Read: Column Lynch reports on a dispute between the US and Russia regarding the chemical attacks in Syria-
Speaking behind closed doors, Power stood behind previous U.S. assertions that the Syrian government was behind the deadliest nerve agent attack in a quarter of a century, having fired sarin-laced shells at civilians in the Damascus suburb of Al Ghouta on August 21, killing as many as 1,400 people. She also took a poke at the Russian diplomats' account, suggesting that "a Christmas vacation might do the Russian ambassador good," according to the notes of a diplomat inside the room. (Power's blast sounded a lot like a line her predecessor, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, used in a Christmas season spat over Syria two years ago with Churkin. "Happy Holidays to my good friend Amb Churkin, who's clearly had a long month as Sec Council president," Rice wrote in a Tweet after the briefing. "Hope he gets some well- deserved rest.")
Quote: "If it would in any way help that I am willing to go to Iran, if in any way that it would secure his release. If the Iranian authorities took him, somebody in the government of Iran knows of his whereabouts", Senator Bill Nelson offering to go to Iran in search of CIA contractor Robert Levinson.
Number: 49, In the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, payments to US military retirees from the military retirement fund rose by 49%.
To Read: Leon Wieseltier believes that the ASA boycott decision is a travesty-
The Israeli settlement of the West Bank indeed must end; but even if it ends, Israel is a state by right with a perfectly understandable anxiety about its security. “We do not support the boycott of Israel,” Mahmoud Abbas, in South Africa for Mandela’s funeral, declared. He supports only a “boycott [of] the products of the settlements.” “We have relations with Israel,” he added, “we have mutual recognition of Israel.” But who is Abu Mazen to speak for the Palestinians, compared with an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego?
Quote: "While we are respectful of China's interests, and of the diplomatic pressure to which Israel has been subjected, those interests and that pressure cannot be permitted to obstruct the ability of American courts to hear critical evidence", David Boies, the lawyer representing the (American) Wultz family, whose son was killed in a terror attack, claiming that the Israeli government obstructed the trial (it's a complicated story to summarize here, but quite intriguing).
Number: 100,000, the number of housing units that could be built if the IDF vacates the land it uses in the center of Israel, according to an IDF source.
The Middle East
To Read: Egypt specialist Eric Trager takes a look at Egypt's new proposed constitution (and he doesn't like what he sees)-
Egypt's new draft constitution reflects the coalition of leftist political parties and entrenched state actors that helped oust President Muhammad Morsi from power in July. In the short run, the strength of this coalition -- and its ability to achieve a convincing mandate in the January constitutional referendum -- will determine whether the political transition can move forward. In the longer run, however, Egypt's outlook remains bleak: either the massive state spending that the new constitution mandates will be enforced and thereby wreak economic havoc, or the charter will not be enforced, in which case the country will continue to be governed by an unreliable legal system.
Quote: “The Zionists are just like the Nazis”, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei using twitter.
Number: 150, at least 150 police officers have been killed in Egypt since mid-August alone.
The Jewish World
To Read: Uriel Heilman reports from the Reform Movement's Conference in Sand Diego-
What do you get when you bring together 5,000 of the Reform movement’s faithful for a conference in sunny San Diego in mid-December?
Four days of singing, learning, schmoozing and worrying at a gathering that seemed equal parts pep rally and intervention session.
Quote: “Bottom line: I’d had a long day and I didn’t see the point in spending more of it getting booed and shushed. So I left. So sue me”, Commentary editor John Podohertz commenting on a stormy public debate about Israel with Jane Eisner.
Number: 400, the number of pages in Hitler aid Alfred Rosenberg's long lost diary, which was transferred to the US museum.