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Pope celebrates Christmas Eve Mass...Israeli PM lashes out at Obama...Surfing Santas hit Cocoa Beach



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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Francis processed to the altar behind cardinals draped in golden vestments as the Sistine Chapel choir sang "Gloria" and the basilica's bells rang out. Saturday's late night Mass is the first major event of the Christmas season for Francis, which will include his noon blessing on Christmas day. It comes near the end of a year marked by the pope's pleas for the world to better protect the innocent people caught up in wars, migrations and abject poverty.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is venting his anger at the Obama administration, after the U.S. abstained from a vote in the U.N. Security Council yesterday condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Netanyahu called it "a shameful anti-Israel ambush." He added he's looking forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump, whom he calls his "friend."

MILFORD, Pa. (AP) — A defense attorney says an insanity defense is unlikely in the trial of a man charged with the fatal ambush of a Pennsylvania state trooper. Eric Frein (freen) is charged with killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and wounding another trooper outside the Blooming Grove barracks in September 2014. He led police on a tense 48-day manhunt before U.S. marshals caught him about 30 miles from the shooting scene. Jury selection is slated in March.

NEW YORK (AP) — Sales data suggests the importance of the holiday shopping season has slipped a bit. November and December now account for less than 21 percent of annual retail sales at physical stores, down from a peak of over 25 percent. Experts cite a number of factors. They say people now shop for the holidays all year long, while heavy discounting dilutes sales totals and big promotions throughout the year encourage shoppers to go ahead with their biggest purchases, instead of holding off until the holidays.

COCOA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Hundreds of surfers in Santa costumes have descended on Florida's Cocoa Beach for the eighth annual Christmas Eve Surfing Santas extravaganza. The Santas surfed the waves all morning to raise money for two charities. One is the Florida Surf Museum. The other charity provides financial assistance for cancer patients needing to travel for their treatment.

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