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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!