Christians under attack. Militants in Iraq targeted Christians in three separate Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad, killing at least 37 people, officials said Wednesday. In one attack, a car bomb went off near a church in the capital’s southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38, a police officer said. Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21, the officer said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups have often targeted Iraq’s dwindling Christian community, whom they consider heretics. “We are extremely troubled by the attacks on Christians as they mark the birth of Jesus, the prince of peace,” said Todd Daniels, regional manager for the Middle East for International Christian Concern. “We call on Christians around the world to remember their brothers and sisters in Iraq and to stand with them in prayer.”
Delayed gratification. Some customers are accusing FedEx and UPS of spoiling Christmas with unexpected shipping delays. The two shipping companies blamed the slowdown on poor weather and overloaded systems. The holiday shopping period this year was shorter than usual, and more buying was done online and at the last minute. Neither company said how many packages were delayed, but the problems appeared to be spread across the country. Amazon.com has been notifying some customers affected by the UPS delays that it will refund any shipping charges and give them a $20 credit toward a future purchase. Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said the company processed orders and got them to its shippers “on time for holiday delivery” and is now “reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.”
Middle East mystery. A team of Russian scientists said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died of natural causes, a finding that contradicts a Swiss team that also examined the leader’s remains earlier this year. Teams of scientists from France, Switzerland, and Russia were asked to determine whether polonium, a rare and extremely lethal substance, played a role in Arafat’s death in a French military hospital in 2004. Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning him, which Israel denies. The Swiss team announced in November it found evidence of radiation poisoning in Arafat’s remains. Dr. Abdullah Bashir, the head of the Palestinian medical committee investigating Arafat’s death, said the committee would study reports from all of the teams and announce its conclusion at a later date.
Grace period. The Obama administration has offered additional sign-up time to customers affected by the glitches on the insurance website HealthCare.gov. In a Christmas Eve blog post on the site, the administration told customers, “Even though we have passed the December 23 enrollment deadline for coverage starting January 1, we don’t want you to miss out if you’ve been trying to enroll.” The blog encouraged customers who still wanted insurance to call 800-318-2596 and explain why they had been unable to enroll in a plan before the deadline. “We still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1,” the blog stated.