While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, March 16 edition

Russian President Vladimir Putin mulled putting nuclear forces 'on alert' over Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was ready to put the country's nuclear forces on alert as he sought to annex Crimea last year after the fall of a Moscow-backed government in Kiev.

Speaking in a documentary aired on state TV in Russia on Sunday a year after the takeover of the Black Sea Peninsula from Ukraine, Putin showed the lengths he was willing to go to in order to protect Russian-speaking citizens of the province he considered a historic slice of Russia.

The documentary, Homeward Bound, features several interviews with Putin who explains how he gave "direct instructions" to the armed forces for a swift and bloodless mission to take back the peninsula that had been transferred from Russian to Ukrainian jurisdiction in 1954 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

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Disgraced former general Xu Caihou dies, China drops graft charges against him

Retired general Xu Caihou, the most senior military leader facing a graft probe, died of bladder cancer on Sunday, prompting China to drop charges against him, reported Chinese state media early Monday morning.

The official Xinhua agency said the retired vice-chair of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) died in hospital after the cancer had spread and the failure of multiple organs.

Xinhua said that as a result of Xu's death, the military prosecutors will no longer be pressing charges against him, according to Article 15 of the China's Criminal Procedure Law.

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Football: Chelsea held but Wayne Rooney is a knockout for Manchester United

Chelsea opened a six-point lead in the Premier League on Sunday following a 1-1 draw with Southampton as Manchester United enjoyed perhaps their finest performance yet under Louis van Gaal with a 3-0 trouncing of Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea increased their advantage over Manchester City despite Diego Costa's 11th minute close-range header being answered eight minutes later by Dusan Tadic's fortuitous penalty in an absorbing encounter at Stamford Bridge.

Yet United, so often criticised for being slow and directionless under Dutchman Van Gaal, produced the most electric performance of the day, crushing Spurs with first-half goals from Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney.

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Elton John calls for boycott of Dolce & Gabbana over "synthetic baby" comments

British singer Elton John slammed Italian fashion duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana on Sunday and called for a boycott of their brand after the pair championed "traditional" families.

John, who has used his fame to speak out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, chided the designers for criticising fertility treatment and same-sex parenting in an interview.

The singer and his husband David Furnish have two children. John uploaded a photo of the designers clad in black veils to his Instagram account with the caption: "How dare you refer to my beautiful children as 'synthetic'. And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF ... Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again."

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Box Office: Cinderella reigns with US$132 million worldwide, Run All Night falls flat

Cinderella enchanted audiences this weekend, racking up a royal US$70.1 million to lead the North American box office and US$132 million globally, according to variety.com.

The adaptation of the fairy tale follows Walt Disney Studios' strategy of raiding its animated favourites for live action blockbusters - an approach that led to such prior successes as Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland, and one the studio plans to employ on Dumbo and Beauty and the Beast.

Cinderella's popularity left Liam Neeson's latest action-adventure, Run All Night, huffing and puffing at the finish line. 

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