While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Aug 29 edition

The six crew members (from second left) who will be spending a year inside an isolation dome in Hawaii to help Nasa prepare for a pioneering journey to Mars.
The six crew members (from second left) who will be spending a year inside an isolation dome in Hawaii to help Nasa prepare for a pioneering journey to Mars.AFP

Syria refugee numbers approach 20 per cent of pre-war population

Syria's four-and-a-half year conflict has driven half of the country's people to flee their homes, with the number of those who have left the country approaching 20 per cent of the pre-war population.

At least 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria, which counted 23 million inhabitants at the start of the civil war.

More than four million have become refugees.


Nearly $100,000 raised after heartbreaking photo of refugee dad selling pens goes viral

An online fund-raiser has raised more than US$67,800 (S$95,000) for a refugee from Syria and his daughter after a campaigner based in Norway shared moving pictures on social media of the man selling pens in the streets of Beirut.

Gissur Simonarson, founder of Conflict News, posted the pictures on Tuesday and was flooded with requests to help the man, a Palestinian from the devastated Yarmouk refugee camp on the southern outskirts of Damascus.

The pictures showed Abdul, a single father of two, holding up pens on a roadside in Lebanon's capital, his four-year-old daughter Reem asleep on his shoulder, according to Simonarson's funding page.


Year-long Mars isolation experiment starting in Hawaii

Six people are about to shut themselves inside a dome in Hawaii for a year, in the longest US isolation experiment yet aimed at helping Nasa prepare for a pioneering journey to Mars.

The crew includes a French astrobiologist, a German physicist and four Americans - a pilot, an architect, a doctor/journalist and a soil scientist.

They are based on a barren, northern slope of Mauna Loa, living inside a dome that is 11m in diameter and 6m tall.


After Uber and Airbnb, meal-sharing sites under fire in France

First taxis rose up against Uber, then hotels challenged Airbnb and now, restaurants in France are taking on meal-sharing sites they believe create unfair competition and could sap jobs.

The websites, where hosts offer to cook a meal at their homes for a price of their choosing, are increasingly popular among travelling food-lovers who want to meet locals on top of the usual tourist visits, particularly in gourmet havens like France.

Spooked by the success of Airbnb in the accommodations sector, restaurant owners in France are getting concerned that they will take some of their business away.


Send me your songs, says Celine Dion eyeing new albums

Celine Dion is looking for help for her next two albums, so on Friday she put out the call: Send me your songs.

"It's open to everyone," the 47-year-old Canadian singer told French radio station RTL in an interview. "Any artist or composer can send me their art."

The unusual appeal by the singer, most famous for performing My Heart Will Go On as the theme song for the hit 1997 movie Titanic, came as she returned to the stage in Las Vegas for 40 concerts in the US gambling city.