Here's the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks

The Taliban has reportedly made a major concession to the US during their peace talks in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As US diplomatic officials and leaders of the insurgent group discuss the end of the 17-year war in Afghanistan, one source familiar with the talks told the Journal that the Taliban has agreed to oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad.”


The concessions, if finalized, would seem to support an eventual US withdrawal on the grounds that Afghanistan, even under the Taliban, would not become a safe haven for terrorists to train and launch attacks outside the country. The Taliban continues to use brutal tactics against civilians and coalition forces, including suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices to gain control of more of the country against the faltering government.

US negotiators, now in their fourth day of talks in Doha, Qatar, have sought assurance that the Taliban would not support militant groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Here’s the latest from the Taliban-US-Afghanistan peace talks

During a Sensitive Site Exploitation mission, a U.S. Navy Seal talks to local Afghani villagers about the movements of Al Qaida and Taliban, Jan. 24, 2002.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tim Turner)

Sources familiar with the talks have told the Journal that that was previously a promise the Taliban was not willing to make due to the group’s relationship with al-Qaeda.

The group formerly led by Osama bin Laden formed in Pakistan but was able to establish roots in Afghanistan in the 90s. After the terror attacks on 9/11, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar refused to acknowledge Bin Laden’s role in the attacks or cooperate with US authorities, according to the Journal.

Although he would later acknowledge al-Qaeda’s responsibility, Taliban militants, who are still carrying out attacks on Afghan forces and coalition partners, hold Bin Laden in high regard. Because of this, leaders of the insurgency have previously refused to take steps to oppose al-Qaeda, sources told the Journal.

Their stance appears to have softened, as Taliban leadership has now reportedly agreed to oppose militant groups in Afghanistan; sources also told the Journal the leaders are no longer demanding an immediate and complete withdrawal of US forces, which American officials have argued might lead to civil war.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Air Force Academy’s top commander tell racists ‘to get out’

The head of the Air Force Academy stood all his 4,000 cadets at attention Sept. 28 to deliver a message on racial slurs found written on message boards at the academy’s preparatory school.


Chins in and chests out, the cadets were flanked by 1,500 officers, sergeants, athletic coaches, and civilian professors inside cavernous Mitchell Hall. Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria told them to take out their smartphones and record his words.

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” he said.

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Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes.

Silveria spoke as investigators interviewed cadet candidates at the prep school, where five black students woke up Sept. 26 to find “Go Home” followed by the epithet scrawled on message boards outside their rooms.

Sources at the academy said there appeared to be a single vandal involved, judging by the handwriting.

“Security Forces are looking into the matter,” Lt. Col. Allen Herritage said in an email. “We’re unable to release any additional information at this time due to the ongoing investigation.”

The preparatory school gives cadet candidates a year of rigorous tutoring so they can meet the academy’s strict academic standards. Traditionally, more than half of the students at the prep school are recruited athletes.

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More than 1,300 basic cadets salute June 26 during their first reveille formation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. USAF photo by Mike Kaplan.

Racial slurs are legal in the rest of society, but not in the military, where their use is the kind of conduct that can be court-martialed. Those who wrote the slurs could face charges of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Silveria, who took command at the school in August, has told cadets and staff repeatedly that his highest priority is ensuring a climate of “dignity and respect.” He called that a “red line” that can’t be crossed without severe repercussions.

After the speech, he said the Sept. 28 gathering, which drew nearly all of the academy’s personnel, was not mandatory.

The general said having the school’s officers take time to come to the speech showed their dedication to stamping out racism at the school, where about a third of cadets are minorities.

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Cadets march toward Stillman Parade Field Sept. 2, 2016 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. USAF photo by Jason Gutierrez.

“The most important message there was not from me,” he said.

Silveria wants his cadets and other troops angry about what happened at the preparatory school.

“You should be outraged,” he told them.

He said the Sept. 28 show of opposition to racism should counter any impact on recruiting minority cadets.

“I’m not worried at all after what we demonstrated today,” he said.

 

The public display Sept. 28 is in contrast to how the academy has dealt with controversy in recent years, with probes into a variety of issues from sexual assault to an on-campus death dealt with behind a veil of secrecy.

After the speech, Silveria said he thinks dealing with the racial slurs in public is important.

“I wanted to make it clear, this is not something I am keeping from anyone,” he said. “We have to talk about what that means.”

The academy in recent weeks has worked to address the racially-charged state of America. This week, academy dean Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost hosted a campus-wide discussion about white supremacist incidents that accompanied an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

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Brig. Gen. Andy Armacost. Photo courtesy of USAF.

In his speech, Silveria said discussions about race are important.

“We should have a civil discourse, that’s a better idea,” he said.

But talking about racial issues and tolerating racism are different, he said.

“If you demean someone in any way, you need to get out,” he told the cadets.

The military has stood as a beacon of relative racial harmony since President Harry Truman issued a 1948 order that ended racial bias in the ranks.

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President Harry Truman. Image from United States Library of Congress.

Since then, the military has been a leader in accepting homosexuals and transgender troops. The transgender issue was brought back into play this summer when President Donald Trump tweeted his intent to ban transgender service. The Pentagon has put the presidential proposal under study but hasn’t discharged transgender troops.

The general on Sept. 28 called the families of the five cadet candidates who were targeted in the slur incident.

He said recent events that have highlighted racial issues, from NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to fights over confederate statues, have weighed on his mind lately.

“My point is we can’t pretend that doesn’t impact us,” he said.

But the academy can fall back on an unshakable foundation when racial incidents arise, he said.

“No one can write on a board and take away our ideals,” he said.

MIGHTY FIT

How to build arms that never quit

I’ll just burst this bubble right off the bat here. Big arms, although socially desirable, are completely unwieldy in any pursuit except for bodybuilding.

I’m telling you now that you don’t ever have to do another biceps curl in your life if you don’t want to. I’m also telling you that you can do biceps curls as often and as long as you need to as long as they don’t impact your main goals.


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Holding a rifle and maintaining a good site picture is really tiring. You want arms that can hold your rifle without adding unnecessary extra weight.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha A. Barajas)

The actual purpose of arms

The purpose of your arms is to translate power from your larger and stronger muscles that are towards the center of your body.

This being the case, the way we should train arms is in a way which supports the larger muscle groups.

The tapered look is what true athleticism looks like. Take, for instance, strongman competitors, the strongest humans on Earth. Their arms are not exceptionally large in comparison to the rest of their bodies. Their arms get gradually more narrow the further they get from their core.

This is how all functional things are made. Airplanes’ wings taper out, as do the musculature of fish until they get to the fin of course. This reduces drag in the water while still giving a nice push at the end. This is the same reason the best swimmers have long thin limbs and big hands and feet.

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This guy sinks just like hammers and sickles do in water and just like communism did in the USSR. (How is this even a picture in 2019?)

(Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash)

The pursuit of huge biceps

There is no pursuit that requires large arms in comparison to the rest of the body, except aesthetic pursuits like bodybuilding.

Even arm wrestling, the quintessential arm strength sport, is all about using the arm as a lever that sends power from your legs and core into your opponent’s hand.

The idea of an “arm” day is laughable to me. Here’s why.

When I was going through a particular portion of my Marine Corps Training, I found myself with a group of Marines who were in a waiting period for their next school to start.

Because Training Command was on the same base as my peers and me, they decided to use us as a “test” unit. They wanted to see what type of training Marines could endure and how it translated to their follow on schools and injury resistance in general.

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Treading water is hard in a full kit. It’s even harder when your arms are fighting against you while treading.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hernan Vidana)

Basically, it was let’s “fugg” with these guys in the name of “research.”

So I found myself doing a lot of weird “training” with a bunch of alpha males. Every day was some type of ego trip in one way or another.

A good portion of my peers at this time were quite muscular. Some of them were the type to ensure they finished every gym session with 10 sets of biceps curls.

They had big arms.

We did a lot of pool workouts in this training cycle….I’ll give you one guess which body type had to be revived the most often…

When it comes to swimming, large biceps are the opposite of those arm floaties that kids wear. Imagine how much harder it would be to tread water with rocks strapped to your upper arms.

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This is the whole body approach to training arms.

(Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash)

How to train arms like a freakin’ genius

The way workouts should be setup is as follows:

  1. Main/Compound lifts- squat, bench, deadlift
  2. Ancillary lifts- rows, Romanian deadlifts, lat pull-down, DB presses
  3. Accessory lifts- biceps, triceps, calves

The compound lifts are giving the majority of our muscular stimulation and truly teaching the body how to move as a unit in an anatomically correct way.

The ancillary lifts give our main muscle groups another look (from a different angle, rep range, etc.). They directly contribute to strength gains in the main lifts and also contribute to making the body a cohesive unit of power development.

The accessory lifts are there to bring up body parts that may be limiting the main movements or that the trainee may want to give some extra stimulation. Other common accessory muscle groups are the forearms, obliques, or neck.

Because isolated arm exercises are primarily accessory lifts, they should receive the lowest amount of priority in the gym. This means if you are strapped for time you skip these. DON’T skip squatting or deadlifting and jump to these because you prefer them.

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You can get those curls in….after you hit the big ticket items.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Donald Holbert)

The biceps are a pulling muscle. You get all the biceps stimulation you need from rows, lat pull-downs, and pull-ups. The triceps are a pushing muscle. You get all the triceps stimulation you need from pressing, benching, and push-ups.

The above being the case, I fully respect the allure of the arm pump and the feel of a tight t-shirt. That’s why I don’t avoid them altogether when writing a training plan. They are for your mind, not for your body.

It is important to work out for both the mind and the body. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or if you don’t see/feel results, you are significantly less likely to continue training.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Green Beret wants to help you find your personal A-Team

In Army Special Forces parlance, an A-Team is not a fictional squad featuring Mr. T – it’s a real thing. An Operation Detachment-A Team is made of 12 operators, each with a different specialty (but is of course cross-trained to another), to form the core team that makes up the Green Berets.

Greg Stube, a former Green Beret, believes anyone is capable of operating at the Green Berets’ level. His new book shows you how to build an A-Team in your own life to achieve your goals.


Stube enlisted in the Army infantry in 1988. Just four years later, he was reclassing as a Special Force Medical Sergeant. As a Green Beret, his training went much, much further. He learned surgery, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. He also went to dive school and SERE school, and became a master parachutist. Like every Green Beret, he became fluent in a foreign language – his language was Russian.

He was ready to conquer anything. He would have to be in the coming years.

Listen to our interview with Greg Stube on the Mandatory Fun podcast:

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify


His career spanned 23 years and included the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the start of the Global War on Terror. During Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006, Stube and his Green Beret team were outnumbered in the Battle of Sperwan Ghar – a week-long battle against the Taliban. Stube took a hit from a powerful IED, was shot numerous times, and was even on fire. He suffered wounds to his lower body and even nearly lost a leg. But after 17 surgeries in 18 months, Greg Stube miraculously recovered.

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In that time, he learned that applying the way Green Berets are taught to accomplish a mission by any means necessary to his personal life he really could overcome any obstacle and any situation. His new book, Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team, is a leadership book designed to help anyone use that mentality to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Stube’s newest mission is to share what he’s learned and to help make other people’s life a little better through his experiences.

“This is my attempt, from my life and career, to sum up the things I’ve done and witnessed in peace, conflict, and healing,” Stube says. “I just want people to know it’s not reserved for the military or a special forces team. Everything we learn and refine in those desperate situations can be used without all the pressure – without the life and death risk.”

Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team is available on Amazon and will soon be available as an audiobook download on Audible, read by the author himself.

Resources Mentioned

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Articles

These are among the few people on Earth who actually know what it’s like to be the target of a nuclear weapon

The increasing threat of nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea cast a shadow over the August 9 observance of the 72nd anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in the final days of World War II.


“A strong sense of anxiety is spreading across the globe that in the not-too-distant future these weapons could actually be used again,” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue told the crowd at the city’s Peace Park. The ceremony was held a day after US President Donald Trump vowed to respond to North Korea’s continuing threats with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

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Photo by Gage Skidmore

Mayor Taue also lashed out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for refusing to enter negotiations for the UN Nuclear Prohibition Treaty, calling his stance “incomprehensible to those of us living in the cities that suffered atomic bombings.” Japan routinely abhors nuclear weapons, but has aligned its defense posture firmly under the so-called US “nuclear umbrella.”

Taue and the other dignitaries led the audience in a moment of silence as a bell was rung at the exact moment a US warplane dropped a plutonium bomb onto the port city, killing as many as 70,000 people.

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Panoramic view of the monument at the hypocentre of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki. Wikimedia Commons photo by Dean S. Pemberton.

The Nagasaki bombing happened three days after 140,000 people died in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, the world’s first using of nuclear weapons. The bombings hastened Japan’s surrender to Allied forces on August 15, 1945, bringing the six-year-old global conflict to an end.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why only an idiot would render a  salute in a combat zone

It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.

Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.

But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.


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There’s a time and place for a salute. Remember, the respect the salute is meant to convey is more important than the act itself. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Miller)

 

First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.

It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.

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If you’re going to salute in combat, you’re wrong. If you’re going to salute with a rifle and it doesn’t look like the above photo, you’re even more wrong. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Martinez)

 

Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.

But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…

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Yeah. Jokingly saluting an officer and saying “sniper check, sir!” suddenly became a little less funny, huh? (National Archives)

 

Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.

While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.

Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.

You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.

 


Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Erik Cardenas

popular

The 6 most awesome things to know about the Merchant Marine

In a March 2019 executive order, President Trump made a clear avenue for U.S. military veterans to transition into the Merchant Marine after their military service ends. This is a great thing for the men and women of the U.S. military who want to continue a life of service, but many will wonder what exactly the Merchant Marine is and what serving in it really requires.


During peacetime, the Merchant Marine is not a part of the military, but they do support military operations aboard ships like Kaiser-class replenishment oilers and Hope-class vehicle cargo ships. Its regular mission is the import and export of cargo in and out of the United States.

Components of the Merchant Marine are both civilian sailors and government-owned ships. During wartime, the Merchant Marine can be used as the sealift component of the U.S. Naval Reserve.

1. Call them “Mariners”

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A Merchant Marine Academy graduation ceremony.

While the Merchant Marine could go by many names, the preferred term is “mariner.” The terms sailor, seaman, and Marine are used elsewhere, and merchant mariners don’t need to try and be more than they are – they have an illustrious history of their own.

2. It has an illustrious history of its own

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“Look out! Americans!”

So much so, it’s worth mentioning twice. The merchant mariners of the United States have existed in some form or another since the founding of our country, and have distinguished themselves in “getting the stuff to the fight” whenever called upon.

Their first action came when a bunch of merchants off the coast of what is now Maine boarded a lumber schooner and sailed out to the HMS Margaretta in the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Yes, this is during the American Revolution.

The lightly-armed rabble of merchant seamen not only captured the Royal Navy’s armed sloop of war, they harassed the British for the remainder of the war.

3. It officially dates back to 1936

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In the days leading up to World War II, Congress and President Roosevelt passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, which states:

“It is necessary for the national defense… that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency…

4. War is not kind to the mariners

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When the declaration of war on Japan forced the nationalization of the merchant marine fleet, it was a merger of American government needs and interest combined with the private sector’s means of getting the men and cargo to their destinations – for which the companies received handsome contracts. Weapons and armed guards from the U.S. Navy were then posted on ships.

And while you may think merchant shipping seems like an easy place to ride out the war, you’d be wrong. The merchant marine suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch serving in the war. For every 26 people who served aboard merchant marine ships, one of those would die, at a rate of almost four percent.

5. They didn’t get veteran status for 30 years

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Retired Merchant Marine captain Paul Washburn sits on top of a Merchant Marine life boat.

After all was said and done and American GIs went home and bought houses and went to college, merchant mariners struggled for the same benefits for risking their necks just as much as the guys who fought in the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. World War II merchant mariners weren’t afforded veteran status until 1988.

Merchant Mariners who worked in hostile waters during the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Desert Storm are still waiting for veteran status.

6. The Merchant Marine never stops

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Oil and gas tankers on the high seas.

When the treaties are signed, and the troops go home, the U.S. Merchant Marine still has a lot of work to do. Who do you think took all those men and vehicles back to the United States? Or moved occupation troops to Japan? Or hauled cargo for the Marshall Plan in Europe?

The Merchant Marine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Belarusian president praises US, derides plans for Russian base

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said that the U.S. “military and political role” in Europe is crucial to regional security and emphasized that he does not want a Russian military base in his country.

Lukashenka, who frequently mixes praise and criticism of both the West and Belarus’s giant eastern neighbor, Russia, was speaking to a group of U.S. experts and analysts in Minsk on Nov. 6, 2018.

“The Belarusian armed forces are capable of providing security and performing their duties much better than any other country, including the Russian Federation,” Lukashenka said.


“That is why today I see no need to invite some other countries, including Russia, to the territory of Belarus, to perform our duties. That is why we are absolutely against having foreign military bases, especially military air bases,” he said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced plans to station warplanes in Belarus in 2013, but they have not been deployed and the issue remains under discussion.

In January 2018, media reports in Russia and Belarus said that a Russian Air Force regiment that Moscow had planned to station in Belarus would instead be located in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad.

Lukashenka told his audience that Belarus was “a European country” that is interested in “a strong and united Europe,” adding that Europe today is “a major pillar of our planet.”

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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“God forbid somebody ruins it…. We are certain that regional security [in Europe] depends on the cohesion of the region’s states and preservation of the United States’ military and political role in the European arena,” Lukashenka said.

“Belarus is eager to build an equal dialogue with all sides via reinstating normal ties with the United States, supporting good neighborly ties with the European Union, and widening partnership with NATO,” he said. “We support more openness and development of mutual understanding in order to strengthen regional security.”

An authoritarian leader who has ruled Belarus since 1994, Lukashenka has sought to strike a balance between Russia, which he depicts as both an ally and a threat, and the EU and NATO to the west. He has stepped up his emphasis on Belarusian sovereignty and expressions of concern about Moscow’s intentions since Russia seized Crimea and backed armed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The EU eased sanctions against Belarus in 2016 after the release of several people considered political prisoners, but has criticized Lukashenka’s government for a violent clampdown on demonstrators protesting an unemployment tax in March 2017.

Belarus and Russia are joined in a union state that exists mainly on paper, and their militaries have close ties — though Lukashenka has resisted Russian efforts to beef up its military presence in Belarus, which lies between Russia and the NATO states.

The countries have held joint military exercises including the major Zapad-2017 (West-2017) war games.

Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, regional groupings observers say Russian President Vladimir Putin uses to seek to bolster Moscow’s influence in the former Soviet Union and counter the EU and NATO.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.

For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.


But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.

Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.

But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.

Houses that repair themselves

Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.

Lab-grown blood

This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.

Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules 

Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.

Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.

Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.

Featured

This Memorial Day, honor through action. Here’s how.

There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.

It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.

This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.


In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.

The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.

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WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.

“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.

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Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.

“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.

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PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)

75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.

“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.

“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”

For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Air Force is ready to kill you if you storm Area 51

An estimated 1.2 million social media users have expressed an interest in storming Area 51, with the idea that the United States Air Force, who is presumed to run the top-secret facility, could not possibly stop (or kill) all of them. As of now, the storm is scheduled for 3 a.m. local time in Amargosa Valley, Nevada – not far from the site of the testing facility.

Recently, an Air Force spokesperson warned that such a storm would be a “dangerous” idea.


The Air Force, of course, knows what you’re up to on social media, just like any other governmental organization when the group is focused on committing a crime. While Area 51’s existence was acknowledged by the United States government in 2013, it is still a military base, and any attempt to enter it illegally is a crime. What the CIA and USAF didn’t acknowledge is the long-held presumption that the area was used as a test site for alien technology. And while the Air Force would like to assume the plan is a joke, local hotels have seen a bump in reservations for the time period.

“Oh, it’s insane,” Connie West, a co-owner of The Little A’Le’Inn, a hotel in nearby Rachel, Nev. said in an interview on Sunday. “My poor bartender today walked past me and said, ‘I hate to tell you, but every phone call I’ve had is about Sept. 20.’… People are coming.”

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If people do come, the Air Force wants them to know that Area 51 is a testing facility for combat aircraft and that its defense is in the hands of nearby Nellis Air Force Base – and the base has plenty of troops and helicopters to repel storming of the perimeter.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” a spokeswoman told The Washington Post. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How much a beer costs in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world

Three cities currently share the title of most expensive city in the world — Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore — and, across those cities, the average price for a beer ranges from $1.77 and $2.27.

That’s according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Report, which uses over 400 prices across 160 different products and services — including food and drink — to calculate rankings. Among these products is the average cost of a bottle of beer (330 ml).


Some cities, such as Copenhagen — home to major brewing company Carlsberg — saw price drops when compared to last year’s average prices. New York, meanwhile, led the charge with the highest price per beer bottle.

Keep reading for a look at the cost of beer in 10 of the most expensive cities worldwide, along with some of the areas’ best-known breweries. All prices are in USD.

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(Flickr / Ralf Steinberger)

Tel Aviv, Israel: .94

City ranking by cost of living: 10

Tel Aviv’s price per beer bottle dropped 25 cents from last year’s price of .19. Though Israel’s two major breweries are located farther up the coast in Ashkelon and Netanya, Tel Aviv is home to micro-breweries such as The Dancing Camel Brewing Company.

Source: Time Out, Hareetz, Bloomberg, Tempo, Carlsberg

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(Flickr photo by Jörg Schubert)

New York, USA: .33

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with Copenhagen and Seoul)

New York has the highest price per bottle. The city is known for its breweries, and while many are upstate, several are located in the city area. Brooklyn especially is infamous for new pop-ups — including Circa Brewing Company and Five Boroughs Brewing Company — along with Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, which was established in 1988. Overall, the price of beer in New York changed only eight cents, rising from last year’s price of .25.

Source: Time Out, New York State Brewers’ Association, City Brew Tours, NY State Senate, Brooklyn Brewery

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(Flickr / Ryan Bodenstein)

Copenhagen, Denmark: .61

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Seoul)

Home to the Carlsberg Group, Denmark’s capital has been brewing beer for over 170 years. Copenhagen’s price per bottle dropped almost 50 cents compared to last year, lowering its cost from .06.

Source: Carlsberg Group, Visit Denmark

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(Flickr / Philippe Teuwen)

Seoul, South Korea: .13

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Copenhagen)

Seoul’s beer scene is best known for the Oriental Breweries headquarters, more commonly known as OB. The city saw a bottle price reduction of eight cents compared to .25 last year.

Source: Bloomberg

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(Flickr / Pedro Szekely)

Osaka, Japan: .30

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Geneva)

As the popularity of craft beer in Japan steadily increases, Osaka remains a major hub for both food and drink. Alongside restaurants with prime beer on tap, the city is home to several breweries, including Dotonbori Beer. The price change from last year included an eight cent raise from .22.

Source: Culture Trip, Dontonbori Beer Co., Culture Trip

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(Flickr / ITU Pictures)

Geneva, Switzerland: id=”listicle-2632285079″.54

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Osaka)

While it is best known for its watchmaking and Swiss chocolate shops, Geneva hosted its first Open Air Craft Beer Festival in 2017 and is also home to Les Brasseurs micro-brewery. The city’s per per bottle dropped 34 cents compared to its 2018 price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.88.

Source: Les Brasseurs, Geneva Live Tourism

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(Flickr / szeke)

Zurich, Switzerland: .25

City ranking by cost of living: 4

At over a dollar more than fellow Swiss city Geneva, Zurich’s price per bottle rings in at .25, down three cents from last year. Travel + Leisure noted that craft beer is becoming more accessible, and several small breweries now exist in the region.

Source: Travel + Leisure, MySwitzerland

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(Flickr / Barbara Willi)

Hong Kong: id=”listicle-2632285079″.77

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Paris)

Hong Kong is home to Hong Kong Beer Co., the city’s first craft brewery. According to the company’s website, it is also the first craft brewery in Asia to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs. Though Hong Kong is tied for the No. 1 most expensive city, it actually offers the cheapest beer prices amongst the expensive cities, with a price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.77 — down from last year’s id=”listicle-2632285079″.93.

Source: Hong Kong Beer Co., Time Out

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(John Towner / Unsplash)

Paris, France: .10

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Hong Kong)

While Paris is better known for its wine — brought from vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy — the French capital has several microbreweries. Located both inside and just outside the city arrondissements, locations include La Brasserie de l’Etre, Paname Brewing Company, and Le Triangle. Beer prices dropped 35 cents compared to .45 in 2018.

Source: Trip Savvy, Urban Adventures, Culture Trip

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(Flickr / nlann)

Singapore: .37

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Paris and Hong Kong)

Beer in Singapore is dominated by Heineken Asia Pacific — formerly known as Malayan Breweries Limited — which produces both the Heineken brand and also owns craft breweries such as Archipelago Brewery, whose headquarters are located outside the city in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.

The area is best known for Tiger Beer, first brewed by Malayan Breweries Limited in 1932 but now distributed worldwide. Retaining its position as the most expensive city for the fifth consecutive year, Singapore’s beer prices dropped from .53 in 2018 to .37.

Source: The Heineken Company, Time Out, Archipelago Brewery, Tiger Beer, CNBC

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here are 5 Vietnam War movies you should re-watch

As the weather turns cooler and you look for yet another thing to help keep you sane while you’re stuck indoors, might we suggest you return to the originals and re-watch any one of these classic Vietnam War movies.


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(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)

First Blood

We’re listing this one first to get it right out there in the open. Yes, we’re talking about Rambo here, but in our humble opinion, First Blood is one of the best Vietnam War movies of all time. Don’t believe us? Well, consider this.

The majority of Vietnam Veterans weren’t given any kind of preferential treatment on their return to America. Discounts? Forget about them. Being thanked for their service? Not in a million years. That’s one of the reasons why First Blood is such a standout Vietnam War movie – it shows a part of our country’s history that many have forgotten forever. It helped educate the general public about the challenges of Vietnam Veterans, both in the field and once back at home, too.

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(RKO Pictures)

Hamburger Hill

This gritty war movie focuses on 14 soldiers from the 101st B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiments during a 12-day battle that occurred in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.

Debuting in 1987, the film showcases what it was like for the Screaming Eagles as they endured an uphill battle against a well-entrenched enemy under awful conditions.

The real battle of Hamburger Hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left almost 300 wounded. This film absolutely holds up to any other film that attempts to explore the sacrifices made by infantrymen.

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(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)

Platoon

Platoon won the “Best Film” of 1986 and for a good reason. This movie manages to explore combat from the ground level, and does what many war movies can’t do – it shows the combat experience for exactly what it is: scary, full of dread and lots of worries. The reason this film manages to be successful where others aren’t might be due in part to the fact that Oliver Stone, who wrote and directed it, was a Vietnam Veteran. In interviews, Stone said that he was just trying to make a film for himself and for those like him, to remember the war for exactly what it was.

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(American International Pictures)

Rolling Thunder

This one might not be on your radar, in part because it’s a low-budget movie that never won any awards. It was written by the same person who wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and an unknown director. The result is a film that’s part war rage and part revenge fantasy and is probably relatable for most Vietnam Veterans returning from war.

Two POWs get a hero’s welcome upon returning to Texas, but things fall apart immediately after and only go from bad to worse. The movie traces these two characters’ lives as they come to terms with understanding their new normal.

This is the kind of movie that will completely captivate you and tap into the frustration that many Vietnam war movies try to illustrate.

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(Universal Pictures)

The Deer Hunter

The cast of The Deer Hunter elevates it into the cinematic hall of fame status. Starring Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, the cast is as impressive as the storyline. What further sets this film apart is the fact that John Cazale (Fredo from The Godfather) makes his last appearance before his death from bone cancer.

The harrowing POW sequences in this film are dark, gritty and utterly memorable. The Deer Hunter is one of those movies that will remain with you long after you’ve watched it.


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