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The latest news from Robert Johnson on Business Insider

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    Battling Bare Ashley Wise

    I first wrote about Battling Bare and Ashley Wise in June when her case made it to a small Clarksville, Tn newspaper and onto the web.

    The story went viral and made its way to the Daily Mail, by the end of the day I'd signed Ashley and her group on as contributors and they've submitted some powerful pieces.

    While most of their work continues on the ground alone and far from public eyes, it doesn't mean Ashley doesn't know a thing or two about media relations and I see her pop up all over the place, from CNN to Psychology Today and of course all the local networks.

    We still talk and she mentioned they only missed being hosted on GMA or Today, I forget which, because some general got irked and made a phone call.

    With Veterans Day approaching and most of the vet's I know in conditions like these women refer to on their backs, I thought I'd mention Ashley again. She's still at Ft. Campbell, struggling to get her husband the help he needs, and fighting his chain of command for every break she receives.

    When I spoke to her last week, they'd finally confiscated her husband's guns for reasons no one seemed to understand. Ashley's and her husband's story is below and Battling Bare's Facebook page here.

    I'd signed When Rob Wise left the Marine Corps to join the Army a decade ago he may have looked forward to a better life, starting a family and receiving support from the people he worked for.

    Battling BareThe Marines have been known to be less than accepting of new wives and fledgling families. I've met more than one soldier who left the Corps for the Army after hearing that if the Marines had wanted him to have a wife, it'd have issued him one. After all, the hard charging, oft-deployed life of a junior Marine can take its toll on girlfriends, wives, and troops alike.

    That's worth mentioning because Andy-Lee Fry at The Leaf Chronicle in Clarksville, Tn., where Wise and his wife Ashley are stationed, tells a story all too common in the military—and Ashley's dedicated response.

    Following Rob's second Iraq combat tour he started having flashbacks. Vivid moments of surprising intensity that mentally flung him back to battle when hearing a loud noise, or catching a sudden movement from the corner of his eye. 

    Ashley told Fry the situation demanded professional attention when Rob took all the weapons he had in their home, some booze, went to a local hotel and after she called him, told her, "Life’s just really hard, I might do something stupid."

    She called the Army's Family Advocacy program, an organization that supports families in crisis. After the counselor put her hand on Ashley's arm, told her she was in a safe place and to trust her, Ashley opened up. "I hadn't slept in over 24 hours," she told me on the phone. "It's the only reason she got me."

    What she meant was that as soon as she outlined the difficulties she and Rob had been going through, the session stopped, the advocacy worker got up and Rob was promptly picked up by the Military Police.

    Rob was now facing 72 hours confinement, domestic assault charges, and a dishonorable discharge that would cause the family to lose all the benefits they were entitled to. It didn't take Ashley long to realize Army officials were preparing to make her and Rob the "civilian sector's problem."

    None of this is unusual, but facing few options Ashley did something that's started a viral FacebookBattling Baremovement, garnered thousands of followers, and has so far saved her family. Without a voice and ignored, she wrote a pledge on her back, took a picture of it holding Rob's M4 assault rifle over her head and uploaded it.

    The response from other wives watching their husbands suffer post traumatic stress was immediate, and the sudden interest in her case from Rob's command soon followed.

    The Facebook Group Battling BARE was born and now receives pictures from military wives around the country silently screaming the same pledge on their naked backs.

    A few of the photos are below, but you can check out the page here and see the movement in its entirety.

    Rob is now on staff at with the Army Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Campbell.

    I spoke with Ashley on the phone following this post and we've agreed she and Battling BARE will join our pool of Smoke Pit contributors at BI Military & Defense immediately. Look for the amazing things they're doing posted here in the coming days.

    Battling Bare

    Broken by battle, Wounded by war, I love you forever

    Battling Bare

    To you this I swore: I will quiet your silent screams, Help heal your shattered soul

    Battling Bare

    Until once again, my love, you are whole.

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    Paula Broadwell

    A senior military source leaves no doubt about who many in the military community believe is responsible for the downfall of General David Petraeus:

    The woman who was Petraeus's biographer and reported mistress, Paula Broadwell.

    Petraeus met Broadwell at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2006 as she was wrapping up her Master's degree.

    Both are West Point alumni. Petraeus answered some of Broadwell's questions regarding counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, interests they both shared.

    "I took full advantage of his open-door policy to seek insight and share perspectives," she writes in her book on Petraeus All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.

    Broadwell promptly began her PhD dissertation entitled "a case study of General Petraeus's leadership." Two years later, when Petraeus assumed command of the Afghanistan War, the dissertation evolved into a book. That's when her full access to the General began.

    Any of that is spelled out in All In's forward and Michael Hasting's nine month old Rolling Stone review of the book.

    Following Petraeus's shocking resignation yesterday, I wanted to get a sense of how the situation is viewed within the military. I also wanted to understand the inside view of reports about the timing of the announcement, which came just after the election and just before Petraeus was scheduled to testify to Congress about Benghazi.

    I reached out to a senior military source who has worked with Petraeus, (P4) as he's referred to within the service, and who helped provide background information for Broadwell's book. I'll call the officer "James Downing"). A transcript of our conversation follows:

    BI: Did anyone know about the affair before today?

    James: I'm not sure anyone really "knew", per se. But it's one of those things that, as soon as the announcement was made, I knew in an instant who it was. Everything made sense.  Who had exclusive access to him?  Who wrote the hagiography on his life? Who framed their entire existence around his persona? It wasn't hard to make the guess, and the rest is public knowledge now. One day, she's celebrating her birthday as an accomplished (if you want to use that term) author and PhD candidate, the next she's Paula Jones.

    BI: Did you know Broadwell long?

    James: I've known her for a few years, probably five or six. When she started work on the bio she called me for background on one of the general's previous deployments. I probably gave her four hours or so, and we stayed in touch after that by email and an occasional phone call. Over that time, she went from someone very likeable to a shameless self-promoting prom queen. A very disturbing shift in how she carried herself. If she knew P4 was going to make an appearance at an event, she'd crash it without an invitation (she actually did this at the wedding of some close friends of mine) and photo bomb[ed] sic everyone there.  

    BI: Seems to be plenty of rumors there was more to this announcement, and the timing, than we'll ever know. Benghazi, the election etc:

    James: I seriously doubt it had anything more to it than what we've heard.  Let's face it, everyone is human, and we all make mistakes. You're a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you — that would be a test for anyone. The timing of the rumors of the administration throwing him under the bus after the election is suspect, but in the end I believe she got her claws — so to speak — in him.  He had enough honor to know that a cover-up is much worse than a public admission.  As a result, I think he can recover and continue to be a player on the national stage, but she's toast.  Her reputation is unrecoverable, in my opinion.

    BI: What will be the result for them?

    James: As for her, I just hope that she can find peace with herself and that her family can recover.  Another sign that something was amiss? She posted pictures of the "happy family" more than anyone I've ever seen in my book, that's over-compensating. The more you try to be something you're not, the more obvious it becomes.

    BI: Anything else to add in closing?

    James: I hope both families can recover. Anyone can make a mistake. 

    There are always two sides to every story, and it will be interesting to hear some perspective from Broadwell's. She has a husband and children of her own, after all, for whom I'm sure this is very difficult.

    The official I spoke with obviously doesn't speak for everyone in the foreign service, or the military, but his view of the situation is probably common.

    The General fell victim to the one thing that can destroy a military leader's reputation faster than death: Seduction.

    Now see why the US never had a ship like the USS PONCE >

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    Jill Kelley

    We have both served in the military at various installations around the world, but neither of us were familiar with the "social liaison" position Jill Kelley ascribes to herself in Tampa.

    Kelley is the woman who turned the FBI on to Paula Broadwell's emails to her, Broadwell's relationship with CIA Director Petraeus, and Kelley's own email correspondence with General Allen.

    We reached out to ranking officers and they'd never heard of the position or the role either. One source familiar with Central Command says, "I have no idea what a "social liaison" is. Maybe a community organizer?  Who knows?"

    This same source says that the Pentagon is scaling back the 20-30,000 emails sent between Allen and Kelley to "hundreds". Still not an inconsiderable number.

    Though there are several official civilian 'liaison' positions that do exist, and are established on most military bases — for example the "School Liaison Officer" and "The Exceptional Family Program Liaison"— this is not one of them.

    There are also several unofficial and official 'wives' networks that function with the military, but these tend to be headed by military wives/spouses; and when working on official business with the military, the spouses are checked out by base command to be sure of marriage status and standing in the community.

    Finally, not even CENTCOM, the unit Jill Kelley supposedly represents, recognizes the position.

    In an email sent to Business Insider, CENTCOM's official position is: "Mrs. Kelley has no official position with U.S. Central Command. She is a volunteer and a private citizen, not an employee; because of this, and because there is an ongoing investigation, we have no additional information to provide."

    A volunteer for what exactly is not explicitly said, and the cloak of an ongoing investigation blocks any further comment.

    Though the first sentence is key, "no official position," which means that her "job" as a social liaison is in all likelihood a self-appointed, loosely-recognized post.

    Now see: PETRAEUS COLLEAGUE: Biographer Paula Broadwell 'Got Her Claws Into Him'


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    Marines Drill Instructor

    Young male military recruits are warned by their drill instructors and bosses at permanent duty stations to stay away from the local women who hang out on or near the base.

    We knew some derogatory terms for these women from our time in the service. Several are also listed on Urban Dictionary.

    A couple of the more harmless appellations are:

    Barracks cougar: "A barracks cougar is much like a barracks bunny, only older like mom or grandma status. Usually in their early 30's late 40's."

    Boot chaser:"The girls who are attracted to members of the armed forces. Usually seen outside of the barracks, bars in proximity to base, and usually find a way into the enlisted-club. Known to be only interested in using the soldier, airmen, marine or sailor for their pay, housing, and guaranteed approval for loans. Good for little more than sex. (See also: "Officer And A Gentleman")

    Even these characterizations are offensive. We bring them up only to illustrate how much of a culture there is of intimate relations between the military personnel and nearby civilians.

    We've witnessed several occasions where young noncommissioned officers advise new, junior Marines to stay away from the local civilian 'boot chasers,' and in one case heard they might, "orchestrate your end"— which is exactly what Generals Petraeus and Allen may have done.

    Now: Forget What Jill Kelley Says: There Is No Such Thing As An 'Unpaid Social Liaison' >

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    Plate

    The media is abuzz with the Petraeus revelation and has apparently taken up residence on Jill Kelley's lawn, or near it, too near it for her taste.

    According a local Tampa Fox News report, Jill Kelley "has called police to her home several times in the last few days, and at least once tried to invoke "diplomatic protection.'"

    From the report:

    "You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well," she told the 911 dispatcher, who agreed to pass the information along to police.

    Diplomatic immunity guarantees the protection and sanctity of a diplomat's premises, which is one reason why she would try to invoke diplomatic security. Still, because she has diplomatic plates she thinks she can invoke diplomatic security, which raises the question: Why does a supposed Tampa 'socialite' have diplomatic credentials?

    Listen to Jill Kelly's request for "diplomatic protection" below:

     

    NOW SEE: Forget What You've Heard, There Is No Such Position As "Social Liaison">

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    EOD

    The Army Sappers School graduates infantry savvy, engineer-type, explosive experts, able to grant troops access to wherever they need to go.

    Skip straight to sapper school >

    In a 28-training-day course at Fort Leonard Wood sapper students learn demolition, knot-tying, rappelling, urban combat tactics, and they also brush-up their hand-to-hand combat techniques. The training — done straight through without a day off — is so physically demanding that most students will lose at least 10 pounds over the four weeks.

    The Military Channel followed Course 05-09 for the three-part feature dubbed "Mission Demolition" and the following slides show the highlights.

    Although the Sapper Leader Course was created less than 30 years ago, the concept has been around for centuries.



    The term Sapper comes from a French term for digging trenches, and GIs even applied the term to elite Vietcong soldiers in Vietnam.



    The castle emblem of the Engineer Branch is a reference to those who protected the buildings from advancing armies.



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    attached image

    The SA-71 was years in research and development, a weapon fielded during the height of the cold war, before it was eventually ousted because of satellite technology.

    Borderline space technology itself, it flew so high that pilots had to wear pressurized space suits. Unarmed, the reconnaissance jet flew at three times the speed of sound — but it also suffered a 30 percent crash rate; of the 32 SR-71 built, the U.S. eventually lost more than a third to crashes.

    Nonetheless, it maintained its stealth superiority for decades, resisting replacement even against newer technology and newer designs.

    The SR-71 Blackbird was a huge advance over its predecessors, the U-2 and A-12, and was designed to operate at speeds never achieved before



    The body is made of mostly titanium in order to ensure that the high temperatures of Mach 3 flight didn't destroy the aircraft



    The planes were painted black to increase the emission of internal heat to minimize its radar cross section



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Gaza

    Israel claims to have destroyed most of Hamas' Fajr (Dawn) 4 and 5 missiles through more than 100 targeted strikes as fighting in Gaza continues.

    The two missile variants made by Iran both have striking distances of more than 25 miles, but the latter model reaches up to 48 miles and that's enough to strike the heart of Tel Aviv, not only the country's largest city, but its financial center as well.

    Despite Israel's success, Hamas has ratcheted up its short range rocket attacks and killed 3 Israeli civilians.

    The residents were apparently standing before a window in their home, against regulations, as their neighbors heeded warnings to evacuate to a hardened stairwell, when the rocket struck their apartment complex.

    Though an unknown amount of the smaller Fajr 3's remain, if Israel did take out the Fajr 4 & 5 stockpiles, then its most significant threat has been neutralized and this attacks goals may have been achieved. That means there's still a chance that this won't escalate any further, blowing up into a full blown war.

    Martin Fletcher of NBC writes:

    Not only would that end the threat, but it would end the threat of unplanned escalation. For if Tel Aviv suffered casualties from rocket attacks, the government would have no choice but to order the ground invasion of Gaza. 

    So far Tel Aviv remains unscathed and only the air assault has intensified, with Israel "dropping dozens of targets overnight in an intense air campaign" of jets and drones, according to the Washington Post.

    While the current conflict may not dramatically escalate it also doesn't look look like it's winding down any time soon. “We are at the start of the event and not at its end,” Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says and will do “whatever is necessary to restore quiet to the south.”

    Meanwhile Hamas health department workers released a statement saying that Israeli strikes had killed several civilians, including two children. They seem most upset about the loss of their leader though, and like Barak, say the fight is far from over.

    IsraelKilling top Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari “is a serious crime, and they crossed the red line,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. “It’s time to declare war.”

    In a predictable response to the Israeli pounding, Hamas fighters have taken refuge in the heavily populated Gaza City. The move is problematic, as Palestinian civilians find themselves yet again thrust in between the two warring sides with little option but to try and weather the storm.

    In response and showing a certain awareness, Israel dropped leaflets over the city calling for civilians to remain calm and stay away from Hamas operatives. So far, Hamas says 13 have been killed, including Jabari, and six civilians, among them a pregnant woman with twin babies.

    Already international communities are taking sides with the U.K. and U.S. backing Israel, and Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and Russia condemning the action. Egypt's President Morsi harshly condemned the act, and recalled his ambassador from Israel.

    The fighting is likely to continue despite U.N. calls to stop the violence. Hamas vows to fight to the death and Israel plans to cripple their militant wing.

    Hamas is certainly outgunned, from Reuters:

    Gaza has an estimated 35,000 Palestinian fighters, no match for Israel's F-16 fighter-bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, Merkava tanks and other modern weapons systems in the hands of a conscript force of 175,000, with 450,000 in reserve.

    Unless Hamas fighters start to relent, it seems unlikely that the fight will do anything other than escalate — and with every rocket that flies into Israeli airspace, a ground invasion becomes more and more probable.

    Here's the leaflet Israel dropped over Gaza (translated into English) bearing a remarkably similar message to the leaflets the U.S. dropped over Fallujah before sending ground forces in during Operation New Dawn.

    Leaflet dropped over gaza

    NOW SEE: Hamas Top Dog Dropped By Surgical Israeli Strike >

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    Sgt. Julia Bringloe

    When Army Sgt. Julia Bringloe received the Distinguished Flying Cross during a Manhattan ceremony earlier this year it wasn't for any one particular thing that she had done.

    Bringloe, 39, received the honor for dozens of courageous acts performed during a 60-hour mission where she and her medevac crew rescued 14 wounded soldiers. 

    Tony Dokoupil and John Ryan at The Daily Beast report the following actions are part of daily life for the crews of DUSTOFF 72 and DUSTOFF 73.

    Bringloe and her DUSTOFF helicopter crew spent nearly three days flying into, hovering above, and dropping in, to extreme danger and live combat. 

    Operation Hammerdown was launched in late 2011 as an effort to wipe out insurgent training camps near the Pech River Valley in Afghanistan. The operation turned into one big, long firefight that absorbed all the lifesaving resources the Army could provide.

    Almost immediately U.S. troops began suffering casualties and Bringloe's UH-60 Black Hawk was called in to rescue downed troops. With her crew's sister ship taken out of action early, Bringloe and three person crew became the only medevac chopper in the area — responsible for rescuing every badly wounded soldier — and there were a lot of them.

    On the first day while flying in the thin, sparing air at 10,000 feet, her chopper's blades desperate to find purchase and provide lift, Bringloe was lowered more than 15-stories to the ground.

    On the rocky soil, she hauled a wounded soldier from his stretcher and hooked him to her cable for the ride 150 feet back up into the chopper, which was still desperately clawing for purchase in the rarefied air.

    As the hoist pulled them up, the cable swung Bringloe and her patient straight into a nearby tree where she swung her body around to protect his, breaking her leg.

    “In some of the write-ups I’ve seen you would think my leg was dangling off of (my torso),” Bringloe told Paul Ghiringhelli at the Fort Drum paper. “But really it was just a small fracture.”

    Back at base when Bringloe brought the wounded to the infirmary, one of her pilots, Chief Warrant Officer Erik Sabiston noticed her leg, and asked her if she needed to quit.

    Bringloe said it wasn't an option. “I was the only medic in the valley and it was a huge mission,” she told The Daily.

    And a very different mission than she faced just four years before when she was still a Hawaiian carpenter doing her best to raise her son and get along with her ex. But that life was likely far from her mind on June 25, 2011 when she clambered back into the Black Hawk and flew straight back into the fray.

    Back where she'd broken her leg, Bringloe was dropped down again to rescue a fallen Afghan translator who needed to be lifted out before troops in the structure below could move on.

    Pilot Sabiston slipped the Black Hack into a hover that locked him eye-to-eye with enemy insurgents on a ridgeline about 70 feet from the house below. The site was a frenzy of gunfire.

    “As soon as she hit the ground she was in a no-lie, real-deal firefight,” Sabiston said.

    A nearby Apache gunship pilot radioed Bringloe's crew,  “Medevac, you guys are crazy.”

    Helping her strap the dead translator to the line while she stayed behind, soldiers on the ground had to remind Bringloe to duck. “Somehow I think I’m impervious to bullets or something,” she said.

    With the translator's body safely aboard the Black Hawk above, Bringloe latched herself to the now vacant cable. The insurgents on the ridgeline promptly concentrated their fire on her dangling form.

    The high velocity rounds streamed past her as she rose, and sounded like "a kind of whistling" she later explained. Troops below radioed to Sabiston above, “They’re shooting at your medic! Get out of here!”

    Unable to alter his position or risk dragging Bringloe into another tree, Sabiston had to remain hovering for a full 15 seconds while half-a-dozen insurgents pounded round after round at Bringloe on the rising cable.

    Breaking out the only weapon available, co-pilot CWO Ken Brodhead chambered a round in a nearby M4 and began firing from his window.

    Though she doesn't know how much it helped, Bringloe said “I thought it was pretty funny though. I love that guy.”

    Sgt. Julia Bringloe joins only six other women to have received the Distinguished Flying Cross, including Amelia Earhart. The Flying Cross recognizes "extraordinary achievement for an aerial flight."

    The award was struck in 1927 and has since been bestowed upon Charles Lindbergh, George H.W. Bush, and Admiral Richard Byrd among others.

    Check out the extended account at The Daily >

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    Williston Oil Worker

    Ten years ago Williston, North Dakota was a quiet agricultural town with a population around 12,000.

    Now, oil prices and drilling advancements have turned Williston into one of America's biggest oil boomtown, pushing its population to over 30,000. The wait at the town's Wal-Mart can push two hours, and the infrastructure is deeply strained.

    I visited Williston in March. Interest in the small city is only continuing to grow as America's energy boom rolls on and concerns about a new drilling technique known as "fracking" increase.

    These days, America's new boomtown is more in the news than ever, so we thought we'd re-visit what life is like there.

    Williston, North Dakota is in the Northwestern portion of the state, not far from Montana and Canada



    The town happens to sit in the center of the large Bakken oil formation — 640 square miles of oil, holding up to 34 billion barrels



    Recent advancements in fracking allow operators to go deeper, more precisely than ever before



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    Hamas and Israel engaged in a profound social media battle after Israel's Gaza strike yesterday, and it looks like Hamas used to occasion to spread a little disinformation.

    Amid its tweets about the Israeli strikes, Alqassam Brigades tweeted at least one photo showing Syrian casualties and not injuries on the ground in Gaza. The following photo was originally posted to Syrians & Friends Facebook page in October.

    Thanks to BI reader David @dschorrnyc for the tip.

    Hamas

    Syria

    Hamas

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    gaza israel

    Earlier Haaretz reported that air raid sirens have warned Tel Aviv residents and rockets have hit the city of Holon to the south.

    The Associated Press now reports that Israel is amassing ground troops near the Gaza border, suggesting an escalation to the air raids in the area.

    The development follows a report that the Israel activated 30,000 reserve troops to aid in a possible Gaza invasion.

    The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) says it has refitted the rules of engagement for Gaza and escalated its bombing campaign which is reportedly targeting 70 sites in Gaza. Palestinians report three killed and at least 20 wounded.

    From Times of Israel:

    The Israeli Air Force has launched a number of airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip. Sources in Gaza report via Twitter as many as eight or nine large explosions...

    Darkness engulfs the Gaza Strip as power outages are reported, particularly in Gaza City, in the wake of the IAF airstrikes. Video images from Israel’s Channel 2 show the Strip blanketed in black, interrupted by occasional explosions.

    Israeli police confirmed that two missiles fired at Tel Aviv area landed in open areas, which marks the northernmost point struck by a rocket since Israel's Gaza offensive began on WednesdayThe BBC tweeted this map detailing the range of Hamas rockets.

    A strike on Tel Aviv would be the first time Gaza rocket squads have reached the city, which would mark a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict, The Telegraph notes.

    Haaretz reports that Jay Carney, White House press secretary, says President Obama condemns the rockets fired at Israel; "there is no justification for these cowardly acts." Netanyahu's twitter feed thanked President Obama but then deleted the tweet.netanyahuThe IDF has attacked 340 strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Pillar of Cloud on Wednsday while 274 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel and the Iron Dome has intercepted 105. 

    Hamas reports that 16 Gazans have been killed and more than 151 wounded in the offensive while 527 rockets have been rockets by Hamas, including 138 by Islamic Jihad.

    Tel AvivTel Aviv residents reported explosions, but the IDF said no rockets have struck the city, but also says that residents of central Israel "won't be calm" throughout the night.

    Tel Aviv, Israel's second most populous city and financial epicenter, has not heard warning sirens since the Persian Gulf War in 1991 when missiles fired by Saddam Hussein's Iraq landed in the city.

    The Jerusalem Post reports "Islamic Jihad" is taking responsibility for the strikes.

    To give you an idea of where this conflict is going, here is a tweet from Haaret's reporter Barak Ravid: 

    A top Hamas official reportedly agrees that there is no room for a ceasefire. Nevertheless, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will head to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo on Tuesday in an attempt to ease tensions.

    We'll report on this story as it unfolds.

    NOW SEE: Israel's Air Strike Was Just The Beginning >

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    This map by the IDF Homefront Command shows the distance from Gaza as well as the amount of time residents of nearby cities have to seek shelter once the air raid alarms go off.

    Most apartment buildings in the last couple of decades have shelters incorporated in their design, but the people closest to Gaza have only 15 seconds to reach them, while those living in the red section have almost two minutes.

    Below the map are infographics about Hamas' missile capabilities, specs, etc.

    Gaza

    Below is another map graphic and then below that is the missile graphic.

    Rockets Israel Hamas

    Hamas Rockets IDF

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    attached image

    Air raid signals erupted in Israel's holy city of Jerusalem this morning.

    The air raid follows a failed attempt at a ceasefire when the Egyptian Prime Minister visited Gaza. Israel had maintained they would not fire on Gaza while the PM was in the area, but reported that they received missile fire from the beleaguered strip almost immediately.

    Israel responded with more targeted strikes, officially breaking the ceasefire for both sides. 

    The situation is developing, we'll report as changes occur.

    The IDF confirmed via Twitter that rockets have struck about 8 miles south of Jerusalem, which is considered outside of Hamas’ rocket range.

    NOW CHECK OUT: This wedding video caught Israel's Iron Dome in action >

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    Iron Dome

    For the past few years Israel has been working to perfect an all-weather missile interceptor system, called the Iron Dome (Golden Dome was deemed too ostentatious).

    Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the network is made up of forward deployed missile batteries, which work together with a rapid response control center and radar tracker to take out incoming Qassam and Grad rockets, as well as artillery shells fired from the Gaza Strip.

    Unlike the large scale missile shield that has been under development by the U.S. and NATO, which requires a long list of regional agreements in order to place interceptor missile batteries capable of bringing down longer range missiles, Israel’s Iron Dome is specifically designed to take care of the short range (up to 70km) missiles that might be fired into populated areas in Israel.

    Also, unlike higher technology systems, such as the now defunct U.S.-Israeli Nautilus laser defense, Iron Dome relies on a combination of proven and fairly conventional technology.

    The relative predictability of launch sites, along with the limitations of the missiles themselves (Qassam and Grad) no doubt play a large part in the accuracy of the system, which by one estimation successfully eliminated 90 percent of rockets as of March, 2012.  

    Of course, that has not prevented militants from diversifying their tactics, by concentrating on targets not currently serviced by Iron Dome’s batteries, and by firing a larger volley of missiles all at once. As such, the system has become a hotly sought after commodity by regional Israeli governments, and the IDF has fast tracked both the production of equipment, along with its operational deployment.

    Nonetheless, the system already faces limitations, one of which is in service regions that are in extreme proximity to launch sites, which drastically reduces the amount of potential reaction time.  Moreover, Iron Dome has been criticized domestically for its high cost vs. the comparatively cheap rockets lobbed by Hamas – that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 times the cost of a low-tech Qassam rocket versus the current interceptor missile, and the system generally fires two per rocket

    As Israel inevitably deploys more batteries, Hamas is sure to counter by modifying its tactics, and seeking higher range, higher yield rocket variants – taking into account the developing situation in Egypt (the Gaza/Egyptian border being a  primary traffic point for weapons into the territory) it’s easy to see how the situation could potentially escalate.

    Financially, the system has not be cheap to develop for a country the size of Israel.  Budget constraints in the U.S. – as one might guess, the primary donor nation – have led Rafael to refine the system and operate with fewer total batteries (10 to 15). As of FY 2013, $680 million have been earmarked by the U.S. government to help fund the system, on the condition that technology is shared. U.S. defense contractor Raytheon is already working with Rafael to jointly market and develop the system as well.

    As recently as this week, Iron Dome successfully intercepted a number of rockets fired towards the vicinity of Ashkelon (some 120 were fired from Gaza this week). With the ebb and flow of tensions along the Gaza border, along with political instability in Lebanon, expect to hear a lot more about Iron Dome in the coming years.

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    U2

    When the U-2 "Dragon Lady" debuted in 1957 it was an astonishing piece of technological achievement.

    Able to fly reconnaissance from more than 13-miles above the earth, gather data through all weather conditions any time of day or night, while staying beyond the reach of Soviet military — it was an unbelievable achievement.

    The U-2 was so advanced for its time that it's still in service today, performing missions under the Air Force's 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB in California, filling the gaps where the most advanced long range drones fall short.

    With the Cold War raging, the military desperately wanted a powerful reconnaissance aircraft



    Lockheed Skunk Works, the top-secret wing of the aircraft manufacturer, tried to jump into the competition



    The military didn't want Lockheed's design, a stripped down version of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter with glider-like long wings



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    Never having lived in Israel I can only imagine the cautionary acceptance that must come with being under the constant threat of attack. Most apartment buildings have bomb shelters that are supposed to be resistant to chemical attacks, while air raid maps outline how long residents have to take cover once the alert is sounded.

    Imagine a first date, taking a child to school, visiting grandparents and getting stuck in traffic — all under the constant possibility of an incoming attack.

    Imagining life under those circumstances, along with this video, could go a long way to helping understand why Israel's Iron Dome is so important and why the U.S. spent so much money helping build it.

    The following clip was posted to YouTube yesterday and apparently shows a wedding party and its videographer as they listen to air raid sirens while watching incoming missiles get scuttled by Israel's defensive shield. Punctuated by squeals and claps, the whole high definition scene is nudged along by a female cover version of Maroon 5's Sunday Morning. The picture below the video shows one of the rockets as it slips from its launcher.

    The link comes by way of Reddit, posted in the comments section of another video link, and included the accompanying text: "Sirens interrupted a wedding in the city of Beersheba (about 25 miles from Gaza) and a photographer caught a barrage of rockets on video. You can also see about a dozen Iron Dome interceptions."

    In the video: At about 18 seconds it looks like the Iron Dome is powering up. At50 seconds. as the cameraman is starting to wonder if that's going to be it, the rockets come into view on the horizon.

    Iron Dome

    Now: Check out the SR-71 Blackbird >

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    USS Eisenhower (CVN-69) ("Ike")

    The U.S. currently has 11 aircraft carriers that hold about 5,600 sailors and aviators apiece. While not all of them are deployed at the same time, the ones at home are training, undergoing maintenance, and still filling their crews' days with inordinate demands.

    Aircraft carriers have three acres of flattop and are 1,000 feet long. It's common to hear them referred to as floating cities, but they're more than that.

    Click here to see life on the Ike >

    The carriers projecting America's military power abroad are more exposed than most any other U.S. command in the world. Aside from working and sailing into dicey locations, these big ships are dangerous and the flight deck alone requires just one wrong move to bring an end to the distracted.

    There's no room to be anything less than focused, almost all the time and the jobs on board are just as varied as the people who fill them.

    From pilots, to navigators, to recruits that wash the deck, everyone works together and supports the overall mission. No bitterness or condescension that I saw, and that would be a tough environment to hide it.

    Sixty-one thousand men and women, doing things most people have no idea, in places most others can't imagine. It's like someone took the entire Ohio University student body, and a chunk of the faculty, and sent them off to parts unknown. 61,000 people is a lot, and that's just serving on carriers.

    When we went to the Persian Gulf in September we spent about 36 hours on the USS EISENHOWER — or the "Ike" as her crew calls her. There's no way to show everything that goes on, but the following pictures should offer a feeling for what the mad paced, ear crushing scene is really like.

    Among the handful of ways to reach an underway carrier, this rickety old COD is far and away the least glamorous



    To board we put on cranial units and inflatable life vests —we felt prepared for anything — and it never did feel like something might NOT happen



    A flatbed truck of a plane that's hot, loud, and cramped we wedge ourselves into riveted metal-backed seats and strap in beneath 4-point harnesses



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    iron dome

    On the receiving end of Hamas' unremitting rocket campaign, Israel has been looking for an effective defense for years.

    With questions about the U.S. Patriot missile system abounding, there was no doubt Israel's new rocket defense needed to be built from the ground up and dedicated to intercepting short range incoming rockets.

    By the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israel was tired of waiting and started developing the Iron Dome platform that currently protects the country.

    Developed by Haifa-based Rafael SPYDER, a company already known for its anti-aircraft systems, the Iron Dome has three separate parts to which it owes its success.

    • Detection and Radar Tracking designed by a second Israeli defense company, Eltna, sits at the rear of the potential strike zone and layers the area with 40 kilometers of radar waves (about 25 miles). Picture a projector at the rear of a theater shooting light at the screen, the radar covers an area in that pattern for up to 40 kilometers.
    • The raw data absorbed by the radar is sent to the middle Dome component called the Battle Management and Control (BMC) center, built by mPrest Systems. This is a small workspace filled with monitors and electronics where IDF personnel interpret the radar information. If the team determines the incoming object is a threat to a populated area, they light up the rocket firing unit by offering new coordinates.
    • The Missile Firing Unit, stationed in yet a third location, receives the coordinates from BMC, layers them over its own tracking algorithms and fires a Tamir missile that's equipped with sensors and fins that make it highly maneuverable. From available pictures it looks like each firing station holds 20 rockets.

    Iron DomeWe've watched over the past couple years as the Iron Dome was released and put through its paces, finally getting operationally deployed to Beersheba in late March 2011. Israel had spent huge sums getting the Iron Dome on the field, but it still needed more than three stations deployed around the country.

    The $200 million offered by the Obama White House in 2010 helped build a fourth installment.,

    In March of this year Israel announced the Iron Dome had successfully intercepted 90 percent of incoming Gaza missiles that would have landed in populated Israeli areas.

    Within a month of that announcement, the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee ranked by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) approved an additional $680 million in funding for the Iron Dome.

    The Dome funding has all been in addition to the $3 billion a year the U.S. provides to Israel's defense budget.

    It appears the U.S. indeed got what it paid for. Tony Capaccio at Bloomberg questioned some high ranking officials at the Pentagon Friday, Nov. 17 who corroborate the 90 percent success rate:

    Israeli officials including Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said the system has been about 90 percent effective this week against the Hamas rockets fired from Gaza against Israel. That figure is seen as credible by analysts such as Steve Zaloga, who’s with the Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group.

    “What they mean is, of the rockets that they are actually shooting at, they are hitting 90 percent,” Zaloga said in a telephone interview yesterday. The military has been “tweaking” the system for improvements since its first combat intercept in April 2011 because “early on they weren’t scoring at that rate,” he said.

    Ninety percent “is an extremely high level,” Zaloga said. “Air defense systems are typically not in that range.”

    Israel has achieved this success using only four Iron Dome batteries. Nine additional batteries are expected Iron Domeby 2013. Currently, Israel doesn't even try to shoot down all of Hamas' missiles.

    Hamas is renowned for throwing together incredibly crude projectiles that may never become a threat at all as they head into Israel. The Iron Dome's second stage Battle Management and Control is where human input decides whether the incoming object is a threat and launches a $90,000 rocket to neutralize the possibility. Or not.

    Capaccio also reports Prime Minister Netanyahu is so satisfied with Iron Dome's results he called President Obama Friday to express his "deep appreciation" for U.S. funding of the Dome, "which has saved countless Israeli lives."

    This is how Iron Dome's maker pictures the system: Literally an iron dome over Israel



    Radar station in the rear picks up incoming threats and sends the information to Battle Management and Control



    This is where it starts at the Radar Station



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    Just settling in for the trans-Atlantic crossing that would bring them home to the States for the holidays, the sailors and Marines aboard the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group got the call to turn around and head to Israel.

    The USS New York, USS Iwo Jima, and the USS Gunston Hall had all been winding down six month deployments when the Pentagon ordered the group on reserve to help Americans looking to get out of Israel in the coming days.

    Barbara Starr at CNN reports one official said: "'This is due diligence. It is better to be prepared should there be a need ... the ships would be used only for assisting Americans and not for any combat role."

    Officials are also maintaining that an evacuation remains a remote possibility, but this move underscores the seriousness with which the U.S. is viewing the Israel/Gaza flare up. It also seems to imply that Washington either knows something the public doesn't, like the conflict could be set to escalate; or in fact it knows just as little as everyone else, and wants to be prepared regardless.

    These ships all carry Marines and are designed to serve as floating hospitals should the need arise.

    USS Gunston Hall
    USS New York
    USS Iwo Jima
     Map

    The three ships were headed east, having just passed the Strait of Gibraltar when orders came down to reverse course and head back across the Mediterranean to the coast of Israel. The ships are now supposed to be at the ready should a surge of Americans decide that they want to get out of Israel. While these Amphibious Assault Ships can certainly handle transport, they're also humanitarian vessels designed to treat immense numbers of casualties. 

    When natural disasters strike and produce numerous wounded these ships convert their hanger bays, huge indoor spaces, into makeshift hospitals.

    LCAC

    The Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) can leave the amphibious ship's well deck, a landing area in the rear of the ships accessible through a huge folding door onto the sea, and zip to shore at 45 mph carrying a full load of 60 tons. It can carry as many people as it can cram aboard its 87' by 47 foot frame.

    Now: See how Israel developed such a shockingly effective rocket defense system >

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