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Iowa superintendent steps up for teen immigrant; Catholic priest comes out in Wisconsin; some Republicans fear backlash over tax overhaul; more in U.S. news

Iowa

Superintendent steps up for teen

The superintendent of Iowa’s largest school district and his wife took in a Guatemalan immigrant after her parents were forced to leave the U.S. because they weren’t in the country legally. Jennifer Galdames, 17, was a year and a half from graduating when her stepfather and mother were detained in October while dropping off her 8-year-old sister at school, the Des Moines Register reported. Her father was killed in Guatemala years earlier due to the violence that has sent many fleeing north. Jennifer applied for legal residency by seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and her mother planned to send her to a relative in New Jersey while taking her youngest to Guatemala, but Jennifer didn’t want to leave. So Des Moines Schools superintendent Tom Ahart and Jami Bassman Ahart offered to serve as her temporary legal guardians so she can graduate and to help her work on a residence status. Newlyweds with a 6-year-old son, Jami said she and Tom had much to share and "too much love to keep to ourselves." Jennifer crossed the border alone three years ago, and her parents can’t pursue legal status. If she’s approved for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, she must wait five years before applying for citizenship. Jennifer isn’t eligible to work or receive a license until she has legal resident status. Jami gave Jennifer a phone so she can keep up with family and launched a fundraiser to help with college savings. Tom said he wants Jennifer to have the same opportunities as his son.

Nation

Trump celebrates tax win — but some Republicans fear backlash

President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans celebrated the passage of their $1.5 trillion tax overhaul Wednesday as a "historic victory for the American people." The American people, however, will need some convincing. As Trump and GOP lawmakers gathered at the White House to cheer their first major legislative achievement — and the biggest tax changes in a generation — some Republicans warned the party could face a painful political backlash against a deeply unpopular overhaul that offers corporations and wealthy taxpayers the biggest benefits and triggers the loss of health care coverage for millions of Americans. There was no hint of anxiety at the White House, though, as the president and congressional Republicans pushed any qualms aside. "We are making America great again," Trump declared, personally thanking his "little team" of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, before lawmakers lavished praise upon a president they have often openly criticized. "I don’t know if we’ll have bigger moments, but we hope to," Trump said.

With shutdown clock ticking,
GOP struggles for spending deal

With a shutdown clock ticking toward a midnight Friday deadline, congressional Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to finalize a must-pass spending bill. A major obstacle evaporated after key GOP senators dropped a demand to add health insurance subsidies for the poor. The No. 2 House Republican, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said party leaders have scrapped plans to combine a short-term spending bill with $81 billion worth of disaster aid and a $658 billion Pentagon funding measure. Instead, Republicans are likely to schedule a separate vote on the disaster package, he said. The strategy for averting a government shutdown appeared to be coming into focus, though it looks like many items on Capitol Hill’s list of unfinished business could be pushed into next year. It also appears the upcoming short-term measure will fund the government through mid-January. Democrats were rebuffed in their demands for protections for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

After loss of net neutrality:
Brace for internet ‘fast lanes’

Now that federal telecom regulators have repealed net neutrality, it may be time to brace for the arrival of internet "fast lanes" and "slow lanes." The net neutrality rules just voted down by the Federal Communications Commission prohibited such "paid prioritization," as it’s technically known. That’s when an internet provider, such as Verizon or Comcast, decides to charge services like YouTube or Amazon for faster access to users. Firms that decline to pay up could wind up in bumper-to-bumper slow lanes. The Associated Press queried seven major internet providers about their post-net-neutrality plans, and all of them equivocated when asked if they might establish fast and slow lanes. None of the seven companies — Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sprint and T-Mobile — would rule out the possibility. Three said they had "no plans" for paid prioritization, and a few declined to answer the question at all. By contrast, several of these firms promised not to block or slow down specific internet sites and services, two other practices prohibited by the expiring net-neutrality rules. (Those rules won’t formally end until sometime in early 2018.) Any such move could set off a public uproar and might even trigger an antitrust investigation. But hey, when was the last time a corporation went against public interest, or lied about it? — tbt* wires

Wisconsin

Catholic priest reveals secret:
‘I am gay’

For as long as he could remember, the Rev. Gregory Greiten lived with an oppressive secret. As a Roman Catholic seminary student, he was told that speaking about his secret would get him expelled. As a priest, he was told it could hurt his ministry. At one point in his life, he perched on a window ledge, tears running down his face as he contemplated leaping. But in a column published Monday in the National Catholic Reporter, the 52-year-old wrote three words: "I am gay." That phrase, he said, would finally free him, both as a man and as a minister who could better serve all parishioners at St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Milwaukee. "Today, I break the silence and emerge free from the shackles of shame placed upon me at a young age," he wrote. "There is so much to speak about, to repair and to heal — much beyond the limits of these words in print." The public proclamation was a rare one in the United States, where secular movements like same-sex marriage are challenging the Catholic doctrine that regards homosexual activity as a "sin" and a Vatican that says gay men and their allies are not to become priests. But Greiten’s statement also comes at a time when gay men and lesbians have a wider role in ministry and in Catholic activities, said Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, who has been an advocate for gay Catholics for four decades. In the past decade, about half a dozen priests in the United States have publicly said they are gay, he said. Greiten said that before coming out he had informed the archbishop of Milwaukee, who supported his plans. On Sunday, the priest told his parishioners, who gave a standing ovation, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In his column, Greiten described the difficulties with coming forward in an institution that, he said, pretends gay priests and followers do not exist. He also apologized to LGBTQ men and women for remaining silent for so long.

Pennsylvania

Police say woman stabbed roommate over candy

Authorities say a woman stabbed her roommate during a dispute over candy. Reading police say charges against Tracy Mitchell, 54, include aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. According to an affidavit, the victim said Mitchell was holding a pocket knife and a picture frame as they argued in their apartment Monday. She said Mitchell tried to strike her with the frame as they both fell. The woman tried to hold Mitchell on the ground, but Mitchell stabbed her once in the leg and left shortly afterward. The Reading Eagle reported Mitchell was taken to prison on $1,000 bail.

Illinois

Mystery runner helps save
mayor from frozen lake

A mystery Good Samaritan recently helped save an 80-year-old mayor who fell through thin ice on a lake while trying to save his dog. Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld was walking his dogs with his wife on Dec. 10 in the southern Chicago suburb when one dog fell into the lake. Hofeld, who didn’t have his cellphone, also fell in while lifting his 100-pound dog out. "Every time I tried to get up onto the ice, the ice broke and I went under," he said. A man jogging by called 911 and tried to pull him out by making a rope with his shirt and the couple’s jackets. Then emergency responders arrived and rescued Hofeld. The jogger left before anyone could get his name. "He really saved my life," Hofeld said. Officials said he had been in the freezing water for about 20 minutes and was treated for hypothermia and minor scrapes and bruises.

Mississippi

From our sinkhole to yours

There’s only one thing under the Christmas tree decorating Poplar Boulevard in Jackson — a pothole residents hope will get fixed soon. Last week, WLBT-TV reported someone placed a tree fully decorated in the small sinkhole that appeared weeks earlier. A sign on the tree says: "From our sinkhole to yours." Resident Kelsey Berry said the pothole posed a hazard to unsuspecting motorists because the street isn’t lit very well. Now, the tree’s lights help warn drivers to swerve around it.

Virginia

Control of state House
comes down to a coin toss

Control of the legislature hung in limbo Wednesday after a three-judge panel declined to certify the recount of a key House race, saying a questionable ballot should be counted in favor of incumbent Republican Del. David Yancey and tying a race that Democrats thought they won by a single vote. Yancey emerged from Election Day with a 10-vote lead in the 94th District, but the recount gave a one-vote victory to Democrat Shelly Simonds. That seemed to set up the House for a rare 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats, ending 17 years of GOP dominance. But the GOP challenged that Wednesday, and the judges — all elected by a Republican-controlled legislature — agreed, tying the race. An official said the winner will likely be chosen by placing names on slips of papers into two film canisters and then drawing the canisters from a bowl. The date and method are being decided. But it doesn’t end there. If the loser is unhappy with the result, they can seek a second recount. — tbt* wires

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