YEMEN: Into the 19th Century?

The Arab world's month-long is-he-or-isn't-he about Yahya of Yemen could now cease. In his dusty fortress capital of Sana, Imam Yahya lay dead. His successor as absolute ruler of Yemen's 3,500,000 Bedouins and oasis-dwellers: Ahmed el Wazir, rich Mocha planter and onetime adviser to the old Imam. Two of Yahya's nine recognized sons had somehow died the same day as their father.

Beyond those bare announcements, little news had crackled to the outside world over Sana's lone radio transmitter. But there was still plenty of yackety-yack over what had actually happened in Yemen.

One rumor: that Yahya, who has long been...

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