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.

Pages

The Phantom Tax That Made The Deficit Look Better

Jan 3, 2013

As Americans continue to sort out the contents of the fiscal cliff legislative package passed by Congress Tuesday, they are finding elements they like and some they hate.

There's one exception. Everyone is glad Congress finally found a permanent fix for the alternative minimum tax.

That one portion of the U.S. tax code — always intended to affect only very wealthy people — had turned itself into a dreaded stalker. The AMT became a constant threat to millions of middle-class taxpayers who never understood it and never knew when it might strike them.

Each year, Congress would rush to the rescue to "fix" the AMT to keep it from walloping tens of millions of filers with hefty new taxes. But until this week, lawmakers would never approve a long-term solution. Why? Largely because having the AMT on the books helped future budget deficits look smaller by making it appear that new tax revenues soon would be rolling in.

"It was a useful fiction, but it was incredibly irresponsible," said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan research group.

Goldwein said that on paper, the AMT would generate tons of tax revenues in coming years, making the future deficits look less frightening. But no one on Capitol Hill ever believed those funds would actually show up because each year, lawmakers would apply a "patch" to keep the AMT from hauling in huge revenues.

The Tax Policy Center, another research group, estimates that in 2022, the AMT — with no patch — would generate nearly $400 billion in revenues to fund government. But if Congress were to apply the typical patch as it always does, the AMT would bring in only about $90 billion in revenues in 2022.

How did the situation get this weird? It's complicated. We'll explain:

  • In 1969, Congress decided it needed to ensure that everyone paid a minimum amount of taxes. But it also wanted to preserve tax breaks written into the code as economic and social incentives.
  • For example, Congress wanted to keep the home mortgage interest deduction to provide more incentive to buy real estate. Supporters of that deduction say homeownership has economic and social value.
  • But the tax code had so many various deductions that some wealthy people could take an array of them and end up paying extremely low taxes.
  • So Congress created a parallel tax system. The wealthy could prepare their taxes in the usual way, then recalculate their taxes under the AMT formula, and pay whichever amount was bigger.

Unfortunately, Congress failed to build in an inflation escalator. And over ensuing decades, it cut tax rates. The combined effect of higher inflation and lower rates undermined the intent of the AMT. Each year, it threatened to hit more and more middle-class families.

The result was that a tax intended to affect only the richest Americans needed to get updated again and again so that it would hit only the wealthiest 4 million taxpayers. If Congress had not patched it on Tuesday, it would have applied to nearly half of the people with incomes of $75,000 to $100,000. That would have pulled in an estimated 27 million more tax filers, who would have found themselves paying an average of $3,700 more in taxes for 2012.

The annual push to patch the AMT became chaotic because of congressional gridlock. "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.

Finally, in the fiscal cliff deal, Congress agreed to permanently adjust AMT income exemption levels to inflation. It also gives lower-income families bigger tax breaks to make sure they don't face the threat of getting caught up in the AMT.

Tax experts say the changes will pretty much ensure that people making less than six-figure salaries won't have to think about the AMT rates, which range from 26 percent for singles to 28 percent for married couples. The tax collected some $102 billion in 2010, the last tax year on record.

Goldwein said the permanent fix will now provide a more realistic assessment of what revenues will be coming in the future. "One nice thing about the fiscal cliff deal — at least from a budget wonk perspective — is that what is written into law is more closely aligned with what will actually happen in the future."

And it will be better for taxpayers, who now will be able to plan better for what their taxes will be each year, according to Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wells Fargo Securities LLC.

"You shouldn't go through this patchwork year after year," Vitner said. "It's always preferable to remove uncertainty."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.