NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8, 2018 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.


“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
Artist’s impression of how Mars may have looked four billion years ago

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

Seasonal Methane Releases

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.

“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”

Finding Organic Molecules

To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.

SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.

In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.

For video and images of the findings, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mediaresources

Information on NASA’s Mars activities is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

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

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This Marine single-handedly cleared a rooftop in Fallujah

During the second battle of Fallujah, then-Marine Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger singlehandedly cleared part of a house filled with insurgents in a heroic action that was recommended for the nation’s highest military award.


Upon entering an insurgent-infested house in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004, Adlesperger pushed forward despite the death of his point man and the wounding of two others. Adlesperger, wounded in the face by grenade fragments, then single-handedly cleared a stairway and a rooftop, throwing grenades and shooting at insurgents while under blistering fire.

You can read the full account of what Adlesperger did that day here.

 

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This common health concern hits vets more than anyone — but nobody talks about it

Not feeling “in the mood” when your partner is trying to get you there. Erectile dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction.

There are a lot of ways to describe it, but there’s no denying what it is. For many men, sexuality is tied to masculinity — it’s a part of a man’s identity — and not getting there can shake a returning veteran’s confidence at every level.

Despite all of the pharmaceutical ads that make the issue seem like it’s an “old man’s problem,” it hits younger veterans — even those in their 20s — at an alarming rate. It might not make the best dinnertime conversation, but there’s no shame in it. It’s a very real problem for veterans of all ages and it’s something that you shouldn’t avoid discussing with your significant other — or a healthcare professional, at the very least.


This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

The loss of confidence in one major aspect could be the catalyst in sending veteran spiraling downwards.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Mauricio Campino)

There are two primary causes of erectile dysfunction: There’s the physiological component that affects blood circulation, preventing it from reaching the right spots at the right moment. This aspect is most common among older men, men who maintain sedentary lifestyles, and those who make unhealthy lifestyle choices — like smoking two packs a day, eating fast food five times a week, and generally avoiding exercise. A gym membership or walking the dog an extra lap around the block can do wonders for that, but that’s a conversation best held between you and a medical professional.

The problem that hits many returning veterans is rooted in psychological trauma — and it’s an often-neglected side effect of post-traumatic stress. It seems pretty obvious when you think about it, right? Nobody wants to think about sex when their mind is still back in the war.

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

And, well, if your mind is here… it’s not in the bedroom.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Follow our logic here for a little more understanding: If you’re a veteran, think back to your days at boot camp or basic training. Chances are high that you didn’t sport wood a single time during the entire nine weeks. While there, you probably caught wind of some BS rumor about saltpeter being put in the drinking water to prevent it from happening, but the logical side of your brain knew that it was because of the stress you were enduring.

Take that same stress and amplify it by the daily struggles that veterans who live with post-traumatic stress deal with. Of course, the severity of the situation varies. It ranges from just having the occasional “bad night” that a veteran would rather just sleep off to replaying a single tragic moment over and over, like some kind of broken record from Hell.

It’s becoming a little easier to understand how common this issue really is among veterans, right?

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

(U.S. Navy)

Whatever your case, not getting your private to stand at the position of attention really isn’t something to be ashamed of. Have an open dialogue with your significant other. Ask for their patience, their understanding, and their help in getting you to relax — foreplay is a two-way street, after all.

If you’re still having difficulties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s actually an extremely common thing brought up at the VA and there are plenty of treatment options out there.

If you’re interested in clinically tested medication, you can try the solutions offered by hims for just for the first month. hims will connect you with US-based, licensed doctors online so that you can find the right solution for you from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

And remember, there actually is a rating for ED that can only be brought up by talking to a medical professional.

This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make it through Special Forces selection

Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?

The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:

  1. I really DID want to stay in the Army
  2. I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army

    It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (Special Forces Regimental insignia)

    That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.

    Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!

    Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)

    There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.

    Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.

    “Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.

    Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.

    “Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.

    “Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.

    “Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.

    “Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.

    The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.

    We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)

    The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.

    Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)

    We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.

    Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.

    Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.

    “Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)

    Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.

    Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.

    The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)

    I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:

    • time equals distance
    • hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
    • zero time equals zero distance
    • choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure

    I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.

    I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.

    I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.

    Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.

    I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.

    By Almighty God and with honor, geo sends

    This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Just ‘Greens’: Why the Army changed the name of new uniform

    The U.S. Army‘s new uniform may look a lot like the iconic pinks-and-greens worn during World War II, but senior leaders decided to drop the pinks and go with Army Greens as the official name.

    Pinks and greens “was a World War II nickname given to it by the soldiers because one of the sets of pants had a pink hue to them. So that is where it came from,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said recently.

    The Army Greens, which will become the new service uniform in 2028, will feature taupe-colored pants and a green jacket.


    The current blue Army Service Uniform, or ASU, will become the optional dress uniform and undergo a name change of its own, Dailey said.

    Officials are working on the wear regulations for both uniforms. Once Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley approves them, the service will release All Army Activities, or ALARACT, messages online so soldiers can “click and see the updates to the new regulations,” Dailey said.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    Prototypes of the Army Greens uniform, shown above. Initial fielding of the new uniform is expected to occur in the summer of 2020.

    (US Army photo by Ron Lee)

    “So basically, we are dusting off old regulations. We will take a look at them. We have a few more decisions we have to present to the chief of staff before we can publish those,” he said, adding that the regulation on the ASU will include a new name for the uniform. “It will not be called the Army Service Uniform anymore. It will probably go back to the dress blues.”

    The ASU became mandatory for wear in 2014, replacing the Army dress green uniform, which saw 61 years of service.

    The service plans to begin issuing the Army Greens to new soldiers in summer 2020. Troops will also have the option to begin buying the new uniform at that time.

    The next step, though, will be to issue the new uniform to about 200 recruiters who will wear the Army Greens for a few months and then provide feedback for possible last-minute changes to the final design, officials said.

    This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    This Iranian official says the nuclear deal collapse is ‘dangerous’

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has told domestic entrepreneurs that the collapse of the 2015 nuclear deal would have “very dangerous consequences” for the country.

    “We can talk the deal up, or talk it down. But we should know that a failure of the deal will have very dangerous consequences for us,” Zarif told a meeting of entrepreneurs at the Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran on June 24, 2018.

    “This is certainly not the [Iranian political] system’s choice,” said Zarif, who helped write the landmark deal with six global powers.


    Zarif did not specify what the damages would be, but he said a failure of the deal could leave Iran politically isolated.

    U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled his country out of the landmark nuclear deal that provided Iran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    U.S. President Donald Trump
    (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

    Trump said he was unhappy with the terms of the deal and with Iran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles and its support for militants in the Middle East.

    Iran has denied it backs insurgents in the region and said its nuclear program was only for civilian purposes.

    Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia also signed the deal and have pledged to remain in the accord.

    However, many companies have pulled out of Iran for fear of being hit by U.S. sanctions if they do business with Tehran.

    Iran has been negotiating with European Union leaders and other officials in hopes of keeping the deal alive and of receiving economic assurances.

    President Hassan Rohani is expected to visit Switzerland and Austria in July as part of Tehran’s efforts to ensure continued European support for the deal.

    This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

    MIGHTY FIT

    Try this killer treadmill workout – especially if you’ve got bad knees

    Go backward for a better burn

    Have you ever seen someone go backwards on a treadmill? I’m sure you have, and you may have thought to yourself, “What is that idiot doing?!” Well, according to researchers from South Africa, they are not idiots after all. In fact, you may consider doing some backwards cardio from time to time — especially if you’re getting over a knee problem.

    The researchers had 39 subjects with various knee injuries follow a rehabilitation program that involved either forward- or backward-pedaling on the treadmill and elliptical machines. They reported at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine that the group going backwards increased their aerobic capacity by 10% more than the forward group. The backward group also increased their quad and hamstring strength more than the forward group.


    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (Flickr photo by OIST)

    Jim’s take-home point

    If you have a knee injury or are getting over a knee injury you should definitely consider going backwards on the treadmill and elliptical from time to time. But even if you have no knee injuries you still might consider going backwards, not just to mix it up but the boost your leg strength more and even your aerobic capacity. The elliptical is the easiest to do this on. For the treadmill, be sure to start slow until you get the hang of it and gradually increase your speed. You can also go backwards on the track or anywhere outdoors, just be careful about what’s behind you.

    Source: Terblanche, E., et al. Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, 2011.

    Go manual for more muscle

    One thing that I preach is doing shorter — but more frequent — bouts of cardio throughout the day.

    This will actually help you burn off more fat than just doing one long cardio session. If you have followed my advice here, you may have looked into purchasing a treadmill for your home so that you can get in your cardio workouts at any time of day. But maybe you were daunted by the price tag. After all, many quality, motorized treadmills can cost you more than id=”listicle-2627551358″,000.

    I have some good news for you — the best treadmill that you can buy may be closer to just 0

    This kind of treadmill is known as a manual treadmill. Yes, the kind that you have to keep going with your own leg power. It’s no frills and no thrills, but the two studies below show why manual or non-motorized treadmills are better than their motorized counterparts.

    First, University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) researchers compared the calories burned and heart rate during walking at similar speeds on a motorized treadmill versus a non-motorized treadmill. They reported that the non-motorized treadmill lead to a 20% higher increase in heart rate and a 40% greater calorie burn! So forget about running on the motorized treadmill, using a non-motorized one will give you more a workout for faster fat loss.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    (Flickr photo by David Ohmer)

    Researchers from Carroll University, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, measured muscle activity of the vastus lateralis — one of the four quadriceps muscles — the hamstrings and gastrocnemius (calf muscles) when subjects walked on a standard, motorized treadmill and on a non-motorized treadmill. They discovered that the non-motorized treadmill increased muscle activity of the quads by over 50% more and muscle activity of the calves and hamstrings by 100% more than the motorized treadmill. This means that using a non-motorized treadmill to do your cardio on can also help you to bring up your quads, hams and calves development.

    Jim’s take-home point

    A harder workout, bigger leg muscles, more calories burned, and the cost can be as low as 0—why wouldn’t you get a manual treadmill?! Try doing a few 10-minute bouts of sprinting HIIT workouts on one of these bad boys and you will feel it in your legs for sure and see it on, er off your waist.

    Source: Snyder, A. C., et al. Energy expenditure while walking on a non-motorized treadmill. Annual Meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2010.

    Source: Edilbeck, B. P., et al. Comparison of muscle electromyography during walking on a motorized and non-motorized treadmill. Annual Meeting of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, 2011.

    This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.

    Articles

    The inside joke names that soldiers have for different unit patches

    For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.


    The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.

    Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.

    1. “Leaning Sh-thouse” — 1st Theater Sustainment Command

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

    The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.

    2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

    The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.

    3. “Four Lieutenants Pointing North” — 4th Infantry Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

    4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.

    4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

    This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.

    5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

    You see it. You know you do.

    6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

    Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.

    7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

    Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”

    8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

    Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.

    9. “Alcoholics Anonymous” — 82nd Airborne Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: US Army D. Myles Cullen

    The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.

    10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.

    Articles

    It will make you angry to learn how a veteran lost $100k in benefits

    Before you read any further, the lesson here is don’t listen to anyone with an opinion about your VA benefits. Even when the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a “final” decision on your case, you can still appeal. So, don’t listen to your Staff Sergeant. Anyone still wearing a uniform is not an expert on your personal VA claim.


    Unfortunately, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. That’s where Moses Maddox comes in. Maddox is more than just a veteran who advocates for his fellow vets. For almost a decade, the former Marine has built a career in helping other veterans with personal, academic, financial, and success counseling through various organizations.

    Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

    Maddox talked to us about finding your veteran community, managing our veteran ego, and how to thrive in your post-military life. He talked to David Letterman about his experience, so we’re grateful he took a moment to sit down with us on the Mandatory Fun podcast.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    Yeah, we’re totally on the same level.
    (Worldwide Pants)

    Maddox believes we’ve come a long way and the military is getting better at preparing us for our post-military lives. The problem in his mind is that the military is designed to weed out the weak among us and the weakness in ourselves, a necessary process to prepare military members for what they may have to do. But once you’re out, that process proves detrimental – the perception that mental issues are weaknesses is what keeps us from addressing those problems.

    The greatest challenges he faced when transitioning out of the Marine Corps stemmed from his admitted lack of planning. He set a countdown to his EAS date and was excited as the day approached. When it came, he felt nothing. He was so fixated on getting out that he didn’t have a plan for what he was going to actually do when the day came.

    Over the course of two months, he went from handing out millions in humanitarian aid to handing out gym memberships at an LA Fitness.

    “The nothingness and monotony of civilian life has just as much potential to beat you down as war did,” Maddox says. It’s a refrain he tells to many transitioning veterans. When the military is gone, the silence is the biggest hurdle.

    But all that changed. One day, Maddox drove to the VA to see if they could help him. When he was there, a Vietnam veteran saw the despair in his eyes — and told him that the feeling was normal. No one had ever told him that his struggles were normal and treatable. So, armed with this knowledge, Maddox took care of it.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    IAVA Member Veterans Moses Maddox (L) and Dave Smith attend IAVA’s Sixth Annual Heroes Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 13, 2012 in New York City.

    Now he advocates for veterans in many areas of post-military life. He looks back on his service fondly, but acknowledges that the Marine Corps was not the only thing he had going for him. Helping people is his passion, helping veterans is now his life’s work.

    Learn more about Moses Maddox and how he discovered his “new why” on this episode of Mandatory Fun.

    Resources Mentioned

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    Share your thoughts about this episode on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    5 items to make your field exercise less miserable

    Let’s face it; no one actually likes going to the field. Round-the-clock operations, sleeping on the ground, and spending way too much time with the people you work with can take its toll. Next time you prep for the field, be sure to consider bringing these items to make your field experience a little more bearable. Just be sure that they’re not contraband. Sergeant Major yelling at you is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.


    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    Mags, check. Plates, check. Gloves, check. Jetboil, check (Jetboil)

    1. Portable stove

    In most cases, a portable stove is an approved item to bring to the field. One of the most common stoves is the convenient Jetboil. Available in a variety of sizes and powered by easily-packed fuel canisters, Jetboil stoves can be used to boil water to warm MREs, cook instant ramen, make coffee, and even shave with (just be sure to boil more water and wash it out afterwards). Also, be careful operating it so that you don’t end up like Cpl. Ray Person after Rudy’s espresso machine went off like a 40 mike mike (if you know, you know).

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    They fold flat and can easily be stuffed in an assault pack (Rothco)

    2. Folding stool

    Look, laying in the prone for hours sucks, especially if the ground is cold, wet, and full of bugs. Some grunts and snake eaters live for that sort of thing, but for those of us that don’t, there’s the folding stool. When you come off the line and into the center of the patrol base for some chow, a stool to sit on is a simple luxury that can make all the difference. Plus, you won’t have to fight with your buddies over who gets to sit on the few remaining unopened MRE boxes. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might even consider popping a squat on your folding stool while pulling security. Just don’t get caught.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    Maybe bring a spare pack for your buddies (Pampers)

    3. Baby wipes

    This one is almost a given, but you’d be surprised how often troops forget their baby wipes. If you do forget them, you’d better hope your buddies are willing to share theirs. Otherwise, it’s the MRE napkins for you. Aside from helping you answer nature’s call, baby wipes also provide the cooling relief of a “field shower”, which can be all you need to unwind after a day of patrols. If you’ll be wearing face camo during your time in the field, consider packing makeup wipes as well. They’re better suited for cutting through the thick and waxy face paint than regular baby wipes.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    The Iceman knows the value of a can of Beefaroni (HBO)

    4. Civilian food

    Again, this one is almost a given. That said, packing lists can sometimes explicitly forbid bringing any type of food, so read yours carefully…or just hide your food well. Sunflower seeds can help relieve boredom when you’re static for hours on end, beef jerky can keep you going during those long foot patrols, and a can of Chef Boyardee (heated with your portable stove) might be the morale boost you need to make it through the final days of your op. Need a convenient way to carry your food while having it easily accessible? Consider adding a magazine dump pouch to your kit. Just don’t let First Sergeant catch you pulling gummy worms out of it.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    The famous Gulf War Gameboy is completely original (Nintendo)

    5. Nintendo Gameboy

    Or really, whatever portable game system you want. I’ve seen everything from PSPs in sunglasses cases to a Switch stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. That said, an old-school Gameboy offers you an easily concealable platform, absurdly long battery life, and the chance to beat the Elite Four again. A Gameboy can also be quickly switched off and shoved into your pocket or an empty mag pouch if you see your squad leader coming towards your position.

    By no means is this an all-encompassing list. Really, the best items to bring with you on a field exercise are the things that will make you happy, whether that be a book, a photograph, or fuzzy socks to sleep in. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, pay attention to your packing list…and your surroundings.


    MIGHTY TACTICAL

    Leaked photo shows China is building a new supercarrier

    The Chinese shipbuilder that’s constructing Beijing’s third aircraft carrier, Type 002, leaked an artist’s impression of that carrier on social media in late June 2018 that heightened intrigue about China’s naval ambitions before quickly taking it down.

    The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation photo showed the future Type 002 with a large flight deck that featured an angled landing strip and three electro-magentic catapult launching systems — all of which represent a technologic leap to the kind of supercarriers fielded by the US Navy.


    It’s expected to be a 70,000-ton ship that’s finished by 2021, if all goes according to plan.

    Compare that to China’s second carrier, Type 001A — it has a built-in ski jump on the flight deck and uses an old-fashioned short take-off but arrested recovery launching system that limits the speed of launches and the size of the armaments fighters carry.

    Type 002’s features will be much more advanced than Type 001A , allowing the People’s Liberation Army-Navy to deploy a greater number and variety of aircraft — and to deploy the aircraft more quickly. If the supercarrier works as planned — and that’s a big, if — it would make the Chinese navy one of the most powerful in the world.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

    Type 001A aircraft carrier after launch at Dalian in 2017.

    And this appears to be just the beginning.

    China has grand ambitions for a world-class navy, and is even building a fourth carrier , which will reportedly be nuclear-powered and possibly match the specifications of the US’ Nimitz-class carriers the US Navy has operated for half a century.

    A modern supercarrier would leap China ahead of Russia, which has only one carrier that’s breakdown-prone, to rival only France and the United States, the only navies that boast nuclear-powered supercarriers that launch planes with catapults.

    The “interesting question is what do they intend these carriers to do,” Daniel Kliman, a senior fellow in the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider. “What would it enable China to achieve?”

    “A lot of it’s prestige,” Kliman said. And prestige is also about domestic politics.

    “There’s a lot of popular attention in China to its carrier program,” said Kliman, who added that a supercarrier is also an effective means to project power in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, much as the US has used them for decades.

    “Beyond that, China does see a real need to protect its far-flung investments and protect market access overseas,” Kliman said. “Carriers are certainly useful in that role.”

    Whatever the intentions, these supercarriers would vastly expand China’s ability to project power into contested areas at sea and to fly missions overland.

    “Either they’re going to try to take the fight to the enemy or it’s about prestige,” Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, told Business Insider, adding that it’s probably “a little bit of both.”

    Wertheim said that people were seen crying when China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned because “there was such pride.”

    Wertheim and Kliman also agreed that China would initially use their current and future carriers to project power in the East and South China Seas, especially the latter.

    Ultimately though, China really doesn’t need carriers to achieve its territorial objectives in the East and South China Seas. “Everything’s within land-based aircraft,” Kliman said.

    So “is their goal to just dominate Asia” or to project power in other waters? Wertheim asked.

    In 2017, China opened an overseas military base (its first ever overseas base) in Africa, where it continues to invest and compete for interest.

    “We really don’t know what [China’s] intention [are],” Wertheim said.

    Featured image: An artist’s impression of Type 002.

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

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

    In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.


    It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.

    Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.

    Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.

    Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”

    Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.

    Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.

    Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.

    But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.

    On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.

    The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.

    Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.

    The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.

    “There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”

    The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.

    During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.

    Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.

    “U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

    Radicalized In Pakistan

    The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

    The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.

    The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.

    The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

    Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.

    The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.

    War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.

    But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.

    The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.

    Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.

    ‘We Were All Scared’

    Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.

    Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.

    “We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”

    Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.

    “It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”

    During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.

    The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.

    U.S.-Led Invasion

    The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

    By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.

    By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.

    The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.

    Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.

    Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.

    Negotiating An End To War

    In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.

    But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.

    For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.

    Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.

    “The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.

    “The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”

    Road Map For Afghanistan

    The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.

    More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.

    But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.

    “The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.

    But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”

    Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.

    Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.

    There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.

    The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.

    The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.

    “There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”

    Red Lines

    The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.

    Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.

    But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.

    Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.

    Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.

    “Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”

    Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.

    “I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

    “Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”

    This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

    MIGHTY HISTORY

    This is the sad story behind the Great Buddhas of Afghanistan

    There aren’t many bucket list destinations in Afghanistan, but before 2001, there were at least two man-made wonders that were revered around the world.


    Built in Bamyan around the 2nd century, they were some of the largest standing Buddha carvings in the world. The Buddhist Kingdom in the “Graveyard of Empires” withstood many attacks. That was until Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban in 1996.

    The region was a part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire. The Bamyan region was directly on the Silk Road and was a hub for Buddhism, with tens of thousands of monks worship at the site.

    The valley was home to several monasteries. The intricate cave system throughout the cliffs were beautifully decorated and painted.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    The caves even hold some of the world’s oldest oil paintings. (Image via Digital Journal)

    Many kingdoms seized control of the region, but it was the Huns who decimated the local population — but left the statues. The Mughal Empire would be the first to attack the statues in the 18th century. Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and Persian King Nader Afshar would both order attacks to destroy the statues.

    Afghan King Abdur Rahman Khan ordered the destruction of the faces and many of the cave oil paintings. This is how they remained for centuries. Although Islam became the dominant religion, most Afghan people loved the statues — not because of faith, but because they were iconic.

    NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars
    A drawing by Alexander Burnes in 1832 sparked curiosity and travel to the region. (Image via Wikicommons)

    Then the Taliban took over and declared them idols.

    Mirza Hussain was from the town of Bamyan and a prisoner of the Taliban at the time. He told the BBC of how they captured him.

    They forced him at gun point to plant explosives in both of the Buddhas for three days straight. The statues were destroyed in March 2001 — leaving nothing but craters where they once stood.

    The Taliban used the caves for arms and munitions until troops from the United States, New Zealand, and Afghanistan retook control in 2003.

    Talks continue years later whether they should rebuild the statues using fragments of the old ones, to use holograms to project them as they were, or to leave them as a brutal reminder of the horrors of the Taliban regime.

    (NATO, YouTube)

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