First Christmas for Pope Francis...Still no power...Ready for peace talks?

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Updated: Wed, 25 Dec 2013 02:15:34 EST

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is marking his first Christmas as leader of the Catholic church. He celebrated Christmas Eve Mass Tuesday night in St. Peter's Basilica. And at noon Wednesday he'll deliver the traditional Christmas Day message. Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in St. Peter's Square for his speech and blessing delivered from the central balcony of the basilica.

UNDATED (AP) — About a half million utility customers from Main to Michigan and into Canada are spending Christmas without electricity. They lost power during a weekend ice storm and repair crews are working around the clock. The National Weather Service says more snow is expected to roll into the Great Lakes and Midwest by Wednesday morning.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The leader of South Sudan's rebels is telling Secretary of State John Kerry that he's ready for talks with the country's president, after days of violence that threaten to turn into a civil war. Rebels loyal to South Sudan's former vice president are in control of a town where at least 34 bodies have been found in mass graves.

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — The roughly 100 residents forced to evacuate during a wildfire in central California's Big Sur region are being allowed back home. Forestry officials say 34 homes were destroyed in the fire, which burned more than 1.4 square miles in the Los Padres National Forest.

REDLANDS, Calif. (AP) — Look, there's something amazing in your Christmas stocking! Hospitals in Southern California are spreading the holiday cheer to new parents by delivering their newborns in giant Christmas stockings. It's a half-century-old tradition. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports the bright red stockings were handed out this week at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, and all this month at the Redlands Community Hospital.

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