While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, May 20

Netanyahu, Gaza militants fight on as Biden urges ‘de-escalation’

Israel and Gaza militants vowed to keep fighting after US President Joe Biden urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek a “de-escalation” on Wednesday on the path to a ceasefire in the 10-day-old conflict. 

An Egyptian security source said the two sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators, although details were still being negotiated in secret. 

A senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, also said late on Wednesday in an interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV that he expected Israel and the Gaza militants to reach a ceasefire “within a day or two”, ending the cross-border violence. 

Since the fighting began on May 10, Palestinian health officials say 228 people have been killed in aerial bombardments that have worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation. 

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UK increasingly confident Covid-19 vaccines work against variant first found in India

Britain is increasingly confident that vaccines work against the coronavirus variant first found in India, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday, with a leading epidemiologist saying it may be spreading less quickly than first feared.

Johnson has warned that the emergence of the B16172 variant might derail his plans to lift England’s lockdown fully on June 21, but on Wednesday he said the latest data had been encouraging.

Johnson last week said the extent to which the variant could disrupt the planned exit from lockdown would depend on how much more transmissible it was.

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Trump faces New York state criminal probe, upping indictment threat

Former US President Donald Trump and his family faced the increasing likelihood of criminal charges Wednesday after New York state’s prosecutor said it was working with Manhattan investigators in its probe into his business dealings.

The office of New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday it was investigating the Trump Organisation in a “criminal capacity.”

Previously, it had said its probe into possible tax, insurance and bank fraud was through civil proceedings, which do not carry the threat of an indictment or imprisonment.

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Blue Origin discloses $3.2 million as current highest bid for seat on space flight

Blue Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, disclosed that the current highest bid for a seat on its New Shepard spacecraft was US$2.4 million (S$3.2 million) in the ongoing second round of auction.

The company said it received more than 5,200 bidders from 136 countries in the first round of auction, the highest bid from which was not disclosed as the round was sealed.

The second round was kicked off with an initial bid of US$1.4 million, according to the Blue Origin website.

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Harry Potter quiz shows for fans to mark movie’s 20th anniversary

Know your Gryffindors from your Dementors? Who was the Half-Blood Prince and what can you buy at Ollivanders?

Fans of Harry Potter can test their knowledge of the books and films in a new TV quiz competition series being launched by WarnerMedia to air later this year as part of 20th-anniversary celebrations of the first film in the adventures of the boy wizard.

WarnerMedia said on Wednesday that casting was open for fans who want to take part in the four, one-hour quiz challenges.

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