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Monday, August 20, 2012

Obama Warns Syria Against Using Chemical Weapons

U.S. President Barack Obama said today Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would face “enormous consequences” should he decide to move chemical and biological weapons in a threatening way, or use them against the rebels. These are the strongest words coming from the U.S. since the conflict started. President Obama has been reluctant to arm the rebels, who count extremist Islamic factions among them. Meanwhile, the civil war continued to spread: the Meqdad clan abducted 20 Syrians in Lebanon, as well as a Turkish citizen, in reprisal for the kidnapping of Hassan al-Meqdad, a member of the family, by Syrian rebels. Displacements continued, with the number of refugees reaching 170,000 in neighboring countries, almost 70,000 of whom are in Turkey. Syrian rockets also fell on Jordan’s territory, the AFP reports, injuring a young girl.

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s Rape Comment Shakes GOP

Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin is facing increasing pressure from his party after he said victims of “legitimate rape” seldom become pregnant as he explained his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. Fellow party members condemned his remark, distanced themselves from the representative, who is also running to oust one-term Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, and urged him to “consider his options.” U.S. Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and Vice-Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan, both on the Republican ticket, issued a statement saying they disagree with Akin, adding they support abortion in the case of rape (a new position for Ryan, a Catholic who has expressed support for Akin’s views before). National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, from Texas, told Akin today the national GOP will not continue to fund his campaign. Cindy McCain, wife of Senator and former Presidential Candidate John McCain, also a Republican, took to Twitter to remind Akin that “rape is rape.” Akin has until tomorrow to drop out from the race, which would allow the Republican party to nominate someone else, but he told Sean Hannity of Fox News he will not quit.

China’s Gu Kailai’s Death Sentence Deferred

Gu Kailai, the wife of Chinese deposed politician Bo Xilai, was handed a suspended death sentence today after she was convicted of having poisoned British businessman Neil Heywood. Her sentence came with a two-year reprieve, meaning that she could have it changed to a life sentence on good behavior after the two years elapse. Gu confessed to having killed Heywood after the businessman threatened her son to obtain money. Legal experts say that the trial was a way to appease British authorities and the Chinese government, which was embarrassed by this scandal. Gu did not choose her lawyers, who were appointed by Chinese officials and did not have access to her files. Now the focus will turn to her husband Bo, a former member of China’s Politburo.

Two Women Admitted at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club

For the first time in its 80-year history, the Augusta National Golf Club in the U.S. state of Georgia admitted two female members. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, and Darla Moore, a businesswoman from South Carolina, said they were “delighted,” “honored,” and “extremely grateful for the privilege.” This decision comes months after the club denied membership to IBM Chief Executive Officer Virginia Rometty on the grounds that she is a woman, even though every IBM CEO before her had been a member. Augusta is the setting for the annual Masters Golf Tournament, one of the world’s most prestigious golf competitions.

Apple Closes at Highest U.S. Market Cap Ever

Apple Inc. broke a U.S. record today as it closed the trading day in New York with a market value of $623.5 billion, surpassing the $616.3 billion mark set by Microsoft in 1999. Its stock reached a price of $665.15 on optimism that the new iPhone, due to be announced in September, will meet high demand, with sales reaching 250 million units, according to some analysts. The iPhone represent 70 percent of Apple’s profit. The company may also announce a smaller, cheaper iPad, sources said in July. The stock rose 64 percent this year, a run that could lead it to reach $1 trillion market capitalization, though experts warn that “it doesn’t take much to miss a cycle.” The first company ever to be valued at $1 trillion was PetroChina Co. on the day it began trading publicly in 2007.

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