Obama Bemoans 'Epidemic of Violence'

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By NATHANIEL HERNANDEZ
The Associated Press
Sunday, July 15, 2007; 10:12 PM

CHICAGO -- Standing before a church congregation that has witnessed inner-city violence firsthand, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Sunday that more must be done to end a social ill that is "sickening the soul of this nation."

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 L.A. to Newark, New Jersey, there's an epidemic of violence that's sickening the soul of this nation," the Illinois senator told the crowd. "The violence is unacceptable and it's got to stop."

Nearly three dozen Chicago students have been killed this year, according to Chicago Public Schools. Obama said that figure is higher than the number of Illinois serviceman who've died in Iraq in 2007.

"We need to express our collective anger through collective action," Obama said.

He said the government needs to permanently reinstate an assault weapons ban and close regulatory loopholes that protect unscrupulous gun dealers.

He also said government should support and fund more after-school programs to keep kids off the streets. But some of the burden must also be shouldered by residents who need to do more to raise and protect at-risk children, he added.

"We have an entire generation of young men in our society who have become products of violence, and we are going to have to break the cycle," Obama said. "There are too many young men out there who have gone down the wrong path."

He later added, "There's a reason they go out and shoot each other, because they don't love themselves. And the reason they don't love themselves is because we are not loving them enough."

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, starting an eight-state tour to highlight poverty, said Sunday that America has a "moral responsibility" to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina.

"America needs to be there for New Orleans," Edwards told a small group of residents gathered at a charter school in the city's storm-ravaged Lower 9th Ward. "That's what it boils down to."

Before taking a short walking tour of the ward, he outlined a plan that includes a new Veterans Administration hospital downtown and a jobs program to help 50,000 New Orleans residents gain work skills.

"We are not the country of the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina," the former North Carolina senator said. "We can do better. We have a moral responsibility to get New Orleans back on its feet."

This was Edwards' sixth trip to New Orleans, and seventh to Louisiana, since Katrina hit in August 2005, his campaign said. He was scheduled to return to the state Saturday for the Louisiana Democratic party's annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner.

On Monday, Edwards proceeds with a three-day tour to highlight poverty, a key focus of his campaign. New Orleans struggled with the problem years before Katrina. The tour is set to wind through eight Southern states.

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STATELINE, Nev. (AP) _ Former Vice President Dan Quayle said Sunday that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is sure to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, and the Republican nominee will need to run an "outside-Washington" campaign against her.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson all have the ability to keep the White House in GOP control, but it's not yet clear who would be the best candidate, Quayle told The Associated Press.

"The Democrats are a lot more predictable than our side," he said in an interview after completing play Sunday in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe.

"I think it's pretty clear" Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, Quayle said. "I think on our side, the three obvious ones are Giuliani, Romney and Thompson. ... I think it's a toss-up."

"The person that can hitch on to being the outside-Washington candidate will do better against her because she clearly is an insider," said Quayle. "They all are going to run on that because they know it is going to be her and that's the way to beat her."

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Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in New Orleans and Scott Sonner in Stateline contributed to this report.


© 2007 The Associated Press

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