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.


What Earthquakes Can Teach Us About Elections

Nov 9, 2012
Originally published on November 9, 2012 12:46 pm

In January 2010, more than a year before Mitt Romney had formally announced he was running for president, political historian Allan Lichtman predicted President Obama would be re-elected in 2012.

On Tuesday, Lichtman extended his record of correctly forecasting the winner of the popular vote to eight straight elections.

What makes Lichtman interesting is that he makes predictions early, long before eve-of-election polls, long before October surprises, and sometimes even before the nominees have been chosen.

Lichtman says he sees elections the way geophysicists see earthquakes — as events fundamentally driven by structural factors deep beneath the surface, rather than by superficial events at the surface.

He said he came to this idea after happening to meet a Russian geophysicist. They got to talking about earthquakes and asked themselves whether elections might follow the same principles as earthquakes.

"Everything we know about elections, we've already stolen from geophysics," Lichtman said in an interview shortly before Tuesday's election. "Tremors of political change, seismic movements of the voters, volcanic elections, political earthquakes. It's all geophysics anyway."

Rather than think of elections as battles between liberals and conservatives, or even between two candidates, Lichtman said he decided to test the idea that elections follow earthquake principles: You either have stability, or you have upheaval.

Translated to elections, if the incumbent party in the White House kept the White House after the election, that meant you had stability. If the incumbent party lost, that meant there was upheaval — an earthquake.

Lichtman analyzed presidential elections between 1860 and 1980. Over that 120-year period, he looked for markers of stability and markers of upheaval.

Much of what he found is intuitively obvious: When the country was in recession or there was a foreign policy disaster during the tenure of the last administration, the incumbent party was likely to lose. When there was a major domestic or foreign policy success, the economy was doing well, or an incumbent president was running for re-election, the party in power tended to hold on to power.

What Lichtman did was take his data seriously: He found that in every election between 1860 and 1980, when the answers to six or more of the 13 questions he devised went against the party in power, there was an upheaval — the challenger won.

He applied the model to subsequent elections. Starting in 1984, the model has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in every election — sometimes months or even years before the election takes place.

Lichtman's model raises questions about the way the media cover campaigns and the way candidates run for office because it suggests that the ups and downs of horse-race coverage, gaffes and ad campaigns may not be as important to the outcome as most people believe.

"Primarily, elections are responsive to these much deeper forces," Lichtman said. "Focusing on the campaign is like focusing on the froth of the wave, instead of the wave itself."

Lichtman said the model actually shows the American political system in a positive light. Basically, it suggests good governance tends to get rewarded. If a party is in power, it doesn't need to have a perfect track record to keep the White House. It can afford as many as five strikes against it — any more, and there is an earthquake and the challenger wins.

Before the 2012 election, Lichtman said his model showed the answers to only three of the 13 questions — he calls them "keys" — turning against Obama: One was the long-term state of the economy. A second was the fact that the incumbent party in the White House had taken a shellacking during the previous midterm elections. The third was that Obama's sizable disapproval ratings meant he could not be considered a once-in-a-generation charismatic leader.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Forecasters predicted much of Sandy's destruction. They also made forecasts of the presidential election.


Nate Silver, a blogger of the New York Times, was fiercely criticized during the campaign for forecasting overwhelming odds of President Obama's reelection.

MONTAGNE: Republicans made their own forecasts - not just a victory, but for a landslide win for Mitt Romney.

INSKEEP: NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam has been talking with a man who has made forecasts even earlier in presidential election campaigns without even consulting a poll.

Shankar, who is he, and he what does he do?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Well, his name is Allan Lichtman. He's a political historian at American University. And this Tuesday is the eighth time in a row that he's correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote. And what makes Lichtman really interesting is how early he makes his predictions. I talked with him last week, and I want to play you a little bit of our conversation.

Who is going to win the next election?


VEDANTAM: Just for the record, the election hasn't yet taken place. And you're telling me four days before the election that you know who's going to win.

LICHTMAN: I told you in January 2010 who I knew was going to win.

INSKEEP: Before there was even a Republican nominee. So what does he do to try to find that out?

VEDANTAM: Well, he told me that 30 years ago, he happened to be sitting down at dinner next to a geophysicist. And they were talking about how earthquakes form, that they're driven by these faults that are deep under the surface of the Earth. And they said: Is it possible elections work exactly the same way? And Lichtman told me the more he thought about it, the more plausible the analogy seemed to be between elections and earthquakes.

LICHTMAN: We've already stolen from geophysics: tremors of political change, seismic movements of the voters, volcanic elections, political earthquakes. It's all geophysics, anyway.

VEDANTAM: So he told me that he said: What if we don't think about elections in the conventional way? So don't think about them as liberal versus conservative. Don't think about them even as one candidate versus the other candidate. Think about them in terms of earthquakes, right? Earthquakes have two states. You either have stability - in which case we don't have an earthquake - or you have upheaval, in which case you do.

You translate that to elections, when you have stability, the incumbent party in the White House keeps the White House. When you upheaval, you have an earthquake, and the challenging party takes over.

And so what Lichtman did was he studied every election between 1860 and 1980. That's 120 years. He said: What are the markers that are associated with stability and what are the markers that are associated with upheaval? And what he found, in many ways, was quite obvious. You know, he found that when the country was in a recession you are more likely to have upheaval...


VEDANTAM: ...the incumbent party was likely to lose. When you had a major foreign policy victory, you know, the incumbent party was more likely to win. When you have a domestic policy victory, you are more likely to win. You have a major scandal, you're more likely to lose.

So he teamed up with 13 of these questions, you know: Is there a third-party candidacy? Does the president have a primary challenger? Is there an incumbent president who is running for election? And what he found between 1860 and 1980 is that when six of the 13 questions went against the incumbent party, you had an earthquake. In other words, the challenging party took over.

And what he did was he started applying this model prospectively to every election afterwards.

INSKEEP: From the '80s onward.

VEDANTAM: Starting from 1984 to 2012, his the model has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote - not weeks, not days, but months or even years in advance.

INSKEEP: So these underlying factors, these tectonic factors are more important than all the stuff that we cover all year, the conventions, the debates?

VEDANTAM: Yeah. In fact, I put this question to him. Here's what I asked him.

What does that mean, all of the other stuff that we have in campaigns is about? You know, the speeches, the nominees, the money, the ads, the consultants? What is that?

LICHTMAN: It means it's all about the wrong things. Primarily, elections are responsive to these much deeper forces. Focusing on the campaign is like focusing on the froth of the wave, instead of the wave itself.

INSKEEP: I'm wondering if there's something about this theory that misses the point, though. Because if you have these underlying factors - like, say, you're a challenger and you've got a weak economy. I mean, you have to go out and campaign. You have to persuade people of your view of the economy. You actually have to work through all these parts of the campaign. You can't just sit there and rely on historical forces to bring you victory while you stay at home.

VEDANTAM: For sure. I don't think Lichtman's model suggests that if - because the fundamentals are in your favor, you can stay home and not campaign. He's a assuming that campaigns will do what they did between 1860 and 1980. But what he's saying is when the two campaigns do that, odds are they're largely going to cancel one another out, and what ends up then deciding the outcome are the fundamentals.

INSKEEP: Shankar Vedantam, thanks very much.

VEDANTAM: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: You can follow him on Twitter @Hidden Brain. You can also follow this program @MORNING EDITION and @nprinskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.