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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2015 Northwest Public Radio. To see more, visit http://nwpr.org/.

This has been a banner year for employees seeking greater paid parental leave.

So if you add up all the college costs that students and parents probably didn't plan for — the stuff that isn't tuition and room and board — how big is that number? The National Retail Federation estimates that, this year, it will total $43 billion. That's a hard number to grasp, so let's break it down to one family — mine.

With our daughter now beginning her fourth and hopefully final year in college, here's one thing I've learned: No matter how much you plan to spend, it won't cover everything. Not even close.

The greater sage grouse is a peculiar and distinctly Western bird. It's about the size of a chicken and about as adaptable as the dodo bird, which is to say it's not very adaptable at all — at least not in a human-driven time scale.

In biological terms, the greater sage grouse is perfectly adapted for its habitat: the rolling hills of knee-high silver scrub that's sometimes called the sagebrush sea. It's the oft-forgotten parts of the fast-changing West — The Big Empty, as settlers used to call it.

In less than 24 hours, Valerie Davidson has 50 people coming to her house for dinner.

She had planned to catch and cook enough salmon for the main course. But early in the morning, Alaska opened the Kuskokwim River to commercial fishing, which means subsistence fishermen like her can't fish on it.

So Davidson and I are in her bright orange 1983 Chevy pickup stalking the "free fish" container where state biologists deposit their test catches after conducting studies after each high tide.

The viruses that cause the common cold are always lurking. But consider this: Even if we touch a doorknob or keyboard that's covered in cold germs from an infected person, we don't always catch the cold.

"Sometimes when we're exposed to viruses, we end up not getting sick," says Aric Prather, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies how our behaviors can influence our health.

Stories about how Amazon and Google want to deliver packages using drones have gotten a lot of attention. But in fact, some 1,300 businesses and individuals have already received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones for commercial purposes — everything from selling real estate to inspecting utility lines. But their operators are worried that recreational drone users who have been flying their vehicles near aircraft may spoil the party.

The title tells all: Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World. Author Linda Hirshman's joint biography of the first and second women to serve on the nation's highest court is a gossipy, funny, sometimes infuriating and moving tale of two women so similar and yet so different.

Sandra Day O'Connor, raised on a Western ranch and a lifelong Republican who cut her political teeth as majority leader of the Arizona Senate, was named to the Supreme Court by President Reagan in 1981.

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