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Worshippers rejoice in Jesus' Bethlehem birthplace
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 08:07

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Pilgrims celebrated Christmas Day Wednesday in the ancient Bethlehem church where tradition holds Jesus was born, as candles illuminated the sacred site and the joyous sound of prayer filled its overflowing halls.

This year's turnout has been the largest in years in Bethlehem and the celebrations have been marked by careful optimism amid ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Leaders expressed hope that the coming year would finally bring the Palestinians an independent state of their own.

The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, led a prayer for some 1,000 worshippers as bells rang and tourists from around the world flocked to the fourth-century Church of the Nativity complex to see the grotto that is Jesus' traditional birthplace.

"The whole world now is looking at Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus," Twal said in his annual address. "The Holy Land is where Jesus was born in the grotto and we have to reflect this bright picture of Jesus by representing the morals of Jesus, the message of Jesus — the message of love and reconciliation."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 December 2013 08:10
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Drummer Ricky Lawson, 59, dies after aneurism
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 07:47

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Studio drummer Ricky Lawson, a collaborator with musicians including Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston, has died at a suburban Los Angeles hospital following a brain aneurism. He was 59.

Lawson's uncle, Paul Riser of Detroit, said Tuesday that Lawson was removed from life support 10 days after the aneurism diagnosis and died around 7 p.m. Monday.

Lawson was being treated at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif., about 25 miles south of Los Angeles.

The Detroit native learned to play drums at age 16 and jumped into the music business even before graduating from Cooley High School, developing into one of the nation's top studio musicians in the 1980s.

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Pope's Christmas wish: hope for a better world
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 07:43

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Christmas Day is wishing for a better world, with peace for the land of Jesus' birth, for Syria and Africa, as well as for the dignity of migrants and refugees fleeing misery and conflict.

Francis spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica Wednesday to tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining in the song of Christmas angels with all those hoping "for a better world," and with those who "care for others, humbly."

Among places ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Iraq. He also prayed for fruitful peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians

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Two-year renovation starts for Capitol's famous dome
Written by CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 07:47

WASHINGTON (AP) — A world-famous symbol of democracy is going under cover, as workers start a two-year, $60 million renovation of the U.S. Capitol dome.

Curved rows of scaffolds, like Saturn's rings, will encircle it next spring, enabling contractors to strip multiple layers of paint and repair more than 1,000 cracks and broken pieces. The dome will remain illuminated at night and partly visible through the scaffolding and paint-capturing cloths. But the Washington icon -- and portions of the Rotunda's painted ceiling that lies below -- will be significantly obscured for many months.

The project is beginning just as the nearby Washington Monument sheds scaffolding that was used to repair damage from a 2011 earthquake.

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Holiday power outages challenge Christmas cheer
Written by ALANNA DURKIN, Associated Press COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 15:46

DETROIT (AP) — A massive ice storm blacked out homes from the Plains to the far Northeast of the U.S., dealing a big "bah humbug" to thousands of families whose Christmas Eve was shaping up to be very cold and very dark.

Utility crews worked around the clock Tuesday to restore service to the more than half a million homes and businesses still without power since the deadly arctic blast slammed much of the country over the weekend. Some hardy revelers prepared to hunker down for the holiday, despite the lack of electricity, while others packed up their wrapped gifts and headed off to stay with family or friends.

The Potbury family was among nearly a quarter-million Michigan residents without power Tuesday. The family of four, of Mount Morris Township near Flint, lost electricity at 6 a.m. Sunday and has since stayed in a single bedroom warmed by generator-powered space heaters.

Lights on the Christmas tree of course were dark — one of several festive frustrations.

"Even though the house is freezing cold, the freezer items were starting to thaw out," John Potbury said.

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