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Editorial

A mental health checkup

The country’s inadequate mental health system gets the most attention after instances of mass violence of the sort that the nation has seen repeatedly over the past few months. Not all who commit these sorts of atrocities are mentally ill, but many have been. After each, the national discussion quickly, but temporarily, turns toward the mental health services that may have failed to prevent another attack.

A tax break worth saving

With lawmakers showing little enthusiasm for an ambitious proposal by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to overhaul the byzantine U.S. tax code, Congress has to decide what to do about dozens of temporary tax breaks that expired Dec. 31. Among them is an exemption for forgiven mortgage debt that’s an essential part of a broader federal effort to solve a nagging problem, namely the spate of defaults caused by the recession. Failing to renew it would cripple efforts by government and banks to mitigate the damage caused by the housing crisis.

Your new password: sur**nder

Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they’re all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site — every bank account, every email address, every music-streaming service, every social media profile and so on?

Permanent fix needed for tax code

Just in time for tax day, the Congressional Budget Office delivered a pleasant surprise. Based on current law, the national debt will grow by $286 billion less during the next decade than the CBO projected only two months ago. The main reason is a downward adjustment in the nonpartisan agency’s forecast of subsidy costs for health insurance purchased on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

Heartburn grows over Heartbleed

Tens of millions of Americans have been affected by the theft of their personal information in the digital age. In a recent major data breach at Target stores, numbers and names were taken from about 40 million customers, and many millions more suffered compromises in other personal information such as email addresses or phone numbers. The victims trusted their retail stores, their credit- and debit-card issuers, their banks, and such security measures as a four-digit personal identification numbers, to protect their information.

Wall Street’s flash point

In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”

Pennsylvania school stabbings: Why?

In the midst of shock and sorrow, there is bewilderment. The mass attack Wednesday morning at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh — with 19 students and a security guard stabbed or slashed, including at least one critically — leaves a host of unanswered questions. While the shrieks and sobs still echo, all the questions boil down to one: Why?

World has no need to fear China’s planned blue-water navy

Chinese officials gave U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a tour of an aircraft carrier this week. The Liaoning is their only such vessel — but not for long. China plans to build three more by 2020 as part of its new “blue-water navy,” a prospect that sounds alarming but isn’t. The cause for concern lies elsewhere.

An off-base idea needs to be looked at cautiously

After any mass shooting, a vocal faction in Congress insists that Americans would be safer if more people carried guns into restricted public places. Allowing teachers to carry firearms on campus struck us as not helpful. But now that Fort Hood, Texas, has seen its second rampage in five years, the argument seems stronger when applied to military bases: Aren’t they filled with well-trained, trustworthy marksmen who could take down would-be mass murderers? Why not allow military personnel to carry weapons on base?

Missile malaise

Before they go on duty with U.S. nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, officers are trained in classrooms and simulators. They are schooled in weapons systems, missile code handling and emergency war orders, among other things. For decades, these missileers have been surrounded by a mystique. They were at the front lines of the Cold War — the officers in the silo who get the codes from a president and turn the keys to launch a nuclear-armed missile.

It’s law enforcement vs. the First Amendment, and citizens are losing

If you drive down Buckeye Road at the southern edge of Lima, Ohio, you’ll pass an industrial complex where General Dynamics makes armored vehicles for the U.S. military. But if you stop and take a photograph, you just might find yourself detained by military police, have your camera confiscated and your digital photos deleted. Which is exactly what happened to two staffers for the Toledo Blade newspaper on Friday, in an unacceptable violation of the First Amendment and common sense.

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Too much money in politics already

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned yet another federal law meant to check corruption and influence-peddling in national politics. The ruling shows two things: The Roberts Court’s destructive view on these matters wasn’t changed by the backlash to its Citizens United holding, and Congress must respond by designing new rules that can pass the court’s overly skeptical review. If lawmakers tackle the issue forthrightly, they have some workable options.

Fixing the NSA

President Barack Obama and Congress appear to be moving closer to a consensus on how to respond to the disclosure that the National Security Agency has been sucking up Americans’ telephone metadata. This is only one aspect of concerns about the NSA that tumbled out of the documents revealed by Edward Snowden, the former contractor who leaked them and then fled the country, winding up in Russia. But congressional action on this issue would be a good start and ought to be at the top of the agenda.

Gun madness in full swing in Georgia

Fifteen months ago, as the nation recoiled in horror from the massacre of 20 children and six adults by a mentally ill man armed with three semiautomatic weapons, there were firm proclamations that this time would be different. The violence at that Newtown, Conn., elementary school, it was said, would finally lead the nation to come together and embrace some reasonable gun control laws.

NLRB calls a foul on the NCAA for the status of student-athletes

It’s official, according to a preliminary ruling of the National Labor Relations Board: The college sports industry’s claim that it exists to serve student-athletes doesn’t hold, er, Gatorade. Teams are composed of full-time athletes who labor under highly restrictive, sometimes dangerous conditions, and they deserve a stronger voice in how colleges and universities treat and compensate them.

Give college athletes fairer scholarships

The decision to grant football players at Northwestern University the right to form a union, made Wednesday by a National Labor Relations Board regional director, is being decried as a sign of the apocalypse by critics and hailed as the beginning of glorious revolution by proponents. Both sides should take a deep breath.

Congress can’t get out of its own way on Medicare

Maybe it was too good to be true. A rare bipartisan health care reform proposal backed by leaders of three major House and Senate committees is foundering because Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on how to pay for it. The irony is that the measure, which would change the way Medicare reimburses doctors, would slow the growth of health care spending and taxpayers’ costs. Lawmakers should stop the partisan bickering and start working in good faith to find a way to enact the long-overdue and much-needed reform.

The long game

With Russian troops still massed near Ukraine’s borders, some in Washington are debating whether the United States and NATO should rush weapons or even troops to bolster the fragile interim government in Kiev. It’s the wrong question. While U.S. and European leaders should not be ruling out arms for Ukraine’s military, Western supplies could no more stop a Russian incursion than they prevented the 2008 invasion of Georgia.