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."

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.

Twenty years ago, when the O.J. Simpson verdict was delivered, actor Courtney B. Vance says he celebrated — but he wasn't exactly cheering for the former NFL player.

"I cheered for Emmett Till," — the African-American teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955 — he says. "I cheered for all the strange fruit that hung on the trees for three centuries."

Writer Yann Martel is best known for his 2001 book Life of Pi, about a teenage boy adrift at sea with a Bengal tiger. Now Martel has a new novel called The High Mountains of Portugal. It's made up of three interlocking stories that cover almost a century. Like Life of Pi, The High Mountains of Portugal is about journeys and it also features an animal (this time a chimpanzee).

To people who live in big cities, the sound of honking, the whir of traffic, the howl of street vendors and the clang of construction can just be background noise.

But for Nigerian sound and video artist Emeka Ogboh, the city is his palette — his symphony of sound. And his compositions can whisk the listener to another time and place.

Over the past 25 years, there's been no more prominent name in gospel music than Kirk Franklin. In that time, the singer has been no stranger to controversy. By merging hip-hop with gospel, he brought the stars and sound of the club scene into the church — and not everyone in the church has been comfortable with that.

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.

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