George Michael, the singer known for a string of hits in the 1980s and ’90s, has died, the BBC is quoting his publicist as saying. Michael was 53. A statement quoted by the BBC said Michael “passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period.” No cause of death was provided. The singer, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, shot to fame with the group Wham!, which churned out hit after hit, including “Wake me up before you go-go,” “Last Christmas,” and “Careless Whisper.” Earlier this month, it was announced that Michael was working on a new album, and last month, he was said to be putting the finishing touches to “Freedom,” a documentary film. The BBC adds that in 2011 Michael was hospitalized for treatment for pneumonia, a condition he described as “touch and go.”
—A Syria-bound Russian military plane with 92 people on board, including members of a famed military choir, crashed into the Black Sea.
—Pope Francis, in his Christmas Day message, called for an end to the conflict in Syria.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Singer George Michael Dies at 53
Carrie Fisher Is in Stable Condition, Her Mother Says
Carrie Fisher, who suffered what was described as a “cardiac incident” aboard an airplane Friday, is in stable condition, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, said Sunday on Twitter. As we reported Saturday, Fisher, who is perhaps best known for playing Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies, remains hospitalized in Los Angeles after her illness.
Carrie is in stable condition.If there is a change,we will share it. For all her fans & friends. I thank you for your prayers & good wishes. pic.twitter.com/isXJqqFEB6— Debbie Reynolds (@DebbieReynolds1) December 25, 2016
Israel Summons U.S. Envoy Over UN Vote
Israel has summoned the U.S. ambassador over the U.N. Security Council’s unprecedented vote to condemn settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Haaretz reports that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will personally talk to Dan Shapiro, the U.S. envoy, later Sunday, in a move the newspaper called highly unusual. At a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said the “Obama administration conducted a shameful anti-Israel ambush at the U.N.” and, he added, he told John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of State, that “friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.” The comments are part of the continued fallout over the 14-0 vote at the Security Council, from which the U.S., breaking years of tradition, abstained; the U.S. typically has vetoed such resolutions. Israel has also recalled for consultations its ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal for the role the countries played in proposing the resolution.
Pope Francis, in His Christmas Message, Calls for Peace
Pope Francis, in his annual Christmas Day Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) message, called for peace in Syria, where, he said, “far too much blood has been spilled.” The more than five-year civil war has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the displacement of millions more. The pope also urged Israelis and Palestinians to abandon “hate and revenge” and “build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony.” The message comes just days after the UN Security Council voted 14-0 (with the U.S. abstaining) to condemn Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Francis also condemned international terrorism, which he said has “sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.” Indeed, security has been tight in Rome following the killing this week of the man authorities say is responsible for the deadly Berlin attack.
Russian Military Plane Crashes Into the Black Sea
Members of the Alexandrov military music ensemble, a famed Russian choir, were among 92 people on board a Tu-154 military transport plane that crashed Sunday en route to Latakia, Syria. The plane had taken off from Moscow and had stopped in Sochi for refueling. It disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff from the Russian Black Sea resort. A Russian defense ministry spokesman said fragments of the aircraft were recovered from the Black Sea; no survivors have been spotted. President Vladimir Putin has declared Monday a day of national mourning.