Christmas Day

Christmas lunch is the most important social occasion of the year

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Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What It appears that Paul Simon has been thinking about going somewhere unlike all of the many lands around the globe that he has visited over the years in search of musical inspiration. He is giving thought to the final expedition, the big trip across the divide to the only place that even he cannot plunder. Simon will turn seventy in the same year as both Art Garfunkel, the creamy-voiced journeyman who stood placidly at Simon’s right side for years, and Bob Dylan, the peer of Simon’s whose towering specter has always hovered near Simon’s other side.

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The public uprisings spreading like wildfire from Tunisia to the Persian Gulf have been referred to collectively as the “Arab Spring.” But in fact, as the Obama administration crafts its policy responses, it should strive to avoid this unifying narrative, lest it obscure the unique challenges faced by each country, as well as the distinctive ramifications that each uprising has for U.S. interests.

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Aubuike Ihejririka, Nigeria’s army chief of staff, explained the terror that killed at least 40 people in northeast Nigeria on Christmas eve and Christmas day.

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I love Matt Yglesias's response to Jon Kyl's suggestion that having the Senate work on December 27 would somehow be an insult to Christians: Yglesias proposes a Jews-only session on Christmas Day. Although note that Christmas happens to fall on a Saturday this year; I believe Joe Lieberman will only show up and vote on Shabbat if his vote is really necessary.

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Synangogues were banned in New Amsterdam, and even after the signing of the Constitution, First Amendment protections didn't stop cities from preventing the construction of Jewish housesof worship, writes Jonathan Sarna in The Forward: In Connecticut, for example, statutes limited the right of religious incorporation to Christians long after the Bill of Rights mandated religious liberty for all on the federal level.

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The Sheriff

For the better part of an hour, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been kicked back in the front cabin of Coast Guard One, the small but handsomely appointed plane on which she travels, chatting easily about the challenges of running the third-largest Cabinet department. En route back to Washington after three days of nonstop meetings in Mexico City--a whirlwind visit made more challenging by the fact that Napolitano broke her right ankle playing tennis last month and is still hobbling around on crutches--the secretary is in wind-down mode.

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The Bush Defense

Last night at a Cambridge dinner party, someone posited that the country would soon witness what she called “a Bush revival.” Another person at the table suggested that it had already begun. Now, 02138 would be just about the last zip code where such a phenomenon might be noticed. So I take this postulate seriously, very seriously. But, frankly, I haven’t seen a single poll confirming this--although there may have been some.

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Just a Thought...

The only bright spot in the cases of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up that Christmas Day flight, and the five men who went to Pakistan to receive terrorist training, was that members of the wannabe-terrorists' families approached authorities because of their children's behavior. As an ever-larger percentage of right-wing commentators demand that Abdulmutallab be water-boarded or worse, it does seem worth asking whether parents will offer their children up to law enforcement if they--the parents--believe their kids will be tortured.

On a February morning in 2006, as Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, was jolted awake by the calls to prayer from the city’s mosques, 23 Yemeni prisoners crawled their way to freedom. They had spent weeks patiently digging a 140-foot tunnel that would extend from their basement prison cell to a nearby mosque. Among the escapees were Jamal al-Badawi, the alleged mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing that killed 17 American sailors, and Jaber al-Banna, a Yemeni with U.S.

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