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Russia mourns those lost in crash...Pope superstar George Michael dies...Great Plains weather woes

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MOSCOW (AP) — Tributes are beginning to come into the office of the Russian choir whose members have died in a plane crash over the Black Sea. Today is a day of mourning in Russia and many have brought flowers to the choir headquarters. All 84 passengers and eight crew on the Russian military's Tu-154 plane are believed dead. Russian officials say the focus is on human error or a technical fault.

LONDON (AP) — The music world is mourning the death of British pop superstar George Michael. His death from heart failure was announced yesterday. He was 53. Michael was known both for his vocal talents and fights against a number of health issues and substance abuse problems.

CHICAGO (AP) — Much of the northern Great Plains continues to be battered by a winter storm that has brought most travel to a halt. The combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds that forced the shutdown Sunday of vast stretches of highways in the Dakotas was forecast to continue into the morning. The storm also has caused widespread power outages in the Dakotas, Nebraska and western Iowa.

TOKYO (AP) — A murder case on Okinawa island that renewed Japanese residents' outrage over the American military presence has prompted Washington and Tokyo to agree in principle on guidelines for limiting immunity from Japanese prosecution for civilian workers at U.S. bases. The two sides want a clearer definition to exclude those without skills and those who are residents of Japan, like the murder suspect.

DENVER (AP) — With independent operators becoming an endangered species in an era of increasing ski-industry consolidation, the smaller resorts are trying to set themselves apart to keep business coming their way. The smaller independents say they're relying more on personality, offering things like baking fresh doughnuts to displaying local art to playing up a sense of community. Independents once dominated the ski industry.

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