Alpaca Party: Forget the circus and its elephant march—Friday afternoon brought a new kind of four-legged creature to the streets of downtown. A pair of alpacas (“a domesticated species of South American camelid,” but you already knew that, right?) joined a protest to kick off the National Occupation of Washington today. Still unclear: Exactly what the alpacas had to do with the protest march. But do you really need a reason to parade an alpaca around? No, you don’t. +2

Studying Pays Off: Standardized test scores are scrutinized closely by parents, trying to decide which schools to send their kids to, and school administrators, trying to decide which teachers to reward or punish for being “highly effective.” And at Wilson High School, they’re not leaving anything to chance; the school is paying sophomores $50 each for every test they score “proficient” or better on. Which would make for a good math test question: If an extra hour of study leads to a $50 payoff, what’s the hourly wage for studying for your math test? -1

That Sinking Feeling: Experts already knew the National Mall—and things like the Washington Monument that sit on top of it—was sinking; after all, much of the land used to be wetlands that was filled in. But last August’s earthquake didn’t help. A survey underway now indicates that the Washington Monument may have sunk 1 millimeter in the shaking. That’s not much, but anything that adds to the $15 million tab to repair the monument counts. -1

Mini-Hoya Saxa: The Georgetown Hoyas will have to replace two seniors, a departing junior, and—possibly—a bulldog mascot next season. The team is already working on filling one of those spots: News came today that the school is training a puppy to stand in for injured mascot Jack the Bulldog. The new pup, Jack Junior, will live with the same on-campus priest who keeps the elder mascot. No word on whether the puppy can dunk. +1

Yesterday’s Needle rating: 58 Today’s score: +1 Friday bonus: +2 Today’s Needle rating: 61