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.


How The Alternative Minimum Tax Could Slam You

Nov 13, 2012
Originally published on November 13, 2012 1:29 pm

Seriously, again?

Anyone who follows the adventures of the alternative minimum tax has to be getting sick of the many sequels. Again and again, this unpopular income tax threatens to hit middle-class families with large and unexpected tax increases.

And each time the threat reappears, Congress applies a "patch" to fix the problem temporarily. That makes the threat an annual event — along with the associated congressional hand-wringing and taxpayer confusion.

So here we are again, with the AMT looming over about 27 million more taxpayers this year. It's just one part of the so-called fiscal cliff — a big cluster of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that will take effect at year's end unless Congress acts.

To understand the AMT, you need three chunks of information, involving its history, its impact and the politics. Let's get started.

AMT History

In 1969, Congress enacted an individual AMT to ensure that everyone paid a minimum amount of taxes, even while preserving tax breaks written into the code as economic and social incentives.

Here's an example: Congress wanted to keep the home mortgage interest deduction to provide more incentive to buy real estate, on the grounds that homeownership has economic and social value. But the tax code had so many different deductions that some wealthy people would take lots of them and end up paying very little in taxes.

So Congress, in effect, said, "OK, let's keep the cherished deductions, but still make sure the rich pay their fair share. Wealthy Americans can figure out their taxes the regular way, taking whatever deductions that may apply to them. And then they can recalculate everything under a formula that sets a minimum amount of tax. The wealthy taxpayers will pay whichever amount of taxes is greater."

But Congress did not build in an inflation escalator. And then it cut tax rates. The combined effect of higher inflation and lower rates played havoc with the intention of the AMT, allowing the parallel tax system to cover more and more middle-class families. A tax that was supposed to hit only the richest Americans must continually get updated or it will affect larger and larger numbers of average people.

AMT Impact

Originally, the AMT was supposed to affect only the top taxpayers. These days, Congress "patches" it so that it hits around 5 million upper-middle-class households. Usually, those are families with children in high-cost states like New York and California.

This year, unless Congress applies a new patch, the AMT will apply to nearly half of people with incomes of $75,000 to $100,000. Without action, an estimated 27 million more tax filers could find themselves paying an average of $3,700 more in taxes for 2012.

And yes, the financial hit applies to this tax year. Even if the new, incoming Congress applies an AMT patch after January, experts say it will be an accounting nightmare. It's difficult to undo the tax once the filing season has begun in January, and at the least, it would result in long processing delays of all returns.

"The biggest and thorniest problem for the IRS and next year's filing season is the AMT patch," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a September speech to the American Bar Association.

Raising taxes for tens of millions of middle-class Americans and delaying tax refunds for millions more would hurt consumer spending, economists say.

AMT Politics

The AMT makes for a fine Exhibit A for anyone trying to make the case that the U.S. tax code is a mess. And that means it may have some positive political value as Congress struggles with the fiscal cliff and its tangled collection of expiring tax breaks. The AMT is so unpopular that lawmakers may be able to use its elimination as a kind of "carrot" to get lawmakers to move along toward compromise.

On the other hand, often on Capitol Hill, dangling a juicy "carrot" in front of lawmakers can hurt negotiations as each side scrambles to grab it first and hold tight.

"If patching the AMT were the only thing out there, it would get done," says Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group. But as part of a grand bargain on taxes and spending, "this could get tied up in the negotiations," he warns.

So why does Congress annually put itself through this weird exercise of having to patch the AMT? Why not just eliminate it?

Toder says the problem is that the AMT — if unpatched — generates loads of theoretical tax revenues in coming years. When Congress puts together the annual federal budget and projects deficits into the future, it knows that having an unpatched AMT will make the fiscal future look brighter. But each year, Congress does not allow those projected revenues to actually come into Treasury coffers because it patches the AMT.

In other words, the AMT exists today to make Congress look less inept at budgeting in the future, Toder says. "They can only afford to kill it a year at a time," he says. "It's a mess."

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