21 Jun 14. The Jerusalem Post reported Friday that bipartisan efforts to impose sanctions on Hezbollah were progressing in both chambers of Congress, with parallel legislation that would qualitatively and quantitatively increase financial pressure on the Iran-backed terror group having “quickly attained 280 co-sponsors – a number that more than doubled in a matter of weeks and far exceeds the 218 needed for a majority – in the House of Representatives and 36 in the Senate.” The new bills draw on instruments and tactics developed to target Iran, and would provide the White House “with tools to target and impose sanctions on foreign banks that conduct business with Hezbollah and its enablers.” Al Monitor’s insidery Congress Pulse had described the moves in early May as aimed at “snuff[ing] out the Shiite militia,” which has been widely blamed for providing critical support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime and for dragging Lebanon into that country’s civil war in the process. Lebanon’s NOW Media indicated Thursday that roughly forty Hezbollah fighters had been killed fighting around the Syrian city of Rankous. The outlet also published a piece by Beirut-based journalist Nadine Elali updating the situation in Tfail, a Lebanese town that has for months been besieged and bombarded by Hezbollah-backed Syrian forces. Elali conveyed reports indicating that Hezbollah has actively joined the fighting on the side of the Syrians, quoting a source declaring that “battles have been raging for two consecutive nights. Hezbollah forces are in direct battle with the village residents. Hezbollah is fighting Lebanese residents.” The developments – from endangering the Lebanese banking system to actively assisting in foreign attacks on Lebanese soil – are in tension with years of efforts by Hezbollah to brand itself as a Lebanese organization protecting Lebanese sovereignty. Those characterizations were at times echoed by influential Western foreign policy experts. (Source: theisraelproject.org)
20 Jun 14. More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation.
Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act. Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. Drone flights by law enforcement agencies and the military, which already occur on a limited basis, are projected to surge.
The documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes. Military drones have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in mid-air. No one has died in a drone accident, but the documents show that many catastrophes have been narrowly averted, often by a few feet, or a few seconds, or pure luck. “All I saw were tents, and I was afraid that I had killed someone,” Air Force Maj. Richard Wageman told investigators after an accident in November 2008, when he lost control of a Predator that ploughed into a U.S. base in Afghanistan. “I felt numb, and I am certain that a few cuss words came out of my mouth.” (Source: Washington Post)
20 Jun 14. House Spending Bill Blocks A-10 Retirement. The US House of Representatives on Thursday evening, during deliberation on the fiscal 2015 defense