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The U.S. Capitol Building Dome is seen before the sun rises in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Tighter rules for spooks

Spooks sometimes like to make up their own rules. They're often up against a ruthless enemy of the nation, and it's tempting to think anything goes. It's becoming clear now that certain officers within the U.S. intelligence community took considerable liberties with the tools of their trade to watch certain civilians inside the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2018, file photo, a convoy of assault amphibious vehicles of U.S. Marine Corps, left, and Japan Self-Defense Forces, right, is driven during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base in Asaka, north of Tokyo.  Japan's Cabinet has approved a record 5.26 trillion yen ($47 billion) defense budget as the country seeks to bolster its arms capability by increasingly buying advanced U.S. weapons. The budget plan endorsed Friday, Dec. 21 rises 1. 3 percent from the previous year, a seventh annual increase since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2012.  (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

New role for Japan

Japan emerged from World War II as a crushed survivor of its own ambition and cruelty, despised by the Asia it described as a "partner" in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Asia was a very junior "partner" indeed.

President Donald Trump gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

No more Mr. Mean Guy

President Trump's State of the Union speech was perhaps the best speech of his presidency and one of the best State of the Union speeches of any president of the modern era.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, speaks during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, unseen, at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, Pool)

China's slowing economy

The growth of the Chinese economy has slowed to the lowest in three decades, suggesting peril to world security by the second-largest economy and principal trader. When China spits, as the proverb goes, Asia swims. The rest of the world gets wet feet, too.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on human trafficking in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

A State of the Union for a surprise

The Constitution requires that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." For Donald Trump, that "time to time" will fall Tuesday evening.

In this Nov. 5, 2018, file photo, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, the 2018 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, speaks during a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas. Southern politics was a one-party affair for a long time. But now its a mixed bag with battlegrounds emerging in states with growing metro areas where white voters are more willing to back Democrats. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Losers who won't go home

It used to be, when you lose an election, you had a trio of options: You could slink off into obscurity. Nothing wrong with that. Many honorable losers leave town with a discreet slink. You could run for a lesser office. Or, you can try again for the office you were booted from. (Richard Nixon, the patron saint of losers, did a version of all three.) There's a fourth option, too, but it's usually regarded as the fate worse than death. You could go home and get a job.

Dan Chase steps out of a voting booth Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at Town of Hamilton Town Hall in West Salem, Wis. (Peter Thomson/La Crosse Tribune via AP)

Keeping it real on Election Day

The Democrats have tried to sell the notion that there's no such thing as voter fraud in America — that it's only an urban legend that thousands of people who have no business in a polling place have cast illicit ballots and altered outcomes of elections.

FILE - In this June 12, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump reaches to shake hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Peril in a second summit

The status quo on the Korean peninsula, which had been frozen in place for decades — binding northeast Asia, including Japan and China, in an icy embrace — has begun to show signs of cracking.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., talks with reporters after a meeting with President Donald Trump on border security in the Situation Room of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Washington. From left, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Ill., and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif.(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Democrats without clothes

It's not true that the government shutdown, concluded over the weekend after 35 days of shutdown, accomplished "nothing." President Trump did not score a policy victory on the issue that led to the shutdown. The continuing resolution that is to run for three weeks, as signed by the president, does not include a dime of funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. The Mexican standoff over the Mexican border wall did, however, accomplish something important. It revealed just how radical the Democrats have become on the issue of immigration. In the run-up to the 2020 election elections, they have been smoked out. That's not nothing.

Venezuela's self-declared interim leader Juan Guaido speaks to supporters in a public plaza in Las Mercedes neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2019. Venezuela's political showdown moves to the United Nations where a Security Council meeting called by the United States will pit backers of President Nicolas Maduro against the Trump administration and supporters of Guaido. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

A ray of hope for Venezuela

Once upon a time and not so long ago Venezuela was the most prosperous nation in South America. When the late Hugo Chavez took over as maximum leader, he put it on the road to socialist hell. Under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela got there.

In this Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, file image made from video provided by the Survival Media Agency, Nick Sandmann, wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of Native American elder Nathan Phillips. (Survival Media Agency via AP)

The mindless work of the mob

Justine Sacco was a public relations executive about to embark on a trip to South Africa back in the day of 2013. Before boarding her plane, Miss Sacco put up a lame joke to her 170 Twitter followers: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" The joke was a clumsy attempt to lampoon the racial inequities of post-apartheid South Africa. She apparently confused AIDS, which has afflicted millions of whites, with Ebola epidemics, which have afflicted mostly blacks Africans.

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