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The latest news from Robert Johnson on Business Insider

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    Wind River Sunrise

    After we published a bleak photo essay on life in Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, I received hundreds of angry emails from readers who said I was ignoring the positive side.

    The most compelling response came from Northern Arapaho tribeswoman Mary Rose Goggles, who offered to tell me the best parts of reservation life as well as her own story.

    Skip to the best parts of Wind River >

    Mary Rose takes an optimistic view on her life and her community, though both have seen plenty of misfortune.

    A 54-year-old woman who lives just off the reservation in Riverton, Wy., she joined the U.S. Army when she was 21 years old. During her time with the U.S. Signal Corps at Fort Detrick, Maryland, she was exposed to toxic chemicals. She says she still feels the effects of this exposure but takes it in stride:

    I have come to terms with my health issues and remember I served for our freedoms...our Freedom of Religion, so as Native People we can worship our Creator through our Ceremonies handed down through generations since the beginning of time, and we can hold on and cherish our Culture...our Identity. And to keep speaking our own language.

    Mary Rose cherishes the ideal of freedom, though she recognizes its downside too. She writes:

    Sad to say, because we live in a Multicultural World...and each one of us has that ultimate "freedom of choice," a lot of our younger generations experiment with other cultural ways of living, hence alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, corruption, gangs, etc.

    Eventually some of our people who made those detours, myself included, we come back full circle to our original teachings and our sacred way of life. After all isn't that what life is about? Live and Learn! I can honestly say I know of two of my great grandparents who did not taste alcohol...

    English was their second language, my paternal grandmother Christine Frances Friday Goggles' mother Zoe Friday...and my paternal grandfather Lloyd Paul Goggles, Sr.'s father John Baptiste Goggles, Sr. Now we have the medical field diagnosing a lot of our children as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Fetal Alcohol Effect (FAE)...yet other cultures used alcohol since when? Roman and Greek and grapes!

    Mary Rose's surname, Goggles, is another mark of her family's encounter with the U.S. government: 

    Why Goggles....? Sure...well when the government put us on reservations and developed the census for us...they used my Great-Great Grandfather's Indian Name translated into English " Iron Eyes" as our family's surname...time came along, the government building burned, records were destroyed, so they had to redo their census and shortened a lot of names and gave out a lot of common names such as 'Brown', 'Smith', etc.

    As a matter of fact, some names they had a hard time translating...anyway our name was shortened to 'Goggles'. When our ancestors were put into the Catholic or Episcopal Boarding Schools...they had to pick English names....some called them Baptismal names, or the Nuns and/or Priests gave them English first names.

    Through all that we survived through historically, we still have our Traditional Naming Ceremonies...where an authorized Elder can pass on previous Indian Names or give out Indian Names. It is our belief that this is how our Creator...God...recognizes Northern Arapaho...the English name given to our Tribe...we are known as ' The Blue Sky People' translated into English...

    When I mentioned to Mary Rose that I was en route to Florida to visit my mother, she wrote back to tell me of the importance of family:

    Have a great day also especially with your are fortunate to have her yet, my mother passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds last year on August 21, 2012...she was born August 27, 1933...the Doctors couldn't believe she never had any would tell them 'the only thing missing is my teeth'....she had dentures.

    I miss her and love her, but I know she is happy where she is and I will see her one of these days...meanwhile I have my children and brothers...extended relatives who I have to look out for and be here for when they need me.

    That warm embrace of family hinted at one of the good thing about life on the rez, at the sense of continuity and community that survives centuries of struggle.

    In our last communication, I told Mary Rose that I hoped this piece would bring positive attention to Wind River. She replied:

    Well, hopefully some positive changes will evolve from all the controversy your article raised... Maybe it will instill a sense of Pride in our youth and they will seek out their Identity and make the right choices in their journey of life...

    Maybe it will awaken the Northern Arapaho Business Council and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council to make our Language and Cultural Programs a priority on their agendas...especially when it comes to Budgets. And most importantly, no matter what, everything you've done is educating all people Nationwide of our existence ... of our SURVIVAL!!

    In the meantime, Mary Rose offers the following reasons why she loves life on Wind River.

    Wind River's Mary Rose Goggles says "the beauty of the mountains ... Mother Earth" are among the best parts of life on the Wyoming reservation.

    "The fresh air we have, the beauty of clear blue skies, free from pollution ..."

    "The quality of drinking water we have, water of life ..."

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    guantanamoMost of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay may never see a day in court. They may never be released from the detention center in Cuba.

    Among the only ways they will ever get to express themselves is through art.

    Compliant detainees at Guantanamo are allowed to take art classes, among other privileges.  These classes are the only place where detainees feel free to be themselves without pressure from others, according to the cultural advisor on base, a fifty-something Iraqi named Zak.

    Some of the work, which hangs in the detainee library at Camp Four, is hauntingly beautiful.

    The Guantanamo detainee library is behind the fence here at Camp Delta, not far from where sharpshooters were stationed in the darker early days.

    Camp Delta has no detainees today — they've been moved to newer facilities — but their presence remains.

    That presence is felt most potently here in the library where detainee artwork goes up one hallway wall ...

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    The latest Guantanamo Bay hunger strike is working as planned.

    With 31 of 166 detainees acknowledged as hunger strikers, international media reports are hailing this as a desperate protest by mistreated men.

    CNN's Christiane Amanpour interviewed public defender Carlos Warner, who claims that his clients face "dire" conditions ever since a new commander took over Guantanamo and the White House abandoned plans to close the detention center.

    Military spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand tells a different story, however, maintaining that the strike is an “orchestrated event intended to garner media attention,” according to the New York Times.

    So which is the real story? When I visited Guantanamo earlier this month, it was hard not to see things from the military's point of view.

    Guantanamo Bay Detainee Library and Art Work Take the incident that started the strikes: When a guard allegedly defiled a Koran during cell inspections. The base has clear protocols in place to prevent such an incident, with all inspections performed by a Muslim interpreter under the supervision of trained guards and under the direction of the on-base cultural advisor, a fifty-something Iraqi named Zak.

    Zak tells me he doubts there was any breach of protocol — something the military officially denies as well.

    It's also hard to believe that guards, who already gripe about the difficulty of their assignment, would do anything that would make their lives tougher. 

    Zak demonstrated why Koran inspections are important, taking a hard-cover Koran, flipping it upside down, and showing the wide opening under the spine.

    Last time they stopped Koran searches, he explains, several detainees stashed medication in these tunnels of paper and then took the medication all at once in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Suicide is another effective way of getting media attention, and there remains a rumor among detainees that three simultaneous suicides would force the Pentagon to close Guantanamo — despite three suicides already happening in 2006.

    In short, it's not at all clear that the Koran incident even happened, and the strikers' demand that Koran searches be stopped is impossible.

    As for the claim that detainees are mistreated, that also does not jibe with what I saw in Guantanamo.

    Guantanamo Bay Detainee Library and Art Work While indefinite detainment without trial may be morally offensive, the overriding philosophy on base these days is to treat the detainees really well. Compliant detainees enjoy a selection of six balanced meals, 25 cable TV channels, classes, and an array of electronic gadgetry and entertainment. Seriously, I'm talking about a Nintendo DS for every compliant detainee, plus Playstation 3 access with a library full of video games.

    Conditions at Guantanamo are absurdly good for the simple reason of getting the media to leave them alone. This is the White House's best option for making the controversy go away, since closing  the detention center has proven impossible. It's not a perfect option, seeing that Guantanamo is insanely expensive compared to every prison in the world, but that's where we are.

    Resort treatment brings its own means of control for guards, who can threaten to take away handheld game consoles and other privileges from non-compliant detainees.

    Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and Detention Center 4That's why people on base respond skeptically toward demands for better treatment of detainees. As for the opinion that low-level detainees should be transferred or that Guantanamo should be closed, most people on base consider that above their pay grade.

    There's also controversy over how many people are participating in the hunger strike.

    Lawyers for the detainees say there are more participants than the 31 the government has acknowledged. Personnel on base, however, suggest that there could be even fewer.

    Some detainees, I was told, decline meals at the cafeteria so that they count among the strikers, and then walk over to medical and ask for a can of Ensure liquid meal to drink. There is also a lot of food that comes into group cells and gets distributed without oversight, enabling a "striker" to eat.

    Military personnel I spoke to see the strike as a reaction to fading media attention about Guantanamo.

    Ensure Delivery Guantanamo Bay CubaDetainees read the news, talk to family at home, and have cable, they see what everyone else does. When they saw Obama failed to mention the camp in his inaugural address, they noticed. The last bit of hope maintained by many began to fade. They needed control and attention to get back in the news.

    "They use our religion as a shield and a weapon," Zak tells me.

    Hunger strikes have been effective in the past, notably a much larger strike in 2005 that led to significant improvements in detainee treatment.

    While the current strike is getting media attention, however, it's not clear what it can achieve. Conditions for most detainees are good, as noted by me, Reuters's Bob Strong, and anyone else who has actually visited Guantanamo recently. Koran inspections aren't going anywhere. As for the closure of the detention center, well, we'll believe it when we see it.

    SEE ALSO: The Hauntingly Beautiful Artwork Of Guantanamo Detainees >

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    Reporting live from Cairo:

    It's been more than two years since Egypt's revolution, but no one knows what will happen next.

    The people have watched as elected leader Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood maintained the same ruthless policies and methods as former President Hosni Mubarak. The disappointment they feel is palpable.

    My driver from the airport told me that families are marrying off their daughters under 15 to men 20 years their senior because no young person is expected to earn enough to support a wife, much less raise a family.

    I shot the first two pictures from the front seat of the cab as we hurtled into Cairo from the airport. The other side of the four-lane road was gridlocked. My driver pointed out our side had been cleared to make way for a high ranking government official.

    My old motel is within sight of where the revolution started at Tahrir Square. The Internet connection is best out here. As I was writing this there was gunfire, a man rushed off bleeding to the hospital and a wailing woman filling the street with screams.

    I'll post those photos next.

    Morsi SignWhy Bother Cairo


    Hotel Balcony Tahrir Square Cairo

    DON'T MISS: The Muslim Brotherhood Gives 10 Reasons Why Women's Rights Are A Bad Idea

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    The Arab Spring, where citizens all over the whole Middle East caused powerful governments to listen and even topple, didn't ignite at Tahrir Square here in Cairo, but it's certainly where the revolution blazed hottest.

    Last evening on the communal balcony of my hotel (where the WiFi is strongest) about 50 yards from the square, I posted the first few photos of my trip from the airport. The pictures show the frustration evident by the people here and as I did that a conflict broke out in the square.

    It turns out the "square" isn't actually much of a square so much as a patch of dirt, bordered by an 18-inch concrete curb, surrounded by a traffic circle (pictured right). Strings of large spiked barbed wire had been strung across street entrances, yesterday afternoon after police removed the barricades square dwellers had put up.

    The drivers trying to get through expressed varying degrees of anger and frustration. I'm not sure that's what started the conflict seen in the pictures below, but it's possible. What my contact here assures me, is that whatever happened it wasn't revolutionary related, and things like this are not uncommon.

    So while the photos were uploading, and I sat on the balcony, shouting erupted from the square. There were a few loud, soft bangs, which I assumed at the time to be backfiring vehicles or a very old firearm. Sitting here today, I've not heard any cars backfire so it may be less common than I thought.

    After the bangs people ran down the street below the balcony, and at the end of the running group, a small band of men carried another man, who dangled from their arms bleeding.

    A series of phone calls was made, a red pickup truck came screeching through downtown traffic and the group of men piled in the back. The wounded man's arm dangled from the bed as they drove away.

    While they were loading him in the bed of the truck, the street was filled with the sounds of a wailing woman, walking from the square, her screams bouncing off the old stone buildings around us.

    Perhaps a family member, she flung herself against a parked car, as the truck took off and a small boy chased it.

    My contact lived in a tent in the square for four months with a group of other smart and driven men I met last night. He said he had no idea what could have happened here, but again it likely had nothing to do with his friend's goal of ridding the country of its latest president.

    He just wants the violence to stop so the tourists will come back. Then, maybe, he thinks he can marry his girlfriend, have a family and start the life he always expected. 



    Tahrir Square Incident March 27 2013

    ScreamWailing TahrirTahrir

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    Tahrir Square Cairo March 28 2013 16

    CAIRO — Tahrir Square is where the Egyptian revolution took place and continues to play an important role for everyone who demanded change two years ago. Wednesday morning at 2 a.m it was attacked and people's tents burned to the ground.

    The camp was rebuilt and burned to the ground again 16 hours later, three hours after that the streets really became ugly.

    See the pictures >

    No one here seemed to know what exactly happened over the last 24 hours, but dozens of people I spoke with had pieces of a story. One high ranking government court worker in the takeout restaurant he inherited from his father asked my translator if he knew who was in charge of the area now. 

    What he told him, we'd learned from the 22-year-old pizza shop worker, Walid (not his real name), at the spot a few doors down. Walid moved to Cairo from the country three-and-a-half years ago, to find work. The shop is open 24 hours, and what he told us pulled together more elements of what I'd seen over the past 24 hours than anything else.

    On Wednesday evening a man was attacked in the square, injured baldy and rushed to the hospital (we posted pictures of that Wednesday morning). Walid knew the man from the shop and told us he was from Abdeen, a few blocks away.

    At 4 a.m. Wednesday, about 13 hours after the attack, Walid said he saw a group of Abdeen men guys ride in on motorbikes and attack the square. They beat its occupants, and burned the flags and tents to the ground. I'm told that, aside from one elderly man called "the father of the revolution," the square was largely filled with criminals, former prison inmates freed during 2011 prison breaks, and drug dealers.

    I could not get near Tahrir Square without being confronted, and was told repeatedly not to go at all after dark. I went with the translator. It was hostile, even before the attacks.

    Throughout the day, the people living in the square brought in more tents, put up new flags and settled back in. At 4 p.m. a mob formed at the mall a couple of blocks away, and marched past my hotel calling for shopkeepers to join them in clearing the square.

    Walid thought that group began with more people from Abdeen. My translator believed there was a significant Muslim Brotherhood presence after 4 p.m. when we were in the square. The Muslim Brotherhood is Egyptian president Morsi's party, and my translator believed these men were in a group, carrying large slabs of wood or metal pipe. Many of them confronted me, one with hostile intent, and they did not look like the people staying in the square. No one I spoke with can say for sure who they were.

    At 7 p.m. the people who'd now twice been attacked at the park took action. All they'd heard was the call for shopkeepers to join the mob that formed at the mall. A mall employee who'd been punched in the face trying to stop the crowd from tearing down "the father of the revolution's" tent confirmed that's where he joined the group.

    By 7:10 p.m., the Tahrir Square residents had looted and shattered glass windows and doors in as many stores and restaurants as they could on the street my hotel is on, before employees hauled the sliding steel doors down for protection. The only spot nearby without a safety door is the pizza place where Walid works.

    Walid was returning to the shop with supplies from a store when he saw the crowd smash through his employer's doors and windows. He saw the thick glass smash onto the sidewalk as the chef ran through the broken door.

    When he spoke with us at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday night, shards of glass filled two garbage cans and still covered the sidewalk. He'd spoken to the 55-year-old owner's wife. Her husband is in the hospital and she said she had no idea what to do.

    The only remaining employee besides the chef, Walid plans on staying in the restaurant protecting what he can. That's his only plan for now.

    When he called the emergency military number at 7:30 p.m., no one answered. The local police station is just several blocks away and no one has seen them anywhere near the square. Neither my translator, who lived in the park during the 2011 revolution, nor Walid have seen violence like this in the past two years. 

    Walid's nervous, and told us there is a "million-man" gathering of the revolutionaries who were in the park during 2011 on Friday. He thinks he'll be fine, but has no idea what's going to happen. 

    He just can't lose that job.

    This is what Tahrir Square looked like Thursday at noon, after raiders burned down tents in the middle of the night.

    People staying in the square had already started trying to seal off the streets around them again.

    But what was here the night before was nearly completely gone.

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    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013When a crime occurs in the part of Cairo near Tahrir Square and American University, people here have no one to call for help, a police officer explained to me last night.

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 7Mohammed (not his real name) joined the police in 2003 when he was 19-years-old and says the job was more dangerous than he expected. After the Egyptian revolution two years ago, it's gotten so dangerous he can't even do his job.

    That's why he's at my hotel at all, on the community balcony watching the gunfire in Tahrir Square, pointing out known troublemakers to us with a green laser pointer that had been making me very jumpy on the street when I'd been down there moments before.

    A friend of my translator, Mohammed supposedly smokes a lot of marijuana, like many Egyptians.

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 5A small group of us walk from the balcony to the hotel's small lobby, drink tea, and I start asking questions through my translator to Mohammed who does indeed have the red, glassy eyes of a classic stoner.

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 3But who can blame him for a little bit of weed, when, without support from the government or the military, the police lack the strength to fight the anarchy sweeping the city. If they arrest someone, he explained, the person's family, friends or associates will storm the police station and release them.

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 4The outlaws of the city have so much power over the police that Mohammed doesn't even carry his gun with him after he leaves the station, he drops it off with a friend who owns a clothing store. Though the 9mm FEG Hungarian pistol is a 55-year-old antique with half the serial number scratched off, if it were stolen it would mean his job.

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 4 2And it would take little to steal a police officer's gun here. He could be overwhelmed by a small group of men at any time, he says, and have no recourse at all but to hand it over or be killed. 

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 10Mohammed's most dangerous moment, he says, occurred a few weeks ago during his unit's response to gunfire a couple of blocks away in the shopping district.

    His van pulled into a street and criminals blocked them off at each end. They engaged in a protracted gun battle that ended with the police running out of ammunition and receiving no support or back up. The police got to safety, but he says it's the last time he'll put himself in that situation.

    Cairo Police Officer Interview March 29 2013 11My translator offered to provide some marijuana for me to smoke with Mohammed. I thanked him and instead asked if we could see the drug that is helping tear apart Cairo and driving the violence around Tahrir Square: Chinese Tramadol.

    Despite media reports that the square is filled with protesters and revolutionaries, it's not. Tahrir Square is a criminal epicenter, a camp from which to operate and coordinate prostitution, theft, and the flow of illicit goods throughout the city.

    It's also a major distribution point for Chinese and Indian-made Tramadol, a drug that is 
    sweeping the city. Unlike Egyptian Tramadol, this street-level variety from China and India is supposed to be packed not only with painkiller, but amphetamines as well. I'm told the drug is creating many addicts and fueling a vast black market network.

    Mohammed tells me the police know all this but do nothing. They know of the prostitution, thefts, beatings, and shootings that occur on a regular basis in the square. The police have a network of confidential informants but do nothing with the information.

    "Morsi could clear the square in 10 minutes," the police officer tells me, referring to Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. And from what I'm told he has. During special visits by foreign dignitaries or meetings, the square is empty, and stays that way until someone drops off a load of expensive canvas tents and it gets rebuilt again.

    "A lot of people benefit from the square," Mohammed tells me, and to prove it I ask if he can get us some Tramadol. "No problem," he says without expression. 

    The LA Times reports the rising level of Tramadol addiction affects children as young as 11 in Cairo, and drug use by 15-year-olds and older is as high as 30 percent. I've already been violently threatened by a man my translator claimed was high on the drug. The man had been selling t-shirts on the street that he'd supposedly gotten on credit from the Muslim Brotherhood who smuggled them into the country from China.

    I've read that Tramadol sells on the street for as cheap as two Egyptian pounds or thirty cents apiece, but the police officer wants me to buy a pack of ten for 150 Egyptian pounds or about $22 U.S. dollars.

    I give him the money and he hurries off to the square to make the deal. Even the lucky people with jobs here make very little money. The desk clerk at my hotel makes 750 pounds a month ($110) and a journalist about 2,000 pounds ($294).

    Sweaty and a little out of breath from the six flights of stairs up to the hotel lobby, Mohammed returns with the strip of pills. They're packaged as described, but the language on the back is English and they have a street quality logo called Fox Dol, with what looks more like a wolf than a fox, in mid-stride across the back.

    I give him a moment to sit down and light a Marlboro, the expensive brand of cigarette here, and he's the only person I've met in the city so far who smokes them.

    When I ask him if he feels the police system in Cairo is corrupt, he says, "Yes, President Morsi was a prisoner himself until the revolution And the head of internal affairs is a Morsi appointment."

    That means the man policing the police is from the Brotherhood. Though the cop doesn't say it, many I've talked to suspect the Brotherhood of smuggling in shipping containers filled with the knockoff clothes, electronics, and drugs.

    "A lot of people benefit from Tahrir Square the way it is," he says again.

    I thank him and explain through my translator we have a 10 p.m. appointment and must go.

    The group of us leave the hotel, down the fatally uneven, ancient, curved marble steps to the street, my translator, Mohammad, an Egyptian who emigrated to Japan and his 16-year-old daughter with died pink-and-orange hair, and me wearing a winter shell to hide the camera strapped around my back.

    We walk the same way as Mohammed, who's fetching his pistol, and the girl's father invites me to his family's home in the most criminal section of Cairo on Sunday. If I want to see what the city is becoming, that is where I should look, he says. It's a neighborhood whose population is exploding, and there isn't an honest soul among them he claims.

    I thank him, get his number, and with a glance from my translator, tell him I will let him know as we all shake hands and say good night. It'll take some convincing, but my translator will eventually agree to come.

    Ten minutes later Mohammed calls and says he wants fifty pounds for the interview. My translator  asks if that's okay. I ask if he thinks it's smart not to provide the police officer who just sold us illicit drugs the fifty pounds he's asking for.

    They're friends and all, but he smiles and tells him no problem. Mohammed and the Japanese emigrant went to a cafe known for its inexpensive, five Egyptian pound prostitutes, and we never met up for that payment.

    Which gives me a great reason to stop by the station on Sunday and see what that's like.

    SEE ALSO: Things Get Scary In Tahrir Square >

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    Bassam Youssef

    Almost a year after Egypt's new president assumed office there is massive economic depression and a growing alarm among Egyptians that potential opponents offer no ideas for change.

    One man though could have the power, money and the plan to prove a real threat to the Muslim Brotherhood's grip on the country.

    Bassem Youssef rivets Egyptians to TV's in cafes, coffee shops, and homes once a week during his talk show, but on Saturday March 30, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Talk shows are very popular here and how many people from Muslim housewives to secular professionals, consume their news.

    Youssef is a cardiothoracic surgeon who went from posting political satire on YouTube to the country's most famous and perhaps most well-paid talk show host.

    He's been on CNN, ABC, and the Jon Stewart show. Youssef is known around the world for being the "Jon Stewart of Egypt " and his show called: "The Show" is immensely popular and persuasive. But Youssef is a Jon Stewart under a government that's arresting critics and one that's gauging the weight of any possible competitors to its unexpected new power.

    The Muslim Brotherhood won the popular election here in June last year with 52 percent of the vote, and it has lowered the country's standard of living, it's economy, and its tolerance for opposition consistently ever since.

    Bassam YoussefThere are many here who believe the Muslim Brotherhood will not allow scheduled presidential elections to take place at all, and will do anything it takes to maintain their power. 

    People I spoke with Saturday after Youssef's arrest warrant was announced, including a police officer and the show's director, believe this is the government testing the public response should they actually put him in prison.

    Youssef has the money and the ability to convey a clear message to the Egyptians on how he might solve their current economic and political crisis. That plan is notably lacking from other members of the opposition, who largely voice complaints over existing circumstances rather than offering solutions to fix them.

    Youssef's show is filmed Wednesday just blocks from my hotel and the first night here the Director Bassam Youssef Showcrowds surrounding the theater were massive. On Friday, when the show was aired, I was trying to get photos made for some Egyptian press credentials and couldn't get anyone in the shop to move until the show broke for commercial.

    Those commercials were for very high profile products like Pepsi and provide the CBC satellite station that airs the show immense revenue.

    Through my translator we applied online for tickets to next Wednesday's taping and among the questions required to apply for one of 200 seats are:

    • A Twitter handle
    • Whether one believes the revolution was a success
    • An opinion on the revolution
    • Had the applicant joined in clashes with police or the government
    • A favorite cartoon, among: Family Guy, South Park, The Simpson's, and Tom and Jerry
    • A Favorite TV show, among: Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, Two and a Half Men, and How I Met Your Mother
    • And, if Youssef ran for president what would be his "logo": the scales of justice, a duck, or a green leafy vegetable called Greer

    Two-hundred-and-fifty thousand people a week apply for those 200 hundred seats and I'm waiting on the director to get me in and hopefully talk to Youssef, after his visit to the courthouse today.

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    The pictures below of the former Al Ghurya pedestrian bridge are in Hussein, Cairo.

    They are taken from a major road connecting the airport and other parts of the city. The bridge connected the spice market to the world famous Khan Alkhalily market, that is, until six months ago when a truck brought it down and thieves allegedly collected pieces of it during the night. 

    The unexplained disappearance was confirmed by three sources who say thieves steal whatever they want. The Cairo police are increasingly powerless, and if anyone says anything the thieves' gang will harm them. 

    The chaos is so extreme here that many believe it must be supported by their new government.

    It's true that the new government seems to be one of the few groups benefiting from the revolution.

    The police, however, have also benefitted — one officer told me that in many cases they've seen their salaries double. 

    Stolen Bridge Cairo 2013 4Stolen Bridge Cairo 2013 3Stolen Bridge Cairo 2013 2Stolen Bridge Cairo 2013

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    Dar el SalamWhen a man I met on Friday invited me to his family's home for Sunday dinner, it was an uncommon offer. When the invitation turned out to be in Dar el-Salam, one of Egypt's most poverty stricken areas, Easter afternoon turned into a once-in-lifetime affair.

    The road to Dar el-Salam is dirt and a crest of smoldering refuse lines the middle of it, picked over by cats, dogs, burros, kids, and collectors trying to bring home any money they can.

    It took four attempts to find a cab driver willing to take us. When we arrived, the man who invited me, Hani, sat with a group of 10 or so other men at an outdoor cafe. A small part of the local mafia family, he said he'd grown up beside them and they specialized in "whatever makes them money."

    From what I could tell their enterprise includes drugs and theft, but whatever it is offers them a neighborhood wide-respect. They took me to a place I couldn't have imagined and perhaps no one from the outside could have gone without a personal escort from them, definitely not an American with two big noisy cameras.

    Back through the dusty, narrow alleys, past broken-down billiard tables shoved into mud brick rooms, haphazard grocery stores, and untold apartments, we came to a dead end.

    A massive bed of gravel and rock led to a sheer cliff wall and the skeletal remains of apartments destroyed by the last rock slide.

    The families whose homes they took me into were unlike anything I'd ever seen, and far hiding the situation they were in, the residents let me stomp into their home because they wanted to let the world know how they lived. They'd appreciate a bit of help from the new government, just picking up the trash would be a nice start, they said.

    I've yet to meet someone happy with the results of the revolution and these people were no different. Their neighborhood started to slide about eight years ago, and has gotten dramatically worse in the past couple of years. Water bills have nearly doubled, rents have gone up and incomes way down.

    One Muslim family of seven sleeping in a subterranean room invited us to stay for Easter dinner. An incredibly gracious offer we had to decline, as we made our way to Hani's father's apartment.

    Dinner was on the table when we arrived. A big plate of French fries and a new bottle of Ketchup sat before the seat of honor, the middle of the couch where I was directed.

    There's just enough to get by on now, barely. When people like this can no longer feed their kids, they'll have nothing to lose. Already they pine for the days of former president Mubarack.

    Here are a few pictures from the visit. I'll post a longer feature on the experience next week.

    Dar el Salam

    Dar el Salam

    Dar el Salam

    Dar el Salam Dar el Salam

    Dar el Salam

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    Old Cairo holds all of the shops, tradesmen, and food kitchens one might expect in the most ancient part of an ancient city.

    Climbing from the cab late on Saturday afternoon, dust whirled against storefronts and around dirt parking lots and sidewalk.

    From this brown and dusty haze emerged a little girl in a bright pastel party dress. My translator asked if I wanted to take a picture, and, as I was saying no, he walked over and asked her mom. The mom smiled, the girl posed, and I took a picture and immediately showed them.

    old cairo little girl

    Next stop, following encouragement from my translator, was an Egyptian barber shop for my first-ever straight razor shave.

    Five pounds for Egyptians, I was asked to pay 10 EGP, which is about a buck-fifty. Full-face and ear threading service was an added surprise.

    The barber had taken over the shop when his father died in 1988 and still worked beneath the man's photo nearly every day of the year.

    I learned that my translator's father was also a barber in the area, as are his brothers. He explained that the position is held in very high esteem throughout the less privileged parts of Cairo. It's important, he said, that when families don't have much they take real joy in looking their best and coming together to share time with one another.

    When the barber was done, he beamed with pride and bragged about his expertise and renown. 

    Old Cairo

    Old Cairo

    Old Cairo

    When we were done, there was no stopping my guide's hunt for a favorite local meal. We sat down plates of meat I asked him not to explain (I recognized one as sheep head, as I'd seen it on "Amazing Race").

    We sat with two 23-year-olds living at home with their parents. One had an IT degree and had just found a job following a 12-month search working in a cell phone call center.

    All three of them had college degrees and all of them longed to put them to use, anyplace they could, though local jobs are limited and Egyptians face a high barrier to travel outside the country.

    Old Cairo 17

    Old Cairo

    Finally, here's a picture of a striking workshop I found after trying to track down a strange noise.

    "Why would I need a mask?" this man asked after we inquired.

    Old Cairo

    SEE ALSO: A Cairo Cop Sold Me Drugs And Explained Why He Doesn't Stop Crime

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    Cloth Market Cairo

    I'm leaving Cairo today after spending just over a week doing everything I could to understand the city and the people who live here. There's been drama, eye-opening experiences, and more than once when, "Wow," slipped from my lips unexpected.

    Yes, the revolution hasn't worked out as well as many hoped — in fact things are pretty bad— but that disappointment lends an atmosphere of community and teamwork like I've seen few places before.

    Despite political concerns, the people here miss their tourists desperately. This is Egypt, after all, where pyramids, ancient mosques, and unimaginable lifestyles make for a destination unlike anywhere in the world.

    It's beautiful too, as you'll see in a few examples of what I saw here.

    Note: Foreigners should be careful when traveling to Egypt and read the State Department travel advisory.

    Visit Egypt to see the pyramids

    The Sphinx

    The quiet

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    There are about half-a-dozen means of public transportation to get around the city of Cairo, and while some are more expensive than others, nothing's cheaper than micro bus.

    Both privately and government owned the micro bus is the most economical ride in town when the subway just won't do.

    Starting at just one Egyptian Pound (about .30 cents), the buses are often filled to capacity and in a hurry to get where they're going. So potential riders spotting a micro bus in the mad-cap melee of Cairo traffic will fling up a hand or two and sign their desired destination to the driver.

    If the signal matches the route, the driver pulls over, riders climb on and drop some coins into the palm of the driver's hand.

    Without knowing the signs matching your destination, there's little chance a driver will even slow down, much less stop and take the time to fill a rider in on the route.

    The following pictures show the bus, the signs needed to ride the it, and what they represent.

    Microbus Cairo


    Microbus Hand signs Cairo Egypt

    Microbus Hand signs

    Microbus Hand signs

    Microbus Hand signs 4

    Microbus Hand signs

    Microbus Hand signs

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    There's a point when the parents of a country get so desperate they sell whatever they can to make ends meet, including their daughters. 

    I was in Cairo, Egypt, last week, and this topic came up when I was talking to some Egyptians at my hotel.

    An acquaintance named Ahmed was looking at his Facebook account on a small netbook computer on the check-in desk, when he said, "She's in Africa."

    A flurry of Arabic went back and forth between Ahmed and two other men before the story was eventually explained to me. Ahmed had been dating a girl from rural Egypt who came to Cairo after the revolution to earn money to send to her family.

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution 10

    The girl fell into prostitution, Ahmed said. And he quickly made it clear she floundered at the job: She was unable to demand payment and allowed men to do whatever they liked. It was an ugly tale.

    Even worse, the girl had disappeared and Ahmed hadn't heard from her in months, until that morning on Facebook. That started a conversation about prostitution in Cairo, which they all said blossomed following the revolution.

    Prostitution in Egypt is a good indicator of wealth inequality. I found not only has prostitution seemed to expand following the revolution, it seems to have settled into stark social and economic layers.

    When young men don't earn enough to get married, physical intimacy is out of reach among their network of friends. If a young man wants to have sex he can go to a prostitute. These days, the least expensive girls are Egyptians, who frequent certain coffee shops and apartments dedicated to their field.

    At about 100 EGP ($13), an encounter is something that most employed Cairo men can afford, but it's still very expensive: That's about still half of what many bring home each week.

    My friends at the hotel explain that this hotel's selection of prostitutes is far beneath the Marriott's, where foreigners stay and have their pick of beauties within the hotel's casino.

    That is indeed what I saw when I went to the Marriott. After about an hour of playing nickel slots, I managed to cash out the twenty bucks I'd put in the machine and leave with a good sense of the place. Running the spectrum of hair color and body-types, a floating array of available females mingled about and seemed available to whoever might be interested.

    They would saunter past a man, stop, turn their back to him, and look around their shoulder for eye contact before moving on. Another handful sat at the bar, mostly in pairs before one drifted off to be replaced by another.

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution 9

    In a set of chairs off to the side, by the casino entrance, sat a younger, better-dressed pool of girls. They were different: Either they came with men on the casino floor or they simply formed a different price range.

    I left and went to the restaurant down the hall to wait for my ride. Inside the Billiard Bar, I thought, was the wife of a gambler or a guest of the hotel. She was the only one in the place aside from the bartender, and it didn't occur to me anyone would be working the empty room. But I was wrong. After a few minutes she was at my table saying yes, she worked for the hotel. "American's always figure that out so fast," she told me.

    Over her most recent bottle of Stella, "Megan" asked me how much I'd pay for a night out with an American girl at a nightclub. Looking at my watch and wondering where my driver was, I said, "One hundred dollars."

    She threw her arms in the air, brushed black hair from her face and leveled her green eyes at me.

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution 5

    "I don't believe you," she said, in a slurry of Arabic flavored English.

    I told her it was true, that I was a poor American who wasn't even staying in the hotel. "All Americans are rich," she said. Unsure if I were serious, or simply negotiating, she ordered a shot of tequila and I filled in some blanks.

    Megan said her mom left her father when she was 14 and the man wanted nothing to do with her. Alone on the street, she fell in with a man of her own, had a baby, and got married before her man left as well.

    This is common enough story in that part of the world, and it was impossible to say if it was true. But she teared up. "My mother cared nothing about me," she said softly.

    But then she threw her head back and said she didn't care, didn't want to talk about her life, and only wanted to have fun. She normally received $400 per client, she said, though more was not uncommon.

    Only once had she not gotten paid. That night, she gave her last hundred dollars to hotel security, had the man beaten up, and walked home. She had no money for a cab, but she said it was the finest stroll she'd ever taken.

    She was sitting in the velvet wallpapered bar, empty but for Frank Sinatra's voice, because as a local she couldn't enter the casino. The girls by the entrance were in fact for high-rollers, she explained with a mix of bitterness and envy. They were there for sheiks who would think nothing of dropping ten grand on a good time.

    My borrowed phone lit up. I looked down and explained my ride was waiting out front. After an awkward farewell, she settled back in the booth to finish her drink

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution 8

    I went back to my more modest hotel and explained to the guys there that the women of the Marriott were nothing special.

    I'd promised I'd stop by the Four Seasons Giza, so the following day I stopped by and talked with the poolside bartender about my Marriott experience. Not to be outdone, he told me how it was handled at the Four Seasons.

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution

    He told me to use my Bluetooth to scan other users and see what names came up. The words that came up left little doubt of the owners intent. We found "Sensual," who we watched ride down an elevator, sit with two men and leave. As well as another Arabic phrase indicating lonesomeness and availability, other less conspicuous names lit up and dropped off over the course of 10 minutes or so.

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution 12

    With hotel occupancy down to 15 percent since the revolution, bartenders will tell guests they don't even know their hotel's darker secrets. The rooms at the Four Season's start at a couple hundred dollars a night, and I assumed the girls likely charged about the same as Megan. The bartender then gave me directions to another two locations where I'd find different selections at different times.

    Cairo Escorts and Prostitution 11

    Prostitution is illegal in Eqypt, and charges against women are no joke. The men involved, meanwhile, basically walk away scot-free. 

    Back at the hotel, a quick web stats search showed a long list of websites devoted to the selling of sex in the city of Cairo. From about 350 per hour to multiples of thousands for overnight stays or two girl evenings, the demand seems clear.

    As unseemly as all of this may be, it's still better than the bogus wedding certificates the country now issues to wealthy Gulf men who "marry" girls as young as 13 straight from their parents homes, and whisk them off for a brief honeymoon before dropping back with a handful of cash.

    Called "Summer marriages," those arrangements are merely another way desperate Egyptians are forced into the unthinkable just to get by since the revolution.

    DON'T MISS: A Cairo Cop Sold Me Drugs And Explained Why He Doesn't Stop Crime

    SEE ALSO: LIVE FROM CAIRO: Things Are Worse Than We Realized

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    UCLASS Skunkworks Drone Prototype

    Already obsessed with drones, the U.S. military is looking for new ones to fill a vital role.

    America needs drones to guard its aging fleet in foreign waters, extend a ship's strike distance using standard aircraft carrier ordnance, and do all of it based from the carrier itself. That will allow flight deck operations 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week with no pilots at risk, and no huge jets to re-fuel.

    It's a tall order that demands an array of technology that just barely exists and is scattered among various vehicles. Some drones are great at surveillance, some at blowing stuff up, and some at water-based landings, but one that will do all three is yet just a dream. 

    When the military wants its dreams made real it often goes to the place with a history of doing just that, Lockheed Martin's Skunkworks. The California-plant has been knocking out super-advanced military tech for decades, and it is one of four facilities in the race to produce this new drone.

    Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics round out the groups expected to compete against Lockheed. While each have a portion of the technology already in use, Lockheed alone is bringing technology from the most expensive weapons program in the history of the world.

    By including elements of the F-35C vertical lift model, with proven components of the RQ-170 drone, Lockheed and Skunkworks may have a leg up on the competition.

    To prove it the company released a concept video of its design. Called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) the video lays out its impressive plans.

    SEE ALSO: The future of micro drones could get downright scary >

    SEE ALSO: The Military & Defense Facebook page >

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    A 32-year-old elementary school teacher — we'll call her Jamie to protect her identity — never felt like she belonged. Not in her small town, not in the home she was raised in, and not in her own skin. Now a recovering methamphetamine addict, she tells the story of why she made the choice to use meth as a way to lose weight, as a way to help make her feel like she belongs.

    Jamie is not alone in her struggle, methamphetamine addiction across the American interior is far from uncommon. It’s a particularly toxic and unforgiving drug that makes addicts out of the most unlikely people, even educated elementary school teachers like Jamie. 

    Methamphetamine is her state's most abused illegal drug. To call it a scourge would not be an overstatement. And while Jamie escaped this wickedly addictive drug, it was not easy.


    Jamie has a college degree and comes from a family with “oil money.” Her younger sister is a mortician. Her older sister dropped out of high school and hangs out with the wrong type of guys — the type who carry around a baggie of meth in the front pocket of their jeans on any given night.

    We were introduced by email five years ago and have had loose contact since, but it wasn’t until last summer that she told meher full story. She relayed it over several days as we roamed around a small Midwestern town in the dead, oppressive August heat. She talked; I wrote and recorded — in bars, restaurants, the parking lot of my hotel, and everywhere in between.

    Off to the drug house

    Jamie told me it wasn’t the guys her sister dated, or the easy availability that hooked her on meth in 2005. What drove the schoolteacher and mother of four to develop a staggering methamphetamine addiction was her weight.

    She had put on 75 pounds following a divorce, and without a good diet pill, her sister suggested meth. Jamie was just miserable enough to agree, and off they went to the drug house. 

    She recalls: “The house was old architecture, the kind that would be cool in the right hands. Crown molding and arched doorways. But the floor needed replacing decades before; the lights were dim; the walls hadn’t seen paint or soap in decades. The stained mattress on the floor beside an orange mini-mart booth [used as] a table finished off the decor.”

    "The stained mattress on the floor beside an orange mini-mart booth for a table finished off the decor.”

    A thick, stale, mold smell spilled about the place, thicker in some places than others, as she looked up and saw black and green patches on the ceilings and walls. One she remembers looked “kind of like a crocodile.”

    Then her sister led her deeper, into a back room where the needles came out.

    Methamphetamine can be smoked, swallowed, snorted, inserted in the anus or vagina, or mainlined into a vein.

    Addicts will tell you it's a progression, eventually leading to the tip of a needle; that place where the most intense, never-to-have-a-feeling-that-good-ever-again high hangs out and waits.

    Jamie knew that and was sensibly scared, she says, when her sister’s soft voice filled her ears, whispering, “Be cool; just be cool.” And she went right on ahead.

    “I was schooled on the facts,” she says, “that if you use new needles each time, it's the cleanest way to do it. No second-hand smoke getting into the air and carpet. No dripping, bleeding nose — just a fast, clean, un-matched high.”

    So she skipped the progression and didn’t object. She stepped into what she says, looking back, felt like a secret club where she felt lucky to have been invited.

    “It felt like an honor,” she says, with the wind blowing through an open car window, “and I felt like I had to respect their zone.” 

    Jamie says of her first injection, “My arm went up in flames.”

    From the back room of that house, she was led deeper still into the grimy bathroom where a nursing student poked and jabbed her way up Jamie's forearm until plunging down with a needle full of the drug.

    “My arm went up in flames,” she says. “It burned and hurt, but I just gritted my teeth and waited for her to finish. I didn’t know what to expect so I didn’t complain.”

    When Jamie returned to the back room, her sister, eyes all eager and expectant, asked how it went. She was excited about the attention Jamie would get … until she saw Jamie’s arm.

    Face twisting with rage, embarrassment, and disappointment, she grabbed Jamie and dragged her back to face off with the dealer.

    “In the back bedroom the ‘Big Kahuna’ is sorting screws, stacking marbles, or something like that,” Jamie says.

    “And my sister shows him my arm, tells him, ‘Stupid nursing student, she tortured her, and wasted the drugs on a miss. Now the pretend nurse is defending herself at my expense.’”

    The dealer snapped back, “‘Stupid first-timer, must have moved or jerked away. [The nursing student] is an expert, she knows the names of lots of bones, she already took four classes where she injected oranges with water. ‘SO WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?’  It was fantastic drama for my first time shooting up in a little drug den.”

    "It was fantastic drama for my first time shooting up in a little drug den.”

    Her sister eventually won the argument and got a fresh syringe, on the house, and took Jamie back to the bathroom.

    “There,” Jamie says, “my sister, a high school drop-out with no medical training, sits me down, has me stiffen my arm and look away. I feel nothing until euphoria starts creeping all over me. Just sticky, hot warmth and joy.”

    Magic meth 'diet' and the power of denial 

    With no food or sleep over the next 24 hours, Jamie never felt finer. She had, in fact, never felt so “right where she belongs.”

    Already feeling thinner the first day, she even hit the gym, no longer self-conscious. It's how she's been waiting to feel all her life.

    With her new “diet” came positive attention, with many of her fellow teachers immediately telling her she looked great. “Whatever you’re doing it works,” they said.

    Jamie laughs at that on a hot, still day in the baseball park bleachers of her hometown, watching a Little League game.

    She promised herself to keep the habit only until she was thin enough.

    Just until she was thin enough.

    She kept running those words through her head to separate herself from the people at the drug house. They were junkies. She was only dieting.

    Jamie just had to put up with them for the greater good of personal beauty. It was all she needed to give her college-educated brain over to the toxic rot — the chemical slide of methamphetamine addiction.

    It happened quickly. Within weeks she says she was strung out, hunched over the ATM at three in the morning. 

    "Meth was helping me achieve a goal."

    “No different than Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig really," she says, "except my little diet really worked!” She says it with some enthusiasm, but manages to look kind of sad at the same time. Pulling the bills from the machine, she'd take a pen from her purse, clamp her teeth around the cap to pull it free and scribble on the bank receipt, “Diet.” One more rationalization to feed the addiction: Keeping receipts and balancing checkbooks was not what junkies did.

    “Lucky for me I wasn’t a drug addict. Just a chubby mom who needed to shed some pounds," Jamie says sarcastically. "I was special and smart and this wasn’t going to ruin my life. Meth was helping me achieve a goal. I knew I'd just walk away slender and smiling.”

    This isn't Breaking Bad

    Back in the empty living room of her foreclosed home we talk about meth again. The house is so quiet it seems loud; her kids living with their father now, neighbors inside or elsewhere. The only sound is a hot breeze pushing through an open window. Jamie's sitting on the couch smoking a cigarette.

    Purity makes a big difference for methamphetamine. But unlike Walter White from the TV show "Breaking Bad," most people who cook meth don’t have a chemistry degree to help them refine their product. Instead cookers use a handful of standard shortcuts; tricks like tossing a hefty portion of automotive battery acid, drain cleaner, lantern fuel, or anti-freeze into a batch of meth to give it that extra kick

    Rather than make the drug better, these add-ons make the brain weaker. Shorts the synapses, fries the neurons, plays with the mind's juices so the drug's effects loom larger.

    All of that does a number on the soft tissue, but “meth mouth” — the rotted, snaggle-tooth, gum disease affliction — is the product of a few other things, like poor oral hygiene during extended highs lasting days, weeks, or months, along with cravings for sugary, carbonated beverages. And if the drug is smoked from a glass pipe, the heat from the flame quickly makes its way to the tooth's nerve and kills it.

    Meth Mouth

    Jamie knew what junkies looked like and she’d smile at herself driving down empty stretches of highway. All she’d see were her white teeth filling up the rear view mirror, looking past the purple cheek lesions and hollowed-out shadow of a meth addict.

    She clicks open a self-photo she snapped on her cellphone at the time and says, “Look at that shit.” She’s referring to the bruised-looking patches on her cheeks. “I never even saw that, even though you can see I tried to cover it up with makeup.”

    She reaches down, grabs her cigarette from the ashtray on the table between us and takes a deep drag. Through a cloud of smoke hanging in the air between us she says, “Addiction is nuts.”

    The ritual

    At the apex of her “diet,” Jamie would hop from bed at 4 a.m. and plunge into the ritual of her fix. Through all the time we spend talking, this is when she’s most animated, engaged, and alive. This is when it’s clear she’ll never be rid of the longing for the drug.

    At that early hour, she’d skip to the bathroom and grab her “rig” — the hodgepodge mix of paraphernalia stuffed into an old paisley eyeglass case above the vanity, where her kids couldn’t reach.

    Drug Rig

    After mixing the powdered meth in a contact lens case, she’d “slam” 40 cc’s of crystal straight into the largest vein she could find. (That's nearly three tablespoons of liquid.)

    She leans forward on the couch, lowers her voice and talks me through the process.

    “I’d take the small bag of powder I’d hidden and pour the crystal into one side of the contact case. Then, reseal the bag.”

    She pauses, reaches for her pack of cigarettes, and lights another.

    “Make sure to tap out any extra around the top of the bag, and put it in back in the tin, which goes in the make-up bag that never holds make-up.” She drops her right hand and ashes into the green plastic tray full of butts.

    Her eyes don’t waver from someplace on the wall behind me.

    “But rather,” she continues where she left off, “rather, the make-up bag only has old tins, eyeglass cases — everything the same hidden right in the open.” 

    "Then I bend slightly at the waist and use the best syringe I have to get just the right amount of water from a glass by the sink.”

    "I know when there’s excess that it’s a good batch of dope."

    Her eyes break from some spot on the wall behind me and catch my own. “Then I gently squirt the water over the crystal in the lens case. Put the cap back over the needle for safety, and I use the plunger end of the syringe to crush and mix the crystal with the water.”

    "When it’s all liquid, I take the end of a Q-tip, roll it between my fingers.”

    In the present, she rolls her fingers around some imaginary cotton swab.

    “Then I dab the liquid off the end of the syringe and drop the cotton from the Q-tip into the mixture in the contact lens case.”

    "I gently put the needle tip into the cotton and pull the plunger back, careful to stop between 30 and 40cc’s. I know when there’s excess that it’s a good batch of dope, especially if it’s so thick I need to add water. The color is yellowish and looks soupy in the syringe.”

    With her right hand she takes her thumb, index, and middle fingers, brings them together and apart like they have syrup on them when she says “soupy."

    “Holding the needle point up, I draw back the plunger, keeping tension so I know I’ve got every drop. Then I tap the sides with my fingernail just like in the movies, to bring out any air.”

    “Very slowly now I push the plunger just a tad to get all the air out. When I see a bead of liquid start to form at the needle’s point, I stop. It’s perfect. It’s ready. Then I rinse the needle quickly in the glass of water and prop it up on the edge of the contact case.”

    She explains that if she doesn’t do that quick needle rinse, it stings when breaking the skin and she wants to avoid wincing, avoid any unpleasantness at all.

    Meth is only painless when it courses into a vein, and worse, if the shot hits muscles or blows through the vein, not only will there be unsightly bruising, there will be no high.

    Crystal Meth

    She pauses before continuing, as the next part gets graphic, but I can tell she wants to continue and nothing will stop her from reliving the experience.

    “I lower myself onto the toilet, knees facing the cabinet away from the tank,” she says. “If I’ve eaten recently, like before bed … I will pull down my panties and sit on the toilet ready to 'go.' It’s within those first seconds after I slam that I’ll have an explosive evacuation of the bowels.”

    Oddly clinical at the end, with each word buffering the space between the memory and the telling.

    "I blew out the vein..." 

    “Anyway, so after that,” she chuckles, “I make a fist with my right hand, turn my elbow out, and put my wrist between my knees.”

    She’s acting it all out. Now seeking eye contact with me, finding it, she continues.

    “My arm is stiff, and I pump my fist to build up pressure, watch the veins swell and grab the rig. Now the bitch of it is I gotta do all this with my left hand, and I’m not left handed. I blew out the vein in my other arm and this one spot was all I had left by the end.”

    “Right?” she rolls her eyes and describes the needle piercing skin and by now it’s getting almost pornographic.

    “And this is my favorite part," she says, "Seeing the blood back up into the syringe starts this reaction in me and my whole body quickens to this rush it knows is coming.”

    Jamie says she still can’t give blood, get a shot, or have a needle anywhere near her without that reaction. “It’s euphoric, but disappointing,” she says, shrugging. “Whatever.”

    Another cigarette. 

    “Anyway, now I got a thing for needles," she says exhaling. “Just love seeing them on TV, near me, doesn’t matter. Push the plunger down slow, pull it out. Then me, I lick the blood off my arm in case there’s any meth in it, and press down with a cotton ball.”

    “And that’s it man,” she says with a loud burst of words, reaching out and almost touching my knee. 

    After that, she tells me, it’s a race against time; rinsing the rig and getting everything back where it belongs before the high takes over. Because when the high rolls in, it’s a full-blown Texas dust storm.

    The high is "fucking beautiful," Jamie silently mouths.

    The way she describes it, the high is alive, sliding up beside her with a strong easy arm draped about her shoulder. Whispering the sweetest nothings, the high folds her up in some slick, musky memory before there’s any thought at all.

    "Fucking beautiful," she silently mouths.

    Then at the most intimate and vulnerable moment, the high pulls away, loses its intensity, becomes detached. It has betrayed her and left her a dirty, nasty, ugly voyeur. And then she watches everything that mattered fall away, and all she can think of is when it’ll be like it was again. Give her just one little wedge of time to prop against this … rejection.

    She doesn’t really say much of that at the time, but over the course of our correspondence and time together I come to understand the loss and pain wrapped up in that first high, that post-rush sense of loss.

    Bottom line: Seconds into a 14-hour high and Jamie can’t wait to break her rig out again and fall beneath a brand new high.

    In the summer of 2005, when she didn’t have class to teach and her weight came off, all she really cared about was the fleeting, broadside chemical blast of affection in that unforgettable moment.

    Back to the classroom, recoveries and relapses

    Fall came with a classroom full of kids, lesson plans, and parent-teacher conferences. “I never got high at [the elementary] school,” she says. She'd only get high before class, that 4 a.m. ritual.

    By Halloween even the most faithful rationalizations were wearing thin.

    She promised herself Thanksgiving was the first day of her sobriety. Instead she went on a four-day drug and alcohol spree that left her saturated by cocaine and meth facing two hours of fitful sleep before classes resumed. Instead of forcing the sleep, she called the sister who shot her up the first time, lied her way into a ride, and fled to rehab.

    Her employer’s health insurance was top notch and covered five weeks of in-patient recovery. As 2006 began, Jamie went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting every other day and prayed for strength more often than that.

    April 2 was her first relapse. Addicts in recovery are taught to keep journals, so this is what she breaks out the day after giving me her detailed account with the rig.

    We’re at the restaurant attached to my hotel and she has the journal. Each relapse is tagged with one of those, green “Sign & Date Here” tabs that lawyers use to mark points where clients need to apply their signature. Opening the marked pages of the journal:

    Sign Here:Relapse: April 2, 2006.

    Sign Here: Relapse: June 18.Sign Here

    Sign here: Relapse July 5.

    Sign Here: Relapse: August 2.

    Sign Here ... until about halfway through the flowered hardcover book of lined paper the relapses get quieter. No more “Sign & Date Here” tabs.

    No extra attention, with only a couple of unmarked entries showing up a few pages later.

    March 2007: Another relapse.

    January 2008: Of this Jamie says, "Another relapse I need to write about, yet haven’t ..."

    When she invited me to meet with her in August 2012 and told me this story, Jamie said it had been four years since she’d last used.

    The sister who’d introduced her to meth had gone down in a massive federal sting and had only just been released from a halfway house.

    The sister’s boyfriend had overdosed after informing on everyone to whom he’d ever sold meth. Being a small town, it was a lot of people. Nobody innocent; some less guilty than others. He was the one nobody forgave — nobody except the sister, and then it was really too late. 

    Hearing about meth and what it does, it's real enough to understand, soak in the horrible images of destruction and decay. The stuff is everywhere. It’s not abstract, it’s not recreational — it’s a lifestyle that’s uglier than you can imagine.

    Jamie quit her teaching job, cashed in her 401K and moved to Europe one month after I left. She's since returned from living overseas and now lives in a city far from where we met, where her sister still lives.

    The sister is engaged to a law enforcement officer who leases her a new, gleaming white Mercedes. 

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    Guantanamo Feeding Tube

    People across the country are disgusted by the description of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay offered by detainee Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel.

    Samir Naji, who has been at Guantanamo since 2002, offered the following account in a New York Times Op-Ed via his attorney:

    I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.

    I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.

    It sounds terrible. And lthough Naval spokesman Captain Robert Durand called this description "absolutely false," there's no doubt the situation is ugly nonetheless.

    However, there is no evidence that Guantanamo guards are acting out of line. In fact, they are doing exactly what U.S. courts have ordered guards to do in domestic prisons.

    In 2005, the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that the state was obligated to force-feed hunger-striking inmate Charles R. McNabb.

    "The right to decline force-feeding is not absolute because the state has an interest in protecting the sanctity of the lives of its citizens," wrote appellate judge Ken Kato for a unanimous three-judge appellate panel in Spokane, according to The Seattle Times. 

    While the state could allow a terminally ill patient to decline treatment, in McNabb's case the decision appeared to be "set in motion for purposes of committing suicide," Kato wrote. And prisons don't let prisoners commit suicide.

    Last year the Connecticut Supreme Court similarly ruled that the state could force-feed hunger-striking inmate William B. Coleman.

    Although Coleman's lawyer argued that the force-feeding process was a kind of torture, the Supreme Court concluded that, “It is clear that the commissioner appropriately sought to preserve the defendant’s life using the safest, simplest procedure available, rather than improperly seeking to punish the defendant for engaging in his hunger strike. We therefore conclude that the trial court properly determined that the weight of international authority does not prohibit medically necessary force-feeding under such circumstances.”

    Physically imposed forced feeding can no doubt, be painful. In fact, in 1975 the World Medical Association (WMA) stepped up and issued an international set of guidelines for physicians advising them against performing the procedure at all, arguing that it really was akin to torture.

    Nonetheless America has clearly decided not to let prisoners commit suicide by starvation.

    And so we turn to what's happening right now in Guantanamo, where a mass hunger strike has reached its sixth week. Forty three of 166 detainees are acknowledged as participants in the strike, with many being force-fed.

    When we were in Guantanamo last month, the hunger strike was just gathering steam and had allegedly begun after detainees became upset that uniformed guards handled their Korans.

    We were taken to the detainee medical center where the feedings occurred.

    We were told that cooperative detainees were simply given a can of Ensure to drink — and that many supposedly took this option. Less cooperative detainees were strapped into a feeding chair. If a detainee relaxed at this point, a small, pliable rubber tube would be slipped through his nose and into his stomach. If a detainee continue to struggle, a larger, more rigid tube would be forced into him.

    This can be a barbaric process, but it appears to be the appropriate response based on U.S. law.

    It may also be a politically safer option than allowing detainees to die. Guantanamo faced some of its most intense public scrutiny in 2006 following the death of three detainees in an apparent suicide pact.

    There remains a rumor among detainees that three simultaneous deaths would force the release of all remaining detainees, according to the base cultural advisor, an Iraqi named Zak.

    Guantanamo has weathered worse hunger strikes than this one in the past, also resorting to force-feeding to keep detainees alive.

    DON'T MISS: The Hauntingly Beautiful Artwork Of Guantanamo Detainees

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    Wrapping up in a high-tech sheath of material and pitching off the edge of a cliff for the sheer adrenaline rush has become more common a pursuit than ever before. But this wingsuit stunt may be the most amazing we've ever seen, and they're all pretty amazing.

    Flyer Alexander Polli whips through the air in Spain on his way to a dreadfully small hole in a massive wall of rock. It's impossible to avoid the notion of what one drop in air density or shift in wind would do to an unprotected human body traveling at 155 miles per hour if it met that wall. 

    Some slides from the video are below and the video itself at the bottom of the page.

    Amazing Flight Suit

    Amazing Flight Suit

    Amazing Flight Suit

    Amazing Flight SuitAmazing Flight Suit

    Amazing Flight Suit

    Amazing Flight Suit

    SEE ALSO: Another wing suiter flying through trees >

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    USS GERALD FORDThe lead ship in a new class of carriers, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is the most expensive piece of military equipment ever created. And it now has a perfectly-laid flight deck that could one day see 6th generation fighters screeching across its surface.

    Check out the Ford >

    The Ford will run about $11.5 billion, with three ships costing about $40.2 billion.

    Even given these generous estimates, the Navy figures that the USS Gerald R. Ford could cost as much as $1.1 billion more than planned, making it far and away the service's most expensive warship.

    Bloomberg reported the Ford's rising costs in August, when planners understood their worst-case assessment would put the carrier at about 21 percent over its target cost (via Hampton Roads).

    Currently assembled in Newport News, Virginia, the Ford-class will replace the Nimitz-class carriers and will include an array of new technology.

    With fewer crew and the most modern equipment, the Navy hopes to reduce thecost of future carriers while an improved design of the ship's "island" will allow more sorties to be flown per day than before.

    The Ford is expected to hit the water in 2015, with a 10 carrier fleet hoped for by 2040.

    A 2004 artist's rendition of the USS Gerald R. Ford, three years before construction began in 2007. A wide open deck will allow more planes to take off and land than previous carriers.

    This layout from Northrop Grumman provides an idea of the carrier's layout

    The F/A-18 Super Hornets will be a regular fixture on the Ford and have been in service since 1995

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    AIR_SU 35_Armed_AAMs_Test_Flight_lgOf the jets in production that promise to take military fighters deep into the 21st century and beyond, the U.S. F-35, the Chinese J-20, and the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA are at the top of the heap. 

    Unfortunately, there are problems with all three fifth-generation planes and the F-35 in particular is having global buyers back away much faster than it would like.

    Russia is looking to fill this gap with a known and dependable jet, the Su-35, to which it added cutting edge avionics and amenities for the 21st century.

    Dewline reports that a pilot who took the Su-35 for a spin was blown away by the jet's abilities and its low fuel consumption even at speeds faster than the speed of sound.

    It's not a fifth-generation plane like the F-35, with all the attendant problems. It is a 4++ generation plane with all the tried and true basics overlaid with cutting edge avionics and navigation equipment.

    It's hard to tell which is the better jet, but one of them has no problem flying and that's an issue the F-35 can't seem to shake.

    While America uses the F-22 fifth-generation fighter and struggles to get the F-35 in the air, Russsia is beefing up the Su-35s into 4++ generation fighters.

    The Su-35s employs the known technology of fourth-generation fighters with additions at the fifth-generation level that could in fact make them an all-around better jet.

    A US pilot with Tactical Air Support took the Su-35 for a spin and was shocked at its abilities.

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