While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Oct 29 edition

Vienna talks to test if Iran, Russia 'serious' on Syria, Saudi says, as Iran joins talks 

International talks in Vienna this week will test whether Russia and Iran are "serious" about a political solution to the war in Syria, the Saudi foreign minister said Wednesday.

"If they're serious we will know, and if they're not serious we will also know and stop wasting time with them," Adel al-Jubeir said at a news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

The two-day talks beginning Thursday will "test the intentions of the Syrians and the Russians", focusing primarily on the future of President Bashar al-Assad, Jubeir said.


US military blimp protecting Washington DC breaks loose, wreaks havoc before landing

 A massive high-tech US military blimp designed to detect a missile attack came loose on Wednesday and wreaked havoc as it floated from Maryland into Pennsylvania, dragging its 3,000 metre long cable behind it and knocking out power to thousands.

The US military scrambled two armed F-16 fighter jets to keep watch as the blimp - the size of an American football field -travelled into civilian airspace after coming loose shortly after mid-day from its mooring station at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a US Army facility 64 kilometres northeast of Baltimore.

It came down several hours later in two parts in Montour County, Pennsylvania, the US military's North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) told reporters.


Sheriff sacks officer who slammed female student in South Carolina classroom arrest

The white sheriff's deputy caught on video flipping a black high school student out of her classroom chair in Columbia, South Carolina, has been fired, a sheriff said on Wednesday.

Deputy Ben Fields violated agency policy when he picked up the teenage girl and threw her across a classroom as he attempted to make an arrest, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told a news conference.

"That is not a proper technique and should not be used by law enforcement," Lott said.


US Federal Reserve keeps interest rates unchanged, sets up possible December hike

The US Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, but downplayed global economic headwinds and left the door open to tightening monetary policy at its next meeting in December.

Following a two-day policy meeting, the central bank said it was still monitoring economic and financial developments abroad, but did not repeat that global risks would have a likely impact on the US economy, as it warned at its last meeting in September.

That omission marked a softening in tone compared to the Fed's statement last month.


Spacecraft to sample water plumes from Saturn's ocean-bearing moon Enceladus

A US spacecraft was poised to make a deep dive into plumes of water, ice and organic matter blasting from Saturn's small, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus, in an effort to learn if it could support life, NASA said on Wednesday.

Only a drop of water will be collected during the 30,600 kph flyby, which was scheduled to take place about 1 am Singapore time.

Scientists say that will be enough to answer some key questions about Enceladus, which has a global ocean sealed beneath its icy surface.