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Air travelers are finally getting a break on fares. The government said Wednesday that the average airfare dropped nearly 8% in July compared with June, to $311. The bad news is, that's still almost 28% higher than last July. Airlines pushed fares up for most of this year because demand was high and there are fewer flights, meaning fewer seats to sell. The airlines also blame high jet fuel prices. Fares peaked in May, when sales for summer vacations were in full swing. Travel-data researcher Hopper expects domestic U.S. fares to average $286 in August and remain at or below $300 until October, when many people book Thanksgiving and Christmas travel.

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Papua New Guinea’s Parliament has returned Prime Minister James Marape to power following elections in the South Pacific Island nation. He was nominated unopposed to lead the next coalition government by Parliament on Tuesday. It did so even though vote-counting continues for some seats. Papua New Guinea has typically been governed by unstable, multiparty coalitions, but the constitution won’t allow a no-confidence motion to bring down Marape for another 18 months. The contenders to lead the new government had been Marape and his predecessor who resigned in 2019, Peter O’Neill.

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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.

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This back-to-school shopping season, parents are focusing on the basics while also trading down to cheaper stores as surging inflation takes a toll on their household budgets. That is particularly true for parents in the low to middle income bracket. Last week, Walmart noted higher prices on gas and food are forcing shoppers to make fewer purchases of discretionary items, particularly clothing. Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, cited that inflation has dampened consumer spending on gadgets. Such financial struggles amid the industry’s second-most important shopping season behind the winter holidays mark a big difference from a year ago when many low-income shoppers, flush with government stimulus and buoyed by wage increases, spent freely.

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A California woman has been sentenced to between 21 years and life in prison for killing a mother and father and injuring their three young children in a drunk driving crash while the family was out looking at Christmas lights. The Orange County District Attorney’s office says 23-year-old Grace Coleman was sentenced Friday after previously pleading guilty to two counts of murder and other charges. Authorities say Coleman was driving with a blood-alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit in December 2020 when she ran a red light and crashed into the car driven by Henry Saldana-Mejia as he took his family to see Christmas lights.

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A federal appeals court has dismissed an appeal from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in her legal fight to hold a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day last year. She sued in an attempt to overturn the National Park Service’s denial of the state’s application to hold a fireworks display to celebrate the 2021 holiday. The Eighth Circuit of Appeals found that South Dakota’s objections to the Park Service’s decision were moot because it was in the past. The court also found the federal government was within its rights to deny the state from shooting off fireworks on federal land.

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The parents of a 14-year-old girl killed by Los Angeles police in a clothing store last year have filed a lawsuit against the department and the officer whose rifle round pierced a dressing room wall. Valentina Orellana Peralta and her mother were shopping for Christmas clothes on Dec. 23 at a Burlington store in the San Fernando Valley’s North Hollywood neighborhood when an officer fired three rifle rounds at a suspect. One of the bullets went through the dressing room wall and fatally struck Orellana Peralta as her mother held her. LAPD Chief Michel Moore on Tuesday offered his condolences to Orellana Peralta’s family. The lawsuit was filed July 14.

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Liberia is celebrating two major anniversaries this year — 200 years ago freed slaves from the U.S. arrived here and 25 years later they declared the country to be independent. Amid the festivities for Independence Day on Tuesday, many Liberians say the West African country’s promise is unfulfilled and too many of its people still live in poverty. Critics say nearly 20 years after the country’s back-to-back civil wars killed an estimated 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003, many of Liberia’s children still yearn for an opportunity to go to school. Information minister Lederhood Rennie said that major celebrations for these anniversaries are necessary to build national pride and honor the work of many to establish the nation.

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A funeral service was held Monday afternoon for the last of seven people killed by a gunman at an Independence Day parade, as family and friends gathered in suburban Chicago to remember Kevin McCarthy. The 37-year-old father and his wife, Irina, were killed in the attack on the Highland Park July Fourth parade. They leave behind a 2-year-old son, Aiden. McCarthy’s funeral service began at 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon in Skokie, Illinois. In an obituary, he was described as a father, husband, brother, uncle and son who “brought the fun to every situation.” Irina McCarthy was buried last week.

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Rock singer Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins says he'll perform a charity livestream show to benefit the victims of the the Fourth of July parade shooting in suburban Chicago that killed seven people and wounded more than 30. Corgan is a 20-year resident of Highland Park, where the shooting happened. He announced Thursday that the show will be held on July 27 at the city’s plant-based tea house Madame Zuzu’s, which he owns with his partner Chloe Mendel. He made the announcement Thursday in a video posted on the Madame Zuzu’s Instagram, the Daily Herald reported.

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John Fetterman has been fundraising, advertising on TV and grabbing attention with snarky social media posts, but he has yet to return to Pennsylvania's campaign trail in a significant way since a May 13 stroke. He's in one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races as Democrats defend their Senate majority. But with barely two months until voters can begin casting mail-in ballots, Fetterman is absent from traditional retail campaigning. The campaign has maintained that Fetterman is feeling better and will be on the campaign trail soon. Democrats, meanwhile, take some comfort from what they perceive as a relatively quiet campaign by Fetterman’s Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

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Gov. Kristi Noem won’t participate in a debate sponsored by South Dakota Public Broadcasting because of what her campaign spokesman called its “extreme leftward swing.” In a break from precedent, the Republican governor has agreed to just one debate with her challenger, Democratic state Rep. Jamie Smith. Noem has also positioned herself for a 2024 White House bid. She says that South Dakota Public Broadcasting has shown an “extreme leftward swing” in its coverage of her efforts to bar public schools and universities from using certain approaches to teaching about race. South Dakota Public Broadcasting says it will still proceed with “fair, in-depth candidate debates and interviews,” but provide an empty chair in the space Noem would have taken.

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The widow of Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S.-based writer killed by Saudi government agents four years ago, says she received a commitment that President Joe Biden will bring up the murder when he meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The crown prince, whom Biden will be meeting for the first time in Jeddah on Friday, likely approved of the killing, according to U.S. intelligence. Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, the slain writer’s widow, told Spectrum News on Wednesday that she received assurances during a meeting with administration officials. A White House official says Khashoggi’s widow spoke with a senior administration official earlier this week, but is declining to provide details.

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Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador has agreed during meetings with President Joe Biden to spend $1.5 billion to improve “smart” border technology. It's a move the White House says shows neighborly cooperation succeeding where Trump administration vows to wall off the border and have Mexico pay for it could not. A person familiar with a series of agreements signed after the two leaders met Tuesday says they also called for expanding the number of work visas the U.S. issues and welcoming more refugees. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agreement hadn’t been formally announced.

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Mourners shared memories and tears during the funeral for the 35-year-old mother of a toddler who lost both of his parents to gunfire in the attack on a suburban Chicago Independence Day parade. Speakers pledged Tuesday to care for young Aiden McCarthy and ensure he shares in their memories of his mom and dad. Irina McCarthy and her husband, Kevin, died on the parade route in Highland Park on July Fourth. Strangers cared for Aiden in the chaotic hours following the barrage of gunfire that killed seven people and wounded more than 30. A photo of the boy’s round-cheeked face spread online. Authorities eventually reunited him with his mother’s parents, who had lost their only daughter.

Dating back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites, the holiday grew into its present form in heavily Roman Catholic countries. Here's a brief history.