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French President Emmanuel Macron poses before a special address to the nation, his first public comments after four weeks of nationwide 'yellow vest' protests, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. Facing exceptional protests, French President Emmanuel Macron is promising to speed up tax relief for struggling workers and to scrap a tax hike for retirees. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

Hard times at the palace

Burning cars and breaking shop windows is some people’s idea of a good time, and sometimes the rioters can make a case for a legitimate cause. The French can riot about as well as anyone this side of the Middle East, and they’re angry about how they’re expected to pay what they regard as more than their share of sacrifice.

20-month-old Christopher Yuhas is mesmerized by the lights on the Christmas tree in Central Park in Johnstown, PA., while visiting with his grandmother Roseanne Menjvar, Friday, Dec.7, 2018. (John Rucosky/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)

Christmas is for giving

That “it is more blessed to give than receive” sums up the spirit of Christmas. Fortunately, there is no shortage of objects of delight to stoke the dynamics of both giving and receiving during the holidays. The humbuggery of the Scrooge contingent notwithstanding, there has never been such a season of abundance, and that’s a reason for good cheer.

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An Investor walks in front of stock trading boards at a private stock market gallery in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Share prices were mixed Friday in Asia ahead of the planned meeting by Presidents Donald Trump of the U.S. and Xi Jinping of China at the Group of 20 summit this weekend. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

Misery in the midst of plenty

Donald Trump's economic optimism bemused the economists (and irritated Democrats) when he remarked during the 2016 presidential campaign that America would soon produce too much abundance. "We'll have so much prosperity you'll say it's too much."

In this photo taken in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., smiles as as new members of the House and veteran representatives gather behind closed doors to discuss their agenda when they become the majority in the 116th Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ** FILE **

Good news from the depths of darkness

Who knew a freshperson congressperson could so shake the foundations of the republic, and rattle the world beyond. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won a seat in the Bronx last month, sees her victory as "a watershed moment in world history akin to landing on the moon."

A new president in Mexico

It's not a good sign when a president's approval rating slips under water before he assumes the office. But that's the lot of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who will be sworn in Saturday as the new president of Mexico.

The G-20 pathway to plenty

The United States and China could someday be the ham and eggs, the peanut butter and jelly, of international commerce. Instead of complementing each other's innovative and industrial acumen, however, the two superpowers have fallen into a trade relationship that, like oil and water, is a recipe for economic indigestion. Only if China swallows its pride and endorses the U.S. appeal for fair trade at the Group of 20 summit beginning Friday in Buenos Aires can both nations come away from the table with success.

French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after delivering a speech on 'The presentation of the strategy for ecology transition', at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 27 2018. Macron said the government will find a way to delay tax increases on fuel during periods when world oil prices are rising. The move aims to reproduce the situation that has led to protests in recent days, some of which have become violent and even marred the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in central Paris. Behind reads: Change together. (Ian Langsdon, Pool via AP)

France's fuel-tax follies

The Earth travels its appointed course through the heavens without effort, but not much moves across its surface without oil. That fact is now painfully apparent in France, where the result of confiscatory environmental taxes has sparked a riotous citizen fury.

A migrant child playfully sticks out his tongue as others stand in line to receive food outside the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants who traveled north in a caravan, in Tijuana, Mexico, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. The mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis in his border city and says that he has asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants who have arrived in the city. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Chaos on the border

A funny thing about caravans. They move. In the weeks before the midterm congressional elections, the Democrats and the media chastised President Trump for the attention he paid to the caravan of thousands of migrants moving steadily from Central America, through Mexico, toward the American border.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a signing ceremony for the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership at APEC Haus in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Changing Japan

Japan is about to take its most culture-altering step since Gen. Douglas MacArthur restructured Japanese society in the wake of World War II. With no apparent alternative to sustain the highly-skilled workforce that is the key to a successful economy, the Japanese are moving ahead with a scheme to import foreign workers, some of them to stay permanently.

In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, photo, visitors walk past a fort at Plymouth Plantation living history museum village, in Plymouth, Mass., where visitors can get a glimpse into the world of the 1627 Pilgrim village. Plymouth, where the Pilgrims came ashore in 1620, is gearing up for a 400th birthday, and everyone's invited, especially the native people whose ancestors wound up losing their land and their lives. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

No program for Thanksgiving

It's not easy for moderns to wrap their minds around the challenges of the first settlers when they sat down to the first Thanksgiving table, folded their hands and asked the Lord's blessings. The spirit of serving divine providence, of braving frightening forces of nature, of laboring with unwavering perseverance, is actually as rare as summer snow in any generation. If the sojourners of yore had been afforded the advantages of today's artificial intelligence in crunching the possibilities of success, odds are they would have stayed home. Smart machines may be, but an algorithm can't account for the invisible spark of human ambition.

Strange times in the House

Nancy Pelosi, that avatar "of San Francisco values," received a note of support from an unlikely ally the other day. She got a fan letter from Donald Trump. Against a backdrop of the gossip, some more informed than other, that she might not get enough votes in her caucus to regain the speakership, the president tweeted: "I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House. She deserves this victory, she has earned it. But there are those in her party who are trying to take her away. She will win!"

In this photo taken May 2018 and released by Yulong Snow Mountain Glacier and Environmental Observation Research Station on Oct. 18, 2018, the Baishui Glacier No.1 is visible next to a tourist viewing platform high in the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the southern province of Yunnan in China. Scientists say the glacier is one of the fastest melting glaciers in the world due to climate change and its relative proximity to the Equator. It has lost 60 percent of its mass and shrunk 250 meters since 1982. (Yulong Snow Mountain Glacier and Environmental Observation Research Station via AP)

Cold shoulder from the sun

When snow covers the ground even as autumn leaves flaunt their colors, it's a sign that winter is running ahead of schedule. There's no use griping about the weather. Everybody talks about the weather, Mark Twain observed, but nobody does anything about it. Humans keep a seasonal calendar and the world of nature has its own. And just when the savants of science think they've found the key to natural powers, unseen forces demonstrate that, like the lesson of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," their wisdom is mostly from Mickey Mouse.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, present details of the new sanctions on Iran, at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

War by other means

There's a fierce war going on out there, but it usually gets scarce attention because the weapons don't make much noise. It's a war of economics, and noise or not, it raises wide-ranging issues with America's European allies.

CNN's Jim Acosta walks into federal court in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, to attend a hearing on legal challenge against President Donald Trump's administration. Trump's administration contends it has "broad discretion" to regulate press access to the White House as it fends off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of Acosta's "hard pass." (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Restoring trust in the press

Reporting the news is difficult and expensive. Grandstanding is more fun and everyone has an opinion. That's why reporters were once taught, often by a stern taskmaster, to leave opining to the columnists and the editorial page, and save their opinions for after work in the bar across the street. This particular affliction — grandstanding rather than reporting, advocacy rather than observing and distilling those observations before passing them on to press and tube, is the affliction of the modern media. And why not? Talking is cheaper than reporting.