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Saudi King Dies, ISIS Deadline Expires, Kirchner Twist

Saudi King Dies, ISIS Deadline Expires, Kirchner Twist

"The Good King Leaves, Salman Becomes Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat writes on its front page after Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died early Friday at age 90, three weeks after being hospitalized for pneumonia. Abdullah is succeeded by his 79-year-old half-brother Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is believed to suffer from dementia. The new king is expected to bring no significant change in the country’s policy and will likely stick with the OPEC’s high oil input policy.

Japanese officials said they had received no message from ISIS after a deadline to pay $200 million in exchange for two hostages expired today. The mother of one of the hostages made an emotional appeal for her son’s release. “If I could offer my life, I would plead that my son be released. It would be a small sacrifice on my part,” The Guardian quotes her as saying.


Apple paid a compensation package worth more than $73 million when it recruited former Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts last year as senior vice president of retail and online sales, regulatory filings show. Meanwhile, the company’s chief executive Tim Cook saw his wage rise by 43% to $2 million.

President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he travels to Washington in March just days before a general election in Israel, the White House has announced. Netanyahu plans to address Congress and lobby for new sanctions against Iran, Israel’s arch enemy. A White House official said that the administration wished to “avoid even the appearance of any kind interference with a democratic election,” The Washington Post reports. Obama was not consulted about Netanyahu’s invitation by House Speaker John Boehner. Unnamed officials told the newspaper that this breach of traditional diplomatic protocol would have “lasting consequences” for Netanyahu. “Bibi managed to surprise even us,” Israeli daily Haaretz quotes a U.S. official as saying about the Israeli leader. “There are things you simply don't do. He spat in our face publicly, and that's no way to behave. There will be a price.”

As Folha De S. Paulo’s Thais Bilenky reports, what used to be regarded as simple outdoor fun is now considered genuine child therapy in our hyper-connected world. Camps offering “digital detox” for kids are proving popular among Brazilian parents who want to see their offspring stay away from Facebook, Candy Crush and selfies, if only for a few days. “All of a sudden, games that have formerly fallen out of fashion — jumping rope, garden cricket or simply running in mud — gain a newfound popularity,” the journalist writes. ‘We play cards, dance with hula hoops,’ says Marcelo, 15. ‘Things that our digital generation didn't even know existed.’”
Read the full article, In Brazil, Where Parents Send Kids To Digital Detox Camps.

Washington fears that Yemen (see lead photo) could descend into chaos after the country’s U.S.-backed government and president resigned yesterday amid a major offensive from Shia Houthi rebels, The New York Times reports. Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in 2011’s Arab Spring protests, is expected to return to the forefront of Yemeni politics. Some experts believe that the poorest nation in the Arab world is headed towards civil war, with southern parts and Sunni tribal areas mostly controlled by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo.

France’s Constitutional Court ruled that Ahmed Sahnouni, a French-Moroccan binational, could be stripped of his French nationality after being found guilty on terrorism charges in 2013. But the measure is forbidden if it makes the individual stateless, Le Monde notes.

Former Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was ousted last May, has been impeached by the army-appointed National Legislative Assembly, meaning she’s effectively banned from politics for five years, The Bangkok Post reports. Accused of corruption in a rice-subsidy scheme, she also faces 10 years in prison. “Democracy has died in Thailand today, along with the rule of law,” she wrote in a statement on Facebook. Read more from The Straits Times.

Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner wrote in an open letter that she no longer believes that prosecutor Alberto Nisman committed suicide but rather that he was murdered as part of a plot to smear her. Nisman had accused Kirchner of covering up Iran’s alleged involvement in a 1994 attack against a Buenos Aires Jewish center. He was found dead in his appartment hours before he was due to appear in front of a congressional committee. “They used him when he was alive, and then they needed him dead,” Kirchner wrote, stopping short of naming names. She added that Nisman’s accusations “never were the real operation against this government.”

The first batch of an experimental Ebola vaccine from British company GlaxoSmithKline is due to arrive today in Liberia, where it will be tested, the BBC reports. Trials of other drugs are also to begin soon in West African countries. Meanwhile, Sierra Leone announced it was lifting Ebola quarantines there as the crisis eases.


Tennis superstar Björn Borg retired on this day in 1983. Time for your daily 57-second shot of history.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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