Thursday’s Mini-Report

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

* Just a reminder, the Monthly‘s annual pledge drive is underway. We sincerely appreciate those of you who’ve already shown generous support, and hope other readers will take a moment to help out.

* We’re not there yet, but the declines are encouraging: “The number of workers filing first- time claims for unemployment insurance payments fell last week in the U.S., showing the labor market continues to improve. Applications for jobless benefits decreased to 421,000, in line with the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, from a revised 438,000 the prior week, Labor Department figures showed today.”

* Predictable: “Chinese censors apparently began blocking the news Web sites of CNN, the BBC and the Norwegian broadcaster NRK from appearing in China on Thursday, a day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is to be held in Oslo to honor Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned dissident.”

* The GOP’s blockade against Senate action is not impermeable: “The Senate passed on Wednesday night a one-year, fully paid-for fix to Medicare rates that would avoid a scheduled 25 percent cut to physician payments on Jan. 1. ” The bill passed by unanimous consent.

* Some additional worthwhile charts on the tax policy agreement between the White House and congressional Republicans.

* Antonio Martinez, who now goes by the name Muhammad Hussain, appears to be not very bright: “A 21-year-old Baltimore construction worker, who drew federal scrutiny after he boasted on Facebook about his devotion to violent jihad, was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly tried to blow up a U.S. military recruitment center with a dummy car bomb built by the FBI.”

* Five states and the District of Columbia have legalized marriage equality. Maryland may become the sixth.

* The Senate’s broken. The Brennan Center has some very worthwhile, non-partisan, non-ideological ideas on how to fix it, starting with filibuster reform.

* Ted Frier wonders if maybe the rich just don’t need the rest of us anymore.

* Who’s to blame for low college graduation rates? If you’re pointing the finger solely at the students who don’t get their diploma, you may be missing the point.

* Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) looks after his legacy: “Jim Morrison, the charismatic front man of the Doors who died nearly 40 years ago, was granted a posthumous pardon by Florida on Thursday.”

* And Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) becomes the latest congressional Republican to insist that unemployment benefits, not tax cuts for the wealthy, need to be paid for. He’ll fit right in with the field of 2012 GOP presidential candidates.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.