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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clinton Defends Benghazi Record

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke today before the nation’s Congress, angrily defending the way she dealt with the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that caused the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. After a statement in which she took full responsibility for the response to the attack and during which she presented all the ways in which she moved to improve security for U.S. outposts, she shot back at Republican Senator Ron Johnson, from Wisconsin, whose insistent questioning sought to shed light the day’s events. “What difference does it make?” Clinton asked, calling for more emphasis on ways to prevent such incidents. Senator John Kerry, who leads the Foreign Relations Committee and is due to succeed her in her post, was not present at the hearing.

Netanyahu Begins Coalition Talks After Slim Victory

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was re-elected yesterday with a very narrow margin, vowed to respond to the concerns of voters by focusing on “greater sharing of the burden [of military service], affordable housing, and changes in the system of government” rather than ultranationalist policies. Experts believe Netanyahu’s new government will include the surprise winner of the election, centrist party Yesh Atid which came in second, and its leader, former television presenter Yair Lapid. Lapid promised to limit the privileges of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who receive more benefits than other citizens and are exempt from military service, but also to improve purchasing power for all. Netanyahu will also woo the two far-right groups, Jewish Home party and Shas, which are expected to have each gained 11 seats in Knesset. Even still, this won’t stop Netanyahu’s policy of expanding settlements in Palestinian territories, analysts say.

U.S. Lifts Ban on Women for Combat

The U.S. Department of Defense announced today it will lift the army’s ban on women in combat, which could send thousands of female soldiers to the front lines. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington State Democrat, welcomed the decision, calling it “an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation.” Individual military services will have until 2016 to ask for exemptions if they believe some positions should remain exclusively masculine. The move overturns a 1994 rule that excludes women from artillery, infantry, and other combat units.

Apple Sales Miss Analyst Expectations, Stock Tanks

Apple’s stock tanked by almost 11 percent in late trading after the company reported first-quarter earnings that failed to meet expectations set by analysts. Sales rose 18 percent to $54.5 billion, less than the $54.9 billion analysts expected, according to Bloomberg. Profit was $13.81 per share in the three months that ended December 29, compared with a forecast of $13.53. About 47.8 million iPhones were sold, in line with expectations, though iPads beat predictions at 22.9 million. When the iPhone 5 was launched, some analysts estimated sales could reach 50 million units, but supply shortages put a hamper on that. Higher production costs and stiffer competition were also blamed for the flat results.

Chimps Retired from Research Will Live in Sanctuaries

The Council of Councils of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) unanimously voted yesterday to permanently retire almost all of the 451 chimpanzees from research and move them to sanctuaries. The report with the recommendations will be made available to the public for comment for the next 60 days, at the end of which NIH Director Francis Collins will decide whether to implement them. The effort to reduce use of chimps in medical testing has taken two years, and Collins has already accepted some of the guidelines presented. “We are very pleased with these recommendations,” said Kathleen Conless, of the Humane Society of the U.S. “Importantly, they did not recommend future breeding.”

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