Not all Christmas trees are decorated with ornaments. This "tree" in a Paris shop window is made of bundles of straw, with red berries and a simple strand of gold lights its only enhancement.
What is it about the holiday season that means no one wants to do much work? US President George W. Bush has said he will not be rushed into deciding how to change his Iraq policy - even though it's universally acknowledged as a failure.
Meanwhile with the status quo, dozens of Iraqis were kidnapped today by men wearing military uniforms. And soldiers and civilians die on a daily basis. Not much of a Christmas for American and British soldiers in Iraq.
Questioned about the Iraq Study Group's findings, Bush told a reporter, "I thought it was interesting that Republicans and Democrats could work in concert to help achieve an objective." What an ironic statement coming from perhaps the most divisive president in history. Aren't we all Americans here? Don't many of us have sons and daughters in Iraq, regardless of what political party we support? Aren't tax dollars from every single one of us being poured into the quagmire in Iraq?
Then came the news that 10,000 US researchers signed a statement protesting political interference in the scientific process. Backed by 52 Nobel Laureates, the statement demands a restoration of scientific integrity in government policy.
The BBC reports that according to the American Union of Concerned Scientists, data is being misrepresented for political reasons. It claims scientists working for federal agencies have been asked to change data to fit policy initiatives.
The Union has released a guide documenting dozens of recent allegations involving censorship and political interference in federal science, on issues ranging from global warming to sex education.
Campaigners say that in recent years the White House has censored the work of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, because a Republican congress would not stand up for scientific integrity.
"It's very difficult to make good public policy without good science, and it's even harder to make good public policy with bad science," said Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security. "In the last several years, we've seen an increase in both the misuse of science and I would say an increase of bad science in a number of very important issues; for example, in global climate change, international peace and security and water resources."
The statement was released at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting of scientists. Last year, the meeting triggered an uproar when a discussion resulted in the renowned US space agency climate scientist Dr. James Hansen later claiming he was under pressure not to talk to the media about global warming issues.
Michael Halpern from the UCS said the statement of objection to political interference had been supported by researchers regardless of their political views. "This science statement that has now been signed by the 10,000 scientists is signed by science advisers to both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Eisenhower, stating that this is not business as usual and calling for this practice to stop," he told BBC News. The Union expressed hope that the new Congress taking office in January would show a greater commitment to protecting the integrity of the scientific process.
Wonder of wonders, Mr. Bush, another example of Democrats and Republicans working together!