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.


This Butter Sculpture Could Power A Farm For 3 Days

Jan 11, 2013
Originally published on January 11, 2013 9:49 pm

For more than a week, it was the belle of the ball, the butter with no better: a giant 1,000-pound dairy sculpture that occupied the place of honor at the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa.

But after the indoor state fair shutters this Saturday, all that beautiful butter will leave its refrigerated display case and be unceremoniously dumped into a stinking pit of manure. That's because the sculpture will soon be converted into methane gas — enough to power a Pennsylvania dairy farm for three days.

The farm in question is located in Mifflintown, Pa., about 45 minutes from the state capital. It's powered entirely by the energy produced from a methane digester — essentially, a 16-foot-deep, covered pit of cow manure that turns waste into energy.

"It runs our whole entire farm," says farmer Brett Reinford, "and [creates] enough [power] for about 80 houses. So there's a lot of excess we sell back to the grid."

Here's how it works. First, the butter will be thrown into a pile of rotting fruits and vegetables and other food waste. Then the food will be ground up and dumped into the digester.

The digester's grunt work is carried out by bacteria, which feast on the food and manure inside the pit. It's heated to 100 degrees, in order to provide a friendlier climate for the microbes. As the bacteria breaks down molecules, the food and manure let off methane gas. The gas is piped away from the pit to a generator that powers the farm.

Since butter is essentially fat and fat contains a lot of concentrated energy, the sculpture will be a powerful fuel for the digester. Last year's sculpture provided the Reinford farm with about three days' worth of electricity.

"They brought it down here in one of our trucks," says Reinford. "And then we sent it through the grinder, turned it into mush. And then, eventually, it went into the digester. And of course it's 100 degrees in there, so it just turns into a nice liquid."

Methane digesters are expensive — about $1 million. But in between the free electricity generated and the income from selling power back to utilities, Brett Reinford says, his family farm will earn back its investment within three years.

That's why a growing number of farmers are installing methane digesters on their farms, and why Reinford and his father, Steve, spend so much time promoting the machine to other farmers. The only downside, Reinford says, is the risk of being pegged as "those methane people."

But he said he doesn't let that bother him too much. "It's such a good thing. We're not too concerned about that."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



The aftermath of another show suggests a way to power all those new gadgets. The annual Pennsylvania Farm Show comes to a close this weekend, which means cows and roosters are heading home and vendors are packing up their hot sauce and mustards, which leaves one vital question. What happens to the farm show's biggest attraction - a giant sculpture made from 1,000 pounds of butter? NPR's Scott Detrow investigates.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Each year's butter sculpture has a different theme. Last year it was a kid with his cow. This year's masterpiece took 10 days to complete, and the theme is a bit complicated.

SASHA MACLEAN: It kind of looks like there's a Thanksgiving feast on the table in front and then, like, some trees out in back. And there's a guy putting the star on the tree.

DETROW: Sasha MacLean is just one of the thousands who swarmed to the sculpture's eight-sided refrigerated display case during this week's show. But what happens after the lights go off, after the crowds drift away? Like Frosty the Snowman, a butter sculpture isn't meant to live forever.


DETROW: The butter sculpture's fate isn't pretty. Brett Reinford and I are looking at it. We're on his farm near Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. There's a cement pad next to the cattle barn. A truck has dumped a big pile of rotting fruit, vegetables and other food from Wal-Mart.

BRETT REINFORD: Dogs out here every day - both of them - looking for cheese mostly.

DETROW: Brett Reinford says all of this food waste is going to be turned into energy in a methane digester. Next week that beautiful butter sculpture will be dumped here as well, along with the key ingredient, manure.

REINFORD: It runs our whole entire farm and enough for about 80 houses. So there's a lot of excess that we sell back to the grid.

DETROW: Here's how it works: Reinford and his father Steve grind up the food and dump it into the deep covered tank of cow manure, where everything is heated up and stored for 20 days. Yeah, it smells exactly how you'd think, but that smell means the pit is generating methane gas, as bacteria inside feast on the manure and produce.


DETROW: And the digester collects the methane gas and pipes it to a nearby generator, which powers the Reinford farm. Since butter is essentially fat and fat contains a lot of concentrated energy, the sculpture will be a powerful fuel for the digester. Last year's sculpture provided Reinford's farm with about three days worth of electricity.

REINFORD: Yeah, they brought it down here in one of our trucks. And then we sent it through the grinder there, turned it into a mush. And then eventually it went into the digester. And of course it's 100 degrees in there, so it just turns into a nice liquid.

DETROW: The methane digester solves a lot of problems for the Reinfords, and the increasing number of dairy farmers across the country who have installed similar systems. It gives them free electricity and heat and some extra income from selling excess power back to the utilities. And Brett figures since the 500-cow dairy farm is producing all that manure anyway, they might as well get some income from it. The digester has a big up-front cost - around a million dollars. But once you factor in all the state and federal grants the Reinford farm used to purchase it, they'll earn that money back within three years. I ask him, though, if he's worried his family will get pegged as those methane people, especially now that they're taking in the butter sculpture.

REINFORD: Sometimes, but I don't know. It's such a good thing. We're not too concerned about that.

DETROW: Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.