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.


Scandals Call Into Question Crime Labs' Oversight

Nov 20, 2012
Originally published on November 20, 2012 7:06 pm

Three years ago, a report from the National Academy of Sciences exposed serious problems in the nation's forensic science community. It found not only a lack of peer-reviewed science in the field, but also insufficient oversight in crime laboratories.

Little has changed since that report came out, but concerns are growing as scandals keep surfacing at crime labs across the country.

Critical Errors

In the early 1990s, Greg Taylor became a suspect in a North Carolina murder case after his truck was found near the crime scene. The key physical evidence against him was a spot on his truck. A report from a state lab showed there were indications of blood. He was sentenced to life in prison.

"I spent a lot of years really wondering about how the victim's blood could have been on my truck," Taylor says.

In his case, an initial lab test showed indications of blood, but then a follow-up test came back negative. It wasn't human blood.

This critical information was excluded from the lab's final report, and Taylor's attorney didn't have access to it.

Years later, his lawyers uncovered the negative test results. In 2010, after 17 years in prison, Taylor was exonerated, and his story unraveled a bigger scandal at the lab.

Chris Swecker, a former assistant director from the FBI, audited the lab's work and found it produced biased reports for more than a decade.

"What we found was over 200 cases where the reporting of the results of blood examinations were very weighted toward the prosecution," he says.

Taylor is now suing several people who worked there.

The Accreditation Question

In North Carolina and elsewhere, lab employees often ultimately report to law enforcement.

Marvin Schechter, a defense attorney who served as an adviser to the National Academy of Sciences forensics report, recommends making all public crime labs independent.

"We seem to believe in this country that forensic work is the property of the police department and the district attorneys, and it should not be. If it's science, that should be done by independent scientists," Schechter says.

In 2011, questions arose about the accuracy of testing evidence at a Nassau County crime lab. In that case, the police-run lab was shut down and thousands of cases were thrown into question.

New York is one of only a few states that require labs to be accredited. It relies on a national nonprofit agency called the American Society of Criminal Lab Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

Its inspectors examine hundreds of labs in nearly every state. But Schechter says they don't truly scrutinize labs.

"When ASCLD/LAB comes to a laboratory for an inspection, it announces that they're coming. It's not a surprise inspection. Everybody gets a chance to clean up their act," he says.

ASCLD/LAB inspectors found a long list of problems at the New York lab years before it was closed. But they never revoked its accreditation, and it's not their policy to notify the public when they find issues.

The Key To Reform

Ralph Keaton, the executive director of ASCLD/LAB, says accreditation can't prevent every problem.

"What it means is that we have gone in and looked at the laboratory's quality system and determined that they have operational policies and procedures in place that when followed, will ensure that the laboratory generally does quality work," Keaton says.

It turns out that Ralph Keaton was second in command at the North Carolina lab during the time it mishandled Greg Taylor's case, and Keaton is one of the people Taylor is suing.

"You might expect something like this from the police or some sort of sleight of hand by the prosecution or whatever. But you never expect it from a scientist or a supposed scientist at a lab," Taylor says.

A few bills aimed at reforming forensic science have recently been put forward in Washington, but none has passed. Meanwhile, on Long Island, a new lab has been set up, run by civilian scientists, not the police.

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