Scott Simon

This week President Trump said of China's president Xi Jinping, "Well, he's a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We've gotten to know each other very well. A great leader ... I like being with him a lot. And he's a very special person."

For parents, the thought of a child being sick or hurt can be a heart-stopper. Fortunately, for those who do confront such realities, there are doctors like Kurt Newman.

Newman is president and CEO of Children's National Health System, known as Children's National, in Washington, D.C. He started there as a surgeon more than 30 years ago.

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I wait all week to say time for sports.

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a brilliant, scalding and essential play that is often revived. But the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't present the play this fall because the estate of the playwright, Edward Albee, won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.

The play's director, Michael Streeter, refuses to fire an actor for the color of his skin.

"I am furious and dumbfounded," he wrote on Facebook.

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The official portrait of Pat Quinn, the former governor of Illinois, was unveiled this week at the state Capitol in Springfield. There was a little more attention to the ritual this time because Pat Quinn is the first governor of Illinois in a while who hasn't left office and gone to prison.

Four of the state's last nine governors have been sent to prison. Illinois' unofficial motto may be, "A State So Great, The Governor Makes Your License Plate."

One of the world's most lauded novelists has produced her first collection of short stories in decades. The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories is by Penelope Lively, who won the Man Booker Prize in 1987 for Moon Tiger and had a bestseller in How it All Began. Her latest is a collection that looks at life in ancient Pompeii, and modern-day western metropolises. They are often short, even for short stories — and subtly simple, or, if you prefer, deceptively nuanced.

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There is a photograph that's been seen around the world this week. It seems to hold both civilization and destruction in the same frame.

The photo shows a white-haired man sitting on a bed in the midst of rubble. He sits in front of broad windows, which have been shattered; and gauzy white curtains, which flap like wounded white birds.

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We keep on learning from great lives.

On Oct. 16, 1939, just weeks after Germany invaded Poland and Britain was at war, Winston Churchill, who had warned of Germany's wicked and avaricious ambitions, was called out of political isolation to become First Lord of the Admiralty and drafted an essay in which he asked, perhaps himself as much as anyone who would read it, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

Amnesty International released a report this week that may make you wonder how much of what we conscientiously report as important news truly is by comparison.

The human rights group, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, says as many as 13,000 opponents of Bashar Assad have been hanged in the Saydnaya prison on the outskirts of Damascus.

It is worth repeating that number: as many as 13,000 people, hanged to death.

The researchers interviewed 84 people, including former guards, a military judge, and 31 people who were held in two buildings of the prison.

I am surrounded by Mary Tyler Moores: smart, strong, independent women who have enriched the news business, and, for that matter, our world.

When Mary Tyler Moore died this week, at the age of 80, a lot of women in the news business — and women who are lawyers, teachers, accountants, and software engineers — cited Mary Richards, the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 to 1977, as an inspiration.

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The great British actor John Hurt has died. He got his start early, said he appeared in front of an audience for the first time when he was just 9 years old.

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There is a funeral service for Ashley Theriot in Pensacola, Fla. today. She was just 32, and a gifted freelance writer.

The death of a vibrant young person is a tragedy in all ways. But the person who dies can leave a gift for someone else to go on. That can be a flesh and blood blessing.

Ashley Theriot returned from Colombia on Jan. 1 and began to have seizures. She turned out to have a rare tear in the artery of her brain stem.

They Said 'Never Again'

Dec 18, 2016

Aleppo has been slaughtered right in front of us — almost bomb by bomb, brick by brick, drop by drop.

The civilians — women, men, and children, we might remind ourselves — have died by bombardment, shooting and sniper fire, and lack of medical care in the four-year siege of Aleppo, which came to a brutal close this week.

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I always had a wonderful time in Fidel Castro's Cuba, and usually wound up feeling bad about it.

The island is beautiful, the people even sunnier: warm and friendly, especially to Americans. The responsables — government minders — assigned to each reporting crew would tease me about being from Chicago.

"Your mobsters used to run this place," they'd say. "Sam Giancana, The Godfather. You made our men bellboys and our women prostitutes." And then they'd treat you to mojitos and fabulous music.

A lot of us live in bubbles. The bubbles that took some pot-shots this week are the ones in which pundits, reporters, and other opinion-flingers who seemed dead-solid-certain that Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States on Tuesday live, work, breathe the same air, and seem to exhale similar opinions.

I know baseball is not real life.

While Chicago's streets teemed with loud whoops and waving banners as the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, 18 more people were killed over two days on the south and west sides of the city. The number of homicides in Chicago has surged past 600 this year. 2016 could be the city's deadliest year in nearly 20, and the people in those afflicted neighborhoods, usually a long way from Wrigley Field, will remember this year more for their losses than any World Series victory.

I have a special respect for political losers. Losing can reveal a candidate's character in a humbling, vulnerable moment.

An Ohio politician who lost a race for governor once explained to me that most politicians are used to being popular. They were often class officers and top athletes as kids, who become lawyers, professors, or business owners. They get used to people listening to them, and laughing at their jokes.

What's in a name?

The Chicago White Sox, mired in in the middle of the American League Central division, announced this week they've signed a 13 year deal to rename the park where they play Guaranteed Rate Field.

Guaranteed Rate is a home loan company, headquartered in Chicago.

But as Rick Morrisey wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, "Guaranteed Rate Field. You're kidding, right? Was Year End Clearance Sale Stadium already taken?"

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As what President Francois Hollande has described as "this unspeakable act" was probably underway in Nice, my family and I were enjoying the same kind of Bastille Day festivities in Deauville, Normandy.

The fireworks along the beach were spectacular, streaking the sky with stripes of red and blue and starbursts of bright, white light.

It somehow just seems right the last A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor will be heard tonight, on this weekend of flags, parades, and lemonade stands. The show was recorded last night at the Hollywood Bowl.

The first Prairie Home Companion was in 1974, and all of us who share this sliver on the radio spectrum know we wouldn't be in business if Garrison Keillor hadn't made a new thing called public radio truly sing.

Orlando has had a hell of a week. Few cities have endured such heartbreak over just a few days.

49 people were shot to death at Pulse nightclub. Lane Graves, a two-year-old boy, was dragged to his death by an alligator at a Disney resort. And Christina Grimmie, a 22 year-old singer, was shot to death at another nightspot — all within a week.

Each death was a tragedy, that struck in a sunny place where millions go to have fun.

I flew back and forth to Chicago this week, and here were lots of passengers, myself included, who groused about the long, slow security lines: where schoolgirls have to kick off their pink running shoes, that can seem to take forever to unlace and re-lace; and convalescent senior citizens are made to limp out of their wheelchairs to walk through metal detectors and body scanners; and traveling salespeople who have to heft their bulky black cases onto conveyors, and shake their small, tired see-through bags of toiletries to show they're not carrying incendiary materials.

There is a cease-fire in Syria. Really. The 17 nations of the International Syria Support Group signed it in February. The United States, Russia, the European Union and United Nations can all say they negotiated a cease-fire.

But in just 48 hours this week, an average of one Syrian has been killed every 25 minutes. One Syrian has been wounded every 13 minutes.

Staffan de Misturahe, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, has said that the cease-fire is "still alive, but barely."

Which, is, perhaps, as close as a diplomat can get to saying it's no more.

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