U.S. House Republicans Face Test of Unity in Budget Votes

David Lawder

In a test of party unity, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday are set to vote on the federal budget, using an unusual format meant to overcome lingering internal disagreements over defense spending. Known as a "Queen of the Hill" vote, the process will let lawmakers vote on several budget alternatives. The idea is to minimize the chances of not passing a budget at all, which would call into question Republicans' ability to govern now that they control both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006.

‘The Hobbit,’ ‘Unbroken’ Arrive on Home Video

Forrest Hartman

At first, director Peter Jackson’s decision to split his screen adaptation of “The Hobbit” into three films seemed like an excessive attempt to milk cash from a project better suited to a single 150-minute feature. In retrospect, it is obvious that Jackson was less interested in a straightforward screen adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel than an epic prequel to his “Lord of the Rings” saga. 

Greek Leader to Face Criticism During Berlin Visit

Stephen Brown

Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras have sought to play down the drama of the Greek leader's first official visit to Berlin on Monday, but open skepticism among the Chancellor's allies has spawned media portrayals of a western-style showdown. Unsurprisingly perhaps, German media have cast Greece's leftist prime minister as the outlaw and the conservative German Chancellor as a sheriff fighting to keep the euro zone together.

How South Africa Is Still Emerging From the Dark Shadow of Apartheid

Michael Verdirame

It does not take long for an outsider visiting South Africa for the first time to observe the racial divide that still exists.  Many of the types of places created by the segregation of Apartheid—such as the townships consisting of makeshift residences constructed with corrugated tin—still exist, some only a short distance from the major urban centers of big cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town.  A trip to one of the upscale malls that are appearing all over the country is unlikely to paint an accurate picture of diversity for travelers. 

Lost Venice Photographs Offer Insight into Famous Critic John Ruskin

Michael Roddy

Early daguerreotype photos of Venice that were auctioned off as an odd lot belonged to John Ruskin and provide new insight into the Victorian art critic's work, the authors of a book about the images said on Thursday. The Venice scenes, taken around 1850 and purchased at an auction in the northern English Lake District in 2006, coincide roughly with Ruskin's work on his epic three-volume treatise "The Stones of Venice" about Venetian art and architecture.

U.S. Secret Service Director Pledges to Get Tough on Security Lapses

Lisa Lambert

U.S. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy pledged on Thursday to get tough on his agency for keeping quiet about officers allegedly driving drunk on White House grounds, but he also knocked down reports that the incident involved a collision or that agents purposely deleted surveillance video of it. "If it is determined that any one of our employees concealed information about this alleged incident, they will be held accountable."

‘Breakfast Club’ Stars Reflect on Film’s Legacy 30 Years On

Piya Sinha-Roy

The Universal Pictures film grossed $38 million at the U.S. box office and became one of the biggest hits directed by Hughes. The five actors quickly became known as the 'Brat Pack,' inspiring character types mimicked throughout the teen movie genre, from 1995's "Clueless" to 2004's "Mean Girls." "I don't think we had any idea that it was going to have this kind of longevity and resonate," Sheedy said.

Palestinians Seek World Pressure on Israel After Worrisome Netanyahu Win

Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Ali Sawafta

Palestinian leaders on Wednesday called for international pressure on Israel and support for their unilateral moves towards statehood after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election win. Netanyahu's surprise victory, after pledging in the final days of the campaign that there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was in power, left Palestinians grim about prospects for a negotiated solution to a decades-old conflict.

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