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

* Syria: “Military troops opened fire on protesters in the southern part of Syria on Friday, according to news reports quoting witnesses, hurtling this strategically important nation along the same trajectory that has altered the landscape of power across the Middle East and North Africa.”

* Libya: “Overcoming internal squabbles, NATO prepared on Friday to assume leadership from the United States of the military campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, senior NATO officials said, while the allied effort won rare military commitments in the Arab world when a Qatari fighter jet flew on patrol with the Western allies and the United Arab Emirates said it would send warplanes to join them.”

* Japan: “News signs emerged on Friday that parts of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are so damaged and contaminated that it will be harder to bring the plant under control soon. At the same time, Japanese officials began encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the complex.”

* Yemen: “As populist pressure mounted for his resignation, President Ali Abdullah Saleh told a large gathering of his supporters Friday that he was willing to hand over power as long as he can leave the nation in ‘safe hands.’”

* U.S. economy: “The United States economy grew more quickly in the fourth quarter of 2010 than previously estimated as businesses maintained fairly solid spending and restocked shelves to meet rising demand.” GDP was revised up to 3.1%, up from the previous 2.8% estimate.

* G.E. made over $5 billion in profits from its domestic operations. What’d it pay in taxes? Nothing.

* Vermont moves closer to becoming the first state with single-payer health care, with the state House approving a reform bill on a 92 to 49 vote. (Vermont’s first-term governor, Democrat Peter Shumlin, ran on a single-payer platform and won.)

* It’s not like Michigan has a problem with a struggling economy, right? “Michigan moved Thursday to significantly cut its unemployment program, becoming the first of what could be a flurry of debt-laden states to reduce aid even as high jobless rates persist.” If voters didn’t want this, they shouldn’t have elected Republicans.

* Dear Newt, just stop digging.

* First Frank Rich, now Bob Herbert: “Bob Herbert, a columnist for The New York Times Op-Ed page, is leaving the paper after nearly 20 years. Mr. Herbert’s resignation was announced in a memo to Times staff members on Friday. His last column will appear in the paper on Saturday.”

* Let’s just say some of the Washington Post‘s reporting on Social Security is … incomplete.

* I know this has nothing to do with politics, but I’m really glad “Fringe” is getting a fourth season. I love that show.

* Good point: “Trying to making an academic education directly about specific job skills is pretty much impossible. Train students to think critically. That’s the talent companies that hire for professional jobs want most anyway. Trying to do anything else at the American college is a waste of time.”

* And finally, I have to admit, I feel kind of bad for Doug Hampton. First, family-values conservative Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) slept with his wife. Then, Ensign’s parents try to buy him off. And finally, when he tries to get back on track with a lobbying career, he gets indicted, but Ensign doesn’t. Ouch.

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.