THURSDAY’S MINI-REPORT…. Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Marines launched a major offensive in Afghanistan’s Helmand River valley early today, described as “the first large-scale test of the U.S. military’s new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.”

* As part of the offensive, one American soldier is believed to have been kidnapped, while another was killed in a firefight.

* North Korea continues to fire short-range missiles off its East coast.

* Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Iraq.

* President Obama covered quite a bit of ground in an interview with the AP today.

* Two years ago, polls in Pakistan showed a populace largely unconcerned with the Taliban and the activities of al Qaeda. Not anymore. Pakistanis “now consider terrorist groups a ‘critical threat’ to their country.”

* Left with very limited options, California has started to pay vendors and taxpayers with I.O.U.’s.

* Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) remains hospitalized.

* An openly gay Navy Seaman was apparently killed this week at Camp Pendelton, and a “person of interest” in connection to the possible murder is “being held in the Navy brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.”

* According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, no administration officials had agreed to participate in the now-cancelled Washington Post “salons.”

* New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorses a public option as part of health care reform.

* Douglas Kmiec is Obama’s choice to be Ambassador to Malta. Nice gig.

* The bizarre behavior by some members of the San Diego Sheriff’s department* at a Francine Busby fundraiser last weekend continues to generate interest.

* Rush Limbaugh whined today that “chicks” have “chickified the news.” He just keeps getting dumber.

* Similarly, Michael Scheuer seems to be getting increasingly nutty.

* And finally, Andrew Sullivan ponders what Fox News and other Republican outlets would do if Obama treated the American flag the same way Sarah Palin did. It’s not an unreasonable question.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

* corrected

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.