Top stories from The Straits Times on Friday, Aug 17

Good morning! Here are our top stories to kick-start your Friday, Aug 17.

Chinese bombers likely training for US strikes: Pentagon

President Xi Jinping ordered the PLA to step up efforts in 2017, saying China needed a military ready to "fight and win" wars. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese bombers are likely training for strikes against US and allied targets in the Pacific, according to a new Pentagon report that also details how Beijing is transforming its ground forces to "fight and win."


Rules eased for SMEs bidding for public projects

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat announced that companies with yearly revenues below $5 million need not produce audited financial statements to bid for government projects. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Companies with yearly revenues below $5 million no longer have to produce audited financial statements to take part in government tenders, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said.


Review 'no air-conditioning' norm for subsidised wards?

In the subsidised wards in Sengkang General Hospital, the beds are in a room that is not air-conditioned, but ventilated with fans. Nurses, however, have an air-conditioned nurses station built within the ward. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The healthcare norms spelt out in the 1990s stipulated no air-conditioning for subsidised hospital wards as a means of checking overuse of these wards. Is it time for a rethink?


1,000 women 'fall in' for NS boot camp

Ms Jamie Phoon (left) and Ms Tabatha Lim, who are best friends, are looking forward to the boot camp that will be held from Sept 1 to 2. A poster promoting the event describes it as a "golden opportunity to go through NS activities". PHOTO: COURTESY OF TABATHA LIM

Would you pay to stay in a military bunk, eat combat rations and go on a route march?


MCCY plans to woo public with Hungry Ghost Festival chatbot

Mr Woo's choice of display picture on the Facebook page is an empty red plastic chair, a reference to the first row of chairs usually kept empty at getai performances for supernatural "visitors". SCREENGRAB: FACEBOOK/MR WOO

Ever wanted to have an out-of-the-world experience? You can now do so by chatting with a kind "soul" online to find out more about the Hungry Ghost Festival - thanks to a chatbot created by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.


Hawkers welcome unified cashless payment system

A patron making a purchase by scanning a QR code at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre. The Singapore authorities will create a unified e-payment system at all 12,000 stalls in hawker centres, which is expected to lower transaction fees and speed up account settlements. PHOTO: ST FILE 

In the coming months, the Singapore authorities will appoint one, or at most two, "master acquirers" to supply hawkers with systems to accept e-payments and to settle accounts with the hawkers.


Parts of Malaysia hit by unhealthy levels of haze

The haze in Sarawak (above) has been blamed on open burning in the state and the rising number of hot spots in neighbouring Kalimantan. Alor Setar in Kedah recorded the worst air quality in Malaysia. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The haze returned to parts of Malaysia on Thursday, affecting the west coast states of Perlis, Kedah and Penang on the peninsula, and Sarawak in East Malaysia.


Vatican feels 'shame and sorrow' over US grand jury report on abuse

Pope Francis praying in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari, southern Italy., in July 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The Vatican vowed to hold accountable sexually abusive priests and bishops who enable them to continue to prey on minors.


Aretha Franklin, the legendary 'Queen of Soul', dies aged 76

Aretha Franklin died on Aug 16, 2018, at the age of 76. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Aretha Franklin, the preacher’s daughter whose powerful voice made her the long-reigning “Queen of Soul” with such hit songs as Respect and Chain Of Fools, died at the age of 76, officials said.


Famed Kyoto coffee chain % Arabica Coffee to open in Singapore

Popular Kyoto coffee chain % Arabica Coffee will likely begin operations in about four months. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ARABICA.COFFEE

Coffee fans rejoice: Popular Kyoto coffee chain - % Arabica Coffee - will welcome its first store in Singapore at 56 Arab Street, the shop confirmed.