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.

It can be hard to distinguish among the men wearing grey suits and regulation haircuts on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. But David Margolis always brought a splash of color.

It wasn't his lovably disheveled wardrobe, or his Elvis ring, but something else: the force of his flamboyant personality. Margolis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, didn't want to fit in with the crowd. He wanted to stand out.

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.

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Beijing's 'Airpocalypse' Spurs Pollution Controls, Public Pressure

Jan 14, 2013
Originally published on March 20, 2014 4:39 pm

In China's capital, they're calling it the "airpocalypse," with air pollution that's literally off the charts. The air has been classified as hazardous to human health for a fifth consecutive day, at its worst hitting pollution levels 25 times that considered safe in the U.S. The entire city is blanketed in a thick grey smog that smells of coal and stings the eyes, leading to official warnings to stay inside.

Environmentalists say it's the worst pollution since monitoring began last year, while many others believe the levels are unprecedented in Beijing's history. The smog has affected more than 30 cities in China, leading even the official mouthpiece, the People's Daily, to ask plaintively: "How can we get out of this suffocating siege of pollution?"

The conditions are expected to linger for two more days.

China is choking on its own breakneck development, with thousands of new cars taking to the road every day. This year, the pollution has been exacerbated by weather patterns, combined with an unusually cold spell.

"In the winter, we have to burn more coal to get heating," says Zhou Rong of Greenpeace. She says around 50 percent of Beijing's air pollution is historically due to coal-fired power stations. "Another reason is the weather pattern makes the whole atmosphere very, very stable, and so all the air pollution accumulates down to the ground, so we are getting higher and higher air pollution."

Unusually, the pollution is getting headline treatment on local news bulletins and in the domestic media. This is in stark contrast to the situation in previous years, when pollution was rarely acknowledged, let alone reported. Since the beginning of the year, the government has been releasing hourly pollution readings for 74 Chinese cities, almost half of which are now showing severe pollution.

"There's been clarity as to the severity of the problem, there's more frequent disclosure of information, but what remains to be seen is whether more aggressive action will be taken to solve the problem," says Alex Wang, an expert of Chinese environmental law at the University of California, Berkeley, law school.

This follows intense public pressure on the issue, driven by the fact that the U.S. Embassy in Beijing operates its own pollution monitor, releasing hourly figures by Twitter. In the past two years, citizens noticed large discrepancies between the official Chinese figures and the U.S. ones, and began to question whether the Chinese statistics had been fudged or falsified.

"In theory, with the greater transparency, that's harder to do — the falsification or cheating the data," says Alex Wang. "What will be interesting to see going forward is that now that they've become more transparent — releasing hourly data and so forth — does it actually force the regulators to take regulatory action?"

Beijing is taking emergency action: shutting down some building sites and polluting factories temporarily and taking almost a third of official cars off the road. It's also vowing to cut air pollution by 15 percent over the next three years.

But the surrounding provinces are actually stepping up coal consumption, dooming such pledges, according to Greenpeace's Zhou Rong.

"It's not going to work if Beijing city does the mitigation work alone," she says. "If the surrounding areas don't do the same work, Beijing will never get better air quality."

A study by Greenpeace and Beijing University focusing on four Chinese cities estimates the number of people dying prematurely from air pollution is close to three times that killed by traffic accidents.

Monday morning, Beijing's main children's hospital was packed to overflowing, with rows of infants hooked up to drips in the corridors outside the emergency clinic, and queues of patients waiting to see doctors. According to official media, recently this hospital has seen 9,000 patients per day, a third of them with respiratory diseases.

"Of course it's connected to the pollution," says Louise Huang, who's here with her 18-month-old son. He started getting sick the first day of the smog, even though she hasn't dared open the windows or go outside. "This must get better," she tells me. "I can't imagine how we'd live if it got worse."

"There are too many cars on the streets, too many factories," says Wang Ying, whose baby is suffering respiratory problems. When asked whether she worries about the world her child will inherit, she replies, "Of course I'm scared."

In the Chinese media, there's been some soul-searching about why the problem has been so intense. The China Daily took the country's rapid urbanization process to task, commenting in an editorial, "The air quality in big cities could have been better had more attention been paid to the density of high rises, had more trees been planted in proportion to the number of residential areas, and had the number of cars been strictly controlled."

Meanwhile, the Global Times has been pointing out China's role as the global factory and the "biggest construction site in the world."

"Seventy percent of global iron and steel, and about half of the world's cement is produced in China," it says in an editorial. "Against this backdrop, it is impossible for China to be as clean as the West."

Among local people, there are fears for the future. One song circulating online includes the lyrics, "I live in this smog, I don't want to die in this smog." This environmental crisis risks dragging down economic growth, and given growing public dissatisfaction, it could yet become a political problem for China's new leaders.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We would also like to forecast the future of China, but just now it's hard to see where that country is heading. In fact, in Beijing, it's hard to see very far at all. NPR's Louisa Lim reports on catastrophic air pollution.

LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: Here in Beijing, they're calling it the airpocalypse. These past few days, the entire city has been blanketed in thick gray smog. It smells of coal, it makes your eyes sting and your throat feel scratchy. And at the very worst, sometimes you can hardly see to the other side of the road. If my voice sounds muffled, it's because I'm wearing a Darth Vader-style facemask to filter the air - an extreme measure because this is an extreme public health emergency.

ZHOU RONG: In the last three days, the air pollution is beyond index. It's the worst since we've had readings, starting from last year.

LIM: That's Zhou Rong from the environmental group Greenpeace. At its worst, Beijing's recent pollution has been 25 times higher than the level considered safe in the U.S. She explains why it's so bad.

ZHOU: In the winter we have to burn more coal to get heating. And another reason is it's because the weather pattern make the whole atmosphere very, very stable and all air pollution are going down and accumulate down to the ground. So we are getting higher and higher air pollution.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: For once, domestic bulletins are headlining the smog. And since the beginning of this year, hourly pollution readings are being released for more than 70 cities. One factor driving this is the U.S. embassy's own pollution monitor here, which in the past showed discrepancies between Chinese and U.S. pollution figures. That's led to more transparency, a significant development according to Alex Wang, an expert on Chinese environmental law at UC-Berkeley.

ALEX WANG: In theory with the greater transparency that's harder to do, sort of the falsification or cheating the data. What'll be really interesting to see going forward is now that they've become more transparent - they're releasing hourly data and so forth - does it actually force the regulators to actually sort of take regulatory action?

LIM: Beijing is taking emergency action, shutting some building sites and factories and taking almost a third of official cars off the road. It's also vowing to cut air pollution by 15 percent over the next three years. But the surrounding provinces are actually stepping up coal consumption, dooming such pledges, according to Greenpeace's Zhou.

ZHOU: It's not going to work if only Beijing City do the mitigation work alone. If the surrounding area don't do the same work, Beijing will never get better air quality.

LIM: I'm now in Beijing's main children's hospital and it's packed to overflowing. Here the emergency room is lined with children hooked up to drips, and upstairs the corridors are filled with patients waiting to see doctors. In the last few days this hospital has seen 9,000 patients per day - almost a third of them with respiratory diseases. The parents here are sure the pollution is to blame.

LOUISE HUANG: (Foreign language spoken)

LIM: Of course it's connected to the pollution, says Louise Huang. She's here with her 18-month-old son. He started getting sick the first day of the smog, even though she hasn't dared open the windows or go outside. This must get better, she tells me. I can't imagine how we'd live if it got worse.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

LIM: And there are fears for the future. As this song puts it, I live in this smog. I don't want to die in this smog. China's quite literally choking on its own development. But this environmental crisis could drag down economic growth. And given growing public dissatisfaction, it could yet become a political problem for China's new leaders. Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.