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Campaign Notebook

Obama rails against 'epidemic of violence'

Standing before a Chicago church congregation that has witnessed neighborhood violence firsthand, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said yesterday that more must be done to end a major social ill.

Obama told churchgoers at the Vernon Park Church of God on Chicago's South Side that too many young lives are being claimed by violence and more must be done to combat the problem.

"From South Central LA to Newark, N. J., there's an epidemic of violence that's sickening the soul of this nation," the Illinois senator told the crowd.

Nearly three dozen Chicago students have been killed this year, according to Chicago Public Schools. "We need to express our collective anger through collective action," Obama said.

He said the government must permanently reinstate an assault weapons ban and close regulatory loopholes that protect unscrupulous gun dealers. He also said the government should support and fund more after-school programs to keep young people off the streets. But some of the burden must also be shouldered by residents who must do more to protect at-risk children, he added.

Nader at the ready
Ralph Nader said he is considering a 2008 presidential run and accused Democrats of trying to shut smaller parties out of the political process.

Nader, who was the Green Party's 2000 presidential nominee, spoke at the party's national convention in Reading, Pa., Saturday. "No other country comes close to providing voters with such a small number of choices and making third party candidates hurdle an almost insuperable number of obstacles just to get on the ballot," he said.

In 2000, Nader got 2.7 percent of the votes as an independent candidate, and was criticized as being a spoiler. He ran again in 2004 but was removed from the ballot in Pennsylvania and other large states after Democrats challenged his nominating petitions.

Nader said that before getting into the 2008 race he would have to put together thousands of volunteers and pro bono lawyers to defend him against ballot challenges by Democrats. (AP)

Law and disorder
Everyone knows summer television is lousy. Repeats dominate as the networks gear up for the fall. But this summer, the rerun season carries with it some political intrigue because NBC is preparing to air "Law & Order" repeats in which Fred D. Thompson appears.

Hoping to avoid violating a Federal Communications Commission provision that would force the network to provide equal time to other candidates running for president, NBC chief lobbyist Robert Okun has reached out to several GOP presidential campaigns to inquire whether they would make a major issue out of Thompson appearing in reruns.

Under the equal-time rule, if a network gives airtime to one political candidate, it is required to provide the same amount to opponents. In theory, if Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, appears for 10 minutes during prime time, NBC would have to give each of his GOP rivals the same time. If Thompson waits until the fall to make his candidacy official, "Law & Order" fans could get their fill of District Attorney Arthur Branch all summer long. (Washington Post)