While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 17 edition

US President Barack Obama holds his annual year-end news conference at the White House in Washington, Dec 16, 2016.
US President Barack Obama holds his annual year-end news conference at the White House in Washington, Dec 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Obama says US was cautious in handling Russian election hacks

President Barack Obama said the US government took a cautious approach to allegations the Russians had hacked Democratic Party officials before the election out of concern that the issue would be politicised.

“I wanted to make sure we were playing this thing straight,” Obama said at his last annual end-of-the-year news conference at the White House, defending his administration against criticism that it did not more aggressively combat the hacking.

“My principal goal leading up to the election was making sure the election itself went off without a hitch, it was not tarnished, and it did not feed any sense in the public that somehow tampering had taken place with the actual process of voting,” Obama said. “And we accomplished that.”

Russia backed off after Obama personally warned the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, against further hacks during a visit to China in September, the President said. But by then e-mails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and its officials were in the hands of Wikileaks. Obama declined to say if the hacks cost Democrat Hillary Clinton the election.


China’s Navy seizes American underwater drone in South China Sea

A Chinese warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by a US oceanographic vessel in the South China Sea, triggering a formal diplomatic protest and a demand for its return, US officials told Reuters.

The drone was taken on Dec 15, the first seizure of its kind in recent memory, about 50 nautical miles north-west of Subic Bay off the Philippines just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), officials said.

“The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was US property,” the official said.


Seven-year-old girl with explosives causes Damascus blast: Syria media

A blast that rocked a police station in southeast Damascus was caused by a seven-year-old girl carrying a belt of explosives, Syrian media reported.

The explosion in the bustling Midan neighbourhood of the Syrian capital wounded three police officers, said the Al-Watan daily, which is close to the government.

“A seven-year-old girl entered the police station, carrying a belt that was detonated from afar,” the paper posted on its Facebook page. A police source told Al-Watan that she had appeared lost and asked to use the bathroom when the explosives went off.


Mourners pay tribute to American space legend John Glenn

Two days of public events celebrating the life of US astronaut John Glenn began in his native Ohio, where the body of the first American to orbit Earth lay in state.

Glenn, who was also the first senior citizen to venture into space, died last week at the age of 95.

Ohio-born Glenn's body lay in state at the Ohio Statehouse rotunda in the capital Columbus, in a casket covered with the American flag and accompanied by US Marines. It was to remain there until Saturday afternoon - an honour usually bestowed upon high-ranking government officials.


Chelsea's Conte concerned by Chinese spending power

The enormous spending power of Chinese football is a danger to clubs everywhere, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said as his midfielder Oscar pondered a reported £52 million (S$93 million) transfer to Shanghai SIPG.

The Brazilian is a target for the Chinese Super League club, and has said he is "90 per cent certain" to move.

"The Chinese market is a danger for all teams in the world," Conte told a news conference ahead of Chelsea's visit to Crystal Palace on Saturday.