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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Katy Perry And The New Rules Of Pop

Oct 17, 2013
Originally published on October 18, 2013 7:56 am

Stagecraft does not come naturally to Katy Perry. She does very well by candy-colored fever-dream videos; shooting whipped cream from her cupcake boobs, throwing cartoonishly out-of-control neon-'80s ragers and becoming a B-movie jungle queen all fall quite comfortably within her skill set.

Live performance, though, is a different matter. As the musical guest this past weekend on Saturday Night Live, Perry previewed her upcoming album, and "Walking On Air" put her limitations as a performer (rather than as a singer) on full display. Her dancing seemed both rudimentary and tentative, and the most dramatic bit of stage business — involving a flowing bolt of gossamer wrapping the singer --was largely something that was happening to her, not something that she herself was driving.

Much like Perry's performance of "Roar," where her band wore animal costumes as she bopped along in skimpy (though not quite immodest) leopard print, it was designed for maximum spectacle, all the better to be seen from the cheap seats of the arenas she performs in.

This is the name of the game now, even with pop stars who aren't very good at it. You might be tempted to wonder why she even bothers with dancing and costumes if they don't particularly flatter her. But whether on-stage flash reflects well on her or not, Perry has to do it anyway, because much as elaborate music videos were once all but required in order to survive in the pop marketplace of the MTV era, it's just how it's done.

It's no longer enough for pop singers to simply stand and sing. Lady Gaga has her Gagaisms. Pink does literal acrobatics. One Direction's choreography is sort of there to prove that One Direction shouldn't really bother with choreography, but they still do it. Just about everybody brings dancers on tour and television with them.

Even pop stars whose images are built around being down-to-earth musicians aren't immune. Taylor Swift has elaborately choreographed set pieces in her shows. Alicia Keys, who more than anyone should be able to get away with just sitting at a piano and singing the songs she's written, featured dancers on her recent tour. For "Unthinkable (I'm Ready)," she joined one of them for an überdramatic sequence playing out a tempestuous relationship.

So while it may be easy to say that, sure, Perry's just a shallow pop star who needs all the bells and whistles to distract from the fact that she's not a particularly good or interesting singer, that's irrelevant even if true. Perry doesn't have a choice — even Keys doesn't have a choice.

And that's a tough position for someone like Perry to be in. On the whole, big and flashy isn't a problem for an attractive brunette whose persona relies on cartoonish oversaturation. But doing anything more than throwing on cotton-candy wigs or goofy outfits isn't an easy fit for her. Even her stunt of eight costume changes over the course of "Hot N Cold" looks like someone muddling through her paces, not someone with a natural talent for movement, whether it's for dance routines or sartorial magic tricks.

That didn't used to be a problem for pop stars; unless you were on Motown, delivering a choreographed, production-designed stage show wasn't a requirement of the job. Back in 1983, at the height of her popularity, MTV broadcast a 40-minute concert by Cyndi Lauper, who is in many ways Perry's exact 30-years-ago equivalent. The show was essentially bookended by a winking song about masturbation and a girl-power anthem, while a goofily-dressed Lauper bounced hyperactively around and in front of the stage.

Yet her show had practically zero production value and didn't suffer for it. There was room in the pop landscape for both a straightforwardly-delivered performance like Lauper's and something more elaborate like Madonna's 1984 VMAs performance of "Like A Virgin," with a costume, a stage set and, if not full choreography, then a clearly plotted-out idea of what she'd be doing with her body and when.

But the days of that being an option, rather than an obligation, are gone. As a performer, Perry doesn't lack for energy or engagement, except when she's doing one of the things that she's most expected to do.

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