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22 December, 2009

Re: Re: "Winter Storm..."

It appears now we are done with snow, at least until the weekend. This would be good news, as they were previously calling for a second storm to hit Wednesday and snow steadily through Christmas. The only problem is that temperatures are not expected to rise much past the low, low 40s, even in the highs. Then, what little melting we can expect of the snow that is already on the ground, is to be followed by two days straight of freezing rain/sleet on Thursday and Friday, and then back to snow showers on Saturday. Honestly, the freezing rain is what I hate.

So, it looks like our Christmas holiday might be a lock-in this year, with the planned trip to visit family being postponed.

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21 December, 2009

13 Things a Man Should Keep in His Car

13 Things a Man Should Keep in His Car | The Art of Manliness: "When I was growing up, I noticed that my dad kept the trunk of his car well-stocked with supplies... And there were plenty of times when my dad was able to put his trunk equipment to work.

For example, about 20 years ago my dad was driving home to Oklahoma from New Mexico... a hellacious snow storm hit. It was a complete white out, so my dad had to pull over until things settled down.

But things didn’t settle down until a day later.

My dad had to spend the night in his car in the middle of nowhere while a blizzard roared outside. But because he had the forethought to prepare for situations like this, he was able to keep warm with some blankets and avoid ravaging hunger with some MREs

Many of you will be hitting the road this holiday season to visit family, so I consulted my dad, Tom McKay, and asked him what supplies he thinks every man should keep in his car. Here’s his suggested list. (NOTE FROM SIMPLE MAN: I have shortened the list into bullet format for brevity's sake. Please read the original article for some great suggestions on what each item can be used for and why you need them.)

1. Fully charged cell phone.
2. Jumper cables.
3. Flashlight.
4. Roadside flares/reflective triangle.
5. MREs.
6. Warm blankets.
7. Ice scraper.
8. First aid kit.
9. Bottled water.
10. Tow strap.
11. Folding shovel.
12. LifeHammer.
13. Portable air compressor."


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20 December, 2009

Re: "Winter Storm..."

Our winter storm is still raging, though it seems to have finally slacked off a bit. It's supposed to continue this way throughout Sunday. Then, they're calling for another storm on Wednesday that is supposed to last straight through Christmas day.

If pressed, I would say we got a little over a foot at my homestead. It was very funny to watch our little Terrier/Chihuahua mix jump off the porch and completely disappear into a snow drift, though I don't think she enjoyed it as much as I did. :) The big dogs had little trouble, needless to say.

Nothing further to report with respect to other emergency preparedness issues. Power has given us no further problems.

Here are some more photos taken today around the property:







Here are some other photos taken by friends of mine here in the area:






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19 December, 2009

Re: "Winter Storm Approaching"

In response to yesterday's note about the impending winter storm that is now blowing full force, I received the following email:

"Dear simple man, Greetings! Read your first posting about the storm. We have it coming here soon and a second one next week. It is 9am and -4 in the back yard-Western Mass can be chilly.

Hope all goes well.

Take care of yourself.

Keep up the great work.

Best wishes.


Lawrence F. Roberge M.S.
Professor
WWW.LAWRENCEROBERGE.COM"
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For what it's worth, the storm has been even worse than originally advertised. Pretty quickly after the white stuff started falling, they amended their forecast of 8-10 inches and told folks in my immediate vicinity to expect 10-16 inches instead. We lost our cable in the middle of watching the 6 o'clock news, but not before they said we were getting up to an inch per hour in some places and the roads were terrible. People were stranded in ditches all over the place, and many schoolchildren were stuck on buses and still not home at that late hour.

We very nearly lost power but it managed to keep buzzing, thankfully negating the need to fire up the generator. It would have been a rather inconvenient evening otherwise, although we were as ready as anyone can be for such things. Even the rechargeable lanterns were all ready to go; candles ready as a backup for when they died. Instead, we spent the evening tending the fire in the wood stove, keeping the kitchen (on the far end of the house) toasty with a kerosene heater, playing XBox 360 and watching TV.

Below is a not-so-great-but-perfectly-adequate picture taken by opening my front door and snapping a shot of the immediate area right in front of it. It was the only way to get a decent shot without the camera flash/falling snow/street light combination causing the photo to come out as a blurry mess. Anyway, those tracks were made by us and our dogs.

And, here is a video from Youtube, showing conditions on Interstate 40 in Hickory, NC, just a few hours south of us:


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18 December, 2009

Winter Storm Approaching

As I write this, we are awaiting the approach of an imminent winter storm that is supposed to dump between 8 and 12 inches of snow on us. If it pans out, it'll be the first big snow we've had in some time. Needless to say, Thursday's activities around the old homestead were dominated by emergency preparedness-oriented tasks.

Thursday afternoon was spent stacking a truckload of black locust we had delivered to burn in our newly-installed wood stove. We've been periodically taking wood from our own property for a while now, but it is still awfully green and we wanted some nice seasoned firewood to burn since it is turning colder. We paid $75 for a truckload and the old boy cut us a deal because all he had was the black locust; he usually gets $85/load for it.

Later in the day, the generator was hauled out of the shed and given a once-over, just in case; we made the obligatory last-minute sheeple-esque grocery store run; and, topped-off our gas and kerosene tanks.

We're prepared. Are you?

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16 December, 2009

Freedom of Speech Sure Was Nice While It Lasted

The newly-proposed regulations are aimed at fighting kiddie porn, but (much like the now-infamous Patriot Act in the U.S.) are worded in such a way as to have the capability of detrimentally affecting the lives of normal everyday citizens.

"The Government maintains the filter is not designed to curtail freedom of speech," according to the article, but even making such a statement is tantamount to a confession that such an abuse of individual rights would be quite possible.

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Green light for internet filter plans - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): "The Federal Government will introduce compulsory internet filtering to block overseas sites which contain criminal content, including child sex abuse and sexual violence.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the changes today following a controversial trial to filter the internet which was conducted earlier this year.

Senator Conroy says some internet content is simply not suitable in a civilised society.

'It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material,' he said..."

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12 December, 2009

Homestead Wood Stove Installation

Just like any other self-respecting survivalist/ emergency preparedness geek, I chose wood as my best option to heat our homestead. We do use a modern, forced-air furnace as well for convenience, but the wood will supplement it well (saving us $$$ on our electric bill) and will be our fallback in the harsher times to come.

In the picture on the right, you can see the mess of a job-in-progress as well as the stove pipe peeking out the bottom of the flue. It took 14 two-foot sections to completely by-pass the 100+ year-old mess of a chimney that we were afraid to use.

Then, in this later shot to the left, you can see a bit of how we got it all into position and set, using cinder blocks and boards as a fulcrum to help us lift and hold the heavy bugger.

It is positioned for the ash to fall down a chute into the basement to then be hauled-off to the composter for the garden at our convenience. No muss, no fuss.

And below, a few shots of the finished product, sporting a warm and wonderful fire!





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FEMA Suggests Citizens Give Emergency Preparedness & Survivalist-Themed Christmas Gifts This Year


You have no idea how often I have considered doing just as the below-linked article suggests. Actually, I suppose I technically already have as last year I drew my cousin's name (the adults in my family all draw names and then we all buy for the kids) and I bought him a decent mid-range priced multi-tool on Ebay (we have a $25 limit as well). So, I guess that alone proves I endorse the idea they are suggesting.

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U.S. agency suggests Christmas gifts for the disaster age - Yahoo! News: "Imagine tearing open that large present under the Christmas tree with your name on it and finding inside... a fire extinguisher.

Or a foldable ladder.

Or a smoke alarm in that smaller box.

Those, plus a home disaster kit including food, water and prescription medications for 72 hours, or a first aid certification course are just some of the gifts that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is suggesting Americans give their loved ones this holiday season.

'Giving a gift of a fire extinguisher might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but for the guy who has everything, it might be perfect,' FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told AFP..."

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09 December, 2009

Toyota President: We're Fast Approaching Peak Oil














LINK: http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=1205545683

Yet another admission of the truth of Peak Oil Theory, though it seems awfully convenient to me that folks like this never seem to want to admit there is a problem until they think it might actually help them sell a new product.

As far as hydrogen fuel cell cars being available within a few years, I am personally dubious and I still don't see how it will ever be possible for them to mass produce them cheaply enough to make them affordable for the average consumer. Also, where are the billions of dollars it is going to take to set up a nationwide refueling infrastructure with tens (or, more likely, hundreds) of thousands of separate, independent locations? Other than possibly as a prototype (the last one cost a six figure sum to build) or as playthings for the wealthy, I doubt we'll be seeing hydrogen fuel cell cars anytime soon.

Horses and buggies are more likely in most of our futures.

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Physicist Aleklett Says Peak Oil Led to Dubai Crisis

Yet another admission from a highly credible, well-thought-of source...

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Physicist Aleklett Says Peak Oil Led to Dubai Crisis: "In a piece on his personal blog posted Tuesday, Swedish physicist Kjell Aleklett posits that peak oil, as well as faulty predictions by the IEA, led to the current debt crisis in Dubai. Although part of the United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich member of OPEC, Dubai itself is oil-poor, and thus relies on other sources of income like tourism and real estate. As the global recession hit these areas hard, Dubai found itself in financial hot water..."

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08 December, 2009

Man Arrested for Trespassing on His Own Land

Here is a great example of what can happen when you get in the way of 'Big Brother' and his corporatista bedmate's master plans. When I first saw this headline I was aghast, but then I remembered all the stories I heard growing up here in the Appalachian coalfields about the railroad coming through and snatching up everybody's land so they could lease it to the coal companies.

Sure, they'd offer to buy each parcel fair-and-square at first, but what you have to remember is that this area was so isolated for so long that each little subsistence farm had been owned by the same families for hundreds of years. In fact, one's kinfolk was usually buried out back on the hillside! So, some owners had no interest in selling. It was after they turned down the offer that the railroad's paid thugs, Pinkerton men as often as not (the original Blackwater-esque private contractors), would start their campaign to run the owners off. They regularly burned homes and barns, killed livestock and generally made life hell for the owners until they gave in, and there are many stories of widows being paid only a fraction of what their husbands had originally been offered before being murdered. And, as if that weren't bad enough, fast forward a few decades further and the miner's working that same land, in a fight for their rights, actually had bombs dropped on them by their own government.

Perhaps the Engelkings should count their blessings that we now live in an era with a 24-hour news cycle that makes it harder for them to get away with the kinds of things they did in the past. All the article linked below does is prove to me definitively that our rights as citizens only go so far as it is convenient and doesn't interfere with the plans of the corporatocracy.

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Man Arrested for Trespassing on His Own Land | Duluth, Minnesota: "Jeremy Engelking will appear in Douglas County court this afternoon to face a trespassing charge. But here’s the kicker: The Superior man allegedly trespassed on his own property.

Engelking, 27, aimed to hunt deer Wednesday morning when he noticed a pipeline crew on his land. He... told workers they had no right to be on his property because he had received no compensation... for an easement.

Engelking said workers told him he was in an unsafe place and asked him to come to an equipment staging area... But just as he was turning to leave, Engelking said an officer from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene and approached with a Taser drawn..."



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02 December, 2009

North Korea Sharply Revalues Its Currency

Friends of mine have often asked what to expect in the event that we enter into a hyperinflationary period with the teetering dollar and, without fail, the Currency Revaluation is the one aspect that they never considered. Imagine waking up in the morning to find your bank balances have been reduced by a factor of 100-to-1 and that you must turn in any cash you might be holding for new bills on the same 100-to-1 ratio.

Are you prepared to feed yourself and your family until society has had sufficient time to adjust to the new paradigm?

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North Korea Sharply Revalues Its Currency - Telegraph: "In an alleged bid to curb inflation and suppress its growing black market, North Korea implemented a currency revaluation on Monday, according to Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.

The exchange rate between old and new currencies is 100 to 1, with the old denomination of 1,000 won notes being replaced by 10 won notes..."

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28 November, 2009

Meteor Impact As Seen In The Skies Over South Africa Saturday Evening

The link comes courtesy of Jim Rawles at www.survivalblog.com, who states, "Listening to eyewitness accounts it was seen from as far away as Maputo (in Mozambique) Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The meteor was traveling northwest and was presumed to have landed beyond the Botswana border. This video footage was taken approx 350 kilometers from the border."



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24 November, 2009

Cold War Era Bunker Converted To Luxury Home

The link below will take you to a photo slide-show put together by the folks at the Wall Street Journal highlighting how a Cold War era bunker was converted into a luxury home.

It turned out to be a beautiful home, but would I seem nuts if I said I would have preferred the bunker? ;)

LINK: Photos: From Bunker to Home - WSJ.com

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20 November, 2009

Another Update Re:"H1N1 'super flu' plague in Ukraine spark concern, conspiracy theories about origins"

Another facet has now entered into the discussion over what is happening in the Ukraine that basically poses the question, with the WHO claiming there is little evidence to support the feared worsening of disease there, that perhaps the whole thing might be being blown out of proportion for political reasons. Apparently, the president's hold on his office is becoming shaky, and so the postponing of election, talk of martial law, etc. could be all about trying to hang on until he can change public perception sufficiently to get himself reelected; the 'hero who bravely led us during harsh times' and all that.

My problem with that explanation is that no amount of political juxtapositioning accounts for fatalities whose lungs, at autopsy, were found to be so black that they appeared burnt and were described as looking more like a liver than lungs. This was a quote from a doctor in Ukraine. And then there is the fact that it took weeks to finally get the sequences from Ukraine samples released to the public, only to have them say very little.
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RBD Change D225G in Ukraine Lungs Raises Concerns: "Recombinomics Commentary 21:53
November 18, 2009

... All H and N sequences are typical for H1N1, as indicated in early WHO announcements. There are no large changes. Additional gene segments have been deposited from a subset of these isolates... There are silent changes that are in all or most Ukraine sequences, but the only HA polymorphism was the receptor binding domain change, D225G. This polymorphism was in the three lungs, as well as the one throat sample. It was not in the nasopharyngeal washes or the isolate grown in MDCK cells suggesting the D225G may have a tissue tropism component and may allow for high levels of virus in the lung.

D225G was also found in necropsy lung tissue from fatal cases in Sao Paulo, further supporting tissue tropism associated with this polymorphism. The polymorphism has recently appeared on a series of different genetic backgrounds, supporting acquisition by recombination. The genetic backgrounds were geographically diverse... In addition, it was in isolates from last spring collected in the United States and Mexico.

The appearance of D225G on multiple recent genetic backgrounds raises concerns that the polymorphism is offering a selective advantage in association with multiple genetic backgrounds, and the selective detection of the polymorphism in lung and throat samples may indicate it is more widespread because of its absence from nasopharyngeal washes. Lung and throat sampling may be required for detection and determination of the true geographical reach of this change..

More information on outcomes for these patients, as well as results for lung and nasopharyngeal samples from the same patient, would be useful..."

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Then, from comments exchanged later at the Flutracker site, this is Niman explaining what is happening:

"D225G was in all 3 lung samples and the 1 throat samples. I would guess that all four were fatal (they are from the two hardest hit areas). Nasopharyngeal washes were negative, which I would guess are from patients that are alive. If those two assumptions are correct, it would mean that virus with D225G has a MUCH higher CFR than virus without D225G.

My guess is that D225G directs the virus to the lung and allows it to grow to high levels, leading to cytokine storm and death. I don't think that these patients are dying because of delayed treatment. I think they are dying because they got the virus with D225G."


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19 November, 2009

Letter Re: My Thoughts on 2012

Corey Pein of the Santa Fe Reporter sent me the following link to a piece he had printed in that publication recently regarding all the 2012 hoopla that is making the rounds right now. It is worth your time to give it a read.

Personally, I've spent some time debunking 2012 here at Backwooods Survival Blog as well.

See the following:
2012 is B.S.!!!
DOOMSDAY 2012: THE TRUTH & THE LUNACY, PART 1
DOOMSDAY 2012: THE TRUTH & THE LUNACY, PART 2
DOOMSDAY 2012: THE TRUTH & THE LUNACY, PART 3
DOOMSDAY 2012: THE TRUTH & THE LUNACY, PART 4

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14 November, 2009

Report States That Oil Running Out Far Faster Than Predicted

Oil running out far faster than predicted: report: "A leading academic institute has urged European governments to review global oil supplies for themselves because of the 'politicisation' of the International Energy Agency's figures....

... Kjell Aleklett, professor of physics at Uppsala and co-author of a new report 'The Peak of the Oil Age', claims oil production is more likely to be 75m barrels a day by 2030 than the 'unrealistic' 105m used by the IEA in its recently published World Energy Outlook 2009. The academic... described the IEA's report as a 'political document' developed for consuming countries with a vested interest in low prices..."

The report points out that IEA estimates are based on an expectation that oil will somehow be extracted at a pace never previously seen without providing any justification whatsoever for such an assumption.

This comes just days after a whistleblower spoke-out about the way energy statistics were being handled at the IEA, suggesting that the influence of the United States was being used to encourage downplaying of the potential for future oil scarcity because of fears of 'panic' occurring in the markets.

For what it's worth, the author of this most recent report "said he had experience of similar internal worries about the IEA."

The IEA, of course, denies any such assertions.

In closing, the author added, "I am a scientist, not an economist or a politician. I believe in the facts and if someone can prove me wrong I will happily change my mind."


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13 November, 2009

Supply Of Conventional Crude Oil Is Very Close To Its Peak

The piece linked below is not new, but the author does a superb job of explaining how society is fully and unabashedly tied to a steady supply of cheap, plentiful oil and how those days are rather quickly drawing to an abrupt close.

Extra points are conferred due to their understanding that so-called alternative or "green" energy sources, while they will no doubt be necessary, can never give us what we got from oil over the past century as cheaply and easily as oil gave it to us.

We have come to the end of the era of perpetual and unlimited growth.

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Supply Of Conventional Crude Oil Is Very Close To Its Peak: "... Sceptics can say what they want; it does not change the fact that our world is struggling to maintain daily flow-rates. Whether you agree with us or not, the energy reality is that the supply of conventional crude oil is very close to its peak and no other fuel source can easily fill the supply gap.

Yes, various governments are now promoting alternative sources of energy and over the following years, we expect this drive to intensify. But those sources will provide too little, too late. So there remains, today, an unbelievable degree of denial when it comes to “Peak Oil”. Most people simply dismiss it as a conspiracy. Others gleefully point to alternative sources of energy, whereas some believe that the vast improvements in oil drilling technology will save the day. Do not be seduced by these delusional hopes..."


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12 November, 2009

Massive Blackout Engulfs Brazil


This is especially interesting in light of the recently leaked information regarding two separate instances where cities in Brazil were the victims of cyber attacks on their infrastructure. For the record, officials are denying that this had anything to do with anything like that, blaming a technical problem instead.
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Massive Blackout Engulfs Brazil: "Brazil's two largest cities have been hit by a massive blackout that has also affected other parts of Latin America's largest nation.

Media reports say problems at a huge hydroelectric dam are to blame for the electrial outages affecting large parts of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities in several states.

The G1 Web site of Globo TV says Brazil lost 17,000 megawatts of power after an unspecified problem happened at the Itaipu dam that straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay."


Another article stated, "Traffic on the city's streets descended into chaos shortly after the power outage. Thousands of passengers were forced to exit stalled subway trains and walk along the tracks to get back to stations and make their way to the surface.

The city's streets were still clogged early on Wednesday after the mayor canceled restrictions on the amount of cars allowed to circulate during rush-hour traffic.

In Rio, the beachside city that will host the 2016 Olympics, many tourists left their hotel rooms along Copacabana beach because of the lack of air-conditioning and milled around on the darkened streets."








Photos courtesy of here and here.

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08 November, 2009

US Natural Gas Potential Highly Overrated

Over the past several months, there has been a lot of talk about how so-called 'shale gas' was going to save us all, supplying U.S. energy requirements for decades to come. Those of us in Peak Oil circles knew this, of course, to be utter hooey, and now here it is coming to light.

It appears production from these wells drops-off drastically within just the first few years of operation, causing pricing to skyrocket. The depletion curves I have seen regarding natural gas production make oil actually appear to be a stable resource. No kidding.

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Peak Oil – The Rewards: "... Geologist Art Berman, for example, offers a decidedly negative view of the latest “big thing” – obtaining large volumes of natural gas from “tight shales.” In a comprehensive review of production and flow rates from several thousand wells drilled in the past decade in the Barnett Shale of Texas, Mr. Berman presents a gloomy forecast.

Looking at a large sampling of Barnett wells, the overall data reveal that initial gas flows decline rapidly. With some wells, the drop-off is as much as 70% in the first year, with further declines of 20% in the second year.

This hardly dovetails with the happy talk about how “shale gas” will supply US energy requirements for the next several decades, if not a couple of centuries. It appears that most Barnett wells are short-term money losers, with a few prolific wells carrying the bulk of capital expenditure.

According to Mr. Berman, the picture is not much better in other shale plays, such as the Fayetteville and Haynesville shales. And similar gloomy data are just now starting to come in on the embryonic gas play in the giant Marcellus formation of Pennsylvania..."

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05 November, 2009

The Making of a Narco State

The theme following Mexico's long descent into chaos as a now barely-standing failed state is old hat here at Backwoods Survival Blog. We've talked about it previously on numerous occasions due to the inherent dangers it poses, especially to our readers in states directly bordering that proverbial wasteland.

Mexico has been stumbling for quite a long time but it has benefited from being propped-up by tourism, oil and a sturdy, strong United States. However, now that their primary oilfield is dying and the U.S. as a nation is beginning to show cracks in our foundation, who will be there to help them the next time their roof is falling-in on them. The answer, of course, is very likely no one, and it is something that will almost assuredly occur in our lifetimes, if not within the decade.

It is quite obviously already pretty far down that path. To quote the article, "... the line between law enforcement and organized crime has virtually disappeared. Many of Mexico's police officers, who are paid less than $5,000 a year on average, supplement their meager incomes by taking money from drug traffickers. In a recent investigation of 400 federales, 90 percent were linked to the cartels. Police who refuse to cooperate are frequently executed, often in broad daylight. More than 500 police were killed last year, some of them beheaded by members of the growing cult of Santa Muerte, or Holy Death — a group, celebrated in shrines across the country, that includes drug traffickers and police officers alike. In January, to cite one of many grim examples, the severed head of a police comandante was dumped in front of the police station in Ciudad Ju├írez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas."

What you will have when the true collapse finally occurs is a fractured collection of barely functioning Mad Max-ian No Man's Lands, controlled by drug lords and cartels who will set themselves up as petty warlords. They will control the land and everyone in it, but all semblance of what people know as government will likely vanish as the full resources of the state will be turned toward their chosen industry: narcotics. As a result, even the meager social services that now exist will disappear completely, except for those that might continue to survive and operate under the auspices of the Catholic Church. By and large, the people living in these areas will be ignored by their new government rather than actively oppressed, until such a time as they are needed as slave labor to support the increased drug production that will undoubtedly explode after what little law enforcement now exists is truly no longer a threat. Also, human trafficking in pretty little Chicas will be a booming business in such a lawless environment, even more so than it is currently.

Why will this be an issue for you, you ask from your comfortable retreat home in the U.S.? Because, if you think there are a lot of illegals coming over the border now, you ain't seen nothing like the deluge that is going to occur when half of the villagers in northern Mexico become refugees fleeing a life of depredation, rape and torture. And, such an influx of population will only serve to further stress the carrying capacity of the land, water and environment.


LINK: The Making of a Narco State : Rolling Stone

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Further Update Re: Re: "Unidentified Outbreak in Western Ukraine"

Reports below appear courtesy of Dr. Niman at Recombinomics.com. Selected emphasis in bold are mine.
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Clusters of Hemorrhagic H1N1 Pneumonia in Ukraine
Recombinomics Commentary 11:54
November 4, 2009

http://www.recombinomics.com/News/11040901/Ukraine_Hemor_Clusters.html

Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast

All the six dead young people had symptoms of severe hemmorhagic pneumonia. The disease starts slowly, with temperature rising to 37.2 - 37.3 degrees, slight cough and pain in joints. Nasal catarrh developed at the end of the second or third day. Autopsy revealed that the lungs were soaked with blood, the oblast chief specialist said.

The above comments are from an early story describing cases in Ukraine. The clustering of hemorrhagic cases raised concerns. The concern was increased by anecdotal reports citing a high frequency of such cases in Lviv. The recent WHO announcement that they were initially focusing of severe acute respiratory illness in Lviv also increased concerns.

Hemorrhagic pneumonia was also observed in the 1918 pandemic and was thought to be linked to cytokine storm. Consequently, those with robust immune systems (previously health young adults) disproportionately died, which has also been seen in the current outbreak (Mexico, US, and worldwide). However, the cases in Ukraine appear to be clustered, raising concerns that the virus has changed.

However, the change may be minor, since the current H1N1 has produced the above symptoms in earlier cases. More severe cases may be linked to a higher viral load, which could be linked to minor genetic changes, or simply due to concentration of virus in schools. In the US the spread of the virus has been linked to school openings, which lead to an explosion of cases and subsequent student deaths. However, now there are increases in fatalities in teachers and administrators, increasing concerns worldwide.

In Ukraine, weather changes and heating issues may have led to a surge in cases, and increased concentrations of virus could have produced conditions favoring high viral loads and increased cytokine storms.

Samples have been sent to Mill Hill, and sequence data should be released shortly. Similarly, investigations on hemorrhagic pneumonia in Lviv should help resolve the mechanism for the high concentration of such cases in western Ukraine.

However, H1N1 spread in Kiev has been noted, and other countries such as Belarus have announced additional H1N1 suspect or confirmed fatalities.

Sequence analysis of these cases and an update on the frequency of hemorrhagic pneumonia in Ukraine and worldwide would be useful.
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Reported Cases in Ukraine Double in Two Days
Recombinomics Commentary 14:34
November 4, 2009
478,456 Influenza/ARI

24,003 Hospitalized

60 Ventilators

81 Deaths

The above numbers are from the latest update from Ukraine. The number of infected patients has almost doubled to just under ½ million, compared to the report two days ago. Hospitalized patients also have spiked higher, to 24K from 15K. ICU cases are not listed, but 60 on ventilators are. However, most (37) of those on ventilators are Chernivisti Oblast, but Lviv, which has the most fatalities and cases, has none, suggesting the data is incomplete or there are significant shortages of ventilators. The number of dead has risen to 81, but media reports describe additional fatalities, include those in the Kiev Oblast.

The explosion of cases again raises concerns that the number of fatalities is significantly higher than the 81 listed. Media reports have described an equal number of pneumonia fatalities which were not considered flu related. The basis of these exclusions remains unclear. Similarly, anecdotal reports suggest the number of fatalities is markedly higher than the 81 in the table.

The rapid rise in reported infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the past few days raise concerns that the virus is transmitting very efficiently. Spikes in cases have been reported throughout the northern hemisphere, but the spike in fatalities and the frequency in hemorrhagic cases in Ukraine have raised concerns.

Earlier media reports suggest that an update by WHO might be issued today and include preliminary analysis of samples sent to Mill Hill in London.

Daily updates on the rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine, including sequence analysis, would be useful.

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04 November, 2009

Another Update Re: Re: "Unidentified Outbreak in Western Ukraine"

Information coming out of Ukraine is still rather sketchy. Honestly, we don't even yet have a handle on whether or not it is H1N1 swine flu or some other virus or infection altogether. CIDRAP (the Center or Infectious Disease Research and Policy), however, recently did release a statement saying, "Laboratory testing at labs in the Ukraine have confirmed the pandemic H1N1 virus in samples taken from patients in two regions, the WHO said, adding that because the pandemic virus has become dominant throughout the world, most of the Ukrainian respiratory illnesses are probably caused by the novel H1N1 strain;" so there you go.
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Swine flu scare tightens borders around Ukraine (AP): "Russia and Slovakia tightened their borders with Ukraine on Tuesday as the World Health Organization began investigating a suspected swine flu outbreak.

The death toll from flu has climbed to 71 since the outbreak struck last week in the western city of Ternopil, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said.

Blood tests have yet to determine how many of these deaths were from the new and aggressive H1N1 strain. But the WHO said in a statement on Tuesday that most flu cases in Ukraine can be assumed to be H1N1, 'as the pandemic virus has rapidly become the dominant influenza strain worldwide.'

As a precaution, schools and universities across the country will remain closed this week, and officials urged people in western Ukraine to travel only when necessary and stay away from public places..."

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Here is an update from Dr. Niman of Recombinomics.com:
"WHO Targets Hemorrhagic H1N1 Cases in Lviv Ukraine
Recombinomics Commentary 19:54
November 3, 2009

Work will initially begin in Lviv region, where reported numbers of cases showing severe manifestations of acute respiratory illness have been especially high. Two virologists on the team have started working at the National Influenza Centre and the laboratories of the Central Sanitary and Epidemiological Station in Kyiv to provide diagnostic support.

The above comments from the WHO update on Ukraine strike a more serious tone than yesterday's quotes from WHO spokespersons playing down the alarming number of hospitalized and fatal cases, as well as media reports spinning political considerations, or politicians claiming only 15 confirmed H1N1 cases. As the WHO update clearly states, the dominant influenza circulating worldwide is swine H1N1 and it is assumed that most cases in the Ukraine (see map) are swine H1N1. Since the official government website lists 19,189 influenza cases (in addition to more than 235,000 ARI cases), the willingness of politicians to cite 15 confirmed cases, as well as media support in the distribution of the propaganda, is unfortunate.

The more severe manifestation of ARI cases are clearly hemorrhagic disease that fills lungs with blood and produces bleeding at all orifices, which are stark reminders of 1918 pandemic cases which were also linked to a swine H1N1.

Samples have arrived at Mill Hill in London, and sequence data should be available shortly. Since current swine H1N1 produced lethal infections in previously healthy young adults, and produced hemorrhagic disease, changes in the viral genome may be absent or minor. Therefore, release of the sequences to the entire scientific community would be useful.

Similarly, an update on the number of hemorrhagic cases would be useful. Rumors have suggested that such the number of such cases is significantly higher than the six described in media reports."


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03 November, 2009

Update Re: Re: "Unidentified Outbreak in Western Ukraine"

Lastest post by Dr.Niman of http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com/:

"Swine H1N1 can cause a hemorrhagic disease, which has been descibed in many cases, including those in Ukraine. Similar disease was caused by the 1918 pandmeic strain, which also was H1N1 and of swine origin.

There have been no reports out of Ukraine that would point away from H1N1. The range of symptoms for H1N1 are quite broad. Some have no symptoms. Others have symptoms with no fever of low grade fever. My whole family has been infected with H1N1 (PCR confirmed in 2/4). All of our cases were mild. I had a low grade fever for less than 12 hours (I was PCR confirmed). My wife had no fever. One daughter (who was also PCR confirmed had a fever of 103 F). We all had coughs. Some had chills and night sweats. Some had a sore throat. Some had a headache. I believe one daught and I were reinfected about a month later.

Others of course have had much more severe disease. About 5% of those hospitalized in the US die. Many are young previously healthy adults with no underlying conditions.

H1N1 is widespread throughout the northern hemisphere. In the US absenteeism is high (up to 30-50%) and schools close because too many teachers and administrators are sick to keep the schools functioning. The same scenario is hapening in the Ukraine and other European countries.

H1N1 is called a pandemic for a reason, and appears to be taking a turn for the worse. Ukraine may be leading this change, but it is quite widespread and deaths are increasing in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The flu season has just started amd it is likely that most flu this season will be swine flu. There is NO seasonal flu circulting in the Ukraine or anywhere else in Europe, other than a few sporadic cases. In the US and Erurope, over 99% of infleunza A is swine flu."

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More from Dr. Niman (source):

"Ukraine H1N1 Deaths and Hospitalizations Spike Higher
Recombinomics Commentary 21:54
November 2, 2009

255516 Influenza/ARI
15810 Hospital Admissions
235 Intensive Care
70 deaths

The above numbers reflect the latest government update on cases in the Ukraine. They are dramatically higher than those reported in the past few days and raise concerns that the death toll will increase significantly over the next several days.

Some wire service reports and comments from WHO have downplayed these numbers, noting that the death rate for Ukraine is similar to other countries in Europe. However, the deaths in the other countries accumulated over the entire pandemic flu season, while the deaths in the Ukraine were in the past few weeks, with most cases reported in the past few days.

About 5% of patients admitted with H1N1 infections have died in other countries, so that rate in the patients currently hospitalized would increase the deaths in Ukraine 10 fold, which would be markedly higher than any other European country. Moreover, the vast majority of the cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths are in three Oblasts in western Ukraine. Lviv, Ternopil, and Ivano-Frankivsk.

This concentration of H1N1, including serious and fatal cases, raises concerns that the virus in this region has changed. Samples have been sent to London for analysis and prompt release of that data would be useful."

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"'There are a lot of unknowns,' he said. The crew of experts will collect samples from patients and send them to the WHO’s influenza collaborating center in London for diagnosis. The WHO may have more information on Nov. 4,' Hartl said." (source)

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02 November, 2009

Could All The Vaccine Debate End Up Being Pointless?

After all the debate, could the vaccine end up being ineffective?

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US Emergency Declarations Raise Pandemic Concerns: "... the CDC has reported a low reactor isolate, indicating the virus is evolving away from the vaccine..."

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Update Re: "Unidentified Outbreak in Western Ukraine"

I promised yesterday when this first hit my radar that I would try to stay on top of it as it unfolds, but I have to admit the information coming out of Ukraine has a really high noise-to-signal ratio, and therefore it is difficult to know what to report and what to ignore. For now, I'm going to try to stay away from the obvious tinfoil hat conspiracy stuff, but if it continues to pile-up I may start passing it along as well. Don't worry, however, if I do, I'll be sure to mark it accordingly; that way, you can skip it if it isn't your thing.

Okay. Here we go:

From the WHO website...

"Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, Ukraine

On 28 October 2009, the Ministry of Health of the Ukraine informed WHO, through its Country Office in Ukraine, about an unusually high level of activity of acute respiratory illness in the western part of the country, associated with an increased number of hospital admissions and fatalities.

On 30 October 2009, the Ministry of Health of the Ukraine announced the confirmation of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus infection by RT-PCR in eleven out of 30 samples obtained from patients presenting with acute respiratory illness in two of the most affected regions. Tests were performed in two laboratories in Kyiv, including the National Influenza Centre. Confirmatory tests will be performed at one of the WHO Collaborating Centres for Influenza.

The situation is quickly changing with increasingly high levels of acute respiratory illness (ARI)/Influenza-like-illness (ILI) activity being observed in Ternopil, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Chernivtsi regions. The higher levels of transmission in these regions corresponds to an increased number of hospital admissions and fatalities associated with severe manifestations of acute respiratory illness.

As of 30 October 2009, over 2,300 individuals have been admitted to hospital, including over 1,100 children. One hundred and thirty one (131) cases have required intensive care, including 32 children. As of 31 October 2009, a total of 38 fatalities associated with severe manifestations of ARI have been registered. Preliminary epidemiological data analysis indicates that severe cases and deaths primarily occur among previously healthy young adults aged 20 – 50 years. Fatal and severe cases are reported to have sought medical attention 5 to 7 days after onset of symptoms.

International experience of the (H1N1) 2009 pandemic to date, especially from the Southern Hemisphere, has shown that poor clinical outcomes are associated with delays in seeking health care and limited access to supportive care. In addition, this virus has also shown its ability to cause rapidly progressive overwhelming lung disease which is very difficult to treat.

Public health measures recommended by the Ministry of Health of the Ukraine across the entire country include: social distancing (school closures and cancellation of mass gatherings); enhancement of surveillance activities; increased respiratory hygiene; and continuation of the vaccination campaign against seasonal influenza targeting at risk groups.

The Government of the Ukraine has activated coordination mechanisms to respond to the rapidly evolving situation, including the harmonization of response plans across all administrative levels.

In response to the request from the Minister of Health of the Ukraine, WHO is deploying a multi-disciplinary team of experts to assist national authorities in mitigating the impact of the pandemic. The team comprises of the following expertise: health emergencies coordination, case management, epidemiology, laboratory diagnostics, logistics, and media/risk communications.

As per WHO's communication in May 2009, there is no rationale for travel restrictions because such measures will not prevent the spread of the disease.

Travelers can protect themselves and others by following simple recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of infection such as attention to respiratory hygiene. Individuals who are ill should delay travel plans and returning travelers who fall ill should seek appropriate medical care. These recommendations are prudent measures which can limit the spread of many communicable diseases and not only the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus."


Note: Bold emphasis above is mine.
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So, there is an official report, but there is also quite a lot of internet chatter bouncing around as well. Obviously, this stuff needs to be taken with a grain of salt, since the internet is usually awash with some of the craziest conspiracy theories, et cetera. To my mind, however, it is still important to absorb the information for whatever shreds of truth it may hold before discarding the junk. Oh, and believe me, even as I expose you to the following, be aware that I'm still insulating you from some of the heaviest tinfoil conspiracy stuff as promised.

The blogosphere is all-a-flutter with reports out of Ukraine that claim deaths are being vastly under-reported. They are saying that many fatalities where the patient was over 50 years old are being classified as 'heart attacks' instead of flu.
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If you took the time to listen to the interview with Dr. Niman that I provided the link to yesterday, you heard him say that he believes it is H1N1 swine flu and that Ukrainian officials are likely just unwilling to make a definitive statement until they get the test results back; likely within 2 weeks.
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Niman's latest:

"H1N1 Doctor Deaths In Ukraine Raise Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary 22:22
November 1, 2009


Four doctors died of flu in Ukraine's Ternopol and Lvov regions, Health Minister Vasily Knyazevich said at the Sunday meeting of the operative headquarters for the prevention and treatment of A/H1N1 flu.

The above comments describe the death of four health care workers (HCWs) at two sites in western Ukraine. The government website shows a total of 53 deaths (see map), which is quite low if four HCWs have already died. HCW are trained in methods to minimize infections from parents, and they are likely to get prompt medical attention, yet four have already died. These numbers add to the confusion in Ukraine.

Initial reports denied the outbreak was due to H1N1 even though there was virtually no seasonal flu circulating in Europe (or North America). The explosion in cases of acute respiratory illness (ARI), in view of the exploding H1N1 pandemic throughout the northern hemisphere, would signal involvement in the cases in Ukraine
"
... continued here.

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