If you’re a Dodgers fan, you know the name Tommy Lasorda. An icon of the team, Lasorda coached the Dodgers from 1973 to 1976 when he took over as manager. He managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996 and was still a regular sight at Dodger Stadium from then on. He served as their Vice-President, interim General Manager, Senior Vice-President, and Special Advisor to the Chairman. Lasorda was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997. On January 7, 2021, he died of a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest.
Hailing from Norristown, Pennsylvania, Lasorda graduated high school in 1944. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies the next year and began his professional career with the Concord Weavers in the Class D North Carolina State League. However, he put his baseball career on pause to serve in the military. He served on active duty in the Army from October 1945 to the spring of 1947. During his time in the service, Lasorda was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland. As a result, he missed out on the 1946 and 1947 seasons.
Following his Army service, Lasorda returned to baseball. He played for teams like the Schenectady Blue Jays, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Montreal Royals, the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees. He closed out his playing career in 1960 as the winningest pitcher in the history of the Royals with a record of 107-57. For this, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 1960, Lasorda was hired as a scout for the Dodgers. He went on to manage in their rookie and minor leagues until 1973. It was then that he was called up to become the third-base coach on the staff of Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston. Though Lasorda was offered several major league managing jobs with other teams, he turned them all down to remain with the Dodgers. In 1976, following Alston’s retirement, Lasorda took up the torch and became the Dodgers manager. During his tenure, he compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as manager, won two World Series championships, four National League pennants, and eight division titles.
Despite officially retiring in 1996, Lasorda managed the U.S. national team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and led them to gold. He also coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third-base coach. Lasorda remained active with baseball and the Dodgers scouting, evaluating, and teaching minor league players, advising the Dodgers’ international affiliations, and representing the team in public appearances and speaking engagements. He also visited troops at over 40 military installations around the world and took part in the 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. “I bleed Dodger blue,” Lasorda famously said, “and when I die, I’m going to the big Dodger in the sky.”
The U.S. Central Command has announced that two American service members were killed and two more wounded during fighting in the Kunduz District of Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 3.
“On behalf of all U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives today. Our wounded soldiers are receiving the best medical care possible and we are keeping them and their families in our thoughts today, as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A, said in a press release. “Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation.”
Afghan government and insurgent forces are fighting fiercely for Kunduz District, an area near the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz is a six-hour drive down Afghanistan Highway 76 from Kabul, the country’s capital. The city is one of Afghanistan’s largest.
Dozens of civilians were also killed in the fighting on Nov. 3, according to the New York Times. The incident is under investigation, but it is believed that most of the civilians killed and wounded were victims of an errant airstrike. Both U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting airstrikes during the fighting in Kunduz.
“As part of an Afghan operation, friendly forces received direct fire and air strikes were conducted to defend themselves,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told Reuters.
“We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.”
The Taliban told Retuers in a statement that Afghan commandos and U.S. troops were on a raid to capture a rebel commander when the fight took place.
Spirit 03 is a revered name in the AFSOC community, often spoken of in hushed and pained tones. It was the call sign of the last AC-130 gunship shot down in combat.
The story of Spirit 03, whilst sad, was also one of heroism — the kind you’d find in the US Air Force Special Operations Command community. It was a story of American airmen putting the lives of their brothers in arms engaged in grueling ground combat above their own.
The city of Khafji before the battle
(Photograph by Charles G Crow)
On January 29, 1991, over 2000 Iraqi troops under the direction of Saddam Hussein streamed into the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji in an attempt to draw American, British, and Saudi forces into a costly urban battle which would tie up Coalition troops until the Iraqi military had time to reorganize and get themselves back in the fight.
Just days before Khafji fell, American surveillance jets had detected large columns of mechanized Iraqi units pouring through Kuwait’s border in a mad dash towards the city. Though the warning was passed on, Coalition commanders were far more focused on the aerial campaign, which had seen the virtual annihilation of the Iraqi Air Force.
Thus, Khafji fell… but it wouldn’t be long until Saudi forces scrambled to action, barreling towards their seized city to drive the occupiers out. American and British aerial units were soon called into the fight, and in record time, engines were turning and burning at airbases within reach of Khafji while ground crew rushed around arming jets for the impending fight.
Among the aerial order of battle was a group of US Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunships — converted C-130 tactical transport aircraft that were armed to the teeth with a pair of 20 mm M61Vulcan rotary cannons, an L60 Bofors 40 mm cannon, and a 105 mm M102 howitzer. These Spectres, based out of Florida, were eager to be turned loose, planning on adding any Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles they caught around Khafji to their kill tallies.
On the 29th, Iraqi mechanized units moved towards the city under the cover of night, repeatedly engaging Saudi elements set up to screen inbound enemy ground forces coming in from Kuwait. The Spectres were already in the air, racing towards the fight and running through checklists in preparation for the destruction they were about to dish out on Saddam’s armored column.
Within minutes of appearing on station, the AC-130s leapt into action, tearing into the Iraqi column with impunity. What the enemy forces had failed to realize was that Spectres — living up to their name — operated exclusively at night so that they were harder to visually identify and track, and the gunners aboard these aircraft were incredibly comfortable with that. Spectres began flying race track patterns in the sky, banking their left wing tip towards the ground as their cannons opened up.
An AC-130H Spectre in-flight with its guns visible towards the right side of the picture
(US Air Force photograph by TSgt. Lee Schading)
Despite the AC-130s inflicting casualty after casualty, the resilient Iraqi invasion force continued to advance to Khafji and managed to briefly take over and lay claim to the city. American and Saudi ground combat units, including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Marine artillery and infantry elements responded in kind, and launched a blistering offensive against the Iraqis as night turned to day and the AC-130s returned to base to rearm, refuel and wait for nightfall to resume hunting.
On January 30th, Spirit 03, one of the AC-130s, was loaded for bear and launched with the intent of providing Marine forces with heavy-duty close air support. Spirit 03 arrived on station and started hacking away at targets. In the hours around dawn on the 31st, the AC-130s were recalled to base when radios lit up with numerous calls for fire support from the beleaguered Marines on the ground.
An Iraqi rocket battery needed to be dealt with quickly.
The crew of Spirit 03 took charge of the situation immediately, judging that they had enough fuel and ammunition left for a few more passes. Not quite out of the combat zone, the aircraft turned around and pointed its nose towards its new target. It was then that all hell broke loose. A lone shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile arced towards the AC-130, detonated and brought down the aircraft.
There were no survivors.
In the months and years that followed, the loss of Spirit 03 was investigated and then quickly hushed up. Some indicated that the official report blamed the crew for knowingly putting themselves in danger by continuing to fly in daylight, allowing themselves to be targeted.
Others knew that the story was vastly different—that the 14 men aboard the AC-130 knew that they were the only ones in the area able to provide the kind of fire support the Marines needed, and so paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to aid their brothers in arms.
In October 2018, the Navy Trademark Licensing Office, headquartered at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), transferred more than $1 million — for the first time — to the Navy’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program, a quality-of-life program for sailors and their families.
This money, which totaled more than $1.3 million, comes from royalties collected from the sale of licensed products using Navy trademarked logos, and goes toward community recreational programs supported by MWR.
“The trademark royalty funds have helped Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation program staff members offer many fun and engaging activities, along with recreational leisure skills programs for Sailors and their families at installations worldwide,” said Jeffrey Potter, head of financial analysis at Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) in Millington, Tennessee. “This initiative has been extremely important to CNIC fleet readiness, and we truly appreciate how this relationship has benefited quality of life programs at installations across the Navy.”
Determining what types of items can carry the Navy’s trademark is the job of Nadine Villanueva Santiago, manager of the Navy’s Trademark Licensing Office (NTLO).
“Our job is to ensure that Navy-branded consumer goods available in the marketplace are ones that instill pride in the service and admiration for the men and women who serve,” said Santiago.
Currently, the Navy trademark appears on thousands of officially licensed products — including clothing, household goods, ornaments, watches, and handmade goods. However, not every product Santiago receives makes the grade. Navy trademarks won’t be approved for alcohol, tobacco- or smoking-related items, drug paraphernalia, gambling- or lottery-related products, firearms, undergarments or products containing profanity or hateful language.
Nadine Villanueva Santiago, manager of the Navy’s Trademark Licensing Office (NTLO), headquartered at the Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., talks about recently received items with her team, from left, Michael Badagliacca, Stacey Marks and Hassan Sudler.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Since 2013, the NTLO has reviewed and tested the products that come through their office — from validating the appropriateness of an item, to reviewing factory audits for safe working conditions, to ensuring the quality of an item meets or exceeds expectations.
“If you buy an officially licensed product, you can guarantee that it’s been vetted and gone through the appropriate channels to ensure the item is of good quality and is not made in a sweatshop or factory with safety violations,” said Santiago. “Plus, you can feel good that a portion of the proceeds go back to the Navy through the MWR program.”
MWR is not the only Navy program to profit from the trademark office. The Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program also benefits in another form. According to Santiago, product samples that are not requested to be sent back to the licensees are inventoried and transferred to the Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program. That program then distributes the items to warfighters enrolled in the program at Warrior Games or at medical treatment facilities.
“When we let licensees know what will be done with their samples, they typically don’t request the items back,” said Santiago.
The NTLO has more than 250 licensees. Navy licensed products are available globally including in major retailers and a variety of e-commerce websites. All officially licensed products will have a hologram or hangtag that identifies the authenticity as officially licensed merchandise.
And for Santiago, it’s these licensees — the ones that go through the proper channels — that help her office succeed in protecting the rich history and heritage of the Navy.
While the Navy has transferred more than .2 million to the MWR over the years, it should also be noted that each military service has a trademark licensing program office that manages its trademarks. As a whole, the Department of Defense trademark program offices have transferred more than million to MWR programs for support of our nation’s warfighters and families.
It’s now summertime, which means hotter temperatures for physical training, longer days for working parties, and more intense nights for barracks parties. All three of those are a lot easier if you take to your medic/corpsman’s advice and drink some water.
You don’t need to change your socks as often as they claim, but doing so at least once a day is appreciated by everyone around you. If you don’t, well, you’re one nasty SOB. But you’re not here for advice, you’re here for memes.
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Navy Memes)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)
(Meme via Ranger Up)
Everyone wants to do infantry stuff until it’s time to do infantry stuff.
(Spoiler alert: A lot of infantry stuff sucks if you don’t embrace it.)
Military commissaries worldwide will soon have plexiglass “sneeze shields” installed in checkout lanes as a barrier between commissary employees and shoppers, officials announced today.
The 24-30 inch-wide, 36 inch-high barriers, which will be installed in all commissary stores over the next several days, are designed to “add extra protection for customers and cashiers during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the release said.
The plexiglass barriers are the latest in ongoing efforts to keep commissaries open while reducing virus spread. March 18, stores stopped offering Early Bird shopping hours to give workers more time to stock shelves and clean. Officials also started 100% ID checks at commissary doors, restricting all non-authorized shoppers from entering.
Stores have also stepped up their cleaning routine, officials said in today’s release.
“At our commissaries we are wiping down checkout areas, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant, and practicing routine hand washing and other basic sanitation measures to avoid spreading germs,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Rear Admiral and the Pentagon’s special assistant for commissary operations said in the release.
The plexiglass barriers will be installed at all regular checkout lanes, the release said. They will not be installed at self-checkout.
The incident reportedly forced the crew of the aircraft to prematurely end its mission and was first reported by CNN. Monday’s intercept is the latest in a string of “unsafe” intercepts that the Russian military has conducted.
In November 2017, a Russian Su-30 fighter flew as close as 50 feet before turning on its afterburners while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the same area.
The maneuver forced the plane to enter its jet wash and caused it to undergo a 15-degree roll, Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said at the time.
The US Navy has been conducting reconnaissance missions over the Black Sea at a high rate since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
There have been a number of aerial intercept incidents between US and Russian aircraft over the past year, even outside of Europe.
The most recent intercept occurred over Syria in December, and saw two US Air Force F-22s be intercepted by Russian Su-25 and Su-35. The US Aircraft had to fire flares as warnings to the Russian jets, one of which “had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision.”
Russia has denied the incident in Syria took place.
A Washington-based Special Forces soldier has died from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him during a recent combat patrol in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, died Aug. 12, 2018, as a result of injuries he suffered in Helmand province on Aug. 7, 2018, according to an Army news release. Transfiguracion was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, according to the news release. It was Transfiguracion’s second Purple Heart.
No additional information was immediately released about the incident that caused his injuries. It remains under investigation.
Transfiguracion, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, was born in the Philippines. He enlisted as a motor transport operator in the Hawaii National Guard in 2001 and deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.
Purple Heart Medal.
In 2008, Transfiguracion joined the active duty, deploying again to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. From there, he spent six months supporting Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines from 2010 to 2011.
After attending Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Transfiguracion was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, as a horizontal construction engineer. There, he was selected for Special Forces.
After completion of his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Transfiguracion joined his last unit as an engineer sergeant. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan since March.
His other awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Achievement Medal (third award), Army Good Conduct Medal (third award), Combat Action Badge, Army Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantry Badge and Air Assault Badge.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Navy is building and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a series of next-generation technologies — including an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.
The new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was recently deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.
“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.
The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.
“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.
The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.
Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could. The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.
The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.
During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.
More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.
The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.
The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.
At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.
“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.
There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.
Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.
In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.
The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.
Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.
Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.
A Libyan militant was convicted Nov. 28 of terrorism charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. But a federal jury found him not guilty of murder, the most serious charge associated with the rampage he was accused of orchestrating.
The attack became instant political fodder in the 2012 presidential campaign, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public and stonewalling congressional investigators, though officials denied any wrongdoing. Some were particularly critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the conflict, which dogged her during her presidential campaign.
But the seven-week trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala was largely free of political intrigue.
Jurors convicted Khattala on four counts, including providing material support for terrorism and destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the U.S. compound, but acquitted him on 14 others. Even with the mixed verdict, Khattala, 46, still faces the possibility of life imprisonment for his conviction on a federal firearms charge.
Prosecutors accused Khattala of directing the attack aimed at killing personnel and plundering maps, documents and other property from the U.S. mission in Benghazi. But defense attorneys said their evidence against him was shoddy.
Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the first attack at the U.S. mission, along with Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer. Nearly eight hours later, at a CIA complex nearby, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack.
“Today, a small measure of justice was meted out,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a message to CIA employees. Of Khattala he added: “It took intelligence to find him, soldiers to assist in capturing him, law enforcement to interview him, and a legal team to put him away. Khattala’s sentencing is to follow; but no term in prison will bring our people back.”
Prosecutors acknowledged they lacked evidence to show Khattala personally fired any gunshots, but argued he orchestrated the violence out of his hatred for U.S. freedoms and his suspicion that Americans were operating a spy base in Benghazi. They said Khattala led a group of militia “hitmen” who could be seen on surveillance footage toting weapons and a gas can the night of the attack. Their case relied heavily on the testimony of informants, including one who was paid $7 million to befriend Khattala, help the government gather information on him, and arrange his capture.
Defense attorneys sought to discount the informants as liars who were paid for their stories. Federal public defender Michelle Peterson said in closing arguments that prosecutors were playing to jurors’ emotions to make up for shoddy evidence, including blurry surveillance video and cellphone records she described as inconclusive. Khattala is a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran, which “is not the same thing as terrorism,” Peterson said.
But prosecutors argued the evidence was enough to convict Khattala on all counts.
“He was there to kill Americans, and that is exactly what he and his men did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. DiLorenzo told jurors.
The trial, which opened Oct. 2, was one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years in a U.S. civilian court, even though the Trump administration had argued such suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The mixed verdict could revive that debate, even as newly captured terror suspects — including a second man charged in the Benghazi attacks — are instead brought to federal court.
Supporters of the military commission system argue valuable intelligence is lost when suspected terrorists are afforded protections of the American legal system. But prosecutors said Khattala, who was interrogated at length during 13 days aboard a Navy transport ship headed to the U.S., provided information about other members of the Islamic extremist militia group blamed for the Benghazi attack. Among the men he pegged was Mustafa al-Imam, who was captured last month and awaits trial in the same federal courthouse in Washington.
Jonathan Hafetz, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has handled terrorism cases, said the Khattala trial showed federal courts are capable of handling terror cases, even with his acquittal of murder charges.
“No court system can pretend to protect due process if it only achieves the resolution the government wants in every case,” he said.
The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany have reiterated calls for a UN-backed political process to end the war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a summit in Istanbul on Oct. 27, 2018, that “the meeting demonstrated there is common determination to solve the problem.
“A joint solution can be achieved, not through military means, but only through political effort under the UN aegis,” she added.
Along with Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered for the talks in search of an end to the seven-year civil war in the Middle East country.
Following the summit, the four leaders issued a statement calling for the convening of a committee by the end of 2018 to work on constitutional reform as a prelude to free and fair elections in Syria.
“We need transparent elections, that will be held under supervision of international observers. Refugees should take part in this process as well,” Merkel said.
Macron said a “constitutional committee needs to be established and should hold its first meeting by the end of 2018. This is what we all want.”
“Creating it will become a part of the political settlement in Syria,” Macron said.
The summit’s final communique also supported efforts to facilitate the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees to their Syrian homes.
The final statement rejected “separatist agendas aimed at undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria as well as the national security of neighboring countries.”
Many obstacles to a peace agreement remain. They include divided opinions about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.
Western countries, meanwhile, condemn Assad for what they call indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Turkey has been helping insurgents trying to remove him from power.
Putin told a news conference that a settlement in Syria cannot be reached without consultations that include Syria and “our Iranian partners,” describing them as “a guarantor country of the peace process, the cease-fire, and the establishment of demilitarized zones.”
Asked about the possibilities of a second summit of the four countries, Putin said the countries have “not negotiated this yet, but everything is possible.”
Significant activity has been spotted at North Korea’s main atomic test site’s west portal — an as-of-yet unused tunnel complex where little or no activity had been observed over the past several months — raising the possibility of preparations for a fresh nuclear test, an analysis of new satellite imagery showed Nov. 6.
In the report on the Punggye-ri atomic test site, the North Korea-watching website 38 North said that the imagery, dating from Sept. 8 to Nov. 1, showed “significant movement of equipment, mining carts, material, and netting within the area” of the west portal after Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful nuclear blast on Sept. 3.
That test — which North Korea has claimed was of a hydrogen bomb — was held at the site’s north portal, where the isolated country’s last five nuclear tests were conducted.
According to the imagery, two temporary structures near that portal’s entrance believed to be associated with the September test have been removed, and no vehicles, mining equipment, or materials have been observed there since the test.
“While it is not possible to determine the exact purpose of these activities from imagery alone, they could be associated with new nuclear test preparations at the west portal, further maintenance on the west portal in general and/or the abandonment of the north portal,” the report said.
While noting little change at the test site’s south portal, the report maintained 38 North’s long-held stance that tunnels there “have been sufficiently prepared to accommodate a test at any time.”
The analysis also said that the available imagery could not corroborate a recent report by TV Asahi citing an unnamed North Korean source said that more than 200 personnel and rescuers had been trapped and feared dead in tunnel collapses at the site.
TV Asahi reported Oct. 31 that the accident had killed scores around Sept. 10. North Korea lashed out at Japan on Nov. 2, dismissing the report as “misinformation” and part of a bid “to secure a pretext for sending the Japan ‘Self-Defense Forces’ into the Korean peninsula on their own initiative by building up the public opinion over [the] ‘nuclear threat’ from the DPRK.”
The Japan Times could not independently confirm the report, but North Korea rarely acknowledges major accidents, and any incident related to its nuclear program would be especially taboo.
The Nov. 6 analysis by 38 North, however, said the movement of equipment and material at the west portal provided “sufficient evidence that mining personnel have been inside” at least some tunnels at the site.
It said that while the three most recent post-test tremors could have damaged the tunnel networks, there were no observable signs of such a tunnel collapse or intensive rescue or recovery operations outside any of the portals or within any of the support areas.
“While it is possible that the north portal has been at least temporarily abandoned in the aftermath of the Sept. 3 nuclear test, the overall Punggye-ri nuclear test site is neither abandoned nor mothballed,” the report concluded. “Significant tunnel related operations continue at the west portal, while the south portal remains in a continuing state of nuclear test readiness.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned in September that Pyongyang may consider conducting “the most powerful detonation” of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean amid rising tensions with the United States.
The country’s top diplomat made the comment after US President Donald Trump warned that North Korea, which has ramped up its development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States, would be “totally destroyed” if it threatened the US or its allies.
A senior diplomat with the North’s Foreign Ministry said in an Oct. 25 interview with CNN that the threat of an atmospheric test over the Pacific should be taken “literally.”
Experts say that conducting such a test would be a way of demonstrating the North’s capability of striking the United States with nuclear weapons, since all of its previous tests have been underground.