Morning Edition for Wednesday, January 1, 2014

As the new Common Core State Standards are rolled out across the country, a growing number of educators and parents say they're worried about the tests being developed and tied to the new, more rigorous standards in reading and math. The test results after all won't just be used to gauge kids progress but to evaluate teachers, rate schools and rank states.
In 2010, Central Falls made headlines for firing every high school teacher. The firings were part of a federal program promising big changes at the nation's worst schools. Four years later, there are signs the program is helping, but there are also questions about whether the improvement will last.
Actor Malcolm Jamal Warner may be best known for his role as Theo on The Cosby Show. Now he's starring in a stage production based on the 1967 film, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. In the first of a two-part interview, David Greene talks to Warner about coming of age on The Cosby Show.

Isaac Asimov Right On With Some 2014 Predictions

Fifty years ago, science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov foresaw gadgets that "relieve mankind of tedious jobs" like machines that heat water and prepare coffee. He predicted smartphones — noting we'd be able to see and hear someone we call, and be able to look at photos on the same screen.
On Comedy Central, the reality show Nathan for You features a mild-mannered Canadian giving small business owners outrageous marketing advice. In one episode, Nathan Fielding tries to get 40 maids to clean one house in six minutes.
Phosphorus is one of the nutrients that plants need to grow, and for most of human history, farmers always needed more of it. But excess phosphorus, either from manure or manufactured fertilizer, can run off into streams and lakes and become an ecological disaster.
In many prisons and jails across the U.S., a bland, brownish lump is served to inmates who misbehave. Law enforcement officials say it's not that bad, and it's a very effective deterrent. But the practice is starting to fade as more prisoners argue that the loaf is cruel and unusual punishment.
The Italian automaker already held a majority share of the Detroit automaker that produces Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles.
Former currency trader John Rusnak committed one of the largest bank frauds in history. He racked up nine-figure losses at Baltimore's Allfirst Bank before he got caught and was sent to prison. Five years later, Rusnak was back on the outside franchising a chain of dry cleaners and hiring people who'd also made big mistakes.
The taxes on recreational marijuana sales is 25 percent. Some estimate that tax will generate more than $60 million for the state annually.
This year promises to bring plenty of political drama — and some high stakes races — with mid-term elections in full view. Billions of dollars will be spent in House, Senate and governors' contests. And some of the nation's most powerful politicians will scramble to hold onto their seats.

'Good Behavior' More Than A Game To Health Care Plan

The Trillium Community Health Plan in Oregon gave 50 schools money to integrate the Good Behavior Game. It keeps kids plugged in and learning, and hopefully less likely later to pick up a dangerous habit like smoking.

South Sudan Peace Talks Begin, Fighting Persists

Peace talks have begun between the government and rebels in South Sudan, but there's no immediate sign of an end to the fighting. The talks are being held in neighboring Ethiopia, where observers say any progress is likely to take some time.

How Scarcity Trap Affects Our Thinking, Behavior

A Harvard economist finds there are psychological connections between the bad financial planning of many poor people and the poor time management of busy professionals. In both cases, he finds the experience of scarcity causes biases in the mind that exacerbate problems.

Twins Born Minutes Apart But In Different Years

If little Lorraine Begazo turns out like many big sisters, she'll lord it over her brother Brandon that she's the older one. And she was born the year before he was. The twins were born 2 minutes apart — one on New Year's Eve and the other on New Year's Day.

Why The Cod On Cape Cod Now Comes From Iceland

Order cod fish in a restaurant on Cape Cod, and you might assume you were buying local. But the fish that gave the Cape its name are now so depleted that restaurants are serving cod imported from Iceland. Some activists think it's time America developed a taste for the less popular fish still present in the waters off the Cape.

Is U.S. Ready Rethink Sept. 11 Security Policies?

President Obama will announce this year how he wants to overhaul operations at the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies. The NSA surveillance activities disclosed by Edward Snowden have been criticized by Congress and others. In the past, reports of intelligence abuses or failures have prompted significant changes.

Saudi Arabia To Give Military Aid To Lebanon

Lebanon has announced Saudi Arabia will give it $3 billion to buy weapons. To explain the significance of this gift, Renee Montagne talks to Araz Nerguizian, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Our Planet Money story is about a famous bet over population growth — a bet that some say helped set the tone for many of today's environmental debates.
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