Today’s edition of quick hits:
* It’s probably best to keep expectations low: “Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest effort to salvage faltering Middle East peace talks got off to a rough start on Thursday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly questioned the Palestinians’ commitment to peace.”
* Iraq: “Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened on Thursday to seize control of Falluja and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.”
* Lebanon: “A huge explosion killed at least four people in a stronghold of militia and political party Hezbollah in the Lebanese capital on Thursday, just days after a former minister and vocal critic of the Shiite group was himself killed in an explosion “
* Speaking of Lebanon: “Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion to bolster Lebanon’s armed forces, in a challenge to the Iranian-allied Hezbollah militia’s decadeslong status as Lebanon’s main power broker and security force” (thanks to my colleague Rawan Jabaji for the heads-up).
* Good move: “Walgreen Co said on Monday it will provide a month’s supply of certain prescriptions at no upfront cost to U.S. participants who have not yet received a plan identification number under President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.”
* This widely discussed New York Times’ editorial is emblematic of a changing debate about Edward Snowden’s actions: “Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”
* California Supreme Court: “An undocumented immigrant who has met the requirements to practice law in California must be given a legal license, the state’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a landmark case that could set a national precedent.”
* New York: “A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that New York’s strict new gun laws, including an expanded ban on assault weapons, were constitutional, but struck down a provision forbidding gun owners to load more than seven rounds into a magazine.”
* Could the parties ever engage in a real policy debate over the future of health care? Greg Sargent says it’s possible, but first, “Republicans will first have to pass through what might be called the Three Stages of Obamacare Acceptance.”
* And E.J. Dionne had a thought provoking piece this morning that’s worth your time: “The reemergence of a Democratic left will be one of the major stories of 2014. Moderates, don’t be alarmed. The return of a viable, vocal left will actually be good news for the political center.”
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.