The Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), met for a hearing called "Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond" for two hours Wednesday to "investigate what methods are being used to determine if any of these planets may harbor life," according to the hearing charter. As the least productive Congress in recent history, lawmakers have managed to pass 55 bills into law this year -- seven fewer than the 112th Congress had passed at this time last year. read more
Fortune: When a Wal-Mart executive boasted at a Goldman Sachs investor conference in September that 475,000 of the company's U.S. store associates make more than $25,000 -- meaning that a large portion of its 1.4 million workers in the U.S. make less -- a long-simmering debate about the company's wages boiled over. Last week, a large protest outside a California Wal-Mart store led to 50 arrests. Fueling the anger, Payscale, a salary information site, estimates that Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke's 2012 pay of $23.2 million was 1,034 times more than the company's average worker.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) has been elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Steve Lonegan (R) in a special election to finish the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) 55 to 44 percent, with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Booker, 44, becomes the first black senator to serve from New Jersey. Lonegan, a Tea Party favorite, said in his concession, "Unfortunately for whatever reason, the message we delivered together with so much energy and so much passion did not win the day. I said to myself who wants that job anyway?"
Like in a scene from an apocalyptic parable, dark carcasses of cows and steers lie motionless in silent clusters across swaths of South Dakota, CNN reports. An early blizzard caught ranchers off guard this week in the state, killing as many as 20,000 head of cattle, a state official says. But ranchers say they are the real victims. The storm left many of them in ruins, and now Washington is leaving them out in the cold. "With the government shutdown and no farm bill in place, we need South Dakotans to help their neighbors," said Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R). read more
The Day: There is no better way to make a federal law unpopular than to have Congress exempt itself from its provisions. No wonder then reports that Congress has exempted themselves and their staffs from the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- is further eroding support for the law aimed at making sure all Americans have access to health care insurance. However, the claim, while constructed on some shred of truth, is false. It is symbolic of what is wrong with Washington. It is a strategy meant to confuse and divert attention from the real issue. It is a substitute for engaging in genuine debate. The intent is to anger, rather than inform the public. read more