While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, April 8 edition

Syria offers Palestinians its firepower in Yarmuk refugee camp battle with ISIS

Syria said Tuesday it is ready to offer Palestinians its firepower to support their battle with ISIS in a refugee camp devastated by clashes and aerial attacks.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Yarmuk camp has pushed the United Nations Security Council to demand greater access to residents trapped between the encroaching ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) militants and besieging government forces.

The fierce clashes that began on April 1 have ceased, but regime forces continue to drop barrel bombs on the camp, which lies 6km from central Damascus.

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Widespread power outages hit White House, Washington area, no indication of sabotage

A power outage hit the White House and much of the Washington area on Tuesday, snarling trains, emptying museums and cutting electricity to government buildings and the US Capitol.

The Justice Department and State Department were also affected, along with the University of Maryland. Power company Pepco Holdings said the outage stemmed from a dip in voltage because of transmission line trouble.

Power was briefly knocked out to the White House, delaying the daily press briefing.

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Rand Paul launches campaign for the White House, faces tough balancing act

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul officially launched his campaign in Louisville with a speech that laid bare the difficult challenge he faces in trying to appeal to establishment Republicans while staying true to the Tea Party and libertarian factions that pushed him to national prominence.

Where presidential hopefuls tend to paint in broad strokes during an introductory speech, Dr Paul - an ophthalmologist - notably filled his with some concrete policy positions in an attempt to head off growing criticism of his policies.

For instance, he spent a chunk of his speech outlining his stand on the tentative Iran nuclear deal. While not opposing the deal outright the way some other Republicans have, Dr Paul said he had many concerns.

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American Pie lyrics sell for US$1.2 million in New York

The original manuscript of Don McLean's enigmatic song American Pie sold at auction in New York on Tuesday for US$1.2 million (S$1.62 million), Christie's said.

The 18 pages of manuscript, written in pencil, ink and typescript, had been expected to fetch between US$1 and US$1.5 million at the auction house.

McLean said he wanted to release the manuscript to help people understand the true meaning of the song, released in 1971 and which depicts turbulent upheavals of the latter half of the 20th century.

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Taylor Swift, Sam Smith head Billboard Music Awards finalists

Pop star Taylor Swift and British soul singer Sam Smith were the leaders among the 2015 Billboard Awards finalists with four nominations each after five top categories were announced on Tuesday.

Swift, 25, and Smith, 22, earned nods for top artist, as well as for best female and male artist. Swift's 1989 will compete with Smith's In the Lonely Hour for the top album prize.

The two will also go up against each other for best single, with Swift's Shake it Off pitted against Stay With Me by Smith.

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