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.


Three New 'Cliffs' Threaten The Economy

Jan 10, 2013
Originally published on January 11, 2013 3:39 pm

Maybe you were hoping you'd never hear the phrase "fiscal cliff" again after Congress passed legislation Jan. 1 to address that tax-break-expiration deadline.


Three more cliff-type deadlines are fast approaching. They involve: 1) raising the federal debt ceiling 2) modifying automatic, across-the-board spending cuts and 3) funding the government to avert a shutdown.

The deadlines all hit between Valentine's Day and Easter, which means new rounds of chaotic congressional negotiations may start up just after the Jan. 21 presidential inauguration parade ends.

Indeed, President Obama's choice for his second-term Treasury secretary is a budget-battle warrior, Jack Lew. During his first term, Obama chose a banking expert, Tim Geithner, to head the Treasury Department. Now Obama needs a budget expert like Lew, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, to lead the White House negotiations with Congress.

To understand why this winter may be so bitter in Washington, let's take a look at each of the cliffs — those dates when Congress could tip the U.S. economy over into recession — or worse.

But first, refresh your hazy New Year's Eve memories. The first big cliff that Congress averted involved the Dec. 31 expiration of Bush-era income tax breaks. On Jan. 1, Congress passed legislation to ensure that 99 percent of income taxpayers would not see any changes in the new year and beyond.

Now, welcome to the next cliffs.

The Debt Ceiling. This one comes first, and poses the greatest danger to the economy. If Congress fails to act by the middle of February, Wall Street analysts say, financial markets could crash and trigger a global depression.

The roots of the problem go back to 1939 when Congress set a limit on how much debt the Treasury could issue. Since then, the country's population has been expanding, inflation rising and debt growing. So time and again, Congress has needed to bump up the debt ceiling.

In all, Congress has raised the debt cap more than 100 times under both Democrats and Republicans. For example, during the Reagan years, lawmakers boosted the limit 18 times.

But today, many Republicans, alarmed by the nation's ever-rising debt of $16.4 trillion, are insisting that Congress cut spending rather than borrow more.

The current debt ceiling was actually hit just as 2012 came to an end. Since then, the Treasury has been using "extraordinary" measures to keep paying whatever is owed to investors who hold U.S. debt instruments. But the department will run out of accounting tricks as early as mid-February.

Unless the debt ceiling can be raised by then, Treasury will have to find new — and painful — ways to raise money to avoid default. So, for example, it could stop sending Americans their Social Security checks, veterans' benefits, income tax refunds and food stamps. Such moves would be extremely unpopular but perhaps less damaging than the alternative.

Whenever a nation fails to repay its lenders, "interest rates spike, stock and bond markets fall sharply, the value of the currency declines dramatically, and the country quickly falls into a deep recession," said economist Robert Shapiro, co-founder of Sonecon LLC.

Obama says the matter is nonnegotiable. "One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they've already racked up," Obama said in his weekly radio address.

But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on NBC Sunday, suggested that Republicans might be willing to see the nation default to force spending cuts. "It's a shame we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress to get the president to deal with the biggest problem confronting our future, and that's our excessive spending," he said.

The last time the government faced a debt-ceiling crisis, in August 2011, Republicans agreed to raise the borrowing limit only after putting into place automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in 2013. That brings us to the next cliff ...

Sequestration. During that 2011 debt-ceiling battle, lawmakers set up the so-called sequestration process to impose $109 billion in spending cuts each year for a decade — unless they could agree on a deficit-reduction plan by the end of 2012. Such a plan never came together.

Instead, on Jan. 1, Congress pushed the sequestration deadline to March 1. Unless Congress takes new action, the automatic spending cuts would kick in and likely cause enormous job losses, especially among Pentagon contractors.

"Sequestration could be expected to result in layoffs or reductions in force for about half a million of those employees. But because of the uncertainty that we are likely to continue to face with respect to which contract will be affected and by how much, layoff notices may likely be sent to several times that number of people," according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a research group.

Congressional Budget. Each year, Congress is supposed to pass a budget that sets spending priorities. The GOP-led House passes budgets annually, but only ones that Senate Democrats would never approve. Because of the partisan stalemate, Congress has not completed a budget since April 2009. Instead, lawmakers pass short-term "continuing resolutions" to keep government running.

The current resolution expires March 27. Congress must pass a new one or the government will have to shut down its "nonessential" functions, such as building roads, running national parks and supporting medical research.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in a recent op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, said: "It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain."

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