Weekend Edition Sunday for Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last week's budget deal includes a reduction of military pensions for those under age 62. The provision has some Republican senators howling, saying that the cuts hit veterans too hard.

A Navy Man's Argument That Cutting Pensions Might Be Good

Bryan McGrath spent 21 years in the United States Navy before retiring. He now works as a defense contractor, and he believes that it's not necessarily a bad thing that military pensions are changing. NPR's Rachel Martin reports.
Christine Fox was recently named acting deputy defense secretary, making her the highest-ranking woman in Pentagon history. She talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about the Pentagon's budget challenges, her long career in defense and about inspiring Kelly McGillis' character in the movie Top Gun.

'Bertha' Still Stuck In Her Tunnel Under Seattle

In Seattle, an underground mystery has halted the digging of a new highway tunnel underneath downtown. The world's largest tunneling machine ground to a halt two weeks ago, and engineers are still trying to figure out why.
Over the past decade, the government has been paying farmers to keep their land covered with native grasses instead of crops. But as grain prices have risen, the conservation reserve has shrunk by more than 25 percent. This decline in native grasslands means more soil erosion and less habitat for wildlife.

How To Find A Worthy Volunteer Job On The Road

If you want to give back while you travel, volunteer vacations are your best bet. Here's how to find the best and most ethical ways to volunteer when traveling. NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with Shannon O'Donnell of Grassroots Volunteering, a website that shares low-cost opportunities.

Building A Robotic Christmas Wonderland Of Trash

On a perfectly manicured street in Palm Springs, Calif., one man has turned his four-acre yard into a post-apocalyptic Christmas wonderland. Outsider artist Kenny Irwin uses every piece of trash he can get to make giant robots in a fantasy-scape that is part Christmas light show, part installation art.

Follow Santa Claus' Lead

Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which, like Santa Claus, the first word starts with the letters S-A, and the second word starts with C.
It's not just lack of quality or freshness that can put a damper on your in-flight meal: Our senses are scrambled at high altitudes. Those sweet and salty sensors might be off as much as 30 percent while in flight.

The Best Latin Music Of 2013

Like so many music lovers, NPR's Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd have been hard at work compiling their best-of-2013 lists. From Los Angeles quartet La Santa Cecilia to Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez, the Alt Latino hosts join NPR's Rachel Martin to share some of what they loved in Latin music this year.

Egypt's Turbulent Year

It was a year of turmoil in Egypt. After being democratically elected following Hosni Mubarak's ouster, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was removed from power. The military-led government has since consolidated its power and cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood. NPR's Rachel Martin and foreign correspondent Leila Fadel review this year's tumultuous developments.

New Agreement Could Bring Democracy Back In Tunisia

A deal between the ruling Islamists and the secular opposition has opened a new path for Tunisia. NPR's Rachel Martin gets a post-Arab Spring update on the country from researcher Monica Marks.
Muslim-Christian violence in the Central African Republic continued as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power traveled there on Thursday. She's urging the international community and local leaders to bring those responsible for atrocities to a peaceful means of justice.

After Coming Out, Gay Mormon Finds Support At Home

Jamison Manwaring says life is better since he came out to his family and friends in the Mormon community. Now you tell us: Have you had to reconcile a loved one's sexuality with your own beliefs?

Joe's Biggest Ideas From 2013

NPR's Joe Palca is working on a new beat we're calling Joe's Big Idea. The idea is to explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. He talks with NPR's Rachel Martin about what he's learned in his first year on the beat.

Shark Attacks And Economic Growth: A Correlation Theory

In studying the connection between economics and yearly trends in what he calls "shark-human interactions," shark attack expert George Burgess spotted a pattern. NPR's Rachel Martin asks Burgess about going to the beach.

Are NFL Kickers Getting Better?

Monday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions came down to the kicker. NPR's Rachel Martin and sports reporter Mike Pesca discuss the role of the NFL kicker and whether that job is getting more respect from fans and players.

Listeners Share Their First-Time-Ever Christmas Plans

Weekend Edition asked you to share something memorable you'll be doing for the first time this Christmas. NPR's Rachel Martin shares some of your stories.
The relationship between a teacher and a student can be transformative. It's a particularly important relationship in classical music. And what pianists Gary Graffman and Lang Lang say about teaching and learning could be applied to many different areas and fields, not just music and the other arts.

A Big Helping Of Christmas Compassion At Joseph's House

Joseph's House is a hospice in Washington, D.C., for people who don't have a home. Started in 1990, it's a spot where people with end-stage AIDS and cancer can come to receive food, shelter, medication and community. NPR's Rachel Martin checks in for the holidays.
Find an archived Episode: