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Three of the five people who were aboard a small plane when it crashed into a neighborhood in Riverside, Calif., have died, in a crash that occurred shortly after the craft took off Monday afternoon. Residents were not at home when the plane hit one house; fire destroyed another.

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"Flesh is a dead format," writes Mark O'Connell in To Be a Machine, his new nonfiction book about the contemporary transhumanist movement. It's an alarming statement, but don't kill the messenger: As he's eager to explain early in the book, the author is not a transhumanist himself.

In 1890, Sir Thomas Lipton arrived on the island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to purchase a plot of land that would become the first tea estate in his global tea empire. These days, in the Ambadandegama Valley located just a few miles from Lipton's original estate, another experiment in tea production is unfolding.

Tressie McMillan Cottom studies for-profit colleges as a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. She's analyzed large data sets, scrutinized financial filings, interviewed students and staff. But she has also helped enroll students at two different for-profits herself.

They're not named, but known only as "Beauty College" and "Technical College," in her new book, Lower Ed.

NPR Ed has covered both the rise, and some of the travails, of this form of education. We called up Cottom to hear her thoughts. Here's an edited version of our conversation.

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