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.

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In Video-Streaming Rat Race, Fast Is Never Fast Enough

Jan 10, 2013
Originally published on January 11, 2013 1:55 pm

On average, YouTube streams 4 billion hours of video per month. That's a lot of video, but it's only a fraction of the larger online-streaming ecosystem. For video-streaming services, making sure clips always load properly is extremely challenging, and a new study reveals that it's important to video providers, too.

Maybe this has happened to you: You're showing a friend some hilarious video that you found online. And right before you get to the punch line, a little loading dial pops up in the middle of the screen.

Buffering kills comedic timing, and according to a study published by University of Massachusetts professor Ramesh Sitaraman, it kills attention spans, too

"What we found was that people are pretty patient for up to two seconds," Sitaraman says. "If you start out with, say, 100 users — if the video hasn't started in five seconds, about one-quarter of those viewers are gone, and if the video doesn't start in 10 seconds, almost half of those viewers are gone."

If a video doesn't load in time, people get frustrated and click away. This may not come as a shock, but until now it hadn't come as an empirically supported fact, either.

"This is really the first large-scale study of its kind that tries to relate video-streaming quality to viewer behavior," Sitaraman says.

The study looked at close to 6.7 million viewers who watched almost 23 million videos play. That's around 216 million minutes of video time.

The threshold of unbearable loading time depends on the device.

"We found that people who had a lot of connectivity had also a lot of expectation potentially, and so they abandoned much sooner," Sitaraman says.

For about half of the people who used a high-speed, fiber-optic connection, five seconds is too long. Mobile users will wait longer. For a business that serves an ad base of 800 million people a month, every second counts — the more users who click away, the bigger the problem.

"When we started to look into this problem, we found that the existing player we had was not up to the task," says Andy Berkheimer, an engineering manager for YouTube.

For the past two years, Berkheimer's team has been working on a project to make sure that those punch lines are delivered without the pauses.

"We had to rewrite our whole player to give us more flexibility in how we handled network conditions," Berkheimer says.

The problem, for YouTube and video providers alike it, has to do with bandwidth. Think of streaming video as being like a stream of liquid information. Bandwidth is the size of the pipe.

"No matter where you are, no matter what type of device you're using, no matter what type of network you're on — at any time while you're watching a video, bandwidth can change," Berkheimer says.

So if that bandwidth, or pipe, constricts too much, the video stops playing. To solve this problem, YouTube's engineers chop the video into a bunch of tiny pieces. From moment to moment, depending on how much bandwidth is available, they swap these pieces in and out as the video streams.

If there's a ton of bandwidth, a high-definition piece flows down the pipe. But if that pipe constricts, even for a second, a lower-quality piece is swapped in.

Switching around different versions of video shortens load time, Berkheimer says. And less load time means more video, more eyeballs and more money for ads. But what's the cost?

Some films aren't always seen in their best light. Filmmaker Gregory Wilson used state-of-the-art camera equipment to film a cheetah running full speed in superslow motion. HD captures every stunning detail of the cat's fluid motion. But when you watch his video online, who knows how it will look?

"I would hope that the quality could be the best that it could be and that it would be more on par with what I had originally captured," Wilson says.

Since businesses need that video to run no matter what it looks like, the rest of us will likely see grainy cheetahs rather than stuttering punch lines.

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

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Who hasn't been driven crazy trying to watch a video online only to have it freeze, then start, then freeze again. The smooth loading of video clips, though, is not just important to viewers.

As NPR's Sami Yenigun reports, video providers also see it as critical.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Knock, knock.

SAMI YENIGUN, BYLINE: You may have heard this one already.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Who's there?

YENIGUN: You're showing a friend some hilarious video that you found online.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Dwayne.

YENIGUN: And right before you get the punchline...

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Dwayne who?

YENIGUN: A little loading dial pops up in the middle of the screen.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ...bathtub. I'm drowning.

YENIGUN: Buffering kills comedic timing, and according to a study published by UMass professor Ramesh Sitaraman, it kills attention spans too.

RAMESH SITARAMAN: What we found was that people are pretty patient for up to two seconds.

YENIGUN: That's a really nice way of saying people are pretty impatient.

SITARAMAN: If you start out with, say, 100 users, if the video hasn't started in five seconds, about one-quarter of those viewers are gone, and if the video doesn't start up in 10 seconds, almost half the viewers are gone.

YENIGUN: If a video doesn't load in time, people get frustrated and click away. This may not come as a shock, but until now it hadn't come as an empirically supported fact either.

SITARAMAN: This is really the first large-scale study of this kind, that tries to relate video-streaming quality to viewer behavior.

YENIGUN: And when Professor Sitaraman says large scale, he means it. The study looked at close to 6.7 million viewers who watched almost 23 million videos played. So how long is too long? Depends on the device.

SITARAMAN: We found that people who had a lot of connectivity had also a lot of expectation potentially, and so they abandoned much sooner.

YENIGUN: For about half of the people who used a high speed fiber optic connection, five seconds is too long to wait. Mobile users will wait longer. For a business that serves an ad base of 800 million people a month, every second counts. The more users that click away, the bigger the problem.

ANDY BERKHEIMER: When we started to look into this problem, we found that kind of the existing player we had was not up to the task.

YENIGUN: That's Andy Berkheimer, engineering manager for YouTube. For the past two years, his team has been working on a project that makes sure your knock-knock jokes are delivered without the pauses.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Dwayne, the bathtub.

BERKHEIMER: And so we had to rewrite our entire player to give us more flexibility in how we handled network conditions.

YENIGUN: The need for flexibility has to do with bandwidth. Think of streaming video as being like a stream of liquid information. Bandwidth is the size of the pipe.

No matter where you are, no matter what type of device you're using, no matter what type of network you're on - at any time while you're watching a video, bandwidth can change.

So if that bandwidth, or pipe, constricts too much...

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER)

YENIGUN: ...the video stops playing. Here's how YouTube is solving this problem. They chop the video into a bunch of tiny pieces. From moment to moment, depending on how much bandwidth is available, they swap these pieces in and out as the video streams.

So if there's a ton of bandwidth, a high definition piece flows down the pipe, but if that pipe constricts, even for a second, a lower quality piece is swapped in.

SITARAMAN: And that way we can keep the data flowing uninterrupted, and we can choose a quality level that is right for the bandwidth conditions at that moment.

YENIGUN: And less load time means more video, more eyeballs, and more money for ads. But what's the cost?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YENIGUN: Some films aren't always seen in their best light. For example, filmmaker Gregory Wilson just used state of the art camera equipment to film a Cheetah running full speed in super-slow motion. HD captures every stunning detail of the cat's fluid motion. But when you watch it online, who knows how it will look.

GREGORY WILSON: I would hope that, you know, the quality could be the best that it could be and be more on par with what I had originally captured.

YENIGUN: But since businesses need that video to run no matter what it looks like, the rest of us will likely see grainy cheetahs rather than stuttering punch lines.

Sami Yenigun, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.