While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 4


Democrat Nancy Pelosi elected US House speaker for second time

Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected on Thursday to be the new speaker of the US House of Representatives as her party took majority control of the chamber following its election victory last Nov 6.

This marks Pelosi's second stint as speaker. She was the first woman ever to hold the job, serving from 2007 until 2011, when Republicans began an eight-year run in the House majority.

Pelosi received 220 votes for speaker, while Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy got 192 votes. A smattering of others received the remaining votes in the chamber that holds 435 seats.

The election puts Pelosi in position to lead the opposition to President Donald Trump's agenda and to conduct in-depth investigations of his administration following two years during which Republicans have mainly given him a free pass.


On Day 1 in power, House Democrats challenge Trump on shutdown

Democrats wasted no time flexing their new power in the US House of Representatives on Thursday as they maneuvered to pass legislation that would end a 13-day partial government shutdown while ignoring President Donald Trump’s demand for US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) for a border wall.

Thursday marked the first day of divided government in Washington since Trump took office in January 2017, as Democrats took control in the House from his fellow Republicans, who remain in charge of the Senate.

The 2019-2020 Congress convened with roughly a quarter of the federal government closed, affecting 800,000 employees, in a shutdown triggered by Trump’s demand last month for the money for a US-Mexican border wall – opposed by Democrats – as part of any legislation funding government agencies.


US issues China travel advisory, urges increased caution in wake of arrests

The US State Department renewed its warning for US citizens travelling in China to exercise increased caution due to "arbitrary enforcement of local laws" amid heightened diplomatic tensions over the arrest in Canada of a Chinese technology company executive.

The updated travel advisory maintains the warning at "Level 2" but also warns about extra security checks and increased police presence in the Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet Autonomous Regions.

The advisory follows the detentions by Chinese authorities in December of Canadians Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and an adviser with the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank, and businessman Michael Spavor.


American Paul Whelan charged with espionage in Russia, news agency reports

An American arrested in Russia has been formally charged with espionage, a Russian news agency reported, moving the case into Russia's justice system and possibly deepening the diplomatic tensions with the United States.

The Interfax news agency report on Paul Whelan's status could not be independently verified.

"An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it," Interfax quoted a person familiar with the situation as saying.


Motor racing: Formula One pays tribute to Schumacher at 50

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher turned 50 on Thursday as Formula One and his fans paid tribute to the sport's most successful driver with a mixture of celebration and sorrow.

The German great, who retired in 2012 after a comeback with Mercedes, has not been seen in public since he suffered severe brain injuries in a recreational skiing accident in the French Alps five years ago.

Schumacher now lives a sheltered existence at the family's mansion by the shores of Lake Geneva in the town of Gland, Switzerland, with his wife Corinna and children highly protective of his privacy.