In our news wrap Thursday, gunmen believed to be members of the militant group Boko Haram staged an all-night attack on multiple small communities in Northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 33. Also, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays on religious grounds.
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Ukraine’s parliament voted in a new government today, and it immediately faced a challenge from the country’s Crimea region. Pro-Russian gunmen seized official buildings there, as Russian military jets patrolled along the border.
It raised concerns at a NATO meeting in Brussels, where U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he’s keeping a close watch on Russian actions.
CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense:
Let’s keep the tensions down. Let’s see no provocative actions by anyone, any military. These are difficult times. We all understand that, but this is a time for very cool, wise leadership, on the Russian side, on everybody’s side
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke with Russia’s foreign minister, who promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Russian news accounts said that former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is sheltering at a Kremlin retreat near Moscow. There’s word he plans a news conference tomorrow. We will get the latest on the developing situation right after the news summary.
Bomb blasts shook Baghdad and other parts of Iraq today, killing at least 52 people. Most of the deaths came in a motorcycle bombing that struck a Shiite market. Other attacks hit both Shiite and Sunni sections of the city. A wave of violence began last April, and has continued, despite government pledges to restore security.
In northeastern Nigeria, Islamist fighters struck again today, killing at least 33 people. Survivors said gunmen with Boko Haram staged an all-night attack on a town and several villages after soldiers ran away from military checkpoints. On Tuesday, the militants murdered almost 60 students at a government school in a neighboring state.
Gay rights activists cheered today after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill letting businesses refuse service to gays on religious grounds. The Republican’s closely watched decision came last night. She rejected arguments by bill supporters who cited religious rights violations in other states.
GOV. JAN BREWER, R-Ariz.:
Senate Bill 1062 doesn’t address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences.
Similar legislation is pending in at least six other states. Also today, a federal judge in Louisville ordered Kentucky officials to begin immediately recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries.
The Netherlands is the latest country to suspend aid to Uganda over a new anti-gay law there. It imposes sentences of up to life in prison for those who engage in homosexual relations. Norway and Denmark have already halted millions of dollars in assistance in Uganda. The U.S. has warned that it, too, may cut aid.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate fell short today in a bid to advance a $21 billion veterans benefits package. The measure would expand health care, education and job-training. Republicans blocked the bill in part over its cost. They also were insisting on new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Food nutrition labels may be getting a new easier-to-read look. Calories and sugar content will stand out more, and serving sizes will be updated to bring them more in line with the portions people actually eat.
First lady Michelle Obama rolled out the proposal today at the White House.
Families deserve more and better information about the food they eat. And it’s important to note that no matter what the final version looks like, the new label will allow you to immediately spot the calorie count, because it will be in large font and not buried in the fine print.
The Food and Drug Administration will take comments on the proposal for 90 days. A final rule could take another year. We will look more closely at the proposed changes later in the program.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was taken to a Washington hospital for a time today. An aide said he felt faint and had trouble breathing during a morning staff meeting. He was discharged after several hours and sent home. Holder is 63 years old.
In economic news, the new chair of the Federal Reserve Bank acknowledged a spate of weak reports could mean slower growth. Janet Yellen told a Senate committee that consumer spending and job growth have been lower than expected. But she said the severe winter could be the main cause.
JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve:
Part of that softness may reflect adverse weather conditions. But, at this point, it’s difficult to discern exactly how much. In the weeks and months ahead, my colleagues and I will be attentive to signals that indicate whether the recovery is progressing in line with our earlier expectations.
Wall Street rallied today partly on Yellen’s testimony. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 74 points to close at 16,272. The Nasdaq rose more than 26 points to close near 4,319. And the S&P 500 finished at a record high, gaining nine points to close at 1,854.