Today’s edition of quick hits:
* Road trip: “President Barack Obama was back at North Carolina State University to talk about jobs, but this time the speech was more about what he could do without Congress instead of what he’d like done legislatively this year. ‘Long term, the challenge of making sure that everyone who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important we can’t wait for Congress to solve it,’ he said. ‘Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.’”
* Iraq: “At least seven car bombs detonated across Baghdad on Wednesday in lethal and apparently coordinated attacks by militants that killed at least 30 people, according to police and health officials.”
* Afghanistan: “A coalition airstrike in a province north of Kabul killed at least two Afghan villagers Wednesday morning, prompting President Hamid Karzai to order an official inquiry and escalating tensions yet again between the allies over civilian deaths.”
* Challenging buffer zones: “Can a state restrict some speech – limiting where dissenters can stand – if it can show that existing criminal laws aren’t enough to protect patients? That questions was the focus of many of the Supreme Court Justices’ questions in the oral argument Wednesday morning for McCullen v. Coakley, a case challenging Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics.”
* Bowe Bergdahl: “The United States has obtained a “proof of life” video of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and is the only U.S. service member held captive by enemy forces, officials said Wednesday. The video – which was on a thumb drive intercepted by the U.S. last week – shows a frail, shaky Bergdahl making a reference to the recent death of South African leader Nelson Mandela, the officials said.”
* On to the Senate: “A large bloc of House conservatives voted Wednesday against a $1.1 trillion spending plan to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, saying that the new bipartisan agreement fails to scale back the new health-care law or dramatically pay down the national debt.”
* This arguably helps Kerry more than it hurts him: “Secretary of State John Kerry brushed off comments Wednesday made by Israel’s defense minister a day earlier. The Obama administration had called the remarks ‘offensive.’ On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quoted by newspaper Yediot Aharonot as saying Kerry was acting ‘messianic,’ and should leave Israel alone.”
* Finishing the cabinet: “President Obama tapped California banker Maria Contreras-Sweet to head the Small Business Administration during a brief ceremony Wednesday at the White House. Obama hailed Contreras-Sweet, a Mexican immigrant who founded a bilingual community bank that helped fund small businesses in Latino neighborhoods, as someone who knows ‘firsthand the challenges that immigrants’ and business owners face.”
* Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a man of almost infinite wisdom, told the Heritage Foundation today that federal judges need “basic plumbing lessons” if they think homosexuality is natural. Stay classy, Louie.
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.