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

1 hour ago

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

4 hours ago
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Julian Barnes 'Levels' With Us On Love, Loss And Ballooning

Sep 26, 2013

"Every love story is a potential grief story," Julian Barnes writes in Levels of Life, a quirky but ultimately powerful meditation on things that uplift us — literally, as in hot air balloons, and emotionally, as in love — and things that bring us crashing to earth: to wit, that great leveler, the death of a loved one.

In this slim, tripartite book, Barnes tenuously attempts to juxtapose several disparate subjects: 19th century French portrait photographer Nadar, who first succeeded in photographing the earth from above, allowing us "to look at ourselves from afar, to make the subjective suddenly objective"; Fred Burnaby, a "balloonatic" officer in the British Royal Horse Guards willing to risk soaring across the English Channel without a cork vest, but nearly sunk when spurned in his ardent attempt to marry Sarah Bernhardt; and Barnes' own flattening grief after the sudden death of his wife, literary agent Pat Kavanagh, from a brain tumor in 2008.

The tricky synthesis Barnes is after doesn't quite come off. We read the opening nonfiction section, "The Sin of Height," and the quasi-fictional "On the Level," intrigued but somewhat baffled by his fascination with 19th century aeronautics and weighted down by his belabored extended metaphors of soaring and crashing. "You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed," he begins, later adding what could serve as commentary on this book: "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Yet Levels of Life takes flight with its third, autobiographical section, "The Loss of Depth." After a vigil that lasted just "thirty-seven days from diagnosis to death," Barnes crash-landed into widowerhood. Normally so crisp and circumspect, Barnes writes movingly, "We were together for thirty years. I was thirty-two when we met, sixty-two when she died. The heart of my life; the life of my heart." What was taken away, he insists, was "greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible."

He scrutinizes the down-to-earth landscape of grief, from "the Desert of Loss" to the "Bog of Self-Pity," and rails at the thoughtless things people say, such as advice to get a dog. But although probing deeply personal emotions, this is no confessional. Barnes avoids particulars, neither mentioning his wife's name nor sharing all the "last things" he tells us he remembers so clearly: "the last book she read," "her last spoken word." In doing so, his book's focus becomes his grief rather than his wife, "her-lessness" rather than her.

Barnes' preoccupation with mortality predates this loss. In his 2008 memoir, Nothing to Be Frightened Of, written before her diagnosis, he discussed his fear of end-of-life oblivion — the nothingness after death — and commented that death is "the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about." He also broached the subject of grief in his short story "Marriage Lines," from his 2011 collection, Pulse, about a widower returning alone to a formerly happy vacation spot.

Among the many trenchant questions Barnes poses in Levels of Life is what constitutes success in mourning: "Does it lie in remembering or in forgetting?" He contemplates suicide, but is stayed by the realization that his wife lives through his memories. Yet, "You ask yourself: what happiness is there in just the memory of happiness?"

Most of all, he misses the sharing and tries to keep up his end of their running conversation. "This is what those who haven't crossed the tropic of grief often fail to understand: the fact that someone is dead may mean that they are not alive, but doesn't mean that they do not exist," he writes. But with "no echo coming back," "everything you do, or might achieve thereafter, is thinner, weaker, matters less" — including, presumably, his 2011 Booker Prize for his elegant most recent novel, The Sense of an Ending.

Although Barnes contends, after E.M. Forster, that one grief "throws no light upon another," there is solace aplenty in reading of others' emotional struggles and resilience. For its unsparing contemplation of grief, Levels of Life merits a place beside C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Calvin Trillin's About Alice, John Bayley's Elegy for Iris, Joyce Carol Oates' A Widow's Story and Donald Hall's Without on the growing shelf of literature about spousal bereavement.

"Sorrow is a kind of rust of the soul," Barnes quotes Samuel Johnson. Levels of Life boldly and beautifully buffs the corrosion.

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