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Aug. 22, 2012 at 5:09 PM
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Akin leaves exit door slightly open

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Embattled Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., left open the possibility he may exit his state's U.S. Senate race but maintained he still can win.

"I'm never going to say everything that could possibly happen," Akin told ABC News Wednesday. "I don't know the future, but I do know this: I know that the party voters took a look at our hearts, understood who we were, had a chance to meet us in many, many different ways and made a decision."

He said he was "uncomfortable" with the possibility of "party bosses" influencing who runs "as opposed to the election process."

Meanwhile, Akin's opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is using online ads linked to Twitter searches for hashtag #legitimaterape or Todd Akin, Politico reported.

"Don't let Todd Akin get elected. He thinks 'women can't get pregnant from #legitimaterape,'" McCaskill tweets, with a pitch for donations and a link to her Web Site. This follows Google search ads doing the same thing.

Akin has come under heavy criticism from not only women and Democrats but his own party for comments Sunday when asked if abortion should be legal in cases of rape.

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said during the interview with a St. Louis television station. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, have lined up to ask Akin to drop out.

Prosecutors push for suspect to cut beard

FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Military prosecutors argued Wednesday the Muslim-American major charged in the Fort Hood, Texas, Army base massacre must be clean-shaven during his trial.

Maj. Nidal Hassan, 41, should be forcibly shaved of the beard he has grown while in custody to avoid a "distracting and disruptive sideshow" that is "flagrantly disrespecting the Army," prosecutors said in pressing the issue on military authority and decorum grounds.

The trial for Hassan, accused of 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting rampage, is on hold pending a ruling, the Los Angeles Times reported.

It was not clear when a ruling would be made.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces had issued an order last week to allow Hassan to keep his beard, saying forcing him to shave would violate his religious freedom, the Times said.

But in court documents, prosecutors called his beard "a direct challenge to the military judge's authority" to maintain military decorum, pointing out that Hassan was cited for contempt five times prior to the appellate court's ruling for not complying with the shaving order and removed from the court to watch the proceedings on television.

Cease-fire declared in Tripoli

TRIPOLI, Lebanon, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A cease-fire between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in Lebanon appeared to be holding in Tripoli late Wednesday, officials said.

At least 12 people were reported killed in three days of clashes between groups supporting and opposing President Bashar Assad, The Daily Star reported. Security forces said a soldier was among the dead, and 11 soldiers were among the 66 people injured.

Fighting between the anti-Assad Sunni neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the pro-Assad Jabal Mohsen neighborhood, which is predominately Alawite, began Monday, officials said.

The minority Alawite-led Assad regime leads neighboring Syria.

Lebanese army units that have deployed in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Jabal Mohsen and al-Qibba neighborhoods in Tripoli responded to sniper fire, which closed the highway from Tripoli to Akkar, security officials said.

U.S. death toll in Afghanistan hits 2,000

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan has more than doubled since President Obama took office, The New York Times reports.

One thousand members of the U.S. Army and Marines were killed in the nine years after the 2001 invasion, the newspaper said. The toll hit 2,000 last week when Specialist James A. Justice died of wounds in an Army hospital in Germany.

The Times figures are based on an analysis of Defense Department statistics. The newspaper included U.S. deaths in Pakistan in operations aimed at aiding the Afghanistan effort.

In 2010, Obama decided to send an additional 33,000 U.S. military members to Afghanistan. The surge increased the intensity of the fight there, and the number of U.S. casualties jumped.

Tropical storm threatens GOP convention

MIAMI, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to become a hurricane and may impact the Republican National Convention, meteorologists said Wednesday.

Watches and warnings were issued Wednesday for Caribbean nations in the projected path of the storm, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Meteorologists expect Isaac to curve northward, toward Florida and the southeastern United States next week, coinciding with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., said Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist with Accuweather.com.

Isaac, with maximum sustained winds of about 45 mph, was becoming more organized and could intensify into a hurricane by Thursday, and a hurricane watch was in effect for Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Weather Service said in its 5 p.m. EDT advisory.

The storm was 25 miles south-southeast of Guadeloupe and 365 miles east-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, approaching the Leeward Islands as it traveled west at 22 mph.

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