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A slight deal on climate

Ever since negotiators failed to agree on a climate accord in Copenhagen five years ago, diplomats have been trying for a big, international do-over. Talks in Lima, Peru, this month put this effort on track to conclude an agreement in Paris next year. The trade-off is that the accord will be insufficiently ambitious and difficult to enforce, in part because of the intransigence of developing countries. It cannot be the final word on the global response to climate change — just an early step. But it’s preferable to no deal at all.

Terrorists win a round over Sony’s ‘Interview’

If an anonymous group threatened in mid-December to harm bakeries without saying where, when or how, would every doughnut shop and cake vendor feel compelled to shut down through the holiday season? Of course not. Yet a threat by an anonymous group of hackers led the country’s major theater chains to close their doors to “The Interview,” Sony Pictures’ edgy comedy about a planned assassination of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. The hackers are engaged in terrorism, pure and simple, in an effort to stop people from seeing the movie. But even though the terrorists won this round, Sony still can — and should — make the movie widely available through other means.

Restoration of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations is long overdue

Citing a half-century of failed policy, President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced he intends to normalize relations with Cuba, mending a rupture that dates to the chilliest days of the Cold War. While the move to restore diplomatic ties should not be taken as support for the Castro regime’s continuing human rights violations or its antidemocratic policies, it is undoubtedly the right step. Indeed, it is long overdue.

A Bush bonus that won’t die

The best that can be said for the “tax extenders” bill, approved in the waning days of the 113th Congress, is that it could have been much worse. After the November election, House and Senate leaders attempted to make all 55 special-interest tax breaks in the bill permanent instead of renewing them on a short-term basis, as per usual. The White House shot down that idea, which would have added more than $400 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Finally, all concerned settled on a $42 billion one-year renewal of the breaks, retroactive to Jan. 1, so that taxpayers can claim them on their 2014 returns — to be followed by a resumption of debate on broader tax reform in 2015.

Military action alone cannot defeat terrorism in Pakistan

After the massacre of 132 children Tuesday at a military-run school in Peshawar, no Pakistani should be under any illusions about the nature of the so-called Pakistani Taliban. Leaders across the political spectrum, including some like Imran Khan who have in the past called for negotiations with the militants, have expressed horror at the killings. Focusing solely on that despicable group, however, won’t make future generations of Pakistani children safe.

Credit for the Cromnibus

Both houses of Congress have voted to send the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill to President BarackObama, and the president has promised to sign the measure, though it’s not an easy creature to like. The massive bill represents a last-minute, must-pass caricature of the deliberative process by which Congress is supposed to approve appropriations. It comes studded with special-interest giveaways, including relaxations of Wall Street and campaign finance regulations that would have been unlikely to pass as stand-alone measures. For the District of Columbia, there’s an especially wounding abrogation of a marijuana legalization referendum.

War authorization against Islamic State should be one of Congress’ first acts

Among the business that Congress will leave unfinished this month is legal authorization of the war against the Islamic State. Though the war has been underway for five months, President Barack Obama has said he would welcome legislation, and congressional leaders have denounced the president’s unilateral actions in other spheres, neither the White House nor Congress has made a passage of an Authorization for Use of Military Force a priority. That puts the ongoing military operations on shaky legal ground and deprives them of the political mandate they ought to have.

Dystopia on the Caspian

The work of Khadija Ismayilova would be vital in any country but has been particularly courageous in Azerbaijan, the oil-rich sultanate ruled both before and after the Soviet collapse by Heydar Aliyev, who died in 2003, and now by his son, President Ilham Aliyev. In recent years, Ismayilova investigated the ruling family’s hidden wealth and unearthed evidence of how they acquired it through secret deals. Now, the potentates have struck back and moved to silence her, the latest example of how Azerbaijan has become a bleak dystopia for human rights and democracy.

Hollywood gets hacked

To get a taste for the havoc possible in today’s digital world, consider the recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. Intruders calling themselves “Guardians of Peace” claim to have broken into Sony’s networks and stolen around 100 terabytes — that’s 100,000 gigabytes — of financial information, budgets, payroll data, internal emails and feature films, and they have been slowly leaking excerpts to the public through file-sharing services. The materials have caused a sensation — revealing embarrassing details about executive salaries and secret movie negotiations — but the hack is also a worrisome moment in cybersecurity.

The good and the bad in Congress’ gargantuan spending bill

Let’s begin by thanking Congress for small favors: Top lawmakers from both parties have agreed on a $1.01 trillion spending bill that will fund all but one federal department through September, thereby averting a shutdown like the one that entangled Washington for 16 days last year. (The Department of Homeland Security will get enough cash to last only through February, as a sop to Republicans outraged by President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to change immigration policy.) In addition to agency appropriations, the bill would provide billions in funding for such emergencies as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the war against the Islamic State.

America’s ‘dungeon’

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the CIA began taking prisoners captured in U.S. anti-terrorism operations. Some were tortured. This is not news. But a long-classified Senate report released Tuesday depicts the disgusting extremes.

FDA rules on calorie counts are appropriate and shouldn’t be controversial

It’s not always easy for restaurant-goers to figure out which options are the least fattening. Some diners at a California Pizza Kitchen, for example, might order the Moroccan-spiced chicken salad rather than a pizza, unaware that the salad packs 1,500 calories — three-fourths of the recommended allowance of calories for the average adult in an entire day. Few people would guess that pretty much any pizza on the CPK menu has significantly fewer calories, or that the restaurant offers a different salad with chicken that contains about half as many.

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Staying on track

The U.S. labor market continues to heal. Employers created more than 300,000 new payroll jobs in November, the vast majority of them in the private sector. The unemployment rate remains at 5.8 percent, but there are signs that wages at last are growing again, at least modestly.

Treating disability, not criminality

For the apparent crime of wearing a hoodie in public, an 18-year-old black man was approached by a sheriff’s deputy in Stafford County four and a half years ago. A caller had reported that the man, sitting on the grass across the street from an elementary school, might be armed. As it turned out, the suspicion was unfounded; the man, Reginald Latson, who has an IQ of 69, was doing nothing more than waiting for a public library to open its doors.

Colleges accommodate a binge-drinking culture

On Nov. 22, the University of Virginia hosted its last home football game of the season or, as it has come to be known, “the fourth-year fifth.” It is a reference to the long-standing practice of seniors consuming a fifth of liquor by the game’s kickoff. The game was played on the same weekend an explosive article about an alleged rape roiled the Charlottesville campus — a fitting coincidence that underscored the troubling nexus between alcohol abuse and sexual assault.

Stabilizing Syria must be done

Under pressure from allies, the Obama administration appears to be creeping toward a correction of its strategy in Syria. If so — and officials stress that President Barack Obama has made no decisions and none is imminent — the change would be welcome. The president has been counting on moderate Syrian forces to fight the Islamic State while refusing to address the threat those forces face from the regime of Bashar Assad. That policy has prompted Turkey to withhold vital cooperation and, more seriously, has risked the destruction of U.S. allies, who have been losing territory to both the Assad regime and Islamic extremist groups.

The spy inside

Dangers are growing in cyberspace. Not only are thieves learning to siphon off millions of credit card numbers and email addresses but elaborate pieces of malware are capable of spying on whole organizations for long periods of time, capturing computer screens, keystrokes and data, transmitting it all to distant servers without being detected.

A monument to idleness

Mere days before a scheduled Dec. 11 deadline, the ever-fractious Republican House may be arriving at a consensus, of sorts, on immigration, taxes and spending. The speaker of the House, John A. Boehner, R-Ohio,, has said his GOP majority would be willing to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September, except for the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded only through February — as a protest against what Republicans consider President Barack Obama’s unconstitutional order to defer deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the probable next chairman of the House tax-policy committee, has offered a one-year, backward-looking reauthorization of more than 50 mostly corporate tax breaks — a “tax extender” bill — to cover the 2014 filing year.

Moldova tells Putin no

Vladimir Putin has been adept at using military force to gain control over pieces of neighboring countries that he regards as part of the Kremlin’s rightful dominion. Democratic elections, on the other hand, vex him. On Sunday he lost another one: Moldova, a former Soviet republic wedged between Ukraine and Romania, voted to retain its pro-Western government despite a robust Russian campaign to install its own clients. The result means the nation of 3.5 million will continue on its course of integration with the European Union — provided that Putin does not again resort to armed aggression.