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30 September, 2009

Our Oil Addiction Is About to Make Life a Lot Nastier

The above-named article from Alternet by Michael T. Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum and Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict spotlights the myriad difficulties faced as we attempt to transition from a culture fully dependent on petroleum to one that will have to get the majority of its power from cleaner, renewable alternative sources.

Klare rightfully states that, instead of a massive, all-encompassing switchover to "greener" energy, what we have to look forward to is a period where the world drags its feet, attempting to squeeze whatever energy we can from sources such as coal and the remaining dregs of petroleum left after Peak Oil and its ever-higher-priced commodities, namely oil sands as well as heavier crudes and oil that must be brought up from such insane depths that it could only be considered profitable in a world where it is all that remains.

He points out that President Obama apparently would like to get the ball rolling on getting us off our oil addiction, using the funds earmarked in the stimulus for such items as modernizing the electrical grid, providing tax incentives to invest in renewable energy, and research on renewable sources of energy as an example. But, the bad news is that, regardless of all that, substantially reducing this country's dependence on oil and other non-renewable, dirty sources of energy will take decades, due to our unbelievably high demand for energy, among other factors.

Klare also gets it right, in my opinion, when he surmises that the period into which we are entering will be a time of strife. Areas rich in energy resources, such as the large natural gas fields beneath the Barents Sea and the East China Sea as well as the Arctic Ocean, thought to perhaps hide oil beneath its icy waters, have already begun to be the subject of minor boundary disputes in recent years. Those disputes have not yet been violent, but as energy becomes more and more scarce and therefore valuable in the coming years, it is only a matter of time.

As he says, "keep your seatbelts buckled. This roller-coaster ride is about to begin."


Another Letter Re: "H1N1 Influenza A - Swine Flu: 27 September Brief Update"

A reader who asked to remain anonymous wrote:
"Call me a contrarian and skeptic, but I just don't believe the H1N1 is anywhere near the threat the WHO and assorted governmental bodies are proclaiming. Have I had the H1N1? Yes, I have! I am almost never ill, and neither is my husband, but it managed to get us last spring when we were vacationing. A hundred documentated cases were reported the day we left. We coughed a couple of days, ached a couple of days, and wanted to sleep a lot. We ached and slept for a while after that. Our ages are 69 and 72, atypical, and NO ONE else in our household of five contracted it. Think calm, beautiful thoughts, and slather Vick's salve on your feet; a dollar store generic will do fine."

My Response: The thing to remember about H1N1 swine flu is not that it is some scary, killer disease, although it does have the capability of becoming that through mutation as it is a recombinant strain. What makes it scary is that it is more virulent than the seasonal flu, and damages the lung tissue if allowed to set up there the same way avian flu does.

Most get over it in just a few days, especially if they take Tamiflu early on, but a small percentage of patients get very, very ill. Those that it tends to hit the hardest are the young and strong, not the elderly and little babies as is the case with regular seasonal influenza. In your case, your age may have helped you; it is likely that you lack the strong immuno-response that a 17 year old might have that causes them to experience a cytokine storm and has killed a good number in their prime.

Further, one must consider what this small percentage of very ill patients will look like as the disease continues to spread. If half the people here in the U.S. get sick, we could easily see 3 or 4 million with very serious illness and in need of a ventilators.


LIFESAVER® Bottle 4000 w/ FREE SHIPPING from Ready Made Resources

Robert at Ready Made Resources, one of our wonderful sponsors, turned me on to a new product that I thought you folks would definitely be interested in.

The LIFESAVER® Bottle 4000 is a canteen and filter all-in-one, which is extremely convenient. And, just like any other filter, it will remove bacteria, cysts, parasites, fungi, and all other microbiological water-borne pathogens from your water.

What makes it truly unique, however, is the fact that it filters the water down to .015 Microns (15 Nanometers), which makes it the *ONLY* filter I have ever seen that is capable of removing *viruses* without the use of any chemicals whatsoever!

And, another cool thing about it is that it allows you to put the water inside under pressure, meaning you could use it to irrigated a wound or your eyes if you had a foreign object in them while out in the field.

This truly looks like an amazing water filter! With all the emerging viruses running loose in the world today, this is the only water filter capable of removing viral contamination. And, it ships for free. For more info, click here and be sure to watch the videos below.




Make Electricity From Wood Gas

I must admit wood gasification is a concept that has always intrigued me. In fact, one of my favorite things about the recent Discovery Channel program "The Colony," which recently completed its first season, was watching the folks on there build a gasifier to power first a generator that they used to charge their battery bank and to run heavy-duty power tools, and then later they built an even larger version to run a truck they used as an escape vehicle.

And recently a link was sent to me for the first commercially-available multi-fuel gasifier for alternative home power generation. Dubbed the Off Gridder, it is capable of running off the gases release by burning wood pellets, wood chunks, wood chips and certain other types of agricultural waste. It is able to meet the power needs of an efficient home in as little as 2-4 hours a day.


29 September, 2009

Welcome New Sponsor Directive 21

Directive 21: "With nearly a decade of experience as internet merchants, the good folks at Directive 21 has been Authorized Dealers of The Berkey Light and other products for more than 4 years. During that time, they have served thousands of satisfied customers and they look forward now to serving you."

In addition to their long line of Berkey products and accessories, they also carry the book "Making the Best of Basics - Family Preparedness Handbook" by James Talmage Stevens and the Aquatank I and Aquatank II Emergency Water Storage Container systems. Both Aquatank systems currently ship for free and the book ships for free to the continental U.S.


Letter Re: "H1N1 Influenza A - Swine Flu: 27 September Brief Update"

It appears the information previously sent to me regarding the shockingly high Case Fatality Ratio with H1N1 swine flu cases that I promised to research further has been proven to be accurate with one caveat: it pertains only to those infected individuals whose illness gets so bad they require hospitalization and not to the much greater percentage who recover on their own.

In other words, the overall Case Fatality Ratio of the virus itself remains quite low; only becoming deadly in those rare instances where it sets-up deep in the lungs and damages them. Still, a 9.28% Case Fatality Ratio with respect to those who are hospitalized (936 deaths out of 10,082 hospitalizations so far in September) is quite significant in my opinion.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald ran a story today entitled "Second Wave of Swine Flu Pandemic Begins to hit U.S." through which we were informed that all the talk buzzing around the internet about folks being trained to act as special triage teams that would erect tents outside hospitals to decide who would and who wouldn't be allowed inside or for overflow of swamped facilities was mostly true. The article states, "In Austin, so many parents are rushing their children to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas with swine flu symptoms that the hospital had to set up tents in the parking lot to cope with the onslaught.

In Memphis, the Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center emergency room got so crowded with feverish, miserable youngsters that it had to do the same thing."

Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is further quoted as saying, "H1N1 is spreading widely throughout the US." Also, schools are already beginning to close in some areas and we are told that "Ninety-one percent of the 267 colleges and universities being surveyed by the American College Health Association are now reporting cases."

It is going to be a scary winter, folks.


Study Says: El Nino Shift Could Boost Hurricanes, Intensify Drought

El Nino, which typically occurs every four or five years, is known to widely disrupt weather patterns, causing drought in parts of Asia, Australia and eastern Brazil, and unusually heavy rains around the Gulf Coast of the United States and parts of South America, as well as lowering the surface temperature of the ocean in the Caribbean and Atlantic. The last of those effects is what helps to dampen the formation and intensity of the hurricanes that develop in that region.

The problem now, apparently, is that climate change has resulted in the formation of a second El Nino that waxes and wanes alternately with the first; one gets stronger as the other weakens and then they reverse positions. "This could be bad news on at least two fronts, the researchers said.

In Asia, it could intensify droughts that have already wreaked havoc in recent decades. And in the Atlantic, it could weaken the positive effect it has had up to now in mitigating the intensity of hurricanes that strike the Caribbean and the US east coast."
And, unfortunately, this is a scenario researchers believe could become even more frequent over the coming decades.

If, after witnessing what happened with Hurricane Katrina, you are still not trained to think immediately about emergency preparedness at the mere mention of having stronger hurricanes in the future, then I would advise you to go get a stick and flail yourself mercilessly until you get the picture and start prepping.


Wind Farm on NC Coast A Possibility

OBX could become source of wind energy :: WRAL.com: "Gov. Beverly Perdue and other state leaders were on hand as researchers gave a presentation introducing an Outer Banks community to the idea of massive offshore wind farms.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill described a new study that found 2,800 square miles of coastal water, including the Pamlico Sound, could generate industrial-scale wind energy..."

My Response: My only issue with wind farms and other "green" technologies is that, when you research them deeply enough, you find that they themselves often require quite a lot of fossil-fuel derived energy in order to be built. In other words, with all the steel and other components used to build them and the diesel used to transport them and the manpower and sweat involved, these windmills often take years just to pay back the energy used in their own creation.


James Howard Kunstler: The Season of the Witch

Read the full article by clicking here.

A quote:
"... it is a short way down the road of depletion-and-scarcity before the major complex systems we depend on for daily life become so unstable that general socio-economic collapse ensues. After all, capital finance is only one of these many complex systems -- some other biggies being food production, trade and manufacture, transportation, electric power distribution, infrastructure maintenance, the military, and governance. Inflation-or-deflation will only be symptomatic of larger failures and instabilities in these systems necessary for modern, civilized life.

All of it begs the question not only whether you or I will have two nickels to rub together, or two gold eagles, or a bundle of six month US Treasury bills, or a zillion shares of Apple, or a gainful vocation, or a roof over our heads, or a hot meal at the end of the day, or a safe place to sleep, or a country we can recognize..."

James Howard Kunstler is an author and among the leading voices in the charge to be prepared to change how we live as Peak Oil approaches. He is the author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century as well as the fiction novel World Made by Hand: A Novel.

For my part, I try to strike a balance between agreeing with his thoughts on Peak Oil, while thinking him a little naive for his 'sunshine and lollypops' pro-urban vision of the future and his self-professed unpreparedness.


28 September, 2009

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Letter Re: "H1N1 Influenza A - Swine Flu: 27 September Brief Update"

I received the following *VERY* disturbing email today in response to yesterday's H1N1 swine flu update, and I am currently attempting to verify the information in it. I'll report back what I find as soon as I find something concrete.

A few things about it we already know are accurate and those are the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations from last week, but one might get a better idea by looking at the whole month as it is likely some of the 572 fatalities were folks who had been suffering for a while. Still, even the monthly numbers show 936 deaths and 10,082 hospitalized, which would still seemingly give us a 9.28% Case Fatality Ratio.

I have a bad feeling about this.


"Press Release: Swine Flu Death & Hospitalization Chart (U.S. data)

The following PDF link shows the progressive chart/data numbers for weekly Deaths / Hospitalizations. Chart begins on May 1, 2009 and continues to September 25, 2009.

Some points of interest....

* In the last week alone there have been 5,276 U.S. Hospitalizations
* During the same week there were 572 U.S. Deaths
* This represents that 10.8% of all hospitalizations are currently resulting in fatalities.

Conclusion: Something has changed. This is an incredibly high Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for hospitalizations.

Here is a link to the Chart Data....

This chart contains some suppositions, and is currently being mass distributed to Government Health Officials, News Media Outlets, Message Boards/Forums, and individual emails. Feel free to download the Chart and distribute to your local media outlets. Time is short. Look at the numbers at the chart. The numbers don't lie.

Why is the News Media so silent?"



Underground Tunnels

A recent article in the UK Sun entitled "Lost Vegas" was more than a little creepy and sad all at the same time. It seems one byproduct of the sorry state of our economy is that it may be swelling the ranks of the approximately 700 people who call the 350 miles of flood tunnels under the city (including the famous Las Vegas Strip) home sweet, dank and moldy home.

It is unclear what percentage of these poor lost souls are down there for purely economic reasons, however, as the article clearly states many are drug addicts and have been down there a long time. This is despite the dangers posed by deadly black widow spiders (yikes!) and rain drainage that has drowned 20 people who were presumably living in the tunnels in as many years.

This just goes to show you how adept people can be at surviving and adapting to harsh circumstances when they must. Even if they do have to live like rats to do so. Also, you should research to see if this sort of tunnel system or something similar exists where you live. Knowledge of such a place could come in very handy in the event of a fast crash that catches you unawares and makes it so that you need an expedient place to hide or use as a shortcut out of town as you bug-out. In all truth, it could save your life some day, provided it isn't already full of raggedy-ass homeless druggies. On second thought: if you decide to check it out, take a trusted friend or two with you for safety purposes just in case.


World Bank President Says U.S. Dollar’s Primacy Not a Certainty

World Bank President Says U.S. Dollar’s Primacy Not a Certainty: "World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the U.S. shouldn’t take for granted the dollar’s status as the world’s main reserve currency.

In remarks set for delivery tomorrow, Zoellick said the “next upheaval” in the international economic order is under way as emerging nations gain greater influence.

“The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar’s place as the world’s predominant reserve currency,” according to excerpts released by the World Bank.

Policy makers from China to Russia repeatedly have called for an alternative to the world’s main currency in foreign- exchange reserves.

Zoellick’s speech to the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington echoes his previous comments about the dollar’s standing..."


Housing Crash to Resume on 7 Million Foreclosures

Housing Crash to Resume on 7 Million Foreclosures: "The crash in U.S. home prices will probably resume because about 7 million properties that are likely to be seized by lenders have yet to hit the market..."


27 September, 2009

H1N1 Influenza A - Swine Flu: 27 September Brief Update

This week's H1N1 swine flu update comes on the heels of a recent announcement by the CDC that deaths due to influenza and pneumonia-associated complications for the week rose considerably to 572 from last week's total of 123, bringing September's number to a whopping 936 fatalities. Meanwhile, an additional 5,486 people were admitted to hospitals with infections of all types/subtypes of influenza, not just H1N1 swine flu, which is a useless distinction to make as it has already been confirmed that most, if not all, of the influenza currently circulating is H1N1. This increase means that there are now 10,082 individuals who have required hospitalization in the past several weeks. (source)

Also, from the same article sourced above, we get the following quote:
"The CDC said the latest data, based on reports by U.S. States and territories on Sept. 22, shows that 26 states had geographically widespread influenza activity in the past week, comparing to 21 states in the previous week.

The five more states that had widespread influenza activity include the most populous states of California and Texas. Meanwhile, four more states had regional influenza activity in the past week, bringing the total to 11.

All these indicate the second wave of the pandemic is imminent."

And, all of that is bad news, especially when you consider that it hit the media this week that, in dire pandemic conditions, it is likely we will experience triaging of ventilators. If you're a regular reader of Backwoods Survival Blog then this won't be news to you, but it is just beginning to trickle its way into the mainstream. I, however, have long said that perhaps the greatest danger posed by H1N1 is its ability to infect so many so fast and thereby overwhelm the medical establishment. Putting aside the possibly of some horrendously deadly future mutation, the terrible truth is that even in its current form the virus hits a certain percentage of those it infects very, very hard, and that percentage will track evenly alongside the total number as it continues to grow. If H1N1 swine flu infects billions as the WHO expects it will, then even a small percentage represents a crippling number of patients suffering more serious symptoms. It is simple, undeniable mathematics.

Don't forget that you need to be doing your research on the new vaccine so you can make a well informed decision regarding whether or not to take it. Immunizations will begin 6 October.

As a side note, you may or may not have heard that CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta contracted H1N1 swine flu this past week while covering military operations in Afghanistan as a correspondent. He reports that it began with a painful cough, body aches, and cold sweats; then worsened to include head congestion, vomiting, and persistent coughing. He required IV fluids, a nasal decongestant, tylenol and lots of rest in order to recover. The illness lasted 6-7 days, and he was the sickest he's ever been. (source)

Other H1N1 swine flu links of interest:
Spike in Pennsylvania Swine Flu Deaths
Widespread Flu Antibody Confounds Clinical Trial
Swine Flu Surge May Cause Heart Attacks
First H1N1 Vaccines Will Be Nasal Spray

The following was issued as a handout from the Red Cross to some U.S. school districts:

The following is an email bulletin recently sent from Penn State University to its students:
"Self Care Guide for Influenza
Written by Clinicians of University Health Services at University Park
Any questions please feel free to contact PSH Student Health Services: 717-948-6015

Following these basic guidelines can help ease your discomfort and speed your recovery.


Increase your fluid intake. Drinking more fluids will help you stay hydrated and better control your temperature.

Fluids such as water, sports drinks and clear broth soups are generally well tolerated.

Get plenty of rest. Stay in bed and rest as much as possible.

Wash your hands frequently. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers after coughing, sneezing and wiping your nose to reduce the spread of the virus.

Isolate yourself in your room or home until at least 24 hours after fever has cleared without the use of fever-reducing medications. This means that your temperature
should be below 100 degrees for at least this time period.

For fever, chills and body aches use an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen (generic Motrin or Advil) or naproxen (generic Aleve). The major side effect of NSAIDs is irritation of the stomach, occasionally leading to gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding. Stop the medication if you have stomach upset or pain. Consider taking acetaminophen (Tylenol), instead, for fever and pain if you
have stomach upset.

For stuffy nose and congestion use a decongestant.

The only effective oral decongestant currently available is pseudoephedrine. You must ask the! pharmacist for this medication (regulated because of illegal use to make
methamphetamine), although no prescription is required.

Decongestants purchased off the shelf contain phenylephrine and are much less effective. Oral decongestants may produce rapid heart rate, blood pressure elevation, nervous stimulation, and restlessness which may interfere with sleep.

An alternative to the oral medication is a decongestant nose spray oxymetazoline hydrochloride(generic Afrin). This can rapidly relieve nasal obstruction. When the decongestant effect of the drug wears off, nasal obstruction rapidly returns.

Therefore, this can be very effective, but limit use to 3 days (if used twice daily) or 5-6 nights (if only used at bedtime). Overuse by just a few days can result in “rebound” obstruction and mucosal damage.

For runny nose, sneezing and cough try an antihistamine.

The most effective antihistamines are first generation, although they tend to cause drowsiness. Examples of first generation antihistamines are brompheniramine (generic for DimeTapp), *chlorpheniramine (generic for Chlor-Trimeton and Singlet), *diphenhydramine (generic for Benadryl), and *doxylamine(generic for NyQuil and Alka-Seltzer Plus Night-Time Cold Medicine).

The newer (non-sedating) antihistamines do not appear to have the same degree of effectiveness for treating colds.

Examples are *Loratadine (Claritin), Fexofenadine (Allegra – prescription required), and *Certirizine (Zyrtec).

For cough you can try a cough suppressant. Cough suppressants are natural narcotics, like codeine, and synthetic narcotics, like dextromethorphan (DM). They act on the brain to depress the cough reflex center. Their effectiveness in patients with chronic cough has been demonstrated in controlled studies but there is little published information on their effectiveness in coughs associated with colds. Cough suppressants can produce gastrointestinal discomfort but otherwise have few side effects. In normal healthy people with good cough reflexes, cough suppressants are safe. [SM Adds]: There is data that suggests taking cough suppressants is unwise with H1N1 swine flu; better that you maintain a productive cough to keep the virus from setting-up in the lungs, where autopsies of H1N1 deaths have shown that the virus burrows deep and does serious damage.

Drug interactions may occur with DM and certain antidepressants.

If you are on an antidepressant, discuss this with your provider.

For sore throat or nasal congestion consider using a saline rinse. Various nasal saline rinse kits are available commercially or you can make your own saline by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces of warm water in a clean container:

For the nose: Place the above mixture in a reusable sinus rinse bottle or draw up into a nasal bulb syringe. The most convenient way to perform a sinus rinse is in the shower or over a sink.

For the throat: Swish and spit

Keeping a throat lozenge, cough drop, or hard candy in your mouth will stimulate your saliva and help soothe your throat."


Recession Fallout: Fewer Women Having Kids

Essentially, the TIME.com article states that the U.S. birthrate fell by 2% in 2008 because of the economic crisis that dominated much of the latter third of the year. They interviewed women who said that they are postponing having children due to the poor state of everyone's finances. Conversely, they spoke to others who stated they are taking increased risks due to an inability to continue to afford contraception.

I, for one, will be curious to see what the numbers for 2009 look like, but it is interesting to note that Iceland is apparently in the midst of a baby boom a year removed from their collapse. Serious concerns of worsening overpopulation and the increased overshooting of resources come to mind, but I guess when you're out of a job you gotta do something to occupy yourself. ;-)


US May Face 'Armageddon' If China, Japan Don't Buy Debt

It's almost funny that the above-titled article is appearing on CNBC, a network that has until recently talked about the recession as a thing of the past, and now they seem to be saying exactly what THE REST OF US have been saying ALL ALONG.

A quote:
"The US is too dependent on Japan and China buying up the country's debt and could face severe economic problems if that stops, Tiger Management founder and chairman Julian Robertson told CNBC.

'It's almost Armageddon if the Japanese and Chinese don't buy our debt,' Robertson said in an interview. 'I don't know where we could get the money. I think we've let ourselves get in a terrible situation and I think we ought to try and get out of it.'

Robertson said inflation is a big risk if foreign countries were to stop buying bonds."

Really? You don't say?


Massive Flooding in the Philippines

"At least nine people were reported dead or missing in massive floods in the Philippine capital as tropical storm Ketsana lashed the eastern side of the country on Saturday." (source)


26 September, 2009

Israeli Defense Minister to U.S. Counterpart: "All Iran options still on table"

The above cryptic statement was made by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak during a visit to Washington, D.C. on Monday, just four days prior to news breaking out of Iran of a second uranium enrichment site that sparked a tirade of controversy and disparaging statements.

As I understand it this second facility was supposedly going to be used to secretly enrich the materials to weapons grade status after the initial processing was completed at the site that is being monitored by the IAEA, though the Iranians still claim that it's all part of their civilian nuclear power aspirations to produce electricity. In truth, who knows?

The bottom line is allowing Iran to take a seat at the nuclear table is unacceptable for reasons I've covered here on Backwoods Survival Blog before, but if it really is just their intention to build nuclear power plants then they are well within their rights to do so without being in violation of existing United Nations sanctions. No one wants war, but it all boils down to trust, and I-- for one-- do not trust Iran.

There is simply too much at stake.

Still, I find it interesting that all of this is occurring just days after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered all of Iran's foreign exchange accounts to be switched out of the U.S. dollar and into euros. You might want to put on your tinfoil hat before I say this, but other countries needing to trade for dollars that they then use to acquire oil from Iran and other sources is a key to whether or not the dollar maintains its position as the world's reserve currency in the future. To put it in perspective the last time this occurred was when Saddam Hussein switched Iraq's U.N. "Oil for Food" accounts out of the dollar and over to the euro... just a few months before we invaded.



Doctor Warns of New and ‘Severe’ Disease Likely to Spread

As the world waits with trepidation to see whether or not the H1N1 swine flu will develop into the more serious concern we fear it might, it seems we now face a new threat to world health from a mosquito-borne illness that is reportedly far more serious than the West Nile virus that has been worrying epidemiologists for better than a decade now.

Chikungunya virus, which literally translates as "that which bends up" in the native language of northern Mozambique and southeastern Tanzania, was first discovered in 1952. Those infected with it experience a rash, muscle and joint pain, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Symptoms can sometimes last for weeks, but some have claimed to have experienced incapacitating joint pain or arthritis that lasts for months.

"'We’re very worried,' Dr. James Diaz of the Louisiana University Health Sciences Center told a meeting on airlines, airports and disease transmission sponsored by the independent U.S. National Research Council.

'Unlike West Nile virus, where nine out of 10 people are going to be totally asymptomatic, or may have a mild headache or a stiff neck, if you get Chikungunya you’re going to be sick,' he said."

Many cases of Chikungunya infection have been reported in the islands of the Indian Ocean, which have beach resorts frequented by European tourists. The concern, therefore, is that the virus will spread via air travel of infected insects as well as humans. And, that could be disastrous because it can be carried by a species of mosquito that is found in Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

There is currently no vaccine for Chikungunya virus.


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25 September, 2009

HSBC Staff Carrying Personal Alarms in Case Credit Crunch Customers Resort to Violence

In yet another example of the fragile lattice-work holding civilization together by a thread these days, it seems HSBC bank has issued personal alarms to its staff in case they are mauled by angry customers. This comes hot on the heels of yesterday's report that a teacher and part-time census worker was murdered in rural Kentucky, his body hung and the word "FED" scrawled across it, in what may or may not have been an anti-government crime (the FBI is still investigating).

One cannot turn on the television or radio without hearing about an angry protest taking place in some town hall somewhere: the Teabaggers scream about socialism and government-run health care; while the leftwingers try to paint their concerns as nothing but veiled racism; and, everybody hates the Wall Street bankers equally. Meanwhile, the President of the United States seems to have ACORN and the Service Employees International Union on speed dial anytime the White House needs to have a few hundred angry protesters bused-in to snarl and chant for the CNN and NBC cameras. Not since the 1960s has this country seen such divisiveness. It is a powder keg waiting to be ignited, and when that spark comes... WHOOAAAHHHH NELLY!


Petroleum Giant Total Issues Oil Shortage Warning

"The head of oil giant Total has told the BBC the world could face a shortage of oil because of underinvestment.

Chief executive Christophe de Margerie warned that too little has been spent trying to tap into new oil reserves because of the economic crisis."

As you can see, we have here more misleading news from the oil industry. Depending on how well my tinfoil hat is fitting on a given day, I waver back and forth between thinking they really do believe their own crap and feeling assured that it is all just a load of old school propaganda cooked-up to keep the plebes from panicking and burning the cities to the ground.

Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that investment in new oil finds is down in the midst of our current economic funk. I just don't understand how they can see the same reports I've seen (and you can bet their data is even more detailed than what gets published) that show virtually every major oil field on the planet beginning to give up the ghost and still sit there with a straight face and claim the problem is that you lack investment capital to go after the recently-discovered fields, many of which only hold 30-40 billion barrels if you're lucky. And yet, that's exactly what they're doing. If capital is really the issue, then why was there still very little new development occurring even back when the stuff was going for twice as much per barrel as it is today?

The real problem, if they would be honest, is that Peak Oil is imminent or has already come and gone and it just hasn't been long enough for the world to tell it yet (such events are often only obviously apparent when looking back at them from some point in the near future), and so the companies don't want to invest trillions of dollars to upgrade their infrastructure in an industry that will be virtually dead in 50 years. The infrastructure upgrades will, of course, be required when light sweet crude becomes so depleted that we reach a break-even point with respect to the EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested) of other, lesser-quality petroleum equivalents.

I believe their goal is to convince the public that the lack of investment is to blame for the rising price of gasoline, propane, natural gas, etc. that will occur when the truth of Peak Oil becomes obvious and undeniable; their ultimate endgame being to get the taxpayers to pay for the infrastructure upgrades described above.


EMP Danger Getting Some Attention in the Mainstream Media

It is good to see some mainstream folks taking the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) threat seriously. Only time will tell if such open discussion and publicity actually helps to make a difference in trying to get the country ready in case such an event ever occurs.

See the following articles:
- Panel: Electrical grid vulnerable to terrorist attack
- Conference warns of potential EMP dangers


The Mogambo Guru: Thank the Fed For Your Lack of Purchasing Power

Read the full article by clicking here.

A quote:
"... Bloomberg reports, “Economic policy makers are signaling they plan to leave emergency stimulus in place even as the global economy pulls out of recession, delivering what Credit Suisse Group AG and Bank of America Corp. call a ‘sweet spot’ for financial markets.”

Well, being a guy who almost never turns down a chance to be scornful and gratuitously rude in response to ridiculous things being said by people who are supposed to know better than to sound so abysmally stupid, let me interpret that for you.

By “sweet spot” they mean a spot where Ben Bernanke and the other central bankers produce excess money and credit by pulling it right out of their nasty butts, and as for how “sweet” it is, look around you! Doesn’t it resemble a world going down the (in keeping with the “butt” theme) toilet? How sweet is that? Hahaha!...

... Trichet, the head of the European Central Bank, said that he was willing to continually and always create more and more money, and that “it would be premature to declare the crisis over”...

... And on this side of the Atlantic, it gets weird that Bloomberg reported Fed Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher as saying, “We are likely to see a prolonged period of sluggish economic performance”, which is odd, because I don’t remember the mission of the Federal Reserve, a private bank owned by who-knows-who, being able to achieve “prolonged periods of sluggish economic performance.”

The Fed was, as I recall, charged with maintaining a “stable currency”, which they have manifestly failed to do, seeing that the dollar has lost 96% of its value since 1913, which is now officially “enough of all of it that it can be considered to be all”, a lesson in “rounding off” that I learned after I took a lousy $20 from my wife’s purse when she wasn’t looking, and when I came back, there she was, bad mood and all, holding her stupid purse like I needed some kind of audio-visual materials to refresh my memory or something. So, to keep it from being a total loss, I gave her what I had left: 80 cents.

“But,” I explained, “you got back 80 cents, which is only a loss of 96% of the original $20, which is the same loss that the Federal Reserve has given us in the purchasing power of the dollar, but you don’t make a big fuss with the Federal Reserve! You won’t even sign the hate mail that I write for you to send to them, with your signature and your fingerprints on the paper, wherein you protest their glaring incompetence and their neo-Keynesian econometric stupidities!”..."


24 September, 2009

Big, Big Problems At Wells Fargo

According to a recent exclusive report by Teri Buhl of BankImplode.com, "Wells Fargo’s Commercial Portfolio is a ticking time bomb."

Apparently, the bank’s exposure to derivatives trades took a wrong turn to Disaster-waiting-to-happen City when it purchased Wachovia and its assets a while back. And, now they are stuck with paper that could trigger *HUGE* losses for them.

Wachovia, it seems, went crazy writing credit default swaps on the commercial real estate mortgages it had sold, and now Wells Fargo may have a hard time even being able to figure out just how exposed it is.

Wow. That is all I can say.

Please see my previous writing on what a mess we are in with respect to derivatives:

- The $531 Trillion Dollar Derivatives Time Bomb
- How to Prepare For China's Coming Derivative Default


DIY Wind Turbine Plans

The homemade wind turbine you see diagrammed here is currently in use and being used to provide electrical power to the off-grid, hand-built home of the fine folks who run the very informative internet site Vela Creations. The site is where they have documented virtually every aspect of their life beyond the municipal power grid and other utilities, and it stands as a testament to the idea that life in a rural, even remote setting is not only possible, but can be a very rewarding experience.

They have graciously provided detailed plans via the website that show how to build a wind turbine just like the one that supplies their electricity out of what are essentially scrap materials that you might find just lying around. But, even if you have to purchase the materials, you should be able to do so at little or no cost - a good deal of it is fabricated from PVC. By the way "Chispito," as best I can tell, is just their name for it, so don't let that get you all wrapped around the axle.

Also pictured on the lower right, is a look at the home they built for themselves.


Census Worker Killed in Kentucky had "FED" Scrawled on Body and Hung

"The FBI is investigating the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official says the word "fed" was scrawled on his chest.

The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old Census field worker and occasional teacher, was found Sept. 12 in the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky.

Investigators have said little about the case. A law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, tells The Associated Press the word "fed" was written on the dead man's chest.

FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is helping state police determine if Sparkman's death was the result of foul play, and if so, whether it was related to his census work."

Apparently, the killing occurred in rural Clay County, Kentucky. (source)

My instincts and training tell me to hold back and wait to see what is ultimately discovered. After all, he could've been killed for other reasons and the unknown subjects involved may have simply been trying to deflect attention from themselves by making the crime appear politically-motivated.

If this really does turn out to be a case of anti-government violence, however, then I fear we may already be further down the road of divisiveness I've previously warned you about than I had imagined. If that is the case, then I am truly worried.


The Housing Tsunami’s Second Wave

Richard Benson's recently-penned article "The Housing Tsunami’s Second Wave," is a good read. In fact, someone should probably make it required reading for the droves of lemming-esque disciples of the current "green shoots" orthodoxy who are about to volunteer for their own financial ruination with an ill-timed group jump back into the yawning chasm that was once the real estate market.

Mr. Benson apparently agrees with my thoughts on the subject. He writes:
"So how big is the next wave in the housing mortgage disaster? Currently, one out of eight mortgages is in foreclosure or paying late, and with unemployment averaging over 9 percent for 2009 and 2010 and peaking in 2011, it’s likely one in five mortgages could ultimately default. Moreover, we have seen that less than 7 percent of those mortgages that are late will get cured and stay out of foreclosure. Over the last six months, notices of home foreclosures have been running about 350,000 a month, which is over 4 million a year. A lot of homes are headed to the auction block with their mortgages headed for the shredder.

For mortgage losses we should recognize that prime mortgages on average are significantly larger than sub-prime, and it only stands to reason that the larger the house and mortgage, the bigger the loss. With over 50 percent of mortgages failing coming from prime loans, bigger loan losses lie ahead. The total losses to come is anyone’s guess, but the $11 trillion in outstanding home mortgages could easily produce over $2 trillion in defaulted mortgages, and another $600 billion of credit losses! So, until this wave has crashed on the shore, I would recommend staying away from the water!"


Hilarious Political Cartoon

Hat tip to Tamara at View From The Porch blog which, coincidentally, has become one of my favorite daily reads since being turned on to it by Jim Rawles at Survivalblog.com. She got it from another blogger who had himself gotten it from the Abstruse Goose.

Left or Right?


23 September, 2009

Terrible Flooding in the Southeast U.S.

Many, many photos of the recent deluge down in Dixie can be see at the follow Twitter pic aggregate site: Twitter Pic Search for "#atlflood" sorted by date.

Truthfully, I can think of very few instances where having previously set aside the proper emergency preparedness logistics and gear becomes more important than when faced with a flood disaster. Water is a powerful elemental force for which all of us ought to have a healthy respect by now. If we learned nothing else from the monumental disaster of Hurricane Katrina that reduced a modern American city to something looking like something out of a dystopian post-apocalyptic film or novel.

I, for one, will never forget how surreal it felt to watch it all unfold on television, and I was doing it from the safety of my own living room. I can only imagine what it was like to actually be there in the midst of it.


What's The Best Way to Save the Planet? Nearly Run Civilization Off the Rails, Apparently...

If you're a believer in the whole carbon crisis/climate change/man-made global warming stuff (as I've said before, I'm still on the fence - at least regarding man-made warming), then this one is for you.

Apparently, the planet is getting a break from its carbon woes due to the crappy economy.


Severe Dust Storm over Sydney Australia

And, speaking of climate change and weird weather patterns...

A rare and dirty wind storm that kicked up in South Australia and engulfed New South Wales has reached Brisbane and may even get to New Zealand before the dust settles.

Apparently, it's highly unusual to have such dry conditions this late. Don't forget the terrible fires they had down there not long ago.


How to Prepare For China's Coming Derivative Default

Read the whole article as it will give you a pretty quick education as to what a terrible mess we may be in with regard to derivatives, but pay special attention to his very doomerish comments under the "My Personal Message" heading.

Mr. Summers sounds just like one of us.

By Graham Summers
Retrieved from: http://www.kitco.com/ind/Summers/sep142009.html

In case you have not heard the news, China has announced that it will be instructing its state-owned enterprises to potentially default on their derivatives contracts. As I have written extensively in the past, the derivatives market is a massive time bomb just waiting to go off. China’s latest move may be the match that lights the fuse.

All told, US Commercial banks own $202 trillion in derivatives in notional value. To put that number into perspective, it’s roughly four times the global GDP. And 96% of this exposure sits on five banks’ balance sheets. I’ve shown the below chart before, but it’s worth re-visiting (chart is denominated in TRILLIONS).

Of course, not ALL of the $202 trillion these guys own is “at risk.” As their name implies, derivatives are “derived” from underlying assets (homes, debt, etc). The actual “at risk” money can be far FAR smaller than the “notional” value of derivatives outstanding.

However, when you’re talking about $200+ trillion, even a marginal amount of “at risk” money can mean ENORMOUS losses. Consider, if 1% of that $200 trillion were at risk, you’re talking about $2 trillion in capital. Now, if even 10% of those bets go bad, you’re talking about $200 billion in losses.

Now consider that, combined, the top five banks (JP Morgan, Goldman, BofA, Citi, and HSBC) have roughly $700 billion in equity.

And that’s it only 1% of the derivatives outstanding are actually “at risk.” Given the over-leveraged, stupid plays Wall Street made on mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps (both investments that had SOME degree of oversight, even if it were paltry), as well as the fact that derivatives are COMPLETELY unregulated, I would argue it’s quite possible that as much as 5% or even 10% of the derivatives outstanding could be “at risk.”

In that case, we’re talking about $10-$20 trillion in “at risk” capital. If even 10% of these bets go wrong, you’ve wiped out ALL the equity at all five banks AND THEN SOME.

As I mentioned just now (and before many times), the primary problem with derivatives is that they are COMPLETELY TOTALLY unregulated. NO ONE has any idea what’s “at risk” or who owns what or who’s betting against who.

But we may be about to find out.

I’ve detailed the ongoing conflict between China and the US regarding monetary policies on these pages before. The brief overview is that China owns $800+ billion (by some accounts $1.3 trillion or more) of our Treasuries (debt) and is not too happy about Ben Bernanke and other US monetary figures throwing trillions around in bailouts and emergency measures to counteract the financial crisis.

China has fired a couple of “warning” shots already, mainly in the form of various Chinese diplomats expressing concern and frustration with the US’s monetary policies. They even flew China’s Vice Premiere to an unscheduled talk with US monetary officials back in July.

No one knows what was said during the talks, but given that Ben Bernanke is extended Quantitative Easing to October and has shown little signs of reversing his current “anti-dollar” policies, it’s pretty clear China didn’t get what they wanted.

I’ve often wondered what China would do if push came to shove. Their decision to have their state-owned enterprises default or renege on their derivatives contracts may be the answer.

Let me explain.

As I’ve stated on these pages before, I view the “bailouts” as nothing more than an attempt to funnel taxpayer money to the large US banks so they can raise capital to avoid insolvency. It was essentially a “re-capitalization” effort using public funds. And it came at the expense of the dollar and Treasuries.

China, who owns more Treasuries and dollar-denominated assets than anyone, was obviously not too pleased about this. They’ve asked time and time again for the US to stop what it is doing. However, Geithner, Bernanke, et al, simply plowed ahead ignoring their requests (Geithner actually told a group of students in China that the math behind the US’s policies were solid which resulted in the students laughing at him).

China’s decision to default on its commodity derivatives is a very clever means of slapping the US Federal Reserve in the face without “going nuclear” by selling Treasuries outright.

Commodities account for the smallest portion of derivatives on US commercial bank balance sheets ($938 billion out of $200 trillion). A default here would trigger a chain reaction that could essentially wipe out the Fed’s attempts are re-capitalization (the US banks would suddenly be on the hook for billions in losses that they didn’t expect). It’s a very serious indirect way of China saying, “if you want to continue screwing around, we’ll simply walk away from the table.” But they’re doing it in a select asset class that no one but Wall Street engages in (derivatives).

The primary issues now are:

  • Whether China WILL actually begin defaulting (remember, so far it’s just a threat).
  • Whether or not China’s decision would trigger a larger chain reaction in the derivatives markets.
  • How the US will respond to China’s threat.

I do not know the answer to these issues. No one does.

I DO know, however, that a derivative chain reaction throughout the financial system could cause a full-blown implosion like September-November 2008. We’re talking about massive volatility (2%+ swing days) and a stock market collapse of 20-30% within a matter of weeks.

Remember, computers account for 70% of the market’s volume. And they can simply walk away OR even worse, start driving the market lower as they adjust to trading in the new environment. These are not sensible, brain driven, investors who can make qualitative judgments. They are computers trading based on algorithms that track various metrics. If we get a black swan even (and China defaulting on derivatives would be one) these computers could go completely haywire and instigate a repeat of the ’87 Crash.

I am not saying that this WILL happen, but mention all of this to remind you of the investing environment we’re in. Pull the plug on the computers and you’ve got panicked selling galore and a repeat of October 2008 if not 1987.

I’m preparing our portfolio for this eventuality this week (more on this in a minute) with a number of trades that should prove extremely profitable if the Crash I’ve been predicting for months comes to fruition.

However, we also need to consider the socio-economic implications of what could happen should China start defaulting on its derivative contracts with the US. If China chooses that route, the US could choose to default on its debt to China. At that point we would be in a full-scale economic war and potentially on our way to military conflict.

The fact that Japan’s new leadership has also expressed displeasure with the US’s monetary policy adds to the mix. This creates additional issues that I do not know the outcome of (Japan and China are our largest creditor nations).

I am not saying any of this to be “scary” or “doom and gloom.” But things are coming to a head in a very REAL way on the global stage. And it is not looking good at all. This financial crisis is nowhere near over. If anything we’re at the end of the beginning. Many, many more banks will go under. We can and will see a lot more volatility in the bond and currency markets (a bear market in bonds would be a nightmare we haven’t seen in 30 odd years). And stocks (already overbought and propped up via manipulation and accounting gimmicks) are primed to take a full-scale nosedive (more on this in a minute).

My Personal Message: BE PREPARED

In light of this, and on a more personal note, I am suggesting you prepare for the WORST if you are in the US. This means stockpiling food, and having enough cash on hand to survive an economic shutdown if it happens. We came close to such an event last fall (the story was not widely spread but banks in US and UK considered shutting down ATMs and having a holiday).

I can tell you that I personally have stockpiled food (3 months’ worth) and am telling my family and friends to do the same. After all, what’s the worst that could come from doing this? If I’m totally wrong and everything gets better, you simply eat the food just like you would anyway.

But if I am right, and things do get MESSY, then stockpiling now means you’ve got food on the table later. Again, we have the making of several black swan events that could push an already weak economy into SERIOUS trouble. Among them are:

  • China defaulting on derivatives (triggering a chain reaction in the financial markets)
  • China selling Treasuries (flight from the dollar and all paper money)
  • Japan sell Treasuries (ditto)
  • The $7 trillion commercial real estate market (as bad if not worse that the US residential market)
  • Some other chain reaction event in the $1 QUADRILLION derivative market
  • The H1N1 virus (a major flu pandemic would stop all economic growth in its tracks)
  • A major bank failure (rumors of Wells Fargo or someone else are swirling)
  • Some other item no one sees coming (e.g. Gmail shut down for an hour a few weeks ago, imagine if the NYSE’s servers did the same thing).

All of these could portend another crisis for the US economy and stock market. I put the likelihood that we are out of the Crisis and the Great Depression II (it is a DEPRESSION, not a RECESSION), at less than 5%. Even if we go the route Japan did in the ‘80s instead of a full-blown black swan induced meltdown, then we’re talking about weak economic growth for a two decades with high unemployment, lower quality of life, and the stock market slowly losing 80% of its value.

I believe the market is already sensing a crisis which explains the recent spike in gold prices. We know for a fact that China is instructing its investors to buy gold. The fact that they might potentially default on their derivative contracts¾ a move that potentially could wipe out all the Fed’s recapitalization efforts with the large banks (which would prompting more pumping of the system and massive dollar devaluation)¾ might also be leading investors to distrust paper money and seek safe haven in a currency that CANNOT be devalued: GOLD.


22 September, 2009

Denninger Believes Fed Audit Could Trigger Economic Catastrophe

Karl Denninger over at Market-Ticker.org fears that HR 1207, also known as the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, could very well be the spark that lights the proverbial fire and brings the whole thing crashing down.

On Monday, he wrote an article entitled "Find The Difference - Why Ponzi Finance Fails," in which he said, "... The Ponzi-style 'debt accumulation' game has hit its natural limit and yet The Fed refuses to admit to the facts and allow outstanding debt to default, instead conspiring with Treasury to transfer as much of the default risk as possible to The Federal Government itself! By purchasing nearly a trillion dollars of 'agency' paper The Fed is essentially attempting to force Treasury to issue a full-faith-and-credit guarantee against securities where such a guarantee is explicitly disavowed.

I fully expect in the not-distant future an explicit threat that should The Fed be audited or worse, should that demanded guarantee be refused 'The End Of The World' will ensue - yet another threat of martial law and similar 'end times' prophecy, coming directly as a consequence of the intentional actions of The Federal Reserve and Treasury themselves.

There is no avoiding the math folks."

Of course, when he speaks here of "The End Of The World" and "'end times' prophecy," he is being dramatic. What he means is that it could trigger a sort of financial Armageddon or crash, the likes of which we have never seen, and he might just be right.

We can pretty well rest assured that should the Fed ever really be audited it would reveal "that the big banks were close to being insolvent near the end of 2008, and in fact were close to declaring bankruptcy. In response the Fed swooped in and saved them, propping up their puppet leaders while allowing close to 100 banks to fail. In other words, Bernanke and the banking cartel scratched each other’s backs at the expense of other banks." (source) But, seeing how much effort is being impended by those in power to keep it from happening, I have a great fear that it might be catastrophic, essentially shutting down the economy completely for a brief (yet wholly destructive) period.

Can you imagine the chaos that might ensue during, for instance, an extended bank holiday, where our personal funds might be untouchable for anywhere between a day and two full weeks. I would be amazed if it didn't result in widespread banking failures, rioting and a declaration of martial law.

In the long run, I doubt it'll ever happen though. As the Bill gets more and more supporters everyday, so too does each passing day just give the crooks more time to get rid of the evidence.


Popular Mechanics Goes Doomer

Keeping up with the recent trend of "Doomer" survivalist culture becoming more and more mainstream, now it seems Popular Mechanics is getting in on the party...

Their blurb:
"In October, PM focuses on self-reliance—how to live through any disaster for a day, a month— or forever. This special issue celebrates the skills, ideas and tech that can ensure survival and long-term sustainability."


Landmark Decision Promises Massive Relief For Homeowners And Trouble For Banks (Maybe)

OpEdNews - Article: LANDMARK DECISION PROMISES MASSIVE RELIEF FOR HOMEOWNERS AND TROUBLE FOR BANKS: "A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose – on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound."

My Response: Let's not all go jumping for joy just yet, at least not until this goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and we see whether or not they uphold it. I think it is likely they will *NOT*. The crushing yoke of debt wrapped around the neck of the average citizen is a rather effective means of control that I cannot imagine the elites in the Financial and Political Aristocracy will ever willingly allow the plebes (we of the working class) to so easily lay down and walk away from scott free.