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.

James Lee Woodard was exonerated by DNA evidence after spending 27 years in ...
Two more men sentenced to die have been exonerated. Another wronged man, James Lee Woodard, visited NPR's Wade Goodwyn years ago. On his first day out of prison, he bonded with Goodwyn's dogs.

This month brought two more exonerations based on new DNA evidence. Henry Lee McCollum was 19 years old and his half-brother, Leon Brown, was 15 when they were arrested. The two black, intellectually disabled half brothers were convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old Sabrina Buie and spent 30 years on death row.

When the case was originally tried, there was no physical evidence that tied the brothers to the crime. Another man, who lived just a block away, confessed to the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl. The two rape/murders bore striking similarities, but that was ignored. Three decades later, a cigarette found near the scene of the Buie murder was tested for DNA. It contained the DNA of the same man who raped and killed the 18 year old.

It sounds remarkably like a case I covered in Texas, where 60-year-old Michael Morton was exonerated by DNA evidence after spending 25 years in prison, convicted of killing his wife. The district attorney in that case, Ken Anderson, went on to become a Texas judge. After new DNA evidence blew the Morton conviction to pieces, a plethora of exculpatory evidence was found in the DA files that all pointed to another man, who turned out to be the real killer.

As a result, Judge Anderson spent ten days in jail and lost his law license. Michael Morton lost 25 years of his life in prison, and being in Texas, was fortunate not to lose it all strapped to a gurney.

Six years ago, another wronged man — James Lee Woodard — came to my house to be interviewed, the very same day he'd been exonerated and got out of jail. My two big dogs, Miles and Rosie, came running into the room with stuffed toys in their mouths to demonstrate what fine guard dogs they were.

Miles jumped up and gave James Lee a big smooch right on the lips. "Come on guys, leave the man alone," I said, "Get out of here." Woodard stopped me, saying, "No, I love dogs."

"I guess it's been a while," I said regretting the words as they came out of my mouth.

Woodard teared up. "Twenty-seven years," he whispered, as he got down on both knees to play with Miles and Rosie. I stood there a while and watched, and then sat.

"Take your time, Mr. Woodard, " I said, "The interview can wait."

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

The president's proposal to degrade and destroy the Islamic State poses a challenge for members of his own party, who have traditionally provided the anti-war voices in Congress.

President Obama arguably won the Democratic primary in 2008 because of his strong opposition to the Iraq war. Now he's arguing he doesn't need congressional approval to ramp up a bombing campaign in Iraq and expand air strikes into Syria.

Criticism of the speech came from defense hawks, who felt the president didn't go far enough. But Obama's position poses a unique challenge for members of his own party, who have traditionally provided the anti-war voices in Congress.

Many Democrats either voted against the Iraq war, wish they had or ran on their opposition to it. Now many are struggling to square their desire to get — and stay — out of the Middle East, with the barbaric and ambitious terrorists calling themselves Islamic State.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink Women for Peace, says Republicans goaded Obama into taking his aggressive position, and Democrats in Congress aren't willing to stand up to a Democratic president just before midterm elections.

"If George Bush made the speech that Barack Obama made the other night, you would see thousands of people out on the street with us," Benjamin says. "You'd see congresspeople calling us and saying, 'Can we join in your demonstration?' With a Democratic president, that is all changed."

Another factor silencing the doves is the visceral, emotional reaction the American people and members of Congress had to the videos of the beheading of journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff.

"All you need to do is see the videos of the beheading," says Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, "and then you're not worried about mission-creep."

Those videos changed public opinion, says Ross Baker, professor of political science at Rutgers.

"It raised the stakes on everything." Baker says. "The people, I think, who ordinarily would be almost reflexively opposed to military action of any kind ... have had to rethink it."

Chris Murphy is one such conflicted Democrat. He's a senator from Connecticut, elected on his opposition to the Iraq war.

"This threat is fundamentally different, in that you are talking about the possible construction of an autonomous terrorist state," Murphy says. "That's new, and it deserves a response from the United States."

Even so, Murphy is among a handful of Democrats vocally expressing reservations with Obama's proposal. He's not convinced that involving the U.S. in the Syrian civil war, arming rebels and expanding air strikes is the answer.

"This is as complicated as it gets," he says. "Virtually every intervention that we've undertaken in the Middle East over the last 10 years, we've screwed up, badly. So I think there is a lot of concern and caution."

California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee feels much the same way. She was the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization of military force just days after Sept. 11.

Then and now, she says, "Be thoughtful. Be rational. Make an assessment of how to move forward, and not allow the emotion of the moment to take over, but make sure that what we do, and as we act, we don't create more violence, more terror and more hatred."

So, where have the doves gone? They're calling for a full hearing, a more deliberate process. This may be a way of avoiding open criticism of the president and his strategy. Or it may just be they need more time to figure out how to respond to a terrorist group that has forced them to seriously consider how they feel about military intervention.

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

The dobro is a fretless guitar that gives country and bluegrass its unique twang. NPR's Wade Goodwyn talks to Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes about their new album, Three Bells.

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