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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Love Story Electrifies Beneath The Silhouette 'Of Venus'

Sep 15, 2013

Roxana Robinson's latest book is Sparta.

I fell in love with Shirley Hazzard in 1980, when her great book Transit of Venus came out. I was completely dazzled by the beauty and authority of her writing, and by the effortless way she created this world.

The novel opens with a description of a storm. The air is charged with unthinkable violence, a sense of atmospheric threat which will recur throughout the book:

It was simply that the sky, on a shadeless day, suddenly lowered itself like an awning. Purple silence petrified the limbs of trees and stood crops upright in the fields like hair on end. Whatever there was of fresh white paint sprang out from downs or dunes, or lacerated a roadside with a streak of fencing. This occurred shortly after midday on a summer Monday in the south of England.

I loved the confidence of Hazzard's voice, and the way she evokes this scene so vividly and surprisingly: the crops standing upright "like hair on end," the white streaks lacerating the roadside. Her language is electrifying, like the moment she describes.

When I finished the book, at once I read all her other fiction — at the time, two novels and two collections of stories — and wished there was more. I became a fervent proselytizer ... "Have you read Shirley Hazzard?" And she became a touchstone: someone who loved her work was someone whose taste I trusted.

Transit of Venus is still my favorite of her books. Everything about the writing is elegant: the language, the moral architecture, the intellectual reach, the narrative structure. The sentences are beautiful, but they're also powerful, economical and arresting. They drive the narrative and inform the reader, while still dazzling us.

The plot is reminiscent of Henry James: Two beautiful young Australian sisters arrive in post-war London, where they encounter the men they'll know for the rest of their lives. Grace is fair, timid, conventional; Caro is dark, reserved and fiercely intelligent. Grace meets Christian Thrale, a successful and self-centered bureaucrat, whom she'll marry. Caro meets Ted Tice, a ginger-haired astronomist, awkward and brilliant, who falls in love with her. But Caro falls in love with Paul Ivory, a handsome playwright who treats her badly. None of these three marry each other: Paul marries a cold and beautiful aristocrat; Caro, a rich and distinguished American. That's not the end of the story, but it's all I'll tell you. The whole story is more complicated and more tragic, and it unfolds with calm inexorability.

It's also fun to read, thanks to Hazzard's lively, playful writing. Here's how she describes a pompous suitor: "It was hard to imagine the Major in wooing mood. One suspected he had never courted anything but disaster." When Caro's marriage elevates her social status from dubious Australian spinster to rich American wife, Hazzard explains, "Caro was now endorsed, valuable: an obscure work newly attributed to a master."

The Jamesian themes are explored — beauty and innocence, power and corruption, England and her colonies. But Hazzard has her own themes as well: sexual betrayal, international politics and gender wars. The narrative is both darker and warmer than James, and it's also a great and tragic love story.

Hazzard sets the human story against a larger and more majestic background: astronomy, with its remote celestial arcs. The transit of Venus occurs, rarely, when the planet passes across the face of the sun and appears in bold and flaming silhouette. It's a driving metaphor throughout the book as Ted Tice creates the arc of his career, succeeding brilliantly in his profession. Love itself, vast, demanding and mysterious, is the overriding presence.

Reading Hazzard is like walking in an enchanted garden. Her mastery and control are such that every leaf and petal, every path and pond, every vista is both exquisite and perilous. We know we're in the hands of a master, but we don't know what she'll do with us.

And isn't that how we want to feel when we read? Dazzled, breathless, entranced — stood upright, like hair on end?

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