While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Sept 27 edition

Small states needs rules-based orders like the UN, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan tells world leaders

Rules-based international orders like the one represented by the United Nations are critical to the survival of small states, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told world leaders yesterday, as he outlined the predicament smaller nations face in a period of global uncertainty.

"The United Nations is essential for the survival and prosperity of small states," he said during a five-minute address at the UN General Assembly in New York.

"We are usually at the receiving end of the decisions and actions of large powers. Fortunately, the General Assembly affirms the principle that all nations large and small, rich or poor have an equal stake and equal right to participate in shaping the discourse on global issues."


Suspected Batam launch site of foiled rocket attack was 18km away from Marina Bay

Suspects involved in the foiled plot to fire a rocket at Marina Bay had planned to launch the strike from a hill in Batam, said Indonesia's counter-terrorism chief Suhardi Alius.

The launch site in Taman Habibie, famous for a stairway locals call "the 1,000 steps", is located about 17km from Singapore's shoreline and just over 18km from the iconic Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

General Suhardi, who heads the National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT), said members of the Batam-based militant group had been measuring elevation points and the distance from the hill to their target in Singapore.


Italy to hold referendum on constitutional reform on Dec 4

A referendum over Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's flagship constitutional reform will be held on Dec 4, the government said on Monday, with the fate of his administration likely to hinge on the outcome.

Renzi says the reform will bring much-needed political stability to Italy and has repeatedly pledged to resign if voters reject his proposals to reduce the role of the upper house, the Senate, and rein in the powers of regional governments.

But most recent opinion polls have put the "No" camp ahead and Renzi now refuses to be drawn on his future, saying he does not want the issue to dominate the referendum debate.


ISIS 'dead set' on using chemical arms, says Pentagon spokesman

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants are"dead set" on using chemical arms and are likely to try them again as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, a week after a rocket with a possible chemical agent landed near US troops.

The rocket fired Tuesday landed in an unpopulated area near Qayyara West base, several hundred yards from where hundreds of US troops are working to prepare an airfield for an Iraqi offensive to recapture the city of Mosul. No one was hurt in the attack.

The shell initially tested positive for a mustard agent, but two subsequent tests have been inconclusive and the device is undergoing further tests, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.


Naked ambition: Paris eyes clothes-free leisure area

Paris could set up an outdoor naturism area as early as next summer, in a possible first for the capital of a country which is the world's top destination for clothes-free leisure lovers.

Paris lawmakers voted late on Monday to approve a proposal by ecologists to set up the zone, possibly in one of two major wooded areas on the edge of the city.

Naturism "is developing and Paris so far has nowhere" that it can be practised, said David Belliard, co-chairman of the ecologist group in the city council.