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Black Sea air crash...Vatican Christmas...Powerful earthquake hits Chile



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MOSCOW (AP) — Thousands of rescue workers have been searching the waters of the Black Sea where a Russian plane carrying 92 people to an air base in Syria crashed minutes after takeoff this morning. There appear to be no survivors. Those on board included dozens of members of Russia's world-famous army choir. At least one expert cited a terror attack as a possible cause of the crash, but Russian officials are rejecting that scenario.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — There was heavy security at the Vatican today, with an estimated 40,000 lining up to enter St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis deliver his Christmas day message. Francis wished peace to those who have lost loved ones to terrorism, which he said is sowing "fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities." Referring to the meaning of Jesus' birth, Francis said he hoped his message would "reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace."

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Two Libyan men have been arraigned in a Maltese court on charges of hijacking a domestic Libyan flight to the Mediterranean island of Malta. The defendants wore bulletproof vests as they entered pleas of innocent. They face up to life in prison. An hours-long standoff Friday ended peacefully after negotiations.

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A powerful earthquake has hit southern Chile. The U.S. Geological Survey puts the quake's magnitude at 7.7 and says it struck in a relatively sparsely populated area near the southern tip of Chiloe Island. However, Chile's naval oceanographic service has declared a tsunami alert and officials are evacuating coastal areas in the southern part of the country.

WASHINGTON CROSSING, Pa. (AP) — Re-enactors are preparing to duplicate George Washington's Christmas Day trip across the Delaware River. Washington's daring 1776 crossing ferried 2,400 soldiers, 200 horses and 18 cannons across the Delaware. Washington's troops then marched 8 miles downriver before battling Hessian mercenaries in the streets of Trenton, New Jersey. Thirty Hessians were killed, and two Continental soldiers froze to death on the march.

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The Associated Press

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