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Pope's message of peace...Terror not ruled out...Cubs' win top AP sports story

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is sending a Christmas wish of peace "to the ends of the Earth." 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 the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas day message. 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."

MOSCOW (AP) — Terrorism is not being ruled out, but Russia's transport minister says it's premature to speculate about the cause of a plane crash in the Black Sea this morning. The Tu-154 plane went down two minutes after takeoff from Sochi. It had 92 people on board, including a world-famous Russian army choir. The Alexandrov Ensemble was to have played a New Year's concert at a Russian base in Syria.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to "do all it takes so Israel emerges unscathed" by a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Netanyahu has already ordered several retaliatory steps against countries that supported the resolution, recalling its ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal. Today, the Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of countries who voted in favor of the resolution as well as the U.S. ambassador. A U.S. abstention allowed the measure to pass.

JERUSALEM (AP) — A fake news story has touched off a tense Twitter confrontation between Pakistan and Israel. The fake story claimed Israel's former defense minister threatened a nuclear attack against Pakistan if it sends troops to Syria. In what appeared to be a response, Pakistan's defense minister reminded Israel that "Pakistan is a nuclear state too." Israel's Defense Ministry tweeted back that the original story on the site AWD News was "totally fictitious." AWD has been identified by fact-checking organizations as a fake news site.

CHICAGO (AP) — The Cubs' first World Series title since 1908 is the runaway winner for top sports story of 2016, collecting 48 of 59 first-place votes in balloting by AP members and editors. The death of Muhammad Ali after a long battle with Parkinson's disease was second, and LeBron James leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the franchise's first NBA title took third.

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