NPR Staff

With February comes Black History Month in the U.S., a time designated to reflect on the history and contributions of people of African descent in this country. And while the month may invite debate among some, one thing rarely does in the U.S.: the idea of calling oneself, or being described as, black or African-American.

There was a time when it felt like Keurig coffee pods were going to take over the world — or at least encircle it.

But now sales are on the decline, down some $60 million from last year.

The company has faced criticism because the individual coffee pods are not kind to the environment. But Venessa Wong with BuzzFeed says that's not the only factor that's contributed to the decline in sales.

The Jordanian movie Theeb has been nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar. It's a beautiful, sweeping story set in 1916 in an area of western Saudi Arabia then known as the Hejaz. The film's director, Naji Abu Nowar, says Theeb covers a pivotal moment in the region's history.

"The First World War is kicking off ... and the war is coming toward this area of Hejaz," he tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "The British are ... inciting the Arab tribes to revolt against the Ottoman imperialists. And so you're on the brink of a massive change."

Editor's Note: Some may find the graphic material in this post disturbing.

"I remember taking the gun out," says Sean Smith. "My sister was off to the side of the room."

Smith, now 36, was just 10 years old at the time. He had arrived home after school with his 8-year-old sister, Erin. Their parents weren't home yet, so they'd gone searching for hidden video games in their father's dresser drawer.

That's when Sean Smith found a .38 revolver.

The world of haute cuisine lost one of its brightest stars over the weekend.

Benoit Violier, a French Swiss chef who many said was the best in the world, died in his home in Switzerland in what appears to have been a suicide. He was 44.

The NPR Politics Podcast team has a lot to discuss in the wake of the Iowa caucuses. It was a record-breaking night, with more than 180,000 people, and 22,000 young people, participating in the Republican caucuses. Ted Cruz walked away victorious while Donald Trump claimed second place and Marco Rubio finished a strong third.

Monday's Iowa caucuses are being billed, as they are every election season, as "a fight for the soul of the Party," both Democratic and Republican.

Yes, it's a worn-out cliché, but especially on the Republican side this year, it's a real battle.

As many know, parenting isn't an easy job. It can be hugely frustrating and even lonely trying to figure out what's best for your kid. Should you be a taskmaster or a best friend? Is there a middle ground? The pressures of full-time work and round-the-clock activities can make that question even more challenging to tackle.

The World Health Organization has described the advance of the Zika virus as "explosive." It was first detected in Brazil in 2015 and has spread to at least 22 countries since. The mosquito-borne virus has been associated with severe birth defects in babies born to infected mothers.

Readers have waited almost 15 years for a second novel from the acclaimed Alexander Chee, following the highly-praised Edinburgh. The wait is over.

The Queen Of The Night is sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery. Lilliet Berne is the most famous soprano in the French opera. She is offered the role of a lifetime: an original part written for her. But then she sees that the opera must be based on a part of her life she's kept under wraps.

Iowa's process of picking its choice for president is complicated. We try to demystify it in this space.

Here are the basics:

With the Iowa caucuses just days away, the NPR Politics Podcast team is joined by special guest Clay Masters, the host of Morning Edition on Iowa Public Radio. Clay, who's covering the presidential campaign, talks about his experience knocking on doors with both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

The team also looks at big moments from the latest, Trump-less, Republican debate and gets into the latest evolution of social media in politics — the negative Snapchat filter.

Actor Richard Dreyfuss has played a variety of roles — from the bubbling teen in American Graffiti to a man lured by aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Now, in a new ABC miniseries, he plays Bernie Madoff, the former Nasdaq chairman who orchestrated a Ponzi scheme considered to be one of the largest financial frauds in American history.

Tracing your genealogy has become a popular hobby in the United States. More than 1 million people around the country have taken these tests. Shows like PBS's Finding Your Roots have shown the public how much information you can find out about your family tree with a simple DNA test.

The latest films in the Star Wars and Hunger Games franchises were not just box office smashes. They also shared something else in common: Both tapped into a widespread debate about casting.

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