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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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.


Green Grapes And Red Underwear: A Spanish New Year's Eve

Dec 31, 2012

If the thought of watching the ball drop in Times Square again is already making you yawn, consider perking your New Year's Eve celebration with this tradition from Spain: As midnight nears on Nochevieja, or "old night," the last day of the year, the entire country gathers in front of television screens or in town squares, clutching a small bowl of green grapes and wearing red underwear. More on the underwear later.

The camera of the main national TV channel focuses on the clock tower of the 18th-century Real Casa de Correos in Madrid's Puerta del Sol while a pair of announcers in formal wear, high above the thousands of revelers packed into the chilly plaza below, quickly repeat instructions one last time. After the bells ring out four times in quick succession — "Wait, wait, ignore those!" — there is a slight pause and then begins a series of 12 chimes — one for each month.

At that first dong, Spaniards from Barcelona to Bilbao to Cadiz pop a grape into their mouths. There is little time to chew and swallow, much less savor, because about two seconds later there is a second dong and a second grape gets popped into the mouth. And on through 12 dongs and las doce uvas de la suerte ("the 12 lucky grapes").

If you eat all 12 by the end of the final bell's toll — and that doesn't mean finishing with a half-chewed mouthful — then you will have good luck in el año nuevo (the new year).

This popular tradition is a century or so old, though its exact origins remain debatable. One oft-repeated story says that growers in Alicante had a bumper 1909 harvest and found a creative way to sell off their surplus.

Recently, though, old newspaper articles have been republished that show the tradition began decades earlier, in the 1880s. These stories tell of bourgeoisie in Madrid copying the French tradition of having grapes and champagne on the last day of the year. Before long this custom had been adopted by certain madrileños who went to Puerta del Sol to see the bells chime at the turning of the year and, most likely in an ironic or mocking manner, to eat grapes like the upper class.

About 80 percent of the "lucky grapes" come from the valley of Vinalopó in central Alicante, on Spain's Mediterranean coast. Fleshy, deliciously sweet, and pale, almost whitish-green in color, they are a traditional Spanish variety called Aledo that, maturing late, are not harvested until November and December.

But these are no ordinary grapes. Protected by Denominación de Origen (designation of origin, or D.O.) status, budding clusters are wrapped in paper bags in June and July and kept covered as they ripen. This was first done in the late 19th century to protect them from a plague of cochylis vine moths. Growers found it also conserved the flavor, aroma and color of the grapes, and slowed their maturation.

According to the regulatory office for D.O., Uva de Mesa Embolsada Vinalopó, bagging the grapes also means that "they form a peel that's much finer by not having to fend off the aggressions of the rain, the sun or the wind."

When I went to Barcelona's iconic La Boqueria market to buy my grapes for this year's festivities, Maria, the seasoned stall owner of Frutas y Verduras E. Lafuente, told me that "having such a fine skin also makes them quicker to eat. There's less to swallow."

And, with the bells impatiently tolling, that small detail makes a difference. It is no easy task eating grapes so quickly, especially when each has three or four seeds. (Seedless grapes are a rarity here, though some painstakingly remove the seeds beforehand. Ever more extreme — or modern — are the small tins of 12 seeded and peeled grapes now sold in supermarkets.) The only way to finish all 12 is to not chew, just take a solid bite and then swallow, pips and all.

Such a strategy is easier to plan than to execute, especially by grape number six or seven when, in my experience, the giggles kick in. After 15 years living in Spain, I have learned that the only way to finish all 12 is by concentrating on the chimes and ignoring the rest of the surrounding commotion.

If scoffing grapes at midnight isn't strange enough, convention says you must do so while wearing red ropa interior, or underwear — a bra, a sock, a garter, whatever. And — stranger yet — the undergarment should be given to you by someone else.

Maria, the stall owner, reminded me not to forget a third traditional lucky charm to accompany red underwear and grapes: drop a gold ring into my celebratory glass of cava (local champagne-style bubbly from Catalunya). "Just don't swallow it!" That would, no doubt, be a harbinger of bad luck.

When the 12 dongs finish and the last of the grapes has been swallowed, there are cheek kisses, toasts with glasses of cava, and pieces of turrón (almond and honey nougat from Alicante) passed around as the most expensive commercials of the year play on TV and phone lines jam with the crush of well-wishing calls.

In this year of acute economic hardship in Spain, many will hope that eating the grapes brings better luck in 2013, and try particularly hard to finish them all before the last chime fades to silence and the new year begins.

Jeff Koehler is the author of Morocco: A Culinary Journey With Recipes. His next cookbook, on Spain, will be published in 2013. Visit www.jeff-koehler.com or follow @koehlercooks.

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