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.


Looking Back On Bank Of America's Countrywide Debacle

Jan 11, 2013
Originally published on January 11, 2013 8:35 am



Five years ago today, Bank of America announced it was buying the troubled subprime mortgage lender Countrywide Financial for $40 billion. At the time, the financial crisis had not fully revealed itself, and many people thought Bank of America was getting a good deal. Instead, the acquisition has turned into a never-ending legal and financial nightmare. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: It's not hard to find people who will tell you that Bank of America's decision to acquire Countrywide Financial in January 2008 was quite simply the worst deal in the history of the financial services industry.

TONY PLATH: Oh, yeah. I mean, you know, they lost 40 billion, and they're still counting.

ZARROLI: Tony Plath is an associate professor of finance at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

PLATH: At the time, the strategy made sense. The price made sense. The problem was it was exactly the wrong acquisition at precisely the wrong time.

ZARROLI: When the deal took place, Bank of America, under its CEO Ken Lewis, was growing fast, mostly through acquisitions. And it was eager to expand its mortgage business. Founded by Angelo Mozilo, California-based Countrywide had exploded in growth by offering subprime mortgages to people with credit problems.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Homeowners: Want to get cash and simplify your bills? Ask about a combo loan from Countrywide.

ZARROLI: At the time of the deal, the housing market was already collapsing, and Countrywide was losing money, so it could be bought for a lot less than it would have cost a year earlier. Bank of America plunged ahead with a deal. Jon Finger runs and investment firm that owns almost a million shares of Bank of America stock.

JON FINGER: Ken Lewis and his board of directors were focused on building the size of the company rather than focusing on shareholder returns, and the result was disastrous.

ZARROLI: Finger says even before the deal was finalized, several states had sued Countrywide for mortgage abuses.

FINGER: At that point, Bank of America should have stepped back and either renegotiated the deal or cancelled the deal.

ZARROLI: But it did neither. Once the acquisition went through, Bank of America began pouring over Countrywide's books, and it was in for a rude shock. It turned out that the problems were much worse than anyone had suspected. Many of Countrywide's loans had gone to people who couldn't afford them, and with the housing market in turmoil, a flood of foreclosures was coming its way. Again, Tony Plath.

PLATH: That's when Bank of America recognized that they had purchased a mess.

ZARROLI: By 2009, Bank of America's stock price had fallen by 90 percent. The Countrywide debacle was one of the big reasons why Ken Lewis was forced out of office - that and the controversial acquisition of Merrell Lynch. Bank of America is legally liable for abuses committed by Countrywide, and it's been forced to spend $40 billion settling legal claims against it.

Jon Finger says the legal troubles have badly hurt Bank of America's brand.

FINGER: They are absolutely tarred with the same brush, even though they did not actually commit those acts themselves, but they've, you know, they've acquired that legacy of Countrywide's bad practices.

ZARROLI: This week, Bank of America agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle claims filed by the mortgage company Fannie Mae, which had purchased a lot Countrywide's loans. The bank still faces numerous private lawsuits and regulatory investigations. All of this remains a tremendous distraction for Bank of America's management. Perhaps not surprisingly, the company that wanted to expand its mortgage business is now reducing it, says banking consultant Bert Ely(ph).

BERT ELY: It's - I think somewhat of an open question right now is to how significant Bank of America is going to be as a mortgage lender, say, five years from now.

ZARROLI: Today, Countrywide has come to symbolize some of the worst excesses of the housing boom, but it is the company that bought it five years ago, Bank of America, that is having to clean up much of the mess it left behind. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.


Another bank is facing fines for activities during the financial crisis. The Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to pay several hundred million dollars for the LIBOR scandal.

INSKEEP: LIBOR is the name for the average rate at which banks lend money to each other. That interest rate is also seen as a signal of bank's health.

MONTAGNE: And the Royal Bank of Scotland, among others, is accused of manipulating the rate to make banks seem safer than they were.

INSKEEP: Now the BBC reports the Royal Bank of Scotland is negotiation with American and British regulators over the size of the fine it will pay. Barclays and the Swiss bank UBS have already accepted huge fines. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.