House GOP leaders pulled the plug on a $659 million bill to deal with the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. from Central America.
The vote on the legislation had been scheduled for this afternoon on the final day before the start of a five-week summer break for Congress.
The bill would have increased funding for overwhelmed border agencies, add immigration judges and detention space, send National Guard troops to the border, and changes the law so that the youths can be sent home quickly without deportation hearings that are now guaranteed, according to The Associated Press.
"There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries," House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders said in a statement.
"We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country," they added.
The collapse in the vote follows a surprise move by the GOP leadership to satisfy the tea party wing of the party by allowing a separate vote aimed at blocking the White House from expanding deportation relief.
But the House bill was unlikely in any case to have gotten an airing in the Senate, which is debating a rival $2.7 billion measure for border security that does not include policy changes to expedite the deportation of migrants.
Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in a new eight-part miniseries that couldn't be more timely: It's about a woman who finds herself embroiled in the political tensions of the Middle East, and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Honorable Woman is a co-production between the Sundance Channel, which premieres the eight-part miniseries beginning Thursday, and England's BBC-2, where viewers already have seen about half the episodes. So have I. And while I expected The Honorable Woman to be topical and potentially controversial, given its setting and premise, I didn't expect it to be so involving, or so intense. Or so good.
The Honorable Woman is produced, written and directed by Hugo Blick, who hasn't broken through in the States yet - but probably will now. TV viewers who were drawn to the political intrigues and moral complexities of Showtime's Homeland, will be very, very pleased by The Honorable Woman. But so should viewers who revel in the unsettling surprises and shocking violence of HBO's Game of Thrones and AMC's The Walking Dead - because The Honorable Woman is one of the most ruthless TV dramas I've ever seen. Major characters in this miniseries not only die without warning - they die without foreshadowing, and without dignity, like flies being swatted suddenly.
Even before the opening credits roll, The Honorable Woman demonstrates this quickly, and graphically. The very first scene is a flashback showing lunch at a fancy restaurant, where a young girl and boy fidget and joke with one another while their father tries to settle them down. The waiter who serves them dinner rolls with a pair of sharp tongs then uses the same tongs to stab their father in the throat. He dies as they watch in stunned disbelief, and as the little girl is dotted with his blood. Meanwhile, the adult voice of that girl is heard on the soundtrack, offering some perspective from the distant future. She's played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who adopts a British accent, and an understandably wary attitude, to portray the grown-up Nessa Stein.
It's unusual, and a little refreshing, to see an American actress travel overseas to play someone with a British accent, given how many Brits are playing Americans on TV over here. But Gyllenhaal nails more than just the accent. She's playing a very complicated, hard-to-read character: a British baroness with an Israeli passport, an Internet communications executive who has just been appointed a seat in the House of Lords, and a visionary who wants to donate money and resources to the West Bank. She thinks that improving conditions there, and making the Internet more available, is the key to prospects for peace. But others disagree - sometimes very violently. The Honorable Woman includes killings and kidnappings, seductions and betrayals, and Nessa's obsession about trust turns out to be very central to her character, and to the drama itself.
Every step Nessa takes, or doesn't take, is followed or influenced or thwarted by those around her - especially her business-partner brother Ephra, played by Andrew Buckman, and a British Intelligence officer played by the always intriguing Stephen Rea. MI-6, American spies, the Israelis, the Palestinians - they're all in play here, and they're not playing. Some of the power struggles are for money or territory; others are sexual. There's a lot of tension between men and women here, corporate as well as cultural - and Gyllenhaal is fearless about exploring and portraying it all.
Writer-director Blick peels back and reveals the elements of his story, and the motivations and relationships of his characters, very slowly. A scream you hear in episode one isn't explained until episode four — and the pain behind anguished glances isn't evident until you've clocked hours of TV time. But by that time, The Honorable Woman has taken you places where TV seldom ventures. Not only to the tunnels under the Gaza Strip - and I couldn't believe I was seeing scenes set in those tunnels, after they've figured so prominently in the news - but to the deepest fears and hopes and dreams and despairs of the show's characters. Politically, The Honorable Woman doesn't take sides - it comes at you from all sides. And all sides are given motivations and conflicts, which makes this miniseries both a rare and a rewarding viewing experience. The characters in The Honorable Woman may not know whom to trust - but trust me. This is one TV drama not to miss.
David Bianculli is founder and editor of the website TV Worth Watching, and teaches TV and film history at Rowan University in New Jersey.
Host Jessica Harris speaks with Vinnie Bharara and Marc Lore, co-founders of Diapers.com. Harris also speaks with Jonathan Cedar, co-founder of Biolite, a company that makes off-the-grid cooking stoves meant for use in developing countries and on camping trips.
In Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, Lymbery and Oakeshott write that the mega-dairies of the Central Valley are "milk factories where animals are just machines that rapidly break down and are replaced." At one huge dairy they visited, cows stood idly outdoors, some in shade and some in the sun. No grass cushioned their feet and certainly none was available to eat since, like almost all factory-farm cows, the animals were maintained on an unnatural diet of crops such as corn. The stench in the air was "a nauseous reek."
This same scene was repeated "every couple of kilometres, all with several thousand cows surrounded by mud, corrugated iron and concrete."
The hurt in Central Valley extends beyond cows to humans.
The 1.75 million cows in California generate, according to Lymbery and Oakeshott, more fecal waste than the human population of the U.K. Most of the waste matter flows to lagoons near the farms. But some escapes into the air as gas and into the ground (and water supply) through seepage. Water and air pollution, linked in part to the mega-dairies, is an immense worry for residents of the Central Valley, where, the authors report, children have a rate of asthma nearly three times above the national average and adult life expectancies are lower by up to a decade than the national average.
Similar disastrous circumstances surround mega-piggeries and industrial chicken farms in the U.S. And when those animals are turned into meat, there's enormous wastage. The single saddest statistic I have read in the realm of animal welfare comes from Farmageddon: the amount of meat discarded globally each year is equivalent to 11.6 billion chickens or 270 million pigs or 59 million cattle.
Lymbery and Oakeshott's answer to "Well, what can we do?" hit home for me. Positive change is in our hands, they insist. In the U.K. where they live, the scale of industrial agriculture is not yet huge and, even in countries like the U.S. where it is huge, there's hope. They write:
"Avoiding Farmageddon is easy as long as we buy products from animals reared on the land (free-range, organic), favour local producers or retailers that we trust, eat what we buy and therefore reduce food waste, and avoid overeating meat, we can fill our plates in ways that benefit the countryside, our health and animal welfare."
"Easy" sounds too Pollyanna-ish to my ears, but I did love the mantra adopted in the book:
"Each of us has three great opportunities a day to help make a kinder, saner food system through the [meal] choices we make."
It's a simple yet powerful message: At every breakfast, lunch and dinner, we make food choices that move us either towards a saner food system or further away.
My review of Farmageddon, published last week in the Times Literary Supplement, was positive. Even so, I gave Lymbery and Oakeshott a bit of a hard time for avoiding the topic of vegetarianism.
No, I'm not suggesting that everyone become vegetarian (or vegan). And I don't think meat-eaters are misguided! Though I don't eat cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, goats or cephalopods like the octopus, I do eat fish on occasion and I have recently sampled insect cuisine (cricket cookies and grasshopper tacos). I'm no purist on this topic.
And I remember from last year Tania's "can't we all just get along?" post: none of us benefits by judging others' food habits (or worrying excessively that others are judging ours).
Still, in a book that tackles how we might eat smarter for the environment, for other animals, and for ourselves, I think it's too timid to stop at "eat less meat" and not discuss the "eat no meat" option.
And what about "eat no fish"? On this topic, Farmageddon has something thought-provoking to say, as I noted in my TLS review:
"'Fish farms are the forgotten factory farms under the water', according to Lymbery, 'and one of the fastest-growing sectors of intensive animal rearing.' Cataracts and fish and tail injuries plague the farmed salmon and trout confined in tiny spaces. Around the world, about 100 billion fish are farmed every year, a number that exceeds all the terrestrial farm animals put together."
"The result of all this effort is bleak: consumers eat fatty, chemical-laden fish, and the farmed fish, when they escape (Lymbery describes 'mass breakouts'), harm the wild fish stocks, through competition for food and places to spawn, and outright cannibalism."
About my pescatarian diet, and the type of fish I choose now and again for lunch or dinner, I'm thinking twice.
And three times.
Kentucky has approved $18 million in new tax breaks for a controversial Christian theme park that is to feature a 510-foot-long replica of Noah's Ark.
Maryanne Zeleznik of member station WVXU in Cincinnati reports that the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the incentives for the Ark Encounter, to be built in Williamstown.
As we reported in January, the project nearly foundered when the Christian nonprofit Answers in Genesis — which also operates the Creation Museum and is leading the effort to build the new theme park — was close to triggering a redemption of unrated municipal bonds because it had fallen short of selling the $29 million it needed.
Answers in Genesis is headed by Ken Ham, who in February engaged in a high-profile debate with Bill Nye "The Science Guy." The debate, which was streamed live online, pitted Ham's biblical literalism, which among other things includes the belief in a 6,000-year-old Earth and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, against Nye, who argued for Darwinian evolution. Later, Ham said the debate, widely seen as having been won by Nye (although there was, naturally, disagreement), prompted a funding "miracle" that saved the project.
As Zeleznik reports:
"The project is slated to include a facsimile of Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel, and will proselytize Christian evangelicalism to patrons, an Answers in Genesis spokesman said.
"Finance board Chairman Keith Williams said the project was evaluated like any other that comes before the panel, and a preliminary analysis of its economic impact showed benefits for the state.
" 'They could produce a good amount of tourism for the state of Kentucky,' said Williams, who was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear, a supporter of the project. 'It could help the hotel industry, the restaurant industry in that entire area. So if that is the case, and it does boost tourism, then they, yeah, they meet that criteria.' "
The price tag on the project, which held a ceremonial groundbreaking in May, has shifted around since it was unveiled in 2011. It's also been plagued by delays and repeated funding crises.
WVXU reports that Kentucky initially granted $43 million worth of tax breaks to the $173 million project, but it was unclear whether the ambition plan would go beyond a $78 million "first phase."
If the project fails to generate sufficient revenue and economic activity for the surrounding area, Kentucky has the right to revoke the incentives.