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

* Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) remains in critical condition and is “not out of the woods yet,” but as of this afternoon, she was “responding to verbal commands by raising two fingers of her left hand and even managed to give a thumbs-up.”

* President Obama today led the nation in a moment of silence from the South Lawn of the White House. He also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff this week.

* Jared Lee Loughner appeared in court today for the first time, facing all kinds of charges.

* Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Afghanistan today, meeting with Hamid Karzai to assess progress toward “the transition to Afghan-led security beginning this year.” Biden also spent time with U.S. troops and civilian personnel.

* A man who directed repeated threats at Sen. Michael Bennet’s office (D-Colo.) was arrested today by federal authorities.

* Rep. Danny Davis’ (D-Ill.) office received a threatening message yesterday. In apparent reference to the assassination attempt in Tucson, a message sent to the Chicago-area Democrat read, “Danny Davis is next.”

* Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, appearing in the United Arab Emirates today, argued that sanctions against Iran are hampering the country’s nuclear ambitions.

* A rare White House signing statement: “President Obama said Friday that congressional restrictions on his ability to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees for prosecution in federal courts are ‘a dangerous and unprecedented challenge’ to the executive branch and suggested that his administration could yet defy them.”

* The Obama administration has changed U.S. passport application forms from “mother and father” to “parent one and parent two.” The religious right is not at all pleased.

* The Tea Party Express has begun raising money off the shootings in Tucson. Stay classy, conservatives.

* I’d be more inclined to read more conservative bloggers if they displayed better critical thinking skills.

* Too many Americans graduate high school and are unprepared for higher ed. But are they also unprepared for military service?

* And if you’re interested, my latest piece for the New York Daily News ran over the weekend, tackling Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) claim that the Obama administration is the most “corrupt” in modern history. Here’s a sneak preview: I’m fairly certain Issa’s wrong.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.