Freddie Mac is a gatekeeper in the mortgage market. In many cases, the taxpayer-owned mortgage company controls who qualifies to refinance a mortgage and who doesn't. Well, NPR has learned that Freddie Mac has been making financial wagers, betting against American homeowners being able to refinance. And now some lawmakers want to put a stop to it. NPR's Chris Arnold has been reporting this story in partnership with ProPublica.org. He has this report.
And sticking with presidential politics for a moment, speaking a second language has recently become something of a liability for those aspiring to live in the White House. It turns out very few American presidents have had a strong command of a second language, most of them in the early days of the Republic, and that language, it was French.
John McWhorter wrote about this recently in The New Republic, and he's with me now. John, bonjour.
A radical Islamist group in northern Nigeria has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombing attacks last week that left more than 200 people dead. Boko Haram's campaign of violence has left minority Christians on edge in the city of Kano.
Just a little more than a day left before voters in Florida have their say in the GOP primary. The latest polls by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times show Mitt Romney with an 11-point lead over Newt Gingrich, with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul trailing far behind. Newt Gingrich, who's had trouble getting support from establishment Republicans, picked up a nod from a decidedly non-establishment figure - one of his former rivals, Herman Cain.
In 1902, director Georges Melies released his magnum opus: Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip To the Moon), often considered the first science-fiction movie ever. Even if you've never heard of Melies, you've probably seen the film's most famous shot: a moon with a human face, wincing at the spaceship that has just crashed into its eye.
A majestic building still dominates the skyline of Rochester, N.Y., the word "Kodak" shining brightly from the top. It's the legacy of George Eastman — the founder of the Eastman Kodak Co. — a company that helped Rochester thrive and gave it the nickname "Kodak Town."
In 1976, Kodak sold 90 percent of the film around the world. The company basically invented digital photography, but it couldn't figure out how to make the transition from film quickly enough to out-compete its Asian rivals. Of the 20 best-selling digital cameras in the U.S., not a single one is from Kodak.
One morning many years ago, a little boy in Brooklyn named Peter woke up to an amazing sight: fresh snow.
Peter is the hero of the classic children's book by Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day, which turns 50 this year. Peter has a red snowsuit, a stick just right for knocking snow off of trees, and a snowball in his pocket. And, though this is never mentioned in the text, Peter is African-American.
As he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich almost always works the name of Ronald Reagan into his speeches.
In fact, it's become so common that Gingrich's name-dropping has become an issue itself.
Sometimes Gingrich invokes the name of Ronald Reagan to associate himself with the policies of the former president.
"When I worked with President Reagan, we adopted a lower tax, less regulation, more American energy policy, and it led to 16 million new jobs," Gingrich said at a speech in St. Petersburg, Fla., this week.
Today marks the start of an exciting project at All Things Considered called NewsPoet. Each month we'll be bringing in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's news.
The first poet to participate is Tracy K. Smith. She has received degrees in English and creative writing from Harvard College, Columbia University, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. Her latest book of poems is titled Life on Mars.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on every state to require students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. "When students don't walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma," he said.
The White House cited studies that showed how raising the compulsory schooling age helps prevent kids from leaving school. And while some of that is true, some of it is also wishful thinking.
For New Hampshire Deputy Commissioner of Education Paul Leather, the president made the right call in his address.
Everyone knows what an Oreo cookie is supposed to be like. It's round, black and white, and intensely sweet. Has been for 100 years. But sometimes, in order to succeed in the world, even the most iconic product has to adapt.
In China, that meant totally reconsidering what gives an Oreo its Oreoness.
At first, though, Kraft Foods thought that the Chinese would love the Oreo. Who doesn't? They launched the product there in 1996 as a clone of the American version.
Shrek, Hitch, Gattaca: What's in a name? Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet — but for Hollywood the question is more like, "Would that rose, by any other name, sell as many tickets?"
Welcome to the fourth installment of NPR's Backseat Book Club, where we select a book for young readers — and invite them to read along with us and share their thoughts and questions with the author.
Our selection for January — The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis — describes the civil rights era from the perspective of a young (and extremely mischievous) boy and his family.
Time now for some of your responses to our program.
And first, my interview yesterday with the CEO of Keen. The company is based in Portland, Oregon. It makes shoes. And we talked with CEO James Curleigh because Keen illustrates something President Obama advocated in his State of the Union Address. It recently opened a factory in the U.S. instead of China. President Obama called it insourcing.
Curleigh told us it not only makes financial sense, it's good marketing.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. But who's at the most risk?
A study in the lastest New England Journal of Medicine offers a simple way to predict the risk of a fatal or debilitating heart attack or stroke for a middle-aged person over the rest of his or her life.
A day after delivering his State of the Union address to Congress, President Obama took his message on the road. Obama hoped that stops at manufacturing sites in Iowa and Arizona would drive home his point that the government should do more to encourage factory jobs.
The three-day trip also includes stops in Colorado, Nevada and Michigan. Those are all states likely to be important in the November election.
Obama kicked off his road trip at Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing, a factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
Cairo's Tahrir Square overflowed with Egyptians today. Traffic was snarled for miles as people jammed bridges and streets. The crowd marked the first anniversary of the popular uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.
And as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, many people did not come to celebrate.
Last year this time, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was pushing a big income tax increase to help balance the state's budget. This year, Quinn is being pressured to roll part of that increase back. But the state is still months behind in paying its bills, with a pension shortfall looming.
Laura Lorson is an All Things Considered host for Kansas Public Radio as well as a director, producer and editor.
Another football season is winding down, college basketball is uninteresting until the tournament, pro basketball is rather dull. It will be a while before pitchers and catchers show up for spring training. But fortunately for all of us, we are smack in the middle of cold and flu season.
In just one year in office, Ohio Gov. John Kasich made some big changes in his state, based on his conservative, business-backed ideas. But he also suffered a massive defeat when the collective bargaining reform law he supported was overwhelmingly rejected by voters. But that's not stopping him from pushing forward with new ideas in his second year.