• David Ignatius, The Washington Post: Is California a Microcosm of the US? The foreign affairs columnist looks at California's fiscal debacle, cutting taxes while granting more entitlements, and draws a larger connection:
Will Washington become like California? Some would argue that has already happened, with the fiscal disaster masked by the federal government's ability to sell its massive debt cheaply and print money to pay its bills. And you see in Washington the same dysfunctional political process that's at work at the state level -- Democrats who get elected by delivering services and Republicans who get elected by delivering tax cuts.
  • Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post: Obama Needs to Step It Up on National Security Normally a fan of the president's calm and subdued demeanor, Parker criticizes his reaction to the Christmas day bomber:
What does it take to get a rise out of Barack Obama? Not that we need bombast and flared nostrils. Calm in the face of potential disaster is laudable, but it's a fine line between executive tranquillity and passive nonchalance. Like a tone-deaf disc jockey, Obama plays elevator music when the crowd wants John Philip Sousa.
  • Nolan Finley, The Detroit News: Al-Qaeda Has a Point  Opining from the destination city of the Christmas day bomber, Finley says, "There's a whole lot of truth in al-Qaida's taunting of America's ability to safeguard itself." Our security problems, argues Finley, stem from our unwillingness to aggressively target potential terrorists:

Go to the airport right now and you'll see 80-year-old women being patted down from their knickers to their noggins because their artificial hip joints set off the metal detector. But Ulmar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whose name is on a terror watch list and who began his trip to the United States from a terrorist hotbed, was able to waltz on board unmolested.

  • Maureen Dowd, The New York Times: My New Year's Eve with Janet Napolitano  What'd you do when the ball fell? Dowd let the embattled Homeland Security secretary give her side the of story. Overall, Napolitano feels she was misunderstood. Here's how Dowd sets up the New Year's Eve encounter:

I was working on the last night of the decennium horribile dictu, so I had tried to think of who else might also be burning the midnight oil instead of clinking the midnight bubbly. The answer was obvious... Janet Napolitano and I hadn’t planned to spend New Year’s Eve together. But there we were on this soggy Thursday, sitting in her office on the outskirts of the city.

  • Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times: Micronutrients, the World's Healthiest Food  Kristof points to a blind spot in America's aid program that costs less than the "cheapest hamburger." He's referring to micronutrients such as folic acid, iodine and zinc. If given to pregnant women, these nutrients can prevent a number of serious birth defects:

If a pregnant woman does not have enough folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) in her body at the very beginning of her pregnancy, then her fetus may suffer these neural tube defects. That’s why doctors give folic acid to women who plan to become pregnant.

Equally important is another micronutrient, iodine. The worst consequence of iodine deficiency isn’t goiters, but malformation of fetuses’ brains, so they have 10 to 15 points permanently shaved off their I.Q.’s.

Then there’s zinc, which reduces child deaths from diarrhea and infections. There’s iron, lack of which causes widespread anemia. And there’s vitamin A: some 670,000 children die each year because they don’t get enough vitamin A, and lack of the vitamin remains the world’s leading cause of childhood blindness.