Annabelle Scares Off Box Office Summer Slump

(NEW YORK) — The “Conjuring” spinoff “Annabelle: Creation” scared up an estimated $35 million in North American theaters over the weekend, making it easily the top film and giving the lagging August box office a shot in the arm.

The opening came close to matching the film’s predecessor, “Annabelle,” which opened with $37.1 million in October 2014. Warner Bros. could celebrate not only the month’s biggest debut but also having the week’s top two films. Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” followed in second with $11.4 million in its fourth weekend according to studio estimates Sunday.

Last week’s top film, the poorly received Stephen King adaptation “The Dark Tower,” slid dramatically. It toppled nearly 70 percent on its second weekend with an estimated $7.9 million.

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Mother of Suspect Who Allegedly Plowed Into Charlottesville Protesters Speaks Out

As officials try to make sense of the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., the mother of the man who allegedly plowed his car through a crowd of counter-protesters is also trying to understand her son’s actions.

In an interview late Saturday, Samantha Bloom told the Associated Press that she knew her son, James Alex Fields Jr., was attending a rally in Virginia, but didn’t know it was connected to white nationalists.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” she said.

“He had an African-American friend so,” she added, trailing off.

Bloom said that she told her son to stay safe before he left Saturday.

“I told him to be careful,” Bloom told the Toledo Blade. “[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.”

Fields Jr., 20, was arrested Saturday and currently faces numerous charges including second-degree murder after he allegedly barreled a car through a group of counter-protesters Saturday afternoon, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.

Separately, a Virginia state police helicopter linked to the violent rally crashed in Charlottesville late Saturday, killing two officers on board, officials told the AP.

 

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Donald Trump Signs Bill Funding Veterans Medical Care Program

(BEDMINSTER, N.J.) — President Donald Trump has signed an emergency spending bill that will pump more than $2 billion into a program that allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense.

Trump, who made improving veterans care a central campaign promise, signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act while at his New Jersey golf club on Saturday. The bill, which addresses a budget shortfall at the Department of Veteran Affairs that threatened medical care for thousands of veterans, provides $2.1 billion to continue funding the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to seek private care.

Another $1.8 billion will go to core VA health programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.

“Today is another milestone in our work to transform the VA where we’re doing record-setting business,” Trump said.

The Choice program was put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal that was discovered at the Phoenix VA hospital and spread throughout the country. Veterans waited weeks or months for appointments while phony records covered up the lengthy waits.

The program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait at least 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, the Choice program would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care for thousands of veterans.

The bill will extend the program for six months. Costs will be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.

Veterans groups applauded the bill being signed, though some criticized the delay and the cost.

“We’re grateful President Trump is taking decisive action to ensure veterans using the Choice Program won’t see lapses in their care due to a lack of funding,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director for Concerned Veterans for America. “Unfortunately, this bill took far too long to get to the president’s desk and is $1.8 billion more expensive than it needed to be.”

Leaders of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the VA’s future. While the bill may avert a shutdown to Choice, disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014. The VA has an annual budget of about $180 billion.

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2 Men Climbed a 382-Foot Bridge and Got Stuck Overnight

(PHILADELPHIA) — Two people are under arrest after police rescued them from atop Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Bridge.

Police say the men climbed one of the bridge’s 382-foot towers to spray paint it with graffiti when they got stuck around 1 a.m. Tuesday. Officers using safety harnesses rescued them.

The bridge was closed to traffic for about 90 minutes.

No names have been released.

The bridge crosses the Delaware River and connects Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey.

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‘Our Hearts Are Broken’: Read Linkin Park’s Emotional Letter to Chester Bennington

The band Linkin Park wrote an emotional statement Monday in memory of Chester Bennington, their lead singer who died last week after an apparent suicide.

Written as a letter to the singer, the band expressed their grief and sorrow following his death while also honoring Bennington’s impact on them and their fans.

“Our hearts are broken,” the band wrote in the letter, which was shared on their Facebook page. “The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened.”

“Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing.”

The band also made note of the “demons who took you away from us” while recognizing Bennington’s ability to openly share his experiences in their music.

“You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human,” the band wrote. “You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.”

After Bennington’s death, the band canceled their upcoming tour for their latest album One More Light, which was released earlier this year. In their statement, Linkin Park said it is unclear what the future is for the band.

Linkin Park also posted information for suicide prevention resources online.

Read the band’s full note below:

Dear Chester,

Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened.

You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. Talinda and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you.

Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing. We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human. You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.

Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable. While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you. Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much.

Until we see you again,

LP

Visit ​Chester.LinkinPark.com

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