In our news wrap Friday, the deadline passed for the Japanese government to pay $200 million in ransom to Islamic State for two hostages. Japanese officials are still trying to free the two captives. Also, a pro-Russian rebel leader said they are advancing to push Ukrainian government troops out of Donetsk region after rejecting a cease-fire pact.
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That ongoing chaos in Yemen brought thousands of people into the streets today. Huge crowds turned out in the capital, Sanaa, to support Shiite Houthi rebels against the pro-American president who resigned yesterday. To the south, thousands more demanded the president's return, along with his cabinet. Parliament has called an emergency session for Sunday on whether to accept the resignations.
The deadline has come and gone for two Japanese hostages held by Islamic State forces in Syria. On Tuesday, the militants had threatened to kill Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa unless Japan paid $200 million within 72 hours. As the deadline passed today, the group announced the countdown has begun. Japanese officials said they're still trying to free the captives.
YOSHIHIDE SUGA, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary (through interpreter):
For the government, it remains a severe situation. We will do our utmost on various fronts towards the release of the two Japanese nationals, request cooperation from those who are relevant, and do everything we can in our powers. That remains unchanged.
The Japanese spokesman said there has been no direct contact with the captors.
Beefed-up pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine promised a major new offensive today. They rejected a previous cease-fire pact and ruled out joining any future peace talks. Instead, their leader said his forces are advancing in five directions to push government troops out of the Donetsk area near the Russian border.
ALEKSANDR ZAKHARCHENKO, Prime Minister, Donetsk People’s Republic (through interpreter):
We made the decision not to wait until the Ukrainian army starts an offensive and not allow them to make battle formations, fits of attack and allow them to harm us in any way. We will attack until we reach the borders of Donetsk region.
The fighting in Ukraine has spiked lately, and the U.N. Human Rights Agency said today that 260 people have been killed in just the last nine days. It said some 5,100 have died since the conflict began last April.
A top U.S. official acknowledged today it's not clear if Cuba will agree to any human rights reforms as part of restoring diplomatic ties. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson spoke in Havana, after concluding two days of talks. She said — quote — "profound disagreements" remain on the issue of reforms.
ROBERTA JACOBSON, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs: It's very hard to say exactly how this will work. We need to make decisions in our own interest and take decisions that are to going to empower the Cuban people. But the verdict on whether that succeeds is still to be made.
Cuba's top diplomat on U.S. affairs warned last night that her government doesn't respond to pressure.
Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on execution by lethal injection for the first time since 2008. Death row inmates in Oklahoma want to bar a sedative used in executions in the state. They say it can leave the prisoners still conscious and subject to pain.
A measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in California prompted a new medical appeal today. The American Academy of Pediatricians urged vaccinations for all young children. Seven cases of measles have been reported across six states, likely stemming from exposure to an infected foreign tourist at Disneyland.
And, on Wall Street, stocks were mostly lower on subpar corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 141 points to close at 17672. The S&P 500 slipped 11 to finish at 2051. But the Nasdaq rose seven points to close below 4758. For the week, the Dow gained about 1 percent, while the S&P added 1.6 percent. The Nasdaq jumped more than 2.5 percent.