While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Feb 26 edition

China claims South China Sea defences 'absolutely necessary'

China's defences in the South China Sea are "absolutely necessary", Beijing said on Thursday, as it accused the US of militarising the region.

The defence ministry spoke out as tensions rose between the two powers over reports that Beijing has deployed surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets, and radar installations in the contested region.

"The US is truly the one pushing militarisation in the South China Sea," said ministry spokesman Wu Qian at a regular monthly briefing. "China's building of defence facilities on the South China Sea islands and reefs is absolutely necessary."


Apple hits back in court over order to decrypt iPhone

Apple fired back at the US government on Thursday in the encryption standoff, asking a federal court to dismiss an order that would force the company to help unlock an iPhone.

In the latest development in the case stemming from last year's San Bernardino attacks, Apple said in a court filing that the government overstepped its legal authority in trying to force the company to facilitate access to the locked iPhone used by one of the shooters.

"The government demands that Apple create a back door to defeat the encryption on the iPhone, making its users' most confidential and personal information vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, hostile foreign agents, and unwarranted government surveillance," Apple's brief said.


Football: Messi sends autographed jerseys to his little Afghan fan

Argentine football star Lionel Messi has sent not one, but two jerseys to a five-year-old Afghan boy who became an Internet sensation last month when he was pictured wearing a plastic bag with “Messi” scrawled on it in marker pen.

Murtaza Ahmadi travelled with his family from eastern Ghazni province to Kabul to receive the gifts sent by Messi through Unicef, where he is a goodwill ambassador.

"I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me," Murtaza is reported to have said.


#GOPMovies lights up Twitter, mocking US Republicans

Twitter lit up on Thursday with playful movie title puns targeted at US Republicans, from Tedtanic to Start Wars to Honey, I Shrunk The Middle Class.

The hashtag #GOPMovies was buzzing on Twitter, with thousands tweaking classic movies titles as the hours counted down to the Republican presidential debate in Houston on Thursday night, the last before the Super Tuesday primaries.

The hashtag was tweeted out roughly 20 times per minute, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.


Legendary steam train Flying Scotsman returns in Britain

The Flying Scotsman, a 93-year-old steam locomotive and jewel of Britain's industrial heritage, completed its first official journey on Thursday since a painstaking restoration.

The train streamed through the English countryside on its inaugural journey to the historic city of York billowing white smoke as passengers enjoyed a champagne breakfast in old-fashioned carriages with wooden compartments.

Trainspotters lined the track in some areas, and at one point the locomotive was forced to come to a sudden stop because of dozens of people on the line.