Monday’s Mini-Report

Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Joplin, Missouri: “A massive tornado that tore a six-mile path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 116 people as it smashed the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars and leaving behind only splintered tree trunks where entire neighborhoods once stood.”

* Remember a year ago, when the U.S. economy seemed to be on track, before getting derailed by European debt crises? “After three days of bad news about Europe’s debt crisis sent Asian and European markets down Monday, it was Wall Street’s turn…. Another steep downgrade of Greece’s credit rating, a warning on Italy’s debt and a major defeat of Spain’s ruling party caused new worries about Europe’s debt crisis.”

* President Obama addressed an incredibly enthusiastic crowd of 25,000 people in Dublin, Ireland, today, treating the U.S. leader like a rock star.

* An important 5-4 ruling: “Conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.”

* On a related note, U.S. crime levels “fell last year compared to 2009, continuing a downward trend that saw a 5.5 percent drop in the number of violent crimes last year and a 2.8 percent drop in the number of property crimes.”

* The Hague will investigate: “Security forces in Libya are allegedly using sexual enhancement drugs as a “machete” and gang-raping women they stop at checkpoints, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said.”

* House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) claims to have 150 economists who are on his side when it comes to economic policies. I guess we’re not supposed to look too close at the list: “[A] closer inspection reveals that many have made baseless predictions in the past, some endorse fringe economic ideas, many are employed by entities that receive funding from the Koch brothers, and others have used extreme partisan rhetoric to attack President Obama and other Democrats. Worse, 43 of the 150 economists previously signed a letter stating President Bush’s tax cuts were ‘fiscally responsible.'”

* Michael Steele, recently thrown out of his job as chairman of the Republican National Committee has a new job: he’ll be a political analyst on MSNBC.

* The New York Times has a new op-ed columnist: Frank Bruni, a longtime NYT veteran. Bruni will be the first gay op-ed columnist in the paper’s 160-year history. (Bruni is not necessarily a consistent center-left voice, having spent much of 2000 praising George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.)

* Unfortunately, it’s not terribly surprising that the default rate on federal student loans is increasing.

* And the award for the strangest Republican of the Day goes to Maine state Rep. Frederick Ladd Wintle who, for no apparent reason, pulled a gun on a local photographer in the parking lot of a Dunkin Donuts, after acting in “a deranged manner.”

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.