Energy Secretary Steven Chu appeared before a House oversight subcommittee Thursday to defend his agency's decision to lend $500 million in federal money to Solyndra, a company that made solar panels and is now bankrupt. The company is the subject of numerous federal investigations.
NPR's business news starts with oil prices hovering around $99 a barrel. Oil has gone up sharply since last month, partly because of signs of improvement in the U.S. economy. Also because of tensions in some oil producing regions, which could affect supplies. Still, the debt crisis in Europe is holding prices below that psychologically important $100 a barrel mark. Benchmark crude was trading in Asia this morning at about $98.90. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Italy's new prime minister has pledged far-reaching reforms. An economist himself, Mario Monti has managed to win a vote of confidence for his new national unity government by an overwhelming majority in Italy's senate. Still, Europe's debt crisis is gathering more steam and now pushing borrowing costs for Spain and France sharply higher. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, pressure is mounting on the European Central Bank to act to stem the crisis.
The child sex abuse scandal at Penn State is raising more and more questions about who knew what, when and what actions were, or were not taken. Elements of the unfolding scandal remain quite confusing. Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with abusing young boys.
Newt Gingrich served as speaker of the House of Representatives for four turbulent and productive years.
From 1995 through 1998, Congress forced a government shutdown, overhauled the welfare system, balanced the budget for the first time in decades and impeached a president for the second time in history.
Gingrich was in the middle of those debates, fiery in his rhetoric, yet willing to compromise and work with a Democratic president.
With Wednesday's deadline looming, the congressional supercommittee still seems far from an agreement, causing concern that failure could send financial markets into a spiral.
The bipartisan panel, charged with finding budget cuts or new revenues to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, is a child of the summer's debt-ceiling debate. It was an escape hatch for Congress and the president when they couldn't reach agreement on big deficit-reduction measures. That game of chicken helped to send the stock market sliding.
In Israel, tensions are rising between Jews and Palestinian Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the population. Over the past few months, several Arab sites have been vandalized by militant Jews who left graffiti such as "Death to Arabs."
Locals blame activists from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
At a recent demonstration on a street corner in the central Israeli town of Jaffa, protesters chant in both Hebrew and Arabic. The crowd is made up of Jews and Palestinians angry over the attacks, which have rocked their community.
When Sarah Littman took her son, Joshua, to college this fall, it was hard.
"I thought I was gonna cry the whole way back from college," she says during a visit to StoryCorps in New York City. "But I managed to make it until I got home. And then I walked upstairs and I saw your door shut and I just lost it."
Writer-director Alexander Payne is either the American cinema's most acerbic humanist or its most empathetic jerk. Whichever it is, the protagonists of the novels he adapts are outsiders who pay an emotional price for their sense of superiority.
Payne's The Descendants is his first film to be told from the perspective of a person of privilege, but real-estate lawyer Matt King (George Clooney) is the ultimate outsider: a stranger to his family and his lifelong home, Hawaii.