it is a great test for Republican candidates."

Specific details for this forum are still being worked out.

If only a locker could talk

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff once wined and dined congressmen and staffers in his MCI Center luxury box until his world came crashing down on him. Abramoff is no longer one of the most powerful influence peddlers in town and the arena has changed names from MCI to Verizon. But as the Washington City Paper points out, Abramoff still has a presence in the Capitals and Wizards home.external link

DAYAHEAD/Events making news today

  • President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of Slovenia at 10 a.m. ET in the Oval Office. At 11:10 a.m. ET, Bush attends the swearing-in ceremony of Henry Paulson to be the new Treasury secretary at the Treasury Department. The President and First Lady Laura Bush host a 7:25 p.m. ET dinner to honor the Special Olympics in the State Dining Room, followed by entertainment at 9 p.m. ET. Press Secretary Tony Snow holds an off-camera gaggle at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by an on-camera briefing at 12:30 p.m. ET.
  • The House and Senate both gavel into session at 2 p.m. ET. The House postpones any votes on eight suspension bills until 6:30 p.m. ET, while the Senate considers the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.
  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) was scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. ET to the ACORN National Convention at Ohio State University.
  • First Lady Laura Bush participates in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards at 10:30 a.m. ET in the East Room.
  • Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-Virginia) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Bill Nelson (Florida) hold a field hearing in Miami Dade College in Miami at 11 a.m. ET on immigrants in the Armed Forces. A media availability will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET.
  • Vice President Cheney attends a 12:30 p.m. ET lunch for the National Republican Congressional Committee at the Detroit Marriott in Troy, Michigan. At 1:30 p.m. ET, Cheney delivers remarks to the Michigan National Guard and Joint Services in Selfridge, Michigan. At 7 p.m. ET, Cheney speaks at a reception for Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Kentucky) at a private home in Owensboro, Kentucky.
  • Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at 1 p.m. ET.
  • The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a forum on the "impact of repeated cuts in federal funding for law enforcement programs" at 1:30 p.m. ET in room 192 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends two rallies to raise the minimum wage in Arizona: 3:30 p.m. ET in Tucson and 8:30 p.m. ET in Phoenix.
  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) attends a 5 p.m. ET fundraiser for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) attends a news conference with Iowa Senate candidate Larry Noble.
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) attends a 5 p.m. ET Florida Victory 2006 Dinner with Gov. Jeb Bush in Orlando.
  • White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove attends a rally of Colorado grassroots Republican volunteers at 8:30 p.m. ET in Parker, Colorado.
  • POLITICAL HOT TOPICS

    Compiled by CNN's Stephen Bach

    FOR IRAN, "THE TIME TO CHOOSE HAS COME": U.S. officials yesterday accused Iran of stalling negotiations and said the deadline has arrived for the country to halt nuclear production or face sanctions in the United Nations. "We offered them two paths, negotiations or Security Council action," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told "Fox News Sunday" discussing the incentives offered to Iran if it gives up its nuclear ambitions. "The Iranians can choose, but the time to choose has come." Five weeks ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran had weeks, not months, to respond to the offer made by an international coalition including the United States, the European Union, China and Russia. Iranian officials so far have rejected public pressure to accept or reject the offer. Washington Times: U.S. warns Iran to halt nukes or face 'action'external link

    HE'LL GET SOME ATTENTION THIS WEEK FROM GOP: Congressional Republicans, on the defense over the unpopular war in Iraq, are hoping this week to shift the national security debate to the North Korea missile crisis and to countering terrorism... [S]ome Republicans are turning the international crisis caused by North Korea's missile launch into a political weapon, assailing Democrats for not supporting full funding for the national missile defense program. Boston Globe: GOP turns its focus to N. Korea, terrorexternal link

    WHISTLE-BLOWER, NOT WH, TOLD HOEKSTRA OF "SIGNIFICANT" INTEL PROGRAM: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that the Bush administration briefed the panel on a "significant" intelligence program only after a government whistle-blower alerted him to its existence and he pressed President Bush for details. The chairman, Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, wrote in a May 18 letter to Mr. Bush, first disclosed publicly on Saturday by The New York Times, that the administration's failure to notify his committee of this program and others could be a "violation of law." Mr. Hoekstra expanded on his concerns in a television appearance on Sunday, saying that when the administration withholds information from Congress, "I take it very, very seriously." New York Times: Congressman Says Program Was Disclosed by Informantexternal link

    FRIST WANTS TO WRAP BY OCTOBER...: With a number of GOP incumbents facing difficult re-election contests this year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have scrapped plans to keep the Senate in session through the beginning of October, and will instead look to wrap up work on as many appropriations bills and other "must pass" measures before Sept. 27, GOP aides said. In adjusting the calendar, Frist is aiming to give Members as much time in their home states as possible. The Majority Leader also is hoping to stick to his pledge to complete the work of the 109th Congress by Thanksgiving and is planning a brief week-and-a-half work session following the elections to wrap up work on outstanding appropriations bills. Roll Call: Senate Plans Earlier Recessexternal link

    ...DESPITE "LONG LIST OF UNFINISHED" BUSINESS: U.S. lawmakers returning from a weeklong break on Monday will take up a long list of unfinished -- and possibly insurmountable -- tasks that could help decide whether voters will re-elect them in November. Action or inaction on a series of contentious issues including immigration, pensions, energy and federal spending will determine whether this Congress sheds the impression that it has made few legislative achievements. "I'm not sure what this Congress has accomplished," said Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader. Reuters via Yahoo! News: Congress faces long list of unfinished tasksexternal link

    DETAINEE DEBATE "EXPECTED TO CONSUME" CONGRESS FOR REST OF SUMMER: The Supreme Court decision striking down the use of military commissions to bring terrorism detainees to trial has set off sharp differences among Republicans in Congress over what kind of rights detainees should be granted and how much deference should be shown the president in deciding the issue. The debate is expected to consume the rest of the summer in Congress as lawmakers head into an election season expected to be dominated by issues of national security. The issue reflects the difficult legal, diplomatic and political choices the government faces in dealing with terrorism suspects. New York Times: Detainee Rights Create a Divide on Capitol Hillexternal link

    BILL CLINTON CALLS IMMIGRATION DIVISIVE, "DISTRACTING" ISSUE: Former President Clinton told one of the nation's largest Latino civil rights groups Saturday that the conservative wing of the Republican Party is using the immigration issue to divide Congress and the nation. "It is a way of creating a divided community and distracting people from the real challenges facing the country, whether it is in Iraq and Afghanistan, or homeland security, or how to build a clean energy future, or how to solve the healthcare crisis, or how to create new jobs for America," he said. Clinton made the remarks, some of his most extensive since the issue of illegal immigration heated up in Washington this year, before several thousand people at the opening session of the four-day National Council of La Raza convention in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times: Clinton Speaks Out on Illegal Workersexternal link

    45-DAY "COOLING-OFF PERIOD" FOR JEFFERSON DOCS ENDS: Prosecutors and investigators building a bribery case against Rep. William Jefferson have been unable to examine the documents and computer files seized in a search of the lawmaker's Capitol Hill office. The materials were placed off limits by President Bush for 45 days, a cooling-off period that ended Sunday. Yet there has been no resolution of the court fight or talks between congressional leaders and the Justice Department. The president acted after congressional leaders denounced the FBI's search on May 20 and May 21 as an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion on their turf by federal agents. AP via Yahoo! News: Papers from Jefferson office raid in limboexternal link

    GOP OFFICIAL SAYS DeLAY WILL RUN IF HIS NAME'S ON THE BALLOT: Could Tom DeLay be headed back to the House? A source close to the ex-Congressman tells TIME that DeLay is planning an aggressive campaign to retake the House seat he quit in June if an appeals court lets stand a ruling by a federal judge last week that his name must stay on November's ballot--even though he has moved to Virginia. "If it isn't overturned, Katy bar the door!" says a G.O.P. official. "Guess he'll have to fire up the engines on the campaign and let 'er rip." TIME: Delay Redux?external link

    CONGRESSMAN "NO": Republican Ron Paul missed out on the 19th century, but he admires it from afar. He speaks lovingly of the good old days before things like Social Security and Medicaid existed, before the federal government outlawed drugs like heroin. In his legislative fantasies, the amiable Texas congressman would do away with the CIA and the Federal Reserve. He'd reinstate the gold standard. He'd get rid of the Department of Education and leave the business of schooling to local governments, because he believes that's what the Constitution intended... Paul, 70, has earned the nickname Dr. No for his habit of voting against just about anything that he sees as government overreach or that interferes with the free market. Washington Post: Congressman Paul's Legislative Strategy? He'd Rather Say Not.external link

    HOYER WANTS STEELE TO REMOVE PHOTO FROM WEBSITE: Although he's laughing in a photo with GOP Senate candidate and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wasn't laughing when the image wound up on Steele's campaign Web site. Hoyer asked the Steele camp on Friday to remove the photo. But it didn't look like the Steele campaign was budging. The photo is part of a rolling slide show of snapshots of Steele with different folks at events around the Old Line State. There's even one of Steele, the presumptive GOP nominee, and Democratic Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume, as well as the one of Steele and Hoyer at a July Fourth event in Bowie, Md. Roll Call: Candid Cameraexternal link

    "FRIEND"-ING THE CANDIDATES: Starting in September, politicians will be able to buy profiles on networking site Facebook.com accessible to its 8 million members. That should help pols court a group of voters who are hard to reach. Facebookers will be able to "friend" any candidate they like--linking to a profile as they would a classmate's. Facebook says politicians won't pay anything near the tens of thousands of dollars that corporate advertisers do to set up on the site. Politicians should log on, says Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos politiblog, because young people "hang out in places like ... Facebook and MySpace," which plans a similar initiative. TIME: Be My Voterexternal link

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