Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Sanctions on Syria: “President Obama imposed sanctions on Syria’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, and six other senior Syrian officials on Wednesday, ratcheting up American pressure in the wake of a bloody crackdown on political protests in the country.”

* Defense Secretary Bob Gates believes “somebody knew” in Pakistan about Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. But Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said he’s seen no evidence to suggest the senior Pakistani leadership knew of the al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.

* Afghanistan: “A normally peaceful northern city erupted in violence Wednesday, as thousands of protesters clashed with security forces after a NATO night raid that local officials claim killed four civilians. NATO defended the night operation and said the four people who were killed, two of them women, were armed insurgents who fired on its troops.”

* Under the circumstances, this should be pretty scandalous: “Yesterday morning, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) visited the Chicago headquarters of the CME Group, ‘the world’s largest owner and operator’ of private exchanges for derivatives products…. Cantor told the audience of speculators that his Republican caucus would “do our part” to block the implementation of financial reforms passed last year as part of the sweeping Dodd-Frank law.”

* Many years ago, I actually got to know a couple of Secret Service agents, and discovered they’re regular people with normal human reactions: “An employee of the U.S. Secret Service accidentally sent out a tweet on the official Secret Service twitter account this week saying that he or she ‘had to monitor Fox for a story. Can’t. Deal. With. The. Blathering.’”

* Newt Gingrich believes quoting him is dishonest. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) apparently doesn’t find that persuasive — imagine that — and intends to use Gingrich’s condemnation of the Republican budget plan quite a bit in the coming months.

* I’m not sure what more Ben Stein has to do to be driven from polite company, but his thoughts on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal are truly awful. (thanks to R.B.)

* Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) seems to have argued on Fox News that Americans’ constitutional rights “are not mandated by law.” Remember, Senate Republicans made him the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes for-profit colleges are good for taxpayers. There’s ample room for skepticism.

* When Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tries to talk about foreign policy, most notably U.S. policy towards Mexico, it’s probably best to assume he has no idea what he’s talking about.

* And on his radio program this week, Rush Limbaugh told his followers that if the United States defaults on its debt, “the country’s creditworthiness would go up around the world.” This is the voice of the Republican Party in the 21st century.

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.