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Four Democratic candidates for president are slated to participate in a forum on rural issues here next weekend.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and the Rev. Al Sharpton have all committed to attending the event, said Stuart Brody, the Essex County Democratic Party chairman.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut will participate via video-conference. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark will be a featured speaker, as will 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern.

The event aims to bring attention to the plight of rural communities, Brody said.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a possible future candidate for governor, will also participate.

Broadway musicians' union
approves new contract

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two months after Broadway musicians and producers reached a tentative agreement that ended a four-day strike, the musicians approved a new contract.

Members of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians voted 394 to 160 in favor of the contract, according to Heather Beaudoin, a spokeswoman for the local.

The union went on strike in a dispute with the League of American Theatres and Producers over the minimum number of musicians required at a performance.

The strike, which shut down all but one of Broadway's 19 musicals, ended after the union agreed during an all-night negotiating session to reduce the minimum number of musicians in the 13 largest theaters to 18 or 19, down from 24 to 26.

New smoking ban draws
'overwhelming compliance'

NEW YORK (AP) -- The city has issued 37 citations to 29 bars and restaurants for violations of the new smoking ban since the beginning of May, the Health Department said.

Most of the citations were for minor violations such as failure to display "No Smoking" signs or leaving ashtrays in sight.

Health officials said they have received 160 complaints of violations and inspected 1,800 establishments.

"While we have issued some notices of violation, there has been overwhelming compliance with the Smoke-Free Air Act," said a spokeswoman for the Health Department.

The ban, which went into effect March 30, prohibits smoking in about 13,000 bars, restaurants, offices, pool halls, bingo parlors and bowling alleys throughout the city.

Fines of up to $2,000 are set by a judge after a hearing.

Brooklyn Bridge crosses
its 120th anniversary

NEW YORK (AP) -- Gray skies and intermittent drizzle didn't stop Christine Nucci from paying her respects to the Brooklyn Bridge on its 120th birthday Saturday by crossing from one side to the other.

"We're celebrating Brooklyn," she said as she prepared to ride her bicycle across the 6,016-foot bridge with a friend.

New Yorkers with similar feelings turned out to ride, run and walk from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn as part of a day of events commemorating the anniversary of the landmark's opening.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg began the day by crossing the opposite way -- from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

The bridge, designed by John Augustus Roebling, was the world's longest suspension bridge when it opened on May 24, 1883, after a long and difficult construction process.

Mourners gather for victim
of mistaken police raid

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mourners on Saturday remembered Alberta Spruill as a kind, churchgoing woman and city worker who died after the police mistakenly raided her Harlem apartment.

"From this instant on we must have improved practices such that the public is protected," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told hundreds of mourners at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church. "We must always ensure that in pursuit of a crime-free community we do not trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens."

Police mistakenly raided Spruill's apartment on May 16, after an informant wrongly identified it as one used by a drug dealer to stash cocaine and heroin.

The police burst in with a flash grenade, creating a loud noise and a blinding flash of light, and handcuffed Spruill, 57, before realizing they had the wrong apartment. Spruill later died from cardiac arrest.

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