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When young adults set out to pick a college back in 2010 and 2011, they were making a decision of a lifetime amid big financial obstacles: soaring tuition and the great recession.

And as they progressed through their college careers, a debate over the value of college grew louder.

A long held mantra – that the best investment is a good education – is increasingly being called into question. Some politicians, high-profile entrepreneurs and even educators, have become publicly skeptical of the worth of a degree that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain.

While the HIV/AIDS epidemic no longer looks as menacing as it did in the 1980s and '90s, efforts to stop the spread of the disease have hit a brick wall.

You might not know his name but you undoubtedly know his famous sandwich, and many of us remember singing its ingredients along with a commercial in the 1970s: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

Michael "Jim" Delligatti, the McDonald's franchisee who created the Big Mac, died Monday. He was 98.

You can hear Harold Lopez-Nussa's training when he plays. The 33-year-old pianist is reluctant to admit the classical influence on his jazz playing, but he's quick to acknowledge that he, like many other great Cuban pianists, was classically trained. "This is the school that we have to learn music in Cuba; it's classical," he says. "I did all my stuff there from 8 years old to 25."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The governor of North Dakota says he has not authorized roadblocks or forcible removal of protesters from the area near the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple spoke to reporters in an effort to clarify the implications of an evacuation order he issued earlier this week, which he said had led to "some miscommunication" with local law enforcement.

Millions of years ago, a little beetle lived among beeches and buttercups on a sparely vegetated tundra at the head of a fjord in Antarctica.

The beetle was small — less than a centimeter long — and it was brown with the typical six legs and two antennae attached to a body protected by a hard shell.

The Obama administration has issued a sweeping final rule banning smoking in all public housing units nationwide, extending a smoke-free environment to nearly a million units.

The federal ethics watchdog isn't the kind of agency that typically airs its positions on Twitter — let alone in a snarky tone, with exclamation points.

But it's been an all-around weird day at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences says it's hard to know how many people in the U.S. actually have food allergies or whether they're on the rise.

Part of the challenge is this: Food allergies are often self-diagnosed and symptoms can be misinterpreted. Sometimes people can't distinguish a food allergy from other conditions such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, which don't fit the medical definition of an allergy.

As expected, the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday imposed additional sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program. But the fine print included one punitive measure that caused some head-scratching: a ban on the export of monuments.

Is there really an international market for monuments made in North Korea?

And who's buying them?

Well, yes, there is a market. And some of the most avid customers are African nations and rulers.

In the race for video streaming domination, Netflix surges forward. On Wednesday, Netflix announced and implemented in its latest update, the ability to download TV and movie titles on mobile devices.

It all started with a report of a mountain lion sighting in a city park. That's when police in Gardner, Kan., decided to install trail cameras — but instead of cougars, the cameras captured scenes of costumed people romping in the park, dressed as gorillas and, in one case, a beer-drinking Santa.

Gavlebocken, we hardly knew ye. Truly.

Every year for Advent, the town of Gavle, Sweden, builds a giant Christmas goat out of straw. And every year, arsonists do their best to bring it down.

This time, despite high-tech cameras and two security guards, the goat didn't even last a full 24 hours.

There's no shortage of speculation about how the incoming Trump administration, whose appointees so far are staunch abortion opponents, might crack down on access to the procedure.

But reproductive rights groups say the big picture is getting lost: Women in large parts of the country already have limited access to abortion, due to hundreds of Republican-backed laws passed by state legislatures over the past half-decade.

An annual study released by the Brazilian government estimates that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 29 percent over last year.

That's the second year in a row that deforestation in the Amazon quickened; last year, the pace rose by about 24 percent.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled the rebel-held neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo, as Syrian regime forces make major gains.

If any image haunts TV news, and perhaps our conscience, it's the seemingly ceaseless river of migrants seeking refuge from war, dictatorship and poverty. These desperate souls inspire pity, fear and election-year arguments about whether to offer them welcome or keep them out.

Congress has reached a compromise on the Pentagon's effort to claw back millions of dollars in bonuses paid by the California National Guard, agreeing to forgive the debt in cases where soldiers "knew or reasonably should have known" they were ineligible to receive the money.

Joint replacements. Cardiac care. Chemotherapy.

What do those things have to do with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act?

Well, an often overlooked part of Obamacare is a test kitchen within the Department of Health and Human Services that experiments with new ways for the government to pay for some expensive and frequently used health care services, including those three.

It was in 1974 that William Christenberry found the little red house.

The photographer and painter, a vital chronicler of rural Alabama, came across the building standing alone among the pine trees, deep in the Talladega National Forest. All he had with him was his tiny, no-frills Brownie camera — a long-cherished gift that "Santa brought my sister and me."

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

In eastern Tennessee, deadly wildfires are still burning and authorities say it's still too dangerous for thousands of people to return to their damaged and destroyed homes and businesses.

On Wednesday, authorities in Gatlinburg, Tenn., said the confirmed death toll had grown to seven people, reported The Associated Press. Search and rescue crews from local law enforcement agencies and the National Guard combed through the remains of buildings looking for survivors.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Nancy Pelosi beat back her toughest challenge yet to her leadership of Democrats in the House of Representatives, defeating Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan to secure another term as House minority leader.

The California Democrat got 134 votes to Ryan's 63 in a secret ballot vote on Wednesday. Pelosi had boasted going into the vote that she had support from two-thirds of the caucus, and she received just over that amount.

A police officer in Charlotte, N.C., will not face charges in the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Scott's death in September unleashed two days of unrest in Charlotte, when protesters took to the streets and in some cases threw objects at police and smashed windows.

R. Andrew Murray, the Mecklenburg County district attorney, said during a news conference Wednesday that he was "entirely convinced" that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Brentley Vinson "was lawful in using deadly force."

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