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Helmand province, Afghanistan was the scene this past weekend of the hanging of an 8-year-old boy whose father refused to supply militants with a police vehicle, according to a CNN report. Don Belt traveled thousands of miles across Pakistan 60 years after its founding to report in Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan (Sept. National Geographic VoicesResearchers, conservationists, and others around the world share stories and commentary on the National Geographic Society's conversation platform Voices.
Society Field Inspection 2016: Gulf of CaliforniaDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities. Support National GeographicWe've supported more than 11,000 grants to scientists and others in the field.Learn more about our work. Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo naledi. With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa.
In addition, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these non-human beings intentionally deposited their dead within this cave.
Many Afghans live in the fertile valleys between the mountains and grow their crops and tend to their animals.
Summers are hot and dry but the winters are very cold, especially north of the Hindu Kush, which is located in the eastern part of the country near Pakistan and Tajikistan.
Many other groups live in the country as wella€”Pashtuns are related to the Persian people of Iran, the Tajiks are also Persian, but speak another language called Dari, and the Uzbeks speak a language similar to Turkish. The Hazaras live in the mountains of central Afghanistan and are believed to be descendents of the Mongols because their Dari language contains many Mongol words. Due to many years of war, the countryside is littered with unexploded mines and children who herd animals are often killed by stepping on mines. Over the centuries, travelers have braved the dangerous high mountain passes to find shelter in the valleys and plains of Afghanistan. Tea is the favorite Afghan drink and a popular meal is palau, made from rice, sheep and goat meats, and fruit.
Decades of war, hunting, and years of drought have reduced the wildlife population in Afghanistan. Endangered snow leopards live in the cold Hindu Kush, but rely on their thick fur to stay warm. The country is rich in the vibrant blue stone, lapis lazuli, which was used to decorate the tomb of the Egyptian king Tutankhamun. The government still faces problems with the Taliban, internal security, and public services. The British and Afghans fought in three wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the Afghans finally defeated the British in 1919 and formed an independent monarchy in 1921. In this guest article, my former student from the University of Vermont, Ian Lynch, narrates his perspectives on Afghanistan’s future based on the past months he has spent in Kabul as a teacher for the School of Leadership (SOLA). The media portrayal of Afghanistan hardly comes close to imparting a sense of what this country is like.
In Kabul, there are people going about their everyday lives with hardly a thought of the Taliban or what the government is up to.
These are not the actions of a liberating army poised to drive out the great and terrible foreign invaders. The next President is likely to retain control in the fortress of Kabul despite the growing audacity of the Taliban. The primary concern in Afghanistan today is its progressively more conservative government that has been influenced by some aspects of Taliban ideology as well as widespread corruption among the secular elite.
The most recent attack on human rights from within Parliament is its alteration of Article 26 of the criminal procedure code in early February that institutes a carte blanche ban on not only the testimony of relatives at criminal proceedings, but even the questioning of them!
It hardly matters how strong EVAW is if relatives cannot even be questioned by the Afghan police, the Afghan army or the attorney general’s office. What is particularly troubling about this law change is that it passed through the Parliament so easily, without an outcry from even the ranks of the women in Parliament. It would have been a damaging setback if President Karzai chose to sign the legislation or let it creep into law without his oversight. The UNAMA report on the EVAW Law published in December 2013 notes that reporting of such events increased 28%, but indictments due to EVAW increased only 2%. Afghanistan is massively rich in natural resources including rare earth metals, industrial minerals, precious gems, oil and gas. In 2008, Afghanistan awarded its first major mining contract to the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (CMGC) to operate the Mes Aynak copper mines. The connection between Afghanistan’s political elite and illicit activities extends far beyond the extractive industry.
Just like with the case of illegal chromite extraction in Kunar, the foreign aid community must take part of the blame for this situation. It is even harder to understand how development operations in Afghanistan can associate with these strongmen when you consider their shaky connection to security.
All of these serious concerns; women’s rights, mining contracts, capture of the economy by the political elite and others make the upcoming elections all the more important.
The educated Afghans who make up organizations like Human Rights Watch, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the National Democratic Institute, Democracy International and others have options. I am also lucky to teach in a school everyday, so I get to watch the development of the next generation of Afghan leaders. Lessons in Afghanistan are defined by rote learning, with absolutely no room for questions to be asked. Beyond the horrendous pedagogy employed by many Afghan teachers there are other major structural problems with Afghanistan’s education system. An excellent, thoroughly perceptive, reflective evaluation and perspective on the current state of Afghanistan. Thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and honest article that reflects the Afghanistan that I have experienced during my 11 years working there. I concur with you that the hope for the future of the country is the generation in high schools and universities. The park is near the Bamyan Valley, where the 1,500-year-old giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban once stood.
Band-e-Amir had been a destination for travelers since the 1950s, with a peak visitation in the 1970s, WCS added. Though much of the park’s wildlife has been lost, WCS said, recent surveys indicate that it still contains ibex (a species of wild goat) and urial (a type of wild sheep) along with wolves, foxes, smaller mammals and fish, and various bird species including the Afghan snow finch, which is believed to be the only bird found exclusively in Afghanistan.

The llakes are under growing threat from pollution and other human-caused degradation to the fragile travertine dams. Creating the national park will provide international recognition essential to helping develop Band-e-Amir as an international tourist destination, and assist it in obtaining World Heritage status, which would provide additional protection, according to WCS.
The new park will be managed by Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and the Band-e-Amir Protected Area Committee.
WCS helped the 13 villages lying within the park establish this committee, which provides local input into all management decisions. It’s sure feels good to see those magnificent pitures of this beautiful natural park in Afghanistan.
A tender moment transpires between mother and infant orangutans in Borneo’s Tanjung Puting National Park.
Burning hot on a winter’s day, a brush fire consumes a patch of dried marsh, drawing spectators at a golf course in Denver, Colorado. On a solo bike trip from Argentina to Ecuador, Sing, 36, met two companions in southern Bolivia. In Chittagong, Bangladesh, workers take apart a freighter so the parts can be sold for scrap. What has a head like a giraffe, a body like a horse, stripes like a zebra, and a blue tongue long enough to clean its own ears? Curses, convulsions, poisonous peashooters—as much as some plants inspire poetry, others evoke the dark arts. Heracleum mantegazzianumGiant HogweedContact with its sap can bring on blisters in the sun due to phototoxic chemicals. Arum maculatumCuckoopintAlso known as bloody man’s finger, this species may cause the tongue to swell.
In the next few decades, says David Forman of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, growing and aging populations will make cancer more common. Found in a Utah quarry in 1994, the fossils languished in an Oklahoma museum until 2007, when Taylor and Wedel convened to study them. Blowers move helium gas through the reactor and over the pebbles, where nuclear fission releases large amounts of energy, heating up the helium.
About 5,000 spheres move through the reactor each day, like gum balls through a vending machine.
Andrew Kadak of MIT, who visited a small prototype pebble-bed reactor in China four years ago, watched engineers turn off the cooling system. In Afghanistan’s Bamian Valley, the shattered remains of two majestic Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001 lie carefully preserved.
Matching sediment patterns in the fragments with those in the hollow niches where the Buddhas once stood offers key clues to the pieces’ original position. Shelters at the base of the larger Buddha’s empty niche (right) house fragments of the 180-foot-tall, seventh-century statue (left). Ethereal jellies have been stirring up the world’s waters for at least 550 million years now.
The dye revealed that much of the water pushed away is then sucked up again and sticks around as the jellies make their next stroke.
For all the latest science news, check out National Geographic Library’s twice-weekly news rundown, Earth Current and check out these Fast Facts about snow leopards. Posters and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service. To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016.
The country was a busy section of the Silk Road, a route that merchants have traveled over land between China, India, and Europe for over 2,000 years. About 15 million people, nearly half of Afghanistan's population are Pashtuns and live in the south around Kandahar. Many schools have been destroyed, but children, including girls, go to school in ruins or wherever possible. Today nomads called Kuchi lead their herds of animals across the country and into the mountain pastures for grazing. They even have kite fights and use wire or glass in their kites to cut the kite strings of rival kite flyers. Under the new constitution, the president and two vice presidents are elected every five years. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 and the Afghan fighters called Mujahedin were aided by the United States, Pakistan, China, and Iran. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States began searching for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and invaded Afghanistan, along with an international coalition to remove the Taliban.
Ian exemplifies the best of American youth who are trying to genuinely help rebuild Afghanistan despite many challenges and risks.
In a week in January, a restaurant full of both expats and Afghans was brutally assaulted, a police transport was blown to pieces, and a bus full of Afghans on their way to a wedding party were also bombed. Your excellent, comprehensive article fills in many gaps in my understanding of Afghanistan. Ian’s students are lucky to be taught critical thinking skills and guided by his persistent, humanitarian heart and intelligence. WCS worked with the Afghanistan government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to establish Band-e-Amir national park.
WCS also developed the park’s management plan, helped the government hire and train local rangers, and provided assistance to the Afghan Government to design the laws enabling the park to be created. The arboreal species has one of the longest intervals between births among mammals, typically around eight years. One was Carl-David Granback, whom he photographed (using Granback’s camera) at this crossroads.
This shy African herbivore (right) kept the world guessing until 1901, when it was identified as a new genus of giraffe: Okapia johnstoni. The human-looking roots of mandrakes, source of legendary shrieks and dark spells, terrify budding wizards in the Harry Potter series. Changes that come with economic growth, such as diet and less physical activity, will also play a role.
To further unravel the story of this newly identified, still mysterious species, they say, a larger sample size is needed.

Heat from the fuel spheres is picked up by helium and can then be used to generate electricity—or to drive industrial processes such as oil refining and desalination. Such reactors were proposed in the 1960s but rarely pursued; only a few have ever been built. The thousands of fragments, ranging from bits of clay plaster to nearly 80-ton chunks of rock, represent about 90 percent of the original statues. Scanning and matching the rocks’ magnetic signatures, which require more funds to complete, are the crucial complement.
So what Caltech researcher John Dabiri wanted to know was whether all that pushing around added up to something big.
This means that as they head hundreds of feet up to the surface to feed each day, they’re dragging along cold, nutrient-rich waters from the ocean deep, then pulling warmer streams back down. Belt describes the original vision of its founders, the complex events resulting in the rising influence of the Taliban, and why the world pays close attention to the clash between the moderates and extremists.
They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society.
Snow melt and rain that flow out of the Hindu Kush pool into a low area and never reach the ocean. The rhesus macaque and the red flying squirrel are found in the warmer southern areas of the country. The International Security Force Assistance helps the government maintain peace and rebuild the country.
A Loya Jirga wrote a new constitution in 2004 and the people elected their first president, Hamid Karzai.
With mineral wealth coming in the potential for such corruption being exacerbated remains high.
These strongmen hold positions of significant power in the central government or have close connections with those in power. Yet, the next generation of Afghans will have to go beyond criticizing history and will have to both reach out and reach in to ensure that their future remains secure from internal and external threats.
As the host to Sabira, a young SOLA woman about to enter Trinity College in Hartford, CT this fall, I will refer to your article often as I converse with her about her country and her own goals to return and be a leader. Hope stability comes one day and tourism back…Thank you NATGEO newswatch and David Braun. For the first two decades progress was slow, but since the early 1990s, better screening tests for colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer have led to early detection and contributed to better survival rates. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is 6 percent, compared to over 90 percent for some forms of breast and prostate cancer. That’s the conclusion paleontologists Mike Taylor and Matt Wedel came to after analyzing the fragmented remains of two Cretaceous-period sauropods. For another, gas reactors are more efficient at generating electricity than water-cooled ones, because they run much hotter.
During a recent three-year test at Idaho National Lab, 300,000 fuel particles were heated to 2300°F and bombarded with neutrons.
Meantime, work at the site will focus on stabilizing the fragile niche rock to further salvage history. To figure that out, he and his team squirted green dye in front of jellyfish to make the movement of water around them visible. With the ability of jellyfish to mix water now proved, Dabiri’s team is focusing on krill and other tiny crustaceans that number in the trillions. Meet Umme Ayman, a 22-year old religious student fully prepared to die in protest over a mosque being torn down, and Edhi, a Muslim man who collects dead bodies from the streets and shelters abandoned infants without regard for who might be an infidel. Such diluting revisions will make it easy for foreign companies to essentially rob Afghanistan of its valuable natural resources. Prizes include $10,000, a trip to National Geographic headquarters, and publication in the magazine.
Other factors, from the way a tumor grows to the amount of diseased tissue available for research, can affect the outcome of a particular type of cancer, says NCI deputy director James Doroshow. She notes that larger, graphic cigarette warning labels mandated earlier this year help bring the U.S. Their research shows that even in its youth, the long-necked, plant-eating animal had a huge, dinner-platter-size hip bone (detail at right). That heat, produced carbon free, has gotten the attention of chemical, fertilizer, and oil companies.
The creatures swim by contracting a ring of muscles to collapse their umbrella-like bodies and expel water.
Collectively, he believes, these bits of marine life could rival the force of the winds and tides in ocean circulation.
Mining and human migration there threaten critical habitat for the okapis, but for now, they persist in quiet mystery. That would have anchored enormous thigh muscles, which may have been used to deliver powerful kicks to raptors and other enemies. In 1747, Pashtun elders held a council meeting called a Loya Jirga and created the kingdom of the Afghans.
Nevertheless there is a broader concern that their ideology has stealthily crept into the fabric of Afghan society in pernicious ways. Lung cancer is among them; after years of falling death rates in men, women are registering lower numbers for the first time.
Still, lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer worldwide, with 1.4 million deaths each year.
Yet as with all cases of development, quality must keep pace with quantity in order to have maximum impact. Kids who shoot peas through the hollow stems of giant hogweed (right), for instance, risk sprouting painful blisters.

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