Follow the link to see our roundup of the top national and international news stories of the week.

News of the week

Here are the top news stories from the past week:

- “We just watched the Playoff game. I feel really bad for you but I wanted to tell you that you had a great season. you sould be very proud, so I wanted to say thank you. I am your #1 FAN!” – 7-year-old Owen Shure, who penned a letter to Kyle Williams of the San Francisco 49ers after he fumbled in the playoffs and cost the 49ers the game. Owen was crying after the fumble when his dad comforted him by asking how he thought Williams felt. Owen then decided to write the letter, which is very different from the death threats Williams received on Twitter.

- A 9-year-old girl in Colorado Springs, Colo., was found safe by police after the girl outsmarted her kidnapper. The kidnapper’s car broke down, and when he stopped at a convenience store, the girl ran inside and called 911. After the call, the man tried to get her out of the store again, but she refused to go with, and the man fled.

- Passengers who survived the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia will receive compensation, the company announced Friday. Each passenger will receive 11,000 euros, or about $14,000. Sixteen people have been declared dead in the wreck, while another 16 are still missing.

- "Vanna and I would go across (the street) and have two, or three or six (drinks). And then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet. The average number of drinks was cuatro." – “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak, talking in an interview about the early days of the show. Sajak said he and White had a lot of free time when the show featured prizes instead of cash, because the stage would have to be rearranged between tapings.

- According to information from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, new-home sales hit a new low in 2011. Only 302,000 new homes were sold all year, the lowest amount since numbers began being tracked in 1963.

- Facebook announced Wednesday that the new Timeline feature is now going to be mandatory. The feature presents your profile page in a different way, and shows your entire Facebook history. The company said that if users don’t want certain information showing up, they have until Jan. 31 to delete old information.

- "It just takes your breath away, their capacity and their bravery and their incredible timing." – Vice President Joe Biden, talking on "Good Morning America" about the special forces that rescued two kidnapped aid workers in Somolia. One of the workers is American. Both workers are safe, and no special forces were hurt in the night raid. Officials said all nine kidnappers – who are believed to be pirates – were killed in the operation.

- Mitt Romney released his tax information Tuesday after taking a hit in South Carolina because he hadn’t done so. What they show is that Romney has made $42.7 million in the past two years and paid $6.2 million in taxes, about 14 percent. The Romneys made $21 million in 2011 and $21.7 million in 2010. 

- "Today we're pleased to be launching features that will address and remedy the majority of these issues. To be clear - our work here isn't done, but I'm really pleased to be shipping a milestone on our journey." - Bradley Horowitz of Google, announcing Tuesday that Google Plus will now allow nicknames on the social-networking site. The site will now allow real names plus nicknames or only assumed names.

Video of the week

A man in California said he was bored, so he decided to steal display animals from a museum. Watch below:


GateHouse News Service