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.

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

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In His Silences And His Songs, An Unmistakable Note Of Genius

Sep 25, 2013
Originally published on September 25, 2013 5:22 pm

In my memory, Tarell Alvin McCraney's plays are weighted with silence. It fills the stage like a stone, so that even when characters are talking or singing or shouting, the emptiness echoes hard and heavy.

But that's mostly my perception, I think. Because really McCraney, who just won a MacArthur "genius" grant, writes plays that burst with songs and dances and elegant speeches.

In Choir Boy, which recently played Off Broadway, high-schoolers at an elite school for African-American boys filter their sexual and moral awakenings through their time in the choir, and the songs they sing are a window on their lives. When a young gay man and his homophobic classmate croon "Motherless Child," they leave reality for a moment, not necessarily hearing or seeing each other — but sharing a language all the same. It's a volatile scene about the ways we resemble our supposed enemies.

Similarly, The Brother/Sister Plays, the trilogy that made McCraney's name when it played throughout the country a few years ago, tracks several generations of a bayou community by combining Yoruba storytelling traditions with pop music and the metatheatrical strategies of writers like Federico Garcia Lorca and Eugene O'Neill. Like Choir Boy and Wig Out, which is set in the world of drag-queen balls, the trilogy is restlessly alive, as though the stories will explode if they don't get told soon. McCraney's writing vibrates with a propulsive energy, suggesting massive stakes for characters who are trying to make their (very often queer) hearts fit into the world.

But these are never just "identity plays." McCraney creates rich societies that are equal parts magical realism and salt-of-the-earth familiarity, and I always understand why his characters want to stay in the bayou or the drag house or the prep school, even when they're not sure they belong.

Still, there's that silence. Sitting here thinking about Choir Boy, I honestly ache as I remember those sad, confused kids singing "Motherless Child." I remember the moment their headmaster realized how helpless he was to stop his students from hurting each other, which made him sink down in a chair and sing with a broken heart.

The force of that emotion strikes me as something that can't be voiced. McCraney takes me to the edge of grief and shame, but then he leaves me — and trusts me — to feel the rest on my own.

I overlapped with McCraney in graduate school, and even his student work had that effect on me. His writing has always evoked that awful heaviness of not knowing if you belong. It's the weight of things you can't even say to yourself, things that dominate your mind and your life, even when you're making noise.

I don't know if other people feel this way about his playwriting, but I am always grateful that it moves me so personally — that it pushes past my analytical tools for a minute and just punches me in the stomach. His emotional insight, joined with his beautiful language and inventive dramaturgy, leaves me enchanted.

Mark Blankenship edits TDF Stages, a magazine about theater and dance.

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