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.

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From George Saunders, A Dark 'December'

Jan 8, 2013

Since the publication of George Saunders' 1996 debut story collection, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, journalists and scholars have been trying to figure out how to describe his writing. Nobody has come very close. The short story writer and novelist has been repeatedly called "original," which is true as far as it goes — but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Saunders blends elements of science fiction, horror and humor writing into his trademark brand of literary fiction. Even his story titles ("Downtrodden Mary's Failed Campaign of Terror," "My Flamboyant Grandson") are offbeat.

But with his new short story collection, Tenth of December, Saunders proves he's a master of a genre few people have associated with him: realism. That's not to say he has abandoned the bizarre, dystopian type of fiction that made him one of the country's most well-regarded authors; that's all still there. But in his new book, his defiant quirkiness is tempered with a dark sobriety and a sense that the world we live in is often more surreal and savage than any satire could be. Tenth of December isn't just the author's most unexpected work yet; it's also his best.

Saunders' new, more grounded tone is evident in "Victory Lap," a grim and brutal story about the assault and attempted kidnapping of a young girl. The prose is relentless, and the horror becomes worse and worse as it becomes clear that Saunders won't let us look away. The fact that the story ends on a comparatively hopeful note almost makes it harder to take; Saunders makes it clear that deliverance, if it comes, can never heal the pain of what has already happened.

Slightly less dark but just as emotionally affecting is the title story, in which a young, unpopular boy with an active imagination goes for a walk in the forest, looking for a chance to be a hero. He had come close once before, trying to save the life of a dying raccoon, but fell short: "The twerpy thing was, you never really got to save anyone. ... That was sad. He didn't do well with sad." At the end, the boy finds a way to provide some kind of salvation to another person, but it doesn't look or feel the way he'd hoped it would.

The standout of Tenth of December, though, is "The Semplica Girl Diaries," a story that's remarkable for its originality and unrelenting sadness. Written as a series of journal entries, it follows a middle-class striver who feels bad that he can't provide the rich, stylish lifestyle that his daughter craves. After winning the lottery, the narrator is able to buy the latest status symbol: a lawn installation of "Semplica girls," young immigrant women who are strung together by a surgical cable that runs through their heads. He's not sure why he needs it, he just knows that he does: "Lord, give us more. Give us enough. Help us not fall behind peers. Help us, that is, not fall further behind peers. For kids' sake. Do not want them scarred by how far behind we are."

It's possibly Saunders' strangest short story to date, but it's also one of his most realistic, and that's what makes it so horrifying. To anyone paying attention to contemporary American culture — with its objectification of women, obsession with consumerism and widespread desensitization to violence — the plot hits home.

It would be tempting to believe that Saunders' fiction portrays society the way a fun-house mirror does, reflecting images that look familiar but are, finally, exaggerated and unreal. Tenth of December suggests that's not the case — that what we assumed was a nightmare is, in fact, our new reality. It also proves that Saunders is one of America's best writers of fiction, and that his stories are as weird, scary and devastating as America itself.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.