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Pope prays for peace...Migrants swim for Spain...Charity single tops Bieber

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is praying that peace processes for Syria and Libya will succeed in ending the suffering of the people of those countries. Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the pope today denounced the ongoing conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine -- and also spoke of the "brutal acts of terrorism" that struck the French capital this year. And he said Christians being persecuted for their faith in many parts of the world "are our martyrs of today."

MADRID (AP) — Moroccan and Spanish news agencies say more than 200 migrants tried swim to Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta (SYOO'-tuh), a city on the northwestern tip of Africa bordering Morocco. And although 180 made it, two drowned, 12 were injured and others were intercepted before reaching Spanish soil. The International Organization for Migration says more than 1 million people have entered Europe this year, driven out of their homelands by war, poverty or persecution.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan forces are still battling to push the Taliban out of a strategic southern district. That word comes from a provincial official. Intense battles have raged for a week after the Taliban overran much of the area. U.S. airstrikes have helped Afghan troops in their effort to push back the Taliban.

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge is allowing fishermen in Hawaii to continue catching more bigeye tuna than the maximum set by international regulators. The judge rejected the claims from environmental groups that the extra fishing is illegal. The opinion came just in time for the year-end holidays when Hawaii consumers crowd stores to buy ahi sashimi for Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

LONDON (AP) — A charity single has beaten a Justin Bieber recording to become Britain's official Christmas Number One song -- and Bieber is OK with that. The Canadian pop star's "Love Yourself" was ahead earlier this week — but then Bieber tweeted that he wanted fans to "do the right thing" and boost the charity single to the coveted spot. The National Health Service Choir's "A Bridge Over You" finished nearly 31,000 copies ahead of Bieber in the singles competition — although he still commands three of the top five spots.

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