Thursday’s Mini-Report

Today’s edition of quick hits:

* So much for the respite: “After just a few days of calm, stocks declined steeply on Thursday in a worldwide sell-off. The downturn was driven by fresh concerns that the worldwide economy is slowing and that Europe’s debt crisis is putting strain on the financial sector.”

* President Obama has called for Syria’s president to quit: “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way.” Obama also signed an executive order that, among other thing, bans U.S. imports of Syrian oil.

* Soon after Obama’s announcement, leaders in Germany, France, and Britain also called on Assad to step down.

* Israel: “Militants suspected of having crossed from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula attacked a bus, vehicles and Israeli soldiers in southern Israel on Thursday, killing at least six people and wounding about two dozen more, according to the Israeli army and medical officials.”

* Libya: “Rebel fighters gained complete control on Thursday of the oil refinery in Zawiyah — just a half hour’s drive from Tripoli, the country’s capital — routing government soldiers after days of battle and advancing into other parts of this strategic port city still controlled by loyalists of Libya’s increasingly isolated leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.”

* S&P still has some explaining to do: “The Justice Department is investigating whether the nation’s largest credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis.”

* Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns pushed for this, but I’m not sure why: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has finished screening 60,000 Ground Zero responders and others after a Florida congressman insisted they be checked against a terrorist watch list before receiving aid from a Sept. 11 program.”

* Under the Voting Rights Act, communities with heavy populations of non-English speakers can print ballots in multiple languages. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) wants this to end.

* Over at Ten Miles Square, Rick Ungar points to a key health care reform development: the Affordable Care Act appears to be slowing down Medicare spending.

* John Gravois wrote a great piece on the growth of American civic groups in developing countries, and had some interesting insights on the subject on NPR yesterday.

* Online education won’t lead to the extinction of on-campus learning anytime soon.

* With Republicans apparently throwing a fit because President Obama is vacationing with his family, perhaps now is a good time to note that after 31 months in office, Obama has taken 61 vacation days. At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush had already spent 180 days at his ranch. Maybe the right should find something less silly to whine about.

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.