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August 9, 2017
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An article published in July by two close associates of Pope Francis in a Vatican-vetted Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica, has caused waves in the American Catholic Church. The article accuses ultraconservative Catholics — including White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon — of gradually forging a reactionary political alliance with evangelical Christians that's now supporting President Trump's agenda, including a "xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations."

The Catholic right, already feeling under siege by Pope Francis, portrayed the July 13 article as a thinly veiled shot across the bow from the pope himself, and on Monday, leaders of Trump's evangelical advisory board requested a meeting with Francis to address "efforts to divide Catholics and Evangelicals." On Tuesday, an executive vice president and editor at Fox News, John Moody, jumped into the conversation. He began his op-ed by reporting that somebody brought a dog to mass last Sunday, drawing this conclusion: "Dogs may be going to church, but the universal Roman Catholic Church is going to the dogs." Then he got down to the meat of his displeasure:

Under Pope Francis, the church has abandoned many of its bedrock positions on issues like divorce and homosexuality in favor of a "why not?" attitude. Francis has scolded people for being rich, sided with illegal immigrants, and suggested the church should be a refuge for the poor.

He has sidelined conservative cardinals, installed like-minded allies in key jobs, taken personal control of the Knights of Malta for defying him, and generally sent the signal that behind his amiable smile and humble talk lurks a radically liberal agenda. [Moody, Fox News]

Pope Francis isn't much of a liberal, and his views on social issues like immigration, the environment, and aiding the poor don't really deviate from his more conservative predecessors, as The Week's Matthew Walther explains. (Nor do his views on abortion and gay marriage, for that matter.) And Catholic social teaching is drawn from the teachings of Jesus. Moody offers a warning to the pope anyway: "Francis can run the church any way he wants. But demonizing conservative American Catholics is a risky business. They have deep pockets and long memories." One more thing they share in common with elephants? You can read Moody's op-ed at Fox News. Peter Weber

3:05 a.m. ET

President Trump's strange campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night "started with a bang," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show, but he was being sarcastic. It actually began with Vice President Mike Pence and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, there to "luke-warm up the crowd." After treating his audience to a Ben Carson impersonation, Noah played some of Trump's "fire and fury," stopping at the part where Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress doesn't give him money for his Mexico border wall.

"What do you mean, the government's going to shut down?" he asked, indignantly. "Mexico pays for the wall! That's the only reason I watch the rallies, is to see the hits. You can't just change the words to your songs, Trump!"

"Now, although most of Trump's rally was an outstanding rejection of sanity," Noah said, "there was a key issue he had to address, and that was demanding justice for the real victim of Charlottesville: himself." Trump spent about 15 minutes reading parts of the evolving and devolving statements he gave after the violent Charlottesville white supremacist rally, and Noah played some of the video, shaking his head. "I'm so glad we didn't elect an irrational woman as president," he joked. Trump "sounds less like a president and more like an angry waiter arguing about an order that he got wrong: 'I got you the neo-Nazis, I got you the fries, I got you the KKK, what more do you want?!?'"

But of course, Trump carefully omitted the newsworthy parts of his statements. "You can't leave out 'on many sides,'" Noah protested. "That was the whole reason people were mad." In any case, Trump managed to divide America further, and the Trump side doesn't sound so bad, Noah said, playing part of an interview with a Trump supporter. "You know, in a way I envy these Trump supporters, because they're living in a state of bliss," he said. "For everyone else, Trump's presidency is a little more painful." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:05 a.m. ET
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Powerball officials say a sole ticket-buyer in Massachusetts has won the massive $758.7 million jackpot, the second-largest Powerball win in U.S. history, after correctly picking all six numbers for Wednesday night's drawing — 6, 7, 16, 23, 26, and Powerball 4. The lucky Bay Stater snapped a streak of 20 jackpot-less Powerball draws. There were also some lesser winners — two tickets sold in Florida matched the first five numbers, earning $1 million apiece, while four people won $200,000 and 24 players won $50,000. Powerball tickets — sold in 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — cost $2, and the odds of winning the jackpot were about 1 in 292.2 million. The winner can take a lump sum of $480.5 million or opt for 30 payments over 29 years. Most winners choose the cash payout. Peter Weber

1:37 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared a pre-emptive state of disaster for 30 counties and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) set up a crisis task force to prepare for Tropical Storm Harvey, expected to make landfall in Texas on Friday night or Saturday morning as a Category 1 hurricane. The National Weather Service and state and local officials are especially worried about Harvey because it is slow-moving and expected to dump 10-15 inches of rain or more on Houston and surrounding areas over the weekend as it crawls northeastward. The National Weather Service issued its first-ever storm surge watch for Calhoun County, Texas, some 150 miles southwest of Houston, meaning that water could rise 4 to 6 feet above ground.

Harvey "could become the first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency," warns Eric Holthaus at Grist. "This is the kind of storm you drop everything to pay attention to." It has already been a wet August for the Texas Gulf Coast, and so the ground is saturated and primed to flood, while Houston is especially vulnerable to devastating floods because of poor city planning and lots of pavement, he notes, and the worst models have 20 to 40 inches of rain dumping on parts of Texas and Louisiana.

Then there's the warming climate, Holthaus says:

Floods like the one in the worst Harvey forecasts have come at an increasingly frequent pace. Since the 1950s, the Houston area has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours. At least four rainstorms so severe they would occur only once in 100 years under normal conditions have hit the area since May 2015. With a warmer climate comes faster evaporation and a greater capacity for thunderstorms to produce epic deluges. ... If Harvey's rains hit the coast with anywhere near the force of the most alarming predictions, we'd be in for disaster. And judging by how New Orleans and Houston have handled recent rains, coupled with the state of federal disaster relief, we're not ready for it. [Grist]

You can read more about Harvey's dangers as Grist. Peter Weber

1:34 a.m. ET

For their first wedding anniversary, Susan Landis gave her husband, Sam, a gift that changed his life: A DNA kit that connected him to the family he'd spent decades wondering about.

Sam Landis was adopted in 1974 by a couple in Cincinnati. He was six months old at the time, and because it was a closed adoption, he was never able to find any of his biological relatives. After Susan gave him the DNA kit, they waited for the results and ultimately connected with a cousin, leading Landis to his birth father, Greg Baker. "I don't have any regrets and I know he doesn't either, and the time was just right for us to meet," Landis told WLWT. "It was God's timing."

Landis and his wife flew to Orlando, where they met Baker, his mother, and his wife; Landis also found out that his birth mother died in 1997 and that he has a half-sister. "When I saw him and he looked just like me, there's no doubt," he said. "A DNA test wasn't even needed. I can't even explain the joy that I felt and then when I got to hold him and hug him. I felt that we belonged together." Baker told WLWT he always wanted to search for his son, but respected the fact it was a closed adoption. "I always thought about him, always prayed for him," he said. Catherine Garcia

12:21 a.m. ET

They didn't speak the same language, but it didn't matter — two young baseball players at the Little League World Series used technology to communicate.

Former ESPN anchor Bob Holtzman was at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Sunday when he stumbled upon a familiar scene: Two boys glued to their phones. But it turned out they weren't focusing on a game or surfing the internet — the players, one from South Dakota and the other from the Dominican Republic, were using Google Translate to talk to each another. Holtzman tweeted that watching these kids form a new friendship was the "coolest thing" he saw that day. Catherine Garcia

12:03 a.m. ET

One of the peculiarities of baseball is that in some of the most memorable games, very little happens. So it was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill pitched eight perfect innings, until Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer got to base on an error in the bottom of the ninth. Hill still had a no-hitter when the 0-0 game went into extra innings, and then Josh Harrison stepped up to plate in the bottom of the 10th.

Harrison's leadoff homer ended the game and Hill's (9-5) no-hitter, giving Pittsburgh the win and Hill the loss.

According to ESPN's statisticians, Hill still walked away with a record of sorts, albeit one he probably didn't want.

The last perfect game — where a pitcher doesn't allow any runner to reach base — in the major leagues was in 2012, when Seattle's Felix Hernandez shut out Tampa Bay. Los Angeles could have retired Hill after nine innings, but according to The Associated Press, "to get official credit for a no-hitter under Major League Baseball rules, a pitcher must complete the game — going nine innings isn't enough if it goes into extras." Still, cold comfort though it may be, Hill isn't alone in coming close and losing it all, AP notes: "Back in 1959, a Pirates pitcher had perhaps the most famous near-miss of all when Harvey Haddix lost his perfect game and the game itself in the 13th at Milwaukee." Peter Weber

August 23, 2017
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More than 1,000 demonstrators marched to the National Football League's headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday, in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick was criticized by some people for his decision to not stand during the national anthem, in protest of police brutality against blacks. In March, he opted out of his contract with the team he led to a Super Bowl, and he remains unsigned; supporters say he is being punished for his activism. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has denied that the league is blackballing him.

The demonstrators want to see Kaepernick signed by the start of the regular season in September. Many wore jerseys with Kaepernick's name on the back, The Associated Press reports, and chanted, "Boycott! Boycott!" Several people spoke, including Rev. Jamal Bryant, who asked the crowd: "How in the world can we call ourselves the land of the free, the home of the brave, and you get vilified and criminalized just for speaking your mind? The NFL has proven with their treatment of Colin Kaepernick that they do not mind if black players get a concussion, they just got a problem if black players get a conscience." Catherine Garcia

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