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Persistent storm pattern...Family fire tragedy...Obamas celebrate Christmas

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The wave of severe weather continues to strafe the South. A tornado has touched down in the Birmingham, Alabama, area. A police spokesman says trees were downed and people were trapped inside damaged houses. A church building collapsed. Details on injuries or deaths are sketchy. Flooding has been reported through the region. In Mississippi, officials say another death has been reported and two people are missing from Wednesday's storms.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A fire in Big Bear Lake, California, has killed three children and their mother. Neighbors reported a fire early today but firefighters say the family's mobile home was engulfed in flames when they arrived. The father, who was injured, was able to escape.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The executive editor of the Washington Post says he and the colleagues of correspondent Jason Rezaian (reh-ZY'-ahn) are pleased that Rezaian was able to have an extended Christmas Day visit with his mother. But editor Martin Baron says Rezaian's captivity in Iran is "522 days of tragic, unjust imprisonment of a good, honorable and innocent man." Rezaian was convicted in closed proceedings earlier this year after being charged with espionage and related allegations.

HAVERHILL, Mass. (AP) — Two Massachusetts women face a string of charges for allegedly creating a hoax that resulted in a massive search, including a helicopter and divers. Authorities say the women, a mother and daughter in Haverhill, reported seeing a man toss a baby into the Merrimac River. The search ended late last night when police determined the report was a hoax.

KAILUA, Hawaii (AP) — President Barack Obama and his family are celebrating Christmas by opening gifts and singing carols while on vacation in Hawaii. The White House says the president also plans to deliver a personal thank you to troops stationed at a Marine Corps Base in Hawaii later today, continuing an annual tradition.

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