"First they ate their horses, and then fed upon their dogs and cats, as well as rats, mice and snakes."
So says James Horn of the historical group Colonial Williamsburg, paraphrasing an account by colony leader George Percy of what conditions were like for the hundreds of men and women stranded in Jamestown, Va., with little food in the dead of winter in 1609.
They even ate their shoes. And, apparently, at least one person.
Nearly half the people now in the U.S. illegally didn't climb walls, wade across the Rio Grande or trek through the desert to get here. They arrived legally, with tourist or student visas. And when those visas expired, they just never left.
Like the rest of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States, they are part of the underground economy and the government doesn't know where they are. The Senate immigration bill now before Congress tries to address this problem — though not as richly as it does border security.
During the housing bust, taxpayers were forced to bail out mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But thanks to the real estate recovery, Fannie Mae could end up paying tens of billions of dollars back to the Treasury this summer.
That's just one of the factors behind a better bottom line for the federal government. This week, the Treasury Department announced it will pay down some of its debt for the first time in six years.
"Compassionate release" programs that free inmates with terminal illnesses and limited life expectancies are poorly run and lack clear standards, the Department of Justice's inspector general said on Wednesday.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
President Obama today announced two new heads of agencies that play key roles in the economy. He tapped former wireless and cable industry executive, Tom Wheeler, to head the Federal Communications Commission. And he's naming North Carolina Democrat and veteran Congressman Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Republicans and Democrats in Florida's Legislature are at an impasse over whether to expand Medicaid. In order to pressure the Republican leadership to hold another vote, Democrats have invoked a rule requiring all bills to be read aloud in the entirety before they're voted on. In this post-Siri world, Republicans have plugged the bills into an electronic reader, dubbed Mary, who's reading t he bills at double speed to a chamber full of bored legislators.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with the war in Syria and the possibility of U.S. involvement. Today, in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used the opportunity of May Day to make a rare public appearance. He visited a power plant and said, we hope that by this time next year, we will have overcome the crisis in our country.
A contentious battle for a spot on Penn State's board of trustees is dividing the university's alumni community. While some candidates and alums focus on the past, others want to push beyond the abuse scandal that shook the school over the last two years. With so much at stake for the much-loved school, some say the board of trustees election is playing out more like a contentious political race for mayor or Congress, not just a spot on a university board.