While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 9

Pandemic prevention workers gather before their shift to look after buildings where residents do home quarantine, as Covid-19 outbreaks continue in Beijing, on Dec 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

US says China seeks stabilised relations, in short term

China wants stabilised relations with the United States in the short term as it faces domestic economic challenges and push back in Asia to its assertive diplomacy, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Thursday.

Frustrations over China’s strict Covid-19 protocols boiled over into widespread protests last month, the biggest show of public discontent since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

The rules had contributed to a slowing economy, but the recent easing of restrictions have also created fresh concern that the virus could soon run wild.

Mr Campbell said those issues, coupled with the fact that China had antagonised many of its neighbours, meant it was interested in more predictable ties with Washington in the “short term.”


Brittney Griner: Months in captivity end on UAE tarmac

After months of painstaking negotiations with Moscow, it became clear to the Biden administration that it faced a grave choice – to exchange notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for US basketball star Brittney Griner or else get no American to bring home.

Thursday’s prisoner swap, approved by US President Joe Biden, came together in the past 48 hours, sending Griner from a Russian penal colony to Moscow and then to an airport in the United Arab Emirates, US officials say.

Excluded from the deal was another high-profile US detainee, Paul Whelan, who told CNN by phone that he was “greatly disappointed” more had not been done to secure his release.


Pope cries while mentioning Ukraine at public prayer

Pope Francis broke down and cried on Thursday as he mentioned the suffering of Ukrainians during a traditional prayer in central Rome.

The pope’s voice began to tremble as he mentioned the Ukrainians and he had to stop, unable to speak, for about 30 seconds. When he resumed the prayer, his voice was cracking.

The crowd, including Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri who was right next to the pope, applauded when they realised he was unable to talk and saw him crying.


US sues to block Microsoft buyout of gaming giant Activision

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s US$69 billion (S$93 billion) buyout of gaming giant Activision Blizzard, maker of the blockbuster Call Of Duty title, over concerns that it would stifle competition.

The lawsuit marks one of the biggest ever interventions by the US government to stop consolidation in the tech industry and raises significant doubts on the future of the transaction.

“Today, we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets,” said Ms Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.


Celine Dion reveals she has rare neurological disorder

Canadian singer Celine Dion said she has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Stiff-Person Syndrome that causes muscle spasms and has led her to postpone some European shows.

The 54-year-old posted a video to Instagram on Thursday revealing the diagnosis and explaining that her Courage World Tour has been rescheduled from spring 2023 to 2024.

Stiff-Person Syndrome causes muscle rigidity and increased sensitivity to sound, touch and emotional stimuli that can catalyze muscle spasms.


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