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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How Blogging And Twitter Are Making Us Smarter

Sep 17, 2013
Originally published on September 17, 2013 3:41 pm

Scanning the Internet today, I found a pair of pieces by writer and columnist Clive Thompson — one, for The Globe and Mail, another, for Wired magazine, that focus on how our brains get a boost when we're using social media and blogging.

"The fact that so many of us are writing has changed the way we think," he writes in Wired. "Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public."

Granted, 90 percent of blog content out there is lousy, something governed by Sturgeon's Law. But our willingness to put our thinking out there, explain how we arrived at our positions and share the content that helped us along the way is advancing global knowledge, Thompson says.

The argument is this: Writing in public, whether it's in the form of blogs or microblogs, like a Twitter stream, is forcing us to be clearer, more convincing and smarter. A big audience isn't required. Knowing you write for an audience of just a few people will force you to stretch and grow:

"Having an audience can clarify thinking. It's easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.

"Social scientists have identified something called the audience effect — the shift in our performance when we know people are watching. It isn't always positive. In live, face-to-face situations, like sports or concerts, the audience effect can make athletes or musicians perform better — but it can sometimes psych them out and make them choke, too.

"Yet studies have found that the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to pay more attention and learn more."

That network effect is nurturing. And not only is it great for grown-ups to write so much more, it's also fantastic for students, who can show cognitive gains because of all their short-message composition. Thompson writes in The Globe and Mail:

"Students not only write more, they write more quickly. ..."

"And when it comes to writing and thinking, speed matters. It's what's called transcription fluency: 'If you can't write fast enough, you can lose an idea or a way of phrasing something, and it never comes back,' Steven Graham, a literacy scholar at Arizona State University, told me. In contrast, when you can write and edit more swiftly, you can include more ideas and flesh them out more deeply. The emergence of the cheap ballpoint pen, the typewriter — and now the computer and smartphones and tablets — precisely match the cognitive curve of our students' performance."

Read Thompson's full piece for Wired and his article for The Globe and Mail.

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