The Dallas Morning News on Super Bowl weather:
Welcome to North Texas, Super Bowl fans! Cold enough for ya?
No, seriously. Because, and let us be super-ice-crystals-on-the-ground clear, it's colder than enough for us.
We'd been hoping to show you a Sun Belt good time here in Texas, without the humidity of Miami, that odd morning-after smell in the French Quarter or the weirdness of Arizona. Texas, where the jobs are and folks can play 18 holes pretty much 12 months a year.
Except for Super Bowl week, apparently. ...
Oh, sure, and we know what you're thinking, especially if you followed the Green Bay Packers or Pittsburgh Steelers south for a little fun in the sun: Cold? This ain't cold. No, if a little squall line like this shuts down your schools, paralyzes your highways and, holy cow, freezes your train system in the barn, you don't know winter.
Yeah, whatever. If you're from greater Green Bay or metro Pittsburgh, this is nothing, right? For the record, rain isn't supposed to freeze when it hits the ground. ...
So let's make a deal, Super Bowl fans from more northerly climes:
We'll attempt to be the best hosts ever, despite being bundled up in hats and scarves and fumbly gloves and big woolly coats. We'll put on parties and show you around and make sure the big game comes off without too much of a hitch, no matter which team wins. ...
Your part of the deal is this: Let us whine about the weather without judging us. ...
The Miami Herald on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission:
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission issued its long-awaited report, concluding that the debacle that nearly sank the global economy was fully avoidable, the result of lax regulation, corporate mismanagement and risky practices fueled by Wall Street's greed. You think? The Commission's report performs a valuable service by providing a mountain of evidence to dispel the myth that financial crises are an integral part of the business cycle.
Only a year ago, in January of 2010, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase told the Commission that, hey, these things are just part of life. A financial crisis, he said, "happens every five to seven years. We shouldn't be surprised."
Dimon still believes his industry merits sympathy, telling the financial conference in Davos, Switzerland, that bankers are tired of everyone beating up on them.
He still doesn't get it. Americans were surprised and unprepared for the economic downfall because they placed their trust in Wall Street's wizards and the regulators who oversee them. And they're still sore, because they were made to pay the tab for the financial malpractice of others. Reading the Commission's findings won't make taxpayers feel any better.
Some in Congress interpret the recent elections as a mandate for less government regulation. They're wrong. Before taking any actions that would weaken regulation of financial markets, they should read the Commission's 576-page report and absorb its lessons.
The Times Union, Albany, N.Y., on Egypt's unrest:
The enlightened world can't help but cheer the sight, so exhilarating and so hopeful, of sustained protests on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Another authoritarian regime is challenged in the Mideast, a part of the world where prospects for organized dissent for so long seemed so daunting. First Tunisia, followed by Yemen and Jordan. Now Egypt.
In the absence of competitive elections and other essential trappings of democracy, popular will prevails nonetheless. Hosni Mubarak shows every sign of being in the final days of his three decades of heavy-handed rule. Even the Egyptian military acknowledges the legitimacy of escalating demonstrations calling for his removal.
This, then, is when the West, so secure in the comfort that its democracies do function, peacefully and generally free of oppression, might pause to wonder what it might be like in Egypt when the euphoria subsides and the reality of the post-Mubarak era sets in. ...
The most reasonable of hopes - for a secular government that reaches out to the rest of the Mideast and the world, rather than trying to intimidate - won't be realized easily. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued an appropriate warning to Egypt, not to make the sort of cosmetic changes that bring about democracy for "six months or a year," before "evolving into a military dictatorship." ...
An early yet critical test of that will be the free, open and legitimate elections that Egypt already has scheduled for September. ... Egyptians need to end an era of oppression and corruption, not create another one.
The Journal, Martinsburg, W.Va., on entitlements:
We wish conservatives in Congress lots of luck in their campaigns to reduce government spending and reform the new national health care law. Public opinion polls on the health care measure make it clear that while most Americans seem eager for lawmakers to impose new controls on spending, they are more hooked than ever on entitlements.
Entitlement spending is the single toughest nut to crack in terms of addressing the national debt. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid chew through nearly $2 trillion a year.
But it is entitlements not supported directly by the federal budget that provide a look into the public's addiction.
Two parts of the health care law have proven to be very popular ... One requires insurance companies to allow young adults to be covered as dependents on their parents' health insurance policies. The other requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions, without reflecting that in premiums.
Both measures amount to new entitlements. The costs of both must be spread by insurance companies through premiums of all their customers, whether they benefit from the special programs or not. In other words, tens of millions of people are paying more to provide the two entitlements to a relative few of their neighbors.
At one time conservatives listed the two provisions as among their priority targets, because the entitlements were to be paid for involuntarily by everyone with health insurance. No more. The programs' popularity has forced conservatives to back away.
How, then, can Congress be expected to tackle reform in other, even more popular entitlements? ...
Chicago Sun-Times on Rahm Emanuel for Chicago mayor:
Common sense and the law had a meeting of the minds. Rahm Emanuel is back on the ballot for mayor.
This is as it should be.
We were prepared, if the Illinois Supreme Court had ruled against Emanuel, to respect the decision and move on - not a word of foul play. For all the talk of political skullduggery, we recognized that reasonable lawyers and judges could and did disagree about Emanuel's residency status, as defined by state law.
But we believe the proper approach to election law in a democracy - and honestly, folks, that does include Chicago - is that legal interpretations should err on the side of inclusiveness.
To exclude Emanuel, to throw him off the ballot because he had the temerity to go to Washington to serve the president, would have been an outrage against this inclusive spirit of democracy. And, according to the slap-down of the state Appellate Court's earlier ruling, it would have tossed out 150 years of settled residency law. ...
Tens of thousands of voters effectively would have been disenfranchised.
This decisive ruling was a victory for the voters, who deserve the right to decide for themselves who their next mayor will be.
Now let's get back to what should be the real issues in this election - the quality of our schools, the safety of our neighborhoods, the soundness of our city's finances.
Although, let's admit it: This was a fascinating education.
Loveland Daily (Colo.) Reporter-Herald on the state of education:
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said this about education: "Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success. But if we want to win the future - if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas - then we also have to win the race to educate our kids."
Earlier that day, we got some news about how we're doing in that race.
The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that less than half of American students are proficient in science. The ability of the country to produce leaders in science is "seriously in danger," according to one of the test administrators. Among the myriad discouraging details in the results was that virtually no black high school students scored proficient in science. ...
To further focus the problem, what parents would not rather see better education for their children? It's one thing to speak in the abstract about risks to American innovation. It's another to think of that individual high school senior in your own neighborhood, or your own house, who just went through all those years of school and has so little to show for it.
We can blame schools for this failure. We can blame teachers. We can blame parents. But, no matter where we point the finger, we must admit we are failing ourselves. And we must find a way to do better.
San Francisco Chronicle on U.S. dietary guidelines:
The new U.S. dietary guidelines had their debut recently. Their prescription boils down to: Eat less. Especially less sodium.
It would have been better if the guidelines had been more specific, in the manner of: Eat less red meat, stop eating so much cheese, and enough with the enormous cookies and the huge pieces of cake.
Blame politics - and the power of the food lobbies - for the lack of such specific guidelines, which Americans clearly need. The closest the U.S. Department of Agriculture was able to get to a specific recommendation was an urging for Americans to drink water instead of soda. Even that small step represents a big change from the previous guidelines.
More guidelines like that, and less of those that sound clinical, would be appreciated in the next set of dietary guidelines scheduled for 2015. Encouraging Americans to eat more "polyunsaturated fatty acids" clearly hasn't worked (the obesity rate is more than twice what it was in the late 1970s, when the USDA began issuing guidelines), but encouraging Americans to eat more sardines might.
The Oregonian, Portland, on the emotional health of American youth:
Even though it was a hit song spawning T-shirts and a popular national refrain, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" apparently fails our younger generation. More and more college freshmen are reporting poor emotional health, largely the result of stress and fear about the future.
The finding of poor emotional health, released by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA and based on a survey of 200,000 incoming students at four-year colleges, is troubling at several levels. For starters, it is not a college-only phenomenon: The students have brought to campus with them the depression, anxieties and in some cases medications that took root years before.
And then there is the complexion of society today, in all its striving against tough economic and professional odds - and the high expectations of baby boomer parents whose opportunities were greater in a day of explosive economic and cultural growth. Pressure to succeed may be greater than ever, and yet the dark corollary of achieving in such a climate is a toxic rise in the fear of failing. .. In 1985, 64 percent of the students questioned in the survey rated their emotional health as above average - a slim majority invoking genuine optimism. But that number fell to 52 percent in the latest survey. ...
The overview of evidence, in surveys and films and anecdotes, piles up: We are pushing much, sometimes too much, onto the shoulders of our young people. ...
Toronto Sun on democracy for Egypt:
If anything positive can be said of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as his final days undoubtedly approach, it's that he honored the peace treaty with Israel for his 30 years in power.
This was no mean feat considering the endlessly volatile Islamic radicalism of the Middle East that wants Israel annihilated.
Even if Mubarak did receive $1.3 billion a year from the U.S. as a quid pro quo for a chilled peace, it at least assured Israel had no enemy on its western flank.
What the west sees as democracy - and this includes watching ordinary Egyptians taking to the streets to demand the end of Mubarak's autocracy - does not always translate into good conquering evil.
Egypt must be careful what it wishes for.
The price tag for democracy is high, and a "democratic" but militant Islamist Egypt will pay the price in withdrawn western aid and much of the $1 billion a month from its tourism industry.
That's how our democracy will - and should - respond.
By cutting Egypt off.
Today Hamas has "democratic" control in Gaza; Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Neither are peace movements.
In Egypt, former Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei offers himself as the opposition's negotiator, and then turns treacherous by inviting two Muslim Brotherhood fanatics just busted out of jail to take part in a post-Mubarak Egypt.
Not a good sign. ...
Egypt must beware of the direction it goes, and the price it will pay if militant Islam ends up in charge.
It won't be cheap.
China Daily, Beijing, on managing China's economy:
With its per capita gross domestic product rising to about $4,500, China is at a critical point if it is to avoid the middle income trap and push living standards closer to those of rich economies.
Robust economic growth in 2010 has allowed China much of the wherewithal to underpin an encouraging rise in average income levels.
But if the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) is to become a cornerstone for sustainable and inclusive development in the coming decades, Chinese policymakers should seize the current momentum of sound income growth to enrich people as fast and fairly as possible.
By narrowly outpacing the country's 10.3-percent GDP growth, Chinese farmers have gained themselves a bigger slice of the growing national wealth. Policymakers should build on this favorable trend of income growth to aggressively tilt the distribution of national wealth in favor of domestic consumers, especially those with less income. ...
But such a change is certainly far from enough to make a substantial dent in the country's widening urban-rural income gap. Farmers still earn one-third the income of urban residents on average.
However, it does signal a crucial shift in the distribution of the country's growing national wealth in favor of the poor. Small as it is, without such incremental improvements in income distribution, China's efforts to boost domestic consumption into a leading growth engine would be to no avail. ...
After three decades of sizzling economic growth, it is time for China to transform its economic model toward fairer, more consumer-led growth.
The Jerusalem Post on Sen. Joe Lieberman:
U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut recently announced that he would not be running for a fifth term in 2012.
Some Jews on the Left will be happy to see him go. ... Particularly discomfiting for Jewish liberals who see a high wall of separation between church and state as the best guarantor of Jews' place in American society, has been Lieberman's consistent call to give religious groups more of a role in the public square. ...
Then there is Lieberman's hawkish foreign policy.
Unlike the vast majority of U.S. Jews, he supported toppling Saddam Hussein by launching a war. ...
Lieberman provided the crucial 60th vote for President Barack Obama's health care reform. ...
Since 1988, when he was first voted into the Senate, Lieberman has managed to strike a unique balance between two very Jewish sensibilities: a compassionate regard for protecting the weak at home, with a hawkish realism abroad. ...
To bring together these two Jewish ideals, Lieberman succeeded in rising above a partisan politics that encourages conformity and towing the party line, and discourages independent thinking. In the process he paid a heavy political price, but retained his integrity and provided a role model for future politicians. He will be sorely missed.
The Telegraph, London, on the British economy:
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, David Cameron outlined Britain's plans for growth, while exhorting the European Union to strip away its enterprise-killing regulations. ... Even on the top of a Swiss mountain he must have been able to hear the triumphant calls of "told you so" from those commentators who believe that the Coalition's deficit reduction strategy is leading Britain back into recession.
We are told that the British economy shrank by 0.5 percent in the last quarter of 2010. Even if this Office for National Statistics figure is revised upwards, it is a setback for the government - and a gift to economists and politicians who opposed the brave cuts in state spending announced in George Osborne's spending review. Their message: stop belt-tightening or face a double-dip recession ... Does the 0.5 percent fall in output point to a double-dip recession? No, it does not.... Moreover, economies recovering from recession often suffer from temporary setbacks. ...
Cameron finds himself fighting a war on many fronts. But, despite the scale of the challenge he faces, we must not pay too much attention to the crowing of the doom-mongers. Many of the head-shaking economic pundits never wanted the size of the state to shrink in the first place. Their arguments are based on political preference as much as economics: they are opposed to the Coalition's public service reforms and long for a return to the days of Gordon Brown's ever-expanding state. They employ dense economic jargon, and some of their criticisms are intelligent, but fundamentally they believe in a model of society that the Government has decisively rejected. ...