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.

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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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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'Blockbusters': Go Big Or Go Home, Says Harvard Professor

Oct 24, 2013
Originally published on October 24, 2013 11:54 am

Movies like The Dark Knight or the Harry Potter series are touted as blockbusters — big-budget spectacles sure to make box office bank.

And though wannabe blockbusters can — and do — flop, like the $120 million disappointment Speed Racer, big budget is still the way to go, according to Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse.

She's just written a book called Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment — and she says the title doesn't just apply to movies. "It is identified a lot with movies," she tells NPR's Renee Montagne, "but I use the term more broadly to describe big bets in the world of entertainment, whether it's film, television, book publishing or music, or a range of other industries."


Interview Highlights

What makes a blockbuster?

The core idea in the book is that [of] a blockbuster strategy — so a strategy in which a company, a content producer ... spends a disproportionate amount of their budget on just a select few of the most likely winners, that that blockbuster strategy, that that is actually the surest path to success.

On her case study of Lady Gaga and Born This Way

What a case study entails is me having access to everyone around Lady Gaga, and actually in fact Lady Gaga herself, and being able to ask questions.

And what I found is that they are well-aware that it's necessary for them to embrace risk, and to go as big as possible ... they realized, we have to go so big that this is not even something the record label can pay for. What we need to do is get a whole bunch of partners. And they partnered up with Best Buy, with Zynga, with Gilt Groupe, with Starbucks, with a whole bunch of players that would make the launch even bigger than what a record label could do.

On whether all that marketing and money really make a blockbuster

In many ways, these are self-fulfilling prophecies. What you get when you put all your resources behind a product, is you get everyone to join in. If you are championing a product, your salespeople will follow and say: Wow, this is really going to be great; we need to support this too. Your retailers are going to join in and say: This is going to be the greatest book that anyone has ever seen, or this is going to be the biggest movie of the season ... If you swing for the fences, lots of people will come and support you.

It's not the only reason why they're so successful, though — we also see marketing advantages; it's much more cost-efficient. If you double the production budget for your movie, you're not necessarily doubling the advertising budget. So in a way it's relatively inexpensive to market these movies.

On the effect of blockbusters on creativity

What we're really seeing is those sure bets are, those sure hits are paying for all these other products. To give you an example, we wouldn't have had Gravity ... and that's a $100 million movie, which is a really, really risky bet for the studio — they wouldn't have made that movie, it's not a tentpole movie, it's not a blockbuster bet — they wouldn't have made that movie if it weren't for all the successes that they had in the past decade at Warner Bros., with the Harry Potters and with the Terminators, and with Inception and with many other films.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.