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The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":


Bad Sheriff: Murder, Lies And Southern Fried Catfish

Sep 26, 2012

Stephen Marche's latest book is How Shakespeare Changed Everything.

Just as the fanciest chefs will happily eat simple cheese and toast so long as it's prepared properly, literary writers will happily read genre fiction, as long as it's prepared properly. And the best preparer of hard-boiled crime fiction, or at least my favorite, was Jim Thompson. Though he was the pulpiest of pulp writers, he was also the densest and most intense and most complicated. His cheese on toast is like melted Gruyere over crusty fresh baguette.

Thompson wrote dozens of pulp novels, often several in a single year. Which is the best? The smart money tends to pick either The Killer Inside Me, which was turned into a brilliant film in 2010; or Savage Night, which is perhaps the most psychologically dark thriller ever. But to my taste, Pop. 1280 is his true masterpiece, a preposterously upsetting, ridiculously hilarious layer cake of nastiness, a romp through a world of nearly infinite deceit.

The main character is Nick Corey, sheriff of Potts County, the 47th-largest county in what is probably Texas. He really wants little more than to keep his plum job and to indulge his appetites, which are gargantuan if not particularly unusual.

In the beginning of the story, Corey's job doesn't cause him much trouble. "I had it made, and it looked like I could go on having it made — being high sheriff of Potts County — as long as I minded my own business and didn't arrest no one unless I just couldn't get out of it and they didn't amount to nothin'." He lives with his wife and her mentally handicapped brother, and solves his problems by violence, playing dumb and staying out of people's way.

The trick of Pop. 1280 is how this seemingly bucolic surface gives way to violence and betrayal: sexual cruelty, racism and treachery of all kinds. The double-cross is standard fare for noir fiction, of course, but Pop. 1280 is extreme.

Not only do all the characters double-cross each other, the narrator double-crosses the reader at every turn. Reading the book is a bit like playing in a poker game. You find yourself trying to interpret the signals backward. Strength means weakness. Softness turns out to be murderousness. Victims turn out to be monsters, and monsters, victims.

Nick Corey is more than a liar. He's genuinely lacking in self awareness — a quality that Thompson also uses to hide his character's evil motivations. It's an incredibly delicate game to play. For example, once, when passing a cook-shack selling fried catfish early in the novel, Corey says: "I was too upset to eat a real meal; too worried about my worries. So I just ate the one plateful, and then I bought another order with a cup of chicory to take on the train with me." This subtle undermining of the readers' expectations is constant and hilarious.

I can understand why Jim Thompson was never popular in his own lifetime. His cynicism is profound and all-encompassing, and it rips at the superficial fantasies of American small-town life. Jim Thompson's noir fiction is challenging. And it's a hell of a guilty pleasure.

My Guilty Pleasure is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Rose Friedman with production assistance from Annalisa Quinn.

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