Don Gonyea

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Certain rituals have grown up around the use of the presidential pardon.

The most common is a lengthy review by the Justice Department on the merits of any such petition for a pardon.

But for President Trump, the pardon seems to have become the ultimate symbol of presidential power — the ability to use this exclusive authority as an act of benevolent largess and as the ultimate political perk.

Ry Cooder has been described as a singer-songwriter, slide guitar hero, session musician to so many other artists, producer, musicologist and historian, a man beholden to no single style, a champion of Cuban and international roots music, and a composer of film soundtracks.

Yet, now a half-century into his prolific career, Cooder continues to carve out new trades for himself.

Don Blankenship is an unlikely hero to the working class.

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"The Dude abides."

OK. As iconic movie lines go, maybe it's not as iconic as "Here's looking at you, kid" or "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

But for fans of the film The Big Lebowski, there are few things better than hearing Jeff Bridges say those words with such nonchalant slacker indifference.

Add Planned Parenthood to the list of organizations looking to take advantage of President Trump's low approval ratings in the 2018 midterm elections.

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Republicans are using tough language in the current immigration debate. They speak of the threats and dangers posed by those in the U.S. illegally. Their words largely echo those of President Trump in warning that immigrants steal jobs from Americans and drag down the standard of living.

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And some news just now - Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat who has spent more than half a century in Congress, just made this announcement.

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JOHN CONYERS: I am retiring today.

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A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it," said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, "and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you're white, you don't get it. If you're black, you get it."

Updated on Oct. 18 a 4:25 p.m. ET

The pushback — and the outrage — began immediately.

Trump was asked on Monday why he had not yet commented on the deaths of four U.S. soldiers who were ambushed during a mission in Niger on Oct. 4. In his answer, Trump turned attention to the policies of past presidents and their contact with families of service members who have died.

On Tuesday, he followed his initial comments with more assertions, offering a specific example. That prompted further rebuttal from staff of previous administrations.

There was a time when the National Rifle Association was known primarily for promoting gun safety and advocating for gun ownership for hunting and home protection.

But that seems a long time ago.

It still does those things, to be sure, but these days the NRA is far more recognizable as an uncompromising political force, aggressively defending its interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, while working to defeat any and all politicians it views as its enemy.

Updated at 3:42 p.m. ET

You might call it "The Schumer Test." It goes something like this: If you're a Republican and Chuck Schumer is happy, then it's likely not a good day.

Ask AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka about the climate for unions on this Labor Day weekend, and he starts with something positive: a new Gallup poll showing public support for unions at its highest point since 2003.

"There's much more excitement about unions," Trumka says during an interview in his Washington, D.C., office just across Lafayette Square Park and with a view of the White House. He adds that, "over 61 percent of the people in the country support unions."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has a tough assessment of what it's been like trying to work with the White House on manufacturing, trade and other issues that helped lure many union members to vote for President Trump in November.

Speaking at a breakfast event in Washington, D.C., Wednesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Trumka said any hopes for progress ran up against another ugly reality at the White House: warring factions within the West Wing, battling for influence with the president.

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So two former U.S. presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, shared the stage last night in Dallas, Texas. They did not talk about the current president. They did talk about finding future leaders to bridge the political divide. Here's NPR's Don Gonyea.

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It has been a very rough year for Uber.

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