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July 2, 2013

News Briefs July 1, 2013

Jordan air force pilot joins Syrian rebels

Relatives of a Jordanian air force pilot say he has joined al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, which is fighting in Syria to oust President Bashar Assad.

More than 300 Jordanians, some linked to domestic militant groups, have joined Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Assad. But it is the first time a Jordanian with military rank defects to the rebels.

The two relatives said July 1 that Ahmad Majali, 29, abandoned his post in central Jordan June 26 and took a commercial flight to Turkey July 28.

From there, he entered Syria overland and joined the Nusra Front, they added.

The Royal Jordanian Air Force declined comment, but confirmed that Majali is a pilot with the rank of captain.

The two relatives insisted on anonymity for fear of Jordanian police retribution. AP

U.S. advisers strive for cooperation among Afghans

With Afghan military and police now responsible for security in their country, U.S. Army advisers are focusing on encouraging the Afghans to share information and work together in a combined effort to fight insurgents.

Lt. Col. Thomas Sutton, who is leading a security force assistance team in Khost Province, from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said there is a tendency in Afghanistan to hold onto information rather than share it. He also says Afghan forces don’t rely on security data or intelligence reports like coalition forces do.

He said the challenge is getting all the Afghan security agencies to coordinate their patrols, operations and planning. The advisers have begun holding weekly security meetings between the army and police to encourage that cooperation. AP

Ex-Air Force trainer gets six months in sex scandal

A former trainer at a South Texas Air Force base has been sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty in a sex scandal with recruits.

The San Antonio Express-News reports a military judge June 28 also sentenced Senior Airman Andrew Lira to 30 days of hard labor, ordered $1,200 in forfeitures and reduced Lira to the lowest rank.

Prosecutors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland charged the 28-year-old with having unprofessional relationships, adultery and two counts of obstructing justice. The incidents involved several female recruits.

Prosecutors say all of Lira’s relationships were consensual, but they violated Air Force rules.
Lira’s case is the 23rd sexual misconduct court-martial at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in the past 14 months. Most of the defendants were convicted. AP

Court decision has wide impact for some veterans

Just two years ago, gays and lesbians were prevented from serving openly in the military. Soon, they’ll be able to share a wide range of veterans’ benefits with their same-sex spouses.

The Supreme Court has said married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples who had wed.

Same-sex spouses of military veterans now will be able to get help with college tuition and be buried in a national cemetery.

Veterans in same-sex marriages also will see an increase in their monthly disability payments, amounting to several thousands of dollars over their lifetime.

Members of Congress are waiting for a report from the Veterans Affairs Department on when and how same-sex couples can access their benefits.

It’s not clear whether legislation will be needed. AP

South Korea extends $7.3 billion fighter jet bidding

South Korea has extended its window for accepting bids from aircraft makers to supply 60 fighter jets at an estimated cost of $7.3 billion (8.3 trillion won).

Arms procurement official Baek Youn-hyeong says bidding will resume July 2 after an 11-day round ended June 28 with no winner.

The 60 new fighters would replace South Korea’s aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s. Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle, EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are competing.

Yonhap news agency says no bidders proposed prices lower than the estimated cost. It didn’t cite sources. Baek declined to confirm the report.

South Korea faces rival North Korea over a heavily armed border after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce. AP




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