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The latest news from Robert Johnson on Business Insider

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    The U.S.S. Nimitz was deployed May 12 to the waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct bilateral training with the South Korean Navy over the next two days.

    The goals of the operation are to enhance "integrated flight operations, air defense events, surface warfare training events, precision ship maneuvers and liaison officer exchange."

    But the Nimitz, which was commissioned in 1975, is also meant to intimidate the autocratic, repressive North Korean regime.

    Indeed, Kim Jong-Un reacted venemously to the carrier's deployment, threatening to "throw [it] into the bottom of the sea." 

    Though much of world listens when bluster comes out of the Hermit Kingdom, rest assured the thousands of souls aboard the Nimitz hear only the steady hum of her inner workings. No doubt their focus is the mission.

    The USS Nimitz is a nuclear "super carrier" and is the lead ship of an 8-ship strike group.

    The carrier is right now off the coast of South Korea conducting bi-lateral training exercises.

    The Nimitz carries a number of different fighter and transport air assets.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Coast Guard NYC Vessel Inspection The "Deadliest Catch" fishermen have got nothing on New York City's Coast Guard unit, Sector New York.

    We embedded with the unit on a routine nighttime stop and search mission to intercept two ships coming into New York harbor. The conditions were tough, and they conduct these missions year-round through any kind of weather and in the heat of day or dead of night. 

    They do it 12 miles out in the Atlantic ocean where American waters begin, the wind charges in from the north, and if things go wrong, there's no one to call for help until it's too late.

    The boarding team we're with is made up of six Coast Guardsmen ranging from their early 20s to mid-30s. The three-man crew in the 47-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB) is no older. Regardless of age or responsibility, none of them complain and they all work equally hard in the harsh conditions. 

    This was a difficult assignment for us and we were only taking photographs. Click on the link below to follow these Coast Guardsmen through the night and into morning as they search two ships — the Isola Corallo and the CMG Amber — off the coast of New York. 

    We had no idea what a long night one small team of Coast Guardsmen were in for until we accepted their invitation to embed with them on a pair of overnight boarding missions.

    Located at Sandy Hook, more than an hour from Staten Island, this is where the Coast Guard depart for the long ride out into international waters.

    It's all business once we arrive, and after gearing up, weapons are issued and the crew heads for the boat.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Koch Coke Pile

    Canada's oil sand mines will eventually produce up to 2 trillion barrels of oil and what that could mean for the environment has been debated for years. What's often overlooked though is a coke byproduct that results from refining the tar-like bitumen of the oil sands into oil.

    Coke is a low-quality type of coal and the Marathon Petroleum plant in Detroit has made overlooking its role in the oil sands debate impossible to ignore. The refinery was built on the Detroit River more than 70 years ago but began refining Canadian oil sand deliveries just last November.

    The coke waste started accumulating then. The New York Times writes that now the mound of coke towers three stories above the street, covers an entire city block, and is owned by Koch Carbon controlled by David and Charles Koch.

    Petroleum coke generates up to 10% more CO2 than coal, and new permits allowing its use are no longer issued in the U.S.

    Faced with hauling the stuff away and selling at a loss, Canadian mining companies have been piling it into massive man-made mountains of their own. The immense mound of coke in the pictures below were photographed during our trip to the oil sands last year.

    While coke is used widely in countries like China and Mexico where emissions are less regulated than in the U.S., it sells for 25% less than coal. That means shipping the coke from Canada only makes sense if it's pumped out in the tar-like bitumen and refined closer to where it's eventually sold.

    It makes sense then that one of the largest petroleum coke dealers in the world, delivering more than 11 million tons of fuel-grade coke every year, is Oxbow Carbon owned by David and Charles' brother, William Koch.

    Oxbow drew media scrutiny in 2012 after donating $4.25 million to GOP candidates and spending another $1.3 million on lobbyists in the same period.

    Oxbow would undoubtedly like to see piles of petroleum coke appear along the U.S. Gulf Coast when the Keystone XL pipeline gets up and running. Then Canada will pump its oil sand bitumen to refineries there far better positioned to ship the waste to Mexico and China.

    How this potential concentration of coke could affect the U.S. has yet to be seen. The National Fire Protection Agency warns petroleum coke should be prevented from contaminating groundwater at all costs and any spills that have the potential of reaching a waterway are required by U.S. Coast Guard regulations to be reported immediately.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, though, interviewed a professor who studied petroleum coke and the oil industry for 10 years, who says the immense pile adjacent to the Detroit River "is not a hazardous substance."

    The following photos from our Alberta oil sands trip last year, shows the scope of the coke already backlogged in the region.

    Alberta Oil Sand Petroleum Coke Piles

    Alberta Oil Sand Petroleum Coke Piles

    Alberta Oil Sand Petroleum Coke Piles 


    SEE ALSO: Our flight over the Alberta oil sand mines >

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    Triton MQ4The U.S. Navy's long awaited MQ-4C Triton surveillance drone took its first flight yesterday in Palmdale, California.

    See what the drone offers >

    A Navy press release, delivered yesterday, points out that with 360-degree scanning capability and an Automatic Identification System — meaning it can classify different types of ships by itself — the MQ-4C will be the main Naval spying drone at sea from 2015 onwards. There will be five operating bases, one of which will keep watch over the South China Sea and that likely includes China and North Korea. 

    But even without its state-of-the-art sensors and cameras, the aircraft itself is capable. It can fly for 24 hours at twice the altitude of commercial jets, reaching a maximum height of 60,000 feet (11 miles).

    Apart from being used for combat-related surveillance missions, the drone could also keep tabs on piracy, human smuggling, fishery violations, and organized crime. 

    Here's a break-down of the new drone and how it'll give the Navy even more control of the high seas.

    Here's what the U.S. is watching. These are the 5 main operating bases where the MQ-4C fleet will be used, networking with other Navy and Air Force drones — notice the South China Sea region is under watch.

    The MQ-4C is designed for persistent maritime surveillance and intelligence-gathering — its makers say the Navy will have "24/7" coverage. The drone can travel 11,450 miles before it needs to be refueled.

    Along with its 360-degree scanning, it can capture images or full motion video at high resolution.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters Cairo

    When Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow an oppressive government in 2011the world was on their side.

    But in the two years that followed, as Arab Spring turned to Arab Winter, and Egyptians fell under the rule of the oppressive new government of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the world has looked away.

    This is what Egyptians told us when we visited Cairo at the end of March 2013.

    Many disillusioned Egyptians say things are worse than ever. Thugs often run the streets, crime rates have skyrocketed, and police feel they're outgunned, faced with the flood of weapons filling Cairo's streets.

    Making matters worse, everything from utilities to gasoline is both more expensive and more difficult to acquire than it was before the Muslim Brotherhood.

    This is the headquarters for the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, the new ruling party responsible for law and order throughout Egypt.

    Crime in Egypt has reached unprecedented highs following the uprising that toppled former president Mubarak from power.

    Homicide rates have tripled since 2011.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    X 47B Carrier Takeoff and Landing May 2013

    The Navy's X-47B autonomous drone reached a major milestone when it flew in 2011, and then last week when it took off and landed from a U.S. aircraft carrier.

    It's impossible to overestimate the impact this aircraft will have on drone use, its ethics, and the future of manned fighters.

    But what is the X-47B and why is it so earth-shattering? Here's a rundown on the bird and some shots of its groundbreaking achievement.

    X-47B is a computer-controlled drone that takes off, flies a pre-programmed mission, then returns to base. All in response to mouse clicks from its mission operator.

    The mission operator monitors the X-47B air vehicle’s operation ...

    ... but does not actively “fly” it via remote control as is the case for other unmanned systems currently in operation.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    NY Coast Guard 48

    From a small room in a Pakistan house, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) was shaken to its core in 2011.

    Within the data seized from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound was the al Qaeda plan to blow up oil tankers in U.S. waters to create an “extreme economic crisis.

    Protecting tankers at home is part of what the USCG does, and faced with a fixed amount of resources and a growing threat, it got innovative.

    The USCG looked to game theorists — mathematicians who specialize in a unique brand of numerical models — to help them do more with less resources.

    The result was the Port Resilience Operational / Tactical Enforcement to Combat Terrorism (PROTECT) Model. PROTECT is the real reason millions of New Yorkers feel safe riding the Staten Island Ferry each year, and ship captains and crews traveling through feel secure.

    It is why cruise line passengers never have to worry about their ship going down in a fiery wad of metal and overpriced booze, the target of a terrorist strike no one saw coming.

    We spent the day with Coast Guard Sector New York as they patrolled the ferries, ships, and the sensitive infrastructure around the city of New York to understand just how it all works.

    This is what we saw.

    In order to appreciate what a beautiful target a Staten Island Ferry actually is, it helps to think like a terrorist.

    The largest ferry carries more passengers than the newest and biggest cruise ships.

    Sinking just one could put up to 4,500 people into the waters of New York Harbor, and undermine the entire city's sense of security.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Produced by Daniel Goodman 

    While the world fights over the fate of 166 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, around 5,500 U.S. troops at the base are just doing their job.

    It's not an easy tour of duty, despite the idyllic conditions found at the southern tip of Cuba.

    Troops feel isolated, with no civilian cell phone towers and barely adequate bandwidth for video chat. They face severe restrictions on social media and are prohibited from talking about much of their work. It doesn't help that their work is so little understood back home.

    They work long hours, under intense and sometimes dangerous conditions, where one misstep can cause an international controversy.

    The military offers recreation, entertainment and a lot of physical training to keep morale high. It can only do so much.

    For a closer look at troop life at GTMO, check out our exclusive video (above) and photos.

    It's a 90-minute flight from Florida to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    This airstrip is where troops will land at the base, which America has operated for 110 years.

    From the airstrip it's a short drive to the ferry that comes about once an hour.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Egypt Giza Pyramids

    It's impossible to visit Cairo and not feel the presence of the pyramids outside the city in Giza.

    They are synonymous with everything we learned in school about ancient Egypt. They dance into sight with a glimpse from the high floor of a building. Drive up a small hill anywhere in the city: There they are. They've defined the landscape, and what humanity is capable of, for thousands of years.

    Seeing the pyramids in person is an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately it's an experience that fewer people are enjoying today as Egypt slips into lawlessness under the new regime.

    Tourists are already avoiding the country and unless things take a turn for the better soon, it might be a long while until tourists can once again safely experience the necropolis at Giza without a proper guide.

    If you're not put off by the current unrest in Egypt, you must make sure to find a trustworthy and reliable tour guide. Luckily for us, we found our guide, Walid Ibraheem, through the Cairo Downtown Hotel.

    Walid followed us into places he didn't want to go, let us know what was safe, and made sure we never got ripped off. We trusted him with gear that is near priceless in Egypt as well as our safety, and he came through in both regards.

    From nearly 20 miles away, this Cairo plateau is just one spot in the city to catch a glimpse of the 4,500-year-old Pyramids at Giza.

    The Pyramids are this close.

    The view may be one reason the Muslim Brotherhood built their Cairo headquarters here (red circle), and the police station guarding them (blue circle) has a direct view.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    D Day Normandy June 6 1944 27Every war has had one day that changed the tide--where one side began winning, and the other side began to lose.

    That moment in the Second World War was D-Day--June 6, 1944--the day Allied forces crossed the English Channel and began to reclaim the European mainland.

    Today is D-Day's 69th anniversary.

    As we remember those who were there, we offer the following images.

    It was overcast and foggy on June 6, 1944, when 160,000 troops landed on this French coastline.

    Beaches along a 50-mile stretch of coastline in Normandy were given five names--Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Each was heavily defended by German troops.

    The clouds kept Allied bombers from targeting the German forces and softening up their defenses.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Dar A Salaam Cairo Egypt April 2013 38

    I recently visited one of Cairo's most desperate slums.

    Before I got to Egypt, I had never heard of the place, which is called Dar al-Salam. And I was only able to venture into it because I was accompanied by a member of an organized crime family.

    I learned about Dar al-Salam from a man named Sonny, whom I met one night in Cairo's violent Tahrir Square.

    Sonny had done what few Egyptians could manage: He had escaped Egypt. After growing up poor, he had become a mechanic, run a successful business, met a Japanese woman, and emigrated to Japan. He had only now braved a return trip to Egypt to visit family and friends. 

    Sonny invited me for dinner at his family home in Dar al-Salam. It was Easter.

    At dinner, Sonny talked about growing up in Dar al-Salam and living next door to one of the most powerful organized crime families in the area. Some of these family members would end up being our guides through the neighborhood. Without their approval, I was told, my excursion and photography would not have been possible. 

    Dar al-Salam is a Cairo suburb most non-Egyptians have never heard of.

    I would have missed it too but for this man, Sonny, who grew up there and happened to be taking refuge in my hotel during a Friday night riot in Tahrir Square. He invited me for dinner in Dar al-Salam that Sunday.

    We arrived in Dar al-Salam before dinner. We heard this was a former factory.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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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

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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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 at which parents 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 as 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 had blossomed following the revolution.

    Prostitution in Egypt is a good indicator of wealth inequality. I found that not only does prostitution seem to have expanded following the revolution, it appears to have settled into stark social and economic layers.

    When young men don't earn enough to get married, physical intimacy with women in their network of friends is out of the question. 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 that purpose.

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

    My friends at the hotel explained that its selection of prostitutes is far beneath the Marriott's, where foreigners stay and have their pick of beauties in 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 20 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 whomever might be interested.

    One would saunter past a man, stop, turn her back to him, and look over her shoulder for eye contact before moving on. A 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 to the side of the casino entrance sat a younger, better-dressed pool of girls. They were different: they had arrived with men on the casino floor or they simply belonged in 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 at the hotel. "Americans 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 was being 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 he had 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 her.

    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 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 did 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 came up. The names that appeared left little doubt as to their owners' intent. We found "Sensual," whom we watched ride down an elevator, sit with two men, and leave. An Arabic phrase indicating lonesomeness and availability, as well as 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 Seasons 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 Egypt, 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 (US$450) 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 them back off with a handful of cash.

    Called "Summer marriages," these 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

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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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.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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