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.

Michael German spent 16 years in the FBI, going undercover with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. He talks to NPR's Eric Westervelt about law enforcement's counterterrorism strategy.

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

More and more Americans are pursuing graduate degrees in Germany, where tuition is often free and many classes are taught in English.

Looking to escape the staggering costs of a university education in the United States? You are not alone. And German education officials say a growing number of Americans are heading to the land of beer and bratwurst to get one.

At last count, there were 4,300 Americans studying at German universities, with more than half pursuing degrees, says Ulrich Grothus, deputy secretary general of the German Academic Exchange Service.

"We've seen an overall increase in international students in this country over the last 10 years, but the increase for Americans has been much faster," he says. Between 2003 and 2013, he says, the number increased by 56 percent.

The fact that many programs are taught in English and tuition is usually free has helped make Germany the third most popular destination for American students studying abroad. Only the United Kingdom and Canada are more popular.

Also appealing is the high quality of German education. This year's reputation rankings in the London-based Times Higher Education magazine placed three German universities in the top 50 of approximately 20,000 higher education institutions worldwide.

One of those three is Humboldt University in Berlin, where Casey Detrow is a student. The 27-year-old New Yorker, who graduated from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, is pursuing a master's degree in American Studies at Humboldt.

"[It] offers me every bit of the academic challenge and intellectual stimulation that any top university in the U.S. would offer," Detrow says. She chose Humboldt over six American programs that accepted her over the past three years, including ones at Columbia and Berkeley.

"I just have time and space in Berlin that I really think I wouldn't have access to if I were living in the Bay Area, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago," Detrow explains. "I have an affordable lifestyle and, you know, I have a room of my own. I have time and space to sit in my little apartment and kind of exhale and read and study."

Detrow lives in a small, rent-controlled apartment in the bohemian neighborhood of Friedrichshain, which she pays for — along with many of her living expenses — with a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service.

As for tuition fees? Her program charges none.

"I really cannot even compare that to what I would be getting in the United States," Detrow says. "When you are talking free versus $50,000, I feel like there is no contest. I can't justify going back."

Fellow Humboldt student Mari Jarris agrees. The 22-year-old Wesleyan University graduate from Shelburne, Vt., says she plans to defer an offer from a Ph.D. program at Princeton so she can finish her master's degree in German literature in Berlin.

"I expected it to be a couple thousand of euros a semester or something for foreign students, but I was shocked to see that you just have to pay semester dues that every student pays and you end up getting more benefits than you are really paying for," including a comprehensive public transit pass, Jarris says.

The student fee varies depending on the university, but is generally in the low hundreds of dollars.

Like Detrow, Jarris receives a scholarship to cover her living expenses and rent in the trendy Kreuzberg neighborhood, but pays no tuition fees.

So why is Germany so generous when it comes to higher education?

For one thing, with an aging population and a shortage of skilled workers, Germany is eager to attract qualified young people from other countries who might want to settle there.

For another, many Germans oppose tuition fees as unjust. While a court ruling in 2005 led the 16 state governments that control and finance higher education to start charging students, a public backlash eventually led them to throw tuition fees out.

Some universities, however, continue to charge modest amounts for certain programs.

There are also direct benefits to German state coffers, Grothus says. "If only 30 percent of graduates stay for at least five years, they would pay within these five years — even while they are studying — more taxes than the taxpayer pays for their education."

Detrow says she would like to stay in Germany and teach once she's finished with her graduate and postgraduate degrees. But she may find the German job market less welcoming to foreigners than the education system.

A June study by the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration found that three in 10 foreign graduates spent more than a year looking for employment. One in 10 found no jobs at all.

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

An aerial view shows the Yarnell Hill fire burning June 29, 2013 near the to...
The Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013 was one of the deadliest incidents for wildland firefighters in American history. Nineteen of the Granite Mountain Hotshots died — many inside their fire shelters.

Two years ago, a wildfire was raging in the foothills of North Arizona. The Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of elite firefighters from Prescott, Ariz., were on the ground, battling the blaze.

Then the weather and the winds shifted, and the two-day-old Yarnell Hill Fire changed course. The commander had a huge decision to make: stay on safe ground, or try to cut off the blaze?

He made the call — and before the day was over, 19 hotshot firefighters were dead. It was one of the deadliest incidents for wildland firefighters in U.S. history.

Today, there are still questions about what happened, and what lessons can be gained from the tragedy. The stakes are high: due to a long history of forest fire suppression in America, and severe drought in the West, wildfires are getting bigger and more destructive than ever.

Former hotshot Kyle Dickman is the author of On The Burning Edge, a new book about the Yarnell fire. He tells NPR's Eric Westervelt about the wall of flames that the Granite Mountain Hotshots faced, and how the incident has — and hasn't — changed firefighting technology and practices.


Interview Highlights

On what happened June 30, 2013

So the fire was burning very intensely — it was burning to the north all day. And about 4 o'clock, a number of thunderstorms developed overhead. And the fire suddenly changed direction — there was 30-to-40 mph winds ... what had been a relatively sleepy flank of the fire suddenly jumped and became, you know, 20-foot and then 30-foot and then 40-foot flames. And that wall of fire was rushing toward the town of Yarnell. And Eric Marsh, who was the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, was forced to make a decision. He had to decide whether or not he wanted to leave the safety of what's called "the black," which is the already burned fuel, and move into the town of Yarnell, where they could presumably do something to protect the houses, or he could keep his crew in the safety of the black and watch this town burn.

Ultimately, of course, he decided to move the crew back into the town of Yarnell. And they never made it; the fire caught them before they reached the houses.

On the only survivor, Brendan "Donut" McDonough, and how he's doing today

He's still coping. You know, he lost 19 of his closest friends — I mean, he calls them his brothers. And his experience that day was also mind-bogglingly intense. He was pushed off of his lookout — he was serving as a lookout — and he came very close to being burned to death. The investigators later found that if things hadn't have changed, he would have been the first casualty on the Yarnell Hill Fire, except that he was swooped up by a guy in a four-wheeler and sort of rushed away from the advancing wall of flames. So it's not only that he's dealing with the survivor's guilt of being the only guy who survived from his crew, but he's also dealing with PTSD.

On one firefighter whose story sticks with him

One boy's name was Grant McKee; he was the youngest guy on the crew. And Grant McKee was really hesitant. He didn't necessarily want to join the crew, and he didn't want to be a hotshot, he wanted to be a paramedic. And so he had a really hard time sort of fitting into the rough-and-tumble culture of the hotshot crew. And I think what touched me about Grant's story was watching him come into it, so reluctant to join the crew, and then go from being an outcast to being an accepted member and actually sort of falling in love with the job.

On whether the tragedy was caused by bad luck or "unforgivable human error," and the changes he'd like to see

I don't know that I would call it unforgiveable, but I also would certainly say that it's a human error. I think more important than looking and dwelling on the mistakes that were made that day, I think it's worth taking a bigger-picture perspective on what happened and asking ourselves, why did these men die, and what can we do in the future to prevent more wildland firefighter deaths?

And I think many of the agencies' answers to that is to invest more funding into technologies like better fire shelters, which are the last-ditch aluminum blankets that the men ultimately died under, and then also to equip some of the fighters with GPS devices, so they can be tracked. But what we're not seeing a lot of is much discussion of potential policy changes.

... In the last 40 years we've seen fire size increase sixfold. During that same timespan we've seen three times the average number of houses getting burned every year; there are now 140 million people living in the path of fires. So the threat of fires is real. And despite spending $4.7 billion every year, we're not seeing much evidence that that spending is doing anything to control fire size or destructiveness.

What I would like to see is a larger percentage of that money going toward preparing for wildfires. So instead of spending billions fighting them, we should be spending ... billions preparing for them — by thinning the forest, by using more prescribed fire, by letting more wildfires burn.

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