When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

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Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.


Amid Food Shortages, Syrian Opposition Now Runs Many Towns

Dec 14, 2012
Originally published on December 14, 2012 2:18 pm

As the Syrian opposition gains control of large swaths of territory in the country's north, local councils are emerging as the first alternative authority after 21 months of revolt.

It is still unclear if the civilian councils can impose order in war-torn areas where rebels have the power of arms. And at least parts of major cities remain in the hands of President Bashar Assad's forces.

However, as humanitarian aid trickles in, these activists hope the balance of power will shift to an elected civilian authority and fulfill the dreams of the revolt, which include democracy in Syria.

"We have established a number of offices, financial relief, medical and refugees," says a lawyer from the city of Idlib, in the northwest. He's taking a break from a lively council meeting in a barely furnished office in southern Turkey.

He's part of an 18-member council, elected in early December when 250 activists held a vote. The council members cross the Turkey-Syria border for meetings because it's safe. Like most local governments, this council has come together to discuss the budget.

"We are going to find ways for people in need," says Yasser, a lawyer, who can't be fully named for his security.

He pulls a bank book from his pocket to show that there is something to discuss. The government of Qatar donated $8 million to Syria's provincial governments in a meeting in Istanbul this month. Idlib's share is $800,000. But the gift won't go far, he says.

"Flour, food and some for the displaced people," he says. "We will make a vote in a democratic way."

Local Councils Are Strongest In The North

These formal local councils are strongest in Idlib and Aleppo province where the regime's hold, even over the central cities, is weakening.

The local councils, which now exist in all 14 Syrian provinces, are linked to the newly formed Syrian National Coalition, now recognized by the U.S. and more than 100 governments as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The new structure, an opposition group outside the country, with direct ties to the leadership in the provinces, is intended as a building block for a new government.

"Money will create social legitimacy, " says Gokhan Bacik, an assistant professor of international relations at Fatih University in Gaziantep, Turkey, and a specialist on Syria. "If it's used correctly, the opposition groups can create local authority."

But the humanitarian crisis is driving budget decisions.

The crucial problem is bread, a staple of the Syrian diet. There isn't enough to go around, and prices are soaring, in some places up 200 percent. The Syrian air force has targeted bakeries, the fuel has run out, and the basic commerce has broken down.

For the Idlib council, bread is the most important issue: how to get it into the province and how to pay for the flour. The projects for a salaried civil police department will have to wait.

Growing Food Shortages

The food crisis is especially dire in Aleppo province, where the main city, Aleppo, has been without water and electricity for weeks.

"There is hardly any bread," says Syrian journalist Samir Kanjo, who lives in southern Turkey but still has family in Aleppo. People who still have money can buy bread at 20 times the price, but 70 percent of the people in the city can't afford bread at any price, he says.

The civilian authority in Aleppo, called the Transitional Revolutionary Council, is a group of well-known activists headed by Dr. Jalal Edeen Kangi, a civil engineer and a professor from Aleppo University.

"Aleppo is led by people who are educated professionals; many of us were educated abroad," he says. "It's not a group of conservative, religious people."

Aleppo received $1 million from the Qatari donation, which immediately went to purchase wheat. Other needs were put on hold — like paying the salaries for 400 police officers and collecting a mountain of garbage festering on the city's outskirts.

"We have 6 million people in the province. We need 1,200 tons of bread a day," says a former city official who has been advising the council. He asked not to be identified by name for his security. "What is happening is crisis management. We are only thinking of the crisis."

The crisis is the first test of the governing skills of the Transitional Revolutionary Council. The legitimacy of this local leadership will depend on their ability to supply bread for an increasingly desperate population.

But the success of the local council depends on the international community, says Kangi, the head of the Aleppo council.

After recognizing the Syrian National Coalition in Morocco last week, Western and Arab governments pledged more than $200 million to back the new group. For Kangi, the money needs to come soon, because, he says, the councils need to provide more than bread to survive.

"We want to build a new Syria based on the 21st century," he says, but Syria right now is a land of ruins.

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