This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted today to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. He's accused of refusing to turn over certain documents related to the controversial gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.
It's like discovering a distant cousin, a really distant cousin. It's like learning that someone you had barely heard of is actually part of the family. In this case, the family is the Indo-European family of languages. And the umpteenth cousin is a language called Burushaski. It's spoken by about 90,000 people, the Burusho people, and nearly all of them live in Pakistan. A few hundred live in India.
Just to give a sense of what it sounds like, here's a joke in Burushaski that we came across online.
Well, if like me, you're more than a little mystified by Operation Twist, the Federal Reserve policy that's being extended, join me now for a four-minute tutorial. We've got a very classy tutor, economics professor Alan Blinder of Princeton, who is a former Fed vice chairman. Welcome back to the program.
On July 1, 15 California state parks are slated to be closed permanently to the public — the first such closures in the state's history. They're the victim of budget cuts in a state with a $16 billion shortfall.
Over the past year, park enthusiasts have scrambled to save dozens of parks from closure, including Henry W. Coe State Park, California's second-biggest state park, located about 30 miles south of San Jose.
For Langdon Cook, a walk in the woods isn't that different from a walk through the produce section of the supermarket. He's a writer, blogger and all-around outdoorsy type, but in outdoorsy Seattle, he's made his name primarily as a forager.
At any given moment, about 15,000 men and women are living in solitary confinement in the federal prison system, housed in tiny cells not much larger than a king-sized bed.
"It is hard to describe in words what such a small space begins to look like, feel like and smell like when someone is required to live virtually their entire life in it," says Craig Haney, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
But Tuesday, Haney, who has studied life inside prisons for three decades, had an opportunity to paint that picture.
Advocates for prisoners rights say too many inmates spend years in solitary confinement — in violation of the constitutional bar against cruel and unusual punishment. Today, they persuaded the U.S. Senate to hold the first hearing on the issue, as state and federal prison systems fend off new lawsuits over the practice.
The federal government could soon give the final go-ahead for Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Shell has spent $4 billion since 2007 to prepare for this work, and is hoping to tap into vast new deposits of oil.
But the plan to drill exploratory wells is controversial — opposed by environmental groups and some indigenous people as well.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up a five-day, six-state tour in Michigan on Tuesday.
Each of the states he visited was won by President Obama in the 2008 election. Each is also shaping up as a potential battleground this year.
In Michigan, the state where Romney was born, he avoided big cities and stayed in places friendly to the GOP. As he traveled east to west across central Michigan by bus, there were some pockets of protesters, but mostly at a distance.