Good morning. Here are some of the stories we’re following today:
1. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah will have simple burial
Saudi Arabian state television announced the death of ruler King Abdullah on Thursday, less than a month after the 90-year-old was hospitalized and diagnosed with pneumonia. While his family is one of the world's wealthiest, his funeral on Friday afternoon local time was set to be an austere affair in line with Islamic rituals. Abdullah — a key U.S. ally in the Middle East — is being remembered for modernizing a kingdom that has largely been overseen by strict ultra-conservative Muslim clerics. His legacy includes giving more rights to women and aiding in the international fight against al Qaeda. His immediate successor — his half-brother Crown Prince Salman — vowed on Friday to maintain the same approach as his predecessors in his first address to the nation as king. Read more in NEWS.
2. Mother of Japanese man held by ISIS pleads for his life
The fate of two Japanese hostages being held by the terror network remained unclear Friday — as the deadline passed for the Japanese government to pay a $200 million ransom for their release. Meanwhile, the mother of one of the men — Japanese journalist Kenji Goto — made an emotional appeal for his safety Friday, revealing he had recently become a father. "Time is running out," Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, told a news conference. "To the government of Japan: please save Kenji's life." Japan's status of trying to free the men wasn't immediately known. Read more in NEWS.
3. Tom Brady: 'I would never do anything to break the rules'
Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback, held a news conference Thursday to explain why 11 footballs used during Sunday's AFC game were under-inflated — breaking the rules and creating a scandal for the team in the lead-up to the Super Bowl. "This isn't ISIS. No one's dying," Brady told reporters, denying any wrongdoing and knowledge as to how the pigskins lost pressure. A softer football is considered easier to throw and catch. An earlier news conference Thursday held by Pats coach Bill Belichick was also filled with shoulder shrugging. He pledged to correct the problem for future games as the NFL continues to investigate. Read more in SPORTS.
4. Twin snowstorms set to slam East Coast
Some 50 million Americans will be hit by a nasty wintry mix, including up to 8 inches of the white stuff in Maine, as a snowstorm moves northward through New York and Philadelphia overnight Friday. A second Clipper system is due to arrive on Sunday night and linger through Monday morning's commute. "This could be one of the biggest snowstorms so far this winter, which is not saying much," said Michael Palmer, lead forecaster at the Weather Channel. Meanwhile, the winter storm is bringing severe thunderstorms and heavy rain Friday for southern Alabama, southern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. Read more in NEWS.
5. First round of Cuba-U.S. talks 'productive': officials
The first round of talks between Cuba and the U.S. have been "positive and productive," according to the top U.S. official in Havana. Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said the two countries made "further steps" in the efforts to re-establish relations, which she described as a continuing process. With doors opening for trade for the first time since the Cold War-era, the two countries are eventually looking at establishing commercial flights, accessing banking services and allowing for freer access to Internet in Cuba. The talks were expected to resume Friday. Read more in LATINO.
6. Fugitive Kentucky teen pleads not guilty to crime spree
Dalton Hayes, the 18-year-old Kentucky man accused of going on a two-week crime spree with his 13-year-old girlfriend, pleaded not guilty Thursday. A Grayson County, Kentucky, judge did grant Hayes a $250,000 cash bail pending a hearing next week. He's accused of stealing at least three cars, including one with two handguns, and second-degree rape. Any charges filed against the 13-year-old were not released because she is a minor. Read more in NEWS.
... What's trending today?
A dad — apparently named Paul — got a little worked up at his daughter’s game in York, Pennsylvania, and was captured on video getting up from the stands and shattering protective glass after a penalty call.