Today’s edition of quick hits:

* It’s a mistake to call this an “escalation,” but U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in Yemen continue apace. This is especially true now in light of the growing power vacuum in the country.

* Syria: “About 1,000 refugees fled Syria and crossed into neighboring Turkey overnight to escape a threatened assault against the northern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour, Turkish officials said Thursday. The exodus came as Britain, France and other countries prepared to seek tougher action against Syria at the United Nations.”

* Discouragingly high: “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 1,000 last week, according to a report on Thursday that could stoke fears the labor market recovery has stalled. Initial claims for state jobless benefits increased to 427,000, the Labor Department said.”

* Panetta’s confirmation appears to be a foregone conclusion, which is why he isn’t saying much: “The presumptive new leader of the Pentagon, Leon E. Panetta, offered almost no specifics during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday on how he’ll oversee the war in Afghanistan, saying it was up to others in the Obama administration to decide how many troops to begin withdrawing next month.”

* The House Republican plan for Medicaid has no chance of passing the Senate. Good.

* Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law is at least as outrageous as Arizona’s, if not more so.

* Update on Gabby Giffords: “An aide says U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords struggles to communicate and it remains unclear whether she will be able to return to work five months after being shot in the head.”

* Most Americans have no idea what kind of impact the Bush tax cuts had on the deficit.

* I’m delighted to see Ta-Nehisi Coates as a guest columnist for the New York Times. Here’s hoping the paper has the good sense to keep him on beyond the summer.

* Connecting community college students to real jobs is difficult, but there are hints of progress.

* This week, the Senate confirmed Don Verrilli as the new Solicitor General of the United States. The vote was 72 to 16, and a rumored Republican filibuster fizzled.

* Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has a theory to explain why Tea Party crowds are filled almost exclusively with white people: African Americans, Cain said, just aren’t wealthy enough for the Tea Party.

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.