*Conservative West Viriginia Democrat Joe Manchin is in talks with the NRA to explore how the Senate might be able to pass tougher background check laws. According to POLITICO “if the NRA stays neutral and decides not to ‘score’ a vote for a Manchin plan on its annual scorecard, Manchin — and the overall bill — would have a much better chance.” Manchin said in a statement that he is “dedicated to preventing criminals and those adjudicated mentally ill from purchasing firearms, and not criminalizing law-abiding gun owners.”

*In Afghanistan, the U.S. agreed to turn full control of a controversial prison near Bagram airfield over to Afghan authorities. According to Reuters, “the agreement, reached after a week of intensified negotiations between U.S. and Afghan officials, calls for the formal transfer to take place on Monday and includes assurances that inmates who pose a danger to Afghans and international forces will continue to be detained under Afghan law.”

*According to another Reuters report, based on an anonymous Palestinian source, John Kerry’s meeting with Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was focused on “trying to find common ground between both sides to see if there is ground to resume peace talks.” Photographs showed him meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day. No party released any official statements about the meetings.

*A twist in the controversy over a deposit tax key to a European Central Bank bailout of Cyprus: with Russian investors holding an estimated 30 billion Euros in Cypriot banks, the Russian government is considering how it might retaliate against EU interests if the levy passes.

Via the Guardian:

Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin adviser, said: “If it is the case that there will be a 25% levy on deposits greater than €100,000 then some Russians will suffer very badly.

“Then, of course, Moscow will be looking for ways to punish the EU. There are a number of large German companies operating in Russia. You could possibly look at freezing assets or taxing assets. The Kremlin is adopting a wait and see policy.”

*“Would you rather fight one horse sized genetically modified mind-controlled duck or one hundred duck sized genetically modified mind-controlled horses?”

Apologies if you didn’t get the joke, but I couldn’t resist: Emily Anthes’ new book “Frankenstein’s Cat” details how DARPA has been attempting to “hack into insects and control their movements” to turn them into surveillance instruments. Salon reproduced an excerpt; an interesting read if you have the time.

The project’s origins can be traced back to the sixties, when the CIA attempted to train a cat to spy on two men sitting on a park bench. That project was squashed by the cat’s unwillingness to obey orders (and a taxi – RIP spook cat). But, Anthes reports, “as far-fetched and improbable as DARPA’s dream of steerable robo-bugs sounds, a host of recent scientific breakthroughs means it’s likely to be far more successful than Acoustic Kitty was.”

The Department of Obvious Jokes issued a statement saying that surveillance insects would bring a whole new meaning to having one’s home bugged by the feds.

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Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.