Korea tensions — Angrily responding to the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous decision to impose tightened sanctions, North Korea said Friday that it was nullifying all nonaggression agreements with South Korea, with one of its top generals claiming that his country had nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles ready to blast off. Matching the harsh warning with a toughened stance, South Korea said Friday that if Pyongyang attacks the South with a nuclear weapon, the regime of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “will be erased from the earth."
Papal conclave — The preliminaries over, Catholic cardinals are ready to get down to the real business of choosing a pope. And even without a front-runner, there are indications they will go into the conclave Tuesday with a good idea of their top picks. Then it will be just a matter of agreeing on one man to lead the church. The conclave date was set Friday during a vote by the College of Cardinals, who have been meeting all week to discuss the church’s problems and priorities, and the qualities the successor to Pope Benedict XVI must possess.
Bin Laden son-in-law — Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden who once served as a spokesman for al-Qaida, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in federal court in Manhattan on Friday where he was charged with conspiring to kill Americans. John Cronan, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in court that Abu Ghaith had spoken at length with U.S. law enforcement officials after his arrest by federal authorities in Jordan on Feb. 28, and cited a 22-page document that detailed his statements. He did not characterize the statements, and none of the materials were released.
Chavez funeral — President Hugo Chavez was lauded as a modern-day reincarnation of Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar and a disciple of Cuba’s Fidel Castro at a fiery, foot-stomping state funeral Friday. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor, emotionally eulogized the fallen leader at the military academy where the funeral was held, his voice booming over Chavez’s flag-draped casket as he pledged eternal loyalty in a ceremony that at times smacked of a political rally. The streets outside took on a carnival atmosphere, with military bands launching into marches and an expanse of supporters wearing the red of Chavez’s socialist party.
Hagel visits Afghanistan — In his first overseas trip as defense secretary, Chuck Hagel landed Friday in Afghanistan, a country fast fading from political debate and public interest at home, but where 66,000 U.S. troops continue to experience what he described as “the ugly reality of combat and the heat of battle." Before landing in Kabul, Hagel said a significant focus of his visit would be assessing the detailed plans for transferring responsibility for security to the central government, army and the police in Afghanistan by the time the NATO combat mission expired in December 2014.
Lion attack — Relatives of a 24-year-old intern killed by a lion at a California animal park said Friday they believe the facility followed safety protocols and the death was a tragic accident. Investigators believe the lion lifted the door of a partially closed feeding cage with its paw and killed Dianna Hanson as she cleaned a bigger enclosure area, Fresno County Coroner David Hadden has said.
Civil War burial — More than 150 years after the USS Monitor sank off North Carolina during the Civil War, two unknown crewmen found in the ironclad’s turret when it was raised a decade ago were buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery. The evening burial, which included a gun salute and a band playing “America the Beautiful," may be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery overlooking Washington. The Monitor made nautical history when the Union ship fought the Confederate CSS Virginia in the first battle between two ironclads on March 9, 1862. The battle was a draw.
Kenya election — Kenya’s election commission posted complete results early today showing that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta prevailed in the country’s presidential elections by the slimmest of margins, winning 50.03 percent of the vote. That result is likely to bring controversy in Kenya and an almost certain legal challenge from Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Kenyatta needed to break the 50 percent barrier to avoid a run-off with Odinga, but he did so by only 4,099 votes out of more than 12.3 million cast.
Hip implant lawsuit — A jury in Los Angeles on Friday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $8.3 million in damages to a Montana man in the first of some 10,000 lawsuits pending against the medical products maker in connection with a now-recalled artificial hip. However, the 12-person panel declined to issue punitive damages, saying the company’s DePuy orthopedics unit, which made and marketed the all-metal device, did not act with fraud or malice.
— From wire reports