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The latest news from Robert Johnson on Business Insider

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    When DARPA, the Air Force, NASA, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney combine talent and energy on a project you can be sure the outcome will be profound, ideally anyway.

    The five companies are hoping that's the case in tomorrow's test flight of the X-51 Waverider, an unmanned hypersonic scramjet that will tear through the sky at 4,000 miles per hour.

    Though this test will see the X-51 dropped from beneath the wing of a B-52 at 50,000 feet over the Pacific, experts hope the technology could revolutionize air travel on everything from to missiles, to manned aircraft.

    The scramjet is supposed to be like comparing today's jet turbines to propeller driven aircraft, and is seen by many as the next evolutionary step in human flight.

    W.J. Hennigan from the Los Angeles Times reports talking to Robert A. Mercier, deputy for technology in the high speed systems division at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio who says: "Since the Wright brothers, we have examined how to make aircraft better and faster. Hypersonic flight is one of those areas that is a potential frontier for aeronautics. I believe we're standing in the door waiting to go into that arena."

    Scramjet technology forces combustion to occur when airflow surpasses the speed of sound and hydrogen is injected into the flow, allowing for theoretical speeds of Mach 20.

    That's what was hoped for during DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 test flight last year, as well. Unfortunately, that widely watched test ended in failure after the craft's skin peeled away from its body and the flight was terminated before any record breaking speeds could be reached.

    The X-51 didn't fare much better during its previous test that ended in disaster after the craft rocketed to speed, but failed to separate from its booster and crashed off the coast of Southern California.

    Hopefully tomorrow's test will proceed more like the 2010 test flight when the X-51 reached speeds of Mach 5, and flew for almost four minutes.

    X-51 waverider

    X-51 waverider

    X-51 Waverider

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    Fort McMurray

    Mining the world's second largest oil deposit requires a huge, skilled, and dedicated workforce, and getting it to the wilds of northern Canadian requires more than just a beefy salary.

    It requires a city that appeals to a global population, their kids, and their spouses. A city where oil workers can blow off steam after several days cramped up in remote dorm rooms, as well as a place where a young PhD from a big city would be happy to call home. A tall order.

    Check out photos of Fort McMurray >

    For better or worse that city is Fort McMurray, and meeting the needs of residents and oil conglomerates alike falls to one 42-year-old woman with a husband and two young sons of her own. Melissa Blake has been the mayor of Fort McMurray for eight years, and thinks her city gets a bum-rap.

    She believes crime isn't as high, and problems aren't as vast, as the media makes them out to be. But the city's residents are a unique bunch, and they live demanding lives.

    When they're on the job, many workers live by their mine in a camp with strict rules and schedules where they rotate several days on, and an equal number off. When they're off work, many head back to homes and families in the Fort McMurray area. Many others come back to have fun. 

    And there are a lot of people here, in a small space wedged between a couple of rivers and some hills. Once an old trapping town, Fort McMurray's population has more than tripled in the last 20 years. By 2028 it is expected to more than triple again to around 230,000 people. 

    I dropped into the the city aboard a Cenovus Oil corporate jet after a full day touring a distant drilling site that showed no more ecological impact than a water treatment plant.

    It had been snowing all day, flakes nearly the size of tea saucers on May 1. I was wet, cold, and mildly frustrated that the closest I'd been able to get to an actual chunk of oil sand was inside a Syncrude research site in Edmonton the day before.

    The media reps and Canadian Broadcast Corp reporters on the plane told me "Ft. Mac" was a rough town, but most admitted they hadn't been there in years. They all seemed to agree the Oil Can was the quintessential bar, but told me to be careful because it was dangerous.

    They didn't think much of the place.

    That's thing about Fort McMurray, everyone has a strong opinion about it, but no one is completely correct. 

    Fort McMurray is about where the green dot is and the most active oil sand mines are just to the north, though the sands range everywhere within the red circle



    Even if you fly into NE Alberta and drive to Fort McMurray — there's really only one road in and out of town



    There on the left — Rout 63 is called the 'Highway of Death' because it's host to so many fatalities — a family of seven died driving the day I arrived



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Pistol Firing

    Following a request for 450 million rounds of ammunition for DHS and ICE earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking for 46,000 rounds of ammunition for the National Weather Service.

    The National Weather Service stations in Ellsworth, Maine, and New Bedford, Mass., are slated to receive 16,000 rounds of .40 S&W   jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullets.

    Jacketed hollow points usually have a layer of copper around the lead to provide strength and prevent the barrel of the gun getting  fouled up with soft lead.

    Hollow point bullets are designed to expand when they enter the body, causing as much damage as possible to internal organs and tissue. They've been illegal in international warfare since 1899.

    6,000 rounds of S&W JHP will be sent to Wall, New Jersey and another 24,000 rounds of the same bullets will be handed over to the station in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    St. Pete. is the only city that's not receiving 100 or more paper targets to assist with training of agency issued sidearms.

    Two hundred targets are going to Maine and Massachusetts, but only 100 to New Jersey. So, 46,000 rounds and 500 targets.

    One commenter pointed out that the NOAA overseas the National Marine Fisheries Service that's responsible for all U.S. marine resources. The aquisition mentions this agency, NMFS and the OLE — Office of law Enforcement. 

    Again, this recent batch of ammunition is in addition to the 450 million rounds requested by DHS and ICE in March.

    And that, BI Military & Defense commenter tc84 points out, is before Friday's updated request by DHS, putting the ammunition requested by that group at 750,000 rounds.

    Paul Watson at InfoWars points out the new request lists rounds of all types including buckshot, slugs, and .357 magnum rounds, a bullet renowned for its immense "stopping power".

    Now: check out the world's active aircraft carriers >


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    Text Message

    Israel is under a pretty consistent threat from rockets launched by Palestinian militants, but as talk of a possible Iranian military strike continue the threat of attack is vastly expanded, and officials are working on ways to minimize potential fatalities.

    Xinhua News reports that one strategy Israeli officials have come up with is a text message warning system that began a week long series of tests on Sunday. The system is designed to plot the trajectory of incoming missiles, and unguided rockets and blanket area cell phones with an incoming alert.

    The idea is that residents will have enough time to make their way to shelters and help keep the number of potential deaths down.

    Israeli authorities currently estimate a retaliatory strike by Iran will incur about 300 fatalities, a number that's unacceptable to many residents. A Facebook campaign called "How Many Is 300, Really?" was launched to publicize the figure and has about 420 "likes" on the social networking site.

    From Xinhua:

    "Hopefully, this test would show us exactly how well this system operates within Israeli society and might help save unnecessary casualties in case of a looming war," the source said.

    "It could help civilians who are not in a dangerous area carry on with their routine and also help save lives of those traveling on the road while an attack takes place," the source added, "If it could save just one person, then we've done our job. Hopefully we will be able to get the system working by next month."

    The texts will be sent in English, Russian, Hebrew and Arabic between 8 am and 6 pm during the testing and will say: "The Home Front Command, checking cellular system," followed by a serial number.

    The "Personal Message" system has been in development for some time and should be fully operational within a month.

    Israel maintains that it will not allow Iran to continue its alleged nuclear program, and rumors continue to swirl that the country may attack Iran as part of its efforts to stop it.

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    Today's test of the X-51 Waverider is slated for a test today and its scramjet technology will see if the craft can propel itself to Mach 6 for a prolonged and definitive flight.

    A test two years ago went fairly well and lasted for nearly four minutes,but last year's test didn't do so swimmingly and had to be aborted early. 

    No word on when today's launch is happening ,or when the results will be announced, so in the meantime here is an animated video from Pratt & Whitney of what's supposed to happen.

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    Pistol Shooting

    Last night we put up a post mentioning that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) placed a request for 46,000 rounds of mostly hollow point, copper jacketed, .40 caliber rounds of ammunition.

    The order was attributed to the National Weather Service and received quite a bit of attention.

    From the post:

    The National Weather Service stations in Ellsworth, Maine, and New Bedford, Mass., are slated to receive 16,000 rounds of .40 S&W   jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullets.

    Jacketed hollow points usually have a layer of copper around the lead to provide strength and prevent the barrel of the gun getting  fouled up with soft lead. Hollow point bullets are designed to expand when they enter the body, causing as much damage as possible to internal organs and tissue. 

    6,000 rounds of S&W JHP will be sent to Wall, New Jersey and another 24,000 rounds of the same bullets will be handed over to the station in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    St. Pete. is the only city that's not receiving 100 or more paper targets to assist with training of agency issued sidearms. Two hundred targets are going to Maine and Massachusetts, but only 100 to New Jersey. So, 46,000 rounds and 500 targets.

    We talked to Scott Smullen, the Deputy Director of NOAA Communications & External Affairs who says the announcement is a mistake and is apparently being corrected at the time of this writing.

    From Scott's email:

    Due to a clerical error in the federal business vendor process, a solicitation for ammunition and targets for the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement mistakenly identified NOAA's National Weather Service as the requesting office.  The error is being fixed and will soon appear correctly in the electronic federal bidding system.  The ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies and it will be used by 63 NOAA enforcement personnel in their firearms qualifications and training.

    Last night's post mentions that the "NOAA overseas the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is responsible for all U.S. marine resources. The acquisition mentions this agency, NMFS and the OLE — Office of law Enforcement."

    The reason for the number of rounds is explained in a follow up question:

    Agents and officers are required to have 200 rounds in his or her duty bag, and twice-a-year firearm qualification and training calls for agents to use another 500-600 rounds. In addition, firearms instructors with more than one pistol may need more rounds in a year. In 2011, the guidance was that each agent and officer would need 700 rounds per year to meet these requirements.

    Smullen says there are 111 special agents and 23 enforcement officers, bringing the total number of OLE agents to 134. "And here," he says, "is a succinct way of explaining what OLE folks do:" 

    NOAA officers and agents enforce the nation's ocean and fishing laws to ensure a level playing field for fishermen and to protect marine species like whales, dolphins and turtles.

    From the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement website:

    NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement is dedicated to enforcing laws that conserve and protect our nation's living marine resources and their natural habitat. Our goal is to assure that the many people who enjoy these resources for recreation or rely on them for business follow the rules that will maintain the species for future generations.

    NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement protects fish stocks from depletion and marine mammals from extinction. We also protect the livelihoods of commercial fishers, the hobbies of recreational fishers, and the health of seafood consumers.

    Extensive Area of Jurisdiction

    NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement is responsible for carrying out more than 35 federal statutes. The agency's jurisdiction spans more than 3 million square miles of open ocean, more than 85,000 miles of U.S. coastline, the country's 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and its Marine National Monuments. It's also responsible for enforcing U.S. treaties and international law governing the high seas and international trade.

    Now: Check out the 20 aircraft carriers in service today >

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    juggalo barbequeWe looked at the 2011 FBI gang report last year and not much has changed as we wait for the 2012 report to come out.

    More than 1.4 million Americans are still wearing the colors of more than 33,000 gangs across the country, according to the report.

    Based on evidence from federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement, the FBI says gangs commit 48% of violent crime, and are only becoming more dangerous. Some even source weapons from the military.

    What has changed is the legal position of one of these gangs who is suing the FBI for being on the list at all. Check out the following slides to see which one it is.

    The 18th Street Gang is considered the largest street gang in California

    One of the most well-known of the "Sureño" gangs in Southern California, the 18th Street Gang is said to be responsible for at least one robbery or assault a day in Los Angeles County. The gang is one of the most rapidly expanding criminal groups in the country, with a reach that extends across 32 states, from Maryland to Hawaii.

    Though loosely connected, the gang is thought to be the largest street gang in California, with roughly 15,000 members.

    18th Street gangsters have been linked to homicide, extortion, alien smuggling, drug smuggling, and auto theft,. They have also infiltrated the U.S. military.




    Florencia 13 members have been caught buying weapons from U.S. military personnel

    Another rapidly expanding Sureño gang, Florencia 13, works closely with the Mexican Mafia and is a rival of the 18th Street set. Based out of South Los Angeles, Florencia 13 is part of a terrifying gang war scene that has turned L.A. into one of the most dangerous counties in the country.

    It also has members and influence in states like Virginia and Iowa.

    The gang has racked up charges ranging from piracy to conspiracy to sell drugs and murder over the last few years. They also have been cited as another gang infiltrating the U.S. military. In 2010, six members were given life sentences out of the 94 that pleaded guilty to their crimes.



    Barrio Azteca has ties to several major Mexican drug trafficking organizations

    Originally based out of El Paso, Texas, Los Aztecas have become a powerful paramilitary force on both sides of the Mexico border. Now many of the gang's members are recruited from Texas prisons, and some of its work takes place inside prison walls, such as heroin production.

    Los Aztecas work with the Juarez cartel and Los Zetas running drugs, smuggling illegal aliens and murdering consulate officials.The gang has a military structure that has helped keep order.

    In March 2011, 35 members of the gang were charged with a variety of crimes, including 10 gangsters involved in the murder of the U.S. Consulate employee and several family members.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Both the MOP bomb and the B1 bombers have received modifications recently and now Raytheon's announced they are fielding another well-suited tool for a for a battle in someplace like the Strait of Hormuz.

    The Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) is an 243 helium filled balloon that Raytheon says is ideal for monitoring, "Swarming boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, and mine laying ships."

    If that combination of attacks sounds familiar, it should. Iran's Republican Guard is famous for its swarming speed boat attacks, array of anti-ship missiles, and its proclivity for mining the Strait of Hormuz.

    The JLENS system can track these threats for 30 days at a time, from hundred of miles away, and at 10,000 feet above the ground.

    Army soldiers have been trained to use the system and it's prepared to be moved into the field and used in unnamed locations.

    From Raytheon's website:

    • Always “see” the threat, instead of having to hope they had a ship or airplane in the vicinity to detect the threat?
    • Have more time to detect and react to an incoming cruise missile?
    • Observe key sea-lanes and border regions around the clock, for up to 30 days at a time?
    • Track hundreds of airborne and surface moving threats, in 360-degrees?
    • Engage threats, at the maximum range of the defensive weapons currently in the U.S.’ inventory?

    Below is a graphic outlining how the JLENS works. 

    JLENS

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    Suicide Bomber

    With the number of suicide bombings pulled off by Al Qaeda it would sem they have an unlimited supply of volunteers, but apparently that's not the case.

    The Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth reports the global terror group has resorted to online classifieds to find new recruits to pull off the ultimate attacks.

    The ad was apparently posted to a restricted forum known to be frequented by radical Islamists and offered simply a position totled "Suicide Bomber."

    The position was listed in Arabic, the location as "global" and offered a jihadist workshop to those with "mental maturity, physical fitness, dedication, obedience and the tenacity to see the mission through." 

    With several email addresses known to belong to Al Qaeda frontmen operating in the Arabian Peninsula, Yedioth Ahronoth says the ad also asked for a resume, listing age, health, languages, available passports, and oddly — "previous experience."

    From ynetnews.com:

    According to the report, the advertisement read like an ode to suicide attacks: "The individual concept of Jihad, which is advocated by Jihad leaders, is becoming common knowledge. From now on, one man can carry out an entire jihad." The pitch goes on to explain that lone Jihadists have better chances of success and lesser chances of getting caught. 

    The ad also refers interested candidates to a video offering more details on lone-gunman style attacks, titled "You alone are responsible for yourself."However, the job is not meant for everyone: Those with authority issues need not apply, as all potential suicide bombers will be subjected to the supervision of a military council, which will oversee their rigorous training; as well as decide on their intended target.

    The ad is said to have additionally said each "Jihad Warrior" will be supplied with all the information required for their mission, and listed targets in order of priority: The U.S., Israel, France, Britain, and "heretics'" living on Muslim soil.

    Now: Check out the Navy's $2.4 billion nuclear submarines >

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    .357

    First the DHS needed 450 million rounds of ammunition, then the NOAA requested 46,000 rounds, now we've discovered an online request at FBO.Gov calling for 174,000 rounds of ammunition for the Social Security Administration (SSA).

    The request actually calls for 174K .357 hollow points that arguably have as much stopping power as any bullet out there, and hollow points do as much damage to soft tissue as possible on top of that.

    R.K. Campbel at Gun Blast mentions his experience with .357 rounds:

    I observed the effect of the .357 Magnum 125 grain JHP once over the top of my own sights. The effect was gruesome.  A solid hit that produced a severe blood flow AND dramatic effect from the rear, including lung tissue thrown perhaps three feet.

    The 125 grain and JHP (jacketed rounds) are exactly the ones requested by the SSA and their offices of Inspector General and Investigation.

    The FBO has a link that lists all locations slated to receive the batches of bullets. Offices like Greensboro, NC are getting a mere 1,000 rounds while offices like Iselin, NJ are getting 10 times that number.

    Alex Jones' InfoWars is quick to point out that this acquisition jibes with a DHS operation in January where the agency swarmed a Leesburg, FL social security office and posted armed guards outside the doors.

    (Thanks, Jacob)

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    Without a clue as to where they got the information, and going on their reputation alone, this morning we posted that Wired tweeted the closely-watched X-51A test yesterday was a failure.

    Robert Beckhusen and Noah Schactman at Danger Room followed that tweet up with a post of their own confirming that "an insider familiar with the test" told them the X-51 Waverider had a problem with one of its fins that caused the craft to lose control before its new scramjet engine could even fire up.

    Here's the original tweet:

    Bad news for the USAF's mach 5 missile. X-51A failed its flight test; a fin problem caused a loss of control b4 the engine could kick in.

    X-51 Tweet

    The X-51A was slated to hit 4,000 mph and rip through the sky for a full 300 seconds Tuesday, and this is the second failure of the craft in two years.

    The following is the text we wrote on Monday about the X-51 and Tuesday's test:

    When DARPA, the Air Force, NASABoeing, and Pratt & Whitney combine talent and energy on a project you can be sure the outcome will be profound—ideally anyway.

    The five companies are hoping that's the case in tomorrow's test flight of the X-51 Waverider, an unmanned hypersonic scramjet that will tear through the sky at 4,000 miles per hour.

    Though this test will see the X-51 dropped from beneath the wing of a B-52 at 50,000 feet over the Pacific, experts hope the technology could revolutionize air travel on everything from to missiles, to manned aircraft.

    The scramjet is supposed to be like comparing today's jet turbines to propeller driven aircraft, and is seen by many as the next evolutionary step in human flight.

    W.J. Hennigan from the Los Angeles Times reports talking to Robert A. Mercier, deputy for technology in the high speed systems division at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio who says: "Since the Wright brothers, we have examined how to make aircraft better and faster. Hypersonic flight is one of those areas that is a potential frontier for aeronautics. I believe we're standing in the door waiting to go into that arena."

    Scramjet technology forces combustion to occur when airflow surpasses the speed of sound and hydrogen is injected into the flow, allowing for theoretical speeds of Mach 20.

    That's what was hoped for during DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 test flight last year, as well. Unfortunately, that widely watched test ended in failure after the craft's skin peeled away from its body and the flight was terminated before any record breaking speeds could be reached.

    The X-51 didn't fare much better during its previous test that ended in disaster after the craft rocketed to speed, but failed to separate from its booster and crashed off the coast of Southern California.

    Hopefully tomorrow's test will proceed more like the 2010 test flight when the X-51 reached speeds of Mach 5, and flew for almost four minutes.

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    A-10

    When you're hunkered down behind a sliver of cover taking heavy fire, there is no more reassuring sound than the twin engines of the A-10 Thunderbolt screaming in from the distance.

    That's what you think anyway, until you hear the 30mm Gatling gun that can pound out 3,500 rounds per minute at the guys trying to kill you.

    Then you know the most reassuring sound you'll ever hear.

    The A-10 is an old plane, that continues to provide massive air support to ground troops with that cannon and missiles that can take out a main battle tank in a single shot.

    Sometimes old is good. 

    The A-10 Thunderbolt II was introduced in 1977



    The A-10 is more commonly known as the "Warthog" or "Hog"



    The A-10 has a reputation for extreme toughness and the ability to remain in the air even after sustaining damage



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    Explosion

    There is an unassailable prestige that come from being an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) member in the military.

    They're as cool as jet pilots, with the hands of a heart surgeon who operates on patients that can detonate and kill everyone within sight.

    From what they say there's nothing like it.

    We found this Reddit thread earlier in the year by an EOD tech who describes what it's really like detonating bombs meant to kill American troops.

    We found it eye-opening and thought it worth sharing again. We hope you agree.

    It's not like the movies

    [W]ire color doesn't matter one bit, it's just a rubber coating. When we make training devices we use all one color, or multiple for funsies.

    I've actually never disarmed a live device with a timer, they're just not that common, most devices are command detonated or victim operated [i.e. set off by the victim of the explosion].

    [On "The Hurt Locker"]: You cannot pick up 90lb 155m artillery rounds by the half dozen while they're all connected by detonating cord. While the main character is more of a cowboy style risk taker, real bomb techs are far more tedious, calculated, and safe.

    [On "Bomb Patrol Afghanistan"]: [Enemy combatants] are always watching and filming us. Anything on BPA has been scrubbed and approved. The risks are always calculated and there's a lot of lighthearted joking and back and forth, smart ass remarks, and of course quick temper flares.

    Source: Reddit



    Bomb technicians are volunteers

    You have to want it, it's volunteer only. I love blowing s*** up! On a more serious note, I don't have a death wish and this job makes me feel alive. I like to think I'm saving lives and helping the greater good.

    One less device is one less kid dead in a landmine is Laos, or one less family without a mom, dad, son, daughter and so on in America or Baghdad.

    I'm pushing $75-80k I think. But my benefits are all military so I don't pay for those. The job gives us special pays as well.

    There isn't much reward other than personal satisfaction we are hardly in the public eye. The money is nice but you can't use it as a pink mist.

    People that burn out usually keep it under control and then they just get out. You volunteer for this job, you can say f*** it I'm done at any time because the Army can't technically make you walk down and disarm a bomb.

    Source: Reddit



    Bomb suits are awesome (but hardly indestructible)

    It is made out of Kevlar and steel plates.

    Anything over say 10lbs of pure high explosive is scary because it negates the protective effects of the bomb suit at 0 ft.

    Source: Reddit



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    Israel Warship

    American blogger Richard Silverstein claims to have acquired an "Israeli briefing document" that outlines an Israeli attack on Iran and its nuclear facilities.

    While the validity of the report is seriously in question, it does outline a rather spectacular 21st century attack.

    Arutz Sheva translated the document from its original Hebrew and writes:

    "The Israeli attack on Iran “will begin with a coordinated strike, including an unprecedented cyber-attack which will totally paralyze the Iranian regime and its ability to know what is happening within its borders. The internet, telephones, radio and television, communications satellites, and fiber optic cables leading to and from critical installations will be taken out of action. The electrical grid throughout Iran will be paralyzed and transformer stations will absorb severe damage from carbon fiber munitions which are finer than a human hair, causing electrical short circuits whose repair requires their complete removal.”

    Following the coordinated strike, according to the document, “A barrage of tens of ballistic missiles would be launched from Israel toward Iran. 300km ballistic missiles would be launched from Israeli submarines in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. The missiles would not be armed with unconventional warheads [WMD], but rather with high-explosive ordnance equipped with reinforced tips designed specially to penetrate hardened targets.

    “The missiles will strike their targets—some exploding above ground like those striking the nuclear reactor at Arak–which is intended to produce plutonium and tritium—and the nearby heavy water production facility; the nuclear fuel production facilities at Isfahan and facilities for enriching uranium-hexaflouride.  Others would explode under-ground, as at the Fordo facility.

    “A barrage of hundreds of cruise missiles will pound command and control systems, research and development facilities, and the residences of senior personnel in the nuclear and missile development apparatus,” continues the document exposed by Silverstein. “Intelligence gathered over years will be utilized to completely decapitate Iran’s professional and command ranks in these fields.”

    The "document" goes on to say that after the initial attacks, Israeli satellites will pass over Iran to gauge the damage. Then:

    "Only after rapidly decrypting the satellite’s data, will the information be transferred directly to war planes making their way covertly toward Iran. These IAF planes will be armed with electronic warfare gear previously unknown to the wider public, not even revealed to our U.S. ally. This equipment will render Israeli aircraft invisible. Those Israeli war planes which participate in the attack will damage a short-list of targets which require further assault.”

    The news of the "leak" is blossoming around the Web, but David Cenciotti at The Aviationist brings his experience to bear on the subject and offers some of the most unique insights that conclude with the likelihood it's all nothing more than speculation. Regardless, his evaluation is worth checking out here >

    Now: See why the sound of an A-10 is the sweetest thing >

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    Mississippi Drought

    The Mississippi River is vital to American commerce and communities from the Gulf of Mexico to Minnesota, but the drought of 2012 is putting the river and those who rely on it in jeopardy.

    John Yang at NBC reports that just one year after the flooding that put much of the Midwest under water, the Mississippi is now at levels lower than most people can remember. 

    It's so low that barges must carry less freight, and salt water from the Gulf of Mexico is seeping into New Orlean's drinking water.

    Yang talked to a third-generation shipping co-owner in Vicksburg, Miss. who said "It's getting near critical. “Without more rain, we’re heading into uncharted territory.”

    The American Waterways Operators says the river sees $180 billion of goods travel its surface every year. Five-hundred million tons of goods, according to NBC, that includes 60 percent of U.S. grain, 22 percent of its oil and gas, and one-fifth the nation's coal. "It would take 60 trailer trucks to carry the cargo in just one barge, 144 18-wheeler tankers to carry the oil and gas in one petroleum barge," NBC reports.

    Barges are already forced to carry less to keep from running aground, and still up to 20 barges have gotten stuck already this year

    The situation is like nothing seen in over 50-years and to get an on-the-ground understanding of what's happening, check out Yang's story here.

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    Afghanistan soviet helicopter Mi-8With today's deadly attack on American forces and the fatal downing of an Black Hawk helicopter, the nation again looks to Afghanistan and the troop withdrawal in 2014.

    It's been a long 11 years, and the idea that we know anything more about the country where our military's fighting is as false as it is frustrating.

    With that in mind, we look back at these pictures posted earlier in the year.

    Peretz Partensky spent four months taking them while working as part of the Synergy Strike Force in Jalalabad, Afghanistan and wrote about his adventures on jalalagood.com.

    As an independent contractor, Partensky traveled freely around Afghanistan with credentials that allowed him access to U.S. Army bases, but he also "had the local garb and faithful friends" to guide him around the interior of the country.

    Partensky agreed to share snapshots of his life in Afghanistan with Business Insider and if nothing else, they're a reminder that Afghanistan is almost impossible to define.

    No weapons are allowed in the hospital, but many places have lockers where you can check them in



    Kids become comfortable with guns at an early age — here they are with Afghan soldiers, who are guarding a populated intersection in Mazar-i-Sharif during the Persian New Year



    During Nowruz, the Persian New Year, soldiers patrolled and slept on the rooftops in the center of Mazar-i-Sharif



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Destroyer

    The Navy is deploying four Guided Missile destroyers to Rota, Spain to serve as an integral part of the European Defense Shield.

    The shield has been riling up Russia since it was announced, and in May the Kremlin came out and said it was not ruling out a first strike against the NATO shield in Europe.

    Not long after the strike was threatened a story came out saying that Obama would release classified data on the shield to the Russians in an effort to calm them down. 

    No word on that yet, but then again, we know Obama wants to wait until after the election to assuage Russian concerns.

    In the meantime, we took a look at the four destroyers headed over to Spain — the USS Ross, USS Porter, USS Carney and the USS Cook that riled the Russian's up in the first place.

    The USS Ross was commissioned in 1997 and has almost 300 crew



    The Ross is 505 feet long and weighs around 9,000 tons full



    In 2009 the Missile Defense Agency announced that the Ross would be upgraded to hold the advanced Standard Missile-3



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    General Ward

    When General William E. Ward was chosen to lead the new U.S. Army Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007 nobody imagined he'd have sidelined his four decade career and been pulled from the post in less than four years—but that's exactly what happened.

    Ward was nominated by President Bush and approved by Congress to head U.S. military relations with 54 African countries, and while his leadership appears unchallenged, his official spending is another matter.

    The general is accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on hotels, purchases for his family, and unauthorized access to his private plane among other expenses.

    Full details have yet to be released, but The Daily Mail breaks it down like this:

    • $129,000 on an 11-day trip to Washington with his wife and 13 staff where he only had short engagements on the first three days of the trip. The cost covers the hotel and 'other' costs such as transportation.
    • $10,000 on hotels rooms for himself and staff during a 'refueling stop' in Bermuda on the way to an engagement in Germany. He and his wife stayed in a $750 suite. The bill does not include transport or other costs.
    • $18,500 on producing and publishing 2,000 books about the Command's plush residence in Germany and its first three years of work.
    • One staffer stayed in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in McLean, Virginia for 49 consecutive nights in early 2010—even though Ward was in the area for just 18 of the nights.
    • Use of government-rented vehicles to run errands including collecting flowers, books, football game tickets and snacks.
    • Dinner and a Broadway show—paid for by a government contractor—before meeting Denzel Washington and staying in the five-star Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
    • Wife joined him on 52 of his 79 trips even though she had no official capacity.
    • Ward also set officials meetings after being refused the use of military aircraft for personal travel.
    Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room reports that Ward also had a book printed at taxpayer expense, which detailed his lavish German home near AFRICOM headquarters.
     
    Ward is still on active duty, though at reduced rank, while he awaits the result of the Pentagon's investigation expected to be delivered at the end of this month.
     
     

    Now: Check out the ships forming the lynchpin of the European defense shield >

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    west australia pilbara mine

    With Post 9/11 veteran unemployment hovering near nine percent and the services preparing to drastically cut forces, Australian mining companies have stepped up to grab some of that labor for their short staffed operations down under.

    Seth Robson at Stars and Stripes reports the mines are looking for everything from plumbers and electricians, to heavy-equipment operators and project managers with pay ranging from $65K to 200K to start.

    From Stars and Stripes:

    Australia would be happy to open its arms to U.S. veterans, Kim Beazley, Australian ambassador to the U.S., said in comments posted by the Australian immigration department. “In Australia, we have a culture of assuming that men and women who have been through the defense forces arrive in the broader community with very great skills discipline and motivation and, therefore, we assume that a similar atmosphere surrounds those who are veterans of American armed services,” he said.

    The immigration department has posted interviews with U.S. soldiers considering a move Down Under on its website. “The majority of skilled migrants end up taking out citizenship, and we welcome that,” Sandi Logan, a spokesman for the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship said. “We are not a nation that is reliant on guest workers. When people come to build Australia, we invite them to become part of the nation.”

    Australian headhunters are looking for new hires at job fairs throughout the US, but Robson mentions Detroit and Houston specifically and that 400 to 500 positions need to be filled immediately.

    If interested in an Australian mining jobs: Australia Info Mine, that lists positions and companies, and the Australian Department of Immigration seem like decent places to start.

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    Sarina Butcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It's OK;  none of them blame you.

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

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

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

    Roster of the Dead 

    Don't Miss: How Vets Recover After Losing Their Limbs In The Iraq And Afghanistan Wars >

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