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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Norman Mailer, Warts And All, In 'A Double Life'

Oct 26, 2013
Originally published on October 26, 2013 9:59 pm

When Norman Mailer spoke, you paid attention. Whether he was standing on a stage and speaking for an hour — without notes — on writing, or art, or politics, or in a manic monologue around a dinner table, or in a chance encounter on the sidewalks of New York or in an airport, you listened. Especially if you grew up idolizing him, as many of us did.

Of all the writers of his generation, he had the most public presence, a broad-chested stance, a commanding voice that sometimes slipped into a parody of a Texas wrangler, and a big, full-bodied embrace of the major ideas of our time on war and peace, love and lust, art, health and the American literary tradition. He made the picture of a public intellectual so persuasive in person that young writers (such as myself) often forgot to ask why no women stood at his seemingly peerless side. He compared himself to Hemingway and Tolstoy — admitting only Tolstoy as his better.

Now that the man himself is six years gone, his latest (and admiring) biographer, Pennsylvania academic J. Michael Lennon, has given us a 900-page volume, Norman Mailer: A Double Life, an energetic attempt to keep Mailer's work in the public eye.

It's the first biography since Mailer's death. There were several others during his lifetime, some leaning more toward the life, others focusing more on the work. Lennon tries to balance the two realms. But A Double Life makes for intriguing reading mainly because it's a warts-and-all account of Mailer that uses all of the material Lennon gained from 25 years of nearly complete access to his subject while he was still upright and breathing — and even a few scenes garnered from the accounts of family members gathered around Mailer's deathbed.

The "double life" of the title refers to Mailer's ability to participate in the world, to throw himself into the volatile whorl of sex, ideas, work, politics and family — and yet have the ability to stand back from it all, coolly evaluating and considering. For Norman Kingsley Mailer, born in Long Branch, N.J., on Jan. 31, 1923, both accomplishment and the power to distance himself from it came early in life. As a child, he threw tantrums for no good reason and was known to disappear every now and then into his Brooklyn neighborhood, after leaving a note saying "Goodbye, forever."

This nice Jewish (mama's) boy from Brooklyn had the highest IQ of any kid in his neighborhood, and at an early age he put aside farewell notes and began to write short stories. And, as a way of overcoming his all too present fear of the local toughs, a three-page booklet on boxing — his favorite sport even as a child.

From that point on, as Lennon makes us see, he never stopped writing, going from a novel he produced while still an undergraduate to The Naked and the Dead, his World War II Pacific theater masterwork (which still holds up, I insist, having re-read it on the 50th anniversary of its publication). This best-seller brought him money and fame at 25. Then came so many books, fiction and nonfiction, across so many subjects — war and peace, rocket flight, sports, Hollywood, politics, crime and punishment — that, as a writer friend of mine once pointed out, we might well regard Mailer as the H.G. Wells of modern America.

In life as in art. After his first marriage, so many other wives followed and enough children also that he might profitably (and accurately) have renamed his breakout work The Naked and the Dad.

All of this Lennon carefully enumerates, in a doorstop-sized volume that matches (or bests) the length of some of Mailer's own long books — such as Ancient Evenings and The Executioner's Song, which may be his worst and best, in that order. Unfortunately, Lennon is better at enumerating than evaluating, which is to say, he is better at biography than criticism. He seems convinced that he likes just about everything Mailer published, but he is not always genuinely convincing.

But then, most people who will pick up this biography and read it all the way through will probably, like me, already be convinced of Mailer's powers and his importance, in all his brilliance, various appetites, humor, and pugnacious (once almost murderous) genius. Backed by meticulous notes, Lennon's book seems to come almost from Mailer's lips to our ears — a satisfying experience for fans of a writer who called his trade the "Spooky Art."

How Mailer's work will fare in the future is obviously something we can only guess about. Right now, by his own dictum, we're still only six years out and counting.

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