Michel Martin

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As early 2000s Disney Channel stars and a platinum-selling pop rock band, the members of the Jonas Brothers — Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas — have grown up a lot in the public eye. But when the band suddenly split up in 2013 in lieu of solo careers and family time, fans were left wanting more.

At one time, the Volkswagen Beetle was so ubiquitous that its sighting is often punctuated by a swift punch in the arm and a shout of "Punch Buggy!" (Or "Slug Bug!" depending on your regional take on the road trip game).

But this week, the Beetle set off down the road to extinction. On Wednesday, Volkswagen ended production of the Beetle, saying it wants to set its sights on manufacturing electric vehicles.

Signs are pointing to a coming U.S. recession, according to an economic indicator that has preceded every recession over the past five decades.

It is known among economists and Wall Street traders as a "yield curve inversion," and it refers to when long-term interest rates are paying out less than short-term rates.

Dating back to 1986, a recently unearthed video offers a rare glimpse of Freddie Mercury performing without a full band behind him. In the video, the famous Queen frontman sings "Time Waits for No One" from the concept album of the musical Time, accompanied only by a piano.

Before Bill Cosby was an inmate at a Pennsylvania state prison, he held a pristine reputation as one of Hollywood's most beloved entertainers.

So when Andrea Constand's sexual assault allegations against Cosby broke in 2005, Nicole Weisensee Egan, an investigative reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News at the time, was skeptical. She had grown up watching The Cosby Show, revering the show's family-friendly main character, Cliff Huxtable.

"I was like, 'Who is this woman?' Because they weren't releasing her name," Egan says.

Mavis Staples could've retired in good conscience years ago.

But slowing down isn't her style.

With her father, sisters and brother as The Staple Singers, her gospel songs scored the civil rights movement.

More than a half century later, as Staples nears 80, the decorated R&B star continues to train her soulful pipes on hope and resilience in her call for change.

Here's a puzzle: Do the qualities that allow a man to block 300lb bodies every day have anything to do with the qualities that allow the same person to solve three-body problems late into the night? Stumped? John Urschel can solve that puzzle for you.

The members of Snow Patrol are celebrating 25 years together. From providing the unofficial theme song to Grey's Anatomy to its 2006 album Eyes Open being certified eight-times platinum according to BPI, the Northern Ireland rock band has found success many times over. Now, after a seven-year hiatus, the bond between band members has never been stronger.

Melinda Gates, the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has written a new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World.

Published this week, the book calls on readers to support women everywhere as a means to lift up society. She pulls from her lessons learned through the inspiring women she's met on her travels with the Gates Foundation, which funds projects to reduce poverty and improve global health in the developing world (and is a funder of NPR and this blog).

Updated at 10:23 p.m. ET

In 2014, Michael Brown, an 18-year old unarmed black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

In the four months that followed, the stock price of the stun-gun maker Taser International, now known as Axon Enterprise, nearly doubled.

Nina Martinez just became the world's first living HIV-positive organ donor.

In a medical breakthrough, surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital late last month successfully transplanted one of her kidneys to a recipient who is also HIV positive.

"I feel wonderful," Martinez, 35, said in an interview with NPR's Michel Martin, 11 days into her recovery. The patient who received her kidney has chosen to remain anonymous, but is doing well, Martinez is told.

Billie Eilish prides herself on being intimidating.

"I think I have a vibe that makes you not even want to ask me anything," she says with a laugh. "You don't want to say no to me."

And so far, that vibe is working. At just 17, the LA-raised singer-songwriter makes music that is both haunting and oddly inviting. Her angsty, platinum-selling singles house dark electropop and her viral music videos toe the line between lurid and alluring.

The West Coast music scene has a new group to champion. The music of Oakland's SOL Development has been described as jazz, hip-hop, and, of course, soulful. The four-person collective's style may sound familiar but the member's backgrounds are not. They're teachers and classically trained musicians who use music in the classrooms to promote learning.

Lent is meant to be a time of reflection for Christians around the world. But once again this year, it comes at a time of deep disquiet within the faith. Sexual abuse and misconduct scandals have continued to rock the Catholic Church, leading many to question their religious institutions, or even their faith itself.

Stella Donnelly is not afraid to ruffle feathers or disrupt the status quo. At 26, the Australian singer-songwriter has already made that clear with songs like her breakout singles, "Boys Will Be Boys," and "Mechanical Bull" off of her 2017 debut EP, Trush Metal. Both songs attack the folkways of misogyny and rape culture.

This Tuesday's Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans has thrust into the spotlight a controversial local tradition dating back more than 100 years.

Every year, members of the city's Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club don grass skirts, feather headdresses and bone jewelry for the Mardi Gras parade.

The Zulus' African-American members — and even some of their white members — also paint their faces black.

At the Oscars red carpet last Sunday, various stars posed for the cameras in show-stopping fashion: Lady Gaga donned a black Alexander McQueen dress and matching gloves, Rami Malek was dapper in a Saint Laurent suit by Anthony Vaccarello – and Billy Porter wore a velvet tuxedo gown by Christian Siriano that broke gender norms and amassed a huge response across the Internet.

A small moment of anger pushed Grammy-winning artist Gary Clark Jr. to create the unapologetic, seething song "This Land."

Today, I have two names for those tempted to gloat, despair, or be ashamed because of Jussie Smollett, the actor now accused of orchestrating a fake bias crime against himself.

Those two names are Charles Stuart and Susan Smith.

For those who don't remember: In October 1989, Charles Stuart sent Boston police on a tear looking for the black man he claimed forced his way into his car — after a childbirth class no less — and then shot and wounded him and killed his pregnant wife.

After dance pioneer Alvin Ailey died in 1989, the future of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was uncertain. It's difficult to keep a dance company profitable after its founder is long gone – many have tried and failed. But 30 years later, the group is thriving, and decided to celebrate its 60th anniversary and founder by commissioning a new work titled Lazarus.

In 2015, a verdict was delivered on the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools.

Despite what her social media handle suggests, Noname isn't hiding anymore. The soft-spoken but quick-witted rapper has spent years bubbling in Chicago's hip-hop scene and sparring on tracks with friends like Saba and Chance The Rapper while still maintaining a low profile.

Taraji P. Henson is known for her hardened exterior, at least in the dramatic roles she's used to playing. But as she tells NPR's Michel Martin, it's not just an act.

"I'm such a fighter," she says. "Some women can take up for themselves. That's why I feel like I need to speak up to be an example for women."

In an interview with NPR Thursday, former executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, responded to allegations of plagiarism related to her new book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.

"Though I did cite these publications and tried to credit everybody perfectly, you know, I fell short," Abramson said.

In the book, which hit shelves Tuesday, Abramson examines four news outlets Buzzfeed, Vice, The New York Times and the Washington Post as they navigate an age of multi-platform news.

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