But cars reinforce the prospect that the readjustment period could last a while.

Automakers are flirting with the idea of keeping production lower so there are fewer cars in the market and price cuts are less common. Mr. Smoke is skeptical that they will hold that line once it means ceding market share to competitors — but the process could take months or years.

“I’m hesitant to say that we won’t have discounting again,” Mr. Smoke said. “But it’s going to take a while to get back to that world.”

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New Model To Enlist Regular Americans To Resettle Refugees

Neighbors, co-workers, faith groups and friends have banded together in “sponsor circles” to help Afghans get settled in their communities.

When nearly 80,000 Afghans arrived in the United States, refugee resettlement agencies quickly became overwhelmed, still scrambling to rehire staff and reopen offices after being gutted as the Trump administration dropped refugee admissions to a record low.

So the U.S. State Department, working with humanitarian organizations, turned to ordinary Americans to fill the gap. Neighbors, co-workers, faith groups and friends banded together in “sponsor circles” to help Afghans get settled in their communities.

They raised money and found the newcomers homes to rent, enrolled their children in schools, taught them how to open bank accounts and located the nearest mosques and stores selling halal meat.

Since the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Kabul last year, the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans has helped over 600 Afghans restart their lives. When Russia invaded Ukraine, a similar effort was undertaken for Ukrainians.

Now the Biden administration is preparing to turn the experiment into a private-sponsorship program for refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and is asking organizations to team up with it to launch a pilot program by the end of 2022.

The move comes amid increasing pressure on President Joe Biden, who vowed in a 2021 executive order to increase opportunities for Americans to resettle refugees and restore the U.S. as the world’s safe haven. The Trump administration decimated the refugee program, which traditionally tasks nine resettlement agencies with placing refugees in communities.

Experts say the private sponsorship model could transform the way America resettles refugees and ensure a door remains open no matter who is elected.

“I think there is a real revolution right now that is happening in terms of American communities and communities around the world that are raising their hands and saying, `We want to bring in refugees,'” said Sasha Chanoff, founder and CEO of RefugePoint, a Boston–based nonprofit that helped jumpstart the effort.

It comes as the number of people forced to flee their homes topped 100 million this year, the first time on record, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The pilot program will incorporate lessons learned from the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, which was developed as an emergency measure to accelerate the resettlement of Afghans, with many languishing on U.S. bases. But the pilot program will differ because it is intended to be “an enduring element of U.S. refugee resettlement,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an email to The Associated Press.

The pilot program will match regular Americans with refugees overseas who have already been approved for admission to the U.S., the spokesperson said. Later, the plan will let Americans identify a refugee overseas and apply to resettle them.

Canada has used private sponsorship for decades to augment its government program.

Chanoff said the new model should also be in addition to the traditional U.S. government refugee program, which has admitted only about 15% of the 125,000 cap Biden set for the budget year that ends Sept. 30. The Biden administration has been slow to beef up staff and overcome the huge backlog, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to advocates.

Those numbers exclude the roughly 180,000 Afghans and Ukrainians who were mostly admitted through humanitarian parole, a temporary legal option that was intended to get them in quicker but left them with less government support.

Regular Americans helped fill that need, Afghan families say.

Under the Sponsor Circle Program for Afghans, participants underwent background checks, received training and developed a three-month plan. Each group had to raise at least $2,275 for each person who was resettled, the same allocation the U.S. government gives agencies for each refugee.

Mohammad Walizada, who fled Kabul with his family, said five days after he was connected to a sponsor circle with the Four Rivers Church in New Hampshire, his family moved into a furnished home in Epping, a town of about 7,000 residents.

Meanwhile, Afghan friends and relatives spent months on U.S. bases waiting to be placed by a resettlement agency, he said. Many ended up in California, staying in hotels because of the lack of affordable housing, and with just three months of government assistance.

He said his sponsor circle gave his family 10 months worth of rent and a car, and someone still checks on him, his wife and six children daily. Each circle gets a mentor who coaches them from WelcomeNST, an organization created in 2021 to help Americans resettle Afghans and now Ukrainians. The organization offers a Slack channel for circles and partners with the resettlement agency, HIAS, which connects them to caseworkers when needed.

The New Hampshire team has more than 60 members helping people like Walizada.

“I feel like I have a lot of family here now,” Walizada said.

To be sure, regular Americans have always helped resettle refugees, but not at this scale since the 1980 U.S. Refugee Act created the formal program, experts say.

A similar outpouring of goodwill happened when the Biden administration launched Uniting for Ukraine, which allows Ukrainians fleeing the war into the U.S. for two years with a private sponsor. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the program, received more than 117,000 applications through August.

Hundreds of Americans have formed teams to resettle Ukrainians, including in Wyoming — the only state that has never allowed an official refugee resettlement program.

“We just wanted to be able to do something and we have such a beautiful community here,″ said Darren Adwalpalker, pastor at Highland Park Community Church in Casper, who formed a group that sponsored three Ukrainians who arrived to the city of 60,000 in June.

Adwalpalker got support from humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse.

“Without private sponsorship, this would not have been possible for a lot of these communities with tremendous resources and goodwill to do this,” said Krista Kartson, who directs its refugee programs.

With $3,000, the pastor said his group provided an apartment for six months for the one Ukrainian who stayed in Casper. Just about everything else — grocery store gift cards, furniture — was donated.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that the whole idea of a resettlement office isn’t that significant” if there are people on the ground willing to help, said Adwalpalker.

“We’ve got dentists working on their teeth. We have doctors seeing them. We have lawyers helping with their immigration paperwork.”

Rudi Berkelhamer, a retired biology professor, wanted to help because her grandparents fled attacks on Jews in the early 20th century in what is now Ukraine.

She was connected to a sponsor circle in Irvine, California, through HIAS, which requires a six-month commitment. Circle members had a week to get to know each other and draft a plan before they were matched to an Afghan family — a young couple and their 3-year-old son — in February.

Berkelhamer shuttled furniture to the family’s home and got them set up with computers and cellphones. Others got them bus passes.

The father — a mechanical engineer who worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan — found work at a parachute factory. The mother is taking English classes, and their son is attending preschool.

Berkelhamer sees the family every two weeks. This summer, she went to a museum with the mom and another circle member to paint parasols and have lunch. She plans to keep helping.

“It is not just the necessities; it is doing those kinds of things that make it so meaningful,” she said.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee Narrowly Wins Democratic Primary

McKee edged out former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who saw a late surge in the polls and won an endorsement from The Boston Globe’s editorial board.

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee eked out a victory in his Democratic primary on Tuesday, beating back strong challenges from a pair of opponents as he seeks his first full term in office.

McKee, the former lieutenant governor who became the state’s chief executive a year and a half ago when two-term Gov. Gina Raimondo was tapped as U.S. commerce secretary, will be the heavy favorite in the liberal state in November against Republican Ashley Kalus, a business owner and political novice.

McKee edged out former CVS executive Helena Foulkes, who saw a late surge in the polls and won a last-minute endorsement from The Boston Globe’s editorial board. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who was seeking to become the first Latina governor in New England, finished a close third.

“I’m proud to be here,” the 71-year-old governor said in his victory speech. “Because Rhode Island is positioned in a way where we’ve never had this momentum before and we’re going to take full advantage of it.”

In an awkward moment, a phone was handed toward McKee during the speech. When he was told it was Foulkes, McKee said, “No, that’s not going to happen.” As the crowd chanted “four more years,” McKee said, “Hang up on them, hang up on them.”

Foulkes told her supporters she was unhappy McKee wouldn’t answer her call.

In the last primaries before the November general election, voters in Rhode Island were choosing nominees for statewide offices, U.S. House, the state Legislature and local positions. New Hampshire and Delaware also held primaries on Tuesday.

With his victory, McKee avoided becoming the first governor to lose his primary since 2018, when Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer narrowly lost the Republican nomination to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who went on to lose the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly. Like McKee, Colyer took over when the sitting governor resigned for another job.

In his campaign, McKee touted his leadership in navigating the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic after he was sworn in as governor in March 2021. Foulkes said she would work to find new ways for companies to invest in Rhode Island and help existing companies find new markets. Gorbea argued the state needed better leadership on issues like housing, education and climate change.

Besides McKee, Foulkes and Gorbea, two other Democrats were also seeking the nomination: former Secretary of State Matt Brown, a progressive; and community activist Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz.

Kalus easily defeated her lone Republican rival, Jonathan Riccitelli, whom the Globe reported had been arrested dozens of times since 2000 under a different name, on charges ranging from obstructing police officers to assault, according to court records.

Kalus, who owns a COVID-19 testing company that’s in a dispute with the state over a canceled contract, moved to Rhode Island last year from Illinois and previously worked for former Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. She said Rhode Island needs a fighter like her, now more than ever, because every day gets harder for working families.

In another top race on Tuesday, voters were choosing nominees in the 2nd Congressional District for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, who is retiring after more than 20 years representing the district. Langevin was the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress.

State Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who was endorsed by Langevin, won the crowded Democratic primary. Republican Allan Fung, the former mayor of Cranston, was unopposed in his bid for the Republican nomination. National Republican leaders think this is their best chance to flip the seat in more than three decades. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy visited Rhode Island in August to raise money for Fung.

Magaziner had been running for governor but switched races after Langevin’s announcement to try to keep the seat in Democratic control. Magaziner told supporters Tuesday night that the election is about values and preserving democracy for the next generation.

In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. David Cicilline will face Republican Allen Waters in November. Both were unopposed Tuesday. Cicilline is seeking his seventh term.

But the top race in Rhode Island on Tuesday was the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Both McKee and Gorbea benefited from the base of support and name recognition they have gotten since both were elected to statewide office in 2014. Foulkes proved to be an adept fundraiser and spent heavily on the race in her first bid for public office.

Late in the primary, Gorbea’s campaign aired an attack ad to criticize McKee over the awarding of a controversial state contract that the FBI is now investigating. It had to pull the ad because of errors in it, including featuring an article by a conservative commentator who was criticizing McKee on another issue. McKee’s campaign said the governor would continue to rise above dirty politics and false attacks, and show “leadership when it matters most.”

McKee was endorsed by a host of large unions, including those representing teachers, firefighters, building trades and auto workers. He highlighted his efforts to help the state’s economy recover from COVID-19, the gun control bills he signed into law and his efforts to protect access to abortion care.

He had a memorable ad of his own, called “motha,” featuring his 94-year-old mother. As he plays cards with her, he discusses the state’s economic recovery from COVID-19, eliminating the state’s car tax, creating affordable housing and passing gun safety laws to keep families safe.

“Not bad for a year and a half,” the governor says.

His mother, Willa, replies, “Not bad for a governor that lives with his motha.”

During his victory speech, McKee ticked off his accomplishments and asked the crowd, “Are you ready?” He said, “Not bad for 18 months.” Laughing, some of his supporters said Willa’s line, “Not bad for a governor that lives with his mother.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Don Bolduc Declares Victory In GOP New Hampshire Senate Primary

Don Bolduc will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in the November midterms.

The Republican stage for retaking the Senate majority this coming November is finally set, as retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc declared himself the winner Tuesday night.

Chuck Morse, the Senate president in New Hampshire, who was viewed as the mainstream, more moderate Republican choice, announced that he was conceding in a tweet saying “It’s been a long night and we’ve come up short. I want to thank my supporters for all the blood sweat and tears they poured into this team effort. I just called and wished all the best to General Don Bolduc.”

Bolduc’s focus this fall now needs to be on defeating Maggie Hassan; Bolduc is the candidate Democrats preferred, as they immediately wasted no time in blasting him as someone who is far-right with his positions.

Democratic voters in New Hampshire appear to be galvanizing over the Supreme Court’s move overturning nationwide access to abortion.

“I think that women across our whole country are energized because of the overturning of Roe, which we thought they would never see, so I think people realize what they can do is vote,” said Heather Krans, a New Hampshire voter.

“We’ve got to get the women back their rights. I mean, this is ridiculous,” said George Drinkwater of Newfields, New Hampshire.

But Democrats aren’t the only party saying they are motivated to vote in November.

“The people in New Hampshire are tired of what’s happening with this administration and it’s time to hold this administration accountable,” said Kevin Ray, who voted in the GOP Primary.

Bolduc says he’s the best option to recall Hassan from Washington.

“I will be able to go to Washington, D.C., be beholden to nobody but Granite Staters. That’s what they want. That’s the difference they’re looking for,” said Bolduc.

Bolduc tried to paint Hassan as out of touch with voters.

“Their No. 1 issues are inflation, energy, and safety and security. All those things that Maggie Hassan has failed at, for Granite Staters and Americans,” Bolduc said.

But with control of the Senate hanging in the balance, President Joe Biden’s Granite State favorability ratings hit just 22% in the latest poll, meaning Hassan may have to rely on voters looking past the president.

“The issues on the ballot are really going to drive the people out — abortion, Supreme Court, stuff like that — not that Biden’s going keep them away,” said Guy Cayton of Exeter, New Hampshire.

But Tuesday morning, before Don Bolduc was declared the winner of the Republican primary, the first-term Democratic senator told Newsy she expects to fight for survival.

“This will be a close race because it always is in New Hampshire. Everybody takes their responsibility very, very seriously here as voters. And I’m looking forward to making my case about my bipartisan record of results. And I will draw a sharp contrast with my opponent,” Hassan said.

Source: newsy.com

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Republican Senate Race Takes Center Stage In New Hampshire’s Primary

New Hampshire is getting ready to choose a candidate to challenge the state’s first-term Democratic senator.

Democratic voters in New Hampshire appear to be galvanizing over the Supreme Court’s move overturning nationwide access to abortion.  

“I think that women across our whole country are energized because of the overturning of Roe which we thought they would never see, so I think people realize what they can do is vote,” said Heather Krans, a New Hampshire voter. 

“We’ve got to get the women back their rights, I mean this is ridiculous,” said George Drinkwater, who lives in Newfields, New Hampshire.  

But Democrats aren’t the only party saying they are motivated to vote in November. 

Kevin Ray voted in the GOP Primary. 

“The people in New Hampshire are tired of what’s happening with this administration and its time to hold this administration accountable,” said Ray. 

The Republican frontrunners in the state’s closely-watched senate race is retired General Don Bolduc and State Senate President Chuck Morse, who both say they’re the best option to recall Democrat Maggie Hassan from Washington.  

“As Senate president in New Hampshire, I think I’ve proved that I can get things done. I’ve lowered taxes, created education freedom accounts, and we passed constitutional carry,” said Morse. 

“Their number one issues are inflation, energy, safety and security. All those things that Maggie Hassan has failed at, for Granite Staters and Americans,” said Bolduc. 

But with control of the Senate hanging in the balance, President Joe Biden’s Granite State favorability ratings hit just 22% in the latest poll — meaning Hassan may have to rely on voters looking past the president.  

“The issues on the ballot are really going to drive the people out — abortion, Supreme Court, stuff like that — not that President Biden’s gonna keep em away,” said Guy Cayton, an Exeter, New Hampshire resident.   

But regardless of Republican nominees, the first term Democratic senator expects to have to fight for survival. 

“This will be a close race, because it always is in New Hampshire. Everybody takes that responsibility very, very seriously here as voters. And I’m looking forward to making my case about my bipartisan record of results. And I will draw a sharp contrast with my opponent,” said Hassan. 

Source: newsy.com

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Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate

Democrats seem to have found a bright spot for their chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

It’s Labor Day and we’re just over two months out from the general election. But despite legislative wins over the summer, Democrats across the country are fighting for reelection in the shadow of President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. But they seem to have found a bright spot for democratic chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

Heidi Heitkamp served as a Democratic U.S. Senator in North Dakota. She was elected in 2012 but lost her seat in the 2018 midterms. 

“I think that there is a critical importance not to run away from the president,” the One Country Project Founder said.

Heitkamp is no stranger to hyper-partisan politics where even the word “bipartisanship” might not sit well with swing state voters.

“Well, I think the first thing is, don’t use the word “bipartisan,” she said. “I think you say, ‘Do you want to get stuff done?’ … Don’t talk in generalities. Talk in specifics. What [does] this means to people’s lives?”

But, if history is any indication, it might be nearly impossible for Democrats to hold on to the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

But in the Senate, the president’s party remains on the offensive, hoping to expand their majority in 2022.

Ed Pagano served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate from 2012 to 2014. He was charged with pushing the Obama administration’s policies on Capitol Hill.  

“The control of the senate really is critical,” the Akin Gump Partner said. “It determines what bills are on the floor, what nominations move forward? Who is the chairman or the chair of the committees of jurisdiction?”  

Pagano is no stranger to just how hard it can be to get Republicans on board with a Democratic president’s agenda.

“Social issues? I don’t see any agreement. And as for spending, very little,” he continued.

Right now, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. It’s a simple majority when Vice President Kamala Harris exercises her role as president of the Senate and casts the tie breaking vote for Democrats.

This year, Democrats are defending vulnerable Senators in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. But on the offensive they’re looking to flip seats in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Three of those states are up for grabs, with incumbent Republicans not seeking re-election.

Despite the number of competitive races, recent polls show several Democratic candidates leading in key swing states.

“I think we’ve nominated some great candidates to deliver that message in the middle of the country. And then they’ve nominated just outrageously extreme candidates,” Heitkamp said.

But if Democrats lose just one seat in the Senate, they could end up in the same situation as President Obama’s final two years in office after he lost the Senate and the House with little Democrats to do other than hope for executive action — but leaving them virtually powerless to push through the president’s nominees. 

“Losing the Senate can actually be more detrimental because you lose the nominations/ You lose the ability to put in lifetime appointments on the judiciary,” Prime Policy Group Senior Adviser Marty Paone said. “I mean, you just look at the Merrick Garland failure for one.” 

And if Democrats do lose the Senate, it could mean a major roadblock to Biden’s agenda — something Republican Senate candidates are campaigning on, making the race all about President Biden in many of the 34 states with Senators up for re-election.

Source: newsy.com

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Pence Says He Didn’t Leave Office With Classified Material

By Associated Press
August 20, 2022

The disclosure comes after FBI agents seized classified and top secret information from his former boss’s Florida estate on Aug. 8.

Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he didn’t take any classified information with him when he left office.

The disclosure — which would typically be unremarkable for a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents seized classified and top secret information from his former boss’s Florida estate on Aug. 8 while investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. Former President Donald Trump has claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified.”

Pence, asked directly if he had retained any classified information upon leaving office, told The Associated Press in an interview, “No, not to my knowledge.”

Despite the inclusion of material marked “top secret” in the government’s list of items recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Pence said, “I honestly don’t want to prejudge it before until we know all the facts.”

Pence was in Iowa on Friday as part of a two day-trip to the state, which hosts the leadoff Republican presidential caucuses. It comes as the former vice president has made stops in other early voting states as he takes steps toward mounting a 2024 White House campaign.

Pence also weighed in on Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary defeat earlier in the week to a rival backed by Trump. Cheney, who is arguably Trump’s most prominent Republican critic, has called the former president “a very grave threat and risk to our republic” and further raised his ire through her role as vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“My reaction was, the people of Wyoming have spoken,” said Pence, who was targeted at the Capitol that day by angry rioters, including some who chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” “And, you know, I accept their judgment about the kind of representation they want on Capitol Hill.”

Pence said he has “great respect” for Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served two terms under President George W. Bush.

“And I appreciate the conservative stance Congresswoman Cheney has taken over the years,” Pence continued. “But I’ve been disappointed in the partisan taint of the Jan. 6 committee from early on.”

Pence’s aides said the committee contacted his legal team months ago to see if he would be willing to testify. Although Pence has said he would give “due consideration” to cooperating, he was adamant that the historic nature of such participation must be warranted and agreed upon.

“Beyond my concerns about the partisan nature of the Jan. 6 committee, there are profound constitutional issues that have to be considered,” he said. “No vice president has ever been summoned to testify before the Congress of the United States.”

Speaking further about the search of Mar-a-Lago, the former vice president raised the possibility, as he has previously, that the investigation was politically motivated and called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to disclose more details on what led authorities to conduct the search.

“The concern that millions of Americans felt is only going to be resolved with daylight,” Pence said Friday. “I know that’s not customary in an investigation. But this is unprecedented action by the Justice Department, and I think it merits an unprecedented transparency.”

The Jan. 6 insurrection marked the first in a number of public breaks between Trump and his once devout No. 2. But Pence has been careful not to alienate Republicans who have supported Trump but might be looking for another candidate in the 2024 election. Despite his reluctance to criticize the former president, Pence has occasionally spoken out against Trump, criticizing the attack at the U.S. Capitol and more recently urging his fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search of Mar-a-Lago.

“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence said Wednesday at a political breakfast in New Hampshire. “Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop.”

Pence said Friday that he would make a decision early next year about whether to run for the White House, a move that his aides have said will be independent of what Trump decides to do.

Having visited the Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon, Pence also headlined a fundraiser earlier in the day for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and was scheduled to speak to a Christian conservative group and a northern Iowa county Republican Party fundraiser before leaving Saturday.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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The Meaning Behind Pope Francis’ Meeting With Transgender People

Some say Pope Francis’s meeting with transgender people may not translate into doctrinal change, but it could lead to cultural acceptance.

Father James Martin has taken his message of prayer and inclusivity just about everywhere, from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to the halls of the Vatican.

In May, he wrote to Pope Francis with a few questions.

“I just wanted to give him a time to briefly talk to LGBTQ Catholics,” Martin said.

Francis has extended apologies to the abused and a welcome to the historically rejected. According to the Vatican News, he recently met with transgender people near Rome, Italy.

So Martin’s questions aren’t so random.

“I asked him, ‘What would you most like them to know about the church?'” Martin said. “He said, ‘Read Acts of the Apostles,’ which was really interesting because there’s a church that’s kind of mixing it up. Then also, ‘What would you say to an LGBTQ Catholic who felt rejected by the church?’ And he said very interestingly to remember that it’s not the church that rejects you, the church loves you, but it might be individual people in the church.”

It isn’t the first time Francis has corresponded directly with Martin on LGBTQ relations or the first time he has spoken up about their place within the Catholic church.

In 2016, Francis agreed the church should apologize to not only gay people but other marginalized groups, like the poor. He’s also called for parents to accept their LGBTQ children.

Francis’ gestures are one thing; changing church doctrine, which teaches that the act of homosexuality is sinful, is another.

“What would have happened really, in a sense, is for theologians working together, along with church officials, to come to some newer understanding of how they can accommodate for older church teaching on these issues, to show that the church evolves rather than dramatically changing,” said Michele Dillon, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. “Because the church is not going to say, ‘Oh, we were wrong.’ It’s very rare.”

“If he were to do that, which I don’t think Pope Francis will, but if he were to do that, he would not want to do it without support from the Curia and the College of Cardinals,” said Cristina Traina, professor of Catholic theology at Fordham University. “He would not want to do it without tracing a pathway theologically.”

Instead, Francis has gone another direction: one met with both criticism and praise, uplifting LGBTQ Catholics while simultaneously reiterating church doctrine.  

NEWSY’S AMBER STRONG: Is he sort of riding the line between saying that this is doctrine, and doctrines not going to change. But, we also still need to love and affirm people as well?

FATHER JAMES MARTIN: I think that’s a good question, and I think he is kind of trying to straddle that line. But I think one thing to remember is that what seems very bland and tepid in the United States — overseas is a big deal. In the U.S., we might say, ‘Oh, big deal. Of course, you should welcome your kids.’ If you’re in Eastern Europe or sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America or India, that’s a big deal. So, we have to remember that he’s speaking to the whole church.”

According to Pew Research, 76% of U.S. Catholics say society should be accepting of homosexuality. That’s below the rate of Catholic support in countries like Spain and the Netherlands but far higher than places like Lebanon and Nigeria.

Some theologians argue that Francis’ support could have a trickle-down impact on individual Catholics and parishes.

“These things can do a lot to encourage Catholics to embrace LGBTQ people with love and compassion and mercy and not to see them as the Antichrist, the anathema, the enemy of salvation,” Traina said.

In 2021, a group of catholic leaders, including a cardinal and archbishop, signed a statement calling for widespread support of at-risk LGBTQ youth. According to an NCR analysis of recent listening sessions among U.S. Catholics, there was a growing call for LGBTQ inclusion and more opportunities for women.  

“To me, there’s no such thing as an empty gesture because, yes, many times people want to see more clear cut evidence of change and of their acceptance within the church, but sometimes it’s in small steps,” Dillon said.

In 2021, Martin, a Vatican appointee under Francis, launched Outreach: a website that provides resources to LGBTQ Catholics and leaders. It’s an effort Pope Francis has encouraged.

“He hasn’t changed any church teaching,” Martin said. “I’m not advocating for any church teaching, but he’s advocated a more pastoral response, listening to them, welcoming them, treating them with the respect.

Source: newsy.com

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Putin’s Ukraine Gamble Pivots to a Very Different Battlefield

KYIV, Ukraine — There are fields instead of city streets, farmsteads instead of apartment buildings. Open highways stretch to the horizon.

The battles in the north that Ukraine won over the past seven weeks raged in towns and densely populated suburbs around the capital, Kyiv, but the war is about to take a hard turn to the southeast and into a vast expanse of wide-open flatland, fundamentally changing the nature of the combat, the weapons at play and the strategies that might bring victory.

Military analysts, Ukrainian commanders, soldiers and even Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, acknowledge that a wider war that began with a failed attempt to capture the capital will now be waged in the eastern Donbas region.

With few natural barriers, the armies can try to flank and surround each other, firing fierce barrages of artillery from a distance to soften enemy positions.

Russia invaded in February, Ukraine had been fighting Russia-backed separatists there since 2014, when Moscow fomented an uprising and sent in forces to support it. That war had settled into a stalemate, with each side controlling territory and neither gaining much ground.

Now, what may be the decisive phase of Mr. Putin’s latest war is returning to that same region, blighted by eight years of conflict and littered with land mines and trenches, as he tries to conquer the portion of Donbas still held by Ukraine. Neither side has made a major move in recent days, and analysts say it will most likely require a long and bloody conflict for either one to prevail.

Slovakia this week provided Ukraine with a potent, long-range antiaircraft missile system, the S-300. And on Wednesday, President Biden announced an $800 million military aid package to Ukraine that for the first time included more-powerful weaponry, including 18 155-millimeter howitzers, 40,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 200 armored personnel carriers.

warn the United States of “unpredictable consequences” of shipping such arms, American officials said on Friday.

Perhaps the biggest difference from the northern phase of the war, fought among towns, woods and hills, will be the terrain. Military analysts are forecasting an all-out, bloody battle on the steppe.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” said Maksim Finogin, a veteran of Ukraine’s conflict in Donbas.

considering applying for membership in the alliance. Dmitri A. Medvedev, Russia’s former president and prime minister, said Moscow would be forced to “seriously strengthen” its defenses in the Baltics if the two countries were to join.

“The surrounding forces draw in closer, tighten the flanks and then methodically destroy” those trapped inside with artillery, he said, recalling a strategy that nearly cost him his life.

designated a single theater commander, Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, a former commander of the Russian army in Syria known for brutal tactics there.

And the fight in the east will begin closer to supply lines stretching back to the Russian border; that could be key for a mechanized Russian army advancing in a major conventional assault across the countryside.

“They are now prepared to fight the war that they really want,” the retired Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, a former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, said of the Russians. “They want to meet force on force in open fields and go at it.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kyiv, Ukraine; Eric Schmitt from Washington; Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkiv, Ukraine; and Michael Schwirtz from Lviv, Ukraine.

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