Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday where she sought to use the symbolism of a historic landmark to draw parallels to a present-day America that is in need of repairing deepening racial and cultural divides.

The Old State Capitol — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "A house divided" speech in 1858 warning against the ills of slavery and where Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in 2007 — served as the backdrop for Clinton as she spoke of how "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

Episode 711: Hooked on Heroin

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When we meet the heroin dealer called Bone, he has just shot up. He has a lot to say anyway. He tells us about his career--it pretty much tracks the evolution of drug use in America these past ten years or so. He tells us about his rough past. And he tells us about how he died a week ago. He overdosed on his own supply and his friend took his body to the emergency room, then left.

New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

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Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

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Banned Romance: What's So Bad About Happily Ever After?

Sep 22, 2013
Originally published on September 23, 2013 12:07 pm

As Banned Books Week begins, it's a good time to examine one genre that frequently falls afoul of censors: romance.

When it comes to books banned for obscenity, it's easy to assume that just the naughty bits are getting people all hot and bothered. But what if there's a more subversive threat lurking within the pages of sexually-explicit novels? From Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure to Lady Chatterley's Lover — and even modern day romance novels — there's a long tradition of books starring sexually adventurous heroines who are rewarded with a happy ending. There's also an equally long tradition of either banning such books outright or dismissing them completely. Compare that to many other heroines of classic, required-reading novels who dally with love only to die in the end: Juliet, Anna Karenina, Clarissa, Madame Bovary. What's the problem with heroines who love and live happily-ever-after?

To be sure, there are plenty of erotic scenes in banned books like Fanny Hill or Lady Chatterley's Lover. Fanny Hill tells the story of a young woman in 1740s London who falls into prostitution and has a series of deliciously explicit adventures – one of them, involving a sailor, gave rise to the memorable phrase "any port in a storm."

Lady Chatterley is only slightly less adventurous; the forlorn wife of a paralyzed soldier, she embarks on several love affairs, but it's her relationship with the gamekeeper on her husband's estate that leads to her sexual awakening. The author, D.H. Lawrence, doesn't shy away from explicitly describing many instances of their lovemaking, her discovery of pleasure or — gasp — using the f-word.

What is most scandalous of all is how these books end. After all her shocking erotic romps, Fanny ends up rich and married to her first love — a classic happy ending. Lady Chatterley leaves her husband for the promise of a life with her lover. In short, she chooses herself over all the things that are supposed to matter, like marriage to a wealthy man and delivering an heir. The heroine who loves and lives happily-ever-after is inspiring; she sends a message that it's okay for readers to try this at home. And she's potentially dangerous to a status quo that has long relied on a woman's duty to her husband, children and home.

Perhaps it's not such a big deal anymore — which is why books like Fifty Shades of Grey can become so very, very widely read. But historically, when the social order depended upon an image of women as chaste, pure and dedicated to nothing but their place in the home, novels — especially ones featuring adventurous, pleasure seeking heroines — were looked at askance. They could tempt a woman to escape the house and explore life on her own terms — and where would it all end? So novels became controlled substances, either banned or made too expensive to own (thanks to a stamp tax in 19th century England). And though that didn't stop some women from devouring novels with rule-breaking love stories, a general attitude of derision meant many women didn't read novels – or talk about them if they did.

Books like Fanny Hill or Lady Chatterley's Lover aren't the only ones to give a message that exploration of a woman's pleasure can lead to happily-ever-after. Each year, thousands of romance novels are published and eagerly read by millions of women. Each one contains a central love story — in which sex is not shied away from — with an emotionally satisfying ending. While these books haven't been banned outright (though some libraries initially refused to stock Fifty Shades of Grey), a sense of embarrassment about them often ensures they are kept secretly in bedside tables or hidden away on e-readers. Novel readers — particularly of romance — often deal with snide questions like, "you don't really believe that, do you?" as if to erase the idea that such pleasure-seeking is possible in real life.

Even after it was banned, Fanny Hill continued to be quietly printed and published for the next two hundred years until the ban was lifted in the 1960's. And in spite of all the snark they get, many women continue to read Fanny's modern sisters in romance, and believe that they too deserve pleasure and gratification without fearing punishment. It seems you can't keep a good book down — especially if it contains naughty bits and a happily-ever-after.

Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels (yes, they have "naughty bits"). She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.

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