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.

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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.

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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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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.


Mississippi River Level Disrupts Supply Chain

Jan 9, 2013
Originally published on January 9, 2013 6:26 am



It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Good morning.

The drought is hurting farming operations in much of the Midwest and Southwest, and its next possible victim: barge traffic on the Mississippi River. There were fears that shipping on this crucial cargo route could come to a halt as early as this week, when water levels reach historic lows. But the Army Corps of Engineers says the river will likely stay open for shipping at least until the end of the month. Still, many businesses that send products up and down the river remain concerned about what the future holds.

Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters begins his report along the river.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: I'm standing along the snowy banks of the Mississippi River in Muscatine, Iowa. There's some light flurries in the air. Some geese are flying overhead. The water's about 10 feet deep here, but there are no barges moving on the river

TIM BLY: This is as low as I've ever seen it. So this is - it's pretty tough to get everything loaded.

MASTERS: That's Tim Bly, who manages this grain elevator owned by ag-giant Cargill in Muscatine, Iowa, along the Mississippi River. Standing on a windy levee, he wears a bright yellow vest, hard hat and has a thick, coal-black beard. Bly says they were already loading far less grain on barges before they stopped the traditional winter shutdown that's normal this far north on the Mississippi.

BLY: We had to lighten them up to a nine-foot draft because of the low water levels, which is about three or 4,000 bushels difference on a barge. It's that much less you're getting on each barge.

MASTERS: And that means more barges have to be used to fulfill contracts. Further down the river, south of St. Louis, barges are still plying the river. But because the water level forecast keeps changing, many companies can't plan far enough ahead.

Rick Calhoun is the president of Cargill's shipping company.

RICK CALHOUN: We're just holding barges back, hoping that we get enough water that we're able to transit at some time, and we're light-loading the barges.

MASTERS: Calhoun says in some cases, they've had to turn away overseas customers, losing their business entirely.

Mike Steenhoek heads the Soybean Transportation Coalition and says this is an especially bad time to be losing grain business. South American farmers are just starting to harvest their crops and global demand is fickle. It will just go elsewhere.

MIKE STEENHOEK: When the South American harvest comes online, U.S. exports dropped precipitously. And when the U.S. harvest comes online, their exports drop precipitously. So when you have a supply chain disruption at this time of year, it's kind of analogous to a supply chain disruption for retailers prior to Christmas.

MASTERS: And it's not just grain: energy sources like petroleum and coal, fertilizer that moves that up the river, all are facing shipping uncertainty, as well. So what are companies to do?

Chad Hart is an economist at Iowa State University, and says shipping freight on trucks is one option, but it's a lot more expensive, and not only hauls a lot less product than a barge, it burns a lot more fuel. Hart says moving commodities on rail is a better alternative, but there's a problem.

CHAD HART: Rail can be competitive on a cost-per-mile basis. But you've got to go where the rail goes, just like with barge, you got to go where the river goes. But we've designed the system around the river.

MASTERS: This is a river that runs more than 2,500 miles and spans 10 states. To keep the barges traveling, the Army Corps of Engineers released water last month from Carlyle Lake, just east of St. Louis. Increasingly, there are calls for the Corps to release waters from reservoirs on the Missouri River. It feeds into the Mississippi. But the Corps says that water is reserved for things like irrigation and recreation. And tapping that resource would take an act of Congress.


MASTERS: Further down river, between Cairo, Illinois and St. Louis, is the Mississippi's weakest link. Here, the Army Corps is blasting rock and dredging river bottom to make it deeper. John Kennedy is the mayor of Thebes, Illinois a tiny town where the majority of this blasting and dredging work is being done. In his 35 years here, he's seen a lot on the river.

MAYOR JOHN KENNEDY: Just ungodly stuff on this old river over the years I've been here, you know. I've seen barges sink, hit the bridge. We was kids, one time we were down here messing around, and actually watched a barge hit the bridge

MASTERS: But one thing Kennedy has never seen is the river this low. The National Weather Service is forecasting that early next month, the Mississippi River in Thebes could be too shallow for any barge to traverse. The broader concern is that as the Mississippi dries up, so will some businesses that have long relied on it for transportation.

For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.