While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 13

Deadly blast at Austrian pipeline hub slashes gas flow to Italy

An explosion and fire that ripped through Austria’s main gas pipeline hub on Tuesday (Dec 12) killed one person and injured 21 others, prompting Italy to declare a state of emergency as flows from the strategic site were cut off for most of the day. 

The Baumgarten site in eastern Austria, near Slovakia, is a major regional transfer node, taking natural gas from as far away as Russia and pumping it towards neighbours including Germany and Italy, its biggest recipient. 

News of the blast sent gas prices in Europe soaring on fears it would restrict supply as winter sets in. But by Tuesday evening the site’s operator, Gas Connect Austria, said it would soon be brought back online.

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Trump signs US military defense bill worth nearly US$700 billion

President Donald Trump on Tuesday (Dec 12) signed a massive defense policy bill that he said would help America bolster its military might and modernise the services.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calls for nearly US$700 billion (S$947 billion) of military spending for the coming fiscal year, but Congress has yet to fully fund it.

"With the signing of this defense bill, we accelerate the process of fully restoring America's military might," Trump said at a White House signing ceremony, where he was flanked by Pentagon top brass including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

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US slaps terror charges on accused Times Square bomber

US prosecutors on Tuesday (Dec 12) brought federal charges against the suspect in Monday’s (Dec 11) attempted suicide bombing in one of New York City’s busiest commuter hubs, accusing him of supporting a foreign terrorist organisation. 

Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi and self-described supporter of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was also charged in a criminal complaint filed in US district court in Manhattan with bombing a public place, destruction of property by means of explosive and use of a destructive device. 

Ullah planned to “murder as many human beings as he could ... in support of a vicious terrorist cause,” acting US attorney Joon Kim told a news conference after filing the charges.

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Rex Tillerson ‘confident’ in North Korea talks plan

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed confidence on Tuesday (Dec 12) that Washington is doing all it can to force North Korea to negotiate its nuclear disarmament. 

But – even as he vowed to pursue his diplomatic strategy “until the first bomb drops” – he also warned that the US military stands ready to act if necessary. 

And he added that if diplomacy and sanctions fail and the fighting erupts, it will have been a personal failure of his efforts to resolve the crisis. 

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Boxing: Fury cleared to fight again after ‘nightmare’

Controversial former heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury vowed Tuesday (Dec 12) to put the “nightmare of the last two years” behind him and reclaim his world titles after being cleared to resume his career. 

The British boxer agreed a compromise with UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) over his positive test for the banned steroid nandrolone, which has resulted in a two-year ban that has been backdated to December 2015. 

The 29-year-old has been given the go-ahead to fight again immediately, subject to receiving a licence. 

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