Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Greece: “Greek police fired tear gas as protestors threw firebombs, burnt dustbins and vandalized shops Wednesday at the start of a two-day strike ahead of a vote on a new austerity bill to stave off bankruptcy.”
* Kabul: “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in the Afghan capital Wednesday on an unannounced visit intended to boost faltering reconciliation efforts ahead of the planned withdrawal of NATO forces. Clinton, who traveled to Kabul on the heels of visits to Libya and Oman, was scheduled to meet Thursday with President Hamid Karzai and other government and parliamentary leaders.”
* Potentially life-saving breakthrough: “Preliminary results from the trial of a malaria vaccine show that it protected nearly half of the children who received it from bouts of serious malaria, scientists said Tuesday. The vaccine, known as RTS,S and made by GlaxoSmithKline, has been in development for more than 25 years, initially for the American military and now with most of its support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
* A Social Security boost: “Social Security benefits will go up by 3.6 percent next year, the first increase since 2009 for the one in five Americans who rely on government retirement and disability programs.”
* The test vote in the Senate on 400,000 jobs for teachers and first responders will probably come Friday.
* The Senate is an exasperating institution, Part I: “Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) announced Wednesday he is putting a hold on all Treasury Department nominees until the administration backs down in a dispute over Federal Emergency Management funds…. But Pryor has thrown down the gauntlet over tens of thousands of dollars in flood relief funds FEMA and the Treasury Department have tried to collect from families in his home state.”
* The Senate is an exasperating institution, Part II: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee from continuing a mark-up hearing on Wednesday in a sharp floor exchange with the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Paul insisted on enforcement of a rule that limits hearings from going beyond two hours’ time while the Senate is in session.”
* MSNBC is moving Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word” to 10 p.m., and “The Ed Show” to the prime 8 p.m. slot.
* Fox Business executives want their on-air personalities to remember that the network is not supposed to be a cheap knockoff of Fox News Channel. “If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time,” an executive vice president said in a memo. “Earnings, taxes, jobs etc give us PLENTY to chew on.”
* And finally, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) hosted a town-hall meeting this week, but asked the local paper not to publish a notice of the meeting for the public. Why not? Because the congresswoman didn’t want voters to come and say “whatever’s on their minds.” When word of a town-hall gathering is mentioned in the paper, the Republican lawmaker’s communications director said, “you get a certain set of people.” (I think they’re called “constituents.”)
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.