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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The father of a Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State militants in Syria is pleading for his son's release. The father is asking the militants to show "hospitality" toward his son, reminding them that his son also is a Muslim. The pilot (1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh) was captured after his warplane crashed in the militant stronghold of Raqqa yesterday while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis says, "Truly there are so many tears this Christmas." The pope delivered his Christmas message today, focusing on refugees, hostages and others suffering in the Middle East, African and Ukraine. He also expressed anguish for children who are victims of violence, like the recent terrorist attack on a Pakistani military school. Francis also thanked those courageously helping people infected with Ebola in Africa.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Senator John McCain is in Afghanistan today, ahead of the Dec. 31 pullout of American and NATO combat troops. The Republican met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive officer in separate meetings. Ghani praised the sacrifices of U.S. troops during their 13 years in the country. McCain emphasized America's long-term support for Afghanistan.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin is scrapping New Year's holidays for government ministers because of the unfolding economic crisis. Putin told a televised government session today that Cabinet ministers "cannot afford" to go on vacation. The country's economy, battered by low oil prices and Western sanctions, is set to enter recession next year for the first time in six years, while the ruble is now worth less than half of its earlier value.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown has continued his holiday tradition of issuing pardons to convicted criminals on Christmas Eve. Pardons were supposed to be given to 105 people, but the governor had to take one back. The governor's office says Glen William Carnes, who had been convicted of drug-related crimes as a teenager, had not disclosed recent discipline by financial regulators. Carnes says attorneys had told him no disclosure was needed and that he had been celebrating a pardon all week.
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