VIDEO: Today's Headline News from Associated Press
POPE'S CHRISTMAS WISH: HOPE FOR A BETTER WORLD
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis offered Christmas wishes Wednesday for a better world, praying for protection for Christians under attack, battered women and trafficked children, peace in the Middle East and Africa, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict around the globe.
Francis delivered the traditional `'Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for `'to the city and to the world") speech from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to more than 70,000 cheering tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below.
In his first Christmas message since being elected pontiff in March, he asked for all to share in the song of Christmas angels, `'for every man or woman ... who hopes for a better world, who cares for others," humbly.
Among places ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war; South Sudan; the Central African Republic; Nigeria; and Iraq.
In Iraq on Wednesday, militants targeted Christians in two attacks, including a bomb that exploded near a church during Christmas Mass in Baghdad. The separate bombings killed dozens of people.
The Vatican has been trying to raise concern in the world for persecution and attacks on Christians in parts of the Middle East and Africa.
"Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted in your name," Francis said.
Adding an off-the-cuff remark, Francis said he was also inviting non-believers to join their desire for peace with everyone else.
AVOIDING HEALTH INSURANCE GAPS TAKES PERSISTENCE
CHICAGO (AP) -- The deadline has passed, and so too the surprise grace period, for signing up for health insurance as part of the nation's health care law.
For those who were able to navigate the glitch-prone and often overwhelmed HealthCare.gov website, there's still work to be done to make sure success online leads to actual coverage come the new year.
The first step experts recommend is to call your insurance company and double-check they received your payment.
What if you missed the Christmas Eve deadline and still want insurance in 2014, as the health law requires of most Americans? You may be without health insurance for a month, but you can still sign up for coverage that will start in February.
"Be patient, because they're trying to help you," said Tina Stewart, a 25-year-old graduate student in Salt Lake City who succeeded in enrolling in a health plan Tuesday morning. "It will take time."
The historic changes made by the Affordable Care Act take full effect on Jan. 1. People with chronic health conditions can no longer be denied health insurance. Those who get sick and start piling up medical bills will no longer lose their coverage. Out-of-pocket limits arrive that are designed to protect patients from going bankrupt.
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