Not Area 51, but close. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has won the Libertarian Party's nomination for the presidency. He said he would appeal to voters fed up with the traditional two-party system this November. Johnson was a long-shot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination when he announced in December that he would instead pursue the Libertarian ticket. He won 74 percent of the vote on the first ballot in Las Vegas, an unusual showing of solidarity for the famously contentious Libertarian Party. In 2008, for example, Libertarian delegates needed six rounds of voting to pick a presidential nominee. Johnson holds positions that conservatives will likely find attractive, such as lower taxes and smaller government. But his position on same-sex marriage and marijuana-he's for both-are deal-breakers for social conservatives. Don't expect him to win anywhere. That said, he is an experienced campaigner, and when Ron Paul gets out of the race, some of his supporters will likely head to the Libertarian Party. So Johnson will likely do better than the asterisk showing the Libertarian Party typically gets, and in some states-especially Western swing states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona-he might do well enough to influence the outcome of the election.
Unreasonable. May 3 was the National Day of Prayer, and millions of Americans participated. It was also a day atheists, humanists, and others set aside as the National Day of Reason (NDR). NDR began in 2003 and has since spread to-well it hasn't spread much, because as it turns out, atheists are so self-centered they have a hard time with cooperative actions. That said, one group in Putnam, Conn., held a Bible exchange: Turn in a Bible and receive a free copy of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species.
Is the death penalty dying? The campaign to abolish the death penalty is getting new life. On April 25, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, signed a bill repealing the death penalty in his state. A separate proposal has qualified for the November ballot in California that would shut down the largest death row in the country and convert inmates' sentences to life without parole. A new study by the National Research Council said there have been no reliable studies to show that capital punishment is a deterrent to homicide. And last fall a Gallup Poll found support for the death penalty had slipped to 61 percent nationally, the lowest level in 39 years. Even Texas is having second thoughts: The state's 13 executions in 2011 marked the lowest number in 15 years. Among the reasons for the shift in attitude is cost. According to Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, the current system is "obscenely expensive." According to USA Today, "In the past 34 years in California, just 13 people have been executed as part of a system that costs $184 million per year to maintain."
Angry queers. Mark Driscoll just can't catch a break. When Seattle-based Mars Hill Church planted a church last October in Portland, a city that is even more proud of its weirdness than Seattle, even the evangelical community was divided in its response. Some said, "The more merrier," and welcomed the new church. Others said Driscoll's approach would undermine the work of evangelicals who had been laboring in the city for years, and it implied that the churches already operating in Portland were falling down on the job. Now, a group calling itself "Angry Queers" has vandalized the church. On April 24, stained glass and other windows were broken at the Mars Hill Church. "Neighbors of the church reported seeing several young adults in black masks throwing large rocks into the windows," a church news release said. "Police stated that a bank in the area was also vandalized in the same way and that they believe the vandalism was planned ahead of time, most likely by an activist group." The leader of the Portland congregation, Tim Smith, wrote in a Facebook post, "The good news is our church is off to a great start. A few piles of broken glass doesn't change anything for us."