March 6, 2014

Pope Francis is popular among American Catholics, with 83 percent of them viewing him favorably — including 51 percent who have a "very favorable opinion" — according to a Pew poll released Thursday. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. Catholics said that a year into his papacy, Francis represents a major, positive change for the Catholic Church (2 percent said a major, negative change). But there appears to be little of the "Francis effect" in American churches: While a quarter of Catholics are more excited about their faith and 40 percent have been praying more often, the same 40 percent said they are going to mass each week (and some 42 percent at least once a year) as before Francis was elected.

Pope Francis also seems to inspire hope that the Catholic Church will change on some major issues, Pew found, despite the pope's suggestions otherwise. American Catholics, it turns out, are a fairly liberal bunch: 77 percent want the church to allow contraception, 73 percent support priests getting married, 68 percent support the ordination of women priests, and 50 percent want Rome to recognize same-sex marriages. Those numbers all drop slightly when Pew screened for weekly church attendance. Not that you'd want to take those numbers to the bank: Pew talked to a grand total of 351 Catholics for the survey — the size of a small parish. Peter Weber

October 13, 2019

After hearing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threaten for two years to launch an assault against the Kurds in Syria, President Trump and senior administration officials did not think he would ever go through with it, six people with knowledge of the matter told Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Their discussions started in 2017, with Erdogan telling Trump the Kurds, who hold control of northeastern Syria, are a threat to Turkey and need to be away from the border. Whenever he would say this, Axios reports, Trump would let Erdogan know that if he did invade, he would have to be solely responsible for whatever happened. During one conversation, Trump conveyed that Erdogan shouldn't mess with U.S. troops in Syria, but intimated that they wouldn't be there much longer and would not stay around to help the Kurds, people with knowledge of the matter told Axios.

Usually, Erdogan would take a few steps back, but last Sunday, he told Trump the invasion was on. Trump soon announced that U.S. troops would be pulled back from the border, a move that sparked bipartisan outrage, with lawmakers blasting Trump for turning on the United States' Kurdish allies. Erdogan thought Trump would reel him in, Turkish sources told Swan, and now he is in over his head as he faces international condemnation. Read more at Axios. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

With her two wins on Sunday, Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history.

Biles took home two gold medals — one for the balance beam and the other for her floor exercise — and now has 25 World Championship medals. Earlier in the competition, she won gold in the team competition, all-around and vault; she came in fifth-place on the uneven bars. The 22-year-old's Sunday wins put her ahead of Vitaly Scherbo, who earned the previous record of 23 world medals during the 1990s.

Biles' floor performance was so outstanding, with a triple-twisting double back, she earned a score of 15.133, one point higher than the second-place finisher, U.S. gymnast Sunisa Lee. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

President Trump made a grave mistake by pulling back troops in Syria last week, allowing Turkey to launch a military offensive against the Kurds, a retired four-star Marine general told CNN on Sunday.

"There is blood on Trump's hands for abandoning our Kurdish allies," Gen. John Allen said. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces worked with the United States for several years to fight the Islamic State, and held control of the northeastern border area. Since the Turkish assault began last week, video footage has emerged purportedly showing Turkish-backed militia fighters shooting Kurdish prisoners. This, Allen said, is a "full-blown ethnic cleansing."

The Kurds oversee prisons holding thousands of ISIS fighters, their families, and supporters, and hundreds escaped during fighting over the weekend. Allen — the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS during the Obama administration — said this chaos was "completely foreseeable" and "what happens when Trump follows his instincts and because of his alignment with autocrats."

Allen is also unmoved by Trump's approval of $50 million in aid to Syria. This gesture rings "hollow," he said, and there's no way to say if the money will go where it should. "Who's going to administer it and for whom?" Allen said. "Hundreds of thousands are fleeing and the relief agencies are on the move." Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

President Trump's decision to move U.S. troops from northern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to launch an assault against the Kurds, prompted the Kurds on Sunday to reach a protection deal with the Syrian government.

Under this agreement, Syrian government troops will be able to enter Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria for the first time in years, The New York Times reports. The United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, spent the last several years as allies, fighting against the Islamic State.

There are still ISIS sleeper cells in Syria, and many fear that the Turkish invasion could lead to the terror group's resurgence. Thousands of suspected ISIS supporters are being held in prisons guarded by Kurds, and hundreds escaped during fighting on Saturday and Sunday. Two U.S. officials told the Times the military recently tried to transfer five dozen "high value" ISIS detainees, but feeling betrayed, the Kurds said no.

The Syrian government, which counts Iran and Russia as its allies, said on Sunday it will fight the "Turkish aggression," while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops have control over about 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday morning announced all American troops will withdraw from northern Syria, in order to stay out of the crossfire. Catherine Garcia

October 13, 2019

It looks like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is beginning to distance himself from his good friend Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) policy-wise.

The two Democratic presidential candidates have always gotten along well and are generally ideological allies, especially relative to many of their primary competitors. But Sanders was pretty clear in an interview that aired on ABC's This Week Sunday that Warren has a ways to go before she's at the same point on the political spectrum.

Sanders praised Warren's tenure as a senator and reaffirmed their friendship, but he said "there are differences" in their platforms, namely the fact that Warren has maintained she is a capitalist "through her bones." He said the country doesn't need more regulation, but rather a "political revolution" and he believes he's the only candidate who will stand up to the corporate elite in the U.S. and say "enough." He said that Warren would speak for herself on the matter, but, for the moment, Sanders, who considers himself a democratic socialist, thinks her adherence to capitalism is reason enough to separate them.

The initial analysis of Sanders' comments seems to be that Sanders recognizes he's falling behind Warren in the race, and understands focusing on where they differ might be his best chance at getting back in contention. Tim O'Donnell

October 13, 2019

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had some mixed reviews for the Trump administration Sunday.

During an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, Cruz told host Margaret Brennan that he believes it was inappropriate for President Trump to have asked the Chinese government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Cruz said "elections in the United States should be decided by Americans and it's not the business of foreign countries to be interfering in our elections."

He did, however, praise the administration for agreeing to release the transcript of Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump is accused of pressuring his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the Bidens. And the senator wasn't ready to let the Bidens off the hook, either, saying that if there's "credible evidence" of wrongdoing, he would support a Justice Department probe. He also had some advice for Biden — Cruz urged him to follow in Trump's footsteps and release the transcript of his own conversations with Ukraine from when he was vice president, so that the American people can judge for themselves. Tim O'Donnell

October 13, 2019

One game is already under way in the NFL, but there's a lot more to come. Here are four Week 6 games to keep an eye on:

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET on CBS — This matchup between two potential playoff teams could be an offensive explosion. Kansas City and Houston feature two of the game's top young playmakers in quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson, respectively. Houston was clicking on all cylinders last week when they torched the Atlanta Falcons for 53 points behind a stellar Watson performance. Kansas City and Mahomes, meanwhiel, played their worst game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts last week.

Miami Dolphins vs. Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET on Fox — Full disclosure: this is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Miami and Washington are probably two of the worst teams in the league this year, but one of them will have to win this one. It's also Washington's first game since firing head coach Jay Gruden earlier this week. In the long run, though, this is about the race for the number one pick.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET on Fox — Alright, back to quality football. After a rough start to the season, the Eagles look formidable again, but a road game in Minnesota remains a tall task. Minnesota has had an up and down season, but they're coming off a strong performance against a weak New York Giants team. This should be a good litmus test for two 3-2 teams aiming for division crowns.

Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. ET on Fox — This promises to be an exciting divisional game. The Rams have been a bit of disappointment this year, but knocking off the 49ers, who remain the only undefeated team not called the New England Patriots, would be a great way to shake off some of their post-Super Bowl rustiness. The Niners, meanwhile, just destroyed the Cleveland Browns last Monday and look like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Tim O'Donnell

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