***We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. The most recent edition is below. Sign up here to receive The Slatest PM in your inbox daily.***
Biden Tries to Jump-Start Stalled Gun Control Push: Associated Press: "Speaking at a conference on gun violence a dozen miles from the scene of the Connecticut school massacre, Vice President Joe Biden tried to rally support Thursday for the Obama administration's gun control proposals. 'America has changed on this issue,' Biden said. 'There is a moral price to be paid for inaction.' ... Biden advocated a series of proposals, including universal background checks for gun owners, a ban on many military-style weapons and a limit on the size of magazines. He said the measures would save lives though he said there was no guarantee they would prevent all mass shootings."
Reality Check: Atlantic Wire: "More than a week after President Obama demanded that gun violence victims 'deserve a vote' on new legislation, we're no closer to any of these bills seeing the floor of Congress then we were a week ago. That's largely because Congress is in recess, of course, but those legislators who have been asked about firearm laws since returning to their districts, from Connecticut to Colorado, don't appear to be budging. ... [A]t the federal level, the rhetoric has remained mostly unchanged since the State of the Union address last Tuesday. ... The only one that has anything resembling widespread support is expanded background checks, which even [some] Republicans ... say they can get behind. ... [But] ultimately, we're right back where we started before the State of the Union."
Staying Optimistic: Politico: "Biden and the members of Congress who joined him [in Connecticut] stressed the message they’ve said since December: Newtown truly was different in changing the conversation — and therefore the lack of movement yet is different from the failed efforts at gun control after previous shootings. Americans are still shaken by the December shooting, advocates are continuing to speak out and emotions remain raw, Biden said, and the call to action resonates just as strongly. Without getting into details on where potential legislation stands, Biden acknowledged that the effort faces continued resistance, particularly from the National Rifle Association, but asserted that the dominant national mood hasn’t changed in the last two months and that politicians will be rewarded for standing up to the NRA."
Potential Common Ground: New York Times: "Lawmakers in at least half a dozen states, including California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, have proposed legislation this year that would require gun owners to buy liability insurance — much as car owners are required to buy auto insurance. Doing so would give a financial incentive for safe behavior, they hope, as people with less dangerous weapons or safety locks could qualify for lower rates. ... Groups representing gun owners oppose efforts to make insurance mandatory, arguing that law-abiding people should not be forced to buy insurance to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms. But some groups, including the National Rifle Association, endorse voluntary liability policies for their members. And as several states pass laws making it easier for people to carry concealed weapons and use them for self-defense, some gun groups are now selling policies to cover some of the legal costs stemming from self-defense shootings."
NRA's Fundraising: Washington Post: "The National Rifle Association’s political action committee brought in $1.1 million in January, according to its most recent FEC filing. The cash infusion came as the group geared up for what it is calling 'the fight of the century' over proposals for stricter gun regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. The January donations came in at a faster-than-average clip for the NRA Political Victory Fund. It earned $14.4 million in total donations in 2011 and 2012, including $1.8 million in August 2012." Check out this graphic to see which lawmakers received political donations from the gun lobby last year.
Drew Peterson Sentenced: Chicago Tribune: "Moments after he screamed in court, 'I did not kill Kathleen,' Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the 2004 murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio. Peterson had faced as much as 60 years, but Judge Edward Burmila said he gave Peterson some consideration for his years as a police officer and his service in the military. The sentence was handed down after Peterson, who did not testify at this trial, made an emotional appeal to the judge, at times appearing to choke up."
Storm Blankets Midwest With Snow: Associated Press: "Blinding snow, at times accompanied by thunder and lightning, bombarded much of the nation's midsection Thursday, causing whiteout conditions, shutting down large swaths of interstate highways and forcing schools, businesses and even state legislatures to close. Kansas was the epicenter of the winter storm, with parts of the state buried under 14 inches of powdery snow, but winter storm warnings stretched from eastern Colorado through Illinois. Freezing rain and sleet were forecast for southern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas. St. Louis received all of the above—a treacherous mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain."
Hagel's Confirmation, Slowly, Picks Up Steam: Reuters: "Chuck Hagel's path to confirmation as President Barack Obama's new secretary of defense became more secure on Thursday when Republican Senator Richard Shelby said he would support the nomination. Shelby joined almost every other Republican senator a week ago in delaying a vote on confirming Hagel in order to allow colleagues more time to examine Hagel's record, said spokesman Jonathan Graffeo. Fifteen other Republican senators signed a letter to Obama on Thursday asking that he withdraw Hagel's nomination, saying they respect the military service of the decorated Vietnam War veteran, but he lacks the bipartisan support and confidence to serve effectively. The White House said it still supports Hagel and expects he will be confirmed. Senate Democrats expect a vote on his confirmation next week, after Congress returns from a recess, and that Hagel will win the majority support he needs to become the chief civilian at the Pentagon."
Curiosity May Soon Have Company: Wall Street Journal: "India plans to launch a satellite in October that will orbit Mars and collect data on the red planet, a spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organization said Thursday. The mission will cost about 4.5 billion rupees ($82 million), ISRO spokesman Deviprasad Karnik said. ... The program follows a 2008 unmanned mission to the moon. India says its space program, which also includes a plan to send manned moon missions, helps its scientists develop technology that can be used in other sectors. India's space program began in the 1970s, and the country launched its first satellite in 1983. The government had budgeted $1.2 billion for the program in the fiscal year that ends next month."
Syria Is Still a Mess: Washington Post: "A car bomb that detonated at a checkpoint near Baath party headquarters in Damascus set off a huge explosion Thursday, killing dozens and and wounding more than 200, opposition groups said. 'Most of the casualties appear to be civilians,' said the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group that monitors the violence. ... The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported a bomb attack in the Mazraa neighborhood of the capital, the neighborhood where the Baath headquarters are located, without mentioning its proximity to the Baath offices."
The Scooter Store Raid: San Antonio Express-News: "Executing a search warrant, federal agents Wednesday swarmed the New Braunfels headquarters of The Scooter Store, one of the nation's largest suppliers of power wheelchairs and scooters. Authorities wouldn't comment on the reason for the raid, but a source familiar with the investigation said officials were looking for details of how The Scooter Store bills for its equipment. The Scooter Store recently has drawn scrutiny for receiving millions in Medicare overpayments from 2009 to 2011."
More Quick Hits From Slate—
Bad Astronomy: All That Plasma Will Be Lost in Time, Like Tears in Rain
See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.