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Brad Pitt's 'Bullet Train' pulls into station with $30.1M

Sunday studio estimates say the Brad Pitt action romp “Bullet Train" arrived with a $30.1 million opening weekend as the last big movie of Hollywood’s summer recovery landed in theaters. The debut was solid but unspectacular for a movie that cost $90 million to make and was propelled by Pitt’s substantial star power. But even if it holds well in coming weeks, movie theaters have no major studio releases on the horizon for the rest of August, and few sure things to look forward to in early fall. The weekend’s other new wide release, “Easter Sunday,” struggled to catch on. It opened with $5.3 million.

Biden leaves White House for 1st time since getting COVID-19

Ending his most recent COVID-19 isolation, President Joe Biden has left the White House for the first time since becoming infected last month. He's settling in for a reunion with first lady Jill Biden in their home state of Delaware. The president tested negative Saturday and Sunday, according to his doctor, clearing the way for him to emerge from an isolation that lasted longer than expected because of a rebound case of the virus. “I’m feeling good,” Biden said before boarding Marine One outside the White House for the flight to Delaware. The Bidens are expected to spend the day in Rehoboth Beach. During his isolation in the White House residence, the first lady remained in Delaware.

What's in Democrats' big bill? Climate, health care, savings

The estimated $740 billion economic package from Democrats is nowhere near what President Joe Biden first envisioned with his effort to rebuild America’s public infrastructure and family support systems. That had a price tag of $4 trillion and it stalled in Congress. The slimmer but still substantial compromise package is now on track toward Senate passage on Sunday. It's made up of health care, climate change and deficit-reduction strategies, in hopes of tackling inflation and bringing down deficits. A major component is capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors in the Medicare program at $2,000 a year.

Dems rally around abortion. Are they reaching Black voters?

Democratic hopefuls in Wisconsin see abortion as the issue that will carry them to election wins in November, but efforts to reach Black voters on the topic are sparse. Several organizing groups said it's a complicated issue in the Black community, with a legacy of views long handed down from the more prominent and conservative denominations in the Black church. Polling data shows that abortion is a slightly more potent issue for white voters in the Democratic coalition than for Black voters. Most of the groups organizing in the Milwaukee area, a critical area for Democrats to win statewide races, are steering away from messaging solely on the issue.

Biden steps out of the room and finds legacy-defining wins

Over five decades in Washington, Joe Biden knew that the way to influence was to be in the room where it happens. But in the second year of his presidency, some of Biden’s most striking, legacy-defining legislative victories have come about by staying out of it. It's a counterintuitive turn for Biden, who's long promoted his decades of Capitol Hill experience. Biden’s aides chalk up his victories to the fact that he's playing the role of cheerleader rather than legislative quarterback. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana says that in Biden's heart, he's a U.S. senator. And because of that, Tester says Biden "understands allowing this to work is how you get it done.”

Dems' climate, energy, tax bill clears initial Senate hurdle

A divided Senate has voted to start debating Democrats’ election-year economic bill. The sprawling measure contains many of President Joe Biden’s climate, energy, health and tax goals. United Democrats pushed the 755-page measure toward Senate approval early Sunday. Before reaching final passage, senators plodded through a nonstop pile of amendments that seemed certain to last hours. The package is a dwindled version of earlier multitrillion-dollar bills from Biden that Democrats failed to advance. The measure has become a partisan battleground over inflation, gasoline prices and other issues that polls show are driving voters. The House, where Democrats have a slender majority, could give the legislation final approval next Friday.

Paul's wife says senator wants to subpoena Fauci records

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's wife says her husband wants to subpoena the records of the country’s top infectious disease expert. Paul’s wife, Kelley, made the comments during the political speaking at the Fancy Farm picnic Saturday in western Kentucky. She waded into the dispute between her husband and Dr. Anthony Fauci while promoting her husband's bid for a third term. Sen. Paul is being challenged by Democrat Charles Booker, a former state lawmaker. He told the crowd that Paul votes against the interests of Kentuckians. Booker denounced Paul as a “terrible senator” and an “embarrassment” to the state.

In wake of floods, typical barbs at Kentucky political event

While Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was consoling families displaced by historic flooding in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, Republicans at the state’s premier political event on the other side of the state were campaigning to oust him from office in 2023. They bashed Beshear’s pandemic restrictions but offered support for recovery efforts that the Democratic governor is leading in the wake of historic flooding and tornadoes. While his challengers aimed zingers at him, Beshear spent Saturday consoling families displaced by the flash flooding that swamped the Appalachian region more than a week ago. He visited two state parks where some of the suddenly homeless took refuge.

Alex Jones’ $49.3M verdict and the future of misinformation

Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is facing a hefty price tag for his lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre — $49.3 million in damages and counting — for claiming the nation’s deadliest school shooting was a hoax. The verdict is the first of three Sandy Hook-related cases against Jones to be decided and a punishing salvo in a fledgling war on harmful misinformation. But what does it mean for the larger misinformation ecosystem of election denial, COVID-19 skepticism and other dubious claims that Jones helped build? Courts have held that defamatory statements against a person or a business aren’t protected as free speech, but lies about things like science, history and the government are.