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.


When It Comes To Politics, States Are Barely United

Dec 27, 2012
Originally published on December 27, 2012 2:10 pm

States in this country are becoming like an unhappy couple. They've always had their differences, but their arguments have gotten so chronic that they're hardly talking to each other.

Whether the topic is abortion, tax policy, marijuana or guns, Democratic "blue" states such as California and Illinois are bound to take a different tack than Republican "red" states such as Georgia and Kansas.

"We're very likely to have legal gay marriage in most of the blue states and some of the purple states before the next presidential election," says Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant. "You'll never have gay marriage in Mississippi and Alabama unless a court happens to impose it."

Ayres argues that states taking not just different, but opposite approaches to the most contentious issues of the day is a healthy expression of different attitudes and "an indicator of the genius of our federal system."

Not all political observers are so sanguine. Having states moving rapidly apart from one another naturally makes finding consensus in the country far more difficult.

People in California becoming convinced that those in Tennessee are "crazy" — and vice versa — has fed polarization not only within states but in Washington, where everyone is supposed to get together and work things out.

"We've seen polarization among [political] elites for quite some time," says Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, who chairs the political science department at the University of Nebraska. "It's gotten wider at the national level, and we're seeing it more and more at the state level."

Deeper Shades

Last month, states voted mostly according to their usual patterns — only more so.

At the presidential level, Barack Obama carried the exact set of states he won four years ago, excepting Indiana and North Carolina, which reverted to their usual habit of voting Republican.

While Obama's margin of victory was less than it was in 2008, the number of states that were decided narrowly (by fewer than 5 percentage points) actually went down. "That means more states are voting heavily for one candidate or another," The Economist concludes.

States may have gotten bluer or redder at the presidential level, but that was nothing compared with the deep partisan divides in voting for state offices. Only three state legislatures — Iowa, New Hampshire and Kentucky — are now divided, meaning both parties control one chamber each.

That's the lowest number since 1928, although the picture has gotten a bit more complicated since the election, with bipartisan power-sharing arrangements in places such as New York and Washington state.

In most states, not only does one party have control; it dominates. Fully half the legislative chambers in the country are now held by supermajorities. That makes compromise unnecessary — especially since the same party will hold the governorship as well as the legislature in all but a dozen states.

Rather than a wave moving in one party's favor, crosscurrents have moved the states apart. "This hardly ever happens, where the blue states get bluer and the red states redder, instead of the whole country going in one direction," says Thad Kousser, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego.

Pulling Apart

It's the opposite of a collision course. With such contrasting political cultures, states are bound to move further and further away from one another when it comes to setting policy.

This was evident almost immediately following the recent school shootings in Newtown, Conn. Even before the National Rifle Association issued its call to arm school personnel, legislators in red states such as Tennessee and Missouri had proposed legislation to require just that.

In Democratic states such as California, however, there was talk of tightening restrictions on assault-style weapons and ammunition, with gun buyback programs hastily arranged at the local level.

"It's magnified in the moment, but I expect red states will vote to expand gun rights and the blue states will seek to enact gun control legislation," says Scott Melzer, an expert on gun politics at Albion College in Michigan.

It's the same on issue after issue, whether it's government-funded health care, climate change or teaching evolution. That necessarily moves people further from the notion of compromise, says Bill Bishop, editor of The Daily Yonder, which covers rural issues.

"There are fewer of those crosscutting issues where you're enemies one day and friends the next," he says. "It will further reinforce the movement of people to get in their tribes."

Still Sorting

Bishop wrote about the increasing tendency of Americans to live among people who think politically like themselves in his book The Big Sort.

In 1976, he says, just over a quarter of all Americans lived in what he called landslide counties, which either of the presidential candidates carried by margins of at least 20 percent. Now, more than half reside in landslide counties.

There are plenty of Republicans living in every blue state, of course, and the same is true about Democrats living in states dominated by the GOP. But increasingly, states are voting entirely one way or the other.

If you look at the map of state control, it looks an awful lot like the presidential map, with only a few exceptions — notably GOP control of a few Obama-supporting states such as Virginia, Florida and parts of the Upper Midwest.

Open Airing Of Difference

Ayres, the Republican consultant, says that's just fine. Alabama's political culture is a lot different from Oregon's, so it's "perfectly reasonable" for public policy in those states to represent differing attitudes.

With Washington so mired in argument, it might not be entirely a bad thing for states to address marijuana regulation and health care differently, says Lara Brown, a political scientist at Villanova University.

"Maybe the most productive way out of this current polarization is to stop making it an 'either or' and start making it a 'both' kind of reality," she says. "All our people's diversity of beliefs may end up better expressed and realized."

That's putting things in a positive light. But constant disagreement about how to tackle issues may instead make it harder to forge agreement on a national level, suggests Theiss-Morse, the Nebraska professor.

Voters in different states seem increasingly convinced that people who live elsewhere and think differently are not just wrong, but unreasonable.

"What we increasingly see in politics and government is that it's a zero-sum game — that one side wins and the other side loses," Theiss-Morse says. "It's this view that if the other side gets anything, then we've lost."

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