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4:11 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

What Are Education Tests For, Anyway?

The all-too-familiar No. 2 pencil.
Josh Davis Flickr

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 1:30 pm

Pay attention to this piece. There's going to be a test at the end.

Did that trigger scary memories of the 10th grade? Or are you just curious how you'll measure up?

If the answer is "C: Either of the above," keep reading.

Tests have existed throughout the history of education. Today they're being used more than ever before — but not necessarily as designed.

Different types of tests are best for different purposes. Some help students learn better. Some are there to sort individuals. Others help us understand how a whole population is doing.

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NPR Story
4:11 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Plastic Bag Bans: Do Pros Outweigh Cons?

(MTSOfan/Flickr)

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 1:51 pm

The Chicago City Council voted today 36 to 10 to ban plastic bags starting next year. The ordinance prohibits large retailers from using plastic bags; it would not apply to restaurants and mom and pop stores.

The Retail Merchants Association says the measure will raise costs for retailers, put jobs in jeopardy and make businesses rethink setting up shop in Chicago.

Those are all concerns that San Francisco dealt with when it became the first major city in the country to issue a plastic bag ban in 2007.

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U.S.
3:23 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

States Struggle To Find An Execution Method That Works

The gurney in the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary is pictured in McAlester, Okla., in 2008. Legal pressures and concerns from European manufacturers have made traditional execution drugs unavailable to states.
AP

States have always struggled to find humane ways to carry out the death penalty. For a generation, they have favored lethal injection, but that method has become increasingly problematic.

It's coming under increased scrutiny following the death of Clayton Lockett, who died Tuesday of a heart attack after writhing visibly during an execution attempt in Oklahoma.

The execution "fell short" of humane standards, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday.

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It's All Politics
3:06 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Nino's No-No: Justice Scalia Flubs Dissent In Pollution Case

Whether the error in Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's recent dissent was originally his fault or a clerk's doesn't make it less cringeworthy.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 4:28 pm

All of us who write for a living know what it's like to completely forget something you wrote 13 years ago.

But when a Supreme Court justice pointedly cites the facts in a decision he wrote, and gets them exactly wrong, it is more than embarrassing. It makes for headlines among the legal cognoscenti.

I'm not sure I rank as one of the cognoscenti, but here's my headline for Justice Antonin Scalia's booboo: "Nino's No-No."

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The Two-Way
3:05 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Will Step Down

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
DIA Public Affairs

The Army general who heads the Defense Intelligence Agency is leaving a year early and retiring.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but sources say he's stepping down because he's fed up with bureaucratic fights in Washington.

Flynn is expected to announce his retirement within the next week.

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NPR News Investigations
2:57 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Campus Rape Reports Are Up, And Assaults Aren't The Only Reason

After the University of Michigan increased its efforts to prevent sexual assaults on campus, reports increased by 113 percent.
Erin/Flickr

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 4:04 pm

The number of "forcible rapes" that get reported at four-year colleges increased 49 percent between 2008 and 2012. That's the finding of an analysis by NPR's Investigative Unit of data from the Department of Education.

That increase shows that sexual assault is a persistent and ugly problem on college campuses. But there's also a way to look at the rise in reports and see something positive: It means more students are willing to come forward and report this underreported crime.

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The Two-Way
2:42 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Sen. Reid: NFL Should Follow NBA's Lead Regarding Redskins Owner

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid says the NFL should consider ousting Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Snyder has been criticized — even by President Obama — over the name of his football team, which is considered a racial epithet against Native Americans.

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Shots - Health News
2:35 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Botched Execution Leads Doctor To Review His Principles

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issues a statement to the media after the execution of Clayton Lockett. Oklahoma Secretary of Safety and Security Michael C. Thompson stands behind her at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Alonzo Adams AP

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 12:09 pm

Executions in this country often draw controversy. But when the headlines about them include words like botched or bungled, the debate about capital punishment enters new territory.

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All Tech Considered
2:08 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

High-Tech Maker Spaces: Helping Little Startups Make It Big

A member works in the electronics lab at NextFab Studios in Philadelphia. Members pay for access to computers and high-end machines like laser cutters and 3-D printers.
Jon Kalish

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 2:20 pm

Around the country, there are lots of tinkerers working on what they hope will be the next brilliant idea — but who don't have the tools in their garage to build it.

In dozens of cities, those innovators can set up shop in a "maker space" — community workshops where members have access to sophisticated tools and expertise.

Maker spaces have become hotbeds of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. Now, governments, universities and big corporations are taking notice — and beginning to invest in them.

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Off-Beat Booze
2:08 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Renegade Cider Makers Get Funky To Cope With Apple Shortage

Nat West, owner of Reverend Nat's Hard Cider in Portland, Ore., uses sweet apples to make cider, and gives it an extra kick with ginger juice, herbal tonics, coffee and hops.
Courtesy of Reverend Nat's Hard Cider

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 7:31 am

For centuries, hard apple cider has been made with the fermented juice of apples — nothing more, nothing less. And a lot of cider drinkers and makers — let's call them purists — like it that way.

But a new wave of renegade cider makers in America is shirking tradition and adding unusual ingredients to the fermentation tank — from chocolate and tropical fruit juices to herbs, chili peppers and unusual yeasts. Their aim — which is controversial among the purists — is to bring out the best, or just the weirdest, flavors in the ciders.

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All Tech Considered
2:08 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Twitter CEO Hopes To Attract Users By Clearing The Clutter

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says the company has to bridge the gap between the brand's global awareness and user engagement.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 11:48 am

Twitter is growing and its brand is spreading but Wall Street is unimpressed. On Tuesday, the company announced it had doubled its quarterly revenue from a year ago to $250 million. The social networking site also increased its number of active users to 255 million, up 25 percent from a year earlier.

But despite the gains, Wall Street analysts have called the growth tepid. Twitter went public last November, and its shares have traded as high as $74; on Wednesday, it opened at under $38.

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Politics
2:08 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Minimum Wage Raise: Blocked For Now, May Live Again In Campaigns

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 8:20 pm

Senate Republicans blocked a vote Wednesday on a bill to raise the nation's minimum wage. But don't expect that to be the end of the story.

For more than a year now, Democrats, including President Obama, have been pushing to boost the minimum wage. Their latest target is $10.10 an hour.

GOP critics argue that would depress hiring in an already weak job market.

But raising the wage is popular with voters, and Democrats plan to make the issue a rallying cry between now and the November elections.

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NPR Story
1:51 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Restarting Life Out From Under Polio's Shadow

Gail Caldwell's new memoir "New Life, No Instructions" tells the story of what it was like to change the preconceptions she'd had about her life and literally learn to walk again.

Polio has been a large part of author Gail Caldwell’s life, ever since she contracted the disease at the age of six months.

Though she was eventually able to walk, she couldn’t jump rope or play basketball. But Caldwell was able to swim, row and establish a distinguished career as a writer.

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NPR Story
1:51 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

U.S. Economic Growth Slows In First Quarter

The Commerce Department reports that GDP growth in this country — that’s the value of all goods and services produced in the economy — slowed to an annual rate of 0.1 percent for the first quarter of this year.

Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial in Chicago, tells Here & Now that the tough winter weather continues to affect the numbers.

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NPR Story
1:51 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Pentagon To Review Army Hair Requirements After Controversy

This image provided by the U.S. Army shows new Army grooming regulations for females. The new regulations on how women may style their hair has drawn criticism from the Congressional Black Caucus and female African American soldiers. (U.S. Army via AP)

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 10:47 am

Earlier this month, the Army issued new hair regulations that banned most twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows – styles used predominately by African-American women with natural hairstyles.

Sixteen female members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to Secretary Defense Chuck Hagel calling the changes “discriminatory rules targeting soldiers who are women of color.”

Now, in response to that criticism, the military is expected to review those standards. Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby says Hagel will make whatever adjustments are appropriate after review.

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