ICYMI: World news for Aug. 5

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U.S. shutters diplomatic posts amid al-Qaida threat 

U.S. diplomatic posts in 19 cities in the Mideast and Africa will remain closed for the rest of the week amid intercepted “chatter” about terror threats, which lawmakers briefed on the information likened to intelligence picked up before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

One lawmaker said the chatter was specific as to certain dates and the scope of the operation; others said it suggested that a major terrorist attack, akin to 9/11, was being planned by the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen.

Diplomatic facilities will remain closed in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, among other countries, through Saturday, Aug. 10. The State Department announcement Sunday added closures of four African sites, in Madagascar, Burundi, Rwanda and Mauritius. The U.S. reopened some posts Monday, including those in Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad.

Last week the State Department announced a global travel alert, warning that al-Qaida or its allies might target either U.S. government or private American interests. It said Americans should take extra precautions overseas and cited potential dangers involved with public transportation systems and other prime sites for tourists.
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Manning guilty of 20 charges, not aiding the enemy

In a split decision, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted Tuesday of aiding the enemy – the most serious charge he faced – but was convicted of espionage, theft and nearly every other count for giving secrets to WikiLeaks, a verdict that could see him spend the rest of his life in prison.

The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, deliberated over three days before delivering a decision that denied the government a precedent that freedom of press advocates had warned could have broad implications for leak cases and investigative journalism about national security issues.

From the courtroom to world capitals, people struggled to absorb the meaning of a ruling that cleared the soldier of a charge of aiding the enemy, which would have carried a potential life sentence, but convicted him of 20 of 22 counts that, together, could also mean life behind bars.

Manning faces up to 136 years in prison if given maximum penalties in a sentencing hearing that started Wednesday. It is expected to last most of August.
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Snowden walks free in Russia to U.S. anger 

Defying the United States, Russia granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum Thursday, allowing the National Security Agency leaker to slip out of the Moscow airport where he has been holed up for weeks in hopes of evading espionage charges back home.

The 30-year-old former NSA contractor now has plenty of room to roam throughout the sprawling country and continue the bizarre journey that has already stretched across half the planet – from Hawaii to Hong Kong to the Russian capital.

The move infuriated the U.S. administration, which said it was “extremely disappointed” and warned that the decision could derail an upcoming summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Iran’s new president Rouhani takes oath of office 

Iran’s new president on Sunday called on the West to abandon the “language of sanctions” in dealing with the Islamic Republic over its contentious nuclear program, hoping to ease the economic pressures now grinding its people.

President Hasan Rouhani spoke after being sworn in as president in an open session of parliament, capping a weekend that saw him endorsed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

Rouhani, a moderate cleric who won a landslide victory in the June 14 presidential elections, continued his call for dialogue with the West while asking foreign powers to respect Iran in its negotiations.

“If you seek a suitable answer, speak to Iran through the language of respect, not through the language of sanctions,” the president said in a speech broadcast live by Iranian state television. He later added that any negotiations would require “bilateral trust building, mutual respect and the lessening of hostilities.”
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Russia will enforce anti-gay law during Olympics 

Russia will enforce a new law cracking down on gay rights activism when it hosts international athletes and fans during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the country’s sports minister said Thursday, appearing to contradict assurances to the contrary from the International Olympic Committee.

Russia’s contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposing fines on individuals accused of spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, and even proposing penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies also are banned.

“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with R-Sport, the sports newswire of state news agency RIA Novosti. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”
Mutko emphasized that the law wasn’t designed to punish anyone for being gay or lesbian. But like the Russian lawmakers who authored the bill, Mutko said athletes would be punished only for propaganda, a word that remains ambiguous under the new law.

Former military chief gets life sentence in Turkey

In a landmark trial, scores of people – including Turkey’s former military chief, politicians and journalists – were convicted Monday of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government soon after it came to power in 2002. 

Retired Gen. Ilker Basbug was the most prominent defendant among some 250 people facing verdicts after a five-year trial that has become a central drama in tensions between the country’s secular elite and Erdogan’s Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party.

The trial has sparked protests, and on Monday police blocked hundreds of demonstrators from reaching the High Criminal Court in Silivri, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Istanbul, in a show of solidarity with the defendants.

But Monday’s verdicts were not expected to set off the kind of violent anti-government demonstrations that were recently sparked by a government plan to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks at a park near Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.

In addition to Basbug, at least 18 other defendants were sentenced to life in prison, including 10 retired military officers and Dogu Perincek, leader of the left-wing and nationalist Workers Party. At least 64 other defendants received sentences ranging from a year to 47 years, according to state-run TRT television news.

The defendants were accused of plotting high-profile attacks that prosecutors said were aimed at sowing chaos in Turkey to prepare the way for a military coup. The prosecutions already have helped Erdogan’s government reshape Turkey’s military and assert civilian control in a country that had seen three military coups since 1960.