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.

President Clinton signed major crime legislation in 1994, and provisions that protect women from domestic violence have deep staying power.

Twenty years ago today, former President Bill Clinton signed a massive crime-control bill that funded shelters for battered women and helped train police to investigate attacks. The anniversary of the law falls on a week when violence against women is front and center in the national conversation.

First, the Baltimore Ravens fired player Ray Rice after TMZ released a video where he knocked his then-fiancee unconscious. Then, a South African judge convicted sprinter Oscar Pistorius of negligently killing his girlfriend.

A key part of that 1994 law, known as the Violence Against Women Act, redefined wife beating as a crime rather than a joke. It's hard to believe now, but for years, that was a source of humor in TV sitcoms.

Remember Ralph Kramden taunting his wife Alice in the Honeymooners with the expression, "Pow right in the kisser?" That punch line wasn't so funny anymore back in 1994. But people still didn't take the issue as seriously as they should have.

Melanie Sloan worked on the legislation as a young House aide in those years.

"For one thing, the Violence Against Women Act made it clear that violence against women was a major problem and it hadn't really been recognized as such previous to that bill," says Sloan, who is now with the good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Vice President Joe Biden — the lead Senate sponsor of the legislation at the time — says domestic violence hid in the shadows in the 1990s. Biden remembered the mood in a speech this week, saying "and no one, virtually no one, called it a crime. It was a family affair."

A family affair, and before the 1994 law, one with no national domestic violence hotlines and few housing options.

Ruth Glenn, an advocate for women, remembered that when she parted with her abusive husband in 1992, there was no place to turn.

"Over the next few months, my husband then harassed, and stalked and even kidnapped me at one point. Soon after, he found me again, shot me and left me for dead," says Glenn, who survived and went onto become an official at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The Violence Against Women Act survived too, along with ahead-of-its-time ideas including community policing and special courts for nonviolent drug addicts. "Community policing was thought to be soft on crime, social workers being thrown at a serious crime problem, which is not true. And drug courts were thought to be just an excuse for people who were caught up in the criminal justice system that would not be effective," remembers Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "Both of them have stood the test of time and are now celebrated as an important part of the American landscape."

Same goes for the domestic violence provisions, renewed by Congress several times. Lawmakers added an element to protect women from abusive boyfriends. Later, they included a new training program for doctors to screen patients for physical abuse. And last year, after a bruising political fight, Congress made social services available to people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Women's rights groups point out that even today, the topic's never far from the news. The Baltimore Ravens incident this week touched off a firestorm on social media. Women posted deeply personal stories with hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft.

Out in the open, instead of the shadows, as when Ruth Glenn fled years ago.

"In 1992, after 13 years of abuse when I realized what was happening to my son and I, I realized that the man that I married was not the person I had such hope and love for and fear became an every day event," Glenn told an audience in Washington this week.

Glenn and many other women say the Violence Against Women Act changed the conversation--and helped them change their lives.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Paul Thorn is a tough guy who sings the blues. NPR's Wade Goodwyn talks to the former-prizefighter-turned-musician about his new CD, Too Blessed to Be Stressed.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Kaz Grala after his 10th place finish at the Granite State 100....
He's can't yet get a driver's license, but Kaz Grala, 15, regularly drives at speeds of up to 160 mph. The honors student is the youngest full-time driver in NASCAR's K&N Pro East Series.

The colossal grandstands seem nearly empty for this summer's Granite State 100, the Friday night warm up to the Sunday main event at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. But the cameras zoom in on one huge group of fans, about 80 strong, dressed all in black. It's the team for Kaz Grala.

Grala is a tenth grader from Westborough, Mass. At 15-years-old, he's not quite old enough to get his driver's license, but he's already following his dream. He started out as a 4-year-old go kart racer. His father, who drives stock cars in endurance races, introduced him to the sport.

"Just about every lap I'd pull into the pits and ask my dad for a snack and a juice box, so he didn't think I really had what it takes for racing at that point, but eventually I was competitive and I started enjoying it and trying to win, not coming in for juice boxes anymore," Grala says.

For the teen drivers in NASCAR's top developmental leagues, summers are neither lazy nor slow. His parents relocate the family from Massachusetts to North Carolina every summer to support their son's dream. Grala's preferred sport is expensive. It's dangerous. And Grala knows that not every teenager's parents would think pursuing a career in auto racing is a good idea.

"I mean, my dad helps me out, but he'd probably rather I didn't because it's a whole lot of time for him and a whole lot of stress for my mother," the teenager says. "She just about blacks out during every single race of mine."

The Granite State 100 is no exception. Grala finds himself in the middle of the pack after early car troubles, but he deftly steers around a couple of late crashes and fights it out for 10th place. As her son jockeys for position on a tight racecourse, Grala's mom, Karen, crosses her fingers and waves them in front of her eyes, as if blocking her view will keep anything bad from happening.

"It's just, like, I'm a ball of nerves until, you know, every restart, every pass, just hoping that he's safe and does well and accomplishes what he's out there to accomplish," she says.

Grala's not the only 15-year-old on the racing circuit. Many young drivers are homeschooled, so they can focus on their sport. Grala attends a private school near Boston, where he's on the honor roll despite missing about 20 percent of his classes. Instead of hanging out with kids his own age, Grala's grandmother says he spends at least one night a week with her, having dinner and watching TV. Grala doesn't fit the NASCAR "bad boy" stereotype, but he does have big NASCAR dreams.

One day he hopes to be famous enough to be known only by his first name.

"It's kinda like Danica," he says. "She's a household name. Hoping my name will be like that someday."

Grala has a long way to go before he's as well-known as Danica Patrick, the first woman to win a Sprint Cup Series pole. With just one race remaining in his rookie season on one of Nascar's top developmental leagues, Grala's sitting in sixth place in the standings. He's not allowed full time on any of NASCAR's top three series until he's 18. So, Grala says, he can take his time, which is something he's not accustomed to doing on the track.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.