Capriles rallies Venezuelans to challenge Chavez

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans flooded downtown Caracas on Sunday to support opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in the biggest rally to date of his campaign to unseat cancer-stricken socialist President Hugo Chavez.

The athletic 39-year-old walked and jogged 10 km (6.2 miles) in the company of supporters to register his candidacy with electoral authorities, burnishing his image of physical fitness in contrast to the convalescing Chavez.

Capriles hopes to replace Chavez’s state-driven socialism with a Brazil-style balance between free enterprise and social programs, and promises an end to the sectarian polarization of Chavez’s 13-year rule.

“On October 7th we will decide not between two men but between two different ways of life,” Capriles intoned from a stage set up before a plaza jam-packed with sympathizers before entering the election’s council.

“Today I’m the candidate because the people have decided, but on October 7th I’ll be the next president of all Venezuelans,” said Capriles, saying one million people had turned out.

During his speech he looked up to address a group of people in a nearby government office tower that has been used to house Venezuelans who lost homes in floods – a problem that plagued Chavez for months and spurred a major home-building campaign.

“You’re going to get out of there and move into a home, God bless you and your family,” he shouted.

The event marked a shift toward high-profile rallies to galvanize supporters after a months-long house-to-house tour of the OPEC nation in which he sought to win over new sympathizers ahead of the October 7 vote.

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3 killed in shooting near Auburn University

A gunman opened fire during a fight at a party at an apartment complex near Auburn University, killing three people, including two former school football players, authorities said Sunday. Three other people were injured, with one in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said during a news conference that current football player Eric Mack was among those wounded and was being treated at a hospital. Authorities were searching for the accused shooter, who had been charged with capital murder.

Slain were Edward Christian, who had not been playing because of a back injury, and Ladarious Phillips, who had previously quit playing football. The other person killed was 20-year-old Demario Pitts.

Officials also said Xavier Moss and John Robertson were wounded. Robertson had been shot in the head and was in critical condition; Moss was released from the hospital.

“The only connection that the Auburn football team has to this is they are victims of a brutal shooting. Sometimes the young men get a bad rap, I feel like, but they are the victims today,” Dawson said.

Police say Desmonte Leonard has been charged with capital murder and has not yet been captured. Dawson urged Leonard to turn himself in and also said authorities were searching for two other persons of interest.

Dawson stressed that the football team was connected to the shooting only because current and former players were victims.

“Them being football players really has nothing to do with this. They’re victims of a shooting,” Dawson said.

Turquorius Vines, 23, said he was at the pool party Saturday evening at the University Heights apartments with one of his friend, Pitts. He said he and his friend were approached by two other men who started arguing with them over a woman.

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Catholic Bishops declare a ‘Fortnight for Freedom’

In response to the federal threats to religious freedom, pastors in Catholic churches across the country this Sunday are announcing the “Fortnight for Freedom,” a program of public action and special events to “highlight the importance of defending our first freedom.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the period from June 21, when the Church commemorates Catholic martyrs to political persecution, through Independence Day, to be dedicated to “this ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ – a great hymn of prayer for our country,” emphasizing “both our Christian and American heritage of liberty” and constituting “a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”

The bishops call for an “end to an institutional coercion by the government against conscience, and government intrusion into the ordering of Church institutions,” as a letter from our local archbishop phrased it.

In an article titled “A Statement on Religious Liberty,” the bishops make the case that religious liberty is “more than freedom of worship.”

Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith?

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society-or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it…

Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.

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Same-sex marriage to be on Maryland ballot

As expected, opponents of the same-sex marriage bill passed last February in close votes by the Maryland General Assembly gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on November’s ballot. With 55,736 valid names required, the Maryland Board of Elections announced yesterday 70,039 names have been validated so far, with thousands remaining to be checked.

Obviously the coalition which has pushed for Maryland to accept same-sex marriage isn’t taking the contest lying down. Since they’ve expected the referendum to become a reality, they have opened campaign offices and hired staff for their efforts.

Yet while they complain about the National Organization for Marriage bankrolling the petition drive to place the referendum on the ballot, they are more reticent to discuss their financial backing, perhaps because union dues may be heavily involved. Other groups not normally associated with the LGBTQ issue who back Marylanders for Marriage Equality include the Maryland National Organization for Women, CASA de Maryland, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the League of Women Voters.

Read more here.

Comic-Con sport: Fans can pay $70 to be chased by zombie mob

Will you lurch or perch? Do you see yourself more as a moaning dead diner — or as the living lunch they pursue?

These are the type of choices presented by Walking Dead Escape: San Diego, which is inviting up to 15,000 people to sign up for a taste of the terror and bedlam that will reign when the actual zombie apocalypse begins. The event, open to anyone 16 or older, will be staged July 14-16 inside Petco Park as a tie-in to Comic-Con International.

“We wanted fans to experience — as closely as possible — the end of the world,” said “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, who will join the mad scramble of biters and runners. “It’s going to be a fun, messy time.”

The course, designed by Ruckus Athletics and creatively guided by Kirkman, is characterized by intricate, interactive details true to the bestselling comic series, which will be celebrating the release of its 100th issue. It’s a go-at-your-own-pace event, Kirkman said; no one will be timed.

“You can run, jog, walk,” he said. “I’m probably going to crawl.”

Read more here.

‘New Party’ Literature Suggests Obama Paid Dues to Join

In the ongoing discussion of Barack Obama’s involvement with Chicago’s extremist “New Party,” online literature from the Party likely reveals that the young state senator not only was a member but had to commit financially to membership.

This past week, National Review author Stanley Kurtz revived the question of whether or not Obama was ever a member of the Party. Arguing for the affirmative, Kurtz demonstrates fairly conclusively that it did. On the other hand, Joel Rogers, founder of the New Party, tells Ben Smith that it did not. And documents available online suggest that Kurtz is correct and that Rogers is not being completely truthful.

First, there’s a bit more background which is relevant here. Kurtz originally raised the question of Obama’s involvement with the New Party back in 2008. At the time, the campaign denied Obama was ever involved and referred to the allegation as a “crackpot smear.” Ben Smith, then at Politico, wrote a piece in which he quoted New Party founder Joel Rogers to the effect that Obama had never been a member of the New Party because the New Party didn’t have members.

On Thursday, Kurtz announced the discovery of new documents that supported his original claim. In particular, he found minutes of a 1996 New Party meeting which read:

Barack Obama, candidate for State Senate in the 13th Legislative District, gave a statement to the membership and answered questions. He signed the New Party “Candidate Contract” and requested an endorsement from the New Party. He also joined the New Party.

Read more here.