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Foreign policy has not been a major focus of this election campaign, but whoever wins in November will have a messy inbox when it comes to the delicate tangle of issues in the Middle East.

For decades, the U.S. relied on authoritarian regimes to provide stability in the region. Now, it must deal with a new government in Egypt, an intensifying conflict in Syria, nervous allies in the Persian Gulf — and a major decision about Iran.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. There was a time when the Senate would, every once in a while, use a special tool to protect the rights of the minority party.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Half of official Washington is here to see democracy's finest show, the filibuster, the right to talk your head off, the American privilege of free speech in its most dramatic form.

There's a new stimulus plan underway in America: $5.8 billion is being injected into the U.S. economy, particularly in states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Florida.

We're talking of course about campaign spending, and this year's elections will be the most expensive in history. In fact, by the time we all head to the voting booth on Election Day, nearly $6 billion will have been spent on campaigns — big and small — all across America.

It's The Perfect Music For A Funeral

Sep 9, 2012

Musician David Young is a new-age artist who records the sort of atmospheric music you'd hear in spas or doctor's offices.

For 25 years, he's made a decent living at it. Young says he's sold over a million CDs.

And while you might hear his music getting a massage or in your doctor's waiting room, there's one place you might not expect to hear it. Young tells this story:

Parsing The 2012 Party Platforms

Sep 9, 2012

One overlooked part of the convention frenzy was the party platforms. They seemed to cause more embarrassment than excitement at the DNC, where party leaders fumbled at reinserting clauses about Jerusalem and God into their platform. And at the RNC, Rep. John Boehner admitted he'd never even read his party's platform. NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz to talk about the platforms and what — if anything — they mean in 2012.

The debate over states' rights versus federal power is as old as our country. The latest brush-up comes in a doubly-sticky challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Paul Ryan has a reputation as a deficit hawk. Mitt Romney's running mate has proposed budgets that cut non-defense spending significantly, and advocated controlling Medicare costs by making it a voucher program. But critics argue there's a lot in the Wisconsin congressman's record that undermines his deficit-hawk reputation.

When Ryan gave the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address last year, he restated his commitment to debt and deficit reduction.

Michael Chabon's latest novel, Telegraph Avenue, is named after the famed road between Oakland and Berkeley in California.

In the book, that's also where two couples — Nat and Aviva, who are white, and Archy and Gwen, who are black — are struggling to get by. The two men are friends, partners in a vinyl record shop. Their wives work together as nurse midwives.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, the characters deal with threats to their work, to their relationships and their very way of being. Chabon delves deeply into issues of art, race and sexuality.

For 25 years, the London synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys have done one thing better than any other duo in the UK: sell records.

In fact, they've sold 50 million records worldwide since Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe met at an electronics shop in 1981.

Many people were reminded of the Pet Shop Boys when they helped close out the 2012 Olympic Games in London with their biggest hit, "West End Girls." The duo, however, continues to make new music and has just released their 11th studio album, Elysium.

If you grew up in a bilingual Hispanic household, listening to the Democratic and Republican conventions may have sounded a lot like home.

It's no coincidence that both parties highlighted politicians like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Rubio, whose parents are from Cuba, introduced Mitt Romney at the Republican convention; Castro, whose grandmother immigrated from Mexico, became the first Latino to give the Democrats' keynote address.

If you're one of those people who covet the latest, greatest thing (assuming you can afford it), life's been pretty tough for you lately. The announcements of new handheld electronic gadgets — and rumors of those to come (Apple fans are standing by) — have come so rapidly that it's been hard to keep up with them all.

Twenty-five thousand Chicago teachers are planning to walk off the job Monday if they don't have a contract by midnight Sunday. As the Democrats look to unions to help them get out the vote, a strike by Chicago teachers might just put a crimp in those plans.

On Friday during rush hour, a handful of parents and students stood on a bridge over the Eisenhower Expressway, holding signs that read, "Honk if you support teachers." Among them is Rhoda Gutierrez, who has two children in a Chicago public elementary school.

VFW Posts Become Refuge For Women, Too

Sep 9, 2012

For decades, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts have played vital roles in small towns throughout America. But in recent years, as World War II veterans have passed away, membership in VFWs has fallen drastically, and many posts have closed. Now, though, some are facing a possible renaissance, thanks to female soldiers returning from overseas.

The main room of the VFW post in Rosemount, Minn., is half-bar and half-bingo hall, with long card tables. In a corner, two men on a stage rotate a round cage of balls and call out bingo numbers.

U.S. House candidate Richard Tisei is openly gay. He's also openly Republican.

"You know what, in Massachusetts, it's a lot easier to be gay than be a Republican," he says, "as far as trying to get elected to office."

But Tisei could make political history for the Massachusetts GOP. Not just because they could win their first U.S. House seat in 15 years, but also because Tisei would be the first openly gay Republican to be elected to a term in Congress.

For years, armed militias have been stalking the lush forests in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, committing all sorts of atrocities against villagers. And now one of the most war-ravaged countries in the world has another looming problem: an emerging rebel group.

"A notorious group of human rights violators" is how the U.N. human rights commissioner describes the group, known as the March 23 Movement, or M23.

Headlines today in Turkey feature stories of alleged Iranian spies, gathering information about Kurdish militants who are responsible for many deaths in Turkey this summer.

Bomb Explodes Near NATO Headquarters In Kabul

Sep 8, 2012

A suicide bomber has blown himself up near NATO headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. There are conflicting reports, but The Associated Press cites the police, saying at least six people were killed. The International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, says on Twitter that there have been no reports of ISAF casualties.

The State Department is deploying a new, elite force onto the precarious stage of international diplomacy. More than 80 top chefs from across the nation were inducted into the first-ever American Chef Corps on Friday.

How will these culinary soldiers serve their country? The Associated Press says:

As the NFL's regular season gets under way this weekend, one player is adding another year to an already record-setting career. At 42, Detroit Lions place kicker Jason Hanson is the oldest active player in the NFL.

And despite playing a notoriously tenuous position, Hanson has also been with one team longer than anyone in the history of the league — no small feat in an industry where players often switch teams in search of a bigger paycheck or where a missed kick can cost you your career.

A High-Pressure Position

The weekends on All Things Considered series Movies I've Seen A Million Times features filmmakers, actors, writers and directors talking about the movies that they never get tired of watching.

For actor-writer-director Jon Favreau, whose credits include Swingers, Rocky Marciano, The Replacements and Iron Man, the movie he could watch a million times is Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets.


INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On when he first saw the film

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, St. Pete.

RAZ: President Obama campaigning today in St. Petersburg, Florida, two days after accepting his party's nomination for president...

OBAMA: I am fired up.

RAZ: ...where his new stump speech emphasizes job creation.

OBAMA: We can keep giving more tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas just like the other side is arguing for.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

Week In News: The Post-Convention Push

Sep 8, 2012

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

MITT ROMNEY: In the last four years, we've seen that promise fade away. Hispanics are hurting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: But Mitt Romney would break that promise, replace your benefits with a voucher.

RAZ: Some of the latest political ads coming out of the Romney and Obama campaigns. James Fallows of The Atlantic joins me now, as he does most Saturdays, for a look behind the headlines. Jim, welcome.

JAMES FALLOWS: Hello, Guy.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama won nearly all the African-American vote. And this year, a recent poll found that less than 1 percent of black voters will back Mitt Romney. But in Ohio, as NPR's Allison Keyes found out, some black voters are agonizing over whether to vote in November at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

For many people, the definitive soundtrack of the mid-1990s was a band out of Virginia with unusual instrumentation and an unmistakable sound. Born and partially raised in South Africa, Dave Matthews was a bartender in the college town of Charlottesville when he founded the Dave Matthews Band in 1991. Two decades on, the group has sold 40 million records and become one of the biggest live acts in the world.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Now that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in charge of raising really big dollars for a superPAC that supports President Obama, wealthy Democrats all over the country may be eyeing their phones nervously.

Emanuel, the former Obama White House chief of staff, is known for not taking no for an answer and for aggressively going after what he wants.

Indeed, he's a ferocious fundraiser who gets to the point, often throwing in an epithet or two for emphasis, just the sort of rainmaker needed by Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama superPAC that desperately needs cash.

Split Polls In Iowa Boost State's Importance

Sep 8, 2012

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The bright lights of the political conventions dimmed. President Obama and Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail Friday. Both candidates headed for the politically critical states of Iowa and New Hampshire. We asked reporters in those both those places to find out how voters are feeling about the two questions that dominated the conventions: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? And which presidential candidate has the best plan for country? We go first to Sarah McCammon of Iowa Public Radio.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Once again, this week, European officials sat down and tried to figure out what to do about the debt crisis, and once again, they came up with a plan that they say will help heavily indebted countries, including Spain and Italy, turn a corner. Investors seemed to like the plan. Stock prices rose, but the plan still faces hurdles, including a major court ruling in Germany next week.

NPR's Jim Zarroli joins us from Berlin. Jim, thanks for being with us.

The Burn Of Unemployment Still Stings New Hampshire

Sep 8, 2012

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JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: I'm Josh Rogers in Concord, New Hampshire. Pretty much every poll in this race shows the Granite State as a tossup. Economic issues tend to dominate here, and even though New Hampshire has weathered the recession relatively well - unemployment stands at just 5.2 percent - you wouldn't know it by talking to voters at Manchester's Red Arrow Diner.

NEAL POITRAS: I ran into a tough situation where I actually bought a house five years ago and I just recently sold it for a $46,000 loss.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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