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10 things you need to know today: December 26, 2016

Russia mourns 92 who died in crash of military plane, pop star George Michael dies at 53, and more


Russia mourns 92 who died in military plane crash

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday would be a day of mourning in his country after a Russian military jet crashed into the Black Sea shortly after taking off from Sochi on a flight to Syria, killing all 92 people on board. The victims included soldiers, reporters, and members of a world renowned Russian army choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, who were on the way to perform for Russian troops. Russia's transport minister said on Sunday that investigators were considering the "entire spectrum" of possible causes for the Tu-154 transport plane's crash, and on Monday he said that the crash was likely due to pilot error or technical failure, not terrorism. The tragedy was the second in a week, following the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey in Ankara.


George Michael dies at 53

British pop singer George Michael, who rocketed to stardom with the duo Wham! in the '80s, died at his home in England on Christmas Day. He was 53. His publicist said Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, "passed away peacefully." Police did not immediately reveal how Michael died, saying his death was unexplained but not suspicious. Michael was best known for early hits such as "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," which hit No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, but he also had a successful solo career with hits such as the 1987 album Faith. He reportedly was working on a new album with producer and songwriter Naughty Boy.


Netanyahu calls meeting with U.S. ambassador over U.N. vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel B. Shapiro, to a meeting on Sunday to discuss America's decision not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas. The U.S. traditionally vetoes such resolutions critical of Israel, but this time it abstained, allowing the resolution to pass by a 14-0 vote. Netanyahu also called for meetings with envoys from New Zealand and Senegal, which voted in favor of the resolution. Netanyahu blamed President Obama for the passage of the measure, which said Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem constituted a "flagrant violation under international law" and served as an obstacle to peace.


Trump spokesman Jason Miller backs out of senior White House job

President-elect Donald Trump's spokesman and adviser Jason Miller unexpectedly announced over Christmas weekend that he had changed his mind and would not accept an offer to be Trump's White House communications director. Miller was named to the job last week when Trump's White House communications team was announced. Miller said on Christmas Eve, however, that he wants to spend more time with his family, adding that he and his wife are expecting their second daughter in January and "this is not the right time to start a new job as demanding as White House communications director." His departure came after a series of tweets from A.J. Delgado, a Trump campaign adviser and member of the transition team, who referred to Miller as "the baby-daddy" and "the 2016 version of John Edwards," and called on him to resign. Incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer will take on Miller's duties.


Powerful typhoon hits Philippines

A late-season typhoon slammed into the Philippines on Sunday with top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, forcing hundreds of thousands of evacuations in Asia's largest Catholic nation on Christmas Day. The storm, formerly known as Super Typhoon Nock-ten, quickly weakened, with its top sustained winds dropping to 115 mph early Monday. Officials in rural areas went around with megaphones urging people to leave areas vulnerable to heavy rains and mudslides. The eye of the storm was expected to pass near Manila, a metropolitan area of 13 million people.


7.6-magnitude earthquake hits southern Chile

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck southern Chile on Sunday, prompting a tsunami watch and forcing about 5,000 people to evacuate coastal areas. There were no immediate reports of fatalities or severe damage to buildings. Chile's National Emergency Office lifted the evacuation order and tsunami watch for the salmon-farming area three hours after the Christmas Day quake. The quake also was felt in Argentina, on the other side of the Andes mountains. The area that was hit was south of Valdivia, where 1,655 people were killed in 1960 in the most powerful quake ever to strike the South American country.


Pope Francis calls for peace in Syria

Pope Francis on Sunday made a Christmas call for peace, saying that war and terrorism were spreading "fear and death in the heart of many countries and cities." Francis singled out the Syrian civil war as a cause of deep suffering, and urged the international community to help negotiate an end to the hostilities. Delivering a traditional Christmas message, the leader of the world's Catholics also called for Israelis and Palestinians to "write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way" to a harmonious future.


Iran says it negotiated huge discount on Boeing jets

Iran said on Sunday that it had negotiated a lower price for 80 new airliners it is buying from Boeing. The U.S. jet maker said the deal was worth $16.6 billion, but Tehran's deputy transport minister, Asghar Fakhrieh-Kashan, said Iran was paying "about 50 percent of that amount," according to a report by Iran's IRNA state news agency. The deal is the first such major purchase from an American company since the lifting of sanctions against Tehran nearly a year ago, under an agreement aiming to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. Iran also has signed a deal to buy 100 jets from Airbus, Boeing's European rival.


Severe cold keeps Queen Elizabeth II from Christmas church service

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II did not attend Christmas Day services at a church near her English country estate for the first time in nearly 30 years due to what Buckingham Palace described as a persistent "heavy cold." The 90-year-old queen and her 95-year-old husband, Prince Philip, had to travel to the estate, Sandringham, by helicopter because they were both too ill to make their traditional train trip. Prince Philip was able to attend the church service along with other members of the royal family. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth was staying indoors to "assist with her recovery," although she participated in royal family Christmas celebrations at home.


Actress Carrie Fisher's family thanks fans for support after heart attack

Actress Debbie Reynolds on Sunday updated fans on the condition of her daughter, Star Wars star Carrie Fisher, who had a heart attack during a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday. "Carrie is in stable condition. If there is a change, we will share it," Reynolds said via Twitter. "For all her fans & friends. I thank you for your prayers & good wishes." Fisher's half-sister, Joely Fisher, also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support Fisher and her family has received. "The incredible outpouring of love and prayers has been felt… Merry… Happy… Healthy… from our family to yours," she wrote in a caption under a family Christmas Eve photo she posted on Instagram.


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