Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Syria: “Syrian forces carried out raids in towns on the outskirts of Damascus and a besieged city on the coast on Thursday, as the number of detainees surged in a government campaign so sweeping that human rights groups said many neighborhoods were subjected to repeated raids and some detainees picked up multiple times by competing security agencies.”

* Libya: “Pressure is mounting on Moammar Gadhafi from within his stronghold in the Libyan capital, with increasing NATO airstrikes and worsening shortages of fuel and goods.”

* A step in the right direction, but still too high: “The number of people applying for unemployment benefits plummeted last week, reversing nearly all the sharp rise reported the previous week. The Labor Department says that the number of people seeking benefits dropped 44,000 to a seasonally adjusted 434,000. That is the steepest weekly fall since February 2010.”

* Egypt: “Three months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a surging crime wave in post-revolutionary Egypt has emerged as a serious threat to its promised transition to democracy.” When the police are afraid, there’s a problem.

* Thwarted plot in NYC: “Two men who the authorities said intended to carry out a terrorist attack in New York City were arrested late Wednesday, two law enforcement officials said.”

* The more one reads the Senate ethics committee’s report on John Ensign, the more extraordinary this scandal becomes.

* FBI Director Robert Mueller’s decade-long tenure will end in September, but President Obama wants him to stay on for two more years.

* OBL: “Even while sealed inside a cement compound in a Pakistani city, bin Laden functioned like a crime boss pulling strings from a prison cell, sending regular messages to his most trusted lieutenants and strategic advice to far-flung franchises, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.” Some al Qaeda leaders apparently grew annoyed by his preoccupation with the United States.

* FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker, a Bush appointee, helped approve the Comcast/NBC Universal merger. She’s now leaving the FCC to become senior vice president of Comcast/NBC. That really doesn’t look good.

* Al Qaeda wants to kill President Obama’s paternal grandmother in Kenya?

* A quid-pro-quo scandal rocks Old Dominion University.

* Jon Stewart’s takedown of the Fox News hysteria over Common at the White House is exceptional and a must-see clip.

* New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) refuses to say whether he accepts evolutionary biology. I wonder if he’d say the same thing if asked whether he believes in gravity.

* When Florida banned “sexual contact” with “animals,” state lawmakers may have accidentally banned sex altogether, since humans are, of course, animals. Are we to assume that robot-love lobbyists were responsible for writing the ambiguous bill?

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.