Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Tragedy in Afghanistan: “Six U.S. soldiers serving with the NATO International Security Assistance Force were killed when their Sikorsky UH-60 ‘Black Hawk’ helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said.”
* A final vote on the budget is expected tomorrow: “A bipartisan tax-and-spending plan designed to bring some normalcy to Congress’s budgeting after three years of chaos cleared its final hurdle on Tuesday when 67 senators voted to end debate on the measure and bring it to a final vote before it goes to President Obama for his signature.”
* Power play: “Playing a trump card in his diplomatic contest with the West over Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin said Tuesday that Russia would come to the rescue of its financially troubled neighbor, providing $15 billion in loans and a sharp discount on natural gas prices.”
* Keep an eye on this one: “The way an Indian diplomat was treated by law enforcement officials in New York last week has touched off a furor in India, where politicians from across the political spectrum expressed outrage and the New Delhi police retaliated by removing security barriers that were meant to protect the American Embassy.”
* Who’ll replace Jeff Zients next month and oversee management of the HealthCare.gov project? Kurt DelBene, who was president of the Microsoft Office Division up until recently.
* NSA fallout: “President Obama’s meeting Tuesday with 15 high-tech executives underscores both the White House’s ties to Silicon Valley – and the cracks that have emerged in that alliance.”
* Expect to hear more about this: “Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., announced Tuesday that she will be introducing legislation to roll back provisions in the pending budget deal that would cut military retirement benefits by reducing cost-of-living adjustments.”
* Remember Alabama’s needlessly punitive anti-immigrant law, HB 56? After two years on the books, Benjy Sarlin takes a closer look at how and why it’s failed.
* Everyone’s on board: “The National Guard will distribute identification cards to the gay spouses of its personnel, overriding the resistance of several states that opposed a new military policy permitting such cards to all spouses and partners regardless of sexual orientation…. Mr. Hagel said Friday that all states were now in compliance with the law.”
* Reality-based governing: “Nine House Democrats have offered legislation that would eliminate federal grants to states that run abstinence education programs.”
* I just didn’t have the energy to highlight the glaring errors of fact and judgment in Ron Fournier’s disappointing new column, but I’m glad Kilgore and Sullivan were up to the task.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.