Barbara J. King

Civilization originated in the Fertile Crescent region, including parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. That's the lesson most of us learned in school.

In it, civilization is used in a highly positive way to refer to the rise of city-states and the development of writing around the 4th millennium B.C.

Much of the U.S. remains firmly in the grip of winter, even as the sports-enthused world prepares to cheer on athletes in snow-and-ice-centered events at the Winter Olympics.

Late last year, an infant elephant in the state of Kerala in India fell into a well as the baby's herd moved to cross a river.

Together, villagers and government officials mounted a five-hour rescue, using heavy earth-moving equipment to clear a path of packed-down soil that allowed the youngster to climb out.

You know your cats' cute habits, their distinct personalities and their likes and dislikes for food, play and affection.

But could you say whether your cats are right-pawed or left-pawed? That is, have you noticed which paw they use first to step over a raised object or to step down the stairs?

In a post published by the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) last month, the behavior of a mountain gorilla female in Rwanda was described in striking terms.

The 26-year-old female, named Pasika, has been traveling alone with her baby for more than seven months in Rwanda's Virunga mountains, ever since her social group fell apart at the death of its silverback leader. Her infant, Mashami, is now one year old.

A year ago this month, animal activist Paul Shapiro sat in the offices of the Hampton Creek food technology company in San Francisco and put a forkful of foie gras in his mouth.

In my house, we celebrate Christmas.

In preparation, we selected a beautiful, aromatic Fraser fir tree for our den. This means that our five indoor rescued cats get to enjoy their annual holiday enrichment activity — climbing partway up through the branches, batting down ornaments, and attempting to shred the wrapping and ribbon from presents under the tree.

Some chaos definitely ensues, but it's fun to see the cats so excited — and we've never yet had an outright tree crash like this one.

Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and said to your companion, "Wow, the science in that film was awesome?"

When you think of Polynesia, what images first come to mind?

A Sunday column by David Sax in The New York Times quotes a cheering statistic from the Association of American Publishers: Sales of "old-fashioned print books" are up for the third year in a row.

Would you be curious and excited if, out on a walk near your home, you came face-to-face with a young owl, not yet a confident flyer?

Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words "um" and "uh" from your conversation?

When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it's natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency.

Imagine a college course that requires students to give up computer and cell-phone technology for a month — and, in fact, to cease speaking entirely for that period.

Then imagine that the class is super-popular, with students clamoring to get in.

Join me for a memory exercise involving food and family: Think back to the main-course meals your grandparents served you. And, if you're middle-aged or older, like me, your parents, too.

How many vegetarian or vegan dishes were among those main courses?

Animal videos are shared online nowadays at a pace that can be overwhelming.

Once in a while, though, a video offers a unique and unforgettable message.

In his new novel Origin, Dan Brown (most famous for The Da Vinci Code), describes his protagonist Robert Langdon's approach to the conundrum of students' devotion to personal tech devices in the classroom.

Langdon is, Brown writes, "one of several Harvard professors who now used portable cell-jamming technology to render their lecture halls 'dead zones' and keep students off their devices during class."

About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That is a staggering figure.

In 1981, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man hit the presses.

Have you spent quiet time poring over a set of maps? Maybe of a region halfway around the world that you've always wanted to visit — or even the mountains or coastlines of your home area?

During a press conference on Aug. 15, President Trump was asked by a reporter why he waited so long to "blast neo-Nazis" in the wake of the white supremacist rally held the previous weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

That rally resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a young counterprotester, and injuries to dozens of others.

Over the millennia, our ancestors continuously developed new techniques and technologies that enabled them to find, eat, and cook meat and plants — and in coastal populations,

As the full extent of the damage from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana starts to become clear, many of us have been glued to coverage of urgent rescues, including of people's pets.

All this summer, bears have been on my mind.

Last month, Undark Magazine published an essay I wrote about the time I thought I was a bear.

Think about the last time you were bored — seriously and persistently bored.

Maybe you had to carry out some mind-numbing repetitive task for hours on end, or maybe you were just trapped at the airport or train station, waiting out a lengthy delay without a good conversational partner, book, or movie. You look at a clock and it seems to move at a surreal, glacial pace.

Rock art images of bulls, bison, horses, lions, rhinoceros, and other animals from caves like Lascaux and Chauvet in France and Altamira in Spain have become popular icons showcasing the antiquity of human-animal relationships, as well as human creativity.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: