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Giuliani speaks up for 2d amendment

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, a strong proponent of gun control during his years as New York mayor, told a Southern audience yesterday that he supports the constitutional right to bear arms.

During a town-hall style meeting, Giuliani focused on combating terrorism, cutting taxes, and ending illegal immigration. Several in the audience of about 200 raised questions about issues at the forefront for some conservative Southerners: gun rights and embryonic stem cell research.

‘‘It doesn’t matter if I believe in it or not — and I do — it is the Second Amendment,’’ Giuliani said. ‘‘I’m a strict constructionist. The Second Amendment says you have an individual right to bear arms.’’

Giuliani earned a reputation for strictly enforcing gun laws while New York mayor.

Asked about President Bush’s recent veto of federal funding for stem cell research, Giuliani said he could support government funding with ‘‘very, very strict limits’’ on the use of stem cells from human embryos.

‘‘The strict limits should be that life is not created for the purpose of destroying life and just for the purpose of scientific experimentation,’’ he said to loud applause.

Earlier in the day, Giuliani campaigned in South Carolina, his first campaign appearance there since his former state campaign chairman, Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, was indicted on a federal cocaine charge last month.

Giuliani said he was shocked to hear about the indictment.

‘‘That’s something he’s going to have to answer for,’’ Giuliani said.

Ravenel’s father, a former congressman who also served in the state Senate, is still working for the Giuliani campaign.

Yesterday, the Democratic National Committee accused Arthur Ravenel of making racist comments, including one in 2000 when he referred to the NAACP as ‘‘the National Association for Retarded People’’ during the state’s debate over removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome.

Clinton: Redirect war funds

NEW ORLEANS — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a Louisiana audience yesterday that federal resources spent on the Iraq war should be redirected to more pressing domestic problems, such as rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

Addressing a friendly crowd of several hundred at an Essence Music Festival seminar, Clinton said the government must focus on helping single mothers and working families find affordable health and child care, improving the lot of the 55 percent of black men who don’t graduate from high school, and helping New Orleans residents still exiled by Hurricane Katrina come home and resume their lives.

‘‘I believe it is an American responsibility to rebuild New Orleans,’’ she said.

Clinton and her chief rival, Barack Obama, were the two candidates hoping to connect with voters at Essence, one of the nation’s premier black cultural events. Obama addressed the gathering late Thursday. (AP)

Conservatives team up

DES MOINES, Iowa — More than 50 religious conservatives in Iowa will lead an effort to convince Republicans to support presidential candidate Sam Brownback.

In a statement, Brownback said the conservatives ‘‘share my goal to rebuild the family and renew the culture’’ and could play an important role in his bid for the GOP nomination.

Chuck Hurley, a former state legislator and a leader among the state’s religious conservatives, will head Brownback’s ‘‘Faith and Family’’ committee. Hurley heads the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center, but he stressed that that role is separate from his efforts for Brownback, with whom he has ties that date to college days in Kansas.

Those conservatives have a history of playing an important role in Iowa Republican politics, such as in the 1988 caucuses when they helped TV evangelist Pat Robertson to a second-place showing. (AP)

You can call him (for) Dodd

MASON CITY, Iowa — Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Paul Simon joined longtime friend and Democratic presidential hopeful Chris Dodd on campaign appearances across Iowa yesterday, saying the political process is too focused on money and not on issues.

Simon said he watched a recent Democratic debate held in New Hampshire and felt the most serious issues questions weren’t directed toward the candidates with the most expertise, including Dodd, who he has known for about a quarter-century.

‘‘The [political] process is not really eliciting the best thinking because it’s focused on how much money is raised and it’s difficult to come around the media and speak to people,’’ he said.

He donned a baseball cap, button-down striped shirt and had sunglasses hanging around his neck during an appearance at a cafe in Mason City early yesterday, where he mingled with a crowd of about 125 people. (AP)