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.


Experience Trumps Hope In Obama's Second-Term Cabinet Selections

Jan 10, 2013
Originally published on January 11, 2013 12:34 pm

A re-elected president who gets to choose a second-term Cabinet has much more knowledge of the kind of team he needs than he did the first time around.

That's one simple way to understand President Obama's decisions as he creates his Cabinet 2.0.

The choices are not those of a president-elect who hasn't moved into the White House, or of a green president who hasn't watched his first international crisis unfold from his leather seat in the White House Situation Room.

They are, instead, the picks of a seasoned commander in chief comfortable with the levers of power and wiser in the cynical ways of Washington.

Given that, the choices we've seen so far — John Kerry at State, Chuck Hagel at Defense and Jack Lew at Treasury — are those of a president filling his second-term team with more of an eye toward what he wants than what political expectations demand.

"The first Cabinet you have a couple of things," says Dan Glickman, who served as agriculture secretary for President Bill Clinton and is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "One is you have some political responsibilities, so your appointments may reflect more of trying to deal with some of the issues of who supported you."

The naming of Hillary Clinton to be Obama's first secretary of state fits that category, Glickman says. "He appointed Secretary Clinton, an opponent of his [in the 2008 Democratic primaries] but someone I think he appointed both for her ability and competence but also for political reasons."

Another category, Glickman says, reflected the exigencies of the moment. For instance, Obama "kept Secretary [Robert] Gates on [at Defense] for continuity purposes" because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"The second Cabinet appointees tend to be less political and more substantive and more in line with the president's personal beliefs and comfort level," says Glickman, who was Clinton's second agriculture secretary.

When he named his first Cabinet, Obama didn't only have to fulfill the political expectations of many of the supporters of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, who shifted their support to him after the primaries. He also had to take into account the expectations of the global financial markets.

That's how Timothy Geithner got to be Treasury secretary in the first place. In his previous job as president of the New York Federal Reserve, Geithner had played a front-line role in the bailouts of major financial institutions during the height of the subprime-mortgage-induced financial implosion.

With the fight-or-flight response of anxious investors tilting dangerously toward flight as Obama became president in January 2009, the choice of Geithner was meant to reassure investors that an experienced financial crisis manager was in charge at Treasury.

Of course, Geithner initially caused a bit of a financial panic himself when he was underwhelming, to say the least, in his widely panned first news conference. But the moment passed and Geithner is generally viewed now upon his departure as a success.

A hard reality any re-elected president must face — Obama perhaps even more than his predecessors because of how polarized Washington has become — is that there are only so many people who have the president's confidence, experience to run a Cabinet department, personal backgrounds that can withstand vetting, and are politically acceptable to the opposition party.

"There's an emphasis here on loyalty, particularly with the Treasury secretary's position," says David Lewis, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University who has studied presidential appointments.

"You want people in there that you trust," Lewis says. "And that limits the pool of people who really can be selected for these jobs. If you want somebody who you trust, and you want somebody who can get confirmed, particularly in this political environment, that's not a large group of people."

Those necessities made it even less likely that the president would choose new voices for his Cabinet of the sort some observers have called for.

"This idea about new voices in the second term, I kind of want to say, for what?" Lewis says. "It's already clear what's on the agenda. And things that pop up on the agenda that are unexpected you want experienced hands to deal with, whether it's a foreign policy crisis that emerges that you don't anticipate, or whether it's a horrendous shooting in Newtown. It's not the time for brainstorming about what the second term of the administration should be about. It's about taking advantage of a shorter honeymoon, executing and establishing a legacy. And you need experienced hands to do that."

Of course, not all of those experienced hands need be those of white men. Obama has been criticized for choosing none but white men so far for his second-term Cabinet.

Those criticisms obviously don't seem to account for the fact that he did float the Susan Rice-for-secretary-of-state trial balloon, only to have congressional Republicans deflate it.

Also, while the fact that the most important person in the White House Cabinet room is African-American doesn't minimize the importance of the diversity issue, it's about the biggest counterweight to it you could have. If any president is likely to be sensitive to diversity's importance, it would presumably be Obama.

"I give great deference to presidents in making their appointments," Glickman says. "We have a president who is the first African-American president. There's plenty of diversity in the highest levels of our executive branch. ... I don't really have anything to criticize him with on this. It's easy to second-guess from the outside.

"He's picking the people who he thinks are most qualified and who he is most comfortable with," says Glickman. "And that's what you have to have in an administration. A president has to have Cabinet people he can trust and he can be confident in that they're not only going to carry out his policies but they have a good personal relationship with him as well. That's more important than the other categories right now."

With all the attention on the makeup of the president's cabinet, a larger point shouldn't be ignored. The days when presidents sat with their entire cabinets to hash out important policies are long gone.

Modern presidents typically rely for advice more on their political aides and informal advisers than they do on actual cabinet secretaries, especially when you get beyond the issues that are the domain of the big three — State, Treasury and Defense.

Meanwhile, there's only so much control a cabinet secretary has over the part of the Washington bureaucracy ostensibly under his or her authority. It's not for nothing that it's called "permanent Washington."

Which isn't to say that being in a president's cabinet isn't a big deal. But as with many aspects of life, the reality of a cabinet post often doesn't live up to the imagining of it.

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