Obama links Christmas story to immigration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Barack Obama is comparing people living in the country illegally to Mary and Joseph on the first Christmas.

The Bible says the couple actually obeyed a Roman decree by traveling to Joseph's ancestral town for a census.

But at an immigration forum in Nashville, Obama noted that Mary and Joseph were "strangers" in Bethlehem when she was about to give birth to Jesus, and there was "no room at the inn."

The president said, "If we're serious about the Christmas season, now is a good time to reflect on those who are strangers."

Obama defended bypassing Congress to grant deportation relief and work permits to millions living in the country illegally. His action would affect those who have been here more than five years and have children.

Republicans want to use their authority over federal spending to force Obama to roll back his decision.

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Lawyer: Man who stabbed student was bi-polar

NEW YORK (AP) — Police say an emotionally disturbed man stabbed an Israeli student in the head at an international Jewish organization in Brooklyn early Tuesday, then was shot and killed by a police officer after lunging at him with a knife.

Calvin Peters, who was 49, can be seen on amateur video waving a knife in the Chabad-Lubavitch (hah-BAHD' loo-BAH'-vihch) headquarters at about 1:40 a.m. after police say he attacked Levi Rosenblat, who was studying inside. Officials said Rosenblat was expected to survive.

Peters had a documented history of mental illness and had been arrested 19 times since 1982, most recently in 2006 for drugs, police said. He had also been to the Chabad-Lubavitch before, which is open to the public at all hours.

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Israel indicts American over plot to bomb Muslims

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli officials say an American Christian who passed himself off as an ex-U.S. Navy SEAL faces charges of trying to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israeli police and the Justice Ministry identified the man as 30-year-old Adam Everett Livix. The Justice Ministry said Livix underwent a psychiatric evaluation Tuesday after his indictment Monday on charges of illegal weapon possession and overstaying his visa by more than a year.

His indictment comes at a time of rising tensions in Jerusalem, mostly over a disputed holy site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and Jews as the Temple Mount. It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism.

This isn't the first time there have been allegations of a foreigner threatening a holy site in Jerusalem. In 1969, an Australian Christian started a fire at the complex's Al-Aqsa Mosque in hopes that it would hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ. The man, Denis Michael Rohan, was subsequently committed to a mental institution.

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Churches to hold services focused on black men

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many African-American churches are holding special services on the theme "black lives matter" this Sunday, asking congregants to wear black and pray for the black men in their community.

The Washington Post says the denominations involved are the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and Church of God in Christ.

The services come on the heels of two different grand jury decisions declining to prosecute white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

On Nov. 24, a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury declined to indict an officer in the killing of Michael Brown. On Dec. 3, a New York City grand jury declined to prosecute an officer captured on video applying a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner. Both decisions have set off demonstrations nationwide.

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Pope decries 'material slavery' as holidays start

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has marked the Roman Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception by visiting Rome's swank shopping area near the Spanish Steps.

Shoppers crowded into the square Monday to see Francis keep an annual appointment that marks the Dec. 8 feast day honoring the Virgin Mary and the traditional start of Rome's holiday shopping season.

Wearing a long white coat in the chilly early evening, Francis prayed that "humanity be freed of all spiritual and material slavery." He stood before a flower-adorned statue of Mary atop a towering column and expressed hope that in the run-up to Christmas, people would concentrate less on themselves.

Francis wants the church to pay more attention to the poor and others on the margins of society.