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.

A Stradivarius cello is at the center of Elena Delbanco's new novel, The Silver Swan. Delbanco dicusses how the book echoes her own childhood, as the daughter of a renowned cellist.

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

A gate blocks the entrance of a farm operated by Daybreak Foods, on May 17, ...
The largest outbreak of avian flu in U.S. history is ravaging poultry at farms in the Midwest. Sec. Tom Vilsack says there's no risk of transmission to humans, but egg prices may rise.

Bird flu is raging through poultry farms across the United States. It's the largest outbreak in U.S. history, affecting 20 states and tens of millions of birds. The disease is particularly ravaging farms in the Midwest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the H5 bird flu, the variety causing the outbreak, has not been detected in humans and currently poses a low threat to the public.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who spent last week meeting with farmers, producer groups and government officials in Iowa and Wisconsin, tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that the outbreak poses no health risk for consumers — but is devastating for producers, and may impact food prices.

Interview Highlights

On the unprecedented size of this outbreak

There are roughly 220 or so facilities that have been impacted and affected by this, most of them commercial operations. Roughly 47 million birds — turkeys, chickens, laying hens — have been impacted ... about 10 percent of the laying hens in the country, roughly 7-8 percent of the turkey population.

On whether consumers should worry about eating chicken or eggs

There's no health issue involved here — there's no capacity and no risk of transmission from birds to humans. The chickens that are impacted are essentially killed; the eggs that were laid by the chickens are being destroyed.

So this is really about animal health; it's about the producers who are going to be devastated as a result of the loss of their livelihood for an extended period of time.

On how the outbreak will impact food supplies and prices

The reality is that there may be surplus of certain parts of chicken, because our export markets have been impacted and affected by this. Roughly 20 percent of chicken exports are now basically banned, based on decisions made by countries either to ban all poultry exports from the U.S. or exports from specific states that have been impacted by all this.

But on the egg side, you're liable to see over time increased costs for a dozen eggs, and increased costs for goods that basically use liquid eggs in the development or processing of foods.

On whether smaller barns, or other changes to chicken-farm practices, would prevent such outbreaks

I'm not certain about that, because this has impacted and affected backyard operations as well — because of the nature of the virus, and how it's initially presented into an area through geese and ducks that are wild. There's not much you can do about that.

So I don't think that it's necessarily getting away from the way in which chickens or eggs are produced so much as it is making sure that whatever system you use, that you're very conscious about the biosecurity aspects of it. What that means is taking a look at facilities and making sure that there's no way in which an isolated bird might be able to enter a facility ... to make sure that employees that are working in these facilities understand the importance of showering, making sure that the water that's used to water the birds doesn't come from a contaminated pond, for example.

All of these steps and more have to be taken very seriously. And we're also looking at a vaccine — but it isn't necessarily 100 percent effective.

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

Novelist Saul Bellow, shown shortly after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for...
Bellow's centennial is being marked with reprints and a new biography. Today, critics still savor his metaphor-rich prose; his son remembers the personal pain the great writer caused.

Saul Bellow, one of the 20th century's great writers, was born 100 years ago next month. The publishing world is marking the anniversary with a flurry of books — a Library of America edition of Bellow's fiction, a hefty tome of collected nonfiction, and a big new biography.

Another way to remember the author, of course, is to go back to the original books. His best-known work is probably Humboldt's Gift, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1975 novel based on his own friendship with poet Delmore Schwartz.

In one scene, the narrator and the poet drive through the Holland Tunnel:

The car went snoring and squealing through the tunnel and came out in bright sunlight. Tall stacks, a filth artillery, fired silently into the Sunday sky with beautiful bursts of smoke. The acid smell of gas refineries went into your lungs like a spur. The rushes were brown as onion soup.

'Metaphors, Sparkling Metaphors'

James Wood, the editor of the Library of America's four-volume edition of Saul Bellow's fiction, says the exuberance of Bellow's language compares to that of Herman Melville and Walt Whitman.

"For my money, he is the greatest 20th-century prose writer," Wood says.

"Above all, just this joyous comedy — a delight in adjectives and adverbs for their own sake; a pleasure in metaphors, sparkling metaphors — a wonderful description of Lake Michigan, which is just a list of adjectives of the kind that Melville would have loved. I think it goes something like 'the limp silk fresh lilac drowning water.' You can't get much better than that."

Saul Bellow's imaginative descriptions came in part from a photographic memory. "I have total recall," he told me in 1989.

He went on to describe his childhood. "My parents came over to Canada in 1913. I was born in a little French village. Then we moved up to Montreal when I was three years old. I lived in a Jewish neighborhood. These were all Old Country Jews. My parents were Old Country Jews."

Bellow eventually rejected the orthodoxy of his parents' faith, but he retained the humor and wit of his Yiddish background.

In 1986, he told an audience at Howard Community College in Maryland that as a young writer, he imitated his idols.

"When I read Hemingway or Sherwood Anderson or somebody else like that, I would find myself composing in the same manner. I'd find myself making up sentences: 'It was hot. We went down to the street. I sat down in a café. The waiter came. I ordered a Pernod. It was terribly hot. I went up to my room. I couldn't breathe.' And so on," he said.

By his third novel in 1953, Bellow found his own voice. The Adventures of Augie March won the first of the author's three National Book Awards. The Pulitzer followed, and then the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He told the students he never let it go to his head.

"I think of myself as a working stiff. If I got up in the morning, and say to myself 'Well, great writer, what are you going to do today?' I'd be paralyzed," he said.

Private Cost, Public Fame

Along with Bellow's fame came the pitfalls that often accompany it — five marriages and a string of affairs.

"He hurt my mother," says Greg Bellow, Saul's oldest child from the author's first marriage. "And I didn't like that at all. I still don't like it."

Greg is 71 years old now, and a psychotherapist. Two years ago, he wrote a memoir called Saul Bellow's Heart, in which he describes his father as an "epic philanderer."

"You know, the admirers, the hero-worshippers say, 'The books are great, so shut up and don't complain about your father,' " Greg says. "But I was his son, and I feel like I have certain rights to complain."

Greg Bellow says he loved his father, and as for his father — he loved literature.

"He lived for reading and writing his entire life. It was the most important thing to him by far," he says. "Of anything, and I include people."

Greg Bellow says his father was most honest with himself when he was holed up in his study writing.

Saul Bellow, for his part, told me he unconsciously modified his memories to serve his fiction.

"I can recall pretty well, in pretty good detail. Of course the only obstacle is that your recollection tends to have an aesthetic character. So you can't be sure that you're remembering literally," the author said. "You're remembering what you experienced as a person whose habit for a lifetime has been to transform everything that he experienced, and everything that he can recall."

Saul Bellow transformed his experiences into art until the end. He published his last novel, Ravelstein, when he was 85.

He died five years later in 2005.

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