While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 23

US National Guard troops carry riot shields as they assume positions in the vicinity of the US Capitol as the Inauguration of US President-Elect Joe Biden begins in Washington. PHOTO: AFP

Over 150 National Guard inauguration troops Covid-19 positive

Between 150 and 200 National Guard deployed to Washington, DC, to provide security for President Joe Biden's inauguration have tested positive for the coronavirus, a US official said on Friday.

The US government imposed unprecedented security measures in the city following the deadly Jan 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, including fences topped with razor wire and checkpoints manned by National Guard.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the number of National Guard troops who tested positive could rise but was still a small fraction of the more than 25,000 troops deployed in city over the past few days.

The United States reported more than 4,000 daily deaths from Covid-19 for a second consecutive day on Thursday, according to a Reuters analysis of public health data, bringing the cumulative number of US lives lost to almost 410,000.


US Senate confirms Lloyd Austin as first black chief of Pentagon

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The US Senate confirmed retired general Lloyd Austin as secretary of defence on Friday, the second Cabinet nominee of new President Joe Biden to gain approval and the first African American to lead the Pentagon.

Austin sailed through with overwhelming support from both Biden's Democrats and opposition Republicans, who voted 93-2 in his favour.

The retired four-star general will be the first African American to lead the Department of Defence, and takes on the job as the Pentagon sees the need for greater efforts to root out racism in the ranks and give more opportunities for leadership positions to minorities.


America captivated by young black poet after reading at Biden inauguration

Amanda Gorman, the young black poet who performed at President Joe Biden's inauguration, has become an overnight star with her works shooting to the top of Amazon bestseller lists ahead of their publication.

Gorman, 22, recited The Hill We Climb at the event, a poem inspired by the US Capitol attack touching on how democracy "can never be permanently defeated."

A collection of Gorman's poems to be published in September was number one on the Amazon bestseller list on Friday followed by a children's book, Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, also to be released in September.


Evidence that British coronavirus strain more deadly: PM Johnson

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The coronavirus strain that has swept Britain and beyond in recent months could be more deadly as well as more transmissible, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

The sobering news came as the UK sees record deaths from Covid-19, following a surge in cases and hospitalisations since the variant was first identified in southeast England in September.

The strain has also spread to more than 60 nations - including China, where the pandemic began more than a year ago - according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).


Italy tells TikTok to block users after death of 10-year-old girl

The Italian data privacy watchdog ordered video app TikTok on Friday to block the accounts of any users in Italy whose age it could not verify following the death of a 10-year-old girl who had been using the Chinese-owned app.

In a statement, the regulator said that although TikTok had committed to ban registration for children aged under 13, it was nonetheless easy to circumvent this rule.

As a result, it said TikTok had to block unverified user accounts until at least Feb 15 awaiting further information.


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