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

* Reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan: “The United States is helping senior Taliban leaders attend initial peace talks with the Afghan government in Kabul because military officials and diplomats want to take advantage of any possibility of political reconciliation, Obama administration and NATO officials said Thursday.”

* The expected appeal: “The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to allow the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on gays to continue during an appeal.”

* Wrong direction: “The number of Americans filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased last week, indicating the U.S. job market is struggling to mend.”

* A procedural win for health care opponents: “A federal judge in Florida on Thursday ruled that challenges to the healthcare reform law’s individual mandate and its Medicaid expansion can proceed.”

* The foreclosure debacle: “For more than a decade, big lenders sold millions of mortgages around the globe at lightning speed without properly transferring the physical documents that prove who legally owned the loans. Now, some of the pension systems, hedge funds and other investors that took big losses on the loans are seeking to use this flaw to force banks to compensate them or even invalidate the mortgage trades themselves. Their collective actions, if successful, could blow a hole through the balance sheets of big banks and raise fundamental questions about the financial system, financial analysts and a lawmaker said.”

* The political establishment is convinced that voters don’t care about the secret cash funding American elections. New data suggests “the issue may indeed matter a good deal to voters after all.”

* A clip-and-save item from Jonathan Cohn on health care reform: “[F]or the sake of my friends at Fox News and anybody who might be listening to them, here are three basic questions to ask every time you hear a story about changes the Affordable Care Act is unleashing: 1) Is something actually changing? 2) Is the change related to the Affordable Care Act? 3) Is the change really for the worse?”

* Larry Mishel explains the stimulus debate very well, with a helpful metaphor.

* Daniel Luzer: “How much can you pay for college? Remember when $50,000 a year was a lot of money? Now that’s not even surprising. Cost is still going up, a lot, and now $60,000 is right around the corner.”

* And in a rather classic example of why I think the notion of conservative populism is silly on a fundamental level, Glenn Beck urged his followers today to start sending donations directly to corporate interests so the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can buy more elections for far-right candidates. The minions took their orders well — the Chamber’s online donation page crashed today after regular folks tried to give their money to the already-extremely-wealthy business lobby.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

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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.