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Michelle Obama, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett will attend the funeral of guns shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton  tomorrow. Here's The Chicago Sun-Times on the significance of tomorrow's event:
By coming to Hadiya’s South Side funeral — not far from where Duncan, Obama and Jarrett once lived — the message is clear:

Urban violence is as much the nation’s scourge as the mass shootings that have so gripped our consciousness. The terror in Newtown is an everyday reality in Chicago, and gun-control measures, including universal background checks and a crackdown on straw purchasers, are even more needed here.

But that’s not enough, which is why Duncan’s presence as the nation’s educator-in-chief is so meaningful. Good schools, good family supports and strong communities can do far more than any tough law ever could. [...] The presence of these three Chicagoans, leaders who undoubtedly feel Hadiya’s loss deep in their souls, is an important start, telling the nation that this pain is simply too great to bear.

Frank A.S. Campbell at Bloomberg on the effectiveness of gun background checks:
Congress responded by passing the NICS Improvement Act, authorizing $1.3 billion in grants to fund state agencies and court systems to create the necessary information infrastructure. Yet even after additional mass shootings, the authorized sums were never requested by the president or appropriated by Congress; indeed, the plan has received only token funding -- $50 million since 2009, or 4 percent of the authorized amount. As a result, information collection remains uneven, the databases full of gaps. [...]
Rather than let the system fail due to insufficient funds, we should emulate the investment approach taken by the government’s DNA Initiative, which for the past eight years has helped state and local governments outfit their DNA laboratories and dramatically decrease backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples from convicted offenders, arrestees and crime scenes.

Let's go below the fold for more analysis of the day's top stories...

Paul Krugman at The New York Times continues to point out facts to the debt and deficit obsessives:

While it’s true that we will eventually need some combination of revenue increases and spending cuts to rein in the growth of U.S. government debt, now is very much not the time to act. Given the state we’re in, it would be irresponsible and destructive not to kick that can down the road.

Start with a basic point: Slashing government spending destroys jobs and causes the economy to shrink. [...] Realistically, we’re not going to resolve our long-run fiscal issues any time soon, which is O.K. — not ideal, but nothing terrible will happen if we don’t fix everything this year. Meanwhile, we face the imminent threat of severe economic damage from short-term spending cuts.

So we should avoid that damage by kicking the can down the road. It’s the responsible thing to do.

The Seattle Times on Sally Jewell as nominee for Secretary of Interior:
Her political challenge lies with energy exploration on public lands. The Obama administration has granted drilling leases on 6 million acres of public land — too few for drill-first Republicans, too many for conservationists such as President Clinton’s Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

In December, outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opened half — 11.8 million acres — of the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope to drilling. But Jewell should proceed with extreme caution with further Alaska drilling, particularly offshore, and quickly complete a review of Shell’s troubled Arctic drilling efforts.

Jewell’s appointment was greeted warmly by Western Energy Alliance, a group representing independent oil and natural-gas producers, because she once worked in their industry. But Jewell has even stronger affiliation with conservation, boosting REI’s reliance on green energy and serving on the board of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which has effectively kept the Interstate 90 corridor to Snoqualmie Pass green.

The New York Times on Mary Jo White as nominee for chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission:
Her résumé in the past decade has understandably alarmed advocates of financial reform, who fear that her work as a defender of Wall Street means that she is dangerously biased in favor of the banks and their deregulatory agenda. Her lack of a deep regulatory background is also a worry at a time when the agency’s top priority is to finish overdue rules to carry out the Dodd-Frank financial reform and other securities laws. Complicating matters further, her husband, John White, is also a corporate lawyer, at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, with his own long list of Wall Street clients.

We understand these concerns but do not believe they are disqualifying. Ms. White is a worthy nominee, though clearly, the White House and Ms. White will have to address the conflicts of interest in her background frankly and persuasively. Equally important, she must be able to demonstrate in her confirmation hearing that she is not captive to the financial industry’s view of the world, which has dominated her recent professional life. [...] Her qualities of toughness, tenacity and aggressiveness are just what the S.E.C. needs in a leader. The overarching question she must be asked — and that she must answer — is how she will use those qualities to advance the S.E.C.’s mission, which is to protect individual investors by ensuring that markets are transparent, well regulated and vigorously policed.

Michael Hirsh at National Journal on CIA nominee John Brennan:
Brennan had indicated that he wanted to see big changes in control of the drone program even before his confirmation hearing on Thursday. [...] “A lot of what’s driving Brennan, from what I’ve heard, is that he feels the [drone] program has run its course as a CIA operation,” says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism official. “He feels that basically the collateral damage is causing more problems than any success coming out of the program.” Meanwhile, the debate over the ethics — and, perhaps more significantly, the efficacy — of targeting rogue American citizens and others abroad is going to grow more intense, too.  “My sense is there is a growing recognition that these strikes can hurt organizations but they are rarely the main reason for the end of the organization,” says Seth Jones, a counterterrorism expert at the Rand Corp.

According to other people who know Brennan’s thinking well, he also believes that moving drones to the Defense Department will allow greater congressional and public scrutiny. He fears that if the United States does not lead in developing an ethical and legal policy framework on the use of drones, decades’ worth of international law will be undermined and other countries that are close to developing their own drones, particularly China and Russia, will abuse them. The nominee to head the Pentagon, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., is nominally in support of targeted strikes, but he is also keenly aware of the possibly perilous precedent that’s being set, and he is concerned about the backlash from “collateral damage” when innocents are killed, possibly creating even more jihadists than are being taken out.

Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at the Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute, argues for reform in USA Today:
Drones are the future of warfare. As the first nation to wield them, the United States should set the world's example: Use them lawfully, democratically and sparingly. End the covert drone war and initiate a counterterrorism strategy that is honest about the benefits and limitations of drone strikes.

Instead of tasking the CIA and JSOC with a secret war, we should entrust any necessary strikes to the conventional U.S. military forces that — over time and in response to public demand — have built traditions of complying with the law, reporting mistakes and answering public inquiry.

The Spokesman-Review urges a "relentless" fight against military suicides:
More active and non-active duty troops died from suicide than from combat in 2012. A total of 349 suicides, or nearly one a day, the Pentagon reported last Friday. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2009, even as the military has ramped up its efforts to confront the issue.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs released results from a two-year study covering 42 states that shows the number of veterans committing suicide is higher than previously estimated. In 2010, an average of 22 veterans a day committed suicide, up from 18 per day. The lower estimate failed to count veterans who hadn’t sought help from the VA. To complicate matters, about 70 percent of the veterans who committed suicide were over the age of 50, which shows the problem goes beyond the effects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

It’s staggering to think that today more than 20 former and current service members will lose the fight against depression, alienation, isolation, guilt, fear and the other dark enemies that lurk within. And then it will happen tomorrow and every day after until the military and mental health community figure out an effective approach.

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