While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, July 2 edition

US, Cuba restoring diplomatic ties after 54 years

The United States and Cuba formally agreed on Wednesday to restore diplomatic relations on July 20, setting up a trip to Havana by John Kerry, who would become the first US secretary of state to visit the country in 70 years.

Sealed by an exchange of letters between US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the deal fulfills a pledge the former Cold War enemies made six months ago.

But major obstacles lie ahead and more difficult bilateral problems could take years to resolve.


Euro zone finance ministers put Greece on hold

The Greek government’s attempt to kick-start talks on a new credit package got short shrift from euro zone finance ministers, who decided to put all discussion with Athens on hold until after a referendum on Sunday.

They took the decision in a scheduled conference call that began an hour after leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivered another fiery condemnation of “blackmail” by creditors and called again for Greeks to vote “No” to a bailout deal that has in fact already been taken off the table.

“There will be no further talks in the coming days, not at Eurogroup level, nor between the Greek authorities and the institutions on proposals or financial arrangements,” said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem (above right), who chairs the Eurogroup.


'English Schindler' Nicholas Winton dies aged 106

Nicholas Winton, a Briton who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Prague from the Nazis in the run-up to World War II, has died at the age of 106, his family said on Wednesday.

Son-in-law Stephen Watson said Winton died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital in Slough, west of London.

Born in London of German-Jewish parents, Winton travelled to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia – which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 – as a young employee of the London Stock Exchange.

It was there that he organised trains that transported some 669 children, most of them Jews, to Britain in 1939, saving them from concentration camps and near-certain death.


Saudi Prince Alwaleed pledges $43 billion fortune to charity

Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Wednesday promised his entire US$32 billion (S$43 billion) fortune to charitable projects in coming years, in one of the biggest ever such pledges.

The pledge is "maybe... the first such big announcement" of its kind in the region, and is modelled on a charity established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the United States, the Prince told reporters.

Alwaleed said his charity "will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world".


Comic Jim Carrey slams 'fascist' California child vaccine order

Veteran comic actor Jim Carrey has labelled California's governor a "corporate fascist" for ordering tougher rules on mandatory vaccinations, claiming they can poison children.

In an ongoing Twitter rant Wednesday, Carrey insisted he is not against vaccinations as such, but claimed that those advocated by the western US state for schoolchildren contain neurotoxins including mercury.

"All we are saying is, 'Take the neurotoxins out of the vaccines.' Make them toxin free. History will show that that was a reasonable request," Carrey tweeted.