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

Protesters gathering across from the Hotel Imperial in Vienna as US Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats discuss Syria on Oct 30, 2015.
Protesters gathering across from the Hotel Imperial in Vienna as US Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats discuss Syria on Oct 30, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

US to send special forces to Syria, powers divided on Assad

The United States announced on Friday (Oct 30) its first sustained deployment of ground troops to Syria to help the anti-jihadist fight, as major powers remained divided over President Bashar al-Assad’s fate.

The decision to send a small special forces team marks an escalation in Washington’s efforts to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group, which has seized more Syrian territory despite more than a year of US-led air strikes.

The White House rejected accusations that President Barack Obama was backtracking on a promise not to put boots on the ground.


New Nasa data shows Brazil's drought deeper than thought

New satellite data shows Brazil's drought is worse than previously thought, with the southeast losing 56 trillion litres of water in each of the past three years - more than enough to fill Lake Tahoe, a Nasa scientist said on Friday (Oct 30).

The country's most severe drought in 35 years has also caused the Brazil's larger and less-populated northeast to lose 49 trillion litres of water each year over three years compared with normal levels, said Nasa hydrologist Augusto Getirana.

Brazilians are well aware of the drought due to water rationing, power blackouts and empty reservoirs in parts of the country but this is the first study to document exactly how much water has disappeared from aquifers and reservoirs, Getirana said.


Russia opens major gulag museum as Putin blanks victims' commemorations

Russia on Friday (Oct 30) opened a major new museum on the horrors of the Soviet gulag labour camp system but President Vladimir Putin blanked the day commemorating victims of state terror.

The hi-tech state-run museum tracing the history of the brutal camp system will be a rare memorial to some of the millions who suffered under Communist rule.

The authorities under Putin have often sought to play down the crimes of the Soviet regime, focusing on Communist supremo Joseph Stalin's role in defeating Nazism and industrialising the country rather than the estimated 20 million victims of his rule.


James Bond actor Daniel Craig is shaken and stirred by fate of migrants

James Bond actor Daniel Craig on Friday (Oct 30) urged European governments to "step forward and sort out" the migrant crisis tormenting the continent.

"There is a human tragedy going on. It is up to European governments to step forward and get this sorted," the British actor told AFP in an interview to promote 007's latest adventure, "Spectre".

The movie is already breaking box office records in Britain, but the success has not quelled Craig's well-publicised doubts over continuing in the role - the 47-year-old admitted he "did not know" how much longer he would keep playing the suave secret agent.


Olympics: San Diego chosen to host first ANOC World Beach Games

San Diego will host the inaugural World Beach Games in 2017 after the general council of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) voted to back the bid of the city in Southern California.

San Diego was the only candidate put forward to the general council after ANOC's executive council selected the city ahead of interest from the Sarasota in Florida, as well as Dubai, Sochi and a possible Chinese venue.

The decision is a further boost to the US Olympic Committee's attempt to become more closely involved in Olympic activities and comes as another Californian city, Los Angeles, is bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.