1. A sizable meteor entered our atmosphere and exploded above central Russia earlier today, in the vicinity of Chelyabinsk (south of Yekaterinburg, near the border with Kazakhstan). Several people recorded video of the event:
The meteor created a shock wave that shattered windows and blew in doors. Over one thousand people are reported hurt.
2. Meanwhile, today an asteroid is passing by the Earth, coming to within about 17,000 miles at its closest. (Apparently, this is closer to Earth than many weather and GPS satellites.) The asteroid, 2012 DA14, is about 150 feet in diameter (i.e. as tall as a 15-to-20-story building, or half an American football field). Scientists did not spot the giant rock until last year, but they are confident that it will not hit Earth. News sites are also saying that the passing of 2012 DA14 is unrelated to the meteor explosion in Russia earlier today. (Not that that will stop the conspiracy theorists.)
3. So, Senate Republicans are filibustering the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. This surprised me, as I thought that Hagel, a former senator, would get through with less dug-in opposition, like John Ashcroft in 2001 or John Kerry a few weeks ago. Yes, I expected that the Republican senators would register their grounds for opposition, but I did not expect a full-blown filibuster. (By the way, remember that Hagel is in fact a Republican, although he would be serving in a Democratic administration.) Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has some thoughts, as does Sarah Binder at the Monkey Cage.
4. Perhaps taking a cue from Pope Benedict, 89-year-old Senator Frank Lautenburg (D-New Jersey) has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2014. As Ed O’Keefe at the Washington Post and others note, this provides an opening for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party.
(Video from Youtube. Map from Google Maps.)