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    From 'Black Panther' to Batman, 'Stranger Things' to 'Blade Runner 2049,' and 'Ready Player One' to Rep. John Lewis, Comic-Con had something for almost every pop-culture appetite. As the annual fan convention in San Diego wraps Sunday after four days of panels, presentations, screenings and autograph signings, here's a look at some of the highlights. BLACK PANTHER: The film won't be out until 2019, but 'Black Panther' swiped the most attention at Marvel's presentation. Director Ryan Coogler and cast members Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis and Danai Gurira were on hand to debut a clip from the film. Boseman, who introduced his Black Panther character in 2016's 'Captain America: Civil War,' said the new film finds him returning to his home of Wakanda after his father dies. Nyong'o described her character as a spy who goes undercover to report back to the fictional isolated nation about what is going on in the rest of the world. Marvel's presentation also included early looks at the November release 'Thor: Ragnarok' and next year's 'Avengers: Infinity War.' And studio chief Kevin Feige announced that Michelle Pfeiffer was cast in the 'Ant-Man' sequel 'Ant-Man and the Wasp,' also due in 2018. ___ BATMAN: There was a lot of Batman at Comic-Con, from Ben Affleck's confirmation that he'll continue to play the character to a star-filled tribute to the original 'Batman' actor, Adam West. Affleck refuted rumors that he would no longer play the character after ceding direction of 'The Batman' to 'War for the Planet of the Apes' director Matt Reeves. The actor also appeared alongside some of his 'Justice League' costars, including Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ezra Miller (The Flash) and Ray Fisher (Cyborg) as they showed footage from the film due in November. West was celebrated by his fans and collaborators at a heartfelt tribute that featured Kevin Smith, producer James Tucker, actor Ralph Garman and 'Catwoman' actress Lee Meriwether. Smith said he learned morality from West's portrayal of Batman in the original TV series, and Meriwether said she was so dazzled by the actor during the making of 'Batman: The Movie' that she nearly lost track of her performance — especially during a ballroom scene where they danced together. 'All I could think of was, 'I'm dancing with Adam West,' ' she said. 'I probably blew one take and then I snapped out of it.' ___ STRANGER THINGS: The popular Netflix show took over the San Diego Convention Center's largest exhibition hall to debut a new trailer for its anticipated second season. The show, set in the early 1980s, follows a group of kids trying to figure out how their friend mysteriously disappeared. Along the way, they meet an unusual girl named Eleven, who has telepathic powers. Show creators the Duffer Bros. were joined by director Shawn Levy and star Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) and the other young actors in the ensemble: Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp. 'Stranger Things' also had a presence in downtown San Diego with an installation that resembled the show's set and a virtual-reality experience that brought guests into the home of the missing boy and face to face with the monster that haunts him. ___ BLADE RUNNER 2049: Harrison Ford joked that he was out to reboot all of his iconic roles. The actor was on hand to present footage from 'Blade Runner 2049,' in which he reprises his role as Rick Deckard. Ford said he gained a deeper understanding of his character in the sequel, which hits theaters in October. Ford appeared alongside costar Ryan Gosling as the film's panel. 'Blade Runner 2049' also hosted a massive installation away from the San Diego Convention Center where fans could experience the Los Angeles of the future through virtual reality and replication of key sets inhabited by actors wearing actual costumes from the film. ___ READY PLAYER ONE: Steven Spielberg has spent more than two years adapting Ernest Cline's novel 'Ready Player One' for the screen, and the filmmaker said he was proud to debut a new trailer inside Comic-Con's biggest exhibition hall. Actor Tye Sheridan stars in the story about a dystopian future where humans take refuge in a virtual-reality world. For Cline, having Spielberg make a movie based on his book is a full-circle moment. 'I learned how to be a storyteller because of this man,' the author said. ___ REP. JOHN LEWIS: Civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis led about 1,000 people on a march through the crowded San Diego Convention Center following a discussion of his trilogy of graphic novels about his participation in nonviolent protests during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s. Lewis urged the many students in attendance to recognize that they, too, can make a contribution toward a better world. He said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., inspired him to 'get in trouble — what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.' 'Now more than ever before, we all need to get in trouble,' he said. 'When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate to stand up, to speak up, to speak out and get in trouble.' ___ AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .
  • Wonder Woman has a few reasons to celebrate. As of Sunday, the superhero pic is now the highest-grossing film of the summer with $398 million from North American theaters, and the sequel is official. Warner Bros. is not saying much about the inevitable follow-up to the smash hit, but the studio did flash a title card with the words 'Wonder Woman II' during its Comic-Con presentation Saturday. But that was the extent of the 'Wonder Woman II' talk at the fan convention. There is no official word on whether or not Patty Jenkins will return to direct, who is penning the script or even when the film might hit theaters. Not even Gal Gadot mentioned it during the Comic-Con 'Justice League' panel.
  • Four 'Star Wars' costuming clubs held a tribute to their favorite fallen princess at Comic-Con. The fan groups celebrated the life and work of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia at the pop-culture convention in San Diego on Sunday. Several women dressed in Leia's flowing white gown and iconic twin buns spoke about how much the character inspired them. One said she walked down the aisle at her wedding to Leia's theme. Another said, 'You put on a pair of buns, and you're unstoppable.' The presentation included an exhibit of fan art created after Fisher's death last year. The fans also celebrated the life of Kenny Baker, the actor who played R2-D2, who also died last year. Members of the R2 Builders Club honored him by bringing out four replica droids they built.
  • It's victory for 'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' at the box office this weekend. Both original and well-reviewed films smashed expectations and enticed diverse audiences to the theaters, even though cumulatively summer remains down from last year. Christopher Nolan's World War II epic brought in an estimated $50.5 million to easily top the charts, according to Warner Bros., while the raucous comedy 'Girls Trip' broke the R-rated comedy slump of 2017 with $30.4 million to take second place. 'Dunkirk' was far from an inevitable summer success. But stellar reviews, awards buzz and hype around the film's large-scale production helped drive people to the theater and large-format screens. 'We're beyond thrilled with this exceptional achievement for 'Dunkirk,' ' said Jeff Goldstein, who heads distribution for Warner Bros. 'The critical reception worldwide has been consistently effusive. It really propelled this movie that wasn't an obvious win.' Audiences were 60 percent male and 76 percent over the age of 25 for the PG-13 rated film, while IMAX audiences represented 23 percent of the market share (or $11.7 million of the total grosses from only 402 screens). 'It became a must-see event,' said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore. Drawing quite a different audience was the buddy comedy 'Girls Trip,' starring Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah as a group of girlfriends who head to New Orleans for a weekend of fun. The Universal film drew in an audience that was 79 percent female and 50 percent under the age of 30. Fifty-nine percent of attendees were estimated to be African-American. Notably, audiences gave the film a stellar A+ CinemaScore, suggesting the film will have long-term playability. ' 'Girls Trip' was a perfectly counter-programmed box office surprise,' Dergarabedian said. 'It broke the R-rated comedy curse that has afflicted this summer with 'Baywatch,' 'Snatched,' 'Rough Night' and 'The House.' ' For Universal, the formula is more simple: 'Girls Trip,' unlike the aforementioned comedies, is resonating with audiences. 'When the taste for entertainment and comedy has been somewhat underserved, it is not because people aren't interested in laughing, it's that they're waiting for something funny to come along,' said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution. 'One of the great things about this comedy is that it's really funny.' Not so successful was Luc Besson's nearly $180 million sci-fi epic 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,' which earned $17 million from North American theaters over the weekend for a fifth-place start. It came in behind 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' in third in its third weekend with $22 million and 'War for the Planet of the Apes' in fourth place in its second weekend with $20.4 million. Besson's film, starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne and based on the French comic 'Valerian and Laureline,' was produced by EuropaCorp. STX Entertainment distributed it in North America. The film's financial exposure was limited, however. EuropaCorp says 90 percent of the budget was already covered by foreign pre-sales, equity financing and tax subsidies. Dergarabedian said it's more about the international returns for 'Valerian,' but it's hard not to see Besson's return to sci-fi as a disappointment. Not adjusted for inflation, 'Valerian' earned basically the same as 'The Fifth Element,' which came out 20 years ago. For comparison, his film 'Lucy,' starring Scarlett Johansson, opened to $43.8 million in 2014. Overall, the year remains around flat from last year, and the summer season looks unlikely to make up for its deficit through the end of July and August. Still, Dergarabedian thinks there is a silver lining in the quality of the films that have come out this summer. 'Despite the weekend being down close to 10 percent, the currency that was most valuable is the currency of goodwill,' Dergarabedian said. 'Nobody can say that Hollywood threw the same old stuff at the wall this weekend.' Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday. 1. 'Dunkirk,' $50.5 million ($55.4 million international). 2. 'Girls Trip,' $30.4 million. 3. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' $22 million ($33.2 million international). 4. 'War for the Planet of the Apes,' $20.4 million ($17.3 million international). 5. 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,' $17 million ($3.9 million international). 6. 'Despicable Me 3,' $12.7 million ($47.5 million international). 7. 'Baby Driver,' $6 million ($8.3 million international). 8. 'The Big Sick,' $5 million. 9. 'Wonder Woman,' $4.6 million ($1.8 million international). 10. 'Wish Upon,' $2.5 million ($1.1 million international). ___ Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore: 1.'Dunkirk,' $55.4 million. 2.'Despicable Me 3,' $47.5 million. 3.'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' $33.2 million. 4.'Transformers: The Last Knight,' $24.9 million. 5.'War for the Planet of the Apes,' $17.3 million. 6.'Brotherhood of the Blades II: The Infernal,' $16 million. 7.'Wukong,' $12.3 million. 8.'Cars 3,' $11.4 million. 9.'Farther And Son,' $11.1 million. 10.'Baby Driver,' $8.3 million. ___ Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr
  • On Friday, Hoda Kotb shared another adorable picture of her new daughter, Haley Joy, whom she calls her “everything” in the caption on Instagram. >> Read more trending news In the picture, Hayley smiles right at the camera with her big, brown eyes shining and sporting some thick, growing hair. Kotb has been keeping fans updated on Haley’s growth ever since announcing her adoption early this year, posting cute photos of her daughter’s sweetest moments. “Life flies by,” she said on becoming a mom and on celebrating her recent four year anniversary with boyfriend Joel. >> Related: Hoda Kotb reveals how she kept her adoption a secret “It’s so funny because you spend so much of your life wondering, ‘When is it going to happen?’ If ever. Sometimes in my life, I thought it was already happening—like the most that could ever happen was happening. I was happy and grateful, and then this happened. It just reminded me that work is work, and life is life.”
  • Princes William and Harry are talking about the last, rushed phone call they had with their mother, Princess Diana, before her untimely death in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Their painful reflections are part of a new ITV documentary called “Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy,” airing on Monday, July 24. The program comes as the 20th anniversary of the death of the Princess of Wales approaches on Aug. 31, and celebrates her life and charitable works, according to ITV. >> Read more trending news The princes opened up to the filmmakers about the last time they spoke to Diana from the Queen’s estate in Balmoral, Scotland. The brothers, William 15, at the time, and Harry, just 12, remembered that they were playing with their cousins at the time Diana phoned.  Both William and Harry said they have regrets about that final call to this day. “Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye, you know ‘see you later.’ … If I’d known now, obviously, what was going to happen I wouldn’t have been so blasé about it and everything else,” William said in the documentary while he and Harry were looking through a photo album. “But that phone call sticks in my mind quite heavily.” Harry echoed his brother. “Looking back on it now, it’s incredibly hard. I’ll have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life,” Harry said. “Not knowing that was the last time I was going to speak to my mum; how differently that conversation would have panned out if I’d had even the slightest inkling her life was going to be taken that night.” >> Related: Prince William, Harry to rededicate Princess Diana’s grave on her birthday “I can’t necessarily remember what I said, but all I do remember is probably regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was,” Harry said. The brothers also talked about how much fun their mother was. “She was very informal and really enjoyed laughter and the fun,” William said. “She was one of the naughtiest parents,” Harry added. Prince William and Harry said they are talking candidly about their mother publicly for the first time to help honor her memory and the good works she was known for, including her work with AIDS victims and her activism against land mines. But Prince William said he doesn’t expect to discuss his mother again in such an open way after the events surrounding the 20th anniversary of her death.   The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • When O.J. Simpson told a Nevada parole board last week that he's led a 'conflict-free life,' he seemed to overlook a few episodes that had him cycling in and out of courtrooms and jail cells for nearly 20 years before the Las Vegas hotel-room heist that sent him to prison in 2008. There was a wife-beating charge in 1989 that he pleaded no contest to, a road-rage charge he was acquitted of in 2001 and a contempt-of-court citation in 2008 that put him in jail for five days. There was also, of course, the 1994 murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Acquitted by a criminal jury in 1995, the football hero and Hollywood star was found liable for the killings in civil court two years later and ordered to pay the victims' families $33.5 million. 'The idea that he believes that he's led a conflict-free life shows a certain delusion that he's been very noted for throughout his career,' said veteran Hollywood crisis publicist Michael Levine. In the wife-beating case, Simpson was accused of attacking Nicole Brown Simpson on New Year's Day 1989, angrily telling police it was a 'family matter.' Then, fearing he would be arrested, he fled in his Rolls-Royce, according to police. Officers reported they arrived at Simpson's Los Angeles home before dawn to find Nicole Brown Simpson screaming, 'He's going to kill me!' They said she had a cut lip, a swollen and blackened left eye and cheek, and a handprint still visible on her neck. She called 911 again, eight months before she was killed, to report Simpson had broken down a door to get into her home and was threatening to beat her. He could be heard screaming angrily in the background. When the 70-year-old Simpson told his parole board Thursday, 'I've basically had a conflict-free life, you know,' the remark lit up social media with derision and disbelief. 'A conflict-free life,' Ron Goldman's father, Fred, asked incredulously Saturday. 'This is who he is. He's a sociopath, a narcissistic liar, a murderer, a thug, a kidnapper, a robber. The list goes on.' Of course all those conflicts occurred before Simpson had nine years in prison to realize he was not above the law. Will he remember that after he gets out in October? 'I would guess that there is some message that got through to him, a deterrence message about having to take the criminal justice system seriously,' said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. 'But you know, staying on the right path is difficult for anybody who gets out of prison,' added Levenson, a former federal prosecutor. 'And for O.J., who there is going to be a tremendous amount of public spotlight on, it may be particularly challenging.' The moment he slips up, she said, there will be an army of people waiting to push the record button on their cellphones. And he could end up getting sent back to prison. One of the most valuable things he learned behind bars, Simpson said at his parole hearing, came in an 'Alternative to Violence' class that taught him 'how to talk to people instead of fighting.' That seemingly would have been useful when he got into that road-rage dispute in Florida with a driver who accused him of trying to snatch the glasses off his face. Simpson denied trying to take the glasses, testifying his fingerprints must have gotten on them when he accidentally bumped him as both were shouting at each other. In 2002 he nearly got locked up when he pleaded not guilty to speeding his boat through one of Florida's manatee-protected zones, then didn't show up in court. After a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, he paid the fine. He didn't fare as well in 2008 after he sent an angry, expletive-filled message to one of his co-defendants in the hotel-room robbery after the judge specifically ordered him not to contact any co-defendants. He jailed Simpson for five days until a hearing, at which Simpson promised not to do it again. Simpson has argued all along — and repeated on Thursday — that he was only trying to retrieve some of his mementos when he and five others barged into that Las Vegas hotel room in 2007 and robbed two sports memorabilia dealers. Levine, the crisis publicist, said that his best advice to Simpson would be to stay out of sight after he gets out and, when someone tries to goad him into an argument, turn the other cheek. 'If he doesn't,' Levine said, 'he's hours away from being back in license-plate-making school.' ___ Associated Press Writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this story.
  • Superhero fans, rejoice: A new 'Justice League' trailer and movie poster have been revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego. >> Watch the trailer here >> PHOTOS: Comic-Con cosplay Time reported that the trailer released Saturday 'hints at the appearance of a mysterious hero,' possibly Superman or a Green Lantern.  >> WATCH: Gal Gadot cheers up teary-eyed girl dressed as Wonder Woman at Comic-Con >> Read more trending news The poster, which features Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa), features the words, 'You can't save the world alone.' >> See the poster here
  • It was a typical phone call between two boys and their mother, who was on vacation in France. It was brief — the boys wanted to get back to playing with their cousins, not spend time on the phone chatting. The brevity of that 1997 call haunts Prince William and Prince Harry to this day — for their mother, Princess Diana, would die in a car crash that night. 'Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye, you know 'see you later'... If I'd known now obviously what was going to happen I wouldn't have been so blase about it and everything else,' William says in a new documentary. 'But that phone call sticks in my mind, quite heavily.' Harry tells the filmmakers the final chat is something he will regret until the end of his days. 'Looking back on it now, it's incredibly hard. I'll have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life,' Harry said. 'Not knowing that was the last time I was going to speak to my mum. How differently that conversation would have panned out if I'd had even the slightest inkling her life was going to be taken that night.' The ITV documentary 'Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy' is airing Monday on British TV. Excerpts from the film, and new family photographs, were released Sunday. The show is one of a series of tributes to Diana expected as the 20th anniversary of her death on August 31, 1997, approaches. It is only in the last year that William and Harry have spoken openly in public about their feelings about the sudden loss of their mother. William — second-in-line for the British throne after his father Prince Charles — was only 15 at the time. Harry was only 12. The documentary chronicles Diana's charitable works, including her historic outreach to AIDS victims and her campaign to ban land mines. William and Harry also stress their mother's fun-loving side, which they say the public generally didn't see. 'Our mother was a total kid through and through. When everybody says to me 'so she was fun, give us an example,' all I can hear is her laugh in my head,' says Harry. William tells a story that reveals the privileged life they led as children. One day, Diana surprised him by having three of the world's top models waiting for him when he got home from school. 'She organized when I came home from school to have Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell waiting at the top of the stairs. I was probably a 12- or 13-year-old boy who had posters of them on his wall,' William said. 'I went bright red and didn't know quite what to say. And sort of fumbled and I think pretty much fell down the stairs on the way up.' William says he frequently tells his children — Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2 — about Diana so she can be a presence in her grandchildren's lives. 'She'd be a lovely grandmother. She'd absolutely love it, she'd love the children to bits,' he said.
  • A young Wonder Woman fan has something to smile about after sharing a heartwarming moment with actress Gal Gadot at Comic-Con in San Diego. >> PHOTOS: Comic-Con cosplay According to 'Entertainment Tonight,' a girl dressed as the superhero seemed to have tears in her eyes when she met Gadot during a 'Justice League' autograph signing Saturday. Gadot immediately smiled at the young fan, took her hand and offered some words of encouragement.  >> Read more trending news 'Now we are friends, so there's no reason to cry anymore. We are together!' Gadot said in a viral video of the exchange shared by Variety, according to 'ET.' >> Click here to watch Gadot's 'Justice League' co-star Ezra Miller also contributed to the pep talk. >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 'You're a warrior. ... I think the ability to let yourself cry is what makes you such a warrior,' he said, according to 'ET.' 'Come join the Justice League whenever you get ready.' 'Sweet kid,' co-star Ben Affleck added.

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  • Multiple people were found dead early Sunday inside a semi-trailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart. >> Read more trending news >> Click here or scroll down for more
  • GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate seem ready to push ahead with a showdown procedural vote on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, even without any assurance that they have enough votes to simply start debate, and without a final decision on what changes Senate Republicans might offer to a health care bill narrowly approved by the House in early May. While most of the attention this week will be on the machinations involving health care legislation in the Senate, the House will take the first steps on spending bills for next year’s budget, and vote on a revised plan for new sanctions against Russia, as the House gets ready to head home for an extended summer break. Here’s the latest from Capitol Hill: 1. Senate GOP bill on health care still in limbo. GOP leaders are still vowing to press ahead this week on a procedural vote that would begin debate on a House-passed bill to overhaul the Obama health law, but it’s not clear that Republicans have enough votes to take that first step. The absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – diagnosed last week with brain cancer – is a big deal, since the White House needs every vote possible. Some still wonder if Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) might be convinced to at least vote to start debate – though he has made clear he is against the options that have been floated so far by top Republicans on health care legislation. As for Democrats, they’re still worried about a late rush to victory by the GOP. We saw what happened in the House of Representatives. They passed a bill after everyone thought it was dead. We can’t let that happen again. — Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) July 23, 2017 2. Senate Parliamentarian knocks some holes in GOP plan. Because Republicans chose to use the expedited procedure known as budget reconciliation, the Senate rules play a much larger than normal role, and that has resulted in problems for a series of provisions in the bill. On Friday, the Parliamentarian said a dozen pieces of the Senate bill could be subjected to parliamentary points of order, which could only be overridden by a 60 vote super majority, something the GOP does not have. That includes provisions designed to block any federal dollars from going through the Medicaid program to Planned Parenthood. And the bill may have more holes poked in it on Monday, when the Parliamentarian goes over four other provisions. 3. Trump keeps pressing GOP on health care. While President Trump again pushed GOP Senators over the weekend to act on health care, his call for action doesn’t seem to be making Republicans in the Congress tremble at the thought of being the target of his ire – and for now, the votes aren’t there to get this Senate health care bill over the finish line. As I type this, it’s not even clear what the GOP might be voting on in the Senate as early as this week – if enough Senators decide to begin debate on the Senate floor. It’s a big week for Republican leaders in the Congress on health care – watch to see what the President says in public about the process, as well as GOP holdouts, and what he does behind the scenes to twist some arms of GOP Senators. Don’t count him out just yet. The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017 4. House to pass Russia sanctions bill. After sitting on the measure for a few weeks, Republicans in the House will approve a plan that steps up sanctions on Iran and Russia – it was approved on a vote of 98-2 in the Senate. The House though, will add provisions dealing with North Korea, and send that back to the Senate for further action. It’s expected to be approved swiftly there. Behind the scenes, the White House has expressed frustration about the sanctions bill, because it would not allow President Trump to unilaterally roll back economic sanctions against Moscow. The vote comes as there has been more talk that the Trump Administration wants to give two compounds back to Russia, which were confiscated by the Obama Administration last December, in the first punishment for election interference in 2016. The only thing Republicans have fought Trump on are Russian sanctions… is he that upset that the GOP isn't protecting Trump through Putin? https://t.co/Ufvo9pqXDc — Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 23, 2017 5. House will leave town without passing all 12 funding bills. For weeks, House GOP leaders and rank-in-file lawmakers have told reporters that they were certainly going to have action on all twelve funding bills for the federal government. Reporters tried not to laugh out loud, knowing full well that was not likely. After this week, the House will be gone from Washington until Labor Day, and the plan is to jam four of the twelve funding bills into one package, and pass them in what’s known as a ‘minibus’ (the smaller version of the omnibus). Funding bills for the military, VA, energy and water programs, and the Legislative Branch (Congress) will be in that plan – but eight other bills will not voted on this week. And yet, the House will go home for five weeks. As you can see, a lot of budget work has not been done in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, that has become standard procedure no matter which party is in charge. How many spending bills each chamber has passed — House got the last of its bills through cmte yesterday. 2.5 months until govt $$ runs out pic.twitter.com/TlwXVgspWa — Sean McMinn (@shmcminn) July 20, 2017 6. One odd provision in the minibus. One interesting choice made by Republicans this week is that the House will vote on money to build the border wall backed by President Trump – but not the underlying bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. A provision for $1.6 billion to start work on the wall along the border with Mexico is part of the “Make America Secure” minibus appropriations bill – but the plan to actually fund Homeland Security operations won’t be voted on by the House – until after Labor Day. You can see the House schedule – a rare five day legislative work week is scheduled this week for the House, and then lawmakers head back home for five weeks. 7. Democrats look to force votes on Trump hotels. It wouldn’t be a debate on spending bills without some nettlesome votes being forced by the minority. This week, Democrats have asked for amendments that would prohibit government workers from staying at hotels owned or operated by President Trump’s family. One amendment gives the Defense Secretary the right to waive that on national security grounds; another amendment from Rep. Don Beyer (R-VA) gives a list of 40 different Trump hotels that would be off limits for federal government official business. Just one of the votes to look forward to this week in the ‘minibus.’ Democrats in the House try to stop federal workers from staying at Trump hotel properties https://t.co/ASJrKVr51q — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 23, 2017 8. Not on the schedule – the GOP budget blueprint. While the House Budget Committee last week was finally able to approve a budget outline for 2018, that budget resolution won’t be on the House floor this week. Why? Because it doesn’t have the votes to pass at this point in time. That means any talk you hear from GOP leaders and/or President Trump about action on tax reform needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because that budget blueprint has to be approved by both the House and Senate before any votes on can take place on a tax bill – and since the House isn’t going to be back until after Labor Day, that means tax reform remains on hold in the Congress. So what’s next? Three important agenda items now loom –tax reform, debt ceiling and budget resolution. Path to each is somewhat unclear. — Charlie_Commodities (@lfucha) July 22, 2017 9. Tax reform must be ‘budget neutral.’ One story that didn’t get much play last week because of the GOP troubles on health care is a wonky type of detail from the GOP budget resolution – but it has a big impact on tax reform plans for Republicans. At issue is a provision that says any tax bill must be budget neutral; in other words, if you cut taxes – and therefore raise the deficit by cutting revenue – then you must offset that lost revenue. That most likely would mean getting rid of tax deductions and tax breaks, a plan that sounds great in theory, but is difficult in practice to get through the Congress. Eliminate or cut back on the mortgage interest deduction? Make health care benefits through your job into taxable income? Get rid of the business interest deduction? Lots of difficult choices. If you think health care is hard, tax reform will be even more difficult. 'Budget neutral' tax reform could mean some difficult choices for Republicans in the Congress https://t.co/BcWNLAIlPo — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 22, 2017 10. Infrastructure – the missing Trump agenda item. Along with tax reform, there has been talk for months by the President, top Administration officials, and GOP lawmakers in Congress about voting for a bill to spur the construction of new roads and bridges. Mr. Trump has talked repeatedly about a $1 trillion public-private plan, but no proposal has been sent to the Congress, and none is expected until after Labor Day. Some thought the President should have started with this idea, since increased infrastructure spending is something that Democrats favor – but for a number of Republicans, that wasn’t a good idea, as they repeatedly opposed plans from the Obama Administration for more highway dollars. For now, this is going nowhere fast. Nobody knew infrastructure could be so complicated, complains President Trump https://t.co/QKpBhPMIhL pic.twitter.com/TMXjDW44xy — David Frum (@davidfrum) July 23, 2017
  • Just a few days after St. Johns County deputies say a sex offender cut off his tracking device and absconded, he’s now been tracked down. The Sheriff’s Office says Robert Ferrell was arrested without incident Sunday. No details have been immediately provided, but our partner Action News Jax reports Ferrell was found in the Murabella area. Ferrell cut off his GPS monitoring device and threw it in the trash on Tuesday, according to deputies. The Sheriff’s Office is thanking the community for their help tracking Ferrell down. A Facebook post from SJSO says they received tips from the community- who also widely shared his photo- as part of their investigation.
  • Detectives with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Special Victim's Unit/ Sexual Predator Offender Tracking are asking the public to keep an eye out for Robert Ferrell, 35.   Ferrell is wanted for failing to register as a sex offender, among other charges. Bulletins have been posted across the country, as a precautionary measure, to help find Ferrell.    The sheriff's office says Ferrell was just released from prison a week ago and told deputies two days ago that he was homeless and residing in the woods.   As part of his probation, Ferrell was court ordered to wear a GPS tracking device.  However, Ferrell allegedly cut off that device this past Tuesday around 6:00 pm and dumped it into a trash can in the 1900 block of US 1 South.   Ferrell is described as a white male, 5'8'' tall, 135 pounds with a shaved head. He also has tattoos all over his body, including a tattoo on the top of his shaved head that says 'FLORIDA' with a picture of a face next to it.   If you see Ferrell or know where he is, you're urged to contact Detective Kevin Green at (904) 209-3988 or by email at kgreen@sjso.org.
  • Tyler Swantek, 24, was already in custody on drug charges when police tacked on a first-degree murder charge. Police said he killed his father, Todd Swantek, and left the corpse on the couch for weeks. The Standard-Speaker reported that Swantek allegedly shot his father in the head with a rifle. >> Read more trending news Police reportedly were called to the scene in Frackville, Pennsylvania, in late May by a friend of Todd Swantek’s, who had not heard from the father for a month. When police entered the house, they found a gruesome scene: The badly decomposed body was on the couch, covered in blankets and a sleeping bag, the Standard-Speaker reported. Police said they searched the house and found the rifle, which they believe to be the murder weapon, in Tyler Swantek’s bedroom. There were a number of candles and air fresheners in the house, apparently put out in an attempt to mask the smell, the Standard-Speaker reported. Police said that when they interviewed Tyler Swantek about his father’s death, he showed no emotion. An autopsy report suggested that the body may have been on the couch for months before it was discovered. Swantek appeared in court where he asked for reduced bail for drug charges, but the judge didn’t agree to the deal. The judge reportedly said, “He’s a danger to himself and society.” Read more here.

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