Going public. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, publicly announced her support for same-sex marriage Wednesday, shortly after receiving an endorsement from a major gay-rights advocacy group. Collins is the fourth GOP senator to support same-sex marriage, joining Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Maine legalized same-sex marriage by voter referendum in 2012. Collins told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday, “A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision.” A spokesman for Collins said she thinks decisions on same-sex marriage should be made at the state level. Collins is in her third term and senator and is up for re-election this fall.
Died. Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, famous for his question about then President Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, has died. He was 88. Baker, a Republican, asked during a 1973 Senate hearing on Watergate, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” The question focused attention on the president’s role in the scandal, rather than on the break-in itself. Baker spent 18 years representing Tennessee in the Senate, serving for part of the time as majority leader. He served as White House chief of staff at the end of the Reagan administration and was U.S. Ambassador to Japan during President George W. Bush’s first term.
Pay day. Ikea’s U.S. division is giving raises to thousands of its retail workers, setting a local minimum wage based on the cost of living at each location. The 17-percent average raise, will take effect Jan. 1 and translate to an average wage of $10.76 an hour. About half of Ikea’s 11,000 hourly store workers will get a raise. The change comes as service and retail workers around the country are pushing for wage increases. Fast-food workers asking for higher pay in cities have staged protests across the country. Union groups have held protests at Walmart, and President Barack Obama is endorsing a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
Eye on the sky. A new NASA spaceship passed a crucial test of its parachute system Wednesday. The Orion spaceship is being designed to carry astronauts into deep space, including an asteroid and possibly Mars. On Wednesday, NASA dropped the craft from a C-17 flying at 35,000 feet above the Arizona desert. It successfully landed despite several planned glitches that engineers used to test its backup systems. NASA is planning Orion’s first test in outer space, an unmanned spaceflight, for December.
Super pop. A New York court of appeals ruled today in favor of super-sized soda, which New York City has been trying to ban for several years. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg initiated the fight to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in fast-food restaurants, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has continued to push the issue to fight obesity in the city. But courts have consistently ruled the local health department does not have the authority to enact such a ban, which would create unfair competition between restaurants and convenience stores, over which the city doesn’t have the same regulatory powers.