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.

Israel made a decision last week that supporters are calling game-changing. Men and women will be allowed to worship together at the holiest place where Jews can legally pray. This could lead to other changes in Israel.

Batya Kallus, who helped negotiate the deal that led to the government decision, is jubilant.

"This is groundbreaking," she says. "We've reconceived what the Western Wall includes."

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

One more twist in an already unusual campaign season - the candidate on the Republican side who spent the most money on TV ads by far is lagging far behind in the polls. The two candidates who did best in Iowa hardly spent anything compared to years past.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is known for being one of the most disliked men in Washington. As he tries to win over voters, his wife Heidi Cruz is trying to vouch for his character and show people that he has a softer side.

Three teenage boys are lugging boxes of donated shoes into a stately neoclassical home in Mytilini, the capital of the Greek island of Lesbos.

Two of the boys are Syrian, and the other is Algerian. For the moment, they live in this house, a shelter for underage asylum-seekers traveling alone.

Inside, Christina Dimakou, a high-energy young lawyer, greets them. "Kalimera!" she says, Greek for "good day" and flashes a smile. The boys repeat the word, giggling.

Readers have waited almost 15 years for a second novel from the acclaimed Alexander Chee, following the highly-praised Edinburgh. The wait is over.

The Queen Of The Night is sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery. Lilliet Berne is the most famous soprano in the French opera. She is offered the role of a lifetime: an original part written for her. But then she sees that the opera must be based on a part of her life she's kept under wraps.

When you think of Iowa, you probably think — lots of white people. And, that's true, but the state is also home to a growing number of Latinos.

Hispanics now make up 5.6 percent of the state's population, according to 2014 estimates from the Census Bureau. To put that in perspective, that means the Hispanic community in Iowa these days is twice the size it was during the 2000 caucuses.

And, this year, for the first time, Latinos in Iowa are trying to systematically organize themselves to caucus.

It's a challenge.

January is supposed to be a slow month for sea crossings. With rough waters whipped up by high winds, rubber rafts capsize, wooden boats sink — and it's cold. You could freeze in the water.

But on Wednesday morning last week, Vassilis Hantzopoulos has already seen 15 boats filled with asylum seekers on a tiny strip of sea separating Turkey from Greece and the rest of the European Union.

Hantzopoulos, a gravelly-voiced volunteer first-responder with the underfunded Hellenic Red Cross, stands on a cliff and scans the sea with binoculars.

It's easy to get cynical about the presidential campaign, especially so close to the first round of voting, when many candidates are on the attack.

But see it up close and personal, and the process can feel a bit more charming. That's what a class from Indiana's Manchester University found as it traveled across Iowa last week, taking in the caucuses.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The NFL playoffs kick off - get it? - with the wildcard round this afternoon. The Kansas City Chiefs play the Texans in Houston. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us.

Tom, thanks for being with us.

[Update: Since this story aired, listeners have come forward with new information on the identity of "Prince" Nazaroff — including some members of the musician's family. Hear Jon Kalish's follow-up piece.]

Vermont musician Jamie Masefield has been improvising on the jazz mandolin for decades. He's recorded six albums, including one with Blue Note Records, and brings everything from folk and funk to the literature of Leo Tolstoy to the stage. But some years back, his eclectic creativity brought him to an unexpected second career.

When I meet Masefield at work, he's chipping away at some pinkish stone with a small hammer. "In the industry we call it 'rainbow stone,'" he offers. "It's very nice to work with."

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No better way to begin a new year than to say - time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Rabbi Reuven Birmajer finished teaching his Talmud class at a religious seminary in Jerusalem last week, and then told his students he had to rush home. Deliverymen were bringing a new bed.

"He was afraid a Palestinian guy was going to deliver the bed, and his wife was going to be all alone," explains student Chaim Zbar.

But it was the rabbi who was killed in a Palestinian stabbing on his way home. Now Zbar avoids going out in the streets.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Sometimes, a good idea and fate collide to create an interesting opportunity. That's what happened with "All American Boys," a young adult novel whose co-authors chose a contentious subject, racial profiling.

In the face of growing protests, police departments across the country are pledging to try to reduce the use of deadly force.

This week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said his police department will double its supply of Tasers and will train officers to use them.

The Fayetteville, N.C., police department will spend the next year and a half trying to implement 76 recommendations issued in December by the Department of Justice. Those recommendations range from better record keeping and better information-sharing to trying to reduce the racial disparity in traffic stops.

Now that we've all had a wonderful time over the holidays, we can begin thinking about the election. Let me begin by saying that there are few things more exciting to me than an election year. Back in the day, I'd be headed for Iowa or maybe New Hampshire about now. Because coming right up are the first real judgments by real people. Over several months, we get to hear what ought to happen from our fellow Americans in states in all parts of the country — in places very different from Iowa and New Hampshire.

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