Two people were killed and at least 23 more were injured early Thursday when a vehicle sped through one of Austin's crowded streets. Police say the man behind the wheel fled a drunken-driving stop.
Turns out Republicans and Democrats can agree on some things. A bipartisan plan emerged in the Senate this week, backed by Senate Banking Committee leaders Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), that would wind down mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Fannie and Freddie were originally set up to make buying a home cheaper for many Americans. But after they went bust during the last financial crisis, many in Washington want the quasi-governmental outfits snuffed out for good. That's a tall order, since voters and the powerful real estate industry enjoy their subsidized mortgages.
Marketplace's economics commentator Chris Farrell joins Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss the potential consequences for home buyers -- good and bad.
Click on the audio player above to hear the full report.
You know about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia anyone can edit. Well, there’s an effort in California to use the wiki model to draft legislation -- actual bills that will be introduced to the state legislature.
It’s often said there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. That’s what’s California Assemblyman Mike Gatto was thinking about when he decided to launch an experiment in crowdsourcing legislation.
His chosen topic? The state’s probate code, which regulates wills.
“We’ve seen a lot of very excited feedback on what is, you know, a somewhat boring subject,” he says.
Gatto had heard the probate code needed some updating. And it seemed like a safe topic for his first wiki-bill. Plus, he wanted a boring subject, so special-interest groups would be less likely to co-opt the legislation.
“So we thought this was a wonderfully happy medium, pun intended, for the public to get involved to directly affect a bill,” Gatto says.
Through March 7, anyone can go to the page and add language or start a discussion. But, so far, not too many people have. The wiki-page shows about 12 contributors.
Tim Bonnemann is CEO of Intellitics, a company that helps organizations connect and interact with people through social media. He’s been observing the wiki-bill process and says Gatto’s team was too hands off.
“And they also started at the most difficult part, which is writing legislative copy,” he says. “When maybe they should have invited people more to share stories and indentify challenges and develop solutions together.”
And as for keeping special interests out of the mix, Bonnemann says wiki-bills might actually help.
“In general, the more public, the more transparent the process is overall, the more difficult it becomes for people to slip things in unnoticed,” he says.
Gatto has pledged to introduce whatever bill his wiki-contributors come up with. And he says, maybe next year, they can refine the process and take on more timely issues, like crowd sourcing ideas for dealing with California’s drought.
A recent study found that the populations of for-profit prisons tend to be younger, which correlates with a skew toward more black and Latino inmates than in publicly run prisons.
U.S. investigators tell The Wall Street Journal that equipment aboard the missing plane was transmitting for four hours after it is thought to have vanished. Malaysian officials say that's not true.
Russian Oligarchs are everywhere. Whether they’re losing billions in Sochi investments, escaping sanctions over the Ukranian occupation, or fearing a new front in the crisis, they seem to pop up like boogeymen whenever the media talks about Russia. But who exactly are these shadowy figures? To put it simply, they’re extremely wealthy men that wield an incredible amount of influence in Russian politics. Think the Koch brothers or George Soros multiplied by a thousand. To understand anything about Russia, you have to understand the oligarchs. Here are six of the most prominent:
The richest man in Russia and the 40th richest person in the world, Alisher Usmanov started in the metal industry, but now has interests in telecommunications, media, and sports. Last year, he invested about $100 million in Apple. The former fencing champion spent six years in an Uzbeki jail on fraud and extortion charges, but was eventually cleared by a Soviet court. Usmanov is close with Putin, firing managers of a magazine he owned after it printed ‘anti-Putin’ photos. Last July, he was given the Order for Service to the Fatherland, Russia’s highest civil award.
Oleg Deripaska spent $1 billion of his own money to fund the Sochi Olympics, but he’s best known to western audiences for the $15,000 he spent to construct a dog shelter and save some of Sochi’s strays. That good publicity is something of a rarity for aluminum magnate Deripaska, as he was embroiled in ‘yachtgate’, when two prominent British politicians boarded a yacht he owned. He also lost a fair amount of his fortune when the great recession hit and the aluminum market collapsed. Nevertheless, he remains a favorite of Putin, and he’s still worth $6.5 billion, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Mikhail Prokorov owns the Brooklyn Nets, rapped on Russian TV, and has backflipped on a jet ski. If that weren’t exciting enough, he’s even criticized Vladimir Putin. In public. Although Prokorov got rich through metals, his current concern is politics. He ran as an independent candidate against Putin in the 2012 election, and he’s now building a political party called ‘The Civic Platform’. Although he only got 8% of the vote two years ago, he intends to expand ‘The Civic Platform’ until it’s ready to face Putin’s ‘United Russia’ party.
An oil tycoon, former governor, and owner of the world’s largest yacht, Roman Abramovich is one of Putin’s closest allies. He also happens to be the 137th richest person in the world. Not just a businessman, Abramovich was governor, then Duma chairman of Chutokta, an icy province in Russia’s far east. At times controversial, Abramovich had a major falling out with former bussiness-partner and Putin king-maker Boris Berezovsky, who committed suicide after his $5 billion lawsuit against Abramovich was unsuccessful.
Leonid Mikhelson sold his Soviet car in order to take part in the first rounds of Russia’s privatization. He’s now CEO of Novatek, one of Russia’s largest natural gas producers, and his fortune is estimated at $15.6 billion. Mikhelson is also one of the most important players in the art world, running the V-A-C foundation, which promotes Russian art. And who does he want to eventually run the foundation after him? Why, his daughter Victoria, who, perhaps not coincidentally, the foundation is named after. Not bad for an art history student at NYU.
Perhaps the most well known oligarch isn’t really an oligarch at all, as he’s only worth $170 million. Before he spent more than a decade in prison on charges of tax evasion and fraud, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the richest man in Russia. Like so many other oligarchs, he made his fortune when the Soviet Union privatized its resources, tying himself in to the country’s controversial move to a non-communist economy. But after supporting Putin’s liberal opposition, Khodorkovsky found himself in jail, on what his lawyers contended were trumped charges. Ten years later, in what was widely seen as a move to improve Russia’s image before the Sochi games, Putin pardoned him. Khodorkovsky declared that he would no longer be involved in Russian politics, but on March 10th, he addressed a crowd of protesters in Kiev, railing against the Russian government. As for what’s next for one of the most famous (former) Russian oligarchs, only time will tell.