Threat shuts embassies in Muslim world

The United States is shuttering its embassies and consulates throughout the Muslim world on Sunday after receiving an unspecified threat, officials said.

State Department officials said Thursday that they were taking action out of an “abundance of caution.” Spokeswoman Marie Harf cited information indicating a threat to U.S. facilities overseas and said some diplomatic offices may stay closed for more than a day.

Other U.S. officials said the threat was in the Muslim world, where Sunday is a workday. American diplomatic missions in Europe, Latin America and many other places are closed on Sunday.

Those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The State Department issued a major warning last year informing American diplomatic facilities across the Muslim world about potential violence connected to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Dozens of American installations were besieged by protests over an anti-Islam video made by a California man. In Benghazi, Libya, the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed when militants assaulted a diplomatic post. The administration no longer says that attack was related to the demonstrations.

— Associated Press

Minn., R.I. legalize same-sex marriages

In public celebrations and intimate ceremonies, gay couples exchanged vows Thursday in Minnesota and Rhode Island as the number of places where same-sex couples can wed grew to more than a quarter of U.S. states.

Dozens of gay couples began getting hitched at the stroke of midnight in Minnesota, the largest Midwestern state where it is now legal to do so. In Rhode Island, the last New England state to allow same-sex marriage, weddings began at 8:30 a.m., when municipal offices opened.

As of Thursday, same-sex couples can marry in 13 states and the District. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal.

— Associated Press

New law allows medical marijuana

Illinois became the 20th state in the nation to allow the medical use of marijuana Thursday, with Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signing some of the nation’s toughest standards into law.

The measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, sets up a four-year pilot program for state-regulated dispensaries and 22 cultivation centers where the plants will be grown.

Under the measure, only patients with serious illnesses or diseases will be allowed to obtain medical marijuana. The bill lists more than 30 ailments, such as cancer, muscular dystrophy and lupus. The patients must have established relationships with a doctor and will be limited to 2.5 ounces every two weeks.

Nineteen other states and the District allow medical marijuana. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed a medical marijuana bill into law last week.

— Associated Press

Two men accused of Ponzi scheme

A New York investment fund manager and his brother-in-law were charged Thursday with running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that siphoned investors’ money to finance the men’s interest in an eastern Long Island condominium resort.

Among the bilked investors was an unnamed volunteer fire department on Long Island, which lost $600,000, court papers said. An unidentified Maryland investor lost $11 million, according to the indictment.

In an indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Brian R. Callahan, 43, and Adam J. Manson, 41, were charged with wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Callahan also faces two counts of identity theft, according to the indictment.

Attorneys for both men entered not-guilty pleas at their arraignments Thursday. Callahan was released on $2 million bond and Manson was released on $1 million bond.

— Associated Press

Yellowstone geyser erupts after eight years: Yellowstone National Park’s Steamboat geyser — the world’s tallest — has erupted for the first time in more than eight years. The nine-minute blast sent steaming hot water an estimated 200 to 300 feet in the air, park geologist Hank Heasler said Thursday. Unlike the park’s popular and famous Old Faithful geyser, which spews water like clockwork every hour-and-a-half, no one knows when Steamboat will erupt next. In the past, it’s gone as long as 50 years without a major event. In 1964, it erupted a record 29 times. The last blast came in 2005.

Man sentenced in threat to Obama: A central Florida man angry over President Obama’s plan to overhaul health care has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for threatening to kill the president. Christopher Castillo, 28, of Melbourne was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Orlando. He was convicted in February. Authorities say he threatened on Facebook before the 2012 election to “hunt” the president down and kill him if he were reelected.

Soldiers struck by lightning: One soldier was in serious condition Thursday and another was in stable condition, but 10 others were released from the hospital after lightning struck near them during a training exercise at Fort Carson, Colo. The 12 soldiers had been in training but were heading toward shelter when the lightning struck Wednesday afternoon, Army officials said.

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— From news services