While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 31 edition

A selection of news stories that happened overnight, Jan 31, 2017.

Former US President Obama rejects faith-based discrimination amid travel ban uproar, 'heartened' by protests

Former US president Barack Obama expressed his objections on Monday to any faith-based discrimination, in an apparent dig at his successor Donald Trump's ban on nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries entering the country.

"With regard to comparisons to president Obama's foreign policy decisions, as we've heard before, the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion," his spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.

The statement - Obama's first on politics since leaving the White House on January 20 - came amid an uproar over Trump's order on Friday to tighten controls on immigrants from the seven countries and to temporarily halt all resettlement of refugees.


US Immigration Court to hear Singaporean blogger Amos Yee's plea for political asylum

An Immigration Court judge in Illinois has accepted Singaporean blogger Amos Yee's application for political asylum in the United States, setting a date for a full hearing on March 7.

In a brief, 10-minute hearing on Monday (Jan 30, US time), Mr Yee's lawyer Sandra Grossman appeared in person before the judge while Mr Yee appeared via video conference from the jail where he has been in detention since arriving in the US on Dec 16 last year.

"We stressed that he is persecuted in Singapore because of his critical political views, and that he has been subjected to an illegitimate process in Singapore," Ms Grossman told The Straits Times over the phone.


Quebec mosque shooting 'lone wolf' attack: Canadian authorities

Police were investigating a single suspect in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people, with a second person who was arrested now considered a witness, authorities said on Monday.

The suspect in the attack on Sunday evening prayers was Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian university student, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The man now considered a witness was of Moroccan descent although his nationality was not immediately known, the source said. He was named by media as Mohamed Khadir or Mohammed Belkhadir by media.


US will change course on climate policy, says former EPA transition head

The United States will switch course on climate change and pull out of a global pact to cut emissions, said Myron Ebell, who headed US President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team until his inauguration.

Ebell is the director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a US conservative think tank, and helped to guide the EPA's transition after Trump was elected in November until he was sworn in on Jan 20.

Trump, a climate sceptic, campaigned on a pledge to boost the US oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries by reducing regulation.


Actor Kal Penn turns Instagram hate post into big donation drive for Syrian refugees

Actor Kal Penn became the target of a vulgar post on Instagram following US President Donald Trump's ban on refugees and travellers from some countries, apparently because he is simply the son of immigrants from India.

Rather than answer hate with hate, Penn  started a crowd-funding page on Sunday under the heading: Donating to Syrian Refugees in the name of the dude who said I don't belong in America.

In less than 24 hours, the venom from the Instagram troll had been met with more than US$600,000 ($853,000) in donations for Syrian refugees.