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.

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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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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.

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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.


Most Afghans Now Optimistic, Survey Signals; How Real Is That Result?

Nov 14, 2012
Originally published on November 14, 2012 9:36 pm

According to a new survey by the Asia Foundation, 52 percent of the 6,300 Afghans it surveyed in June feel the country is heading in the right direction. It's the first time in eight years of conducting this survey that the foundation found a majority of Afghans held a positive view.

At a press event in Kabul, representatives of the nonprofit organization said they surveyed Afghans across the country. Topics ranged from security to corruption to women's rights, and included nearly 90 different questions. Some were open ended, others were multiple choice.

Of the 52 percent saying the country is heading the right direction, 41 percent of them said it was because of good security. Conversely, of the 31 percent saying the country is heading in the wrong direction, 39 percent said it was because of bad security. Security was the biggest determinant for both positive and negative views.

Other numbers that jumped out were the approval ratings for the Afghan Army, National Police, and the central government. Still, strong majorities said Afghan forces need continued foreign support.

Eighty six percent said the Afghan National Police are honest and fair and help improve security. When talking to Afghans, it's rare to hear such positive comments about the police. And in private, NATO personnel often express serious reservations about the ANP.

The Afghan National Army received even higher marks, though it is fairly typical to hear more positive than negative comments about the Afghan army.

When asked to name the biggest problem at the national level, 28 percent of those surveyed said insecurity, 27 percent said unemployment, and 25 percent said corruption. And, 79 percent of respondents said corruption was a major in Afghanistan as a whole (56 percent said corruption was a major problem in their daily lives).

So, given those numbers (and the constant complaints one hears in Afghanistan about the failures of the government to deliver services), how is it that 75 percent of those surveyed gave the central government a favorable rating?

Perhaps part of the answer lies in this statistic: 64 percent of respondents said it is inappropriate to criticize the government in public.

When pushed on this point, Fazel Rabi Haqbeen with the Asia Foundation, said he didn't think there was excessive bias in the numbers.

"However, we are looking into the social desirability aspect of the survey," he said.

He admitted that culturally, Afghans are likely to express either favorable opinions or opinions they think the questioner wants to hear.

Journalists encounter this constantly when talking to Afghans — people who might sit with family and criticize the government, the security forces, or NATO forces for that matter, might turn around and tell a journalist they are happy to have foreign forces in the country and they think they're doing a great job.

Haqbeen said that since this survey has been conducted for eight years, people are aware of it, and don't feel the need to tailor their answers for the interviewers. Also, eight years establishes a track record — and, again, this is the first such survey to show more than half saying Afghanistan is headed in the right direction.

But the Afghan staff in NPR's Kabul office expressed skepticism about much of the data, especially the positive responses about the Afghan government and the police in particular. They said it simply doesn't fit with what they see and hear.

They also questioned the finding that 55 percent of men surveyed said it was acceptable for women to work outside the home. They felt that was too high.

Some of the numbers that did seem more realistic were that 48 percent fear for their safety or the safety of their family, 63 percent expressed no sympathy at all for armed groups, and 70 percent said employment at the local level is very bad or quite bad.

A more interesting details from the demographic breakdown of the interview subjects: 58 percent never attended school, 34 percent were farmers, and 87 percent were from households with a monthly income below $300. Lastly, 38 percent said if given the opportunity they would leave Afghanistan, and 60 percent said they would not.

The presenters of the data said that they will be conducting analysis in the coming months to interpret the results and present findings and conclusions to the government and policy makers.

(Sean Carberry is NPR's Kabul correspondent. Click here for some of his other reports from Afghanistan.)

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