Today’s edition of quick hits:

* Iran: “President Obama on Thursday vowed to push for what he called the ‘toughest sanctions’ to punish Iranian officials whom he accused of complicity in a suspected plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. At the same time, State Department officials said United States officials had been in direct contact with the government of Iran over the accusations.”

* Slovakia’s back on track: “One day after a vote rejecting a beefed-up bailout fund to help contain Europe’s deepening debt crisis brought down the government in Slovakia, the country’s main political parties appeared to reach a compromise to approve the controversial measure later this week.”

* Trade bills pass Congress: “Congress passed three long-awaited free trade agreements on Wednesday, ending a political standoff that has stretched across two presidencies…. The approval of the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama is a victory for President Obama and proponents of the view that foreign trade can drive America’s economic growth in the face of rising protectionist sentiment in both political parties.”

* Better, but still too high: “New claims for unemployment benefits edged down last week, according to a government report on Thursday that pointed to a modest improvement in the labor market at the start of the fourth quarter. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 404,000, the Labor Department said, from an upwardly revised 405,000 the prior week.”

* What are Occupy Wall Street protesters so angry about? Henry Blodget answers the question in an epic post, filled with illustrative charts. It’s one of those items to bookmark for future reference.

* In an interesting move, Yahoo has split from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

* As if News Corp needed another headache, a new scandal has brought down a top executive at the European branch of the Wall Street Journal.

* A clear majority of Americans still favor the death penalty, but support has dropped to its lowest level in nearly four decades.

* OWS protests continue to include concerns over higher-ed costs: “According to a recent piece at CNBC, many of the protesters involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement are demanding a redress of student loans. Unmanageable student loan debt is a fairly common feature of the people involved in protests.”

* And finally a friend of mine told me a joke last night I thought I’d pass along: “A public union employee, a Tea Party guy, and a bank CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the Tea Partier and says, “Watch out for that union guy; he wants your cookie.”

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.