While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Sept 18

France recalls ambassadors from US, Australia over submarines row

France on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations in a ferocious row over the scrapping of a submarine contract, an unprecedented step that revealed the extent of French anger against its allies.

President Emmanuel Macron ordered the recalling of the envoys after Canberra ditched a deal to buy French submarines in favour of US vessels, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Le Drian said in a statement that the decision was made to “immediately” recall the two French ambassadors due to “the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on Sept 15 by Australia and the United States.”

The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that Australia and France had been working on since 2016 constituted “unacceptable behaviour among allies and partners,” the minister said.

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US says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians, including children

A drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children, the US military said on Friday, apologising for what it said was a tragic mistake.

The Pentagon had said the Aug 29 strike targeted an Islamic State suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to US-led troops at the airport as they completed the last stages of their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Even as reports of civilian casualties emerged, the top US general had described the attack as “righteous”.

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England’s Covid-19 travel rules simplified in boost to industry

Britain simplified rules on Friday for international travel to England in a boost to the tourism industry, including scrapping the need for fully vaccinated passengers to take expensive Covid-19 tests on arrival from low-risk countries.

Under the new proposals, destinations will simply be ranked low or high risk, instead of red, amber and green. Eight countries, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives, will be removed from the high-risk red band from next Wednesday which requires passengers to quarantine in a hotel.

From Oct 4, vaccinated passengers arriving from low-risk countries will be permitted to take a cheaper lateral flow test, rather than the privately administered PCR lab tests now required. PCR tests for a family now can cost hundreds of pounds.

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Moderna Covid-19 vaccine edges Pfizer in new US research

A new study released by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday is the latest to suggest the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine confers better long-term protection against hospitalisation than Pfizer.

CDC researchers conducted an analysis of nearly 3,689 adults and found that the Moderna vaccine was 93 per cent effective against hospitalisation, Pfizer was 88 per cent effective, and J&J was 68 per cent effective.

The loss of efficacy against hospitalisation for Pfizer was particularly pronounced: it fell from 91 per cent in 14-120 days after vaccination to 77 per cent more than 120 days after vaccination. By contrast, Moderna fell from 93 per cent to 92 per cent when comparing the same two periods.

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SpaceX tourists speak to Hollywood star Tom Cruise from orbit

Four space tourists who are orbiting the Earth in a SpaceX craft talked to movie star Tom Cruise – who is hoping to make a film in space – from the vessel on Friday, mission control said.

The amateur astronauts were due to also appear live on YouTube at around 5pm Eastern (5am on Saturday, Singapore time) for an “update about their multi-day journey aboard the Dragon spacecraft,” it said.

“Rook, Nova, Hanks, and Leo spoke to @TomCruise sharing their experience from space,” said the official Twitter account of Inspiration4, the official name of the first ever space mission to take place without an actual astronaut.

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