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The latest news from Robert Johnson on Business Insider

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    BahrainThe tiny monarchy of Bahrain is struggling to hold on during a time of unrest and constant regional tensions. Thankfully, they've got some help.

    Bahrain is home to America's 5th Fleet, which extends a decisive presence through the region.

    Last fall I was invited to take part in international mine clearing exercises in the Persian Gulf.

    It was an opportunity to step inside a place full of contradictions, from luxurious developments built with oil money — to the squalor of immigrant workers who built them — to cordoned-off military zones.

    Bahrain looks calm, tranquil and hot at just after 5 a.m.



    Ruled by Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, this small island monarchy is linked by bridge to Saudi Arabia (and in a few years to Qatar).



    Bahrain has been vital to the U.S. presence in the region since World War II and is host to the U.S. 5th Fleet.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    USS Guardian The U.S. Navy has recently begun moving ships to Asia to address the growing tension between China and Japan and other Asian countries.

    As the Navy began this redeployment last year, most senior commanders were presumably eager to return to a port in the Philippines called Subic Bay.

    The Navy's 7th Fleet had called Subic Bay home for decades before and after World War II.  But after an unfortunate incident in 1991, the Philippines kicked the Navy out. The parting was so tense that even by October 2012, the Philippines was still demurely but firmly saying:  "The US will not return to the bases they gave up in 1991." 

    The Philippines is still saying publicly that the U.S. can't reclaim its old bases. But thanks to China's increasing might, the Philippines is now gradually welcoming the Navy back.

    Subic Bay was not just a port in the storm of WWII. The U.S. essentially took refuge from long-time host Spain in the years leading up to the 20th century. For over four decades, the Americans called Subic Bay home, until 1943 when the Japanese took it over.

    USS GuardianJapan held on to the port until 1945, when it fell with great fanfare to U.S. forces.

    It was a homecoming, and the Philippine community in Subic Bay lived in relative harmony with U.S. Navy forces until 1991.

    But that year, there was a mighty explosion.

    One morning, six days before the official start of summer in June 1991, a Philippines volcano called Mt. Pinatubo erupted with a force eight times greater than Mount St. Helens.

    To make matters worse, at the time, the country was enveloped in the rain, thunder, and lighting of Typhoon Yunya.

    Dozens died the first day.

    U.S. dependents in Subic Bay were evacuated quickly and expeditiously, but the U.S. did not provide much help to the Philippine community. This, combined with the political situation in the Philippines at the time, turned sentiment against the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Philippines decided to end the Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation that permitted the existence of the U.S. base at Subic Bay.

    By the end of 1992 the U.S. was shown the door. And the Navy was not invited back until last year, November 2012.

    Then, this year, on January 17, just after the Navy was finally welcomed back to the Philippines, the U.S. Navy blew it again.

    The Navy ran a 225-foot-long minesweeper, the USS Guardian, onto one of the world's most pristine reefs off the Philippines' coast.

    Minesweepers are far more destructive to reefs than other ships because they're made mostly of pine and clad in a soft, non-USS Guardianresonating material to keep from triggering mines. They shred apart when they founder in the surf, like ripping silk from an ear of corn. And they also leak oil and fuel.

    When the USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef, it damaged 4,000 square yards of reef. For Philippines residents, the Tubbataha Reef is not just pretty and ecologically important: It is needed for hard cash income during diving season. So this was a public-relations disaster.

    The minesweeper incident was unfortunate, and then the U.S. Navy was also accused of dumping hazardous waste in Subic Bay in November, just days before their official arrival.

    So only a few months after the U.S. was finally invited back to the Philippines to counter the growing Chinese threat, tensions between the U.S. and Philippines residents are already running high.

    Fortunately, the U.S. Navy appears to be well aware of the mistakes it has made and is trying to make up for them. The Navy sent a destroyer, the USS Stockdale, into Subic Bay early last month, and then immediately hired 15 Philippine sailors to work on it.

    So, with the potentially huge threat of Chinese aggression growing in the region, the U.S. is back in the Philippines, if only because of the old adage that the enemy of one's enemy is one's friend.

    And though the reunion has not gone smoothly, both sides need each other, and both sides appear to be trying to make the fragile new partnership work.

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    Recently we posted a set of Uzi pictures that a reader sent us. The reader bought the weapon at a gun show, and as far as we know followed all state and federal laws.

    The response from other readers was explosive. At least one commenter claimed he was writing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to complain.

    Well, we have now heard from the gun-buyer again.

    He says his IP address is now blocked from visiting gun and ammunition websites from his phone and home computers.

    He has had no visits by law enforcement.

    But he thinks the government has found him and is now blocking him.

    The government does not centrally control the Internet, so this seems unlikely. But assuming the reader remains unable to access weapons sites, it will be interesting to figure out what is really going on. Most likely, if anyone is "blocking" the reader, it's his Internet Service Provider. (But even that would raise some interesting questions...)

    Here's a screenshot from his phone. 

    IP Block

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    LCSThe Navy's new $440-million Littoral Combat Ship needs some help taking care of itself. The LCS is said to be vulnerable to incoming strikes, meaning it might not survive a shootout with, say, China.

    Thankfully the ship may get two new life-saving escorts.

    First, DARPA wants to boost the Independence-class LCS drone capability to host a 27-foot wingspan Predator-like UAV. Previously it could only launch and receive a modest tactical drone like the ScanEagleThe new TERN program calls for a drone that can be ship-launched and recovered, while also carrying a 600-pound payload up to a 900-mile radius from the ship. 

    Second, the LCS is getting a new robotic surface-based mine hunter called the Unmanned Influence Sweep System.

    All the LCS needs now is a sub-hunting guide to help it avoid another underwater threat, and it just so happens DARAPA's lining one of those up as well. The ACTUV sub-tracking drone is taking shape at SAIC, but no word yet on where it will be assigned once it's ready for deployment.

    Initiated 10 years ago, the LCS will eventually make up 1/5 on the Navy's 313-ship plan



    In addition to a normal compliment of weapons and sensors, the LCSnow has this remote surface mine detector assigned to it as well



    Now the Pentagon wants a bigger, badder drone presence with the ship as well. Here's an artist's concept from DARPA.



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    Sikorsky Boeing_JMR FVL

    Two of America's biggest helicopter makers are teaming up to develop a next-generation  helicopter for the U.S. Army.

    Boeing, maker of the Apache attack helicopter, and Sikorsky, maker of the Black Hawk transport helicopter, have more than 60 years experience in the business — so you can count on them to develop something good.

    The proposal selected by the Army will lay the groundwork for a Pentagon plan to replace more than 4,000 medium-lift helicopters, according to Reuters.

    An early rendering of the Boeing/Sikorsky bird looks pretty good (see above). As noted in the press release:

    The Sikorsky and Boeing proposal ... with its counter-rotating coaxial main rotors, pusher propeller, and advanced fly-by-wire system, will deliver efficient 230-knot cruise airspeed, improved hover efficiency, and weight-optimized design in an affordable package," said Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems.

    "By leveraging our proven design, we can offer the Army reduced risk, a 100-knot improvement in speed, a 60 percent improvement in combat radius, and 50 percent better high-hot hover performance.

    A 100-knot improvement in speed and a 60 percent greater range is an impressive claim, and the "high-hot" hover mention means no more downed birds in Abbottabad compounds. It was the high air temp that was largely responsible for the helicopter crash during the bin Laden raid.

    The military has been seeking for years to improve its helicopters, which have improved surprisingly little since 1942.

    SEE ALSO: How these choppers are about to alter 68 years of vertical flight >

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    LCSThe maker of one type Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Austal, yesterday announced two additional LCS orders from the Navy.

    That means the company's order backlog grew by at least $681.7 million dollars.

    The LCS has drawn criticism as it faced performance shortcomings and cost doubling to the point each ship now runs about $440 million.

    David Lerman & Nick Taborek at Bloomberg considered the LCS a prime project to be cut back in sequestration, which fell March 1 and sliced budgets far and wide. The LCS is a 10-ship, approximately $3.5 billion project.

    Yesterday's announcement puts the idea that LCS will be shelved to rest, and has Austal primed with work for years to come.

    The Littoral Combat Ship is joked about inside the Navy as the "Little Crappy Ship". To be fair, the vessel represents an entirely new technological platform and should require sea trials to match that level of advancement.

    Austal has also been contracted by the Navy to build ten 103-meter Joint High Speed Vessels. A $1.6 billion contract.

    The company's workforce will, increase to 4,000 to Accomodate the incoming orders.

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    Egypt graffitiI have been in correspondence with a thirty-something college-educated woman who lives in Cairo with her family.

    I've had her identity independently verified. Until now, she was reluctant to have her story published, and still asks we not use her name.

    But things are getting bad over there and she wants American to know.

    Here's a letter from Egypt:

    ____________________________________

    I'm very frustrated. I'm angry. We're seeing total security vacuum in some places in Cairo - total absence of security forces (police); non-stop clashes and deaths spilling out from Portstaid to at least 2 more governorates.

    Too many deaths — protesters and policemen and military. The police are cracking down on protesters and in other places they're absent and thugs are controlling the streets in downtown and in front of Semiramis Hotel. And we're seeing severe shortage of solar, which is causing awful traffic jams almost everywhere and strikes by taxi and truck drivers. 

    Muslim Brotherhood (MB) students are losing in student university union elections — they won in two universities but lost in several other places. 

    Why is the USA giving any money to Egypt? Why does Obama Administration still support the MB?

    The government is ignoring the events and protests; the Interior Ministry is heavily involved in what's happening and they too are angry because of casualties among them.

    Something wrong is going on. Why is the USA silent?

    Do they want another Syria? Obama doesn't know that this atmosphere helps homegrown extremists to do what they want inside and outside the country?

    Some newspapers criticize Morsi and his government and policies, but that's not enough. Why did the US use harsh language with Mubarak and not doing the same with Morsi?

    What kind of experience do the MB have to run the country? Did you hear about the "Powers of Attorney" by tens of citizens in Portsaid and other places for General Al-Sisi to run the country?

    It is all too much to bear, believing that nobody, anywhere, really cares.

    Another email a few hours after the previous:

    It's been also said that members of the police force in another Governorate called Daqahliya have taken off their police uniforms and threw them on the floor, something that we saw during the January 25 revolution. They now in a sit-in opposite the Security Building in Mansoura (the capital/ main city in Daqahliya).

    This violence will only escalate and will not stop before the parliamentary elections. (3/6/13 - now looks like those elections are cancelled) Of course the officials and particularly those in the Freedom and Justice Party want to restore calm before the elections. The opposition (The Salvation Front) decided to boycott the elections but other parties will participate.

    We're not seeing any hope. Nothing good is happening. We don't understand what's happening. We ask ourselves - who are those people defying the security forces and attacking them? Why are our youth kidnapped and then turn up shot or killed in hospitals? It's getting harder by the day. We're only expecting economic conditions to worse and security situation to deteriorate...

    It's so saddening - We're tried of seeing funerals and we're sick of the police forces firing tear gas at people in funerals. Our opposition might be weak and divided but that doesnt mean that we get ignored like this.

    We're waiting for the dreaded March 9 - next Saturday. It's the day the court should issue a verdict on the famous stadium massacre in Portsaid where over 70 people were slaughtered.

    Question - if this goes on, how would people go out to vote in the elections? How safe is it going to be? Who wants to give their vote to the MB? Who wants them here anymore? I know that many people don't want them. Even those who voted for them before; they regret it now.

    SEE ALSO: Egypt on the anniversary of its revolution >

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    BlueprintLast year it was announced the U.S. was looking to build a secret underground complex in Israel. On February 13 a contract was awarded to Conti Corp Federal Services in Edison, NJ to complete the project.

    Their bid of almost $63 million came in well below the possible $100 million set aside for the project.

    Conti's bid went toward building five underground levels and six above ground buildings that they have 900 days from February 13 to complete.

    The U.S. government then issued another request for proposal December 28 to construct Site 81 Phase II. Also in Israel, also partially underground, this project calls for up to $100,000,000 to refinish six underground facilities and some currently occupied surface buildings.

    Walter Pincus from the Washington Post fleshed out the original Proposal construction project, called Site 911 in November.

    That nearly $63 million project awarded to Conti can be built only by workers from specific countries with proper security clearances.

    When complete the well-guarded compound will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security.

    Only one gate will allow workers entrance and exit during the project and that will be guarded by only Israelis.

    The bottom two floors are smaller, according to the full line of schematics uploaded to the Army's Acquisition Business Web Site, and possibly used for equipment and storage.

    As impressive as the American design features already are, Ada Karmi-Melamede Architects will decorate the entire site with rocks it chooses, but are paid for by the contractor, and provide three outdoor picnic tables.

    Pincus also found this detailed description of the mezuzahs that will adorn every door in the facility:

    These mezuzas, notes the [US Army] Corps, “shall be written in in-erasable ink, on . . . un-coated leather parchment” and be handwritten by a scribe “holding a written authorization according to Jewish law.” The writing may be “Ashkenazik or Sepharadik” but “not a mixture” and “must be uniform.”

    Also, “The Mezuzahs shall be proof-read by a computer at an authorized institution for Mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof-read for the form of the letters by a proof-reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate.” The mezuza shall be supplied with an aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening. Finally, “All Mezuzahs for the facility shall be affixed by the Base’s Rabbi or his appointed representative and not by the contractor staff.”

    Pincus finds the “complex facility with site development challenges” requiring services that include “electrical, communication, mechanical/ HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning] and plumbing” requirements telling; and along with the fact that the contractor must posses a U.S. or Israeli Secret Security Clearance, he believes this phase to be a secure command center.

    Pulitzer Prize winning, Yale grad, born in 1932 whose worked intelligence and media in D.C. since 1955 closes his piece with these shadowy words.

    "The purpose of Site 911 is [un] clear." Our calls to the project leader for Site 81, Michael Pearson, sent us to a disconnected number and we are awaiting an email reply.

    SEE ALSO: DEAR AMERICA: Things are really falling apart here in Egypt >

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    Fort Benning FTXWith elaborate projects flying high above defense cuts, it's become tough to get a feel for what's going on within individual military units. 

    The following replies to what troops see in their daily lives comes from reservists to West Point cadets via Reddit

    Looney82: So far, nothing here. I'm in TRADOC and we can still get damn near everything we want. Ink is hard to come by for the printer, but we make it happen. We're getting 20 blanks per soldier for our FTX 3, so that kind of sucks. I'm kind of afraid to get back to the line and find out what I'm not going to get when I get there.

    Our logistics guy saw it coming and ordered surplus toilet paper...he's developed a plan in which when everyone else runs out, we'll rule the base through an intricate bartering system. 

    tromix1:That's genius! We ordered surplus pens, notepads, and excessive amounts of printer paper...We figure a ream of paper is worth a GOV fill up. 

    battlebattlehooahWe've already cut three pretty essential contractor jobs, one of them was my only coworker in a really busy section, so now I am tasked to work here alone. I don't really mind, just don't get mad when it takes me twice as long to do twice as much work (my command understands more than the patients do).

    We can't even buy paper right now, they put a big fat no go on anything not medically necessary (IV bags, band aids, syringes etc etc... are still able to be ordered). Once I run out of this box of paper, I will have to go around and search for extra reams of paper like it was water in the Sahara desert. My busted ass copier that prints cock-eyed? It's just going to go on printing cock-eyed long after I leave in two months. 

    Short answer: everything. 

    BlueFalconNationNo more deployments or ADOS orders. Means my unit will eventually be full of boots like me with no awards and no experience. inb4 hurr durr reserves [the Reserves]. Under normal wartime conditions we are the most deployed unit in the Marine Corps.

    And West Point:  Heh, almost everything at West Point has been modified. No public printers. Summer training has be truncated, they're taking away our academic term Ammo (blanks and live). Furloughs mean that civilian professors are thinking about leaving, and the days off are forcing their military counterparts to pick up the slack.

    Practically all summer schools cadets go to outside of Airborne and Air Assault are canceled, and in house training is being trimmed down to as bare bones as physically possible. Combine this with half finished building projects things are feeling pretty rough around here. $100 million out of the $300 million they are cutting from CONUS is coming from us, and hopefully the AoG can pick up the slack. 

    So while the drive to keep F-35 costs down may be "burned into the brains" of  Pratt & Whitney's engineers, there's at least one wily supply sergeant stockpiling toilet paper.

    Perspective always helps.


     

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    Lockheed Long Range Anti-Ship Missile

    The U.S. Navy has this problem where sinking a ship far away requires all manner of mathematical genius, and extraordinary luck, that really does no more than illuminate its limited strike reach in the first place.

    U.S. enemies create large "no go" zones for the Navy, while producing better weapons with longer reach. It's not pretty, as the fleet ages, and budget cuts reign supreme.

    DARPA looks to end that with its $71 million award to Lockheed Martin for the modification to Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) so that it can perform an air and surface launch, while able to withstand electromagnetic forces trying to drag it off course.

    The LRASM is the evolution of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile begun in 1998 and costing about $700,000 apiece. That is to say this missile has a history and is designed to be launched from the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), and the F-35 Lightning II.

    For its most recent test, the LRASM will slip from the B-1 Bone and drive mercilessly toward its target that one can imagine will never see it coming before vaporizing into ancient history.

    This is a missile that's been a long time coming and the result of years work and expense, a little enthusiasm seems in order.

    Lockheed says:

    Armed with a proven penetrator and blast-fragmentation warhead, LRASM cruises autonomously, day or night, in all weather conditions. The missile employs a multi-modal sensor, weapon data link, and an enhanced digital anti-jam Global Positioning System to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of ships.

    Something needs to bolster the fleet, and this looks like it could do the trick.

    The pics are an illustration from Lockheed (above) on the new missile and an older shot of the Bone with the JASSM-ER that came before.

    The B1 Bone

    SEE ALSO: Why Green Berets are the baddest, smartest warriors in the world >

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    egyptian soccer riots

    In late January there were huge riots in Port Said, Egypt, after a court sentenced 21 people to death in the aftermath of a February 2012 soccer riot that left more than 75 people dead

    Things could be even worse on Saturday as the Cairo court rules on the fate of the remaining 52 defendants.

    “I’m terrified of what could happen on Saturday,” one soldier guarding the police headquarters told AFP.

    We've heard the same thing from our anonymous source in Cairo, who previously sent Business Insider a letter about how her country was falling apart.

    "Egyptians are concerned with what might happen on that day, and fear that violence will continue — if not escalate — even if the verdict was what the people want and ask for," she writes.

    UPDATE MARCH 9: The verdict wasn't good and the people aren't happy. Read more >

    On February 1, 2012, a riot broke out after a game between Cairo's al-Masry and the hometown al-Ahly club when hundreds of fans from the winning al-Masry team stormed the field and began attacking al-Ahly players and fans. 

    More than 1000 were injured and at least 79 were killed, mostly due to asphyxiation or bone fractures, in what became one of the world's worst sports disasters.

    The next day two died in the city of Suez and more than 900 were injured in Cairo as hundreds of protesters — angry with the shoddy security at a soccer match— attacked the security forces' headquarters in Suez and Cairo protestors gathered in Tahrir Square.

    Egyptians had just marked the anniversary of the revolution that toppled the longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak and current President Mohamed Morsi didn't get elected until June of 2012. 

    This week Unrest has been building ahead of the upcoming verdict. Thousands have been protesting every day this week in Port Said, and at least eight people (including three policemen) have been killed in the resulting clashes.

    Meanwhile Egyptian policemen are going on strike across the country, saying they don't have enough weapons and officers to deal violent protesters. On Friday the powerful head of country's central security forces was replaced without a reason given.

    Authorities have tightened security in the capital and the Suez Canal city and will deploy 2,000 police around the police academy in Cairo on Saturday.

    Here's the full letter from our source in Cairo (edited for clarity):

    Many Egyptians are now under the mercy of brutal police forces and their unidentified allies and supporters — some of them allegedly non-Egyptians and possibly Hamas elements. Whether the second part of this is true, the fact remains that Egyptians are killing Egyptians.

    Now the dead are not just among protesters, but among the police forces and the army. The problem is protesters are being killed — in cold blood — and not just fired at to disperse them. If there are thugs among the protesters, is shooting everyone the solution then? Is random shooting the solution?

    These governorates are inside Egypt — and they're not occupied territories that we're fighting in. How can the people there be excluded and ignored and denied their right to security and safety? Life there I'm sure is far from normal. But the youth are still standing.

    March 9th approaches — Egyptians are concerned with what might happen on that day, and fear that violence will continue — if not escalate — even if the verdict was what the people want and ask for. Even if it carries justice for some, it will carry injustice to others. Justice — the concept and the implementation thereof — are sparse in Egypt now a days.

    I can't say if it's shocking or expected for people to be very happy that an administrative court challenged the President's orders to call for parliamentary elections, but it's a strong indicator that people are relieved, that they were possibly torn between wanting to practice their rights and not wanting to be part of a big plot against their country.

    Regular people want to be relieved of a lot of pressures — economic and security and in almost every other aspect of their daily life.It's not fair that we wake up every day wondering what will go wrong and how many people will be killed and what will happen on certain dates. I for one don't feel that we're in a normal state, and it's not just because of the revolution and the transitional period. The people are fighting a new kind of suppression — possibly similar to what's been witnessed in Mubarak era and possibly worse.

    Things have gone from bad to worse since Morsi took office, and since the so-called Brotherhoodization or "Akhwanah" of the State started. It seems that they actually are living in a state of their own — in their own minds. They don't care about the rest of the people. My friends who work in impoverished rural areas tell me that people there can't stand to hear the Muslim Brotherhood's name.

    Is there a name for when someone's popularity drops significantly and they're faced with pure and direct hatred but they still pretend to be in control, needed, and the only alternative? Is this how the regime is rewarding the people who trusted them? Is this how the MB and their ruling party and incapable president treat the people who voted for them and brought them to power? They keep talking about the legitimacy of the elections and the ballots — what legitimacy does one have as a killer?

    All this violence and unrest is because the president and the government continue to ignore the root cause of the problem and insist on forcing confrontations among people — between the protesters and the police, and between the police and the army, and possibly at some point between the protesters or the people and the army to kill any chance of the people actually wanting or even considering the military to intervene.

    We might as well all be complacent to the crimes committed against our fellow Egyptians, simply by being silent about them. Shame on everyone who keeps silent about what's happening.

    To the Muslim Brotherhood and your followers — We don't believe you anymore. To the President — you have blood on your hands, and nothing will ever change that, and forgiveness is not an option.

    Check out the AFP's latest for a good take on everything that's going wrong in Egypt.

    SEE ALSO: At Least 73 Die In Horrifying Egyptian Soccer Riot

    SEE ALSO: DEAR AMERICA: Things Are Falling Apart In Egypt

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    guantanamo

    Guantanamo Bay.

    The name of the U.S. Naval Base located on a small sliver of Cuba likely brings up many different associations: A relic of the Cold War, or a military prison for suspected terrorists.

    And for some in a post-9/11 world, it's a symbol of torture.

    But for the military personnel stationed here — mostly sailors and Marines, it's just Gitmo. It's a tougher duty station than most. Unlike other places in the U.S. military, troops don't get to venture out in town, and guards in the detention facility often endure 12-hour shifts for four days straight, with two days off.

    Robert Johnson, our own Military & Defense Editor, recently visited the base.

    Just getting there was a challenge.

    Finding the charter flight to Guantanamo Bay is not easy. Turns out it's here, the last gate at the Fort Lauderdale airport, under the overpass: at arrivals.



    Every other gate had destinations. Ours had only this.



    Aside from that, everything else around the gate was Florida airport normal.



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    Our own Robert Johnson — who is down on the ground in Guantanamo Bay — tweets one of the main risks facing guards at Guantanamo.

    SEE ALSO: What it's like getting to Guantanamo bay --- >

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    Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and Detention Center 24Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and Detention Center

    Most Americans never get to go to Cuba, let alone the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay.

    It's a rather mysterious place.

    Gitmo, as it's called by military members stationed here, is located on the southeastern end of Cuba. Most know the base for its detention facility, which has been housing suspected terrorists since 2002.

    But it's much more than that for the sailors and Marines stationed here. The Naval station serves as a vital fueling station, and a safe port for U.S. ships.

    On my visit to the base, I was surprised by some things.

    Iguanas are everywhere and while they aren't shy, they are somewhat territorial and stick around one spot enough that troops name the dominant lizard occupying space near their routines. This one's name will be obvious in the following photo essay.



    Like most tropical locations, there's little held inside that can't be placed outside, and movies at Guantanamo Bay are no exception. A large amount of time and attention here is spent providing troops with entertaining and engaging options to choose from when they're off duty.



    This leftover paint is all that remains from the time when detainees' art classes were held in the 20-cell pod where all "compliant" residents sleep. Today art classes, language classes, and life skills classes are held in designated rooms.



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    Our Robert Johnson tweets from Guantanamo: Next time you read that GTMO trial coverage -- This is what the facilities are like for all reporters.

    gauntanamo toilets

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    Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and Detention Center 11Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and Detention Center

    The U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is more than just a prison.

    While the detention facility has gained infamy for housing enemy combatants since 2002, locking up terrorism suspects is just a small part of the overall mission of those stationed here.

    Located on the southeastern end of Cuba, "Gitmo" has served as a vital refueling station and safe port for U.S. ships since 1898. Military members serving here provide regional security for Navy and Coast Guard ships — and guard towers along miles of fence line serve as a constant reminder that they are in unfriendly territory.

    Many journalists who travel here only cover the detention facility — and miss the hidden gems.

    This is probably what comes to mind when most people think of Guantanamo Bay.



    Small cells filled with mostly faceless, nameless people from…wherever…



    The only thing certain for many is that detainees here are doing hard time. Whatever that is.



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    Sarina Butcher

    Back in August, The New York Times ran a spread containing all the faces of the dead Afghanistan veterans.

    On the 10th anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq, it's important to remember there's still a very active fight going on in Afghanistan.

    Below is a first-person account from August of our very own veteran Robert Johnson's reaction to seeing the faces of the dead after the Times piece ran.

    -------

    The New York Times ran a four-page spread Wednesday of every American servicemember killed in Afghanistan. I saw it at the gym on TV in the morning, and with the demands of the day promptly forgot about it.

    But there it was laid out at the corner bodega on my way home from dinner, and the shop owner just let me take it. 

    Titled "The Roster of the Dead," the four-page section contains the faces, ages, and hometowns of more than 2,000 dead American troops.

    It's horrific, and while I took pictures of the four sheets of newsprint and posted them below, it's impossible to convey what they mean.

    I spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) before The Washington Postfinally had to report on what was happening there, via Dana Priest in 2007. 

    Walter Reed was where soldiers got sent to die or go home, and for someone like me, with a trivial but serious injury, it was a spectacular glimpse into what The New York Times missed with its roster.

    I'd written to The Post in 2005 — along with several other media outlets. It was hard not to, with what I saw every day, and how we were treated. Priest's piece was great, but it only scratched the surface and came too late to stop the commanding general from deleting my medical records for trying to get the word out.

    The Times' roster, too, just touches the surface: The thing is, not everyone dies.

    The Walter Reed 'ortho' ward was worse than dying. It's where everyone got sent when their bones need attention. When they got blown up. 

    Roster of the DeadWhen I got there in 2003 Jessica Lynch's room was cordoned off at the far end of the hall. The 20-year-old quartermaster had been grabbed by the Iraqis and rescued by U.S. Special Forces just days before.

    If her name sounds familiar it should, because she was the first in a long line of female recruits to come through Ward 57. But she was the only one to make the front page.

    There were so many it seems shameful to mention any one in particular — but the dirty blonde-haired 19-year-old girl in the wheelchair sticks out; with her room on the way into the corridor so you had to pass her and her family to get into the courtyard and away from the Ward.

    Her legs had been blown off in an IED attack on her convoy as she tried to deliver supplies to troops up some fucking road to somewhere. She had pins in her neck and that dramatic metal collar around her skull, darting her eyes at the kids she'd never have, while her sisters and her mom willed her to survive. 

    That was bad, but it wasn't the worst.

    I'm still torn about whether it was the groin or facial wounds. The groins were bad, no doubt. Under 20, guys mostly, with no legs, no balls, no penis. Guys who had not only woken up to that after the blast, but awoke to the realization that the pact they'd made with their buddies, to let them die in case the worst actually happened, meant nothing. Meant everything. Meant they had to go on.

    But the facial wounds may have been the worst. This one guy, burned so badly his face slid down his skull like a wax figure in the sun — his mom walked with him everywhere he went. She carried extra cotton diapers so he could dab the gap between his bottom lip to keep the saliva from pouring out his mouth as he strolled the path to formation.

    Yeah, the facial wound guys were the worst. They had this look of embarrassment, and could never look you in the eye. Try that scene every day for two years. Two years. The time it took for a medical discharge back then.

    The system is infinitely more efficient now. The processing of the wounded is streamlined and organized, but for the troops that roll through the new "Ward 57" one thing is the same: They know you don't care.

    They know you're too busy to understand what they're going through. Too ashamed to admit you have no time for their agony and sacrifice; no concern that a lack of jobs propelled them into the only career that would have them.

    They know. And it's OK. They accepted it a long time ago, and so have their families and friends as they walk past the newspaper boxes by the hospital and watch your demand for distraction online.

    It's OK;  none of them blame you.

    Really, at their weakest moments all they imagine is that it will stop; that you'll see past your day and into what it means to have precious few options and try for a better life in a country far from home. To look for security in a place where people want them dead, but more often than not just fuck them up real bad.

    So let's take a second, if not for them, then for The New York Times that sacrificed its bottom line to illustrate what really matters.

    Look into that picture at the top of this post. Look into Sarina's eyes and imagine telling her infant daughter it's all worth it. Then maybe you should subscribe to The New York Times.

    Roster of the Dead

    DON'T MISS: How Vets Recover After Losing Their Limbs In The Iraq And Afghanistan Wars >

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    tiger woods elin nordegren

    Today we learned that Harold Hamm, the billionaire oil tycoon behind Continental Resources, could be headed for the most expensive divorce ever.

    Hamm is splitting with his second wife, Sue Ann Hamm, after he allegedly had an affair.

    If the couple doesn't have a prenup  and it's not known if they do  she could wind up with half of his 68 percent stake in the company, currently worth $11.2 billion, according to Reuters.

    That could put Hamm ahead of Rupert Murdoch, who paid a record $1.7 billion in his divorce settlement with ex-wife Anna.

    They aren't the only uber-wealthy figures who have paid out massive divorce settlements.

    #17 Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving

    Settlement:$100 million

    A California judge refused to recognize the couples prenuptial agreement scrawled on a napkin and awarded Irving $100 million after the four years of marriage in 1989, according to Forbes.

    Spielberg and Irving dated from 1976 to 1979 when she broke up with him to date Willie Nelson. The two got back together and married in 1985.




    #16 Greg Norman and Laura Andrassy

    Settlement:$103 Million 

    Norman and Andrassy married in 1981 and were divorced in 2006 after 26 years, costing Norman $103 million, according to the AP.

    In September 2007 Norman married tennis star Christine Evert and divorced 18 months later. In 2010 Norman married interior designer Kirsten Kutner.



    #15 Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren

    Settlement: reported $110 million 

    From the moment Woods crashed his Escalade into the tree outside his Florida home in 2009, it was impossible to ignore the events leading up to his divorce after the couple's six years of marriage.

    She received reported $110 million in the settlement, according to the New York Daily News.



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    There are various underground rules about taking a boat to Cuba, and at the top of that list is to leave firearms behind — that is, if you don't want to get them confiscated by customs officials and possibly never returned.

    Captains who want alternate means of protecting their boat may turn to the following:

    • Kerosene
    • Paint thinner
    • Mason Jars
    • A 12-Gauge flare gun with many extra flares

    At least that was the advice given to the captain of my boat by a former U.S. special forces servicemember who currently operates out of Cuba. Operating on the open seas, even in the Caribbean carries a certain amount of risk. To ward off and prevent and unwanted boardings or attacks, our contact recommends the following:

    Mix equal parts kerosene and paint thinner in the mason jars. If confronted by an enemy boat, hurl the jars at their vessel. Make sure the canning lid isn't  too tight, so that the liquid will leak if the jar doesn't smash. Then launch some 12-gauge flare rounds at whomever is threatening you.

    The photo shows the flare gun my captain bought for the trip.

    12 Gauge Nautical Flare Gun

    One of the other rules is to have enough cash on hand to bribe off the full crew of a Cuban gunboat. An American vessel is generally believed to not be in possession of proper paperwork to get back into the United States, there are federal and military requirements to fulfill, so it's not unheard of for a Cuban crew to attempt to plant drugs on incoming vessels. 

    Enough cash can prevent that from happening, save the vessel from being impounded, and the crew from prison.

    SEE ALSO: Guantanamo Bay is full of surprises >

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