Watch this
July 10, 2014

Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir, Wild, about her thousand-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, finally has its film adaptation.

Wild, which is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, who embarks on a vision quest after falling into depression in the wake of the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage.

Nick Hornby, the novelist behind bestsellers like About a Boy, is the film's screenwriter, so expect some poignant conversations. The film also stars Thomas Sadoski, Laura Dern, and Gaby Hoffman, and is scheduled for release on December 5. Watch the trailer below. --Meghan DeMaria

Johnsplaining
3:16 a.m. ET

The United States has been increasing its battery of standardized tests since the 1990s, and the number has only increased since President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind in 2001, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. Now, kids take 10 to 20 standardized tests a year, depending on grade, for a total average of 113 by the time they graduate. This isn't sitting well with many children, some of whom don't test well, others who get so nervous they throw up.

"Something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit," Oliver said. "Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills, not a rap battle on 8 Mile Road." President Obama campaigned against standardized testing, but only added his own — and both he and Bush (and countless governors) use the same argument: Some schools are failing, and we need accountability. "Unfortunately," Oliver said, "accountability is one of those concepts that everybody's in favor of but nobody knows how to make work — like synergy or maxi-dresses."

This is about where standardized testing proponents should be getting nervous. "Look, at this point, you have to ask yourself if standardized tests are bad for teachers and bad for kids, who exactly are they good for?" Oliver asked. And if you're not familiar with Pearson, the testing giant, prepare to be displeased. Oliver closed his case on accountability, noting that U.S. scores have dropped versus their global peers in the era of test-mania. "As far as I can see, this is a system that has enriched multiple companies, and that pays and fires teachers with a cattle-birthing formula, confuses children with talking pineapples, and has the same kinds of rules regarding transparency that Bad Pitt had for Fight Club." For some of those references, you have to watch below. That's not a bad thins: Along with some vaguely NSFW language and imagery, there's a dancing monkey and great recurring bit about a French grade-schooler. —Peter Weber

hollywood 411
2:58 a.m. ET
Facebook.com/Avengers

Avengers: Age of Ultron brought in $187.7 million over the weekend, the second-biggest domestic opening in history.

The movie has earned an estimated $627 million worldwide over the last 12 days, Variety reports, and is on track to pass $1 billion after it opens in China on May 12. Despite competition from the Kentucky Derby, NBA playoffs, and the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight, moviegoers flocked to the film — about 59 percent of the audience was male, 41 percent were over the age of 25, 12 percent were teenagers, and 22 percent were families. Coming in a distant second place this weekend was Age of Adaline with $6.3 million. Catherine Garcia

giving homes to the homeless
2:10 a.m. ET
David McNew/Getty Images

Over the last 10 years, the number of chronically homeless people in Utah has dropped dramatically — down from 1,932 in 2005 to just 178 in 2015. The decline started once the state decided to try something new: Giving homes to the homeless.

"We call it housing first, employment second," Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah's Homeless Task Force, told NBC News. "It's a philosophical shift in how we go about it. You put them in housing first ... and then help them begin to deal with the issues that caused them to be homeless." The chronically homeless — defined as a person who lived on the streets for more than a year, or four times in three years, with a debilitating condition — make up 10 percent of the state's homeless population, but use more than 50 percent of its resources.

On average, the state was spending $19,208 every year for one person, until Pendleton discovered it cost only about $7,800 to set a person up in a home with a case worker. "It's more humane, and it's cheaper," he said. "I call them 'homeless citizens.' They're part of our citizenry. They're not them and us. It's 'we.'" Participants in the program say as soon as they received the keys to their house, their lives turned around and they were able to hold down jobs. "It was a blessing," veteran Don Williams, who had slept under a bush for 10 years, told NBC News. "A real blessing." Catherine Garcia

Boko Haram
1:50 a.m. ET

Last week, Nigeria's army rescued about 700 women and children abducted by the Islamist militia Boko Haram, and the first contingent of 275 arrived late Saturday at a government refugee camp near Yola, the capital of northeastern Adamawa state. The women and kids are receiving medical care, and on Sunday they told reporters sad and harrowing stories about their capture, captivity, and rescue.

Many of the women said that when Boko Haram abducted them, the militants first killed their husbands and older male offspring in front of them. Some of the women were forced to marry Boko Haram fighters, and one women told Reuters that they were fed only dried ground corn in the afternoons, leading to widespread malnutrition and death. Also, "they didn't allow us to move an inch," explained Asabe Umaru. "If you needed the toilet, they followed you. We were kept in one place. We were under bondage."

The assaults didn't end when the Nigerian forces drew near. "Boko Haram came and told us they were moving out and that we should run away with them. But we said no," Lami Musa, 27, told The Associated Press. "Then they started stoning us. I held my baby to my stomach and doubled over to protect her."

Musa and other survivors of the stoning said they didn't know how many women died, but Musa said her 5-day-old baby — born the night before the rescue — saved her from forced marriage. "They took me so I can marry one of their commanders," she said, and they told her than once she delivered, "within a week we will marry you to our commander." Some of the women, hiding, were accidently crushed by Nigerian government tanks coming to rescue them, and at least three others died when they stepped on a land mine en route to the refugee camp.

Nigeria and neighboring countries have been capturing ground from Boko Haram since February, pushing them into the Sambisa Forest, where the captured women and children were all found. Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to leave his successor a country "free of terrorist strongholds" when he leaves office later this month. Reuters has a slideshow of the women reaching camp below. —Peter Weber

what's in a name
1:11 a.m. ET
WPA Pool/Getty Images

We know that she's a girl and fourth in line for the British throne, but there's still one lingering question about the new Princess of Cambridge: What's her name?

Thousands of people have made their bets in the UK, with Alice and Charlotte the frontrunners, followed by Olivia, The Guardian reports. It may still be awhile before the world finds out if her royal parents went with a historically-significant name like Alexandra or threw everyone for a loop with a Toddlers & Tiaras-inspired moniker like Makynli — they waited until her big brother met Queen Elizabeth two days after his birth to announce his full name of George Alexander Louis, but the Queen isn't expected to see the princess until the family goes to their country estate.

If the baby is named Charlotte, it could be an homage to her grandfather Charles, or George III's wife, Queen Charlotte, born in 1744. Alice was the name of Queen Victoria's second daughter, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh's mother, and there's also the possibility they will somehow incorporate a name that honors William’s late mother or her relatives. My fake British money is on Victoria Diana Elizabeth. Catherine Garcia

changes
May 3, 2015
Facebook.com/SmithCollege

Beginning in the fall, Smith College will change its policy and accept transgender women.

The women's college spent the past year studying the issue, and decided to change its policy of just accepting applicants who have identified as female since birth, The Associated Press reports. President Kathleen McCartney and board chairwoman Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard made the announcement on Saturday, saying that over time, "concepts of female identity have evolved." Smith, the largest of the Seven Sisters schools, will not admit students who were born female but identify as male. Catherine Garcia

crisis in yemen
May 3, 2015

In Yemen, new pro-government forces have arrived in the port city of Aden, leading some to believe that they are ground troops from the Saudi-led coalition brought in to fight the Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia says it has not sent any ground forces to Yemen, the Los Angeles Times reports. The unit, thought to be made up of about 50 people, including special forces operatives, joined up with members of the Southern Resistance Committees, an anti-Houthi armed group. A spokesperson for the pro-government committees in Aden told the Times the fighters were "engaged in the fights and confrontation in areas near and around Aden airport."

On Sunday, Human Rights Watch also said that the coalition likely used cluster bombs, which are banned in most countries, against the Houthis. Saudi officials have yet to comment on the allegation. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads