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It's a funny thing about dictionaries. First we're taught to revere them, then we have to learn to set them aside. Nobody ever went wrong starting a middle-school composition with, "According to Webster's ..." but that's not how you start an op-ed commentary about terrorism or racism. When it comes to the words that do the cultural heavy lifting, we're not about to defer to some lexicographer hunched over a dusty keyboard.

As a Mormon missionary, Ryan McIlvain spent two years ringing strangers' doorbells, even as he experienced doubts about his own faith. McIlvain left the church in his mid-20s. His debut novel, Elders, is based on the experiences he had trying to convert people to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Elder" is the term used for a young Mormon on his mission.

Almost every day, there's some new threat out of North Korea.

It's hard to determine how seriously to take these threats. War on the Korean Peninsula could be catastrophic, so the bluster can't be dismissed. On the other hand, North Korea has a long history of hyperbole, of making threats it doesn't follow through on.

Even before the Food and Drug Administration's latest safety warning to men about dietary supplements that claim to enhance sexual performance, there were clues of trouble.

The label for Ninja Mojo, for instance, misspells herbal as "harbal" and says buyers of it should "keep out of reach form [sic] children."

Hotels Hiding The Homeless

Apr 4, 2013

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, you probably know Jada Pinkett Smith as an actress from films like "Set it Off" or "Jason's Lyric," but she is going to tell us about a film she is supporting behind the scenes. It's a documentary about the 1960s icon Angela Davis. She executive produced it. That conversation is coming up in a few minutes.

Two years after the revolution, Egypt is in a deep economic crisis. It's running out of money to purchase crucial imports like wheat and fuel, both of which are subsidized by the government, and an infusion of cash is desperately needed.

While a delegation from the International Monetary Fund is in Cairo continuing negotiations on a $4.8 billion loan, Egyptians are strained by the rising costs of food — and the gas needed to cook it.

For Mosaad el Dabe, it's a disaster.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. Armstrong Pulls Out:

After an objection was raised Thursday by FINA, swimming's international governing body, Lance Armstrong has withdrawn from a masters swim meet being held this weekend in Austin, Texas, The Associated Press and other news outlets are reporting.

Two weeks after being embarrassed by the news that some of its yoga pants were way too sheer, there's word from Lululemon that chief product officer Sheree Waterson will be leaving the company April 15.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

There were 385,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance last week, up by 28,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration says.

The news follows Wednesday's report of slower-than-expected job growth in the private sector: The ADP National Employment Report estimated that businesses added just 158,000 jobs last month.

Bear in mind that, as NPR's Louisa Lim has said, North Korea's regime is skilled at making threats. And fortunately, the most ominous of those threats have not been followed by action in recent decades.

With those caveats in mind, here are Thursday's developments in the latest round of provocative moves by the communist state. From Beijing, Louisa tells our Newscast Desk that:

Saying that on this "profoundly emotional day" he hoped that his state would serve as an example to the rest of the nation, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sat down Thursday at 12:20 p.m. ET to sign into law what's being described as the most sweeping gun control legislation in the nation since the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Malloy praised lawmakers and those who helped craft the legislation for coming together "as few places in our nation have demonstrated the ability to do."

More than a week after Susan Patton's letter to the editor of The Daily Princetonian prompted heated criticism, the 1977 Princeton alumna says she still stands by her words.

"I have never had a problem voicing an unpopular opinion if it's heartfelt," Patton tells NPR.

In her letter, Patton wrote to young women attending her alma mater, "Find a husband on campus before you graduate."

Amber Bartlett was waiting last Friday for her kids to come home from school. One of them called from the entrance to the upscale subdivision near Little Rock, Ark., to tell her the community was being evacuated because of an oil spill. Bartlett was amazed by what she saw out her front door.

"I mean, just rolling oil. I mean, it was like a river," she says. "It had little waves in it."

Robert Mueller became FBI director just days before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, he's been the U.S. government's indispensable man when it comes to national security.

But Mueller's term has expired, and the clock is ticking on an unprecedented extension that Congress gave him two years ago.

The first time the Obama White House thought about a replacement for Mueller, back in 2011, officials threw up their hands and wound up begging him to stay. Congress passed a special law to allow it. Then Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa put his foot down.

Washington is awash in rumors this week that the White House is planning major changes in the way the U.S. donates food to fight hunger in some of the world's poorest countries.

It has set off an emotional debate. Both sides say they are trying to save lives.

America's policies on food aid are singularly generous — and also unusually selfish. On the generous side, the U.S. spends roughly $1.5 billion every year to send food abroad, far more than any other country.

Two professions that have traditionally had a rocky relationship — doctors and lawyers — are finding some common ground in clinics and hospitals across the country.

In Akron, Ohio, for instance, doctors are studying how adding a lawyer to the health care team can help improve a patient's health.

As a TV drones in the background, about a dozen women and children wait for their names to be called at the Summa women's clinic in Akron.

President Obama was in Denver on Wednesday to rally support for gun control laws. Colorado has stepped up on both background checks and ammunition magazines, and Democrats there fear backlash next year.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and Booker Prize-winning novelist, has died at her home in New York. She was 85.

NPR's Bob Mondello reported on her career for NPR's Newscast Desk:

"With the films of Merchant/Ivory, you tend to think first of period-perfect costumes and settings, but it was Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's scripts that gave them substance. She was witty, cultivated and could be wonderfully precise about class and propriety in her adaptations of, say, E.M. Forster.

We've told you the story of Brian Banks. He served five years in prison and then five years of probation for a rape conviction that was thrown out in May 2012.

What is the essence of a life? Is it our career accomplishments? Our devotion to friends and family? Our secret little talents and foibles? Is it, perhaps, our killer recipe for beef stroganoff?

An international team of researchers announced in Switzerland on Wednesday that an experiment on the International Space Station may have seen hints of something called dark matter. The finding could be a milestone in the decades-long search for the universe's missing material.

Only a tiny sliver of stuff in the universe is visible to scientists; the rest is dark matter. Researchers don't know what it is, but they know it's there. Its gravity pulls on the things we can see.

Relations between the United States and Russia are testier than they have been in years. The two nations are at odds over human rights, the civil war in Syria and even the adoption of Russian orphans by American families.

But former American diplomats say things aren't as bad as they may seem. They say the two countries should work together on economic and security issues.

Four former U.S. ambassadors to the Soviet Union and Russia were in Moscow this week for talks with their counterparts, former Russian ambassadors to the United States.

The middle-income housing projects Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village sit on an 80-acre patch of Lower Manhattan. In 2006, they came to epitomize the lunatic excess of the housing boom when their 11,232 apartments sold for $5.4 billion. They were bought at a competitive auction by Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty.

Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was shot and killed on Wednesday as he ate his lunch inside his vehicle.

The Charleston Gazette quotes one eyewitness as saying he saw a man pull up to Crum's car and shoot him "right in the head."

The paper adds:

"Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, of Delbarton, has been arrested in connection to the shooting, according to West Virginia State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in his first major policy speech, laid out Wednesday how to deal with threats in an era of tight defense budgets.

Hagel has ordered the Pentagon to take a hard look at how many soldiers and sailors it needs and what types of weapons it buys. He says the Pentagon is at war with itself: There are competing and spiraling costs within the military — for aging weapons, and for health and pension benefits for military personnel and retirees.

Corporations may have more control over online speech today than the courts. Executives determine which videos, pictures and comments are permitted and what art is allowed. Their rules govern billions of posts across the globe each day.

And those policies differ dramatically across Silicon Valley's big social platforms. Twitter calls itself the free speech wing of the free speech party and models its approach on the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, considered among the most vulnerable of the Senate's red-state Democrats facing 2014 re-election, now has at least one potential Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, whose congressional district includes Baton Rouge.

With one-quarter of adults over age 45 taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, it figures that more than a few people would have trouble sticking with the program.

More than a few, actually.

A big new study of statin use in the real world found that 17 percent of patients taking the pills reported side effects, including muscle pain, nausea, and problems with their liver or nervous system.

That's a lot higher than the 5 to 10 percent reported in the randomized controlled trials that provided evidence for regulatory approval of the medicines.

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