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.

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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.

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Fiscal Cliff Debate: Why The (Very) Few Rule The Many In Congress

Dec 30, 2012
Originally published on December 30, 2012 6:15 pm

In the final hours of the latest budget crisis in Washington, several salient facts are increasingly clear.

First, the leaders of the two parties in the Senate might still put together a negotiated deal that would avert the combination of tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. The leaders would start with President Obama's top priorities, modify them to accommodate Republican preferences, throw in some measures that are GOP priorities and take the package to the floor.

Second, that package would pass the Senate on Monday on the votes of Democrats, independents and possibly even a Republican or two. That assumes no one filibusters the bill. Even one senator could do so and delay the proceedings into the new year. (More about that rule in a moment.)

Third, if no one filibusters and the Senate approves the compromise package, the House will have enough votes to approve it and send it on for the president's signature. But having enough votes is not enough. In fact, it is likely the package will not even be brought to the floor for debate and a vote.

How can this be?

Even if a majority of the whole House (Republicans and Democrats) were prepared to swallow the Senate deal, they won't get a chance unless Speaker John Boehner brings it to the floor. And Boehner probably won't. He has adopted a rule that no measure will be voted on unless it is supported by a majority of the majority party — that is, his party, the Republicans. At this point, the Senate deal looks unlikely to appeal to most House Republicans.

Many House Republicans refused to vote for higher taxes even on income over $1 million when Boehner gave them the chance back on Dec. 20. Now, any package emerging from the Senate will start the higher taxes on an income amount much closer to the president's preferred $250,000 threshold.

On Dec. 20, Boehner withdrew his "Plan B" proposal because he did not have enough Republicans to pass it on their votes alone. This time around, he might get enough Democratic votes for the Senate deal to supplement some number of Republican votes and achieve a majority of the whole House. That would get the job done, send the package to the president for enactment and avert the cliff.

But Boehner has said he doesn't want the House to pass legislation on the strength of Democratic votes. He wants it to be acceptable to his own party first.

Two points here, in fairness to Boehner. First, if he were to defy the "majority of the majority" rule, he might well have trouble being re-elected when the House formally chooses its next speaker on Thursday. While he has no declared intraparty challenger, enough defections in the actual floor voting could leave him short of the majority needed to make him speaker. That could lead to a chaotic situation in which his future would be uncertain.

Second, the "majority of the majority" rule was not his idea. It dates to the previous Republican speaker, Denny Hastert, who got the big gavel late in 1998 (after the fall of former Speaker Newt Gingrich and after other candidates for the job withdrew).

Hastert, from the outer exurbs of Chicago, was an old-school Midwestern Republican and not one of the hard right conservatives who had enabled the GOP to take over the House in 1994. So he adopted the "majority of the majority" rule to reassure this wing that he would not force compromises on them by making deals with the minority Democrats.

Boehner, from southwestern Ohio, is also of the more traditional Main Street Republican ilk and the furthest thing from an ideologue. He was elevated to his current office in the absence of a single popular challenger after his party seized the House majority in 2010. He has never been the darling of the 2010 freshmen or of the Tea Party activists who fueled that takeover election. Like Hastert, he relies on the "majority of the majority" rule to reassure the most conservative element within his chamber's rank and file.

The Tea Party has fallen on lean times lately, losing some of its leading lights in Congress and once again bearing the blame for lost opportunities in the Senate. But it still bulks large in the House Republican conference, where its numbers were sufficient to stop Boehner's Plan B on Dec. 20. This caucus within the caucus will make it difficult for Boehner to bring to the floor any Senate deal that raises taxes on the wealthy, not to mention any deal that has Obama's blessing.

Some believe Boehner is playing for time in these, the waning days of the 112th Congress. After the new, 113th Congress is sworn in Thursday and after he has been re-elected speaker (presumably), he might have more leverage in dealing with his own troops. That remains to be seen.

Before leaving this discussion, we should return for one moment to the Senate. If that chamber sends over a compromise to avoid the cliff, it will mean all 100 senators have agreed not to filibuster it. Under normal circumstances — or what has become normal in recent years — anything this important would surely be filibustered.

So if it seems odd to see a minority of the House bossing the speaker there, it is surely hard for most Americans to understand why it takes 60 votes to shut off a filibuster (real or threatened) and vote on any meaningful bill in the Senate.

In this immediate instance, if no one filibusters, it might be because the entire Senate feels the urgency of the midnight Monday deadline on tax rates and federal spending. But it is more likely that the entire Senate feels confident a filibuster is unnecessary — given the sure resistance the package will meet in the House.

Why risk the wrath of all those who will feel post-cliff pain when the other chamber of Congress is so ready to do it for you?

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