Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Applications have been above 400,000 for 12 straight weeks: “The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was mostly unchanged last week, evidence that the struggling economy isn’t generating many jobs. The Labor Department says unemployment benefit applications ticked down 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 428,000.”
* On the other hand, Midwest business activity “showed surprising strength this month, lifted by a jump in new orders, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago said.”
* Iraq: “Three more American soldiers were killed this week, the United States military announced Thursday, bringing the combat-related deaths for United States forces in Iraq to a monthly toll not seen since 2008.”
* Shocking alleged crimes: “Massey Energy Co. could have prevented the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers last year and the company failed to disclose some hazards in reports it provided to government inspectors, federal safety officials said Wednesday.”
* Austerity measures spark massive British protests: “Union organizers said that more than 750,000 public employees — including teachers, lecturers, court staff, passport officers and other civil servants — walked out during the one-day strike over proposed changes to their pension system.”
* Before departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates could head home, President Obama surprised the Pentagon chief “by awarding him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a president can bestow upon a civilian.”
* In the year’s easiest confirmation vote, the Senate approved David Petraeus’ nomination to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The vote was 94 to 0.
* This will be waiting on Petraeus’ desk: “A federal prosecutor has expanded his inquiry into harsh CIA interrogation practices during the Bush administration and is conducting a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two detainees, U.S. officials said Thursday.”
* Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is reportedly eyeing the exits.
* Good: “A judge has denied Boeing Co.’s request to dismiss a federal lawsuit that claims the company illegally retaliated against unionized workers by moving some work from Washington state to South Carolina.”
* Did the Fed’s QE2 work? Yes, but it wasn’t enough.
* Typical: “John Cornyn Fundraising After Criticizing Obama For Attending Fundraisers.”
* Smart move: “In a bit of good news on the Drug War front, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has voted to make the Senate’s recently amended crack sentencing guidelines retroactive, meaning that around 12,000 offenders will be eligible to seek a reduction in their sentences.”
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.