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AP Top News at 8:36 p.m. EST

December 25, 2022 GMT

Bethlehem rebounds from pandemic, lifting Christmas spirits

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — The biblical town of Bethlehem marked a merry Christmas on Saturday, with thousands of visitors descending upon the traditional birthplace of Jesus as it rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic. Tourism is the economic lifeblood of this town in the occupied West Bank, and for the past two years, the pandemic kept international visitors away. This year, visitors are back, hotels are full and shopkeepers have reported a brisk business in the runup to the holiday. Although the numbers have not reached pre-pandemic levels, the return of tourists has palpably raised spirits in Bethlehem. “We are celebrating Christmas this year in a very much different way than last year,” Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah said.

18 die as monster storm brings rain, snow, cold across US

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A frigid winter storm killed at least 18 people as it swept across the country, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions of people on edge about the possibility of Christmas Eve blackouts. The storm unleashed its full fury on Buffalo, New York, with hurricane-force winds causing whiteout conditions. Emergency response efforts were paralyzed, and the city’s international airport was shut down. Across the U.S., officials have attributed deaths to exposure, car crashes, a falling tree limb and other effects of the storm. At least three people died in the Buffalo area, including two who suffered medical emergencies in their homes and couldn’t be saved because emergency crews were unable to reach them amid historic blizzard conditions.

EXPLAINER: Arctic blast sweeps US, causes bomb cyclone

NEW YORK (AP) — An arctic blast has brought extreme cold, heavy snow and intense wind across much of the U.S. — just in time for the holidays. The weather system, dubbed a “bomb cyclone,” is disrupting travel and causing hazardous winter conditions. Where is this winter weather coming from, and what’s in store for the coming days? WHAT’S HAPPENING? A front of cold air is moving down from the Arctic, sending temperatures plunging. Much of the U.S. will see below-average temperatures, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland. Temperatures may drop by more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) in just a few hours, the National Weather Service predicts.

Pope on Christmas: Jesus was poor, so don’t be power-hungry

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Recalling Jesus’ birth in a stable, Pope Francis rebuked those “ravenous” for wealth and power at the expense of the vulnerable, including children, in a Christmas Eve homily decrying war, poverty and greedy consumerism. In the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis presided over the evening Mass attended by about 7,000 faithful, including tourists and pilgrims, who flocked to the church on a warm evening and took their place behind rows of white-robed pontiffs. Francis drew lessons from the humility of Jesus’ first hours of life in a manger. “While animals feed in their stalls, men and women in our world, in their hunger for wealth and power, consume even their neighbors, their brothers and sisters,” the pontiff lamented.

Pelé’s family gathers at hospital in Sao Paulo

SAO PAULO (AP) — Family members of Brazilian soccer great Pelé are gathering at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo where the 82-year-old global icon has been since the end of November. Doctors said earlier this week that Pelé’s cancer had advanced, adding the three-time World Cup winner is under “elevated care” related to “kidney and cardiac dysfunctions.” No other hospital statements have been published since. Edson Cholbi Nascimento, one of Pelé’s sons and known as Edinho, arrived Saturday, one day after he gave a news conference to deny he would visit his father in hospital. Edinho, who works for a soccer club in southern Brazil, had said then that only doctors could help his father.

Lake loses suit over her defeat in Arizona governor’s race

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has thrown out Republican Kari Lake’s challenge of her defeat in the Arizona governor’s race to Democrat Katie Hobbs, rejecting her claim that problems with ballot printers at some polling places on Election Day were the result of intentional misconduct. In a decision Saturday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, found that the court did not find clear and convincing evidence of the widespread misconduct that Lake had alleged had affected the result of the 2022 general election. Lake will appeal the ruling, she said in a statement.

Packed ICUs, crowded crematoriums: COVID roils Chinese towns

BAZHOU, China (AP) — Yao Ruyan paced frantically outside the fever clinic of a county hospital in China’s industrial Hebei province, 70 kilometers (43 miles) southwest of Beijing. Her mother-in-law had COVID-19 and needed urgent medical care, but all hospitals nearby were full. “They say there’s no beds here,” she barked into her phone. As China grapples with its first-ever national COVID-19 wave, emergency wards in small cities and towns southwest of Beijing are overwhelmed. Intensive care units are turning away ambulances, relatives of sick people are searching for open beds, and patients are slumped on benches in hospital corridors and lying on floors for a lack of beds.

US officials: COVID, bomb cyclone won’t slow Santa’s travels

The U.S. military agency known for tracking Santa Claus as he delivers presents on Christmas Eve doesn’t expect COVID-19 or the “ bomb cyclone ” hitting North America to affect Saint Nick’s global travels. NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is responsible for monitoring and defending the skies above North America. But the Colorado Springs, Colorado-based agency also runs the NORAD Tracks Santa service, which allows people to follow his Christmas journey through its noradsanta.org website, social media channels and mobile app. The agency this year plans to have about 1,500 volunteers working on Christmas Eve to field phone calls from children who want to know Santa’s location and delivery schedule.

Kurds, anti-racism groups gather after deadly Paris shooting

PARIS (AP) — Members of France’s Kurdish community and anti-racism activists joined together in mourning and anger on Saturday in Paris after three people were killed at a Kurdish cultural center in an attack that prosecutors say was racially motivated. The shooting in a bustling neighborhood of central Paris also wounded three people, and stirred up concerns about hate crimes against minority groups at a time when far-right voices have gained prominence in France and around Europe in recent years. The suspected attacker was wounded and detained, and transferred Saturday to psychiatric care, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. The 69-year-old Parisian had been charged with attacking a migrant camp last year and released from jail earlier this month.

LA jury convicts Tory Lanez of shooting Megan Thee Stallion

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a courtroom that turned chaotic after a trial that seethed with tension, a Los Angeles jury on Friday found rapper Tory Lanez guilty of three felonies in the 2020 shooting of hip-hop star Megan Thee Stallion. The attack left her wounded with bullet fragments in her feet and Lanez’ conviction could send him to prison for more than 20 years. Lanez, who was put in handcuffs and led to jail while wearing a powder pink coat with matching pants, showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read. But moments later, after the jury was escorted out, his father, Sonstar Peterson, leapt up and shouted “This wicked system stands judged before God almighty!” as deputies closed in on him.