MORNING MINUTES: What will make headlines today, March 16, 2015

Good morning! Morning Minutes is a round-up of stories that will break today and which we think you'd be interested in. It appears on weekdays, available by 7am.

Trial of City Harvest Church leaders resumes

The trial of six City Harvest leaders resumes on Monday. Former fund manager Chew Eng Han and founding pastor Kong Hee are among the six on trial for misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering up the misuse. - HOE PEI SHAN

Rikuzentakata's "miracle pine" tree, the only one out of a forest of 70,000 left standing after the March 11, 2011 tsunami hammered the city in north-eastern Japan, on Feb 24, 2012. Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam will be in Rikuzentakata today to officiate at the opening ceremony of a multi-purpose community hall, Singapore's largest project in the reconstruction of the region. -- ST FILE PHOTO 

Singapore-built community hall opens in Japan's quake-hit region

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam will officiate at the opening ceremony of a multi-purpose community hall in Rikuzentakata, a city in the Tohoku region on Japan's north-eastern coast which was the worst-hit by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami disaster in March 2011. The facility is Singapore’s largest project in the reconstruction of the region.

Mr Shanmugam had attended the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on Sunday, during which he announced the launch of a training programme on disaster risk reduction jointly conducted by Singapore and the UN in Singapore in October. - LEE SEOK HWAI

Global markets keeping a close eye on Fed meeting

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Global financial markets will closely follow the two-day meeting of the United States central bank starting on Wednesday, for signals on whether the US interest rates will be raised in June, or later.

With market consensus forecasts now calling for predicting a possible US rate hike in June, any shift in language at the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday has the potential to drive market volatility, including in Singapore. 

A key economic data for Singapore, the non-oil domestic exports for last month, is due on Tues (March 17) and expected to sustain its first contraction in three months because of the slowdown in China.

The market consensus is for the exports to record negative 0.4 per cent for February, from a year ago. - REME AHMAD

Crimea celebrates first anniversary as Russian territory

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Crimea will celebrate its annexation by Russia with rallies and concerts in its capital Simferopol from Monday to Wednesday – the official day of its annexation by Moscow last year which touched off a separatist war in Ukraine and saw Russia's relations with the West plummet to their worst since the Cold War. The Russian capital will also hold a concert on Wednesday near the Kremlin themed “We are Together”.

The celebratory mood belies economic doldrums following Western sanctions but underscores support among Russians and Crimeans for President Vladimir Putin's move to take over Crimea from Ukraine. Surveys this month showed Mr Putin's approval ratings were at a record 88 per cent while 82 per cent of residents in Crimea supported joining Russia. - LEE SEOK HWAI

Kishore Mahbubani's new book "Can Singapore Survive?" to be launched


Ambassador-At-Large Tommy Koh will launch the book "Can Singapore Survive?” written by Professor Kishore Mahbubani, dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

In the book, published by Straits Times Press, Prof Mahbubani suggests concrete ways in which Singapore can increase its chances of survival. - CHARISSA YONG