This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Paywall skeptic Clay Shirky long maintained that barriers to newspaper websites were counterproductive and self-defeating, that online readers accustomed to getting the news for free would find another way or another source of news.
A report by NPR and ProPublica finds that Freddie Mac bet billions of dollars against homeowners' ability to refinance their mortgages. Public documents show Freddie Mac sought to make gains through complex securities which would make money for Freddie Mac, but homeowners with high-interest rate loans would not be able to qualify for refinancing. This is not illegal, but it does raise questions about a conflict of interest within a federally-owned company that is supposed to make getting a mortgage easier.
Violence persists around Damascus as protesters continue to urge President Bashar al-Assad's to step down. The Arab League has suspended its monitoring mission and the United Nations Security Council is considering a resolution condemning al-Assad's regime.
In this photo provided by the German Government Press Office, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel speak at a meeting at the European Council in Brussels ahead of the European Union leaders summit on Monday.
European Union leaders are meeting in Brussels today to discuss the monetary union's ongoing economic crisis. According to The New York Times, the countries will decide that austerity is not enough to curb the sovereign debt crisis.
An artist on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach puts the final touches on a sand sculpture of the assassin bug, which spreads Chagas disease. The sculpture was part of an event in 2009 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the disease.
Tropical diseases that have long been overlooked are getting their due.
An ambitious new push to eradicate, eliminate or control 17 scourges over the next eight years was just unveiled in London. The initiative brings together some of the world's largest drugmakers, health-oriented foundations and nongovernmental organizations. Governments from the developed world and the countries most affected by the diseases are also on board.
Joseph Wasilewski, a wildlife biologist, captures a wild python on the side of the Tamiami Trail road that cuts through the Florida Everglades on Sept. 16, 2009. The number of invasive pythons in the Everglades has exploded since the 1990s.
Unlike this alligator, many animals native to the Everglades didn't evolve to take on a giant python. As a result, the snakes have become top predators in the environment, decimating populations of raccoons, opossums and other mammals.
Scientists are reporting that aliens are wiping out the animals in Florida's Everglades.
The aliens are Burmese pythons from Asia. They've been slithering around south Florida for decades. But scientists now say the constrictors are so bad, they're eating their way through the swamps. And the federal government has decided to take action to prevent their spread.
While the United States has mostly escaped winter, the opposite has been true in Eastern Europe. The AP reports that an intense freeze has killed at least 36 people throughout eastern Europe. In some places, temperatures dropped to negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
In my family, we referred to them as "the brisket brigade" — those single ladies of a certain age who began bombarding my brother-in-law with casseroles and commiseration soon after my sister-in-law died. It's a cruel fact of life that nobody plies widows with months of home-cooked meals and baked goods; as Jonathan Swift might have modestly proposed, widows might as well eat each other — there's a surplus supply of them, anyway. But, a new widower gets the Crock-Pots and the romantic fantasies all fired up.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom at a North Shore court in Auckland. Dotcom was denied bail in New Zealand with a judge saying he was concerned the Internet tycoon's vast wealth meant he could flee the country if released from custody.
Many of the files stored by the millions of users of the cloud service Megaupload could begin losing their files on Thursday. The AP reports that federal prosecutors said Megaupload paid third parties to store data and now that authorities have freezed Megaupload's accounts, it can no longer pay those providers. The providers said they would begin deleting files as early as Thursday.
Stew's new album Making It is, in part, about his relationship with his ex-girlfriend and songwriting partner, Heidi Rodewald.
The two musicians, who still work together professionally, dated each other for years. They collaborated on songs for their band The Negro Problem, as well as on orchestrations for Passing Strange, their semi-autobiographical Broadway musical about a young African-American trying to understand himself while traveling around Europe. But during Passing Strange's initial run in Berkeley, Calif., Stew and Rodewald broke up.