Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Useful long-term dry food storage tips

A couple of days ago I wrote about a German suggestion that everyone store emergency food and water supplies for up to ten days, in case of emergency.  I recommended storing a minimum of thirty days' supplies, because a major emergency might disrupt deliveries to supermarkets and other places where we can replenish our larders.  It may take weeks before things get back to some semblance of normality.

That led to a few e-mails from readers, asking what foods were easiest to store long-term without the risk of them going bad.  That's not necessarily a primary consideration for short-term supplies, of course.  One can simply buy one or two extra cans every week of food one already consumes (e.g. tinned beans, corned beef, Spam, vegetables, etc.) and build up one's reserves that way.  One consumes the oldest can first, and replaces it in one's larder by a newer tin, so that one's supplies are constantly rotated and never get out of date.  It's relatively easy to adopt this method;  in fact, for my wife and myself, it's our primary reserve.  We have canned food sufficient for up to thirty days, used carefully.  This would be supplemented by dry foods such as rice, flour, dried beans, etc.  (We also have a couple of dozen freeze-dried meals for quick-and-easy preparation.  They're relatively expensive, but keep your eye out for sales - we bought ours at half the normal price on a Woot deal similar to this one.)

That said, there's nothing wrong with (and a lot to be said for) having a longer-term supply of dry foods.  The Mormon church is particularly helpful about such matters, as it's part of their normal faith practices for families to keep up to a year's food in reserve.  Many of their recommended supplies can be purchased online from the LDS Store, or through their local churches (many of which also offer food storage classes, and the shared use of expensive resources like canning machines, etc.).  The University of Utah (known, with tongue firmly in cheek, as the Mormon Church in academic dress!) has a very helpful food storage guide (downloadable in Adobe Acrobat format).

If you don't have the budget or storage space for large quantities of stored food, there are several economical steps you can take to begin more limited preparations.  The first is to find appropriate storage containers.  Plastic and mylar bags and containers are not always the best choice;  they can be punctured, are hard to make (and keep) airtight, and so on.  I strongly recommend the good old-fashioned Mason jar (particularly the larger sizes - I prefer the 64 oz., or half-gallon, version).  They're air- and watertight, can be readily re-sealed with new and inexpensive lids, and can easily be vacuum-sealed.  It's worth shopping around for the best price, including doing an Internet search every time, because prices vary constantly.  For example, I bought some more half-gallon jars last week.  On, the cheapest price I could find at the time (including shipping) was $16.30 for six (a price per jar of $2.72).  Almost every other vendor was more expensive (including local stores, buying them off-the-shelf).  However, offered a dozen of them (with free shipping to my local store for pickup) for only $20.38 - a dollar cheaper per jar.  I'm sure you can guess where I bought my supplies!  Spare lids and bands are also useful items, as are reusable plastic lids to secure the contents while they're being used after the jar's vacuum seal (if it had one) was broken when it was opened.

(By the way, if the boxes in which the Mason jars are delivered are heavy-duty and offer cardboard dividers between jars, don't throw them away.  They make useful storage containers.  I have some beneath the bottom shelf of our food closet, providing added protection to our filled Mason jars.)

You should also buy packets of oxygen absorber, because oxygen is the primary contributor to dried products going bad over time.  I use these ones from, putting one or two into each half-gallon jar (depending on the food inside;  dense foods like rice get one per jar, because there's less air space, while non-dense foods like pasta get two, because there's more oxygen to absorb).  They effectively vacuum-seal the jar as they absorb the oxygen it contains.  You can also buy a low-cost vacuum sealer with attachments to fit Mason jar lids if you want the added security of that approach.  (I like to keep them on hand for foods that don't need oxygen absorbers.)

Some argue that Mason jars, being made of glass, are too easy to break.  That would mean both the loss of the food they contain, and the risk of injury from broken glass.  I accept that's a potential hazard, but not necessarily a major one.  If you're in earthquake territory, where jars are likely to be shaken off shelves, by all means take that into account;  but not all of us are.  Even in earthquake country, storing jars on the bottom of a closet, beneath the protection of the lowest shelf, means they won't fall off anything, and should also protect them from things falling on them.  Others object that jars are more fragile and heavier to transport in an emergency;  but one's emergency food supplies aren't normally something one would 'bug out' with.  They're meant to be used in place.  If you plan to take them with you when you leave, tin cans or bags would certainly be more 'portable';  but even Mason jars are reasonably secure for travel if moved in the boxes in which they came (as mentioned above).  If they arrived safely in those boxes, there's no reason to presume they won't be just as safe in them when they leave!

Finally, if you practice home canning or bottling (preserving fruits, vegetables and meats for your own use), you're almost certainly already using Mason jars by the dozen.  It's no problem to add some more for dry food storage as well.

If you have further hints and ideas, please let us know in Comments.


Impressive A400M dirt field testing

Airbus has been testing its A400M Atlas military transport on unprepared surfaces in recent months.  Here's video of its tests on a sand landing strip, showing how engineers measure the disturbance of the surface by the aircraft's passage and other important parameters.

Considering that the A400M's maximum rated landing weight is over 130 short tons, it's pretty impressive that it can handle unprepared surfaces like that.  I bet the landing gear takes a beating in the process.


Stuxnet has offspring all over the place

It seems Stuxnet and Duqu, the (in)famous cyber-spying programs, have given birth to multiple descendants, all far more sophisticated and far harder to detect than their ancestor.  They include packages such as Gauss, Duqu 2.0, Regin and others. Strategy Page reports:

Yet another high-end spyware system was recently discovered. This one has been called Sauron and it is very difficult to detect because it is designed that way. So far Sauron has been found in over 30 government networks in China, Rwanda, Russia, Iran and Belgium. Sauron spends most of its time monitoring the system it is in for specific types of information (like passwords, decryption keys and similar useful stuff.) Sauron can deliver its information via the Internet or by hiding in USB drives that are available. Internet security experts are hard at work trying to find out how to more easily detect that a system has been infected by Sauron and who created it and controls it.

High-end malware like this began showing up (or was first discovered) in 2009. In 2012 American and Israeli officials admitted that the industrial grade Cyber War weapons (like Stuxnet and several others) used against Iran recently were indeed joint U.S.-Israel operation. Few other details were released, although many more rumors have since circulated. Initially it was thought high-end malware might be created and used by existing Internet criminal gangs. East European programmers are suspected of being capable of this sort of thing and Russia appears to have commissioned some “royal” software using East European mercenaries. But as time goes on, and more is known about how this very complex and efficient malware is designed and built it becomes obvious that a government operation is the most likely source.

. . .

Despite all the secrecy, this stuff is very real and the pros are impressed by Stuxnet-type systems, even if the rest of us have not got much of a clue. The demonstrated capabilities of these Cyber War weapons usher in a new age in Internet based warfare. Amateur hour is over and the big dogs are in play. The Cyber War offensive by the U.S. and Israel appears to have been underway for years, using their stealth to remain hidden. There are probably more than three of these stealthy Cyber War applications in use and most of us will never hear about it until, and if, other such programs are discovered and their presence made public.

There's much more at the link.

We hear a great deal in the news media about computer malware and state-sponsored hacking by China, Russia and some other places, but there seems to be very little mention of the fact that the USA appears to be up to its neck in the same activities, using software such as that described above.  One does wonder who really hacked those DNC e-mails, and the Clinton Foundation . . .


A forgotten heroine of World War II

I've studied the Second World War for decades, and know a great deal about it;  but now and again, stories emerge that still surprise and enthrall me.  Here's another one.

In the First World War, she was decorated for staying by her patients’ side even while Germans stampeded through her hospital. In the Second World War, as a member of the secret service, she landed behind enemy lines to bring two commandos back to Britain. She would also, during that conflict, save the lives of British and American women imprisoned in Ravensbrück, the infamous concentration camp known as the “Women’s Hell”.

And yet, today, Mary Lindell is largely forgotten. Whereas other female secret agents have gone down in history for their contributions to the war – not least Nancy Wake and Pearl Witherington, who inspired Sebastian Faulks’s novel Charlotte Gray – Lindell died in relative obscurity.

. . .

Born in 1895, into a wealthy family, Lindell was one of the thousands of young women in the First World War who volunteered for the nursing services, signing up  for the French Red Cross. Known as La bébé anglaise by the French soldiers, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, after staying with her patients when her field hospital was overrun by the Germans.

Between the wars, Lindell married a French count, with whom she raised three children. After the Fall of France, she took the sight of German soldiers parading the avenues of Paris as a personal affront. She recalled: “Some of us had to stand up to the Jerries. Who? I said to myself, 'Darling, you’re to do it.’ ”

In her first mission she escorted an ambulance convoy out of Paris to the Vichy zone of France, but rather than seize her own freedom by crossing into Spain, Lindell returned to Paris to set up an escape line. She helped Frenchmen wanting to join the Free French and British soldiers who had missed the boat at Dunkirk. For two weeks she hid Jimmy Windsor Lewis – who would later win the DSO twice – while she obtained false papers for him and charmed the Germans into giving her a travel permit out of occupied France. Her own cover was “to hide in the open” dressed as a nurse.

In early 1941, Lindell was arrested on suspicion of anti-German activities and spent nine months in solitary confinement. When released, she hid in Lyon for several months until she escaped with more false papers, this time describing her as an English governess. In Spain she persuaded the British secret service to send her home by flying boat.

Back in London, Lindell was taken up by MI9 (a branch of Military Intelligence, rather shorter lived than MI6), where she received the briefest of training before being sent back to France to help a team of commandos, charged with destroying German ships in Bordeaux, to get back to Britain. As a concession to her age – Lindell was 47 by this time – Lindell was flown into France in a light aircraft, rather than being forced to use a parachute.

Only two men survived the raid, Herbert “Blondie” Hasler and Bill Sparks. After disguising themselves as tramps, the commandos finally made contact with Lindell in a town called Ruffec. On seeing Hasler, her first remark was: “That moustache is going to come off; it reeks of England.”

Lindell helped the men on their way then smuggled their report to a covert radio station in Switzerland. She then returned to France to organise an escape line for soldiers and downed airmen.

She was caught again in November 1943 having just escorted a party of Allied airmen to a Pyrenean village. She was wounded while jumping from a train and, after a long convalescence, sent, in September 1944, to Ravensbrück, where tens of thousands of women were worked to death or died of starvation and disease or were gassed and cremated.

There, despite the obvious danger of doing so, she quarrelled with the authorities. “I threw my weight about a lot,” she once said. “I used to say, 'You’ve lost the war, you know perfectly well you have.’ And they knew they had too. It didn’t stop them. They were b-------s. The weaker the people, the more beastly they were.”

Lindell found work in the camp hospital, and from there gathered intelligence, smuggled food and clothes into the cell block and finally produced a list of American and British women – when the Germans denied there were any in the camp – to the Swedish Red Cross, who evacuated them – and Lindell.

The French awarded her a second Croix de Guerre and the British awarded her the OBE, but Lindell herself hated the adulation. “When they say I am a heroine, I am most embarrassed and I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “One does a job, it is a job, but the heroine is all twiddle-rot.” Nevertheless, Airey Neave thought her one of the most remarkable characters of British Military Intelligence.

She died in 1986, aged 91. “You either go with your enemy, or you go against your enemy,” she said. “I couldn’t sit down and twiddle my thumbs. It wasn’t in my nature.”

There's more at the link.

The article's material is drawn from a new book about Mary Lindell.

Looks like that one's going on my "To Read" list.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Einstein's definition applies to Chicago as well

Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  It seems Chicago police are fans of that approach.  The BBC reports:

An attempt to use software to help prevent gun crime in Chicago did not save lives, according to a study.

In 2013, the city's police began using algorithms to create a list of people deemed to be most at risk of being shot dead.

. . .

The so-called "predictive policing" initiative was based on the idea that potential victims of gun crime could be identified by building a social network model ... This resulted in a total of 426 people being identified as "high risk" in March 2013. They were placed on a register called the Strategic Subjects List (SSL).

The researchers said their analysis of the gun crime that followed indicated that being on the list made no difference to people's chances of being shot or killed. Neither was there any impact on overall homicide levels, they added.

But they said the SSL's members became more likely to be arrested for the shootings of others.

. . .

The Chicago Police Department has issued a press release in which it said the findings were "no longer relevant".

The force said it now used a more elaborate model that takes account of additional factors, such as how many times an individual has recently been arrested for violent offences.

There's more at the link.

So . . . if algorithms don't work as expected or required, use more and better algorithms!  Brilliant.  Genius at work.  Trouble is, the article gives no indication of whether or not the 'expanded' algorithms are producing any better results than the earlier ones.

What's more, one can't include human nature in an algorithm, because it can't be quantified and therefore can't be objectively measured.  Nevertheless, IMHO, it's still the major determinant of whether or not someone's going to be a criminal.  "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."  Replace 'mouth' with 'soul' or 'mind' or 'conscience' and you've got pretty much the definition of a criminal or a saint, right there.  "You will know them by their fruits" - and there isn't a single algorithm involved.


Sad news for bagpipers

It seems bagpipes may hold a hidden hazard for their players.  The Telegraph reports:

Playing the bagpipes could be deadly, scientists have warned, after a man died from continually breathing in mould and fungus trapped in the instrument.

Doctors in Manchester have identified the condition "bagpipe lung" following the death of a 61-year-old man from chronic inflammatory lung condition hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

The condition is triggered by the immune system’s response to an inhaled environmental irritants and is often associated with exposure to feathers and bird droppings.

When the unnamed man was first diagnosed in 2009 doctors were puzzled by his condition because he was not a pigeon fancier, his house contained no mould or signs of water damage and he had never smoked.

However, he played the bagpipes daily, and when his condition improved when he left his pipes at home during a three-month visit to Australia doctors believed they had found the cause.

Samples were taken from several areas inside the bagpipes, including the bag, the neck, and the chanter reed protector and were found to contain six types of mould and fungi.

It is thought the that the moist conditions inside the bag allowed mould and fungi to grow, which was then inhaled by the man who experienced breathlessness and eventually could not walk more than 20 yards.

Despite treatment, the man died recently and a post mortem examination revealed extensive lung damage consistent with acute respiratory distress syndrome including lung tissue scarring.

. . .

There have been other reported cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, arising in trombone and saxophone players, say the doctors.

In 2013, bagpiper John Shone spent four weeks in hospital with pneumonia brought on by a fungus which colonised inside his instrument which he had neglected to clean for 18 months.

The doctors warn that any type of wind instrument could be contaminated with yeasts and moulds, making players susceptible to the risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

There's more at the link.

Denis Norden, on the BBC program 'My Music', when asked what was his favorite sound in the world, famously (or notoriously) answered that it was "Bagpipes, receding into the distance."  If this sort of fungal infestation becomes more widespread, that may become a sad reality . . .


Highly recommended reading

I've run into several articles over the past few days that have been fascinating reading:  in-depth investigations, news reports that lay bare important developments that are usually 'under the radar', and so on.  I don't have time to blog about each of them as they deserve, but I wanted to provide links to them so that you can check them out for yourselves.

First, we've discussed the pension crisis in these pages on numerous occasions.  Now comes this devastating analysis from Daily Reckoning.
... many retirees are in for a rude wake-up in the next few years.

That’s because U.S. corporate pensions are woefully underfunded and may have to cut payments to seniors in order to stay solvent.

Forget Social Security (which we all know is a broken system living on borrowed time). Now many corporate pensions are in the same boat and may soon start reneging on the promises made to workers.

To back up what the article says about Social Security, CNBC reminds us that it faces a $32 trillion shortfall.
A projection, known as the "infinite horizon," takes into account all the program's future liabilities, even those beyond the 75-year period that Social Security actuaries typically use in their calculations.

Under the infinite horizon, Social Security will have $32.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities by 2090, $6.3 trillion more than last year's projection.

The infinite horizon calculation is the most important part of the trustees' annual report, said Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor ... "We're not broke in 20 years to 30 years, we're broke now," Kotlikoff said. "All the bills have been kept off the books by Congress and presidential administrations for six decades."

Changing the subject to academic, theological and archaeological skullduggery, the Atlantic has a long, in-depth article titled 'The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus' Wife'.  It traces the origins and provenance of a fragment of papyrus that allegedly spoke of Jesus Christ's wife.  It turns out that the document is (to say the least) highly suspect, and the probable product of a fraud spanning continents and decades.  Very interesting reading - and a reminder never, ever to take such sensational claims at face value.  There's usually a hidden agenda, and sometimes a very strange, twisted one (as appears to be the case here).

Another interesting article comes from Popular Mechanics.  It's titled 'The Write Stuff:  How the Humble Pencil Conquered the World'.  There turns out to be a lot more to the pencil than meets the eye, including some fascinating historical details of how the modern version was developed as a substitute for embargoed graphite during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

Finally, the twisted, far-left-wing, progressive (and dare I say evil?) influence of international financier George Soros is becoming clearer as his network of agents and sympathizers is increasingly exposed.  Two recent articles shed light on the matter:
  1. Our World: Soros’s campaign of global chaos
  2. Leaked Doc: Soros Open Society Seeks to Reshape Census, Electoral Districts
Both are sobering and very worrying articles.  Basically, Soros seeks to use behind-the-scenes influence and his vast financial resources to undermine democracy and national sovereignty.  If you're not concerned about what he's doing, you should be.  His work has the potential to literally steal elections, including our own.

All the articles I've mentioned are highly recommended reading.


When foodies lose it

I have to laugh at the excessive sturm und drang unleashed by an Italian chef.

A well-known Italian chef and television presenter has described vegans as a “sect”, declaring “I would kill them all.”

The comments by Gianfranco Vissani were made on an Italian television programme.

The high-profile chef, who often appears on television in Italy and has written numerous books, said: “Vegans? They’re like the members of a sect. They’re like Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’d kill them all.”

. . .

There was a swift reaction to the remarks on social media, even though they seemed to be made largely in jest.  “Vissani has been possessed by mad cow disease! Put him into isolation!” said one woman on Twitter.

“We can discuss whether or not they should be killed, but on the fact that they have become a sect, there’s no doubt, it seems to me,” another Twitter user wrote. A third wrote: “Even famous cooks make stupid jokes.”

. . .

Mr Vissani is by no means the first celebrity chef to be rude about vegans and vegetarians.

Anthony Bourdain, the American chef who wrote Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour before forging a career as a TV celebrity, wrote in one of his books:

“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.

“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.

“Oh, I'll accommodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a 'vegetarian plate', if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”

There's more at the link.

What can one say?
  • Clearly, there's more to this than meats the eye.
  • Vegetarians would as leaf not hear that sort of thing.
  • I don't know about vegetarians being a sect.  After all, if they cut their food with a knife before eating it, isn't that dis-sect-tion?
  • I suppose Italian chefs think that vegetarians are im-pastas.

I would say that Signore Vissani's remarks have set the cat amongst the pigeons, but I don't know if there are vegetarian equivalents to pigeons . . .


Monday, August 22, 2016

It's enough to make you spit in disgust

What happens when bishops forget what they are called to be?

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

It seems the bishops of the Church of England have forgotten that.

Survivors of child sexual abuse have accused the Church of England of “acting like Pontius Pilate” as a previously unseen document revealed that bishops were explicitly instructed only to give partial apologies - if at all - to victims to avoid being sued.

Legal advice marked “strictly confidential” and circulated among the most senior bishops, told them to “express regret” only using wording approved by lawyers, PR advisers and insurers.

The guidance - written in 2007 and finally replaced just last year - also warns bishops to be wary of meeting victims face to face and only ever to do so after legal advice.

It speaks of the "unintended effect of accepting legal liability" for sexual abuse within their diocese and warns them to avoid “inadvertently” conceding guilt.

The paper ... advises bishops to use “careful drafting” to “effectively apologise” without enabling victims to get compensation.

Survivors said it showed there was a culture of denial, dishonesty and “blanking” victims in ways which had heightened their pain and ultimately failed to tackle the roots of the abuse crisis.

. . .

“The approach to survivors is often a corporate model and this document supports that - it shows a church led by lawyers and insurers, you get the impression that these people are really their masters.

“A diocese is deferential to their bishop and the bishop is deferential to a bunch of lawyers.

“The Church will say ‘our hands are tied’ but they are paying the people who are tying their hands.

“They should say we need to stop this nonsense but they wash their hands like Pontius Pilate.

“Every part of this nexus [the bishops, the lawyers and insurers owners] washes its hands of every other part of it but the nexus is joined at the hip.”

There's more at the link.

This is precisely the same behavior exhibited by the bishops of the Catholic Church in dealing (or, rather, not dealing) with the same problem in the ranks of their own clergy.  Cover up, obfuscate, deny, make excuses, utter pious platitudes . . . but never, ever admit anything that might be construed as legal liability.  In fact, order your priests to lie to their congregations.  Tell the people of God that they can trust their modern-day Apostles - the bishops - to "clean house", deal with the problem effectively, even when those bishops are doing nothing whatsoever that will actually accomplish that purpose.  Pious window-dressing will do.

The scourge of child sexual abuse by clergy is still present in every major denomination, and no denomination is taking effective measures to deal with it.  What's even worse, the leaders of those denominations were the ones who permitted a climate to develop within which such abuses could occur.  They defaulted on their duties, and when the inevitable happened, they tried to dodge any blame or responsibility.  They're still doing it.  Nothing's changed.

May Almighty God have mercy on us.


Leonard Cohen's unique classical guitar style

Following my blog post a couple of weeks ago about the death of Leonard Cohen's former partner, Marianne Ihlen, a reader e-mailed me to ask which of the singer's works best portrayed his particular style of classical guitar playing.  That's a tough question to answer.  His style has evolved over the years, so that the way he plays his earlier songs today is often different to how he played them in the 1960's.  Age has also affected the flexibility of his joints and fingers, of course, so he's no longer so 'fluent' in his style.

Nevertheless, I do have a personal favorite in terms of his guitar work.  It's 'Avalanche', from his third studio album, 'Songs of Love and Hate', released in 1971.  Cohen "acknowledged in a 1992 interview with Paul Zollo that his 'chop', his unique pattern of playing classical guitar, is behind many of his early songs, and this one features Cohen's trademark fast, syncopated classical guitar pattern as the accompaniment on the recording of the song."

Lovely guitar work, and darkly poetic lyrics.  Classic early Leonard Cohen.


Germany's new "civil defense strategy" and emergency preparations

I note with interest that Germany has announced a new civil defense plan.

Germany will introduce its first civil defence strategy since the end of the Cold War, calling on the population to stockpile enough food and water for several days, according to a report Sunday.

The plan, which makes civilian backing of troops a priority while boosting the resilience of buildings and increasing capacity in the healthcare system, is due to be adopted by the government Wednesday, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) daily.

Contacted by AFP, an interior ministry spokesman confirmed that the cabinet was due to adopt a civil defence strategy but declined details about the concept or comment on the newspaper report.

The strategy noted that "an attack on German territory requiring conventional defence is unlikely," but said the country should be "sufficiently prepared in case of an existence-threatening development in the future that cannot be ruled out," according to the 69-page strategy quoted by the FAZ ..

"The population will be encouraged to stockpile food for ten days," it said, adding that five days' worth of water -- at an estimated two litres per person per day -- should also be set aside.

There's more at the link.

So-called 'civil defense' is a field of particular interest to me, because (among many other things) I was once a part-time, volunteer Civil Defense Sector Officer for a large section of the central business district of a major South African city.  The field has changed its focus over the past few decades.  In my active days in the field, we trained to mitigate the effects of military or terrorist attacks.  Nowadays, as Wikipedia points out, "the focus of civil defense has largely shifted from military attack to emergencies and disasters in general".

I was particularly interested to see the German plan's suggestion that civilians stockpile food for ten days, and water for five.  In the USA, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends at least a three-day supply of food and water.  On the other hand, other agencies of US government appear to be on a different page.  As Survival Blog has pointed out:

No matter what topic the training session concerns, every DHS [Department of Homeland Security] sponsored course I have attended over the past few years never fails to branch off into warnings about potential domestic terrorists in the community.  While this may sound like a valid officer and community safety issue, you may be disturbed to learn how our Federal government describes a typical domestic terrorist ... Based on the training I have attended, here are characteristics that qualify:

    Expressions of libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
    Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership, holding a CCW permit)
    Survivalist literature
    Self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
    Fear of economic collapse (buying gold and barter items)
    Religious views concerning the book of Revelation (apocalypse, anti-Christ)
    Expressed fears of Big Brother or big government
    Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties
    Belief in a New World Order conspiracy

A recent training session I attended encouraged law enforcement agencies to work with business owners to alert police when customers appear to be stockpiling items.

Again, more at the link.  Of course, the DHS checklist implies that if you follow the FEMA checklist, you may be "all right" in the eyes of the latter department, but a "potential domestic terrorist" in the eyes of the former!  Big Brother can be schizophrenic sometimes . . .

There's a great deal to think about in terms of what to stockpile for emergencies.  Some so-called "preppers" or "survivalists" take an extreme view, to the point of orienting their entire lives around such activities.  Others, including myself, take a more pragmatic view.  We prepare supplies for likely emergencies, plus a few additional items for unexpectedly long-duration crises.  (Such a view is often forced upon us by economic necessity.  I simply can't afford either the goods or the storage space for a full year's supply of food and water for my family, in the form of a balanced, tasty diet plus all the required accessories - cooking materials and fuel, alternative sanitation techniques and supplies, power generation, etc.)  If you'd like an in-depth look at that sort of thing, here's a handy article.  I've covered several other aspects in my series of articles about emergency preparations, many of which are listed in the sidebar of this blog.  For a real-world example of practical considerations during an emergency, see my article 'Lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005'.

We've already seen that a major terrorist attack can shut down parts of a city (including access routes to and from it) for at least several hours, probably a day or two, perhaps even weeks before everything gets back to normal.  Residents may not be allowed to enter or leave until the crisis is over.  It's a very good idea to have sufficient supplies on hand to cope with that - hence the German plan's suggestion of a ten-day emergency supply of food.  I think that's an absolute minimum.  I strongly recommend a thirty-day supply of food, and at least half that of water.  (Remember that your hot water cylinder is a useful reserve supply in an emergency.  Most models hold thirty to fifty gallons of potable water.  Switch off the heating element, and use it sparingly.  Unfortunately, tankless water heaters don't offer that option.)

If you're very short of funds and simply can't afford to invest a lot in emergency preparations, and/or are very short of space to store supplies (such as in a small city apartment), there are still practical steps you can take.  Consider stockpiling some emergency ration bars (I find these the best-tasting of those I've tested - they're available in 1-day or 10-day packs) and a few dozen 20oz. or half-liter bottles of water (the smaller bottles are more easily stored in available nooks and crannies, and can be carried relatively easily if necessary, whereas bigger bottles might be too large and unwieldy).  Such limited supplies aren't ideal, but they'll keep you alive for a week or two in an emergency until something better becomes available.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Another negative aspect of international aid

Last week we saw the very real dangers of participating in international aid missions in less civilized parts of the world.  However, aid workers and security forces are themselves sometimes the cause of unexpected - and very dangerous - problems.

The United Nations’ wall of denial concerning its responsibility for Haiti’s six-year-old cholera epidemic - and claims of diplomatic immunity regarding the consequences - appears to be crumbling.

In a statement issued Wednesday, a U.N. spokesperson declared that the world body “has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement” in the “initial outbreak” of the vicious cholera epidemic that first exploded in 2010, and has killed more than 9,300 Haitians while infecting at least 780,000 overall.

. . .

Since 2011, the U.N. has hidden behind a report from a hand-picked panel of experts who pin-pointed the source of the ongoing epidemic as infected human sewage from a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers in Haiti, part of a U.N. force known as MINUSTAH but then maintained the outbreak “was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual.”

Some members of the expert panel have since changed their minds, as waves of other scientific researchers have shown that the specific cholera strain in the Haitian epidemic could be linked genetically to a strain in Nepal, and that an outbreak had occurred in that country just before its peacekeepers joined the MINUSTAH force.

Even while hiding behind the panel’s wording, the U.N. in 2013 invoked immunity to  insulate itself from a class action lawsuit launched by Haitians who lost family members or suffered from the disease. The U.S. State Department has backed the U.N.’s immunity defense.

On Thursday a U.S. appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, in effect deferring to the U.N.’s assertion of immunity. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which has pressed the lawsuit, says it is studying the court decision.

Meantime, the U.N.’s frequent expressions of concern for Haiti’s cholera victims—piggy-backed on pleas for international donors to support an elaborate, multi-billion-dollar water and sanitation development scheme for Haiti—have worn thin, especially in light of its stonewalling attitude on responsibility and troubling signs that nothing else about its behavior in Haiti has changed all that much.

A long-suppressed internal U.N. report examined by Fox News last week has shown that four years after the initial outbreak, U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti were continuing to violate almost all of their own sanitary rules for containing the disease—including the dumping of sewage into public waterways.

There's more at the link.

Sounds like yet another evasion of responsibility by the United Nations.  In Africa, sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers - including overwhelming evidence of the sexual exploitation of children - is a well-known phenomenon.  One wonders whether cholera is the only 'souvenir' of their presence the UN will leave behind on Haiti.


Parents, show this to your children . . .

. . . particularly those in their teens and with ambitions to go to college or university.

True dat.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

In vino, veritas

For those who don't know the saying, it's a Latin idiom dating back to the Roman Empire meaning "In wine there is truth".

A photographer in London set out to show what wine does to his friends by photographing them at various stages during an evening:  before they began to drink, then after 1, then 2 and finally after 3 glasses of wine.  The results are often hilarious.  Here's just one example.

There are many more photographs at the link. I don't know what I look like after a few glasses of wine, but I hope it's better than that!


Blood Oranges

I didn't know the music of Tom Russell until a reader, commenting on my post about aid workers in Africa, provided the link to one of his songs about that continent, titled 'Blood Oranges'.  It was a startling, troubling song, particularly because I've met some of the Bedouin tribes in North Africa.  I can confirm from personal experience that their attitudes, as depicted in the song, are real.

The song comes from Mr. Russell's album 'Box of Visions'.  A commenter at the album's page on had this to say about it:

I bought Box Of Visions because it includes 'Blood Oranges', a song based on Paul Bowles' short story 'A Distant Episode'. The short story is one of the most disturbing things I've ever read, and the song manages to capture Bowles' eerie images of Moroccan "random violence/vengeance" so well that it makes me shudder every time I hear it, almost caused me to wreck the car the first time I heard it on the radio. A well crafted song should evoke emotions, and this one can certainly do that for me, goosebump city.

There's more at the link.  Scroll down to find the review.  It's also worth reading Mr. Bowles' story.  It's short, but very punchy.

I have to agree with the Amazon commenter.  This song is truly "goosebump city".  It's dark, tragic, and full of pain.  Nevertheless, the attitudes of many in Africa really are as they're portrayed in the song;  and Mr. Russell, having lived in Nigeria for a year during the Biafran War, probably experienced them for himself.  Those same attitudes towards Westerners have been on display throughout Africa for decades, most recently during events last week in South Sudan.

Here's the song.  Don't listen to it unless you're prepared to be challenged.

Haunting, chilling . . . and very true to life.