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.

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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.

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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.


Is Congress Making A 'Fiscal Bluff'?

Dec 24, 2012
Originally published on December 24, 2012 1:56 pm



This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee in for Michel Martin. Coming up, the U. S. economy has had an interesting year. I don't need to tell you that we're still facing huge hurdles. But on the other hand, the stock market shot up this year and some sectors are thriving. We'll talk about signs of hope in just a few minutes.

But first, not many signs of hope on Capitol Hill. Washington is quiet for the holiday with President Obama and lawmakers out of town. They're expected to return on Thursday in a last minute effort to avoid the fiscal cliff. That's the tax increases and spending cuts that automatically kick in on January 1st if there's no deal and no legislation in place to avoid it.

But we want to talk about what the remaining options are. So Roben Farzad, a contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek joins us. Welcome.

ROBEN FARZAD: Hi, Celeste. How are you?

HEADLEE: I'm doing well. Thanks so much for being with us.

FARZAD: A pleasure.

HEADLEE: Let's take a moment and step back and remind our listeners where things were left on Friday. Late last week, House Speaker John Boehner didn't get enough votes from Republicans in the House to pass Plan B. That's what he called his backup plan. And it would've increased taxes only on individuals earning $1 million or more. So what's happened since then?

FARZAD: Let me tell you what I'm thinking about this. Is everybody's telling me to watch "Homeland," get that on DVD. I'm thinking I'm just going to get me a bag of popcorn and some General Tso's chicken tonight and cuddle up to CSPAN because this is riveting stuff. I mean, I'm just blown away.


FARZAD: It's unbelievable.

HEADLEE: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Tonight the best watching will be CSPAN because - what's happening? I mean, they're going to be filming an empty room, right?

FARZAD: Not. It's not exciting. It's so anti-climatic. And what's amazing about this is this is a doomsday machine that's entirely Washington's own creation. Their histrionics are being pre-manufactured. There's nothing preordained about it.

Where Congress and the president last left it was Boehner tried to get some sort of Plan B through his party. The Tea Party flank was not cooperative. Obama's last offer would set up the top tax rates on dividends and capital gains at 20 percent with the current 15 percent. So they were close to meeting each other halfway but they don't even have unanimity within their own parties.

HEADLEE: All right. Well, here's Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. He's chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He's speaking on Fox News Sunday and he says we can do more.


REPRESENTATIVE KENT CONRAD: I would hope that we would have one last attempt here to do what everyone knows needs to be done, which is a larger plan that really does stabilize the debt and get us moving in the right direction.

HEADLEE: He's a senator. Is the solution in the Senate?

FARZAD: It could be if Harry Reid could muster enough unanimity there. The question - the problem with this, you know, it's a real noble thing that Senator Conrad said there, but this is all the product of so much can kicking. This all starts off with the George W. Bush-era tax cuts which he got out of his election mandate in 2002.

And in 2010, Washington as a whole kicked the can on extending these tax cuts for two years. Last year, remember as part of the debt ceiling debacle they set up a mechanism which Mr. Bernanke later called the fiscal cliff - I call it the budgetary outcropping - where there would be these automatic $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

And again this year, they kicked the can on extending a 2 percentage point reduction in the payroll tax. So there's multiple can kicking going on here. And what people don't necessarily appreciate is Congress can be feckless again and do that same thing. Because the obverse, the alternative, it is too scary for them, for Congress to actually have to look at defense cuts, for the president to have to ponder, gosh, am I going to have to increase taxes on part of the middle class in order to get Congress and the Senate to increase taxes on people earning more than $250,000? It is a mess.

HEADLEE: Well, OK. Whether we call it a cliff or an outcropping, are we going to go over it? I mean, there doesn't seem to be very much time left. There doesn't seem to be a lot of movement. If we do go over this cliff, this outcropping, is that terrible for the country?

FARZAD: What the problem is, is it's more of a - you know, to introduce the fifth metaphor into this conversation - more of a deep slope that would hurt the economy into the second and third quarter of 2013. Because the most immediate problems in January is the IRS doesn't know whether it can begin tax filing season in earnest.

You have HR managers saying we don't know what to garnish from wages, if the numbers are going to change. Are we calling Washington's bluff in keeping the status quo, hoping that they get something together? And on top of that, you have a lame-duck Congress. So the legislative process could start all over and all bills proposed or acted on this year in 2012 could die.

So there's a real urgency to get something done when these guys come back from their vacation a couple days after Christmas.

HEADLEE: So you're predicting a deal?

FARZAD: I'm predicting a deal but it could well happen on January 7th, January 8th, after a certain amount of pain is felt. It's a brinksmanship where you go a little past the 11th hour. And these guys are trying right now to call one another's bluff. Who gets more pain incrementally?

Who gets blamed more if we fall over this cliff on January 1st? And I think that the thinking right now is that Congress and Mr. Boehner would take the disproportionate blame.

HEADLEE: Roben Farzad, the contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek. He joined us from Richmond, Virginia. Thanks so much and Happy New Year.

FARZAD: Likewise. My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.