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, 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.

Time was, the stretch following Christmas Day until New Year's Day was a quiet, sleepy spot on the American calendar. The six-day span hung like a lazy hammock between the holidays.

Not anymore.

Nowadays, the WAC — Week After Christmas — is busy and abuzzing. All around the country, Americans continue to celebrate — Kwanzaa, the Christmas afterglow and the coming New Year.

Amid the aftershocks of the senseless shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., our ever-more-complex society goes on to publicly discuss what happened and how to avoid such tragedy in the future.

But there are also private considerations and quieter questions of how to respond — on a personal level — to suffering parents.

What can you say to parents who have lost a child? What can you do?

This is America, where Thanksgiving is portrayed in popular culture as a time for gatherings of loving families and friends, holding hands while saying grace over a roast turkey, passing casseroles and footballs, reminiscing about the past and dreaming of the future.

But. This being America, we also know that traditions — just like every other aspect of contemporary life — become more complex the more we examine them.

For the sake of argument, let's agree that when we use the word "inauguration" in this particular post, we are talking about the multiday, ball-bestrewn, soiree-soaked, tuxedo-dappled extravaganza that costs tens of millions of dollars and often leaves many Americans out in the cold — figuratively and literally.

File this under the Strange Case of the 2012 Presidential Campaign. It was a long, tortuous trip that ended up at a very familiar destination: the re-election of President Obama.

But along the way, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did garner more electoral votes than a lot of losers, including John McCain in 2008, Bob Dole in 1996 or Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Romney must have done some things right. And he must have done some things wrong.

The balloons have fallen, the bunting's down, and President Obama has been re-elected.

That means Mitt Romney has been defeated — and with him, many election aspects that we presumed to be true. (You know what they say about presume — it makes a pres out of u and me.)

Maybe it's because we're sailing into a new and uncharted century. Maybe it's because of climate change or polar shift or Mayan calendrical mayhem. But the presidential election of 2012 provided a highly unusual, if not unique, set of circumstances.

To many Americans, the right to vote in a presidential election is a sacred and precious opportunity. To others, the right to not vote is just as meaningful. And they exercise it.

In just-released data, the Pew Research Center reports that about 43 percent of Americans of voting age in 2008 didn't participate in the presidential election.

Will the United States ever elect a woman president?

When President Obama — or Mitt Romney — leaves the Oval Office, there will be a handful of highly touted female candidates for consideration as top-of-the-ticket nominees for both major parties.

On the Republican side, the list includes Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and maybe even Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Please line up for this multiple choice quiz:

Days before the deluge descended and the chaos commenced, Americans along the Eastern Seaboard waited patiently in single-file lines to try to influence their destiny. Were they ...

A) Waiting to buy gasoline at a station before Hurricane Sandy hit?

B) Showing up to participate in early voting for the 2012 election?

C) All of the above

Peter Remine says he will know it's time to get serious about rights for robots "when a robot knocks on my door asking for some help."

Remine, founder of the Seattle-based American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots, says the moment will come when a robot in an automobile factory "will become sentient, realize that it doesn't want to do that unfulfilling and dangerous job anymore, and ask for protection under state workers' rights."

If proposals calling for rights for animals are on the table, why not rights for other living things? Plants, for instance.

Before Sam, a white-throated capuchin monkey, threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in Frederick, Md., on a midsummer Friday night, and before Sam and other monkeys — dressed as cowboys and riding shaggy dogs — rounded up longhorn sheep on the baseball diamond as part of Cowboy Monkey Rodeo promotion night, angry animal rights protesters gathered outside the front gate.

Here's a new idea for a Presidential Debate Drinking Game: Every time someone says "Presidential Debate Drinking Game" today, take a drink. Just kidding.

But drinking games have become a familiar part of the American political landscape — like buttons, bunting and bumper stickers. Where there are political rallies, there are protesting groups. Where there are campaign speeches, there are fact checking teams. And where there are presidential candidates' debates, there are drinking games.

Sometimes it feels like everything that should be said about President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney has already been said.

But maybe there is a way to talk about politicians in a fresher, cleaner way — without talking about politics. Like — or as — poets do it. Speaking metaphorically.

Sometimes you can say more about someone by not really talking about the person, but talking about something else. My love is like a red red rose, Robert Burns wrote. He is a feather in the wind, Led Zeppelin sang.

Predicting a presidential winner is one of America's favorite pastimes in an election year.

Generation Y is asking why.

Why is it so hard to find a job? Why is health care so expensive? Smart questions from a smart generation. Their inquiries — and the presidential candidate they think can provide the best answers — could be a decisive factor in the 2012 election. If not the Tipping Point, as least a Tilting Point.

For many millennials, economic prospects are murky.

TO: President Obama and Mitt Romney


RE: Prepping (and primping) for debates

With the first 2012 presidential debate slated for Wednesday night, we thought it might be helpful to pass along a few suggestions — some more substantive than others — to the participants.

When former President Bill Clinton referred to present President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention as "cool on the outside," Clinton was underscoring the notion that Obama is, well, cool.

From one angle, Clint Eastwood's dialogue with an imaginary President Obama — using a tall chair as a prop — at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Thursday night was sharp-pointed and youthful and edgy and film-schoolish.

From another angle, it could be construed as the meanderings of an older man who is disenchanted by a shaky economy, an ongoing war and the perception of broken promises, but somehow can't put his disgruntlement into words.

So far this year 21 tutors — under the aegis of Literacy Volunteers of Harrison County — have helped 80 students in and around Clarksburg and Harrison County.

"Many of the adults we tutor have lost their jobs, and now find themselves ill-equipped to find employment in today's job market," says Director Kim Payne. "Most of them are working toward a GED, but many of them have high school diplomas. However, the workplace has changed over the years, and now most jobs require not only higher reading and math levels, but computer skills as well."

Dave Ballard got the idea of a wacky charity race while watching a YouTube video of someone slip-sliding through a slough of foam. The first 5K Foam Fest was held in the fall of 2011 in Idaho.

A year and more than a dozen events later, Ballard says his group has raised more than $10,000 for charity, with most of those funds being donated to Shared Hope International, an organization that combats human trafficking.

In Crow, Wiconi Wawokiya means "helping families."

The Wiconi Wawokiya, Inc. shelter — also known as Project SAFE — is on the Crow Creek Sioux Indian Reservation in central South Dakota. It serves more than 350 victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

"The needs are great," says the program's director Lisa Thompson-Heth. The center provides an array of services, including crisis counseling, medical assistance and legal advocacy.

The mission of Circles Wyoming, part of a national anti-poverty movement, is "to build intentional, diverse and long-term relationships as people move from barely surviving to thriving."

Trained "intentional friends" are matched with someone who is looking to escape poverty, explains Director Tim Thorson. They do everything "from having coffee once a month to talk about financial goals to going to the gym together ... things that any friends would do."

In August 2004, Tracy Rittel was in a fatal car accident near Fargo. While Tracy battled for her life, her family had trouble finding a place to stay near the hospital.

From that experience, the Rittels created Tracy's Sanctuary House in Bismarck for families who find themselves in a similar situation. Since 2005, some 1,500 families have used the home.

A dozen volunteers "put their hearts and souls into making sure the house is kept up," says Tracy's daughter Kelsey Zottnick.

Every year since 1994, volunteers from the Hattiesburg Jaycees have been holding a blood drive to replenish the area's blood supply. This Friday, the group will be grilling burgers and hot dogs for anyone willing to kick off Labor Day Weekend by donating at the Labor of Love Blood Drive.