In our news wrap Wednesday, UPS and FedEx tried to avoid a repeat of last year’s mass delay of Christmas deliveries by capping air-express shipments by some major retailers. Also, authorities in Berkeley, Missouri, called for calm after a white policeman killed a black teenager, sparking protests and clashes with law enforcement.
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From holy places to battlefields, Christians and others prepare today for the coming of Christmas. In Bethlehem, thousands of the faithful, along with tourists, crowded Manger Square, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, in advance of midnight mass.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis led midnight services before throngs of worshipers in St. Peter’s Basilica.
And, in Afghanistan, American troops marked the day with hymns and prayers.
LT. COL. BILL KILLOUGH, Chaplain, U.S. Army:
There is sadness. I miss them. But they also know that we serve wonderful mission with the Afghanistan people. We want to serve them and support them. And they know I am here doing a good thing. And so it’s worth it.
Here at home, weather made for some holiday travel headaches. Heavy rain and high winds in the Northeast, plus a wintry mix in Chicago, canceled about 500 flights nationwide. Meanwhile, power companies restored electricity to thousands in Mississippi. Deadly storms, believed to be tornadoes, ripped through the state late yesterday, killing four people.
Two major shippers have moved to make sure there’s no mass delay of Christmas deliveries. The Wall Street Journal and others reported today that UPS and Federal Express have capped air express shipments from big retailers. Last year, an 11th-hour surge of online orders overwhelmed the system, and two million packages failed to make it in time.
Authorities in Berkeley, Missouri, near Ferguson, called for calm today after a white policeman killed a black teenager last night. Police say 18-year-old Antonio Martin was being questioned about a theft when he pulled a gun, and the officer shot him three times. New protests quickly started, followed by clashes with police.
Crowds continued to gather, but the local mayor warned against jumping to conclusions.
MAYOR THEODORE HOSKINS, Mayor of Berkeley, Missouri:
What I saw in this incident is not what people portray. This is not a policeman in the city of Berkeley half-cocked going out. You couldn’t even compare this with Ferguson or the Garner case in New York.
The police said the officer was not wearing his body camera, and his car’s dashboard camera did not activate because its emergency lights were off. Security camera video did not clearly show the object in Martin’s hand.
In Iraq, a suicide bomber attacked a Sunni group fighting Islamic State forces today, killing at least 24 people and wounding 55. It happened at a military base in a town just south of Baghdad. Most of the dead were Sunni militiamen. The rest were Iraqi soldiers.
Ebola deaths in three West African nations are nearing 7,600. The World Health Organization announced today there have been 7,573 confirmed deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. That’s out of more than 19,000 confirmed cases across the three nations. Officials have said the actual numbers may be far higher.
Former President George H.W. Bush spent the day at a Houston hospital. The 41st president was admitted Tuesday as a precaution after he had trouble breathing. Mr. Bush is 90 years old and suffers from a form of Parkinson’s disease. Two years ago, he was hospitalized nearly two months with bronchitis.
Sony Pictures expanded its release of “The Interview” to a national audience today. The film comedy, about a plot to kill North Korea’s leader, may now be rented or purchased online. It was already being released in independent theaters. Major theater chains dropped plans to screen the film after threats from a hackers group.
Wall Street had holiday hours today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained six points to close at 18030. It finished above 18000 yesterday for the first time. The Nasdaq rose eight points today to close at 4773. And the S&P 500 slipped a fraction to finish below 2082.