The modernizing monarch is gone. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, 90, died yesterday. He was buried in a simple ceremony. The kingdom’s ruler since 2005 — and counterbalance to more hardline clerics — is succeeded by his half-brother, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, a traditionalist. But Salman, 79, may also be ailing, and one of his first moves may need to be establishing who among the next generation of princes should follow him.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re not interested in talks. Russian-backed resisters in Ukraine have taken the key Donetsk Airport, and signs point to the fighters prepping for another assault. Kiev too is ramping up for “major combat operations.” In a rare show of outspokenness in Moscow, former government leaders publicly called for Putin to stop worrying so much about the Crimea, and worry more about Western relations. But on Friday, Putin kept playing the blame game with Ukraine.
The kidnappers’ deadline has passed, but no one knows what’s going on with two men held captive by ISIS. The militants had given Japan 72 hours to pay $200 million, with a deadline just after midnight. Japanese officials struggled to contact the kidnappers while others accused the government of botching the situation. The mother of one of the captives begged for her son’s life — and said the war correspondent had just become a father. For now, the family, and the country, can only wait.
Unrest now rules the Arab world’s poorest country. The U.S.-backed Yemen government collapsed last night as President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet resigned. Pro-Iranian Shiite rebels had seized the capital, Sanaa. Thousands took to the streets Friday, some supporting the Shiites as others called for secession. Aid organization Oxfam warned of a looming humanitarian disaster. It’s unclear who is now in charge, sparking fears that Yemen could become partitioned without a centralized government. Or worse, a breeding ground for terror.
Six feet away, a half-century apart. Cuban and American negotiators came to the table yesterday to begin normalizing diplomatic relations, but there’s a lot to cover. From the CIA’s failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to Castro dumping Cuban convicts on Florida in 1980, trust is in short supply — and Cuba remains on America’s list of terror sponsors. Look for Obama to lift that roadblock soon. Negotiators couldn’t agree on when to reopen embassies or continue talks, but they have agreed to meet again.
OPEC’s biggest player just got a new king. With the succession of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz in Saudi Arabia, investors are reading the oil sands to see the future of crude prices. In the near term, don’t expect the Saudis to divert from their current policy, even as prices have plummeted in the past few months. But oil futures rallied in New York and London on speculation that Salman could rig a new course. Expect the oil market to continue gushing with volatility.
New Ebola vaccine arrives today in Liberia for massive trial. (Telegraph)
Thai authorities impeach prime minister over rice subsidy scheme. (BBC)
Tom Brady denies deflating footballs for better grip. (Newsweek)
Sen. Marco Rubio takes steps toward 2016 run. (CBS)
Euro drops below $1.13, its lowest level in 11 years. (FT) sub
He’s meant to be adorned in gold, not glue. Workers at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum permanently disfigured Tutankhamun’s burial mask after knocking off his braided beard as they cleaned the funerary relic. They then crudely repaired it with an irreversible epoxy glue and used a spatula to remove excess residue from the 3,300-year-old mask, leaving scratches. The museum — already struggling from Egypt’s downturn in tourism — has dimmed the lights on the boy king in an attempt to save face.
Midnight is perilously close. We’re now teetering at 11:57 after the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists pushed the timer on their apocalyptic clock ahead by two minutes yesterday. Alarming data on climate change and the proliferation of nuclear arsenals prompted the update, the first since 2012. Scientists say we’re about halfway to the point of no return with greenhouse gases. And with Russia and the U.S. modernizing their nukes under unfriendly terms, “the probability of global catastrophe is very high.” Let’s hope Mr. Putin can tell time.
It can wake you up and save your hide. A new study suggests that drinking coffee can reduce chances of getting deadly skin cancer by up to 20 percent. Bioactive compounds in the joe protect against DNA damage and oxidative stress to help thwart UVB-induced cancers, while caffeine — a proven ultraviolet radiation absorber — works like a sunscreen. The protection is true regardless of age, smoking history and even the riskiest factor, exposure to ultraviolet radiation. So savor your brew and save your skin.
The Canadian rockers will fly by night past the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World.” Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are hitting the road this spring for their 40th anniversary tour of 34 cities, weaving from Tulsa to Los Angeles. But the hall-of-famers are bypassing the Rock Hall of Fame’s hometown, site of their 1974 American radio debut on WMMS. Clevelanders took to social media in protest, saying they’re among the staunchest Rush fans … and their devotion will not fade away.
Italy just invaded Swiss territory Down Under. Second-seeded Roger Federer has fallen to unseeded Andreas Seppi in the Australian Open. The 17-time Grand Slam champ from Basel fell in the third round, his earliest exit from the tournament since 2000. Federer — who hasn’t won a grand slam since 2012 — rallied in the third set but was overcome by the young Italian in the fourth. The loss is yet another sign that the Swiss king’s on-court reign may be ending.