While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 31 edition

US warship sails near island claimed by China in South China Sea

A US Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by China and two other states in the South China Sea on Saturday to counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion (S$7.1 trillion) worth of world trade is shipped every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said no ships from China’s military were in the vicinity of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur when it passed near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands.


Colombia has more than 2,000 Zika cases in pregnant women

Colombia announced that more than 2,000 pregnant women have been infected with Zika, amid growing concern about the spread of the virus suspected of causing irreversible brain damage in newborns.

The National Health Institute reported that Colombia now has 20,297 cases of Zika infection, including 2,116 in expectant mothers.

The latest numbers, reported in the institute’s epidemiological bulletin, make Colombia the second most affected country in the region, after Brazil, the epicentre of the outbreak.


Obama to make first visit to US mosque next week

President Barack Obama will make his first visit as president to a US mosque next week in a defence of religious freedom, the White House said, following a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States.

Obama will visit on Wednesday the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque, where he will hold a roundtable with the community and deliver remarks, a White House official said.

At the mosque, the President will "reiterate the importance of staying true to our core values - welcoming our fellow Americans, speaking out against bigotry, rejecting indifference, and protecting our nation's tradition of religious freedom," the official said.


Football: Sanchez keeps holders Arsenal on course for FA Cup history

Arsenal's bid to become the first team to win the FA Cup three times in succession since 1886 remains on course after Alexis Sanchez sealed Saturday's 2-1 win over Burnley in the fourth round.

The holders had a first half scare when Burnley's Sam Vokes cancelled out Calum Chambers' 20th minute opener, but Sanchez's second half goal ensured the Premier League side avoided an upset against Championship opposition.

Victory provided Arsene Wenger's side with a timely lift following their Premier League defeat against Chelsea six days previously.


Football: Chelsea sign US defender Miazga

Chelsea have signed United States defender Matt Miazga from the New York Red Bulls, the English Premier League champions announced.

Miazga agreed a 4½ year contract with the west London club as they look to the future at their problematic centre-back position.

With John Terry in the twilight of his career and Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma both prone to inconsistent form, Chelsea's defence has been far from impregnable and Miazga could provide the answer if he continues his rapid development.