Weekend Edition Saturday

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Whether revealing events in small-town America or overseas, or profiling notable personalities, Weekend Edition from NPR News appreciates the extraordinary details that make up every story. This two-hour morning newsmagazine, hosted by Scott Simon, covers hard news, a wide variety of newsmakers, and cultural stories with care, accuracy, and a wink of humor.

Jeralean Talley is the world's oldest living person. She is 115 years old and inherited the title earlier this week from a 116-year-old Arkansas woman who died of pneumonia. She was preceded by a 117-year-old woman from Japan who died the week before. Death, it seems, is a hazard of being the oldest person in the world.

And in the case of those who outlast the rest and earn the title of most senior human, it is often a life well lived.

It's the handshake some have waited more than 50 years for. And the handshake some hoped would never happen.

President Obama greeted Cuban President Raul Castro at a summit meeting in Panama Friday night. Their handshake helped crystalize the diplomatic thaw that began in December, when Obama declared an end to decades of official hostility.

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Wal-Mart, Apple, Angie's List, NASCAR — some of the biggest names in business this week pushed back against "religious freedom" laws in Indiana and Arkansas. They said the laws could open the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians and were bad for their business.

Such corporate intervention is not new.

The Hula Hoop. The pogo stick. The Tamagotchi.

Fads, crazes and must-have toys all sweep the country from time to time. But in the annals of faddish toys, one achievement stands tall — or rather, sits small: the Pet Rock.

It was exactly what it sounds like: a rock (a Mexican beach stone, to be precise) marketed in the mid-'70s as a pet. Each came in its own box with air holes and a detailed owner's manual.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAILHOUSE ROCK")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Warden threw a party in the county jail. The prison band was there, they began to wail.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESPECT")

Guitarist and composer John Renbourn co-founded the group Pentangle and went on to become revered by guitarists around the world. Renbourn was found dead of an apparent heart attack at his home in Scotland on Thursday, after failing to show up for a concert. He was 70 years old.

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Squeaky, salty - it's time for sports. (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Kraft Foods is going through a rough patch.

This week, Kraft recalled nearly 2.5 million boxes of macaroni and cheese that were potentially contaminated with metal pieces.

Also, Kraft Singles, a pre-sliced processed cheese product, earned a nutritional seal from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The seal prompted outrage from nutritionists.

Spring is here, and a number of families are plotting road trips for school break.

Randy Olson, a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University and a self-proclaimed "data tinkerer," believes he's devised a route that could allow a family to hit a landmark in each of the Lower 48 states, from Grand Canyon in Arizona to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Statue of Liberty in New York, in just nine days of driving.

"About 9.33 days, if you drove non-stop," Olson clarifies.

That means no time sleeping or using the restroom — and no bad traffic.

A few months ago, inside her stall in a Mexico City market, Ofelia Contreras showed Monika Essen the intricate handwork on an indigenous Mexican skirt. She pointed out how many months it took to complete the patterns by hand.

Essen is the costume designer for the Michigan Opera Theatre's revival of the opera Frida, and came to Mexico City to get the look of the opera right, since Kahlo was so particular about her traditional wardrobe.

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You can tell which city some people are from as soon as they say...

DONALD SEMENZA: Come on, forget about it. What are you, serious? You didn't think I know that? Of course I know that.

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The U.S. air war in Iraq and Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State is now in its eighth month.

American officials say dropping bombs won't be enough to defeat that group; it will also require fighting on the ground. So the U.S. is trying to put together a ground force in Syria by training and equipping thousands of Syrians.

One big question is what the U.S. will do if these Syrian rebel forces get attacked by the regime of Bashar Assad — and so far, the U.S. doesn't have an answer.

In Miami, officials have announced plans to replace a troubled public housing complex.

Liberty Square, in the heart of one of Miami's most crime-plagued neighborhoods, will be demolished; residents will be relocated to new public housing. Officials say it will improve living conditions and reduce violent crime.

Residents like the county's plan, but worry it may be the latest in a string of broken promises.

A Storied History

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And it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: No need to take in any NBA stars - a new TV contract will raise the team's salary cap before players have to start bussing tables at Applebee's. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us from Portlandia.

When the College of Cardinals elected the new head of the Roman Catholic Church two years ago, Pope Francis was given the mandate to put the Vatican's dysfunctional administration in order.

As the papacy's enters its third year, some of the biggest reforms have been achieved in the Vatican's finances, long tainted by scandal.

Three days after his election, Pope Francis made clear his vision of what the Catholic Church should be when he exclaimed, "Oh, how I would love a poor church ... for the poor."

Here's one story in Washington that just won't go away.

It's the tale of conservatives who are frustrated with House Speaker John Boehner and want to replace him midsession.

The latest murmurs of a coup surfaced after more than 50 Republicans voted against Boehner's plan last week to avert a partial-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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