Weekend Edition Sunday

Conceived as a cross between a Sunday newspaper and CBS' Sunday Morning with Charles KuraltWeekend Edition Sunday features interviews with newsmakers, artists, scientists, politicians, musicians, writers, theologians and historians. The program has covered news events from Nelson Mandela's 1990 release from a South African prison to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Weekend Edition Sunday debuted on January 18, 1987, with host Susan Stamberg. Two years later, Liane Hansen took over the host chair, a position she held for 22 years. In that time, Hansen interviewed movers and shakers in politics, science, business and the arts. Her reporting travels took her from the slums of Cairo to the iron mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula; from the oyster beds on the bayou in Houma, La., to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park; and from the kitchens of Colonial Williamsburg, Va., to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In the fall of 2011, NPR National Desk Reporter Audie Cornish began hosting the show.

Every week listeners tune in to hear a unique blend of news, features and the regularly scheduled puzzle segment with Puzzlemaster Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times.

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

In Sierra Leone, a burial team from the government carries the coffin of an ...
The scientists who study humans and their cultures could help health care professionals treat people who are reasonably, desperately afraid, they argue.

As the Ebola outbreak gains steam, experts continue to deploy to the region.

Teams Doctors Without Borders, the World Health Organization, the U.S. military and others are in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia assembling treatment centers and fighting the deadly virus.

There's one group of experts missing from the picture, says Ann Kelly, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter: anthropologists.

Anthropologists understand local traditions and can explain to health care workers how commerce and social functions could facilitate transmission of the virus, Kelly tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. They can also give insight into residents' fears of those workers.

Kelly wrote about the role anthropologists' should play in resolving the crisis for the website Somatosphere.

"To contain this epidemic we must come to grips with dynamics of fear and obligations of care in a context where everyone is afraid," Kelly co-wrote with colleagues Almudena Marí Sáez and Hannah Brown. "It is an anthropological truism, but this means seeing populations not as a stumbling block to halting the spread but as our only resource."

"These people have lived with and around animals for generations, but have never seen this kind of disease," she writes. Thus, "the epidemic becomes linked instead to practices never before seen or out of context: disinfecting houses, erecting barriers, taking relatives to the hospital, from where they do not return."

"Disease becomes then a logical extension of the efforts of government officials and foreigners," she writes. Anthropologists could bridge that gap.


Interview Highlights

On anthropologists' unique contribution

Any situations of infectious contagion are highly social. It's an incredibly intimate process, and anthropology is a science of intimacy, of intimate connections. With Ebola, the points of transmission are through touch. An anthropologist does a lot of work with how people interact with each other in an everyday way.

On the importance of funerals

Now the anthropologists in the region ... have contributed quite a lot of insight in terms of funerals. These funerals are key moments, and there are key features that go into making an appropriate funeral. Whether it's seeing the body, making sure that the body is whole ... There's a number of rumors that these bodies are being defiled in some way, that there's organ theft, and I think allowing people just to see the body of their loved one, allowing people to have expressions of mourning, to dance, to perform the kind of rituals that they would do within the boundaries of biosafety [would resolve local mistrust and concern].

On negative reactions to health care workers

I think people know that health care workers are dying and sick, so the prospect of being taken into a health facility is probably quite scary. So I think even just understanding that these are not crazy responses that people need to be educated from, but these are actually quite reasoned responses, can go a long way toward building those bridges between the very important work of health care and these local populations that are quite terrified and trying the best they can to be healthy, to be well, to saved their loved ones.

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

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega celebrates with first lady Rosario Murill...
Daniel Ortega is not the bombastic revolutionary of years past. He's toned down the rhetoric and his wife runs day-to-day operations. Critics say it's not unlike the regime he toppled 30 years ago.

Nicaragua's gigantic transoceanic canal, if it gets built, will dwarf the neighboring Panama Canal. Ground-breaking is set to begin before the end of the year.

The $50 billion mega project would bring an economic boom to the poor nation — and a political bonanza for its president, Daniel Ortega.

Ortega is not the bombastic revolutionary of years past. He shies away from public appearances and has left day-to-day operations to his wife, an eccentric former revolutionary poet.

Supporters hail the two as socialist saviors of the country, but critics charge the couple with creating a closed, authoritarian regime more akin to the dictatorship they toppled more than 30 years ago.

A Much Different Ortega

At 68, Daniel Ortega has less hair and is much thicker around the middle than when he was first elected president nearly 30 years ago, not long after he and his Sandinista rebels put an end to more than four decades of the Somoza family dictatorship.

He has also toned down his fiery revolutionary rhetoric, even toward his former No. 1 enemy, the United States. At a rare public appearance earlier this summer, commemorating the Nicaraguan navy's 34th anniversary, Ortega told the crowd of faithful Sandinista supporters, "I want to recognize the role of the United States government and President Barack Obama."

He went on to praise U.S. contributions and cooperation in combating drug traffickers in Central America.

His Wife Is The Voice Of The Government

But while Ortega shies away from the public, his wife, Rosario Murillo, doesn't. She is the government's official spokeswoman.

Unlike her husband's stiff style and plain white shirts, Murillo dons bright flowing skirts, rings on every finger and a multitude of colorful necklaces. She has also decorated many of the capital's traffic circles and main thoroughfares with huge, bright-yellow metal trees that look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Every weekday, she takes to the national airwaves. Referred to widely as the Companera, or Comrade, Murillo's daily address begins around noon and usually lasts about 20 minutes.

On a recent sweltering summer day, Murillo used the address to tout the government's free medical services to the poor, and to talk about the weather — Nicaragua is suffering through a devastating drought, which has led to crop losses and a spike in basic food prices.

Christina Ulloas says she tunes in while cooking lunch and enjoys the updates. Nearly every home in her neighborhood was paid for by the government.

While most residents here enjoy Murillo's new-age spirituality lectures, the daily talks drive her critics crazy.

"She just invented that title of secretary of communication," says Sofia Montenegro, a longtime opposition journalist. "In Nicaraguan law, there is no such position."

Montenegro says the first couple has consolidated power to enrich themselves and their family. Ortega recently pushed through favorable electoral laws eliminating presidential term limits. Of Nicaragua's eight national TV stations, seven are owned by Ortega family members and friends.

"They have created a totally secretive political system," she adds. "There is no access to public information or accountability in Nicaragua."

But even key opponents to the government say there are few current alternatives to the first couple. Writer Sergio Ramirez, Ortega's vice president in the 1980s, says the opposition is conservative and divided, and isn't offering the people of Nicaragua anything better than Ortega.

"People are more worried about their social and economic state than about the state of the constitution and democracy," Ramirez says. "What they are worried about is if they will eat today, have a job tomorrow."

The two no longer speak. Most of the original Sandinista leaders have split with Ortega.

Ortega Holds The Power

While Murillo may be the face and voice of the government, Ortega clearly holds the power in the country.

Despite multiple attempts by NPR to talk to Murillo or the Nicaraguan embassy in Washington, D.C., neither would comment for this story.

Richard Feinberg, a professor of International Relations at the University of California in San Diego, says over the years, Ortega has shrewdly become a more flexible politician.

"[He] has learned to accommodate the interests of his opposition, including the Catholic Church, the important business community and, internationally, Ortega is on good terms with the multinational donors," Feinberg says.

Nicaragua's impressive economic growth, averaging nearly 5 percent in the last four years, and low inflation, have kept Ortega on good terms with the World Bank and the IMF, and more importantly, with the country's poor.

Marina Loza irons clothes for a living and makes about $5 a day. She says the Ortegas are doing a good job running the country.

She predicts Murillo will be president one day, after Ortega can no longer do the job.

"If the two continue doing right by us, then they will stay in power," she adds with a broad smile.

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

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, shown speaking at the Congressional Black...
Attorney General Eric Holder tells NPR's Carrie Johnson that he's sorry his parents couldn't see Obama's tribute to him on Thursday — and that his greatest regret hit home on a visit to Newtown.

A day after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation, he made a long-planned visit to Scranton, Penn.

That's where he won his first big trial as a young public corruption prosecutor nearly 40 years ago. And he says coming to this federal courthouse now, returning to the site of his earliest legal success, makes sense.

"This, for me, was ... almost like completing a circle," he says. "I came here as a young and inexperienced trial lawyer and I came back as the head of the agency that I had just joined back in 1978."

After those early years, Holder reached nearly every goal he set for himself. He became the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and then the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. Finally, in February 2009, he became the first African-American attorney general.

The job, he says, is the best he'll ever have — one that shaped him as a lawyer and a person.

All that ran through his mind, Holder says, when he stood next to President Obama Thursday afternoon at the ceremony that announced his resignation.

"All of that was coming together, and made yesterday very emotional," he says. "It made me very concerned I was not going to be able to get through my remarks."

During that announcement, Holder looked down and bit his lip when Obama referenced his late father, an immigrant who raised the family in a modest home in Elmhurst, Queens.

He says his father was denied a seat in a whites-only train car while he was in military uniform.

"He was a guy who didn't finish high school, who always put a great value on education," Holder says. "He tried to hide that from us. I didn't know that, actually, until I got to college."

Holder talks about his mother, too. She lived long enough to see him become attorney general but grew sick and died before what Holder views as his most significant civil rights accomplishments.

He's sorry his parents couldn't be there to see him stand next to the president Thursday.

"I was talking to my brother last night about this and I said ... 'I would give five years of my life for them to spend five minutes at that ceremony, to see what their little boys had accomplished,' " he says, choking up. "That was emotional, also ... I was cognizant of the fact that she wasn't there."

Then, the attorney general turns to the work he still wants to do before he leaves once his successor is nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

That list starts with an ongoing review of the death penalty — a practice Holder personally opposes, but one he's authorized several times over the past five years.

President Obama asked Holder to look at capital punishment after three states botched executions earlier in the year.

But the attorney general gives the impression his review is going to talk about much more than how many drugs states should use in lethal injections.

"You know I think we have to look at some of the empirical evidence we have and see how effective is the death penalty as a deterrent," he says, "and what do we see from various states where the death penalty is used." That includes the impact on violent crime rates.

When asked what he most regrets, Holder immediately mentions a grim visit to a crime scene in Newtown, Conn. — the school where a gunman killed 20 children almost two years ago.

"My regret is that coming out of the horror that we saw personally did not result in the formulation and passage of reasonable gun safety measures," he says.

If he stays at the Justice Department through December, Eric Holder will be the third-longest-serving attorney general in U.S. history.

"I want to continue to be involved, talking about criminal justice issues and civil rights issues, to somehow figure out a way to bridge the gap between communities of color and law enforcement," Holder says. "My government service might be over, but I don't think my public life is."

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