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Lighting fuses in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — Scott Pruitt enjoyed owning a AAA baseball team here, but he is having as much fun as Oklahoma’s attorney general, and one of the Obama administration’s most tenacious tormentors. The second existential challenge to the Affordable Care Act began here.

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.

Chuck Schumer: Take two

WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles Schumer gave Democrats a talking-to about their obligation to stand up for government’s role in helping struggling middle-income Americans — and his message got swallowed up by a few paragraphs on health care.

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.

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.

A Texas-sized plate dispute

WASHINGTON — The Battle of Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, on May 13, 1865, is called the last battle of the Civil War, but the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) might consider that judgment premature, given its conflict with the state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles. This skirmish is of national interest because it implicates a burgeoning new entitlement — the right to pass through life without encountering any disagreeable thought.

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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.

Obama has already won the immigration fight

WASHINGTON — Among the many ways Republican members of Congress are contemplating to punish President Barack Obama for his executive actions on immigration is a proposal of elegant simplicity: They would refuse to invite him to the Capitol to give his State of the Union address.

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.

Another case for term limits

WASHINGTON — In 2010, Plymouth, Conn., was awarded $430,000 for widening sidewalks and related matters near two schools. This money was a portion of the $612 million Congress authorized for five years of the federal Safe Routes to School program intended to fight childhood obesity by encouraging children to burn calories by walking or biking to school. Really.

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.

Shrinking the epidemic map

WASHINGTON — My college roommate — the most immediately likable person I’ve ever met, a man who would now be such a present to the world — died of AIDS at the age of 30. Back then, people with the disease did not so much die as fade, becoming gaunt and ghostly images of themselves, as the virus gradually destroyed enough T-cells to cut their ties with the flesh. Metaphors don’t really capture the horror. Declined? Withered? At any rate, he died.