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

* The positive trends from December didn’t last: “The number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments jumped in the first week of 2011 to the highest level since October as more Americans lined up to file following the holidays.”

* Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not only pressed Middle Eastern leaders on systemic reforms, she did so with rather blunt language. Speaking at a conference in Qatar, she said “their countries risked ‘sinking into the sand’ of unrest and extremism unless they liberalized their political systems and cleaned up their economies.”

* Speaking of the Middle East, Vice President Biden made a surprise visit to Baghdad today, visiting with Iraqi officials and spending time with U.S. troops.

* I’m still amazed at the progress of Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery: “G. Michael Lemole Jr., the hospital’s chief neurosurgeon, and Peter Rhee, the head of emergency care, said Giffords since then has also been able to sit on the edge of her bed and dangle her legs over the side, move both of her arms and legs and open both of her eyes.”

* Following a brief reprieve this week, House Republicans will move forward next week with their plan to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

* On a related note, I’m not sure if “The Patient’s Rights Repeal Act” is the best framing for House Dems, but I’m glad they’re at least trying.

* Devastating mud slides in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro have killed at least 355 people since yesterday.

* Jared Lee Loughner’s court proceedings will be handled by a federal judge from California, after literally every district court judge in Arizona had to recuse themselves — they all knew Judge John Roll, one of Loughner’s victims.

* Daniel Luzer: “In the continuing saga of the Government Accountability Office report on for-profit colleges that was slightly exaggerated, a new paper commissioned by America’s for-profit schools accuses the GAO of ‘sloppy investigating.’ But then, the for-profit paper (written by an Illinois research company) seems to be pretty sloppy too.”

* The idea of having Democrats and Republicans sit intermixed during the State of the Union has some appeal, but Dan Amira offers a compelling case against it.

* Getting sworn in under unusually cold conditions in the Sooner State, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) accidentally misspoke during her ceremony today. She solemnly swore to “support, obey, and offend” the Constitution, instead of “support, obey, and defend.”

* There’s just something amusing about the Republican National Committee having to raise its own debt ceiling.

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.