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A Surprise Appearance at Today's Hearing on Gun Safety: New York Times: "Speaking slowly but with discernible passion, former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011, addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in its first hearing since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last month. Ms. Giffords, who entered a packed hearing room on Capitol Hill, walked slowly by the senators gathered to hear testimony from several witnesses, including her husband Mark E. Kelly, and kissed some of them on the cheeks as she passed."
Her Full Statement: "Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats, and Republicans. Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying—too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you." Video here.
What Came Next: Not much. Politico: "With her focused delivery and simple message, she set the tone for what came next: A four-hour hearing marked by a distinct lack of drama, fighting, or a conclusion. Neither side seemed like it was playing to win. For Republicans especially, this was a hearing to survive. No YouTube moments or arguments with Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband. For Democrats, this was about avoiding unforced errors and not doing anything that would stall whatever momentum there is for action on gun control. Senators on both sides were very careful to avoid saying anything that could be seen as personally insulting the victims of gun violence — some of whom were in the room. And there were fewer of the long-winded speeches like those at last week’s hearings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Benghazi."
Vague Agreements: Wall Street Journal: "Lawmakers and witnesses agreed that something should be done to stop gun violence, but they didn't agree on which steps to take. Most stopped short of endorsing a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons labeled as assault weapons, including Mr. Kelly. Many mentioned a need to limit the size of ammunition-holding magazines."
And in Conclusion: Washington Post: "In ending Wednesday’s hearing after nearly four hours of testimony, [Chairman Patrick] Leahy said, 'I believe there should be some areas of agreement' on ways to end gun violence. He said he wants the committee to mark up legislation in February for eventual consideration by the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., reaffirming his support for the process, said Tuesday, 'I’m going to do everything within my power to bring legislation dealing with gun and violence generally to the floor.' "
More on the Gun Debate: The Slatest: The Latest Mass Shooting Occurred While the Senate Was Debating What To Do About Guns; XX Factor: The Nonsense Argument That "Guns Make Women Safer"; Future Tense: U.S. Senator: "I Think Video Games Is a Bigger Problem Than Guns"; Weigel: Chuck Grassley, "Executive Actions" Truther; Atlantic Wire: Let's Not Use Real Guns To Fight Imaginary Crimes.
Some Housekeeping From Yesterday: Was the Sandy Hook Dad Really "Heckled"? The Video Suggests Otherwise.
Tomorrow's Fight: The confirmation of Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary. The Atlantic: The 6 Most Important Things Chuck Hagel Will Tell the Senate Tomorrow; Slate: How Chuck Hagel could single-handedly do more to advance gun control than almost anyone else.
A Preview: Reuters: "Chuck Hagel has told Congress that if confirmed as the next defense secretary he would ensure America's military is prepared to strike Iran if necessary but stressed the need to be 'cautious and certain' when contemplating the use of force. Hagel's views were detailed in 112 pages of written responses to wide-ranging questions by lawmakers submitted ahead of his confirmation hearing on Thursday. In them, he also voiced support for a steady U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan. It was unclear whether his comments would help blunt what is expected to be harsh questioning by mostly Republican lawmakers following a public campaign against his nomination by critics seeking to portray him as soft on Iran and anti-Israel."
Meet Massachusetts' Next Senator: Boston Globe: "Governor Deval Patrick has picked William 'Mo' Cowan, his former chief of staff, to serve as the state’s interim US senator until the successor to John F. Kerry is chosen by the voters in a June 25 special election. ... Cowan said he was 'honored and humbled' to get the temporary post, which will make him the first African-American to represent Massachusetts in the Senate since Edward Brooke held the seat as a Republican from 1966 to 1978. ... He said he was not running for office and was not a 'candidate today or any time in the future.' ... A primary election for the seat is set for April 30 and US Representative Edward Markey is so far the only high-profile Democrat to formally enter the race. However, US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, the former president of an ironworkers union from South Boston, is expected to announce by Thursday whether he will run for the Senate, say his political associates."
The Next, Next Mass. Senator: Politico: "Scott Brown would enter the Massachusetts Senate special election with only a slight lead over the Democratic establishment’s candidate, Rep. Ed Markey, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. But first Markey will need to get past a primary challenge, as Rep. Stephen F. Lynch is poised to formally announce his candidacy on Thursday for the Democratic nomination. The automated poll shows Brown leading Markey by three points, 48 percent to 45 percent, in a head-to-head contest. Driven in part by name recognition, Markey starts out with a 52 percent to 19 percent lead over Lynch."
Senate Democracy Is Dead: Or at least seriously wounded by the failure of filibuster reform and the court ruling against the president’s recess appointments, according to Akhil Reed Amar.
The Idiocy of Sequestration: A trillion dollars in spending cuts nobody wants are coming, and they won’t even fix our real deficit problem, explains Matthew Yglesias.
Things In Syria Could Be About To Get a Whole Lot Worse: New York Times: "The Syrian government said that Israeli warplanes had carried out an airstrike inside its territory on Wednesday, raising the risks that the two-year-old civil conflict in Syria could spread beyond the country’s borders. A statement by the Syrian military said a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs had been hit, but the precise target was unclear. Earlier news reports, confirmed by an American official in Washington, said the Israelis were targeting a truck convoy inside Syria that was bound for Lebanon. It was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria, which has remained in a technical state of war with Israel although both sides have maintained an uneasy peace along their disputed border."
Senate Democrat Denies D.C. Prostitution Report: Associated Press: "Sen. Robert Menendez's office says he traveled on a plane owned by a Florida physician who is a friend and political donor, but denied that the senator had engaged with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. The New Jersey Democrat's office issued the denial Wednesday. It said he traveled on three occasions on Dr. Salomon Melgen's airplane. The FBI searched Melgen's West Palm Beach, Fla., office Tuesday night and early Wednesday, but it was unclear if the raid was related to Menendez. Menendez's office said the trips were 'paid for and reported appropriately.' The Daily Caller, a conservative website, reported shortly before the election that Menendez traveled on Melgen's private plane to the Dominican Republic to engage in sex with prostitutes."
And Because We Couldn't Pass Up the Chance To Write Sextortion: Los Angeles Times: "A Glendale man was behind bars Wednesday and facing more than two dozen charges in a 'sextortion' case, in which he allegedly targeted 350 women and coerced them into showing him their naked pictures. Karen 'Gary' Kazaryan, 27, was arrested without incident Tuesday by FBI agents. He is charged in a federal grand jury indictment with 15 counts of computer intrusion and 15 counts of aggravated identity theft, the U.S. attorney's office said. He faces 105 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts."
Which Brings Us to This: LAT: "Ron Jeremy, one of the most famous names in porn, is reportedly in critical condition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suffering an aneurysm near his heart. ... The 59-year-old adult-film star suffered severe chest pains Tuesday afternoon, TMZ first reported, and drove himself to the hospital, where the aneurysm was discovered. ... Jeremy has done more than 2,000 adult films, and though he's done some mainstream work in recent years, he told AskMen last year, 'As long as the penis works, I’ll do porn—cause it’s fun, it pays and I still like it.' "
More Quick Hits From Slate—
Future Tense: Research in Motion Is Dead. Long Live BlackBerry?