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MIGHTY MOVIES

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Follow WATM’s host Weston Scott as he braves the red carpet with the crazy cast of the new veteran-backed zombie flick ‘Range 15’ — “the most decorated movie of all time.”

Articles

Researchers believe internet memes are being used as modern-day leaflet propaganda

Armed forces across the planet and throughout history have used leaflets for any number of reasons, from psychological operations to warning civilians about an upcoming attack. For most of this time, this kind of messaging has come in the form of slips of paper dropped in enemy territory from the air for the widest possible dissemination.

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Japanese propaganda leaflet left for Allied troops in World War II (Naval Heritage and History Command)

But times are changing, and the technology of psychological operations, along with the way humans can communicate to mass audiences are changing with it. These days, the kinds of propaganda we use can be sent between audiences who aren’t even technically at war with each other.

One side of this communication may not even know they’re using propaganda. That’s where a new study from the University of Maryland says internet memes are being used as a psychological Trojan horse. Author Joshua Troy Nieubuurt says the meme is the latest in the evolution of leaflet propaganda. It’s easy to get a message across, easy to spread that message and plays into existing biases.

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Defense Technical Information Center

Memes are an easy way to share an idea, a fast way to convey a message and, in some cases, a way for the idea to propagate itself and spread in a viral way, whether the idea or message has any real basis in reality. 

They are also readily accepted by those with existing cognitive biases. Humans embrace information that already confirms their view of the world, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. When someone sees a meme with a message that shares their views, they are more apt to share it. 

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People are also more likely to accept ideas shared by official sources and famous people, a phenomenon known as popularity bias. In general terms, everyone wants to be associated with a popular idea, and internet memes are no different. 

Nieubuurt argues that internet memes and their easy shareability are an ideal tool for disseminating ideas to a wide audience across various social media platforms. Since they can be created, used, disseminated and remixed by anyone with internet access, state actors will naturally have an interest in using memes as part of any psy-op plan. 

One of the foreign influence operations to use memes as a tool was the Russian interference campaign in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Internet Research Agency.

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But perhaps the best reason for using memes as a tool of propaganda is the relative anonymity of its creator. The more viral a meme gets, the further and further away it gets from its origin. So whether or not the information in the meme is true or if its source lacks credibility, it soon becomes so far removed from the creator, that the sources become almost irrelevant.

Basically… Regina George in Mean Girls

In these ways, memes can be used to create and reinforce the legitimacy of certain ideas or policies to the benefit or detriment of political or geopolitical friends and enemies. Whether it aids a political candidate or undermines the government’s coronavirus response, there is always an intended goal in mind for any psychological operations campaign. Memes are just a cheap, easy way to reach those goals.

So the next time you’re considering sharing that viral meme, consider that you might be aiding a foreign intelligence service – and wonder what their goal could be.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Massive Russian wargames signal worries about NATO

The Russian military is getting ready for what is said to be an “unprecedented” military exercise, but as thousands of men and machines gather in Russia’s east, leaders in Moscow may be increasingly concerned about what’s going on in the West.

Early August 2018, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called the upcoming Vostok-2018, or East-2018, exercises “the largest preparatory action for the armed forces since Zapad-81,” referring to a Soviet military exercise in 1981 involving about 100,000 to 150,000 troops, according to a CIA estimate at the time.


Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the Vostok-2018 exercise, scheduled for Sept. 11-15, 2018, will have some similarities to Zapad-81 but involve vastly more personnel.

“In some ways, they resemble the Zapad-81 drills but in other ways they are, perhaps, even larger,” Shoigu said, according to Russian state-owned media outlet Tass.

“Over 1,000 aircraft, almost 300,000 servicemen at almost all the training ranges of the Central and Eastern Military Districts and, naturally, the Pacific and Northern Fleets and the Airborne Force will be fully employed.”

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Russian troops participating in Zapad-2017.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The Russian military has already begun evaluating its forces’ combat readiness and logistical support with “snap inspections” that involve special drills and are done under the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Just imagine that 36,000 pieces of military hardware are simultaneously in motion: these are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all this is, naturally, checked in conditions close to a combat environment,” Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, according to Tass.

Russia has invited military attaches from NATO countries to observe the upcoming exercises — an offer that a NATO spokesman told Reuters was under consideration.

Russia conducted another large-scale exercise, Zapad-17, or West-17, in September 2017. About 70,000 personnel took part in that — though only about 13,000 of them were part of the main event that took place in Belarus and western Russia. (The number of troops involved became a point of contention between Russia and NATO.)

Russian forces will not be the only ones taking part this time around. Chinese and Mongolian units will also take part, with Beijing reportedly sending more than 3,000 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 pieces of other military hardware.

Chinese participation in Russian military exercises “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Aug, 28, 2018, according to Tass.

‘It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time’

Peskov was asked if the expense of the Vostok-18 exercise was necessary at a time when Russia’s economy is struggling and demands for more social spending are rising.

“The social security network and the pension system are a constant element of state policy and a very important component,” Peskov responded, according to Tass. “But the country’s defense capability in the current international situation, which is frequently quite aggressive and unfriendly for our country, is justified, needed and has no alternative.”

Russia has consistently condemned Western military activity and NATO maneuvers as provocative, but Peskov’s reply may hint at a growing unease in Moscow, which is still uncertain about President Donald Trump as it watches the defense alliance deploy an array of units to its eastern flank.

Trump has signaled a conciliatory stance toward Russia and hostility toward NATO, but those attitudes haven’t translated significantly into US or NATO policy.

“We don’t like the picture we are seeing,” Vladimir Frolov, an independent political analyst in Moscow, told Defense News.

“NATO is getting serious about its combat capabilities and readiness levels. Trump may trash NATO and his European allies,” he said, “but it is the capabilities that matter, and those have been growing under Trump.”

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President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, July 16, 2018.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

NATO members have been boosting their defense spending and working to build military readiness — moves stoked recently by the combination of uncertainty about Trump and concern about assertive Russian action, like the incursion in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO troops, including US forces, are practicing tactics that have been little used since the Cold War. A number of former Soviet republics have embraced the West. NATO units have forward deployed to the alliance’s eastern flank, and Poland has even offered to pay to host a permanent US military presence.

Some European countries are also debating augmenting their own militaries and defense sectors. Germany, long averse to a large military footprint, is looking to recruit more troops, and some there have restarted debate about whether Berlin should seek its own nuclear-weapons capability.

Moscow has long used confrontation with the West to bolster its domestic political standing, and many leaders in the West have come to identify Russia as a main geopolitical foe — a dynamic that is likely to perpetuate tensions.

Early 2018 Russian officials called military exercises involving NATO and Ukrainian personnel “an attempt to once again provoke tension in southeastern Ukraine and in the entire Black Sea region” and said “countries … constantly accusing Russia of threatening regional stability shall be held responsible for possible negative consequences.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White told Reuters that countries have a right to conduct military exercises, “but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner.”

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict,” White added. “It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This is what it’s like for families of terrorists

“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”


In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.

Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.

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Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?

Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.

Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.

“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.

“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine

As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.

“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.

“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”

Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.

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A young boy pushes a cart outside of a market in Mosul, Iraq, July 4, 2017. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.

“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”

“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”

Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.

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Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.

“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”

Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.

But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.

“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”

Articles

This is who wins in a dogfight between the French Rafale and the Eurofighter

While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.


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A Royal Air Force Typhoon in 2012. Peter Gronemann/Flickr photo

The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.

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A French Dassault Rafale performs a touch-and-go landing. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell)

The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.

MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.

Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.

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A bomb-laden Royal Air Force Typhoon F.2 fighter takes off for an evening mission here June 3 during Green Flag 08-07. During Green Flag, the RAF proved the Typhoons’ air-to-ground capabilities and combat readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery)

Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.

Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wWkHKYcvos
Articles

Mattis says ISIS militants are caught in a military vise

Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.


Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.

In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.

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DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”

Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”

Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.

The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.

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Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”

Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.

“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”

It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

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ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.

In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.

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Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.

With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.

“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here’s what Tom Selleck would have been like as Indiana Jones

Prior to filming Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980, director Steven Spielberg and writer George Lucas really, really didn’t want to cast as Harrison Ford as Indy. Instead, they wanted that guy who your mom thought was hot in the ’70s, Mr. Magnum P.I. himself, Tom Selleck. Selleck famously screen-tested for the character of Indiana Jones, but because he was locked into a contract with Magnum P.I., he couldn’t take the role! Spielberg and Lucas brought in Harrison Ford just a few weeks before filming. (Lucas didn’t want to, because he’d already cast Ford in the Star Wars movies.) The rest is history, and Harrison Ford’s (other) famous franchise was born.


But what if Selleck had been cast? A new “deepfake” video created by YouTube user Sham00K is answering that question and making the rounds on the internet. It digitally plasters Selleck’s ’80s face — including the famous mustache — over Harrison Ford’s. It’s basically a way to see (but not hear, Ford’s voice is still audible) an alternate dimension in which Selleck played Indy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD5qDnk2wVw
If Tom Selleck had said yes to ‘Indiana Jones’ instead of Harrison Ford

www.youtube.com

You can also watch Selleck’s screen test for Raiders with actress Sean Young below. This has been around for a while and is relevant to this thought experiment because Tom Selleck’s voice is super-distinctive in a way that is totally different than Harrison Ford. (It’s also interesting because though Karen Allen, not Sean Young, ended up playing Marion, Young did star opposite Harrison Ford in Blade Runner a few years later in 1982. So many roads not taken in these ’80s movies!)

Raiders Of The Lost Ark – Memories of the casting

www.youtube.com

The new “deepfake” video also assumes that there would have been Indiana Jones movies after Raiders of the Lost Ark; it features digitally altered scenes of Tom Selleck in both Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. But, let’s get serious. Tom Selleck is fine, but the reason there were sequels to Raiders of the Lost Ark is because of the singular charm and deadpan coolness of Harrison Ford. Meaning, the idea of digitally inserting Selleck into Temple of Doom and Last Crusade is anachronistic, twice.

We’re still a long way out from a new Indy movie, but most of the old ones are still on Netflix!

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the site the 2020 Mars rover will explore

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five year search, during which every available detail of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions — and past microbial life — but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.


“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

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On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera.

(NASA photo)

Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the “sky crane” descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

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A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

(NASA photo)

“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest — places with the most interesting geological features, for example — where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

More information about NASA’s exploration of Mars is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Lists

10 awesome songs we listened to while ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’

Gearing up to head out on a vital mission, clearing operation, or standard foot patrol to take down enemy forces comes with a lot of excitement and no shortage of anxiety.


You can’t exactly watch TV to take your mind off things, so music plays a key factor in lifting spirits and keeping Marines hungry for the fight.

Related: 4 times armies blasted music to intimidate and infuriate their enemies

My brothers in 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and I faced many major obstacles while serving during our combat deployment in Sangin, Afghanistan.

So check out the music playlist that kept our morale high and our motivation pumping as we were “Bangin’ in Sangin.”

1. DMX – “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem”

Great while setting up a vehicle check point.

(DMXVEVO, Youtube)

2. Outkast – “Bombs over Baghdad”

An awesome song to play while dropping mortars on the bad guy’s position.

(GeneralGibbs, Youtube)

3. Katy Perry – “California Gurls”

Best song for Hollywood Marines to listen to when they think about them California girls.

Don’t judge — you know she’s catchy as hell. (KatyPerryVEVO, YouTube)

4. Ludacris – “Roll Out”

When you’re “Oscar Mike” in two minutes and need that extra burst of motivation.

(LudacrisVEVO, YouTube)

5. AC/DC – “Thunderstuck”

Best to listen to after a productive enemy engagement. OO-RAH!

(acdcVEVO, YouTube)

6. E-40 – “Go Hard or Go Home”

Awesome to listen to at the gym or when you want to make a legit deployment dance video.

(Alex Burock, YouTube)

7. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”

A good song for all occasions.

(SurvivorVEVO, Youtube)

8. Trick Daddy – “Let’s Go!”

When you’re beggin’ the bad guys to shoot at you.

(HQmvideo, YouTube)

9. Seether – “Out of my way”

Perfect right before gearing up for a patrol or clearing operation.

(Randomgunz, YouTube)

10. Kanye West – “Stronger”

When you survived another day in the suck. (That beard though.)

(KanyeWestVEVO, YouTube) 

Here’s the playlist in one convenient location. You’re welcome.

What music did you listen to while taking down the bad guys? Comment below.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Trump asked the actual war fighters about Afghanistan

Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.


When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.

Mattis rolled his eyes.

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The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.

“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.

On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

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From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.

(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”

“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”

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The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”

So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.

“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The number of US troops with the coronavirus more than quadrupled in a week

The number of coronavirus cases in the US military is on the rise, the latest Department of Defense figures show.

In just a week’s time, the number of cases among US service members has more than quadrupled.


On March 23, the number of US troops that had the coronavirus was 133. A week later, the number of current cases has jumped to 569.

Across the entire Department of Defense, the number of coronavirus cases is also more than four times what it was a week ago.

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Screen shot of DoD coronavirus figures from COVID-19 fact sheet

DoD

In addition to the more than 500 military personnel who have the virus, the Pentagon reports that 220 civilian employees, 190 dependents, and 64 contractors have it.

As of last Monday, only 44 civilian personnel, 35 dependents, and 31 contractors had the coronavirus.

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Screen shot of DoD coronavirus figures from COVID-19 fact sheet

DoD

The number of military personnel who have been hospitalized has jumped from four to 26 in the past week, doubling from 12 on Friday. Hospitalizations among civilian employees, dependents, and contractors have also increased.

Among US troops, 34 service members have recovered. Across DoD, a total of 42 people have recovered from the virus. There have been no deaths among military or civilian personnel, but the coronavirus has killed a dependent and a contractor.

One of the more heavily affected service branches has been the Navy, which has suffered outbreaks not only aboard pier-side ships but also aboard a deployed ship. A coronavirus outbreak aboard the Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt forced the flattop to make port in Guam, where the entire crew is being tested for the virus.

While the Department of Defense is releasing daily coronavirus figures, Military Times reported that it has opted not to further disclose granular details that the department says could potentially give adversaries an advantage.

The coronavirus that first appeared in China has spread to more than 740,000 people and killed over 35,000 people worldwide. In the US, the number of cases has exceeded 140,000 with well over 2,000 dead.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

WATCH

This is what it was like to fire a Civil War cannon

Today’s artillery can really reach out and touch someone. The M777 lightweight 155mm howitzer, for instance, can hit targets over 18.5 miles away. That howitzer has a crew of seven, and the rounds it fires vary widely from high-explosive rounds to smoke, and some of these rounds can be guided by either a laser seeker or GPS. There was even a shell called the W48, a nuke that delivered the equivalent of 72 tons of TNT onto a target!


Such stuff would be incomprehensible to soldiers firing the most common cannon of the Civil War, the 12-pounder Model 1857 Napoleon. This cannon had a crew of seven (although this could be adjusted), and it could reach out to about a mile. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

 

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Pfc. Erik Park from San Mateo, Calif., fires his M777 155 mm howitzer at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E Sept. 3, 2011. Photo by Spc. Ken Scar.

 

Still, in some ways, the crews’ duties haven’t changed over the years. Some people have to load the cannon, others have to prep it for firing. This 2011 Marine Corps story describes the nine-step process of firing the M777.

Also read: This Civil War vet walked around with a bullet in his face for 31 years

The process for firing a Model 1857 Napoleon is not much different. According to a National Park Service publication outlining the process for demonstrations, the selected round is loaded, and the crews prep the gun for firing. The big difference is the fact that the Civil War cannon usually needs to be swabbed, largely because it is muzzle-loaded. This was to prevent a spark from prematurely igniting the cannon’s powder charge.

 

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The M1857 12-pounder Napoleon, probably the most common artillery piece of the Civil War. (Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY FIT

6 pieces of equipment you need for your home gym

It’s proven that working out three to five times a weeks increases morale, decreases waistlines, and can even help save money in medical bills over time.

Nowadays, going to the gym can be a freakin’ hassle. You have to get into the car, drive through traffic, fight off some of the other gym patrons for time on the machines, and hope you don’t get sick from all the bacteria that covers the various plastic workout benches.

To add to that, many military and civilian gyms have a lot of restrictions against doing awesome reasonable things like taking your shirt off or grunting while lifting heavy loads. Let’s face it, when we deploy to a combat zone, we usually grunt as loud as we want to — for motivation — and we work out without our shirts. It shows off the “guns.”

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Since many veterans want the freedom of doing whatever the f*ck they want to do during their workouts, the idea of working out at a judge-free area, like at home, is catching on within the fitness world. Many people have decided to build home gyms to combat the unique crowd that tends to flock to the gym just to text message their friend while sitting on the flat bench.

That sh*t gets annoying.

So here’s the basic breakdown of what you need in any home gym.

Also Read: Here’s how working out every day can save you money

www.youtube.com

Treadmill

Aerobic activity is the most critical type of exercises on the planet. It has been clinically proven to boost brain function and stimulate good heart health. Now, you don’t have to purchase a treadmill because you can run outside all you want for free.

The upside to buying a quality treadmill is that it’s specialized belt system can protect your knees from injury. Running is considered one of the most high-impact activities our bodies can be put through, and we want to protect our lower body joints.

Squat rack with straight bar mounts

This is one of the most essential pieces of equipment you’ll find it any gym and has several practical uses. Since there are several types of squat racks to choose from, you’ll want to find one that fits your budget and contains the various physical components you’ll need for your specific workouts.

To get the most out of your squat rack, look for one that has adjustable straight bar mounts. This means you can do both leg squats and bench press without having to purchase two separate stations. This will save you space in your home gym (and money — you’re welcome).

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The multi-angle workout bench.

Amazon

Multi-angle workout bench

You know when you walk into the gym, and you see a variety of workout benches scattered throughout the facility? In a home gym, you need to find a way to get all the various versions of those benches to hit all the angles of your chest. It’s a good thing the bright minds in the fitness industry have already combined a condensed version of the workout bench with a multi-angle one.

These multi-angle benches can move from a 17-degree decline to 90-degree incline in seconds. Having this piece of equipment will save you time and space in your home gym.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_8T925OpdU

www.youtube.com

Dip station and pull up bar

This machine is one of the most famous pieces of equipment you can find in any gym. As long as you have enough headroom to house this tall standing workout station, you can work your back, triceps, and lower chest, and get a complete ab workout.

It’s worth having if you can fit it.

A television set

We know this isn’t a piece of workout equipment. However, watching TV during a workout can take your mind off the fact that you’re working out if you’re not a fan of the activity. On a positive note, watching TV doing a workout can motivate you if you see an attractive person on the screen and you want to look like them one day.

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Bowflex selectTech 552

Amazon

Multi-weight dumbbells

Would you rather have a few dozen dumbbells laying around, or have a set of multi-weight ones taking up a small percentage of space in your garage or spare bedroom? The upside to having these multi-weight dumbbells is you can go from five-pounds to 55-pounds just by turning a dial.

The downside is, these weights aren’t a tough as standard dumbbells. Meaning, after you finish your set, you don’t want to drop these weights on the floor as they work off of a gear system and the plates could fall off. If you can avoid this issue, the weights will last you for years.

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