Linton Weeks

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.

Weeks is originally from Tennessee, and graduated from Rhodes College in 1976. He was the founding editor of Southern Magazine in 1986. The magazine was bought — and crushed — in 1989 by Time-Warner. In 1990, he was named managing editor of The Washington Post's Sunday magazine. Four years later, he became the first director of the newspaper's website, Washingtonpost.com. From 1995 until 2008, he was a staff writer in the Style section of The Washington Post.

He currently lives in a suburb of Washington with the artist Jan Taylor Weeks. In 2009, they created The Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation to honor their beloved sons.

In the ever-swirling pool of Republican presidential candidates, political endorsements — formal and informal — are being tossed around like life jackets. Will they help the struggling wannabes sink or swim?

"Endorsements are only one of many cues that determine how a person votes," says Robert C. Wigton, a political science professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The tweet might go something like this:

Political convo on Twitter is more opinionated, more negative. Diff from that in blogs or lamestream media, sez new study by Pew. Like duh!

Everybody knows that Ron Paul is a doctor from Texas. Born in Pittsburgh in 1935, he graduated from Gettysburg College and Duke University's medical school. He was a flight surgeon in the Air Force. His wife's name is Carol. He has served as a Republican congressman for years and years.

Everybody knows that Paul has made bids for the presidency three times — as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008 and this time around. And everybody knows he lost the first two.

Will the conventional take on Mitt Romney – that he aims to please everyone – take him to the convention in 2012 and on to the Republican presidential nomination?

Time will tell.

For now, the electorate is getting acquainted (and reacquainted) with the man who has seemingly been in the spotlight his whole life.

What began in the fall of 2011 as the amorphous Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City morphed into Occupy America, a nationwide diorama drama containing many elements of a board game — positive steps, punishing losses of turn and, in some cities such as Hartford, Conn., occasional free parking.

In the crowded race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney may be the tortoise, but Newt Gingrich is the newt. And newts are highly adaptive salamanders that regenerate limbs when wounded and emit poison when challenged.

Conventional — and up-to-the-minute contemporary — wisdom pegs Gingrich as the ascendant favorite, knocking other candidates off their posts and platforms like an Angry Bird.

The hotel lobby in Franklin, Tenn., has an ultra-urban loft-esque feel — exposed air ducts, austere furniture and fixtures, music videos projected onto a flat panel. Everywhere there is lava-lampish aqua and amber lighting.

Sale racks near the front desk display chargers for iPods and BlackBerrys and a variety of snacks, including Cocoa Puffs and Red Bulls. Every room features a media box for digital video and music.

New allegations of an old scandal suggest that Herman Cain has hit the political big time.

In the days following the umpteenth Republican presidential debate — Tuesday night in New Hampshire — America continues to ladle praise on its newfound hero: pizza mogul Herman Cain.

Finally. Something the right and the left can agree on: nuclear disarmament.

On Tuesday, more than 70 notable people from around the world will convene at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. They will beseech international potentates and personages to seriously work toward eradicating nuclear weaponry from the face of the Earth.

To many observers, the idea of undoing what has been done is like trying to put shaving cream back in the can — or, more to the point, radiation back in the warhead.

With his black turtleneck, wire-rimmed glasses and conspiratorial grin, Steve Jobs was arguably the best ambassador ever between androids and humans.

When Jobs died Wednesday at 56 after protracted combat with pancreatic cancer, the world lost a valuable shuttle diplomat between computers and tablets and gadgets and animated robots, and the people who so desperately long to relate to them.

Hurling around a word like "treason," the Chicago Sun-Times has observed, "is the definition of dirty politics."

If that be the case, this particular political season is dirtier than a West Texas hog wallow.

Picture this: An alternate-reality, suspended-in-space American metropolis where steampunk contraptions –- like propeller-driven dirigibles, squeaky trolley wires and clunky robotic creatures –- operate against a backdrop of clanging liberty bells, red, white and blue powder kegs and jingoistic posters warning: "Patriots! Arm Thyself Against the Foreigners and Anarchists!"

The perennial presidential candidate: Like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going. Like Old Man River, he keeps on rolling along. And he is held up as a pure example from the high school civics class in which we were taught that in America anyone can run for president.

He is also, like the majority of people who seek office, an also-ran.

Dispatches from the field: A customer was nabbed by police for sampling raw meat at a Walmart in Pennsylvania. A woman said she had an encounter with a bat at a Walmart in Minnesota. A family of five was living in a car at a Walmart in Florida.

Midmorning on a recent Tuesday in Washington and life is a-bustling at Union Station, the railroad terminal just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. People come and go, sidestepping the Jersey barriers at the entrance, making for the platform gates, some talking on cellphones, others to each other, still others moving in purposeful silence.

Not a soul seems to be paying attention to the security signs or videos.

The headline writers at USA Today put it this way: "9/11 How One Day Changed Our World." National Geographic observed that the attacks of Sept. 11 would "alter the course of history."

But the shocking assaults in 2001 on the World Trade towers, the Pentagon and the planned hit on the Capitol were not the first surprise attacks that changed the way humans do business.

Even though the Virginia-centered earthquake on Tuesday only resulted in mild damage, it did open up a good-sized, good-natured national chasm – between the East Coast and West Coast of the United States.

"Really all this excitement over a 5.8 quake??? Come on East Coast, we have those for breakfast out here!!!!" California-based comedian Dennis Miller famously quipped. The early salvo was cut-and-pasted throughout the Twitterverse,

The news this summer is teeming with trillions. The national debt is more than $14 trillion. In a recent report, the credit rating agency Moody's says the 1,600-plus U.S.-based companies it rates harbored some $1.2 trillion in cash at the end of 2010. The newly minted congressional supercommittee is charged with finding ways to pare the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion in the next decade.

As the U.S. economy takes hit after hit, President Obama is taking heat for his 10-day fun-in-the-sun vacation at Martha's Vineyard that began Thursday.

From the left: Colbert I. King, op-ed writer for The Washington Post, observed: "Mr. President, Martha's Vineyard is the last place in the world you should visit. ... You simply don't have time to take time off from America."

From the right: Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, told the Daily Beast that Obama is "acting like the rich guys he wants to raise taxes on."

Flip-flops are good. Flip-flops are bad. It's summertime and everybody is talking about flip-flops. Political flip-flops, that is.

As the dust settles from the recent Republican debate and straw poll in Iowa, flip-flops keep cropping up like spent corncobs. In the debate, Newt Gingrich "was asked about his position on military action against Libya," the St. Petersburg Times reported. "We explored whether he flip-flopped and rated it Full Flop."

Lions and vultures and bears, oh my.

Animal imagery has been used since the early 18th century to describe human behavior on Wall Street, says Charles R. Geisst, a professor of finance at Manhattan College and author of Wall Street: A History.

With world markets in turmoil, many investors are turning to an age-old safe haven: gold. While the price has fluctuated this week, it has flirted with record highs. But what, exactly, makes this precious metal so valuable? We decided to explore the issue, in verse:

Economic collapse, adrift without maps, lost in a sea with no rudder,
Wall Street is jaded, the U.S. downgraded, financial reports make us shudder.

Call it what you will — an August Occasion, Summery Judgment, Iowa ... wa ... whatever — the hype is hyperbolic this week as Republican presidential aspirants converge on Ames, Iowa, like storm clouds on an open prairie. The candidates will debate Thursday night at Iowa State University and then be subjected to a straw poll on Saturday.

Ah, the Out Years.

During the recent debt-ceiling debate, the phrase became a recurring motif. "You've got to look at the deficit not just in the next 10 years," White House political adviser David Plouffe told NPR, "but does it also produce savings in the out years."

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) told the Los Angeles Times that enforcement of the plan will be the key to its success, but "it's always in the out years and it never happens."

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