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Feb. 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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Manning pleads guilty to gov't data leak

FORT MEADE, Md., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army private accused of leaking sensitive data to WikiLeaks, pleaded guilty to 10 charges Thursday and agreed to serve 20 years in prison.

In a military hearing at Fort Meade, Md., Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning pleaded guilty to charges he illegally got and gave to WikiLeaks highly classified U.S. government secrets and agreed to serve 20 years in prison, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Manning, however, pleaded not guilty to 12 more serious charges, including espionage for aiding the enemy, meaning his criminal case will proceed at a general court-martial in June.

WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website, has published millions of pages of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents and communications.

During Thursday's hearing, Manning admitted he leaked a video of a helicopter gun battle, State Department cables, an Army field manual and Army documents about the military's patrol reports in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He also admitted leaking confidential assessments of detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and classified records from a U.S. bombing in Afghanistan's Farah province in which as many as 30 civilians were killed.

Army Col. Denise Lind asked Manning frequently if he wanted enter the guilty pleas, the Times said. Each time, Manning answered, "Yes, ma'am," and "Yes, your honor."

Manning has been in a military prison since his arrest in May 2010.

Pope flies away from Vatican

VATICAN CITY, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Benedict XVI left the Vatican for the last time as pope Thursday, traveling by motorcade to a helipad at the train station.

To the sound of bells, the retiring pope was flown by a white Italian air force helicopter to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome, where his retirement was scheduled to take place officially Thursday evening.

The helicopter landed at the summer residence at dusk, also to the sound of bells.

When he officially resigns, his Swiss Guard is scheduled to leave for the Vatican, their place at Benedict's side taken by regular Vatican police.

In his final day as pope, Benedict XVI Thursday told the cardinals charged with electing his successor he will be praying for them during the conclave.

The 85-year-old pontiff met with the cardinals, greeting them each individually as they kissed his ring before a golden throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, The New York Times reported.

"I will be close to you in prayer," he told them, referring to the conclave to select a new pope, expected to begin much earlier than its original date in mid-March.

Benedict said he would behave with "unconditional reverence and obedience" toward his new successor. Both will be residing in the Vatican, but Benedict will be away from the papal apartment in a restored convent on the Vatican grounds, officials said..

After he steps down, Benedict will be referred to as pope emeritus or Roman pontiff emeritus. The German-born pope will continue to be addressed as "Your Holiness" following his retirement.

U.S. OKs direct non-lethal aid to rebels

ROME, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The United States, for the first time, will directly provide non-lethal aid to anti-government rebels in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.

"I am proud to announce US will provide an additional $60 million in non-lethal assistance to support Syrian Opposition Coalition," Kerry posted on his Twitter page from Rome, where he is attending an international "Friends of Syria" conference.

Kerry said the funding would go to Syria's main political opposition group to help it unify and distribute humanitarian supplies and services to areas liberated from President Bashar Assad's rule, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"No nation, no people, should live in fear of their so-called leaders," tweeted Kerry, later posting, "Bashar al-Assad is out of time, must be out of power."

The United States has provided humanitarian supplies, communications equipment and training to Syria's opposition. However, Thursday is the first time Washington said it would work directly with Syria's rebel fighters through the Supreme Military Command attached to the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

U.S. officials said they would closely vet rebel factions of the Supreme Military Command to ensure the United States doesn't end up supplying radical Islamist groups or militias tied to al-Qaida.

No deadline has been announced for when the aid would reach Syria's fighters.

Offices attacked in Egyptian protests

MANSOURA, Egypt, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A government office in Egypt was attacked after the state prosecutor decided to delay the release of protesters from earlier clashes with police, officials say.

The fighting in Mansoura, in the Nile Delta, followed calls on Sunday for a campaign of civil disobedience to protest President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Ahram reported Wednesday.

The headquarters of the Daqahliya governorate was attacked and part of the building set on fire Wednesday evening during a protest over the state prosecutor's decision to hold for four days those arrested in earlier clashes with the police.

Confrontations Tuesday between anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators and police left dozens injured and arrested.

The attack Wednesday night destroyed the air conditioning unit, furniture and documents in a second-story office, al-Masry al-Youm said.

Demonstrators in Mansoura also blocked streets and set tires on fire.

Chicago kindergartners may learn sex ed

CHICAGO, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Chicago Public Schools is considering a proposal that would begin teaching sex education in kindergarten, the district said.

The district's proposal follows "national sexuality education standards" and also would address sexual orientation and bullying for the first time, FoxNews.com reported Thursday.

Under the proposal, students in kindergarten through third grade would learn about appropriate and inappropriate touching and feelings, the district said. In the fourth grade, students would learn about puberty and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

From fifth grade and beyond, instruction would include discussions on reproduction, contraception, and the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, the district said.

"It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors, and relationships," Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.

"I just don't think it's appropriate," Melissa Diebold, a parent, told MyFoxChicago.com. "I don't think its age appropriate. They have no concept of anything like that at that stage in life."

Parents can elect not to have their children participate, the district said.

If approved, the program would be implemented by 2016.

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