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.

The verdicts for Officer Michael Brelo came on allegations of voluntary manslaughter and lesser charges, stemming from a 2012 police shooting of an unarmed couple.

The verdicts for Officer Michael Brelo came on allegations of voluntary manslaughter and lesser charges, stemming from a 2012 police shooting of an unarmed couple. Brelo had fired 49 shots at the couple following a car chase. Reporter Nick Castele of member-station WCPN speaks with host Scott Simon about the ruling.

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The former secretary of defense says that even stepping up the rules of engagement for U.S. troops in Iraq might not keep ISIS in check. "There's no certainty about any of this," he says.

The self-declared Islamic State gained a real grip on Iraq and Syria this week, capturing the cities of Ramadi and parts of Mosul in Iraq, and the ancient town Palmyra, Syria.

Most recently, ISIS has claimed credit for a suicide bomb attack inside Saudi Arabia on a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers. That attack killed at least 19 and could represent a significant escalation of the extremist group's operations in the kingdom.

NPR's Leila Fadel reported that it was the first time a Saudi branch of ISIS known as Najd Province has claimed responsibility for an attack inside the kingdom.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tells NPR's Scott Simon that the U.S. should increase its assistance of Iraqi forces in the region.

Gates, who served under both President George W. Bush and President Obama, also spoke about the latest suicide bombing. His best-selling memoir, Duty, has just been published in paperback.

Gates is now president of the Boy Scouts of America and spoke to NPR from the scouts' annual convention in Atlanta. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Simon: What is the significance of the suicide attack in Saudi Arabia?

Gates: I think it's evidence that they do have the capability to reach into various parts of the region in addition to consolidating their position in Syria and in Anbar province in Iraq. They clearly are getting a lot of recruits from all over the region and all over the world, and it's not surprising that they can carry out an isolated attack.

How would you characterize current U.S. strategy?

I think the president has the right strategy in the respect that he demanded the political change in Iraq before we did pretty much anything to help them, to get rid of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and bring in somebody who was willing to be less sectarian — although the new man, Haider al-Abadi, is facing his own challenges. I also think the president was right in saying that the primary boots on the ground need to be Arab and Kurd, not American or Western.

I think that the pacing of the provision of assistance needs to be stepped up, as well as changing the rules of engagement for our troops.

Are you confident that those steps would keep ISIS in check?

No, I'm not confident, but I do think those are measures that can be taken. There's no certainty about any of this. It's a very fluid situation. It's a very difficult situation, frankly.

Would letting ISIS come to power now mean that U.S. soldiers in Iraq had given their lives for nothing?

It's very troubling to see places, like Fallujah and Ramadi in particular, but also Mosul, where a lot of American blood was spilled, fall into the hands of these fanatics. I'm sure that every soldier and Marine that was involved in these places is looking at it and wondering whether the sacrifice was worth it.

The truth is we had a pretty good situation in Iraq in 2010, 2011, and in some ways, that was a mark of the success of our troops, in terms of security, in terms of a political dialogue. It's a sad commentary both on the actions of al-Maliki as well as the spillover from the Syrian civil war that the situation that our troops fought so hard to create has, to a considerable extent, been squandered.

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Bikers claim that many who were arrested in the Waco, Texas, brawl last week were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But police say the bikers were "known criminal gang members."

Authorities in Waco, Texas, continue to investigate the deaths of nine motorcycle gang members in one of the worst biker brawls in recent times. More than 170 people were arrested and charged with organized crime; each is being held under a $1 million bond.

Now there's a backlash from biker groups, who claim many of the riders were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had nothing to do with Sunday's bloody fight.

Waco police continue to justify the large number of arrests; they say five criminal motorcycle gangs went to war with one another at the Twin Peaks Bar & Grill last weekend.

Ron Blackett emphatically disagrees. He's a 48-year-old business security specialist in Austin, former U.S. Army and Coast Guard, who rides a 2011 Harley Davidson Road King. Blackett says he knows many of the riders now sitting in county jail in Waco.

"They're not gang members," he says. "I'm not a gang member. And to be labeled as a gang member, or some of these kids that are right now locked up with a million-dollar bond on them, it's terrifying and it's extremely unfortunate."

Blackett, who's club name is Bone, acts as vice president of the central Texas region of the Confederation of Clubs and Independents, known as CoC&I, a biker organization that meets regularly to educate its members on motorcycle legislation — and to drink beer. Last Sunday, the group was hosting a meeting at Twin Peaks when the violence broke out.

Blackett says he arrived at the restaurant in a pickup truck shortly after the melee ended. When he drove up, he says, he saw "Law enforcement all over the place. Helicopters flying over. A lot of people crying. A lot of people scared."

Other clubs that belong to the umbrella group include the Christian Motorcycle Association, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Legacy Vets and Vise Grip, a club that builds and rides pre-1970 custom Harley choppers.

Vise Grip member Theron Rhoten was among those arrested. His wife, Katie, spoke to KUT in Austin.

"Most of the clubs that were present there had nothing to do with the shootings," she said. "They didn't do anything but go to a meeting."

Police are blaming the confrontation on bad blood between the Cossacks and the Bandidos. The Cossacks are a Central Texas biker gang that's not affiliated with CoC&I, but which showed up in force anyway.

The Bandidos is an outlaw motorcycle gang, long associated with drug trafficking, that considers Texas its home turf and regularly attends confederation meetings.

Bill Smith, a well-known motorcycle lawyer in Dallas, says one jailed rider told him there was already a large group of Cossacks in the parking lot when the Bandidos rolled up.

"He said shortly after the Bandidos got off their motorcycles, an altercation broke out and that's when they hit the ground," Smith says.

Smith says his informant could not say who or what started the gunplay. But the lawyer — himself a biker and member of the confederation — says in the 15 years he's been attending meetings, he has never seen trouble break out.

"In fact, our meetings, after the pledge of allegiance and a prayer, many times the chairman will say, 'If you have any issues with anyone, for any reason, take it up elsewhere,' " he says.

Despite protests by the biker confederation that its members are peaceful, Waco Police spokesman Sgt. Patrick Swanton defends the big round-up of criminal suspects.

"There are clubs of motorcycle groups that do really good things," Swanton says. "We understand that. But that was not the people involved in the incident Sunday where an extreme amount of violence took place. Those that were involved in the activities at Twin Peaks are known criminal gang members."

Swanton says investigators recovered 318 weapons, most of them knives and handguns. He says nearly a week after the incident, outlaw motorcycle gangs are still making death threats against law enforcement officers.

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