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.

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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

Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

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A Diagram Of, Based On The People Who Built It

Oct 24, 2013
Originally published on October 30, 2013 12:52 pm

One of the major issues that's emerged since the failed rollout of is that there was no lead contractor on the project. (CGI Federal was the biggest contractor — awarded the most expensive contract — but says it did not have oversight over the other parts of the system.) Instead, the quarterbacking was left to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a subagency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

As it's become clear recently, the team at CMS did not have the in-house technological expertise to be an effective "quarterback" over a complicated and unprecedented tech system.*

The testimony of contractors on the Hill today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee illustrates the complexity of not just the system, but the procurement process that led to having different contractors responsible for separate parts of a whole that were all dependent on the reliability of other parts.

"When you have five or six different people, each optimizing their part of the process, it's easy to pass a performance problem around in an infinite loop," says Michael Slaby, who headed the technology systems behind President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

We tried to draw out each part of based on how 4 of its 55 total contractors described it. But if you prefer reading about their responsibilities, I've laid that out below.

CGI Federal is the contractor that has developed a portion of the federal exchange, the software application known as the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, or "FFM." It's the online marketplace for shopping after you create a secure account, so it's a combination of the website and a transaction processor for taking payments after you enroll.

Tools created by CGI include the e-mail that is sent to the user to confirm registration, the link that the user clicks on to activate the account, and the Web page the user lands on.

QSSI built the enterprise identity management (or EIDM), better known as the front door to It's the registration management tool — the part that allows users to create secure accounts. You have to get past the front door before getting to the marketplace. According to administration officials, high traffic led the account creation, or front door, to bottleneck, which prevented the vast majority of users from accessing the marketplace. QSSI says the bottleneck happened because of a late-in-the-game decision to force users to create an account before getting to browse the plans.

QSSI also built the Data Services Hub that is not actually a hub because it doesn't store data. It's better described as a pipeline that transfers data — routing queries and responses between various trusted data sources. For example, after you enter information about yourself, things like citizenship must be verified. The pipeline directs queries to information sources, such as government databases that verify that information, and sends the responses back to the marketplace.

Data from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security, Social Security and insurance carriers will be channeled by this pipeline.

Equifax is responsible for income verification data for those seeking financial assistance (subsidies) through the new health law. It does real-time verification of income and employment, and pipes it through the "hub." It verifies a user's eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and for eligibility for tax credits and for reduced copays and deductibles for low-income applicants. This happens after a user gets through the front door, of course.

Serco's contract is to handle the paper applications. To date, the company has received about 8,000 paper applications. But, "Our challenges have included coping with the performance of the portal as that is our means of entering data just as it is for the consumer," Serco's John Lau says. The contract awarded had projected Serco to process 6 million paper applications by the end of March 2014.

*To be fair, the federal government isn't structured in a way that is inviting to the most expert technology minds. The way government hires for tech projects treats technology systems like single end products — a bridge, for example — that can be bought and built and left alone, instead of as services that roll out in stages, respond to users, and are continuously nurtured. For more on that topic, check out my Q&A with Mike Bracken, the United Kingdom's executive director of digital.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit



On a Friday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

So far, any effort to fix the government's flawed health insurance website has been overshadowed by finger-pointing. The contractors behind the testified on Capitol Hill yesterday. They are blaming each other.

Here's NPR's Elise Hu.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: High traffic volume was the first excuse for's persistent problems.

REP. ANNA ESHOO: I think that's really kind of a lame excuse.

HU: That's Representative Anna Eshoo, a Democrat whose district includes Silicon Valley. She's part of the House panel demanding answers from contractors who built the beleaguered tech system.

ESHOO: This is the 21st century. It's 2013. There are thousands of websites that handle concurrent volumes far larger than what was faced with.

HU: What's emerged since the October 1st rollout of is that more than just high volume broke the system. A badly built system broke the system. It was pulled together from several discrete parts, each part built by different contractors. That made it easy for each of them to say it wasn't me.

Here's Cheryl Campbell from the biggest contractor, CGI Federal.


CHERYL CAMPBELL: So we never been the systems integrator, and we are not the systems integrator.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So who's in charge as systems integrator?

CAMPBELL: CMS is responsible for end-to-end.

HU: End-to-end systems oversight and testing did fall to CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. The fully integrated system didn't get tested until two weeks before launch. And high level, in-house technical expertise is something many federal agencies just don't have.

MICHAEL SLABY: Figuring out who's responsible for what is always hard. And integration is always hard.

HU: That's Michael Slaby, the chief tech officer over President Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

SLABY: When you have five or six different people working on each optimizing their part of the process, it's easy to sort of pass a performance problem around in a sort of an infinite loop.

HU: The testimony from contractors wound up sounding much like a blame loop, except for when they pointed to their client, CMS. That agency is under Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She will face the same House panel next week.

Elise Hu, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.