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

* Huge, late-breaking court ruling: “A U.S. judge in Boston has ruled that a federal gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage. U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples’ rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.”

* In the absolute best case scenario, BP believes the relief wells in the Gulf can be completed ahead of schedule. Given BP’s track record and credibility, caveat emptor. True or not, a couple of key moments are coming up in the oil spill crisis, including one this weekend.

* The swap: “All 10 of the accused Russian spies held in the United States pleaded guilty Thursday at a hearing in Manhattan, a key step in a reported deal under negotiation with Russia for the largest swap of espionage detainees since the Cold War.” The larger diplomatic implications are encouraging.

* It’s still obviously too high, but I’ll take encouraging economic news where I can find it: “New U.S. claims for unemployment insurance fell more than expected last week, government data showed on Thursday, while the number of people continuing to receive benefits in the final week of June was the lowest in seven months.”

* In less-encouraging news: “Over all, same-stores sales for the nation’s retailers rose 3.1 percent in June, slightly below expectations. Robert Samuels, senior retail analyst for Phoenix Equities, said in a note to clients that the results were ‘lackluster at best.’ Analysts characterized the outlook as shaky.”

* Key arrests in Norway: “Three suspected al-Qaida members were arrested Thursday morning in what Norwegian and U.S. officials said was a terrorist plot linked to similar plans in New York and England.”

* RNC Chairman Michael Steele today vowed not to resign, but he nevertheless continued to lose support from Republican lawmakers.

* If CNN is going to have J. Christian Adams on, it really should let the audience know all about his background.

* Fascinating discussion: Jonathan Cohn bemoans lack of grassroots pressure for climate change legislation; Josh Nelson offers a thoughtful response; Cohn responds to the response. Worth a read.

* Four-star Marine Gen. James Mattis will replace Gen. David Petraeus as head of the U.S. Central Command, overseeing combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

* Oh, good, Fox News and Republicans are talking about “death panels” again.

* On a related note, many high-profile conservatives aren’t just wrong about health care policy, they’re incoherent.

* Why aren’t more low-income students graduating from college?

* Dick Morris is such a hack, even Fox & Friends hosts mock him.

* And in case you haven’t heard, one of the more notable right-wing fits of the week has to do with Muslims and NASA. Apparently, conservatives are afraid of Muslims in space or something.

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.