Today's edition of quick hits:
* Afghanistan: "Afghan forces backed by a U.S. airstrike launched a 'large-scale operation' to rout the Taliban from a key city after militants seized a provincial capital in a stunning setback for the Western-backed government."
* In theory, this doesn't have to be pointless: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner are opening budget negotiations with President Obama. McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday that he and Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke to Obama last week and expect to sit down more officially with the administration 'soon.'"
* My MSNBC colleague Irin Carmon showed extraordinary patience -- and perseverance -- by attending the entire House Oversight Committee hearing today. She reported on what she saw.
* That was quick: "A sudden swell of enthusiasm for Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to make a late-entry bid into the race for House majority leader faded almost as quickly as it began."
* Georgia: "Despite an 11th-hour appeal from Pope Francis, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has rejected a clemency bid by Kelly Gissendaner, the mother of three scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday evening for her role in her husband's 1997 murder."
* Worth watching: "Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. shares fell the most in four years after Democrats in the U.S. House asked to subpoena the company for documents relating to drug price increases, the latest move by politicians seeking to curb price hikes on drugs."
* A narrower case moves forward: "A federal judge overseeing the corruption case against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and a Florida ophthalmologist on Monday dismissed some bribery charges, though allowed most to stand."
* Keep an eye on this one: "The House Ethics Committee has extended its review of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) and his congressional office over allegations by a former staffer of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment."
* Hastert's plea deal: "Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s lawyers are in plea discussions with federal prosecutors to resolve his case before a potentially embarrassing two-week trial, officials indicated Monday."
* Unfortunate clumsiness: "Kevin McCarthy is about to ascend to the highest office in the House of Representatives and become second in line to the presidency. But there is a problem: The speaker-apparent apparently still can’t speak."
* Rick Hasen did a terrific job with this: "Why the most urgent civil rights cause of our time is the Supreme Court itself."
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.