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U.S. Department of Defense

• A Times investigation has brought to light a shadowy Pentagon program — parts of it remain classified — that since 2007 has investigated reports of unidentified flying objects.

One fighter pilot told us about a strange encounter in 2004 with a whitish, oval U.F.O. that “accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” and left him “pretty weirded out.”

In less surprising political news, President Trump expects to sign the Republican tax bill this week. He has called it a Christmas present for the entire nation, but the fine print reveals some will get nicer gifts than others.

His administration sought to play down a report that officials at a top U.S. health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were told to avoid using seven words, including “fetus” and “transgender.”

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A promising vaccine for dengue fever is in jeopardy after the Philippines suspended it, amid widespread fears about its safety and growing public anger over its use in 830,000 schoolchildren.

The French drugmaker, Sanofi, has come under fire for discounting early warnings that its vaccine could put some people at heightened risk of a severe form of the disease.

Researchers fear the stumble could stoke mistrust in vaccines around the globe.

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Patrice Diaz

A $500 million yacht, a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting and the $300 million chateau above.

These are among the impulse buys of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, who happens to be preaching fiscal austerity and leading a crackdown on corruption in the Saudi elite.

The purchase of Chateau Louis XIV, as pieced together through interviews and documents by The Times “is a severe blow to that image,” one analysts said.

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Business

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The New York Times

• Global inequality, after widening for decades, has stabilized. The bad news: The respite probably won’t last despite rapid strides among developing economies like China and India.

• Uber secretly spied on key executives, drivers and employees at rival ride-hailing firms as part of an intelligence-gathering operation in multiple countries, according to a letter made public in a U.S. federal court.

Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

In the News

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Achmad Ibrahim/Associated Press

In Indonesia, as estimated 80,000 protesters marched against the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the latest show of support for Palestinians in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. [The Jakarta Post]

Australia’s midyear economic forecast comes out today. It’s expected to show a bottom line improvement amounting to billions of dollars, another boon to the Turnbull government after weekend election wins for his Liberal party. [The Guardian]

• Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India’s famous political dynasty, reached out to other opposition leaders with a formal dinner after taking over as president of the Congress party, which faces a stiff challenge from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Hindu nationalists. [Press Trust of India]

• In Pakistan, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an assault on a church in Quetta that left at least eight dead and 30 injured, raising concerns about the security of the country’s Christians. [The New York Times]

• Protesters booed and shouted “Shame” as European far-right leaders gathered at a weekend meeting in Prague to unify their stance on immigration and other issues. [The New York Times]

• “If that will add to your happiness, I am for it.” President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines expressed support for gay marriage, an about-face that may displease leaders of the country’s Roman Catholic majority. [Reuters]

• They do: Two pairs of women tied the knot in Australia’s first same-sex weddings, after obtaining waivers to skip the normal monthlong wait. [A.P.]

• A Japanese mathematician, Shinichi Mochizuki, may have proven “the abc conjecture,” which has baffled the best math minds for decades. His work could “fundamentally revolutionize number theory.” [The Asahi Shimbun]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

• Holiday travelers, here are 10 places around the world that really know how to celebrate Christmas.

• What to cook this week: Our food editor, Sam Sifton, suggests chicken adobo, Russian honey cake and more.

Noteworthy

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Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times

• The “Star Wars” all stars — Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill and their “Last Jedi” comrades — discuss new relationships, the joys of villainy and those porgs.

• “It’s sort of like a religion.” In South Korea, break dancing offers escape from a strict conservative culture and intense educational system.

• And our pop critics collected notable new music, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamildrops team-up with the Decemberists and a Thelonious Monk reissue.

Back Story

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Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

On Dec. 18, 1941, less than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Sunday editor for The Times sent a memo to the publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger.

It said: “We ought to proceed with the puzzle, especially in view of the fact it is possible there will now be bleak blackout hours — or if not that then certainly a need for relaxation of some kind or other.”

That’s how a time of national grief helped lead to one of The Times’s most joyful and beloved features. The crossword puzzle debuted some two months later as a weekly feature in the Sunday magazine.

The editor, Margaret Farrar, followed a simple rule: good manners. She refused to allow unpleasant or impolite language — a rule that’s still followed by The Times’s current crossword editor, Will Shortz.

Nowadays, we like to think of our crossword puzzle as the form’s gold standard.

But The Times didn’t always hold crosswords in high regard. In 1924, a Times opinion column called the completion of crosswords a “sinful waste.”

Crossword solvers, the column claimed, “get nothing out of it except a primitive sort of mental exercise.”

Many of us would disagree.

Stephen Hiltner contributed reporting.

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