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Russia downplays terrorism in crash...Miserable in the Great Plains...George Michael dies

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Despite Russian officials downplaying the possibility of terrorism, some aviation experts say there are factors that suggest foul play in the military plane crash that killed 84 passengers and eight crew members shortly after takeoff from Sochi on a flight to Syria. The passengers included dozens of singers in Russia's world-famous military choir. There's a massive search effort at the Black Sea crash site.

CHICAGO (AP) — Authorities in North and South Dakota shut down large swaths of interstate highway in their respective states as a combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds prompted officials to say there won't be anything moving until at least this afternoon. The storm also has caused widespread power outages in the Dakotas, Nebraska and western Iowa.

LONDON (AP) — A magnificent voice and a troubled life are both accurate descriptors of British pop star George Michael, who has died at age 53. Michael's manager he died yesterday of heart failure. Tributes have been pouring in from fellow performers and fans.

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad has visited a Christian orphanage near the capital Damascus on Christmas Day. Photographs posted on the Syrian presidency's Facebook page showed the president along with his wife, Asma, standing with nuns and orphans in the Damascus suburb of Sednaya. In the northern city of Aleppo, now under government control, Christians celebrated Christmas for the first time in four years.

NORTHAMPTON, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man demonstrating holiday spirit has seen it multiply. Thirty-six-year-old Josh Katrick, who is going through treatment for colon cancer, won a pizza parlor's raffle for a years' worth of free pies. He donated his prize to a local food bank. So the pizza business offered the prize to him and the food bank. Katrick says he's been getting a lot from family, friends and strangers.

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