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.

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Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

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Van Gogh Teaches Us How To Keep Life Interesting

Oct 10, 2013
Originally published on October 10, 2013 1:56 pm

The two paintings are unmistakably by Vincent Van Gogh. Both show a street scene in the south of France, dominated by sturdy trees with limbs thrust upwards. Both show the same trees and the same houses and pedestrians — almost.

The Road Menders and The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Remy) were painted by Van Gogh in May 1889. They're so alike that they are sometimes called "copies." In fact, they're different: strikingly different in color, subtly different in detail.

These two works of art will be brought together on Saturday at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., along with others that showcase Van Gogh's habit of creating what he called "repetitions." They're variations on a theme, in one case as many as nine paintings or drawing of the same subject.

I learned of the exhibit by reading Henry Adams' article, "Seeing Double: Van Gogh the Tweaker," in last Sunday's New York Times. In writing about the two "Menders" paintings, Adams reports the differences between them and explains which one was created first and how we know. He also notes the tendency for some "overly vigilant scholars" to suspect that some of Van Gogh's copies were fakes.

Van Gogh's repetitions are not fakes — nor, I don't think, are they best called "copies." As the Phillips exhibit underscores, they are better understood as a vital expression of Van Gogh's artistic process. In letters to his brother Theo, Adams tells us, Vincent communicated that he "viewed the repetitions as an opportunity to improve and clarify his initial composition."

At first, I concluded that what Van Gogh did with his repetitions was actually not all that extraordinary. To reach an accomplished level with some skill requires anyone to put in intensive hours of trial and error, success and failure. Musicians practice for hours a day; writers endlessly revise the pages they produce. But then I realized that Van Gogh's repetitions are not really about practice in the conventional sense. They're about looking at one's finished, visible-to-the-public product and deciding to do it again, almost the same, but not quite.

Maybe there's a cool life lesson here for all of us in our day to day lives. It's tempting to be highly self-critical once we ourselves have created something. We may scrutinize the final product intently. We may ask: is it good, bad or merely mediocre? We may wonder: why can't I get things right the first time? We could instead, though, embrace and take delight in an iterative process.

Think of what we do in the kitchen. We find a recipe for a fine pasta dinner, make it one night with this kind of tomato sauce and another night with that kind, tweaking the quantity and ratio of spices, the type and tang of tomatoes. Best of all is when we do this not only for the sake of our taste buds, but also for the in-the-kitchen fun of experimenting and sharing the results.

Gathering with friends to make music or dance, we may play again certain pieces, trace the same paths again with our bodies, over and over, but with slight variations each time. This shared exploration can become a way to create together fresh material as we go along.

Finished pieces of writing may also be reworked. In my writing-intensive science courses, where an assignment might be to respond in an essay to some peer-reviewed article or book, I find that many students expect that their first try is good enough. "I worked hard," they might say. "And I like the result." I ask them to think differently. When I require revisions in their "completed" work, it's not only to correct the grammar or fix scientific errors. It's also to issue an invitation: move those words around, reshape those sentences! Then you can appreciate what happens when a new mosaic of meaning emerges from the previous one.

The Phillips' celebration of Van Gogh's repetitions, beginning this weekend, is a catalyst for reflection. The expression of our own creativity needn't be all about intense striving to turn out a perfect, finished-forever product. Much of the joy is in seeing that what we make today becomes a basis for new things tomorrow.

Barbara's most recent book is How Animals Grieve. You can up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape

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