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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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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

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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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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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'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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Bannon: 'It's A Season Of War Against The GOP Establishment'

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Bannon: 'It's A Season Of War Against The GOP Establishment'

Former adviser to President Donald Trump and executive chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon speaks at a campaign event for Republican candidate for the Senate in Alabama Roy Moore on September 25, 2017, in Fairhope, Ala.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Updated at 7:18 p.m. ET

Steve Bannon came to the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to detail the holy war he intends to wage against Republicans at the ballot box in next year’s midterm elections.

“This is not my war. This is our war. And y’all didn’t start it. The establishment started it,” President Trump’s controversial former chief strategist told the rapt crowd of Christian conservatives. “But I will tell you one thing — you all are going to finish it.”

The sins many incumbents were guilty of, according to Bannon, weren’t voting against the president’s proposals or necessarily being insufficiently conservative. It was that many were too allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and didn’t speak out when critics of the president, like retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., dared to voice their concerns about Trump’s leadership and temperament.

“Right now it’s a season of war on the GOP establishment,” Bannon declared.

Bannon’s speech wasn’t overtly religious, though he did begin by reading Scripture from Ecclesiastes 3 to make his case that the time was ripe for the type of crusade he wants to wage. And with the group of evangelical voters and political activists who attend the yearly event — at least some of whom believe God ordained Trump’s election to bring about a reckoning in Washington and to return the country to its Christian principles — he found a receptive crowd.

Since leaving the White House in August, Trump’s former campaign chairman has returned to his post as chairman of Breitbart News and made it his express mission to purge the Republican Party through 2018 primary challenges to sitting members of Congress. His efforts are reportedly being backed by conservative hedge-fund mogul Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.

And ever since successfully backing Roy Moore in last month’s Alabama special Senate primary as he knocked off appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who had benefited in millions of spending on his behalf from a McConnell-aligned super PAC, Bannon believes that victory was only the beginning of things to come.

“A good man with good ideas can beat back any amount of money,” Bannon said. “The most powerful thing is an authentic candidate.”

He admitted that some of his targets may not seem obvious. After all, those incumbent Republicans he singled out — like Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller — all have voted consistently with Trump. Even Heller, who initially opposed a White House-backed plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, fell in line eventually when a pro-Trump group ran ads against him.

But for Bannon, that still isn’t enough — though there is time to repent.

“All of you folks that are so concerned that you’re going to get primaried and defeated — there’s time for a mea culpa,” he said. “You can come to a stick and condemn Sen. Corker. You can come to a stick, a microphone, and say ‘I’m not going to vote for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.’ “

Bannon particularly had his sights set on McConnell, signaling to the Senate’s top Republican that there were plenty of people gunning to overthrow him, likening such a coup to the “Ides of March.” Republicans, Bannon said — addressing McConnell directly — are “looking to find out who’s going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”

Bannon’s pledge to take on incumbents is already giving some D.C. strategists heartache. Such intraparty fights, they worry, will only weaken what should be a favorable Senate map for the GOP, and ultimately distract from efforts to defeat Democrats. While Democrats have a chance to retake the House, Republicans have only a two-seat margin in the Senate they can easily grow given a number of vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in red states. That’s where Bannon should be focusing his efforts if he wants to give Trump more manpower on Capitol Hill, some GOP strategists say.

And for all of Bannon’s crowing about Moore’s win, the former Trump aide may not be able to replicate the same factors in other states. Bannon endorsed Moore late when he was already well ahead of Strange, who was also hamstrung by the circumstances of his appointment to succeed now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions by a scandal-plagued governor who’s since resigned.

Former White House national security aide Sebastian Gorka is an ally with Bannon in the effort to take on those seeking to block the Trump agenda and Gorka put their efforts in stark terms when he took the stage just before the Breitbart chief.

“The left has no idea how much more damage we can do to them as private citizens, as people unfettered,” Gorka warned.

“2018 will be the crucial year. This is the year. Steve has declared war on the RINO class as have I and we must tell them we have had enough,” Gorka added, using a pejorative in conservative circles for lawmakers who are “Republicans in name only” — as many in the room stood and clapped.

Bannon and Gorka may seem like odd figures to address a group largely defined by shared religious beliefs. Bannon has previously declared that Breitbart was the “platform for the alt-right,” which has ties to white nationalists. And Gorka has been plagued by claims that he has ties to extremist groups.

However, this year’s annual Values Voter Summit underscored just how deep the marriage between white evangelical voters and the Trump wing of the GOP really is. That’s all despite the fact that the twice-divorced former casino owner who has struggled to talk about his own faith initially seemed like a less-than-perfect candidate for Christian conservatives to embrace.

Nevertheless, Trump carried 80 percent of white evangelical voters last November, according to exit polls. Friday he became the first sitting president to address the summit, and during the weekend’s events, Trump was heralded at nearly every turn.

The biggest common thread Bannon, Gorka and other speakers emphasized wasn’t necessarily about a shared Christian faith but a devotion to taking on the GOP establishment. And many attendees like Henry Allen of Shelby, N.C., agreed with that view.

“They have for several years viewed us as insurgents, and we are the antithesis of what they want in this country,” Allen said of McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who declined invitations to address the gathering. “We view them with angst too. This is the payback. They saw it in Alabama. And we’re coming.”

NPR producer Barbara Sprunt contributed to this report.

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Exhausted Firefighters Make Progress Against Northern California Wildfires

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Exhausted Firefighters Make Progress Against Northern California Wildfires

A wildfires creates an orange glow in a view from a hilltop Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Geyserville, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Some 9,000 firefighters who are working long hours with little or no rest continue to battle historically destructive Northern California wildfires that have claimed at least 35 lives, wiped out whole neighborhoods and damaged vineyards and farms in in the heart of the state’s wine country.

“We’re pretty exhausted. It’s pretty steep terrain,” Sonoma wildland firefighter Steven Moore says at a makeshift staging area next to the Tubbs fire still raging just a few miles outside the tourist city of Calistoga, CA.

Moore says he’s hardly slept this week. “We’ve been dealing with trying to save the structures. The winds aren’t helping. All we can do is get to the structures as fast as we possibly can and save what we can.”

Additional firefighting resources have poured into California in the last 24 hours from across California and the nation.

Fueled mostly by chewing tobacco, coffee and adrenaline, firefighters here are, in the words of one commander, “pushing it to the limits.”

“We have people who’ve been on that line for days and they don’t want to leave that section of line because there’s still work to do, there are homes to save, and they’re very passionate about it,” says Napa County Fire Chief and Cal Fire Deputy Commander for Napa Barry Biermann. “We’re public service employees and that’s everyone does – we’re here to help.” Now getting firefighters off the line and rested is a priority, even if it’s against their will. “It’s like pulling teeth to get firefighters and law enforcement to disengage,” he says.

Part of that passion to stay is the fact that many of those fighting the fires make their homes and livelihood here.

“Everybody is shot but at the same time a lot of the people working the fires live here. It’s their community. So no one can really shut down,” says Joe Buchmeier, a Cal Fire battalion chief who lives just down the hill from where he’s battling a cluster of fires still burning north of the city of Sonoma.

“They’re actually getting forced to shut down. People are saying ‘you’re going to go sleep!’ So we go sleep and then come back as soon as we can,” Buchmeier says.

Over the course of the week he says he’s basically caught two or three hours of sleep in the cab of his truck when he can since the fires fueled by powerful winds erupted last Sunday night. One time he “ended up on a couch for probably three hours” before heading back out to the fire.

He was headed for a short nap just as a giant air tanker swooped overhead dropping another burst of rusty red fire retardant on the nearby hillside.

“This starts happening and you get pumped up again” he says.

But coffee and adrenaline only take you so far “before you hit the wall.”

And stronger gusting “red flag” winds are forecast for this weekend, putting fire crews on edge.

At a staging area for the Tubbs fire outside of Calistoga, which was evacuated, “the fire is just jumping around all over the place” saysBrandon Tolp, a Cal Fire fireman from the San Bernardino, CA area.

He has a wad of chew in his mouth and more tins of it visible inside his fire truck. It’s fuel, he says, when you have little time to eat. “Last time I ate was yesterday at noon, so something to pass the time,” he says with a smile.

More than a dozen wildfires are burning in Northern California with only several of them partially contained. But firefighters are reporting modest but solid progress.

“Anywhere we have uncontained (fire) lines we are concerned,” Napa Chief Biermann said today/Friday. “(firefigthers) are tired, they’re working hard but we’re making great progress on this (Atlas ) fire” in Sonoma and other stubborn blazes.

The Tubbs fire has burned more than 35,000 acres so far. It’s now 44 percent contained, officials say, and fire crews are “doing a great job keeping that fire away from Calistoga,” says Napa County supervisor Diane Dillon.

The city and the surrounding unincorporated areas are still under a mandatory evacuation.

Dillon again asked the some three dozen people who have defied the evacuation order “leave the city now” so that first responders “can do their job.”

Calistoga resident Greg Winter, whose home is close to the front line of the fire, is one of those who has not yet heeded the mandatory order. He says he wants to take care of his animals – ducks, chickens, goats, turkeys, and more. “They (firefighters) have people to save and homes to save, so they don’t need to be worrying about my animals” he says.

As fire trucks rumble by Winter and his partner Heidi Vardaro are hurriedly raking up bone dry leaves and brush to try to create a fire break between the roadway and his property as ash falls around him. The fire is just two or so miles away.

“Yeah that’s pretty close but you’ve got a lot of land break here,” he says pointing to the rows of wine grapes across the street. “We’d see it coming,” Winter says optimistically. “If push comes to shove we’re ready to go. The keys are in the truck. We’ll stop what we’re doing and get the hell outta here!” He says if it comes to it, he’ll set all his animals free in hopes they can fend for themselves.

Meantime on the very southern perimeter of the Tubbs fire, contractors with two giant bulldozers are poised to cut a fresh fire line up a steep hill just past rows of deep blue zinfandel grapes.

Dozer driver Jake Moore from Eureka, CA. is blunt about the challenging terrain as a dozer boss ahead of him hangs ribbon to guide the machines up the hill. “You’re gonna have to pay attention to what you’re doing,” he says with a wad of chew in his mouth gazing at the steep hillside in front of him. “It’s steeper and rockier than shit.”

Buchmeier, the Cal Fire battalion chief, says when he’s finally able he’s looking forward to a long, deep sleep and a cold India Pale Ale.

Gavin Newsom, California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, says big fires interacting with population centers may be “the new norm out here” that will require new strategies to mitigate, predict and aggressively react to fire outbreaks quicker.

Sharing best practices, Newsom argues, across state borders will be key including best training, technology and how to create teams that deploy aggressively on the ground prior to more traditional mutual aid. “Opportunities to dust off new technologies” including drone and infrared tools “to get out there and get ahead of some of these fires in ways that, frankly, only technology can provide,” Newsom says.

NPR’s Windsor Johnston and Richard Gonzales contributed to this report.

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