Gossip is arguably one of humanity's oldest pastimes. It can be entertaining, it's occasionally helpful, it's often salacious and even, at times, vicious.
What it's not, argues Joseph Epstein, is trivial.
The author and essayist has already traced the history and practice of two other human weaknesses, snobbery and envy. In his new book, Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit, he turns his eye on our deep desire to hear — and share — the secrets of others, even if we feel guilty about doing so.
Facebook has developed new privacy features and agreed to 20 years of independent audits of its privacy practices. Google and Twitter previously settled similar cases with the Federal Trade Commission. Farhad Manjoo argues that Facebook, or any social network, can never be truly private.
The U.S. Postal Service has announced it will move forward with plans to close some 250 processing centers and lay off workers. The cuts may help save $3 billion a year by 2015, and could add a day to the delivery time of many shipments. The USPS is also reviewing post offices for possible closures.
A federal appeals court ruled that most bone marrow donors can be paid. The decision has sparked debate among advocates who believe compensation will create incentives for people to donate bone marrow, and the Justice Department, which argues compensation may compromise patient safety.
NPR's Neal Conan reads from Talk of the Nation listener comments on previous show topics, including advice for NPR's new CEO, Gary Knell, and the moments when a writer realizes he or she has become a poet.
John Lithgow was born into a theater family, but he never intended to become an actor; he wanted to paint. But ever since he first took the stage as a toddler, he was a hit — and he's gone on to win numerous awards for his work in television, theater and film.
In his memoir, Drama: An Actor's Education, Lithgow focuses on the years before the fame — from his stage debut at the age of 2 and his college years at Harvard, right up to the moment when he moved out West and became a star.
When Freeman Hrabowski became president of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 1992, he made it his mission to close the achievement gap. UMBC now sends more African-African students to graduate school in science and technology than any other predominantly white university in the U.S.
Many doctors complain that the few patients who refuse immunizations put all patients at risk, and some refuse them treatment. New York Times Ethicist Ariel Kaminer addresses the question of whether it's ethical for pediatricians to refuse routine care to families with unvaccinated children.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Over the weekend, as the number killed rose over 4,000, one U.N. official took the considered step of describing the situation in Syria as a civil war. While much of the opposition to the government of Bashar al-Assad remains peaceful, defectors from the military have taken up arms, neighborhoods have formed ad-hoc militias, political and military opposition groups have established a presence across the border in Turkey.
Herman Cain quit the presidential primary over the weekend and an Atlanta TV station reports that he may endorse his former rival, Newt Gingrich. NPR's Ken Rudin talks about Cain's decision to quit, and how it will change the primary field.