Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Still high, but better: “The Labor Department says that weekly applications [for unemployment benefits] dropped 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 405,000, the lowest level in almost three months.” We would have been well below the 400,000 threshold were it not for the government shutdown in Minnesota.

* On a related note, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) offered a compromise today in the hopes of ending a two-week shutdown.

* FBI to review Murdoch media scandal: “The FBI has opened a preliminary review into allegations that News Corp. employees sought to hack into the phones of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, U.S. officials said. The officials said agents are trying to determine if a full investigation is warranted.”

* And across the pond: “In an abrupt reversal, the News Corporation said on Thursday afternoon that Rupert Murdoch and his son James would testify next week before a British parliamentary panel looking into phone hacking.”

* House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor literally embraced for the cameras today, hoping to demonstrate that they’re on “the same page.”

* There’s been an awful lot of “Gang of Six” chatter today.

* Yahoo business reporter Dan Gross that it’s “becoming clear” that House Republicans are “too crazy” to be part of the government. I’m inclined to agree.

* James Fallows speaks the truth about Eric Cantor: “The prospects for an agreement now are worse because of Rep. Cantor’s presence in them. That’s not because he’s a conservative — so, obviously, are Boehner and McConnell. It’s because he’s acting like a weasel.”

* Naturally, the GOP is desperate to cut Medicaid: “Overall, researchers found that compared to people without insurance, those with Medicaid had better access to and used more health care; they were less likely to experience unpaid medical bills; they were more likely to report being in good health; and they were less likely to report feeling depressed.” (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* The Bancroft family regrets selling the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch. The Bancrofts can’t say they weren’t warned.

* The budget deficit is shrinking, all on its own.

* Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) thinks gold is money. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke explains otherwise.

* Either RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is either blatantly lying about the Moody’s credit-rating report, or the head of the Republican National Committee is functionally illiterate.

* And former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) not only disapproves of Mitch McConnell’s effort to avoid national default, she’s even willing to make up constitutional arguments to make her case.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.

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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.