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 'Lincoln' Says About Today's Congress

Jan 10, 2013

Lincoln may not be a political film for the ages, but it's certainly a movie that speaks to our own time.

Although the movie centers on the abolition of slavery, Lincoln taps into one of the deepest desires of our historical moment — the desire for politicians in Washington to get their acts together and compromise to succeed in passing major legislation.

"People like the idea of the system working," says John Powers, a critic for Vogue and NPR's Fresh Air. "In terms of the public fantasy, it's the perfect one for the Obama age because you have this tall, principled guy dealing with all these crazies who all come together to get important things done."

Lincoln was garlanded with 12 Oscar nominations on Thursday, including best picture. Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln, as was Steven Spielberg for his direction.

The movie hasn't been a smash hit, but it's taken in $145 million at U.S. box offices — not bad for a talky, mostly interior historical epic.

Film historian David Thomson suggests the reason the film has resonated with the public and politicians themselves — with separate screenings held at the House, Senate and White House — is ultimately due to its message of pragmatic problem-solving.

"I think the reason why the reason the film is doing so well, I think the reason why it will be voted best picture by the Academy, is that that coincides with our sense, our plea almost, that the people who are hired and paid as our governors [should] compromise, make a deal," Thomson said recently on KQED's Forum. "Know that you're never going to get everything you want, but we can work something out."

Spoiler Alert: Slavery Is Abolished

When historians want to calm people down about how bitter the partisan polarization of our own time has gotten, they almost invariably refer to the 1856 incident in which Rep. Preston Brooks beat Sen. Charles Sumner on the Senate floor following a speech about slavery.

Today's politicians may not be wholly cooperating, but things are not so bad as that.

Lincoln does not downplay the enormous divisions caused by slavery, but it doesn't focus on them, either. Instead, it's an end-of-war film that looks narrowly at the question of whether the nearly victorious North can find the will to abolish slavery permanently.

"They're at a point where they understand there's really no going back," says Civil War historian and blogger Kevin M. Levin. "It only works because Spielberg is able to take a very narrow snapshot of this broader process of emancipation that takes place throughout the war."

The film might have been more complicated had it been set earlier, when Lincoln himself was not as readily convinced that an abolitionist amendment was the way to go. Instead, Lincoln is able to present the argument as a relatively simple one — the holdouts are racists — confident that no one watching the movie in 2012 or 2013 will have any doubt about the virtue of abolishing slavery.

"They're accomplishing something that we now, in the present, think is so obviously right to do," says Northwestern University historian Kate Masur, author of a well-regarded book about emancipation.

"By putting abolition of slavery at the center of it, they can show that Congress can do something that really needs to be done," she says.

A Johnsonesque Lincoln

As the audience roots for Congress to abolish slavery, moviegoers might be left feeling a little more optimistic that present-day politicians can tackle divisive issues.

We'd all like to believe there are solutions regarding gun control, climate change and immigration that will seem as obvious 150 years from now as abolishing slavery does today. Of course, the problem is Americans hold equal and opposing views about what those might be.

"One of the reasons it works and resonates with Americans today is that they do see gridlock around now, but with a little backroom dealing, that Congress is able to pass the amendment," Levin says.

The movie in this way offers an implicit criticism of Obama, says Powers, the Vogue critic. By showing Lincoln as an arm-twister along the lines of a President Lyndon B. Johnson, it makes him look less like a plaster saint and more like a hugely successful practical politician.

By contrast, Villanova University political scientist Lara Brown says of President Obama, "We have a president who really doesn't like the dirtiness of politics."

Referring to the recent fiscal package negotiated by Vice President Joe Biden, she says, "Obama signs off on the deals that other people get done."

While that might be unfair, it's true that at various points in his presidency, Obama has preferred to take his case directly to the American people, seeking to put pressure on Congress from outside.

This is in keeping with the usual portrayal of politicians in American film, Brown says. The bad guys are always the corrupt politicians who are entrenched in the system. The hero finds some way to rise above the mud and win over the American people.

Lincoln illustrates nothing so much as how much the president needs Congress to carry out important ideas.

"Lincoln is a hero for mastering the system," Brown says. "That's a completely opposite paradigm from what our usual fantasy is, in terms of Hollywood."

The Triumph Of Compromise

Although the film is about a House vote in which the president has no formal part — he plays with his son while it's going on — all the members of Congress have to come around to something like Lincoln's point of view, from the left or from the right.

As Masur points out, when Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (played by Tommy Lee Jones, who is also up for an Oscar) renounces his ardent support for full equality for blacks in order to help ease passage of the amendment, "it's a triumph of compromise."

By showing how strong leadership can lead to a pragmatic result following a messy debate, the movie satisfies contemporary desires of those looking for politicians who can achieve results rather than remaining unyielding on the key issues of the day.

"Maybe it's closer to showing how crazy the whole process is and having it still work," Powers says. "So it's hopeful in a new kind of way."

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