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.


Mental Disorders And Evolution: What Would Darwin Say About Schizophrenia?

Nov 16, 2012
Originally published on November 17, 2012 6:36 am

It's a question that's baffled evolutionary theorists for decades: if survival of the fittest is the rule, how have the genes that contribute to serious, debilitating mental disorders survived?

It's been shown that people who suffer from schizophrenia, autism, anorexia and other disorders are less likely to have children. And yet, the genes that cause these disorders aren't going away. In fact, some of the disorders appear to be becoming more common. Evolutionary theory wouldn't predict that.

Scientists have a few theories that attempt to explain this paradox.

One is that the genetic mutations that cause these disorders occurred relatively recently, so not enough generations have passed to allow the evolutionary process to weed them out.

Another theory is that the genetic mutations that cause a disorder in one person somehow make that person's sibling more likely to have children. In a situation like that, the mutation offers a net benefit to a person's family.

A team of Swedish and British scientists recently tested these theories by comparing the rates at which people suffering from mental illness have kids to those of their siblings. The data came from a medical database of more than 2 million Swedes.

The researchers found that the siblings of people who suffer from schizophrenia, autism and anorexia had on average the same or fewer children than the general public, which would seem to confirm the first theory. But they also found that the siblings of people who suffer from depression or substance abuse had significantly more children than the general public, an outcome more in line with the second theory.

We talked with Dr. Peter McGuffin, a professor at King's College London who worked on the study, which was published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Here are highlights from the interview, edited for length and clarity.

Q: You say at the beginning of your paper that "psychiatric disorders have long puzzled researchers by defying the expectations of natural selection." Why?

A: It's particularly the case with schizophrenia, which in this paper and in many other papers has been shown to be a disorder that drastically reduces your fecundity — the number of kids you have. It's often referred to as reduced fertility but, strictly speaking, people with schizophrenia aren't infertile. It's just that they're less often likely to find a partner and have kids.

Schizophrenia is estimated to have a heritability of around 80 percent. Same is true for autism. So if these disorders are very heavily influenced by genes, but the people who have the disorders are less likely to pass on their genes, why aren't the disorders becoming less common in the population?

Q: What are some of the theories as to why this might be going on?

A: There are other gene disorders that have selection pressures against them, but are maintained in the population. A brilliant example of that is sickle cell disease. If you have sickle cell disease, the chances are if it's untreated it's going to kill you before you reach early adult life. Whereas, if you have the sickle cell trait — which is to say, you have one copy of the gene, not two copies — it protects you against malaria if you happen to live in an area where malaria is rife. So there's a selective disadvantage to having the disease, but there's a selective advantage to having the trait.

Q: Your study looked at not just people who were affected by psychiatric disorders, but also their siblings. Why?

A: The hypothesis would be that the relatives of the people who have the disorder, who don't actually have the disorder themselves, are compensating by having more children. I mean, not deliberately compensating by going out and having more children, but there's just something about their makeup that makes them have more kids.

So that's essentially what we were testing in this paper. We were looking at the fecundity of schizophrenics, which we found to be low, as was the fecundity of people with autism. The question is, do their relatives actually make up for this by having more kids because they're advantaged in some way? And the answer is no in the case of schizophrenia, but yes in the case of depression.

Q: If I'm someone who is the sibling of someone who has a psychiatric disorder, what do I need to know? Do I need to think twice about having biological children?

A: You need to know you'll have an increased risk of getting the disorder yourself compared with the general population. The risk in siblings is increased, but it's not increased so dramatically that it ought to stop you from having kids.

These aren't single-gene disorders. These are complex disorders where being a relative is just a risk factor, not a certainty factor.

Q: So ultimately, if I'm the sibling of someone who has one of these disorders, I should be aware of the risks, but it's not something that would make me say "I'm not going to have children."

A: It shouldn't make you say that. And if you are particularly concerned about it and you have more than one relative affected by it in the family, it might be worth seeking [genetic] counseling from an expert who knows what the risks are.

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