It's not a very auspicious sign when commentators start zeroing in on the health of the new king of the world's largest oil producer.
Salman bin Abdulaziz Saud, 79, has assumed the throne after the death of his half-brother, 91-year-old King Abdullah.
According to the Washington Institute's Simon Henderson, Salman's brain is "evidently ravaged by dementia".
"Visitors report that after a few minutes of conversation, he becomes incoherent," Henderson wrote on December 31.
David Hearst, editor-in-chief of Middle East Eye, came to a similar conclusion in an article posted today.
"Aged 79, Salman is known to have Alzheimers, but the exact state of his dementia is a source of speculation," Hearst wrote. "He is known to have held cogent conversations as recently as last October. But he can also forget what he said minutes ago, or faces he has known all his life, according to other witnesses. This is typical of the disease. I understand the number of hospital visits in the last few months has increased and that he did not walk around, as he did before."
Salman has named the minister of the interior, Mohammed Bin Nayef, as his deputy crown prince.
Named the "Saudi royal family's rising star" by the Washington Post, he was almost killed in 2009 when an al-Qaeda operative carrying an rectal bomb blew himself up. That's right—he shoved a bomb up his ass. It's one of al-Qaeda's recommended techniques to target its enemies.
Human Rights Watch's Adam Coogle told the Washington Post that Mohammed Bin Nayef "is the chief, No. 1 hardliner, and he is persecuting moderate, independent voices for reform".
In August, Human Rights Watch reported that Saudia Arabia beheaded 19 people over a 17-day period that month. Eight of those were executed for nonviolent crimes.
In October, the Straight's Travis Lupick noted that Saudi Arabia beheaded more than 79 people in 2013.
Saudi Arabia is an ally of Canada against the Islamic State, which also beheads people.