Asian Stocks to Open Higher After US Notches Gains: Markets Wrap;Biden-Netanyahu Tensions Roil U.S.-Israel Ties;Northrop says Air Force design changes drove higher Sentinel ICBM cost:Defense Briefing20240329

Welcome to our lively episode of Defense Briefing! Today, we’ve got a mixed bag of news that’s as varied as the flavors in your favorite ice cream shop. So, grab your spoon, and let’s dig in!

First off, Asian stock markets are gearing up to open on a high note after the US markets closed a strong quarter with gains, sparking hopes of a soft landing orchestrated by the Federal Reserve. Despite some markets taking a holiday break, the future looks bright with indicators pointing up for Japan and potential gains for US-listed Chinese companies. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is strutting around with its 22nd record this year. Talk about setting the bar high!

Switching gears to a more serious note, the US and Israel are currently experiencing a bit of a rough patch over Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Tensions have escalated following a controversial UN Security Council vote and harsh words from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. With President Biden under pressure to address the humanitarian crisis and military aid to Israel, it’s a complex situation that’s developing more layers than an onion.

And in the world of military tech, the US Air Force’s Sentinel ICBM project is facing some budget turbulence due to design changes, causing costs to soar higher than a rocket. Meanwhile, across the globe, Israel’s Supreme Court has made a landmark ruling affecting ultra-Orthodox military service, and North Carolina is seeing a change in its military and veterans affairs leadership. For those looking to unwind with some quality TV, there’s a plethora of new shows to stream this April, promising to keep you glued to your screens. And finally, Maine is considering a ‘red flag’ proposal in the wake of a tragic shooting, highlighting ongoing debates over gun control.

Whew, that’s quite the roundup! Stay tuned as we dive deeper into these stories, providing you with all the juicy details. Please keep watching for more in-depth coverage.

Asian Stocks to Open Higher After US Notches Gains: Markets Wrap

Equity markets in Asia are set to open higher on 2 April after a strong quarter for US stocks ended on a positive note amid speculation that the Fed will be able to achieve a soft landing. While markets in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore are closed for holidays, futures contracts for the Nikkei 225 index point higher, while a gauge of US-listed Chinese companies suggest potential gains in mainland China. The S&P 500 posted its 22nd record this year, rising 10% in Q1, ending at 5,250.

Biden-Netanyahu Tensions Roil U.S.-Israel Ties
Foreign Policy

Tensions between the US and Israel have been inflamed by Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially cancelled a planned visit to Washington to discuss the US’s concerns over the invasion, after the US abstained from a UN Security Council vote calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Netanyahu castigated the US decision, calling it a “retreat from the consistent American position since the beginning of the war.” The delegation’s visit has since been reinstated. The US President, Joe Biden, is under increasing pressure to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and table the planned invasion of Rafah. However, Biden has so far refused to put conditions on US military aid to Israel and ignored calls to cut the supply of US weapons to the country. There are growing doubts among Biden officials and experts that Israel’s military campaign will defeat Hamas.

Northrop says Air Force design changes drove higher Sentinel ICBM cost

The massive cost growth of the US Air Force’s next intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Sentinel, is due to the service’s design changes, particularly to the nuclear missile’s silo and connecting cables, according to a Northrop Grumman official. The original plan for modernising the ICBM enterprise included keeping nearly all its existing copper cabling in place to be reused for the Sentinel, but the Air Force concluded it was necessary to upgrade the copper cables with a higher-performing fibre-optic network. The Air Force also realised that the original designs for Sentinel’s launch facilities would not work, the Northrop official said. With hundreds of launch facilities and thousands of miles of cable stretching across privately held land, the cost of these changes swiftly added up.

Sentinel is to replace the Air Force’s aging LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs. In 2020, Northrop Grumman received a $13.3 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract for the project. The program was expected to cost $96 billion, with the per-unit cost amounting to $118 million when its most recent cost, schedule and performance goals were set in 2020. However, the price tag has risen by at least 37%, and the per-unit cost is now about $162 million. The Air Force is studying what caused these cost overruns, which triggered a Nunn-McCurdy breach, and the Pentagon is reviewing Sentinel to figure out how to get it back on track as well as where to find funds to keep it going. Sentinel is now expected to fall two years behind schedule, with its first flight test likely to take place in February 2026.

Israeli court halts subsidies for ultra-Orthodox, deepening turmoil over mandatory military service
Associated Press

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that government subsidies for ultra-Orthodox men who do not serve in the army must be ended. The decision could have significant implications for the country’s government, as ultra-Orthodox parties want draft exemptions to continue, while the centrist members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s War Cabinet insist that all sectors of Israeli society must contribute equally. If the ultra-Orthodox parties withdraw from the government, the country will be forced into new elections, during which Netanyahu is currently trailing significantly in the polls.

North Carolina military affairs secretary stepping down, with ex-legislator as successor
Associated Press

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has announced that Grier Martin, a former state legislator who has been working at the Pentagon, will replace Walter Gaskin as the state’s secretary for military and veterans affairs. Gaskin, a retired three-star Marine Corps general, is retiring from state government. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is responsible for managing state veterans’ nursing homes and cemeteries, and promoting activities to support military installations in North Carolina. The change in leadership comes as state legislators have held oversight hearings scrutinizing the closing of the State Veterans Home in Fayetteville.

The best new shows to stream in April
The Sydney Morning Herald

The author highlights the rise of television actors who have found new prominence in the streaming era. They mention actors such as Nicola Coughlan, Merritt Wever, Jared Harris, and Tim Robinson who have delivered exceptional performances on television. The author believes that there has never been a better time to engage with the vast spectrum of work from these talented actors.

The author goes on to recommend several shows across various streaming platforms for the month of April. They recommend “Ripley” on Netflix, “The Sympathizer” on Binge, “Fallout” on Amazon Prime, “Sugar” on Apple TV+, “The Veil” on Disney+, “White Fever” on ABC iview, and “Swift Street” on SBS On Demand. They provide brief descriptions of each show and highlight their appeal.

The author concludes by mentioning other notable releases on streaming platforms, such as “Knuckles” on Paramount+ and “Tom Jones” on BritBox. They encourage readers to explore these shows and movies to add to their must-watch list.

Maine lawmakers to consider late ‘red flag’ proposal after state’s deadliest shooting
Associated Press

Maine lawmakers will consider a proposal introduced by House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross allowing family members to petition a judge for temporary removal of guns, following a mass shooting in 2020. Talbot Ross said her constituents had demanded the red flag law and that it would prevent further acts of violence. A competing bill by the Democratic governor would strengthen the state’s existing crisis intervention tool, a “yellow flag” law. The proposed red flag law would allow a member of a person’s family or household, as well as police, to petition for temporary confiscation of guns.

Why Biden Can’t Force a Truce on Israel—or Won’t
Foreign Policy

US President Joe Biden is facing pressure to take a firmer stance against Israel as the conflict with Hamas in Gaza continues. However, there are several factors that make it unlikely that Biden will exert significant pressure on Israel. Firstly, Biden has a strong emotional bond with Israel and a deep commitment to its security. This emotional connection, reinforced by decades of interaction with Israeli leaders, means that Biden is unlikely to confront Israel and is more inclined to accommodate its needs and concerns. Secondly, the current conflict is unlike any previous situation the US has faced with Israel. Israel is not engaged in a conflict with another state seeking a peace agreement; it is fighting against Hamas, an organization that seeks the destruction of Israel. This makes any pressure on Israel extremely difficult, particularly as Israel deals with the trauma of the conflict and the displacement of its citizens. Finally, Biden needs Israel’s cooperation to achieve any of his goals in relation to the conflict. He needs Israel to facilitate humanitarian assistance, to negotiate a ceasefire, and to work out post-conflict arrangements for Gaza. This means that any pressure on Israel that damages the US-Israel relationship could be counterproductive. Overall, while there is pressure on Biden to take a tougher stance against Israel, it is unlikely that he will exert significant pressure given the factors at play.

EDF in Talks With Nuclear Fuel Producers in Bid to Bypass Russia

Electricite de France (EDF) is in discussions with Orano and Westinghouse Electric over the construction of a nuclear facility in Western Europe that would reduce its reliance on Russia for supplies of reprocessed fuel. The move comes as European countries and the US seek to diminish their dependence on Russia, the world’s dominant supplier of atomic fuel. EDF currently uses uranium that has undergone recycling at a Rosatom plant in Siberia for some of its 56 reactors.

B.C.'s iconic Martin Mars water bomber to become ‘centrepiece’ of new museum exhibit

The province of British Columbia in Canada has announced that the Martin Mars water bomber, an iconic firefighting aircraft, will be the centerpiece of a new wildfire exhibit at the British Columbia Aviation Museum. The Martin Mars, which was last used in 2015, will be flown from Port Alberni to Victoria International Airport by the end of the year and will then be transported to the museum. The aircraft, which can only land and take off in water, will leave from Sproat Lake and land in Saanich Inlet. The province has provided $250,000 to protect and preserve the aircraft as part of the exhibit.

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