Weekend Edition Saturday

Saturday mornings are made for Weekend Edition Saturday, the program wraps up the week's news and offers a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts, sports, entertainment, and human interest stories. The two-hour program is hosted by NPR's Peabody Award-winning Scott Simon.

Drawing on his experience in covering 10 wars and stories in all 50 states and seven continents, Simon brings a humorous, sophisticated and often moving perspective to each show. He is as comfortable having a conversation with a major world leader as he is talking with a Hollywood celebrity or the guy next door.

Weekend Edition Saturday has a unique and entertaining roster of other regular contributors. Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, talks about music. Daniel Pinkwater, one of the biggest names in children's literature, talks about and reads stories with Simon. Financial journalist Joe Nocera follows the economy. Howard Bryant of EPSN.com and NPR's Tom Goldman chime in on sports. Keith Devlin, of Stanford University, unravels the mystery of math, and Will Grozier, a London cabbie, talks about good books that have just been released, and what well-read people leave in the back of his taxi. Simon contributes his own award-winning essays, which are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant.

Weekend Edition Saturday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States, and around the globe on NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

Kraft Foods recently announced a massive recall of its macaroni and cheese. The company — and the processed food industry in general — are hitting some stressful times.

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.

"I am really shocked that this would be the first thing that the academy would choose to endorse," children's nutrition advocate Casey Hinds told the New York Times.

The academy said the seal is not an endorsement, but recognition that Kraft supports its Kids Eat Right program. Kraft declined to comment.

Kraft is one of a number of processed food companies that are facing challenges from many directions.

The company specializes in cheeses, salad dressings and Oscar Mayer meats — things that are typically used to make sit-down meals. But sit-down meals are not what consumers are buying, says Jared Koerten, senior food analyst with market-research firm Euromonitor.

"When you look sort of at the broader U.S. food landscape, you're seeing a big shift toward snack foods," Koerten says. "Some people have called it the 'snackification of U.S. food.' "

Another challenge: a younger generation that prefers artisanal brands with a healthier image.

Koerten says the trend toward healthier foods is a challenge for all packaged products, which may still dominate supermarket shelves, but which are losing ground when it comes to social-media marketing. Some, like Campbell's Soup, are trying to adapt their brands toward more organic or healthy options, says Barry Weinstein a food-manufacturing consultant based in Fullerton, Calif.

"They're taking the Campbell's line, that's a brand that's been around for a long time, and they're just trying to update it and make it appeal to evolving consumer tastes," Weinstein says.

Weinstein helps independent food startups manufacture in small batches, and says his business has increased 30 or 40 percent since 2008. He says the big players are also buying into the new markets.

"I think Kraft and other larger firms are addressing this through acquisition," he says.

General Mills, for example, bought organic mac and cheese brand Annie's last year. Coca-Cola acquired Honest Tea four years ago.

But, Weinstein says, mainstream brands are still king, and although consumers are clearly more skeptical about processed foods, given the volume, he says the vast majority are safe to eat.

"You're talking about a situation where the lines are running [and] producing anywhere from 250 to 1,000 units per minute," he says.

He says the U.S. still has the safest food manufacturing in the world, and the fact that Kraft identified and recalled all that mac and cheese means the system worked.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Randy Olson's algorithm devised the optimal driving route to 50 tourist spot...
Planning your next road trip? A Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University has an algorithm that will plot the best route to take to see any number of sites. But it won't plan your bathroom breaks.

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.

Olson tells NPR's Scott Simon that he and his team spent a few days deciding where to go, based on a set of criteria: They had to hit at least one spot in each state; they had to be national parks, natural landmarks or national historic sites; and they had to be reachable by car without leaving the U.S.

The team aimed for a mix of big-city and rural locations. They used TripAdvisor to find the best family friendly places.

"Once we chose 50 stops around the U.S., that's when the algorithm kicked in," he says.

The optimal but improbable road trip takes in major landmarks such as Acadia National Park, Lincoln's home, and even Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Wisconsin — known as Taliesin. More obscure spots make the map as well: the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kan.; the Ashfall Fossil Beds in Royal, Neb.; and Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

His interactive map details all the sites.

Olson says the algorithm can shape excursions beyond this round-the-country ramble. He's used it to plan tours of hot spots in major cities and a road trips around continents.

"And also," he says, "last month I used a very similar algorithm, strangely enough, to solve the Where's Waldo children's book as well."

He means the popular series by Martin Handford, in which a character in a red and white striped hat "hides" in detailed illustrations crammed with seemingly hundreds of people in various places. As a kid, Olson spent hours poring over the pages, trying to find Waldo.

"I finally decided, now as a Ph.D. student, I can actually analyze this and sort of find the optimal route to look through the page to find Waldo," he says.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

How do you hang your toilet paper? Over or under? Well, as NPR's Scott Simon points out, the debate is over: The original patent shows clearly how your roll should look.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.