Thailand’s military has taken control of the country’s government days after imposing martial law. The army says the coup is necessary to restore order after six months of political turmoil between the government and opposition protesters. Demonstrators in Bangkok had blocked elections and called for the ouster of a caretaker government installed after a court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra earlier this month. Thailand’s top military general made the coup announcement in a television address shortly after convening a meeting with political parties, lawmakers and other key figures. Thailand’s last coup in 2006 led to more than a year of military rule.
At least 48 people have been killed in the latest suspected assault from Nigeria’s Boko Haram. Three villages were attacked in overnight raids near Chibok, the town where the Boko Haram seized nearly 300 schoolgirls last month. They came just as the Boko Haram was accused of carrying out a twin bombing in the city of Jos that left at least 122 people dead. In the capital of Abuja, protesters rallying for the return of the kidnapped schoolgirls voiced concerns about growing insecurity.
Protester: "Can you tell me the reason why the same Chibok, the same Chibok that the whole world is mentioning the name as a result of abduction of 270-something girls from that same [area], yet they are experiencing another attack? And you tell me there’s a state of emergency? You tell me there is need for extension of state of emergency? And you tell me yet there are troops deployed there?"
As the Boko Haram is accused of more attacks, the Obama administration has deployed a battalion of marines in the search for the missing schoolgirls. The White House informed Congress on Wednesday it has sent 80 marines to Chad, which borders Nigeria. In Washington, Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York backed the administration’s efforts.
Rep. Eliot Engel: "We believe very strongly that the United States, in conjunction with other countries, must do everything possible to free those girls. And we have technology and other things available to us that other countries don’t have that we believe should be utilized in a joint international effort to bring the girls home."
China and Russia have struck a landmark energy deal after 10 years of talks. The $400 billion, 30-year agreement will send gas from Siberia to China via a pipeline. The pact is seen as a major setback for Western sanctions on Russia imposed during the Ukraine crisis, with Russia now sending its main export to one of the world’s largest energy markets.
The Russian government says it will veto an expected vote today from the United Nations Security Council to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court. Top U.N. officials have collected a list of figures to target for indictment on war crimes charges, mostly from the Syrian government. But Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters his government will stand in the way.
Vitaly Churkin: "The fact that the resolution is going to vote, we regard as simply a publicity stunt, which will have a detrimental effect, unfortunately, on our joint efforts in trying to resolve politically the crisis in Syria. But what will come, will come."
It will be Russia’s fourth straight veto of a U.N. Security Council measure on Syria. The United States agreed to support the resolution after ensuring Israel would not face prosecution related to its occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights, which it seized in 1967.
President Obama has vowed to tackle a scandal engulfing the Department of Veterans Affairs over lengthy delays for medical treatment at facilities nationwide. The VA has come under scrutiny after it emerged health clinics in Arizona and Colorado used elaborate schemes to hide records of patients who waited too long for care, causing dozens of deaths. Speaking after a meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Obama called the delays and cover-ups intolerable.
President Obama: "When I hear allegations of misconduct, any misconduct, whether it’s allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it, not as commander-in-chief, but also not as an American. None of us should."
The number of VA facilities under investigation has more than doubled to 26 since last week. Asked by reporters if Shinseki’s job is on the line, Obama avoided a direct answer but did not rule out his departure.
President Obama: "I know that Ric’s attitude is if he does not think he can do a good job on this, and if he thinks he’s let our veterans down, then I’m sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve. At this stage, Ric is committed to solving the problem and working with us to do it. And I am going to do everything in my power, using the resources of the White House, to help that process of getting to the bottom of what happened and fixing it."
The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the execution of a Missouri death row prisoner who was set to become the first to be executed since Oklahoma’s botched killing last month. Russell Bucklew’s attorneys asked for a stay because he suffers from a medical condition they say could cause him undue suffering. Bucklew won an initial stay on Tuesday, and the Supreme Court followed up on Wednesday with another ruling halting the execution and sending the case back to a federal appeals court. The court’s ruling marked a shift from a pattern of rejecting similar cases, suggesting justices may be concerned about the secretive and unregulated compounding pharmacies that provide the lethal injection drugs states like Missouri refuse to disclose.
A federal judge has ordered the government to hand over video footage showing the repeated removal of a Guantánamo Bay prisoner to undergo force-feeding. The ruling came in the case of Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who last week became the first Guantánamo prisoner to win a court ruling stopping his force-feeding since a prison-wide hunger strike began more than a year ago. In addition to handing over some 34 videotapes, the military has also been ordered to provide medical records and protocols related to force-feedings. Imprisoned since 2002, Dhiab remains behind bars despite being cleared for release.
More than 100 people have been arrested at the Illinois headquarters of fast-food giant McDonald’s in a protest calling for higher wages and the right to unionize. A crowd of up to 2,000 people, including several hundred McDonald’s employees in uniform, marched on the company’s "Hamburger University" campus near Chicago. The demonstrators are calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage in line with the fast-food protests held around the world last week.
Janah Bailey, McDonald’s employee: "As workers, we went on strike. We’ve talked to other workers. We’ve had petition signings in our store. We’ve done all we can. We’ve requested meetings with the general managers. We’ve done all that we can. So, right now, today, my presence is saying that I am standing to take that step further and to kick it up a notch, because obviously what we’ve been doing is not enough."
Kendall Fells, protest organizer: "McDonald’s is the leader of the industry. It’s the fastest-growing industry in the country. And these workers are here to look [CEO] Don Thompson and his shareholders in the face and say, 'We do work for you. We are growing. And we're not going to live in poverty while you sit here and take on billions of dollars in profit. And that’s what this is about.’"
Protest organizers say they will continue their demonstrations outside the annual McDonald’s shareholders meeting today. McDonald’s says it has no plans to take up the issue of worker pay.
Same-sex marriages are underway in Pennsylvania following this week’s ruling overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Pennsylvania is now the 19th state to recognize marriage equality and the last in the Northeast to do so. On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett announced he would not appeal the ruling that struck down the ban. Meanwhile, in Montana four gay and lesbian couples have filed suit for the right to marry, the latest in a series of cases that have led to marriage equality rulings nationwide.