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

* With tensions escalating quickly, South Korea is ending nearly all trade with North Korea, and blocking North Korean merchant ships access to South Korean shipping lanes.

* Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described U.S. support of South Korea as “unequivocal,” and announced that the American military and South Korean forces would initiate joint military exercises.

* Yemen: “Yemeni tribesmen kidnapped two American tourists, a man and a woman, Monday morning outside the capital city of Sana, the American Embassy in Yemen confirmed on Monday.” The kidnappers are reportedly seeking the release of an imprisoned ally.

* Construction gains: “The drills, saws and sanders that fell silent during the economic slowdown are beginning to whir again. For the first time in years, U.S. builders are hiring laborers. The nation’s construction industry added 14,000 jobs nationwide in April, according to the Labor Department, marking the first back-to-back monthly gains in that sector since 2006.”

* Housing gains: “Homebuyers rushed to take advantage of government incentives and low mortgage rates in April, giving the housing market its biggest boost in five months.”

* The Kandahar operation: “The Obama administration’s campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan’s second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed.”

* Texas gubernatorial hopeful, Houston Mayor Bill White (D), will, if elected, try to undo the damage done to the state curriculum by the Texas Board of Education.

* There were many predictions that the Great Recession would lead to an increase in crime rates. The opposite occurred.

* Bagram: “A federal appeals court ruled Friday that three men who had been detained by the United States military for years without trial in Afghanistan had no recourse to American courts. The decision was a broad victory for the Obama administration in its efforts to hold terrorism suspects overseas for indefinite periods without judicial oversight.”

* Ron Chusid sets Arthur C. Brooks straight.

* Fox News’ on-air news team probably shouldn’t use the word “we” when talking about Republicans, at least if the network intends to keep up appearances.

* Can a college’s emphasis on research prestige actually undermine undergraduate education?

* I have no idea why anyone at a major news outlet would find the crossing of Elena Kagan’s legs interesting.

* Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s wife apparently calls him “Mr. Clueless.” She’s referring to his familiarity with technology, but I kind of like the broader applicability of the label.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Steve Benen

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.