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White House concerned about delay in security confirmations

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said Sunday that the White House had “grave concern” that national security was at risk, given the Senate Republicans’ delaying tactics in confirming both a new Pentagon chief and a director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The chief of staff, Denis McDonough, made the comment on the ABC News program “This Week,” one of several Sunday shows where he made debut appearances as the top White House adviser. He was reacting to the likelihood that neither former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee to be defense secretary, nor John O. Brennan, the president’s choice for the CIA, would get a Senate vote until late this month at the earliest.

Senate Republicans blocked Hagel’s confirmation on Thursday with the first-ever filibuster against a defense secretary nominee, citing his views on Israel, Iran and Iraq, and his general unpopularity among some of them.

—Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

Project seeks to build map of human brain

The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.

The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness.

Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses.

The project, which could ultimately cost billions of dollars, is expected to be part of the president’s budget proposal next month.

—John Markoff, The New York Times

Marines look to arduous infantry course for insight on women

In the fall, two freshly minted female lieutenants joined about 100 men in Quantico, Va., for one of the most grueling experiences soldiers not in war can experience: the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course.

At the 86-day course, candidates haul heavy packs and heavier weapons up and down steep hills, execute ambushes and endure bitter cold, hunger and exhaustion.

One of the women — the first to enter the course — was dropped on the first day, with about two dozen men, during a notoriously strenuous endurance test. But the second woman lasted deep into the second week, when a stress fracture in her leg forced her to quit.

“She was tough,” Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, said of the woman, who is now at flight school. “She wasn’t going to quit.”

Amos hopes the experiences of those women, and others to come, will provide crucial clues about the future of women in the infantry, a possibility allowed by the recent lifting of the 1994 ban on women in direct combat units.

For the Marine Corps, probably more than any other military service, gender integration is a difficult affair. Not only is the corps the most male of the services, with women making up only about 7 percent of its ranks, but it is also a bastion of the infantry.

—James Dao, The New York Times

Netanyahu defends Israel’s handling of prisoner X case

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended his government’s handling of an Australian-Israeli who was held under a pseudonym for months in a maximum-security prison until he committed suicide in 2010, suggesting that the threats his country faces justify the extraordinary measures and the secrecy shrouding the case.

“We are not like other countries,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet, in his first public comments on the case of Prisoner X, which made headlines on at least three continents last week. “We are an exemplary democracy and maintain the rights of those under investigation,” he said. “However, we are more threatened and face more challenges; therefore, we must maintain proper activity of our security agencies.”

—Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times

Lawmaker’s body is found near Mo

MOSCOW — The body of a missing city legislator and construction tycoon has been found in a private basement garage on the city’s outskirts, inside a rusted metal barrel filled with cement, the police said Monday.

Russian television showed investigators removing the body of the man, Mikhail Pakhomov, 36, on Sunday evening from the garage, 20 miles east of Moscow, where the police said he had been tortured and killed over an outstanding $80 million loan.

The killing recalled the brutal violence that routinely emerged from business disputes in the 1990s. Pakhomov, who was reported missing last Tuesday, was a promising young star in United Russia, the ruling party founded by President Vladimir V. Putin, and had served as head of a construction company that was reported to have won large contracts to develop utilities and infrastructure in several cities.

—Andrew Roth, The New York Times