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Studies Skewed By Focus On Well-Off, Educated Brains

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Studies Skewed By Focus On Well-Off, Educated Brains
Researchers recruit study participants in the area around them — college towns. So those participants are usually whiter, richer and more educated than the U.S. population.

Roy Scott/Ikon Images/Getty Images

Brain imaging studies have a diversity problem.

That’s what researchers concluded after they re-analyzed data from a large study that used MRI to measure brain development in children from 3 to 18.

Like most brain imaging studies of children, this one included a disproportionate number of kids who have highly educated parents with relatively high household incomes, the team reported Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.

For example, parents of study participants were three times more likely than typical U.S. parents to hold an advanced degree. And participants’ family incomes were much more likely to exceed $100,000 a year.

So the researchers decided to see whether the results would be different if the sample represented the U.S. population, says Kaja LeWinn, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. “We were able to weight that data so it looked more like the U.S.” in terms of race, income, education and other variables, she says.

And when the researchers did that, the picture of “normal” brain development changed dramatically.

For instance, when the sample reflected the U.S. population, children’s brains reached several development milestones much earlier.

One of these milestones involved the total surface of the brain’s cortex, which plays a key role in in memory and thought. The unweighted data showed that this surface area continued to increase until after a child’s 12th birthday. The weighted data showed a much earlier peak — before age 10.

Unweighted data also showed several areas in the front and back of the brain developing at the same time. But the weighted data showed a different pattern. Areas toward the back of the brain, which do things like process visual information, developed first. Meanwhile areas toward the front of the brain, which are involved in thinking and judgment, developed later.

This study doesn’t look at what those differences might mean for children’s emotional and intellectual development. The key point is rather that researchers should make sure that they’re looking at a representative sample when they’re defining “normal.”

The idea that the brain tends to develop earlier toward the back and later toward the front is “more consistent with our broader understanding of brain development,” LeWinn says. And it is one reason many brain scientists argue that judgment and impulse control are not fully developed until people reach their 20s.

The study is a reminder that the brains of children from different backgrounds can develop differently, LeWinn says. “The brain is really responsive to experience,” she says. “That’s something we need to pay attention to.”

The results also offer a reminder that brain imaging studies tend to attract an atypical group of people. Participants are likely to live near a major university, where the studies are usually conducted, LeWinn says. They are also “more likely to be white, more likely to be high income, more likely to have more education, and they may have different social networks,” she says.

One reason for these differences is that university-based studies tend to attract people who have ties to the school. “Many of the studies we use to understand how the brain works included mostly college students,” she says.

It’s unrealistic to expect that every brain imaging study sample represents the full range of U.S. residents, Le Winn says. But even small studies should do a better job disclosing the characteristics of people being studied. And larger studies should consider weighting the results to more accurately represent the nation’s population, she says.

At least one big study is already trying to address the diversity issue.

The federally funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study is in the process of enrolling 10,000 children ages 9 and 10. Researchers plan to track participants until they become adults using brain imaging as well as information about sleep, attention, substance use, physical activity and sports injuries.

And to make sure the participants reflect the U.S. population, researchers are taking steps to enroll children of diverse races and ethnicities, education and income levels, and living environments.

The team is doing that by recruiting students from carefully selected schools from 21 sites across the country. “Our ultimate goal is to recruit a sample that matches the U.S. population,” says Emily Giron, the ABCD project’s communications manager.

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Fever Ray Teases First New Music In Eight Years

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Fever Ray Teases First New Music In Eight Years
[embedded content]
YouTube

Advisory: The above video contains language that some may find offensive.

Karin Dreijer-Andersson likes to play; the pitch-shifted vocals found on Fever Ray‘s self-titled 2009 debut forced questions of authorship, voice and beauty through ritualistic electro-pop.

Outside of and after that record, her experimental approach to — well, everything — has been clear. There’s that one time Fever Ray accepted an award while gurgling through a melted face mask. Her sibling duo The Knife recently announced a live DVD with a pair of surreal knife demonstrations. And, as of yesterday, she has a Swedish phone number for lonely singles (“Karma Kinksters”) that you can call where someone gargles veiled threats, then shouts before you hear the beep to leave a message. (I know, I called and am still confused/delighted.)

Something’s up! And now there’s a minute-long teaser video with new music on Fever Ray’s YouTube channel. “Sadist, empathetic switch seeks same,” reads the onscreen text. “For hours and hours of sharing: ideas, skin warmth, breath, politics, dreams, and body fluids.”

It’s been eight years since Fever Ray’s debut, an album born out of sleepless new-mother nights, animated with striking and surreal imagery. The psychedelic-dub music teased here prowls and slinks, as Dreijer-Andersson shouts, “This house makes it hard to f***.” Maybe we’re getting the raunchy Tinder album from Fever Ray we didn’t know we wanted or would ever be prepared for.

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At Least 3 Killed As Historic Storm Ophelia Hits Ireland, Turns U.K. Skies Red

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At Least 3 Killed As Historic Storm Ophelia Hits Ireland, Turns U.K. Skies Red

A woman stands as waves crash against the sea wall at Penzance, southwestern England, as the remnants of Ophelia begin to hit parts of the U.K. and Ireland.

Ben Birchall/AP

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Ben Birchall/AP

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

The remnants of post-tropical cyclone Ophelia slammed parts of Ireland with gusts of more than 90 miles per hour, reportedly causing the deaths at least three people and bringing strange red skies to the U.K.

“A woman died in Waterford county [Ireland] after a tree fell on the car she was in, according to local officials,” NPR’s Frank Langfitt reports from London. According to the BBC, a man “died near Dundalk, Co Louth, after his car was struck by a tree” and another man was killed “in a chainsaw accident in Co Tipperary while attempting to remove a tree downed by the storm.”

Met Éireann, the Irish meteorological service, warns of “violent and destructive wind” and says “some flooding expected also, due to heavy thundery downpours and storm surges in coastal areas.”

As of Monday afternoon, Ophelia had knocked out power to about 360,000 customers in Ireland, according to ESB Networks, which operates the country’s power system. The utility said that “fallen trees on overhead lines are responsible for most of the damage to the network.”

Irish authorities have “ordered schools, courts and government buildings to remain closed before the storm’s arrival,” according to The Associated Press.

Schools in Northern Ireland were closed Monday and Tuesday due to “the prolonged nature and potential severity of the storm,” according to the Department of Education.

When your software isn’t written for tropical storm force winds North of 60 degrees.https://t.co/2LHdzqtC96pic.twitter.com/RR8KsGdI8R

— ᎬᎡᎥᏦ (@erikcorry) October 14, 2017

Flood warnings have also been issued in Cornwall, which lies on the southern coast of England.

Ophelia’s location is already historic. As The Two-Way reported, Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach noted that when the storm reached Category 3 status on Saturday, that made it “the farthest east (26.6W) an Atlantic major hurricane has existed on record.” Ophelia weakened Sunday night and lost hurricane status, according to the U.K.’s Met Office.

The uniqueness of Ophelia’s position was clear in a wind-speed-probability map issued by the National Weather Service. As Twitter user Erik Corey pointed out, at a certain position north and east of the British Isles, the map simply cuts off — suggesting it is not programmed to show tropical-storm-force winds in those areas.

A plane flies past the Shard in central London on Monday amid skies that took on an unusual orange color caused by storm Ophelia.

Dominic Lipinski/AP

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Dominic Lipinski/AP

The storm’s winds brought warm air up through the U.K., causing unseasonably high temperatures. Those winds, according to the Met Office, “have also drawn dust from the Sahara to our latitudes and the dust scatters the blue light from the sun letting more red light through much as at sunrise or sunset.”

The U.K.’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution is warning people to stay out of the sea. “Stormy conditions may be tempting to watch but big waves can easily knock you off your feet,” RNLI’s Matt Crofts said in a statement. “The sea is far more powerful than you think and your chances of survival are slim if you are dragged into the swell.”

Ophelia is expected to track northeast into Northern Ireland and Scotland. Southeast England will likely stay mostly dry, according to the Met Office.

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Deadline Looms For Catalan Leader To Clarify Stand On Independence

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Deadline Looms For Catalan Leader To Clarify Stand On Independence

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont attends a ceremony commemorating the 77th anniversary of the death of Catalan leader Lluis Companys at the Montjuic Cemetery in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday.

Manu Fernandez/AP

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Manu Fernandez/AP

Catalan President Charles Puigdemont is expected Monday to clarify a declaration of independence for the semi-autonomous region, a move that could trigger Spain to impose direct rule.

Last week, following an Oct. 1 referendum that went for Catalonia to break away from Spain, Puigdemont declared independence for the region of 7.5 million people. However, he quickly withdrew the declaration, calling instead for talks with Madrid on the region’s future.

Even so, Puigdemont and other Catalan lawmakers signed a document declaring a Catalan republic “as an independent and sovereign state.”

The declaration angered Spanish authorities, who had called the referendum illegal and tried to stop it.

In response to Puigdemont’s declaration, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave the leader until 10 a.m. Monday to clarify. If he meant independence, Rajoy said, then Madrid would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule.

Madrid has asked for an unambiguous “Yes” or “No” from Puigdemont. If he says “No” or ignores the deadline, it would trigger a clause in the Spanish constitution allowing Madrid to strip Catalonia of its autonomy.

“The pressure building on Puigdemont is absolutely enormous,” Angel Talavera, an analyst at Oxford Economics in London, tells Bloomberg. “Anything that looks at all non-committal is going to make the government act” against his regional government.

As NPR’s Lauren Frayer wrote on Friday, the answer “has huge implications for what the Spanish government does next and how the country’s relatively young democracy — indeed, possibly even the whole European Union — might stay intact.”

The government of Catalonia says 90 percent cast a “yes” ballot on the independence referendum, but most people who opposed breaking away from Spain boycotted the vote. Opinion on the issue is reportedly nearly evenly split and turnout for the referendum was just 43 percent.

Puigdemont, who came to power in January 2016 in a narrow win for pro-independence parties, faces a dilemma. If he proclaims independence, he risks losing Catalonia’s autonomy but if he backs down, the far-left Catalan party, the CUP, is likely to withdraw support for his government, causing it to collapse.

On Sunday, Puigdemont seemed to suggest that he was leaning toward standing by the independence declaration, saying his decision would be inspired by democracy.

If he insists on a formal break, The Local Spain reports that Madrid would invoke “the never-used Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows Spain’s central government to take over the powers of a regional government that is acting against the national interest, to block an independence declaration.”

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Deadline Looms For Catalan Leader To Clarify Stand On Independence

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Deadline Looms For Catalan Leader To Clarify Stand On Independence

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont attends a ceremony commemorating the 77th anniversary of the death of Catalan leader Lluis Companys at the Montjuic Cemetery in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday.

Manu Fernandez/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Manu Fernandez/AP

Catalan President Charles Puigdemont is expected Monday to clarify a declaration of independence for the semi-autonomous region, a move that could trigger Spain to impose direct rule.

Last week, following an Oct. 1 referendum that went for Catalonia to break away from Spain, Puigdemont declared independence for the region of 7.5 million people. However, he quickly withdrew the declaration, calling instead for talks with Madrid on the region’s future.

Even so, Puigdemont and other Catalan lawmakers signed a document declaring a Catalan republic “as an independent and sovereign state.”

The declaration angered Spanish authorities, who had called the referendum illegal and tried to stop it.

In response to Puigdemont’s declaration, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave the leader until 10 a.m. Monday to clarify. If he meant independence, Rajoy said, then Madrid would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy and impose direct rule.

Madrid has asked for an unambiguous “Yes” or “No” from Puigdemont. If he says “No” or ignores the deadline, it would trigger a clause in the Spanish constitution allowing Madrid to strip Catalonia of its autonomy.

“The pressure building on Puigdemont is absolutely enormous,” Angel Talavera, an analyst at Oxford Economics in London, tells Bloomberg. “Anything that looks at all non-committal is going to make the government act” against his regional government.

As NPR’s Lauren Frayer wrote on Friday, the answer “has huge implications for what the Spanish government does next and how the country’s relatively young democracy — indeed, possibly even the whole European Union — might stay intact.”

The government of Catalonia says 90 percent cast a “yes” ballot on the independence referendum, but most people who opposed breaking away from Spain boycotted the vote. Opinion on the issue is reportedly nearly evenly split and turnout for the referendum was just 43 percent.

Puigdemont, who came to power in January 2016 in a narrow win for pro-independence parties, faces a dilemma. If he proclaims independence, he risks losing Catalonia’s autonomy but if he backs down, the far-left Catalan party, the CUP, is likely to withdraw support for his government, causing it to collapse.

On Sunday, Puigdemont seemed to suggest that he was leaning toward standing by the independence declaration, saying his decision would be inspired by democracy.

If he insists on a formal break, The Local Spain reports that Madrid would invoke “the never-used Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows Spain’s central government to take over the powers of a regional government that is acting against the national interest, to block an independence declaration.”

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Pink's New Album Inspired By Life's Beauty And Trauma

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Pink's New Album Inspired By Life's Beauty And Trauma

On her latest album, Pink, aka Alecia Moore, sings about the beauty and trauma of life. NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Moore about her new album, Beautiful Trauma. LANGUAGE ADVISORY: The f-word word is bleeped at approximately 0:45.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, she’s gotten us pumped up for parties, consoled us through breakups, encouraged the misfits, made the meek feel strong. For close to 20 years now, Pink has offered songs that are honest, sometimes heartbreaking but always fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SO WHAT”)

PINK: (Singing) Na-na-na-na (ph), na-na na, I want to start a fight. So so what? I’m still a rockstar. I got my rock moves. And I don’t need you.

MARTIN: She’s kept up the tradition with her latest album, her seventh. It’s called “Beautiful Trauma.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “BEAUTIFUL TRAUMA”)

PINK: (Singing) ‘Cause I’ve been on the run so long, they can’t find me. You waking up to remember I’m pretty. And when the chemicals leave my body, yeah, they’re going to find me in a hotel lobby ’cause tough times, they keep coming, all night laughing and [expletive]. Some days like I’m barely breathing. And after we were high in the love, doped out, it was you.

MARTIN: We’ll be bleeping some of that, but…

PINK: Yeah.

MARTIN: That’s Pink. And Pink aka Alecia Moore is with us now from our bureau in New York. Pink, welcome. Welcome back, I should say.

PINK: Hi.

MARTIN: Thanks for joining us once again.

PINK: Thank you for having me. Do you know what I think happened? I think it’s ’cause I’m around my kids all day long, and then I go to the studio at night. And I haven’t been able to curse at all. And then I finally get behind a microphone. I’m like, I’m free. I’m free to say what I really think.

MARTIN: Well, that then describes how so many people listen to your albums in the car, doesn’t it?

PINK: (Laughter) Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, congratulations on the latest album. It’s climbing up the charts as we speak.

PINK: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

MARTIN: So where’d the title come from?

PINK: I think life is really traumatic, and it feels – even though it makes me sound like my parents to say this – it feels like it’s getting more so. But I also think that there’s really beautiful people in the world. And there’s more good than bad. And there’s love to be made and joy to be had. And I try to hold on to the beautiful part. But, you know, my dad always says something to me. He says, I wish you enough. And what he means by that is I wish you enough rain to be able to enjoy the sunshine. And I wish you enough hard times to be able to enjoy the easy bits. And that’s beautiful trauma to me. It’s simultaneous, but it just depends on which part you’re looking at.

MARTIN: Do you think that what you mean to people has changed over time? I went through a lot of the old videos starting, you know, back in the day and looking at the comments. And the comments are very – they’ve changed, like, because they’ve changed with you. But for a lot of kids, it’s like, well, I always play this song when I’m getting ready to go out. Or – and then it’s like, I play this song when I need to be lifted up. Or there are things like, I play this song when I feel like I can’t keep it all together. And it’s very interesting because I feel like in one way, your audience has grown up with you. On the other hand, you’re still finding people who are finding you at different points, like when you were 15 and 20 and…

PINK: I love that idea. I think I’m just a hot mess and (laughter) people appreciate that. But I look like – I go on tour. And I look at the audience. And I can see every age. There’s no real demographic. There’s – it’s very surprising. It’s three generations. And that’s what I love about music. That’s – it just – it’s the only sort of universal language that we all speak. And I don’t know. I just – I love that part. It’s wonderful.

MARTIN: I’m trying to decide whether I want to play “Barbies” now or “What About Us.” What should we do? Which one should we play now?

PINK: I don’t know. Do you want to be sad or fired up?

MARTIN: Let’s go with fired up. OK. Let’s play “What About Us.” Let’s go with – I don’t think you could make me sad, so here it is. Let’s play “What About Us” and we’ll talk about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “WHAT ABOUT US”)

PINK: (Singing) We are searchlights. We can see in the dark. We are rockets pointed up at the stars. We are billions of beautiful hearts. And you sold us down the river too far. What about us? What about all the times you said you had the answers?

MARTIN: I heard this song cold, like knowing nothing about it. And I’m thinking, boy, this could be about a relationship. This could be about a family. And this could certainly be about what’s happening more broadly. So without kind of ruining it for people who are just hearing it for the first time, do you mind if I ask, what were you thinking about when you wrote this?

PINK: I think that’s so interesting. I played this for one of my girlfriends a while ago. And she said, oh, my goodness, the way you write about your relationship and your love, and to me, that’s love. And I thought in the back of my head because that’s, for me – I’ll tell you what I wrote it about – but at that moment, I was like, wow, you should never tell somebody what a song is about because I never want to take away their meaning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “WHAT ABOUT US”)

PINK: (Singing) We were willing. We came when you called. But, man, you fooled us. Enough is enough, oh. What about us?

The place I was coming from was just sort of I just feel like we’ve been failed by our government and that we have this very dysfunctional relationship. And that government in general has a dysfunctional relationship within itself. And, you know, I grew up listening to my mom and dad argue, and it just feels like that. And there’s a lot of people that feel forgotten and invisible and are being made to feel less than and unwanted and unloved. And it hurts my heart. And so I have a pen, and I write. I write about that.

MARTIN: You know, it’s been such an interesting just week when it comes to that because you had some tweets earlier this week directed at the president. You said, you know, POTUS, you’re doing a terrible job, worse than every other job you’ve done terrible at. Do you seriously have time to worry about the NFL?

PINK: (Laughter) Yes.

MARTIN: And then you posted a more kind of – I don’t know – a sort of a gentler message, saying, look, I’ve seen people change and turn their lives around. There’s still hope for you. It’s what the world needs. And then…

PINK: That was one of the least cynical moments of my life and I paid dearly for it.

MARTIN: Well, that’s what – you know, you got all this backlash from people. I found that fascinating, given that you’ve…

PINK: I did too. It hurt my heart actually.

MARTIN: Yeah. Tell me about that. I mean, given that you’ve never been shy about your critiques of political leaders.

PINK: Sure.

MARTIN: I mean, you wrote a piece in 2006, an open letter to President Bush. So tell me what this has been like for you and what you make of it. I’m curious what you make of it.

PINK: This part has been – just from the Twitter, just from the misunderstanding of that, that actually broke my heart. I cried a lot about that. I’m really sad about where we are as people. And it’s always been very hard for me to tolerate injustice and inequality and racism and homophobia and sexism and all these things. And I’ve been fighting my entire life against it. And to be misunderstood that way, it just – it broke my heart. And we’re all so defensive. And we’re all so divided that we can no longer communicate. And that tweet, in particular, was – I have seen people come back from heroin addiction. I’ve seen people come back from alcoholism and the worst kind of alcoholism. I’ve seen people that were abusive stop being abusive. I’ve seen change. And I have to believe that change is possible because if I stop believing that, then it’s just a little too much for me.

MARTIN: What do you feel, as an artist, is your responsibility right now?

PINK: As an artist, I mean, you know, I grew up with a Vietnam vet dad and a Vietnam vet stepmom and a nurse for a mom and people that have always been of service. And my dad’s nickname is Mr. Cause. I grew up listening to rock ‘n’ roll and, you know, protest music. And I feel like with songs like “What About Us” and “Dear Mr. President” and even “Stupid Girls,” I’m doing my part a little bit. I’m doing a little bit of my part. And it’s very clear who I am and what I believe in. And I’ve been marching and protesting. And, yes, I could do so much more. Honestly, I could do so much more.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for talking with us.

PINK: Sure (laughter).

MARTIN: It’s always great talking with you. And it’s still fun. And you’re still laughing.

PINK: Sure. And you should try my cheesecake.

MARTIN: I know, right?

PINK: (Laughter).

MARTIN: What do you want to go out on? What should we go out on?

PINK: Oh, my God, play something happy (laughter).

MARTIN: Or, I don’t know, “Secrets”? You want to do that?

PINK: “Secrets” is fun. Do “Secrets.” That’s a good one.

MARTIN: All right, “Secrets.” All right.

PINK: That’s a good dance song.

MARTIN: That is Pink joining us from our bureau in New York on the occasion of her latest album, “Beautiful Trauma.” And this weekend, she just appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and doing all a bunch of good stuff. Pink, thank you so much for speaking with us once again.

PINK: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SECRETS”)

PINK: (Singing) What do we conceal? What do we reveal? Make that decision.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Bombing In Somalia Kills Hundreds; Death Toll Expected To Rise

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Bombing In Somalia Kills Hundreds; Death Toll Expected To Rise

Somali soldiers patrol on the scene of the explosion of a truck bomb in the center of Mogadishu, on Oct. 15, 2017. A truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at a busy junction in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Oct. 14, 2017, causing widespread devastation

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

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Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

Update: 12 p.m., ET

The death toll from a truck bomb in Somalia’s capital has risen above 200 with more than 275 injured. But Information Minister Abdirahman Yarisow told NPR that is a “conservative number.”

Officials described the deadly bombing as the worst-ever attack in the nation’s history and caution the number of deaths and injuries would continue to rise.

NPR’s Eyder Peralta reports rescue workers are trying to get dogs onto the scene to sniff out bodies still trapped under mountains of flattened buildings.

The massive explosion was set off Saturday on a busy street close to the foreign ministry in Mogadishu and detonated outside of the Safari Hotel. Several building were destroyed in the blast, reducing them to burning piles of rubble and twisted metal.

Photos from the scene. In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this. pic.twitter.com/cNxeDD86u6

— Aamin Ambulance (@AaminAmbulance) October 15, 2017

A second improvised explosive device erupted in the Medina district two hours later, Peralta said.

Thank you @AaminAmbulance. We need more strategic and special unit for emergency response. There are still burned bodies on the road.

— Hafsa Haji Elmi (@MandeqArmani) October 14, 2017

The truck bomb was detonated in the busiest intersection in Mogadishu.

Residents and emergency responders described horrific scenes of devastation including charred, unrecognizable bodies amid the debris.

Pres Farmajo “Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Lets unite against terror. pic.twitter.com/YcMtV5TcOC

— Villa Somalia (@TheVillaSomalia) October 14, 2017

“In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” Aamin Ambulance workers tweeted.

Families and rescue workers continue to search through the wreckage into Sunday. Hours after the blast many took to social media to report burned bodies that remained on the road.

In an address to the nation, President Mohamed Farmaajo declared three days of mourning “for innocent victims.” He also called on residents to donate blood and pray.

“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy will stop at nothing,” Farmaajo said, adding a plea to come together. “Let’s unite against terror,” he urged.

“Terror won’t win,” he exclaimed in a separate tweet.

No one has taken responsibility for the attack. But Yarisow told NPR he blames the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for the attack. He believes this is the “terrorists” striking back against the government because of its renewed offensive against Al-shabab.

“Since we have put more pressure on them, since we are winning the war, they are trying to cause as many civilian casualties as possible,” Yarsiow said.

“Even for a city as battered as Mogadishu,” he added, “this is truly tough.”

The Islamist group has often targeted Mogadishu and the president has made fighting the group one of his top priorities.

In a statement, United States officials condemned “in the strongest terms the October 14 terrorist attacks that killed and injured scores of innocent Somalis in Mogadishu.”

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Bombing In Somalia Kills Hundreds; Death Toll Expected To Rise

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Bombing In Somalia Kills Hundreds; Death Toll Expected To Rise

Somali soldiers patrol on the scene of the explosion of a truck bomb in the center of Mogadishu, on Oct. 15, 2017. A truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at a busy junction in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Oct. 14, 2017, causing widespread devastation

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

Update: 12 p.m., ET

The death toll from a truck bomb in Somalia’s capital has risen above 200 with more than 275 injured. But Information Minister Abdirahman Yarisow told NPR that is a “conservative number.”

Officials described the deadly bombing as the worst-ever attack in the nation’s history and caution the number of deaths and injuries would continue to rise.

NPR’s Eyder Peralta reports rescue workers are trying to get dogs onto the scene to sniff out bodies still trapped under mountains of flattened buildings.

The massive explosion was set off Saturday on a busy street close to the foreign ministry in Mogadishu and detonated outside of the Safari Hotel. Several building were destroyed in the blast, reducing them to burning piles of rubble and twisted metal.

Photos from the scene. In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this. pic.twitter.com/cNxeDD86u6

— Aamin Ambulance (@AaminAmbulance) October 15, 2017

A second improvised explosive device erupted in the Medina district two hours later, Peralta said.

Thank you @AaminAmbulance. We need more strategic and special unit for emergency response. There are still burned bodies on the road.

— Hafsa Haji Elmi (@MandeqArmani) October 14, 2017

The truck bomb was detonated in the busiest intersection in Mogadishu.

Residents and emergency responders described horrific scenes of devastation including charred, unrecognizable bodies amid the debris.

Pres Farmajo “Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy would stop nothing to cause our people pain and suffering. Lets unite against terror. pic.twitter.com/YcMtV5TcOC

— Villa Somalia (@TheVillaSomalia) October 14, 2017

“In our 10 year experience as the first responder in #Mogadishu, we haven’t seen anything like this,” Aamin Ambulance workers tweeted.

Families and rescue workers continue to search through the wreckage into Sunday. Hours after the blast many took to social media to report burned bodies that remained on the road.

In an address to the nation, President Mohamed Farmaajo declared three days of mourning “for innocent victims.” He also called on residents to donate blood and pray.

“Today’s horrific attack proves our enemy will stop at nothing,” Farmaajo said, adding a plea to come together. “Let’s unite against terror,” he urged.

“Terror won’t win,” he exclaimed in a separate tweet.

No one has taken responsibility for the attack. But Yarisow told NPR he blames the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group for the attack. He believes this is the “terrorists” striking back against the government because of its renewed offensive against Al-shabab.

“Since we have put more pressure on them, since we are winning the war, they are trying to cause as many civilian casualties as possible,” Yarsiow said.

“Even for a city as battered as Mogadishu,” he added, “this is truly tough.”

The Islamist group has often targeted Mogadishu and the president has made fighting the group one of his top priorities.

In a statement, United States officials condemned “in the strongest terms the October 14 terrorist attacks that killed and injured scores of innocent Somalis in Mogadishu.”

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Barbershop: U.S. Men's Soccer Loss, Boy Scouts And Eminem

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Barbershop: U.S. Men's Soccer Loss, Boy Scouts And Eminem

The U.S. men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the World Cup, the Boy Scouts are letting girls join their ranks and Eminem has a bone to pick with the president. CNN’s AJ Willingham, The Guardian‘s Les Carpenter and columnist Gustavo Arellano discuss.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now it’s time for the Barbershop. That’s where we gather interesting folks to talk about what’s in the news and what’s on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup today are Les Carpenter. He is a writer for The Guardian, and he’s with us from our studios in Washington, D.C. Les, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

LES CARPENTER: Welcome. Thank you.

MARTIN: All right. Also with us, writer and journalist Gustavo Arellano. He’s known for his nationally syndicated column “Ask A Mexican” and his book “Taco Usa: How Mexican Food Conquered America.” He’s with us from KUCI in Irvine, Calif. Gustavo, welcome back.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: Hola, Michel.

MARTIN: And welcome back to CNN writer AJ Willingham, who joins us from WCLK in Atlanta. AJ, good to have you back with us as well.

AJ WILLINGHAM: Good afternoon, Michel.

MARTIN: So let’s start the conversation today with what is an open wound for American soccer fans. For the first time since 1986, the U.S. men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the World Cup. They lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago, a team that many felt they could handle. On Friday, U.S. coach Bruce Arena announced his resignation. And…

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRUCE ARENA: It’s a blemish for us. We should not be staying home for this World Cup.

MARTIN: AJ, I’m going to start with you because you focus on sports. What happened here? And I also want to mention that he said also in the same press conference that there was no need for a lot to change. So what happened, and is he right, does nothing need to change?

WILLINGHAM: I think it really depends on what sort of scale we’re looking at. We’re really talking about a matter of scale. What happened is, you know, if Clint Dempsey’s goal had gone in, we would have been going to Russia, but it didn’t. Is that where the conversation stops? Obviously not. Nothing has to change, now, in retrospect, feels like sort of the wrong thing to say. I think that that’s, you know, quite clear that that’s not the case. But what I think happened here is that there is just a lack of passion, both in playing and a lack of an understanding, that if we didn’t make the World Cup, that it would be such a huge deal and such a national embarrassment and such a wake-up call to, you know, to what soccer looks like at a national level for us to what it looks like to viewers and to potential fans and just all up and down the line. And really, I mean, choose where you want to come in on this because, like I said, it’s a matter of inches or it’s a matter of hundreds and thousands of viewers.

MARTIN: So, Les, you wrote – you’ve gotten a lot of attention for a story that you wrote last year on American soccer’s diversity problem. I mean, your piece argued that soccer in the U.S., unlike the rest of the world, is kind of a white upper-class-suburban sport. And that kind of hurts the – it just hurts the sort of the pool of players, the talent that would be available. You want to talk a little bit more about that?

CARPENTER: Well, it not only hurts the pool of players, it also hurts the idea of a culture, which is what I think U.S. Soccer really needs to be looking at right now. It’s not such a matter of, oh, we’re just a couple inches away against Trinidad and Tobago. We could have just gone to another World Cup. It’s a matter of, what kind of style does the U.S. play? Who is us trying to be? And I think that soccer’s played great by Latinos who have come to this country and a lot of places that don’t have access to what’s become a pay-for-play system in this country. You have so many of these leagues right now where if you’re rich, you have a lot of money, you can get on a team. And if you’re halfway good, you have a good chance of getting to a big college, getting seen by the national team people.

But what happens to all these people that have come from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, where the kids, you know, from those families are playing just on the streets? They don’t have access to the system, and yet, their style is so free, and it’s what’s played around the rest of the world. The U.S. is very robotic. And I feel like what we see now, the culture and the style and the U.S. is Americanized. We’ve taken soccer and just coached it coached and coached it, so you don’t really have that free kind of open style that you have elsewhere, and it’s starting to hurt at this level.

MARTIN: OK. But let me just raise one issue here, which is that you look at the U.S. women’s gymnastics team that competed so successfully at the last Olympics, 3 of the 5 people on that team were girls of color. It’s an extremely expensive sport. So what is the deal with that? You know, these are also people who, you know, Gabby Douglas made no secret of the fact that this was tremendously costly to her family, but somehow she was able to get there. So what’s the difference, you know what I mean?

CARPENTER: Well, obviously, it’s – even for wealthy families, these things are going to be extremely expensive.

MARTIN: She’s not wealthy.

CARPENTER: But, I mean, there’s – the action – the commitment has been there from her parents. I mean, you’re talking in many cases with soccer about people who have come to this country with nothing or people who have almost nothing and their kids are wonderful, wonderful players, but they can’t get into that system. It’s a big – obviously, you’re looking at a much bigger pool – in gymnastics where you’re – it’s a tiny group of players – athletes. With soccer, it’s a massive, massive group. And yet, these kids don’t have a shot at even just the basic level of organized soccer that gets you seen to that level where Gabby Douglas is training in a high level play for the U.S. Olympic team. You don’t have the access to be seen in this country at that level.

MARTIN: Gustavo, what do you think?

ARELLANO: First and foremost, respect to all the Trinnies (ph) out there for their amazing victory over the U.S.

MARTIN: True that.

ARELLANO: I had a huge bowl of callaloo in their honor, so God bless them for that. I agreed with everything that Les said. I mean, this is what it boils down to. Why should – I mean, we have immigrant populations who are crazy about soccer, that are playing on the field at parks all across the United States from New York City down here to Santa Ana in Orange County. They’re playing all the time. And they’re playing in leagues. They are playing in their own leagues that are way cheaper than whatever leagues you need to get into U.S. soccer. So the parents are going to say, well, why should my kids play in the expensive leagues when you could just play at the Saturday leagues?

More importantly though, a lot of – and this is a big problem that I think U.S. Soccer still has to solve and they can’t – a lot of these players, if they could get dual citizenship, if you ask your typical Mexican-American kid right now, if you want to be a great soccer player, would you play for the Mexican squad, El Tri, or are you going to play for the United States? Ninety percent of them would go to El Tri, not just out of loyalty but also because, frankly, El Tri’s going to be a better team than the U.S. But then, you know, and I also have to say, Mexicans are so happy that the United States is not going into the World Top. That said, us Mexicans, we have our own problems as well so we could be happy about that, but whatever. We’re going to flame out in the second round like we do every year or every Cup, I mean.

MARTIN: (Laughter) All right. Well, you know, let me just point out – AJ, let me go back to you on this – a lot of people were quick to point out that one American soccer team still has a shot to make their World Cup. The women’s team went undefeated in 2015 and won the World Cup. So, AJ, is there something that the men can learn from the women, or is the same problem going to catch up with them? Because it has not escaped, I think, anybody’s attention who’s paying attention that the women’s team isn’t particularly diverse either.

WILLINGHAM: What I’m thinking about this, Michel, what I’m thinking is you have to make good soccer in order for people to want to watch good soccer. And there are two things that you can do to make that happen. You either have to be successful, win your games, you know, get those goals in, or you have to be newsworthy. And I think that one thing the U.S. women’s national team has going for them is that they are both of those things. They’re successful, and they are newsworthy off the field. They, you know, they keep the names in the news.

I feel like if you asked a casual viewer who Alex Morgan was, asked a casual viewer who Clint Dempsey, was maybe they know both of them, but I feel like because of the U.S. women’s national team’s success, they know a little bit more about the women. They know a little bit more about what it means to, you know, to cheer for them and to root for them. And so to me, that’s the big sort of thing is that you’re winning games but then you’re keeping yourself in the news. You’re keeping yourself in the headlines, and you’re you’re keeping people’s interest. And I think that those two things feed off of each other.

MARTIN: Let me move to another topic this Wednesday. The Boy Scouts said that girls can now join. And some people were saying that’s cool girls can be Eagle Scouts now, and that’s nice. And for families who maybe have multiple kids, they think that’s great. I only have to go to one community center on the weekends and that’s good for me. But others are not happy including, Girl Scouts USA. And, AJ, sticking with you – sort of focusing on you today, sorry to be sort of giving you the burden of the whole thing, carrying the ball as it were – but you co-authored a piece on CNN this week highlighting some of the negative responses to this. And what’s your take on it?

WILLINGHAM: Yes. So obviously, the Girl Scouts are not going to be happy about this. I want to give them credit. They have certainly done a lot in the last couple of years to try and boost membership. It’s no secret that membership for both the gender scouting sort of organizations have been down over decades. It’s just, you know, it’s something that’s very difficult to modernize. So they have definitely done their part. They brought in consultants. They diversified their programs. But what they did is that they took away some of the attention from outdoor activities. They took away some of that attention from some of the more adventurous programs.

Like I said, it went to other things, but so the Boy Scouts, seeing their numbers go down and seeing their own numbers being hurt by some of the more recent scandals, thus is a perfect opportunity for them to come in. They have the outdoor stuff that a lot of young women are going to be interested in. And most importantly, they have the Eagle Scout designation. And that is something that the Girl Scouts have not been able to replicate, even though they have the wonderful Gold Award. In the culture – in our culture, it is not as prestigiously sort of looked at as that Eagle Scout award, and that is the big thing.

MARTIN: But, you know, Gustavo, do you want to talk about that for a second? You know, they – but the Girl Scouts have other things which is that they have a track record – it’s – an incredible number of women in high levels of achievement have been Girl Scouts. And I don’t know. What’s your take on this?

ARELLANO: Yeah, no, I love the Girl Scouts. You know…

MARTIN: The cookies especially.

ARELLANO: …I buy hundreds of dollars of cookies. And not just the cookies, they also have their nuts sale right now for the winter, so people should be buying those as well. But I have seen so many young women be transformed by the Girl Scouts. And I’ve seen like – they do – they’ve always been a far more progressive organization than the Boy Scouts. What amazes me most about this is how much the Boy Scouts has changed within a generation. About 25 years ago or so, there was a national story that came out of Orange County where there was two scouts who were atheist and they just – they would not say the Pledge of Allegiance or they wouldn’t say under God in the Pledge of Allegiance, so the Boy Scouts at the time booted them.

In a generation, now you’ve gone from such like backward opportunistic ways to the Boy Scouts saying, hey, like, let’s also include girls in there as well. And, of course, it’s all for money. It’s all for getting more membership in there. But yeah, I mean, people – the Girls Scouts is an amazing organization. They really focused on, yeah, let’s teach our young women out there of all colors, of, you know, of everything, let’s teach them skills that they’re going to go out and, you know, make better people in society. Nothing against the outdoors but camping, yeah, it’s nice but it’s not going to get you a job.

MARTIN: Les, what do you think about this?

CARPENTER: You know, I’m thinking about my 7-year-old daughter. She’s never gotten into scouting. Thank God we haven’t had to cross that bridge yet. But honestly, I think she’d be more interested in what the Boy Scouts offer than what the Girl Scouts offer.

MARTIN: Because?

CARPENTER: Because I think she’s that kind of a person. She’s very adventurous. She wants to try things. She’s the kind of girl who would, you know, see a gondola, you know, 20 feet up in the air and say, hey, I’d like to jump in that and see where it goes. I mean, so I think that what the Boy Scouts offer will be far more interesting to her than what the Girl Scouts offer. And I know it’s a massive generalization, but I think this is something that she would think was a lot of fun.

MARTIN: I’ll have to arrange an escort to get you out of the building because there are a lot of Girl Scout parents and Scout leaders in there. I’ll see what I can do.

WILLINGHAM: Michel.

MARTIN: Go ahead, AJ.

WILLINGHAM: Michel, I want to go really quickly back to the negative reaction.

MARTIN: Sure.

WILLINGHAM: Obviously, a lot of people on social media, a lot of people in the general conversation sort of, you know, thinking that this is going to somehow rend the gender binary because we’re going to have boys in the Girl Scouts and, you know, boys and girls, and they could just be anywhere together now. I think what people forget is that girls have been in Boy Scouting programs now for a century. You know, they allow girls in the venturing program. And so it’s really not – yes – is it a big move? Yes, but it’s not unprecedented in their history to have girls participate in their activities. I think people forget that.

MARTIN: I confess, I was one that forgot that, so thank you for bringing that up. Before we let you go, gosh, I only have a minute left. So, Gustavo, I’m going to go to you on this. Eminem – I think by now, people have heard about his kind of scathing rap about President Trump at the BET Awards earlier this week. And I wanted to ask you your take on that.

ARELLANO: I love it. I know people are criticizing it because he gets the attention, not other rappers of color. I’ll say what I said on Code Switch a couple of months ago. Sometimes you need those people to go out and to places or to people that don’t want to listen to your message. Eminem has a huge suburban white audience. These people worship him as a god. And for him to be saying all those things about our current president, it comes as a shock to them, but they listen to him. They would not listen to the people. So good job, Eminem.

MARTIN: Because you agree with him, but what if you didn’t? Would you be offended?

ARELLANO: If I – if he supported Trump?

MARTIN: Yeah.

ARELLANO: Oh, well, then I wouldn’t like him.

(LAUGHTER)

ARELLANO: I mean, I like Eminem. You know, I’m for any of these entertainers who take stands, whether they’re good or not, because they are risking their fans. I mean, look at what’s happening with the NFL, I mean, with (unintelligible) and everything like that. They are taking their stand. And according to some people – I don’t got the stats – but, you know, they’re losing fans and all that, but at least they’re taking that position though.

MARTIN: Oh, I hear. All right. Well, that’s your – thanks for your take on that. That’s Gustavo Arellano. He’s an author and nationally syndicated columnist. Les Carpenter is a writer for The Guardian. AJ Willingham is a writer for CNN. Thank you all so much for joining us.

CARPENTER: Thank you.

ARELLANO: Gracias.

WILLINGHAM: Thank you, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMINEM’S “THE REAL SLIM SHADY”)

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'More Than A Political Status': Ai WeiWei Captures Scale Of Global Refugee Crisis

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'More Than A Political Status': Ai WeiWei Captures Scale Of Global Refugee Crisis

For his new documentary, Human Flow, Ai traveled around the world to document the scale and human toll of the international refugee crisis.

Christina Ascani/NPR

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Christina Ascani/NPR

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally recognized for his massive, often provocative art installations. And yet, he’s spent most of the past decade under house arrest for his persistent defense of free expression.

But as soon as his passport was reissued by the Chinese government a couple of years ago, Ai embarked on possibly his most ambitious project yet: documenting the global refugee crisis. The result of his cinematic journey, Human Flow, is out this week.

Ai spoke with NPR about his new documentary, which aims to describe what’s become the largest forced migration since World War II — 65 million people displaced by war, famine and climate change.

But instead of following the experience of any one group of asylum seekers, Ai takes a more expansive tack, traveling to 23 different countries over the stretch of a year. Employing drone views, the film charts the journeys of divergent populations, including Syrians, Kenyans, Kurds, Palestinians and the Rohingya.

It’s a theme that also hits home for the Chinese dissident, having grown up in isolation with his poet father, who was exiled from China.

“Being a refugee is much more than a political status,” Ai says. “As a human being, if you sit in front of any of them, if you look in their eyes, you immediately understand who they are.”


Interview Highlights

On seeing himself as a refugee

I was born after the year my father was criticized as an enemy of the people. In China, that’s the biggest crime you can have. My father is simply a poet, a very well-known poet. So he had been exiled [and] I grew up with him in a very remote area, the desert actually, in northwest China. So I personally experienced how people have been mistreated and, of course, also really punished, for the crime he never really committed. So I share this kind of sentiment of people who miss everything and lost everything.

On what it means to be a refugee

Being a refugee is much more than a political status. It is the most pervasive kind of cruelty that can be exercised against a human being. By depriving a person of all forms of security, the most basic requirements of a normal life, by cruelly placing that person of inhospitable host countries that do not want to receive this refugee. You are forcibly robbing this human being of all aspects that would make life, not just tolerable, but meaningful in many ways.

On what his film adds to the discussion on the refugee crisis

As a human being, if you sit in front of any of them, if you look in their eyes, you immediately understand who they are. They are just like your brothers or your sisters or your own children or your grandma. It’s nothing different. It’s only something you can see from their eyes. They have courage. They can give up everything, just for safety or shelter, or to see their children’s future maybe will change because they take this action.

On his feelings for people who fear migrants

I have great sympathy for them, for the lacking of knowledge, and as a result, lacking of the understanding of humanity, and also [how they] underestimate their own possibilities to help another person, which can be considered as the highest ritual in many, many religions — just helping someone. Never to say this is too big or it’s not my problem. I do have a great, deepest sympathy for people who don’t have a clear vision about the world and about themselves, [and] don’t understand the value of life.

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