Newt Gingrich once called himself "the most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson."
But that was 1995, and the "Contract with America" co-author had just helped to propel Republicans into power in the House for the first time in 40 years, and Gingrich himself into the speaker's role. Even the rarely modest Gingrich had reason to gloat.
Just two years later, of course, he had become the first speaker ever punished by the House for ethics violations, and the end was in sight for both his leadership and congressional career.
Calling someone a "rat" is no compliment, but a new study shows that rats actually are empathetic and will altruistically lend a helping paw to a cage mate who is stuck in a trap.
Not only will rats frantically work to free their trapped cage mate; they will do so even when there's a tempting little pile of chocolate chips nearby, the study reveals. Instead of leaving their pal in the trap and selfishly gobbling the candy all by themselves, rats will free their cage mate and share the chocolate.
Attorney General Eric Holder got a bruising reception from the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee that put the Justice Department on the defensive.
Holder answered questions about the botched gun trafficking operation known as "Fast and Furious" in which federal agents tried to build cases against drug cartels. Instead, they lost track of hundreds of weapons that turned up at crime scenes along the Southwest border.
NPR's Debbie Elliott and Richard Gonzales spent a month on the road across the nation, reporting stories of economic struggle for the NPR series "Hard Times." They heard stories of people and places grappling with economic hardship, and also found a few bright spots along the way.
Delegates from nearly 200 countries gathered for a U.N. climate conference in South Africa have been frustrated by a lack of consensus on how to reduce carbon emissions. Many participants are pointing to major emitters like the U.S. and China for the lack of progress.
After seven seasons, TNT's "The Closer" is coming to a close. Brenda Leigh Johnson has led the major crimes department of the Los Angeles Police Department on the hit show since 2005. Played by Kyra Sedgwick, she catches killers, brings them to often tearful confessions, and gets the case closed.
As the Euro crisis continues, Germany and France have proposed reforms to give European Union leaders more power to demand fiscal discipline from member states. The crisis has raised difficult questions about national sovereignty for many EU member states.