Top stories from The Straits Times on Friday, Dec 21

Good morning! Here are our top stories to kick-start your Friday, Dec 21.

14 people taken to hospital after tree falls in Sembawang Park



The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it responded to the fallen tree incident in Beaulieu Road at 5.55pm. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
 

A group of 17 people were having a Christmas celebration and moved into a pavilion at the park when it started raining heavily. Then, the tree fell on the roof and crushed it.

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Defence chief James Mattis resigns over Donald Trump’s order to withdraw troops from Syria, officials say



In a two-page letter to the president, US Defense Secretary James Mattis laid out his convictions on the value of United States' leadership in strategic alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the 74-nation coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
 

James Mattis, the four-star Marine general turned defense secretary, resigned on Thursday in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria, where they have been fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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My friends were trapped under log and roof: Woman in Sembawang Park tree incident



Ms Carine Yeo and her colleagues were enjoying food and drinks under a pavilion in Sembawang Park when a tree fell on it. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
 

What began as a Christmas celebration in Sembawang Park ended in chaos for Ms Carine Yeo, 44, and her friends.

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Pushing further away from grades and book smarts


The move away from grades is also taking place at centres of higher learning in Singapore through aptitude-based admissions. This allows students to be assessed on a range of attributes and not just their academic score, raising the intake of students. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

A wave of change is sweeping through the education system here to shift the focus away from grades and book smarts, says ST Senior Education Correspondent Sandra Davie.

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92% of escalator incidents caused by user behaviour: BCA



As part of an ongoing effort to curb errant behaviour on escalators, the Building and Construction Authority will encourage escalator operators to put up new posters and stickers on escalator safety. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
 

To curb errant behaviour on escalators, BCA will encourage escalator operators to put up new posters and stickers on escalator safety.

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Singapore high commission says news reports in Malaysia on Johor's port limits are inaccurate



Singapore's High Commission on Dec 20, 2018, responded to a MalayMail.com report claiming that Singapore Navy vessels were spotted within the new Johor Baru Port limits. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
 

Singapore's High Commission said on Thursday that the Republic's security agencies have been "exercising restraint" in enforcing its territorial waters.

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Poorer households use more water to beat heat while richer ones turn up air-con, study finds



The study tracked the water and electricity bills of about 130,000 households staying in apartments from September 2012 to December 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE
 

The study tracked the water and electricity bills of about 130,000 households staying in apartments from September 2012 to December 2015.

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Honeymoon's over, Malaysia's ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan told to buck up



Parti Keadilan Rakyat senior politician Rafizi Ramli (centre) with its president, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the party's annual convention in Shah Alam last month. Mr Rafizi said the way forward for the ruling coalition is to focus on its economic platform. PHOTO: BERNAMA
 

Two prominent PH politicians said the coalition is struggling to fulfil election promises and voters question its willingness to accept former Umno lawmakers into its fold.

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Woodlands resident does it again with latest festive project - a Christmas log cabin



Carpenter Tan Koon Tat poses with the log house he built for his neighbourhood in Woodlands. ST PHOTO: TOH TING WEI
 

Tucked away in a Woodlands neighbourhood, a familiar Christmas scene stands in stark contrast to the HDB blocks around it: a log cabin seemingly blanketed in snow.

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Get the look: Round-up of runway fashion trends that will hit stores in 2019



Over at French fashion label Christian Dior, tie dye took on a more whimsical and bohemian tone. PHOTO: AFP
 

From bright tie dye to structured jumpsuits, ST rounds-up fashion trends that will make their way from the runway to stores next year.

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