Thursday’s Mini-Report

Today’s edition of quick hits:

* If only the jobs crisis still mattered: “More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, adding to evidence that the labor market is weakening. The Labor Department says applications rose by 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000 last week. It was the second increase in three weeks and the biggest jump in a month.”

* Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress today he supports President Obama’s plan to draw down forces in Afghanistan, but added that Obama’s decisions were “more aggressive and incur more risk that I was originally prepared to accept.”

* Gen. David Petraeus is thinking along the same lines.

* Following this morning’s news about tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, oil prices dropped to four-month lows.

* Syria: “Syrian forces backed by snipers and tanks stormed into the border town of Khirbet al-Jouz on Thursday, sending hundreds of refugees fleeing to Turkey from the informal camp where they had sought shelter from a violent crackdown on protests in the country’s rural northwest.”

* Iraq: “Three explosions ripped through a public market on Thursday evening, killing at least 21 people, and leaving a gruesome scene of scattered body parts and bloodied shoppers.”

* It’s hard to believe Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger was captured after all these years.

* A dramatic flooding crisis is developing in Minot, North Dakota. Reader K.S. reminds me that most locals don’t have flood insurance, because they never thought they’d need it.

* Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), in his infinite wisdom, pushed a measure today to prevent President Obama from appointing policy “czars.” It failed on the floor, 47 to 51.

* Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has taken a keen interest in the ethics controversies surrounding Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

* Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are trying to keep immigration reform alive. Alas, House Republicans are still in the majority, making progress all but impossible.

* Imagine if, instead of spending $1.2 trillion on wars in the Middle East, we’d committed that same amount to public investments?

* Any way you slice it, the plan for a possible tax repatriation holiday is a bad idea.

* U.S. colleges are “no longer looking quite so great for foreign students. American colleges are too expensive, and apparently not clearly providing a superior education.”

* And apparently, Fox News has decided that last night’s presidential address on Afghanistan was a “Mission Accomplished” speech. It’s as if the Republican news network doesn’t pay attention to substance at all.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.