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Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, who died in 1994, used to give his followers coins. Some thought that these coins were imbued with mystical power. Apparently, those who’ve treasured them stretch far beyond the Lubavitch community.

Curtis Sliwa, a New York radio personality best known as the founder of the Guardian Angels vigilante group, has been in the news of late as one of the witnesses in the recent trial of John A. Gotti, the son of famed mob boss John “The Dapper Don” Gotti, who died of cancer in 2002.

Among the crimes for which the younger Gotti was being charged was the 1992 shooting and kidnapping of Sliwa, allegedly in retaliation for nasty things he said on the air about the older Gotti, who was imprisoned that year.

According to a Washington Post story about the trial, Sliwa was covered in blood after having been shot repeatedly in the stomach by a masked man with alleged ties to Gotti.

The only thing not covered in blood after the shooting, Sliwa maintains, is a dollar coin he got from Schneerson.

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At first glance, the slate of speakers at the upcoming conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy seems a bit short on superstars. Often a big draw for major players in the peace process, the Washington-based think tank only has one representative of the Bush administration lined up for its September 23-25 gathering and no current Israeli or Arab officials. But the discerning eye will be intrigued by the panel discussion, titled “The ‘Freedom Agenda’ In the Middle East.” It features Sandy Berger, a Clinton-era national security adviser, and Robert Blackwill, a former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration. Forget Middle East politics — these guys seem to have some freedom issues here at home: Blackwill’s neighbors reportedly have complained about his penchant for walking naked in his Georgetown home with the curtains open, and Berger was recently fined $50,000 by a federal judge for hiding classified documents in his pants during the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.

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Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s musical sidekick, has agreed to serve as a judge in the Great Shofar Blast Off. Participants in the contest, sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program and set to take place in downtown Manhattan on September 22, will be judged “based on clarity of sound, accuracy according to Jewish law, length of blast and overall performance.”




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