Seven months after his was nominated, the U.S. Senate this week confirmed former Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant companies that control much of the mortgage market.
The vote occurred after Democrats changed the rules on filibusters — now the Senate can confirm presidential nominees with a simple majority.
For people who watch the U.S. housing market, Watt's confirmation is a very big deal that could mean easier credit.
Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:42 am
The year may have suffered a couple of black eyes in the form of shuttered opera companies and orchestras in labor disputes, but as far as recordings go, don't let anyone tell you classical music is dying — the music and musicians are thriving.
The North America's grizzly bear is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Its population was virtually wiped out in the lower 48 states. One group of bears, though, may soon lose that protection - the Yellowstone grizzly. Some scientists say that group is thriving. Others disagree. NPR's Christopher Joyce has more on the battle over the bear.
And another story of intrigue with plenty of unanswered questions. An American claiming to be a businessman went to Iran seven years ago and then he vanished. An Associated Press investigation into Robert Levinson's disappearance uncovers that he was actually part of a sensitive covert and apparently rogue operation that shook the CIA when it came to light.
Matt Apuzzo is part of the reporting team at the AP who broke this story. Matt, welcome back to the program.
Apparently, the queen of England is going nuts about Buckingham Palace Guards snacking on the job. This is a detail that came out during the long trial of defunct Murdoch tabloid News of the World. According to emails read in court, the queen's staff placed bowls of nuts around the palace for her. But royal police roaming the corridors couldn't resist. So her highness drew lines on the bowls to keep track of the snack levels.
David O. Russell hovers at the top of my list of favorite directors. He captures the messy collision of self-interests that for him defines America. In American Hustle, he whips up a black comedy based on Abscam, the late-'70s FBI sting that centered on a bogus sheik and led to the bribery convictions of sundry U.S. politicians. But he doesn't tell the real Abscam story; he adapts it to fit his theme, which is that most of us are busy reinventing ourselves and conning one another.
Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:59 pm
President Obama's oft-repeated promise that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" is 2013's "lie of the year," according to the fact checkers at the Tampa Bay Times' nonpartisan PolitiFact project.