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Researchers asked 4-year-olds to draw a child. Here's a sample of their artwork. (Twins Early Development Study/King's College in London)

What Kids' Drawings Say About Their Future Thinking Skills

by Maanvi Singh
Aug 20, 2014

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At age 4, many young children are just beginning to explore their artistic style.

The kid I used to babysit in high school preferred self-portraits, undoubtedly inspired by the later works of Joan Miro. My cousin, a prolific young artist, worked almost exclusively on still lifes of 18-wheelers.

These early works may be good for more than decorating your refrigerator and cubicle, researchers say. There appears to be an association, though a modest one, between how a child draws at 4 and her thinking skills at 14, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

The findings don't mean parents should worry if their little ones aren't producing masterpieces early on. But the study suggests intellectual and artistic skills may be related to each other in a way that reveals something about the influence of our genes.

Researchers from King's College London enlisted 7,700 pairs of 4-year-old identical and fraternal twins in England to draw pictures of a child. The researchers scored each drawing on a scale of 0 to 12, based on how many body parts were included. All the kids also took verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests at 4 and 14.

Kids with higher drawing scores tended to do better on the intelligence tests, though the two were only moderately linked. And that was expected, says Rosalind Arden a cognitive geneticist who led the study while at the King's College Institute of Psychiatry. The drawing test researchers used was first developed in the 1920s to measure children's cognition. And studies have shown the test to be useful, but not always accurate.

In a surprise to the researchers, the drawings and the test results from identical twins (who share all their genes) were more similar to one another than those from fraternal twins (who share only half their genes). "We had thought any siblings who were raised in the same home would be quite similar," Arden tells Shots. The findings add to the growing body of evidence that suggests genes can play a role in both artistic and cognitive ability, she says.

This doesn't mean that a child's genetic predisposition necessarily hurts his or her chances of succeeding in artistic and intellectual endeavors, Arden says. As previous studies have shown, countless factors affect a person's abilities — and genes are only one of them.

How would Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko have done on the drawing test when they were kids? Arden says she and her colleagues are trying to figure out whether judging the children's art in some other way (maybe based on creativity instead of accuracy) would reveal something different about their intelligence.

But we shouldn't assume that these abstract masters couldn't draw realistically, Arden says. Picasso was a prodigy, who could draw everything from birds to busts with amazing accuracy at a young age. In fact, the artist famously said he easily learned to draw like Raphael when he was young, but it took him a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.

The most amazing thing about the drawings collected for this study is that they represent such a range of both ability and style, Arden says. "I had a fantastic time looking through them."

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Researchers asked 4-year-olds to draw a child. Here's a sample of their artwork. (Twins Early Development Study/King's College in London)

Top Stories: Militants Purportedly Kill Journalist; Ferguson Latest

Aug 20, 2014

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Video Purports To Show Beheading Of U.S. Journalist By Militants.

— A 'Different Dynamic' In Ferguson, But With 47 Arrests.

And here are more early headlines:

Huge Demonstrations Call On Pakistani Prime Minister To Quit. (BBC)

Kurdish Ministers Who Quit Former Iraqi Leader's Cabinet Are Back. (Reuters)

Louisiana Court Upholds Common Core, Deals Gov. Jindal Setback. (NOLA)

Landslides In Hiroshima,Japan Kill More Than 32. (Asahi Shimbun)

Salmonella Concerns Force Almond, Peanut Butter Recalls. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

New York Metropolitan Opera Settles With Last Big Union. (New York Times)

Macy's Settles Suit Over Racial Profiling At New York Store. (New York Daily News)

North Korea Insults The Face Of Secretary Of State John Kerry. (AP)

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Protesters walk in front of a line of police as authorities try to disperse a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo. early Wednesday. The St. Louis suburb saw less violence than recent nights of protests. (AP)

A 'Different Dynamic' In Ferguson, But With 47 Arrests

Aug 20, 2014

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Tear gas and Molotov cocktails were absent from Ferguson's streets last night, as protesters and police avoided the clashes that have marred demonstrations over an unarmed black teenager's death at the hands of police in the St. Louis suburb last weekend.

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, announced that 47 arrests had been made, and that three loaded handguns were confiscated.

"Tonight we saw a different dynamic," Johnson said, according to St. Louis Public Radio. "Protest crowds were a bit smaller and they were out earlier. We had to respond to fewer incidents than the night before. There were no Molotov cocktails tonight."

The demonstrations were largely peaceful, particularly early in the night. Police forced the crowds to stay on the move, enforcing a ban on "static assembly" that was implemented this week.

A prayer session ended with urges for people to head home, reports NPR's Brakkton Booker. But some people stayed on the streets, and as the night wore on, bottles were thrown at police. That led officers to put on helmets and shields and try to find the "agitators," Johnson said.

"Nearly four dozen arrests were made by the time the protests ended for the night," Brakkton says. "This includes one person police say is from Texas — and it was the third time this person has been arrested at the protests."

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said he will being presenting witnesses today in the case of Michael Brown, 18, who died after being shot by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, to a grand jury Wednesday.

As St. Louis Public Radio explains, some have called for McCulloch to recuse himself from the case:

"McCulloch's critics say that McCulloch has a conflict of interest in this case because his father was a policeman killed on duty by a black suspect. Others point to McCulloch's role campaigning for County Councilman Steve Stenger in his successful bid to oust incumbent County Executive Charlie Dooley in the Aug. 5 primary. Dooley is African-American."

Last night, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued a statement saying he will not seek to replace McCulloch.

The Justice Department is conducting its own investigation into the case — and Attorney General Eric Holder, who is expected to arrive in Ferguson today, wrote an op-ed piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in which he said that about 40 FBI agents are working on the case.

Holder also said that the violence that has broken out during some protests undermines, rather than advances, the cause of justice. At one point, he addressed the community's residents directly:

"This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent. And beyond the investigation itself, we will work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding — and robust action — aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve."

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Protesters walk in front of a line of police as authorities try to disperse a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo. early Wednesday. The St. Louis suburb saw less violence than recent nights of protests. (AP)

Book News: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Memoir To Be Published

by Annalisa Quinn
Aug 20, 2014

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder's rough memoir of frontier life, which served as the basis for her Little House on the Prairie series, will be published this fall as Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. The Associated Press reports, "The not-safe-for-children tales include stark scenes of domestic abuse, love triangles gone awry and a man who lit himself on fire while drunk off whiskey," adding, "Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, herself a well-known author, tried and failed to get an edited version of the autobiography published throughout the early 1930s." It will be published by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press.
  • Simin Behbahani, the poet often called the "Lioness of Iran," died on Tuesday morning in Tehran. She was 87. In a remembrance, NPR senior producer Davar Ardalan said, "Her words were piercing and fierce, lamenting on the lack of freedom of expression through the ages. For six decades, many Iranians found refuge in her poetry as a way to nurture their hunger for dialogue, peace, human rights and equality."
  • For The New Yorker, Teju Cole writes about racism in the U.S., James Baldwin and Baldwin's wonderful essay "Stranger in the Village." He says, "The news of the day (old news, but raw as a fresh wound) is that black American life is disposable from the point of view of policing, sentencing, economic policy, and countless terrifying forms of disregard. There is a vivid performance of innocence, but there's no actual innocence left. The moral ledger remains so far in the negative that we can't even get started on the question of reparations. Baldwin wrote Stranger in the Village more than sixty years ago. Now what?" (For further reading, see Laila Lalami's piece for NPR on Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son and the chaos in Ferguson, Mo.)
  • "I wrote fiction for 17 years before I found out I was a fantasy novelist." — Lev Grossman writes in The New York Times about discovering his vocation.
  • An 86-year-old great-great grandmother named Georgia Gorringe has published her first romance novel. "It's about a bored housewife, and she listens to talk radio," Gorringe told KUTV in Salt Lake City, adding, "And that voice on the radio, oh, he had a magic voice! And it just turned her on!" The station quotes Gorringe's daughter as saying, "Sometimes I'm like, mother, how could you do that? How can you write that?" Gorringe didn't specify whether the sexy voice was based on a real radio host. (But we have our guesses.)
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James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in September 2012. (AP)

Video Purports To Show Beheading Of U.S. Journalist By Militants

Aug 20, 2014

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Extremist group the Islamic State claims to have executed American journalist James Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012. The FBI is evaluating a video that was posted online Tuesday, purporting to show Foley's beheading.

That video was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday afternoon and later removed. The images show a man resembling Foley kneeling next to a masked militant, reciting comments against the U.S. before being killed.

U.S. officials tell the Associated Press that Islamic State had recently threatened to kill Foley to avenge U.S. airstrikes that have helped Iraqi forces regain key sites, including the Mosul dam.

The Islamic State also says it's holding another American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who went missing in Syria last year, and that Sotloff could be the next victim.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says U.S. officials are studying the video to determine whether it's genuine:

"We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen James Foley by ISIL. The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available."

Foley has been missing since November of 2012, when he was kidnapped while reporting in Syria for the news organization GlobalPost. A Facebook page was later created to call for his return; last night, it posted this statement from Foley's mother, Diane:

"We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
"We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.
"We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim."

GlobalPost notes that, "The Foley family has not received confirmation of Jim's death from the U.S. government, and acknowledged that there is still a small chance the video of his apparent killing will prove to have been fake."

The company's CEO and co-founder, Philip Balboni, says GlobalPost had been working to learn who kidnapped Foley, and where he was being held captive.

"Although GlobalPost's investigation at one point led us to believe that James was being held by the Syrian government, we later were given strong reason to believe he was being held by Islamic militants in Syria," Balboni said. "We withheld this information at the request of the family and on the advice of authorities cooperating in the effort to protect Jim. GlobalPost, working with a private security company, has amassed an enormous amount of information that has not been made public."

Foley was on a freelance assignment for GlobalPost when he was abducted in northern Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. He had been making his way to the Turkish border when he was stopped by a group of armed men, the organization says.

Back in 2011, Foley was one of three journalists who were held captive for more than a month after being attacked by Gaddafi fighters near Benghazi. A fourth journalist didn't survive the attack.

Their ordeal led Foley and one of his colleagues, American Claire Gillis, to visit NPR's Talk of the Nation back in 2011. Discussing the uncertain weeks of their captivity, Foley said they "turned to a lot of prayer" and exercise. In the end, he was the last of the journalists to be released, after spending a week as the sole Westerner in the prison.

"I started to have some dark thoughts," he said. "I started to think, you know, maybe they're keeping the American guy as the ace in the hole... I thought maybe I was going to be a bargaining chip."

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