Saturday, January 28, 2006

Study: Bird Flu Biggest Current Worry

Some snippets from a summary article on the "Global Risks 2006" report ...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060126/ap_on_re_eu/world_forum_global_risks_1

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer Thu Jan 26, 5:43 PM ET

DAVOS, Switzerland - The global threat that most preoccupies the world's business leaders is the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, according to a study released Thursday at the
World Economic Forum.

Other global risks, such as terrorist attacks and the possibility of an even bigger oil price shock, were deemed just as dangerous, but less likely to happen in the coming year, said the "Global Risks 2006" report ...

... "If the avian flu H5N1 virus mutates to enable human-to-human transmission, it may disrupt our global society and economy in an unprecedented way," said the 22-page risk study, which was released by a panel of companies and experts.

While the report predicted a number of small-scale terrorist attacks in 2006, it said large-scale simultaneous attacks were less likely, primarily because the capability of terrorists to coordinate their activities had diminished. ...

... "Terrorist attacks involving aircraft and high explosives have already had a massive global impact," the study said, but added, "The capacity of terrorist organizations to act globally in a coordinated way has diminished."

The risk of a major attack will rise in coming years, however, it said.

The report warned of other possible severe shocks, such as an oil price spike to $100 a barrel or an earthquake hitting Tokyo, but said those risks had a low likelihood of occurring.

"The world suffered an oil-price spike above $70 in 2005," the study said. "The world's reliance on hydrocarbons and growing concerns about the geopolitics of supply mean that oil prices will inevitably be an issue of concern in 2006 and beyond."

But even if oil prices should rise above $100, it is "relatively unlikely" that they would remain so high for an extended period, it said. ...

... The Forum study was based primarily on contributions from Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., Merrill Lynch and Swiss Reinsurance Co. and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nabarro: "The moment the pandemic starts it's too late to get prepared"

No reason to panic, but certainly, folks should have this front and center on their radar screens if they are preparedness oriented.

Excerpt from ...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060124/hl_afp/healthfluun_060124182621

World must act as if flu pandemic imminent: UN official

GENEVA (AFP) - The world must brace for a human influenza pandemic, acting as if it will strike "tomorrow," the UN official preparing the battle said.

Many people appeared to be under the impression that they would have time to prepare for the widely feared pandemic but that was wrongheaded, said Dr. David Nabarro.

"It's very hard to get people prepared for something that is as uncertain and unclear as this problem," Nabarro told reporters.

"So many people, when I talk to them about getting prepared, seem to imply that we've got months in which to get prepared but I say to them: 'It may not be months.'

"It could be that we're going to get human-to-human transmission tomorrow so please act as though it's going to start tomorrow. Dont keep putting off the difficult issues'."

The H5N1 bird flu virus has affected poultry flocks in the Far East and Turkey, and has claimed some 80 human lives after spreading from birds to people.

But experts fear the virus could mutate almost overnight and unobserved into a new form that would spread easily between humans and spark a repeat of the global influenza pandemics that killed tens of millions of people in the past century.

"There is a sensation for all of us who are working on this of standing on the edge of a really deep precipice and not knowing how far we're going to fall," said Nabarro.

"The moment the pandemic starts it's too late to get prepared." ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Reserve Your Sense of Urgency for When It's Required

Preparedness, by nature, is about anticipating (and getting ready for) significant trials and challenges. So it's no surprise when those of us who choose to incorporate crisis planning into our lives occasionally become wrapped up in ominous threats that seem to be barreling down on us ... though their actual position and course over the horizon is much more remote than what we believe.

Put another way, there are many who, after investing some time and money into being prepared for whatever may come, actually start to overextend themselves in finding daily justification for their preparedness activities. And taken to the extreme, they even start to hope for realized doom and gloom.

Is that a problem? Well, I say that yes, it can be a problem when the quest for new urgent scenarios becomes all-consuming and balance is lost in being able to actually comprehend the more benign side of our reality equation.

"Fear Du Jour" Planted by the Media

The media sells advertising and product by trying to connect emotionally with an audience. The only way to do that with many today is via fear and violence. Thus, among all the other ramifications of that, the news media must regularly come up with scary and appalling stories--"potential" stories will do when reality falls short--but they must be made "real" if they are to touch a nerve.

So we of course, are extremely well informed today about every bad turn our world takes and could possibly take, and some of us lose a grip on the probabilites for a relatively non-eventful future vs. the various long odds out there for any of those pumped-up worst-case scenarios to actually come a calling.

As the World Turns

My point--that every single day of my life, I would bet the mortgage on the fact that the sun will rise and fall as it always does for almost all of us on the planet. Most of our lives will probably be lived out in relative peace and tranquility, and few of us will ever be seriously challenged to survive in unusual fashion by a calamity. (No, I do not at all minimize the threat of war or great disasters, and I am ready, but those threats must remain in context of the world as it is at the moment if one wants to have a healthy life reflecting some level of normalcy.)

Understanding the odds allows me to keep on keeping on with my day-to-day existence. Enjoying it. Appreciating it.

If you can keep your approach to preparedness in balance, preparing for possibilities, but not becoming consumed by them, then you'll actually be best situated for not only your day to day life, but also for any eventuality that might arise.

That is because your easy mental stance will allow you to recognize and react when a threat actually materializes as being imminent. Believe me, swinging and missing over and over again does no good in helping you to connect when the game is on the line.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Nyquist Lays Out Fundamental Flaws that Make Us Vulnerable

Last essential dose of J.R. Nyquist for now ...

- "Since authority has broken down, personality takes its place."

- "The 'last man' is led by peer group pressures. He always compromises and retreats. He expertly maintains the lies put into his custody and congratulates himself on being 'practical.' As a coward and subjectivist, he secretly thrills to the notion that truth doesn't anywhere exist and that if it did exist it would remain forever unknowable."

- "American culture is 'economic' in nature. Our system of government was organized so that economic activity, perhaps at the expense of other activities, might thrive. This was a proper orientation for a developing frontier society where life was at first primitive, harsh, and unsettled. But somehow we never managed to evolve beyond these humble beginnings; and as we grew in affluence, we retained our economic fixation, failing to open up other cultural horizons. Today the growth of the economy has become the end-all and be-all. Even our basic view of man is tainted by economism. What defines us now, more than anything else, is our continuing reduction of everything to economics, which we imagine is an entirely rational thing to do. We talk in terms of supply and demand, but we forget that demand is a mystical thing, with its roots going down into the soul.

"Our economism also leads us to forget that there are human crises outside the locus of mutual profitability, in which one man's gain is amother man's loss (i.e., as the fundamental social problem). Question marks seem to mount. Can economics swallow art, religion, and politics without digestive calamity? Does the multiplication of wants through commercial advertising bring us happiness or have we merely reestablished misery by other means? What happens to the virtues of self-denial and self-control under a regime that sustains itself by breaking these virtues down and by cultivating (especially through television) a regime of self-indulgence?"

- "When 'success' became a measure of moral worth in our society, the 'honest poor' had no leg of self-esteem on which to stand. And this is the origin of our modern rabble."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

More from Nyquist's "Origins of the Fourth World War"

More Chapter One excerpts from J.R. Nyquist's must-read "Origins of the Fourth World War" ...

- "Moral relativism begins with the premise that there isn't any truth. But is this really true?"

- "Today, there is no interest in conversing with one's neighbors; diversity hemmed-in and foredoomed; a flurry of unneeded face-lifts, butt-lifts, nose jobs, cheek implants, youthful images, diets, suctions, fastings, and purgings--the world falsified according to the rules of sex-appeal. This makes for a new society and a new escapism: an escapism detached from the religious impulses of old; an escapism by way of lowest common denominators. Ergo, an increase in sloth and fat; an increase in reactivity versus activity; a weakening of the moral muscle; a decline in originality coinciding with a thirst for novelty. Mind-set? Jaded. A need arises for the bizarre, the sick, the increasingly hysterical and emotional. We have come to expect a presentation of the world better than the world: more interesting, intense, and engaging--which leads to entertainment instead of church as the path to paradise; eclipsing the whole of real existence, even to the point of undercutting the human imagination. Enter television."

- "The essence of our society's connecting fabric is an idiot box. Type of shows? Comedy and drama; especially drama with 'happy' endings, non-tragic, without any sense of the inevitable--therefore, no sociological sense either. We now have an entire nation with the same vocabulary of vicarious experiences, with the same unrealistic expectations. Emphasis is on images rather than concepts; therefore, a lessening of mental agility; a shrinking of our vocabulary; the end of eloquence; a decline in reading; also an increased tendency to characterize one's adversary as evil; violence, terror, bloodshed as a stimulant suggestive of a 'snuff' movie."

- "War without loss is an immorality. That we have imagined otherwise merely demonstrates that our thinking has become inverted."

- "Today, as never before, the pariah is the only man with the chance to think for himself. Everyone else is relentlessly compelled by peer pressures. Everyone constantly blackmails everyone. The threat of ostracism easily molds the soft democratic soul into fashionable shapes.

- "The out-of-fashion individual, the outcast (perhaps the only real human being remaining) eats out of some dumpster on the edge of town."

- "Our law-abiding citizen of today--not moral, but tame, domesticated, lazy, comfortable."

- "The most commonplace psychiatric pathology of the last twenty-five years is something called 'character disorder.' This is merely another way of talking about moral decline without using the word morality."

Still a bit more next time.

"Safecastle & Son"

Just wanted to share a photo of a couple of hard-working guys in their new, personalized (note the monogrammed sleeves) Safecastle sweatshirts.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Nyquist Insights on America and Decadence


I'm slowly working through J.R. Nyquist's "Origins of the Fourth Wold War" again. Chapter one is titled Decadence, and it consists of a series of separate notes that reflect his view of where America is today (actually the book was published in 1999, but they certainly still ring true).

Here and perhaps in my next post or two, I intend to provide some interesting, selected quotes from that first chapter in a fascinating book, in which he sets the stage, providing context for what is in the wings.

  • "Patriotism and paranoia are two words that have been creeping, ever so slowly, even mysteriously, toward one another. We ought to wonder why these two words are becoming one single and discreditable whole. Perhaps this shows more than anything, the indirect effects of an intellectual culture that is hostile to patriotism, and a patriotism that feels an encirclement progressing against it. It may also be something orchestrated, something induced, by play-acting paranoids rendering suspicion as a form of illness."

  • "What we need is an honest critique of Utilitarian Civilization; in other words: a critique of the rationalizing, liberal-democratic type of social order in all its aspects; especially with regard to its decadence of form, its declining standards, its contempt for traditions; and today's ultimate tendency towards a breakdown of order altogether. We must come to terms with our general and increasing rudeness, our predilection for anti-aesthetic judgments, our ignorance of history, our inability to introspect, our 'education to make stupid,' our pacifism with which to bring about our greatest wars, our careerism, our obliviousness; and last but not least, our shallow and feeble optimism."

  • "The illiberal supports of liberalism are gone. The foundations of the capitalist order have been weakened or destroyed by capitalist prosperity. Only one thing can save us from utter degradation, and that is--utter catastrophe."

  • "We live as if in a dream. Our sense of self-preservation has nearly left us. All moral limits are gone. Work and play absorb our every moment. Silent time is impossible to bear, while the music remains very loud. The new sin, of course, (besides self-restraint) is thinking. For the first time in history it is possible the 'think too much,' because thinking, if taken too far, leads to uncomfortableness; and above all, we are the Comfortable Ones."

  • "Necessity was once the backdrop of human politics. Today, a new condition has come about: sensual pleasure as backdrop. No longer do we have a government fearful of bread riots, but a government concerned with smoking, drunk driving, and drug addiction; a government involved in problems of malconsumption and over-consumption. Because of this, another ethic rises to dominance--non-fat, non-smoking, and caffeine-free ..."

More next time.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

ScramKit ChowHauls--Come and Git It!

The brand new ScramKit ChowHauls are available today for the first time ever. Initial quantities are limited, so if you want immediate delivery, act now. (Email me at jcrefuge@safecastle.net for your best deal.)


ChowHaul 14.2
(shelf life of 5 years)

list price: $675 plus $21.99 flat rate shipping

14 days of delicious nutrition for two people in one transportable bag (approximately 40 pounds). Includes everything needed (except a water source) for hot meals, including the means for water purification. Provides three full meals a day for two adults for 14 days, or one adult for 28 days. Contents include:

- 112 Mountain House freeze-dried entree pouches (four Just in Case units)

- 1 Jetboil PCS with Companion Cup unit (cutting edge integrated burner and cookware w/ built-in igniter)

- 4 Jetboil fuel cannisters

- 120 Katadyn
MicroPur MP1 Purification Tablets

- 2 Renais AB Camp-a-Box Mess Kits (each includes collapse-a-cup, soup bowl, two entree trays, cutting board, salt/pepper/sugar dispenser, stainless steel knife/fork/spoon set)

- 1 folding pocket knife, 3” stainless steel blade

- 1 600 Denier polyester cargo duffel bag, 36"x16"x16", includes removable shoulder strap



ChowHaul 7.2
(shelf life of 5 years)

list price: $435 plus $17.99 flat rate shipping

7 days of delicious nutrition for two people in one transportable bag (approximately 25 pounds). Includes everything needed (except a water source) for hot meals, including the means for water purification. Provides three full meals a day for two adults for 7 days, or one adult for 14 days. Contents include:

- 56 Mountain House freeze-dried entree pouches (two Just in Case units)

- 1 Jetboil PCS with Companion Cup unit (cutting edge integrated burner and cookware w/ built-in igniter)

- 2 Jetboil fuel cannisters

- 60 Katadyn MicroPur MP1 Purification Tablets

- 2 Renais AB Camp-a-Box Mess Kits (each includes collapse-a-cup, soup bowl, two entree trays, cutting board, salt/pepper/sugar dispenser, stainless steel knife/fork/spoon set)

- 1 folding pocket knife, 3” stainless steel blade

- 1 600 Denier polyester cargo duffel bag w/ waterproof PVC back, 30"x15"x14"

Add-on Options

A ScramKit Responder - belt-worn, comprehensive preparedness resource, normally $239 plus shipping, only $189 with the purchase of a ChowHaul

A Katadyn Mini - the lightest, most compact water filter on the market--a complementary addition to the ChowHaul contents ... fits nicely in the ChowHaul bags. Normally $89.95 plus shipping, only $79 with the purchase of a ChowHaul.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Evacuate or Defend?

There's a basic, all-important decision that often has to be made in the face of impending crisis. That is, flight or fight ... bug out or dig in ... run or stay put.

We need to be prepared for either side of that equation. It's great to have all your stored food, tools, supplies, etc. that fill up your basement, because there are plenty of scenarios where all those resources will serve you well. But there are also a myriad of cases where the smart money picks up and gets out of Dodge. In that kind of situation, it's often going to need to be done on a moment's notice, so we need to have some resources packed and ready to go.

Examples

It's not always easy to make the right decision. Some folks have a hard time leaving their homes and possessions behind if there is a danger they will be destroyed.

One memorable example was an old fellow named Harry Truman who, in 1980, refused to leave his lodge on Spirit Lake in the shadow of the building eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. He had run the lodge since 1928, and his stubborn refusal to abide by evacuation orders was given much media attention at the time. Of course he and his beloved lodge were lost in the catastrophic eruption ... his body was never found.

It's not at all unusual for stubbornness or ignorance to prevent folks from recognizing the nature of impending risks and to accurately assess their options. Paralysis is far easier to give in to than to leave it all behind. How many folks lost their lives to Hurricane Katrina because they chose not to evacuate, in spite of the most urgent warnings given by authorities? Certainly many hundreds ... perhaps thousands.

Sometimes, warnings do not leave any time for thought or regret. I suspect that immediate-threat situations leave less time for people to decide to stay put and instead demand their logical, instinctive responses to rule.

For example, there were some who recognized the coming tsunami a year ago and took immediate action that saved their lives. Wildfires or forest fires often provide some small window of opportunity for evacuation for those in their path. People who see an approaching tornado do not dally and over-think their options--they either get into their available shelters or they flee if none are available, depending upon their proximity to the funnel cloud.

The list of potential threats would be endless. Sometimes, we are given days to mull over our course of action. Sometimes only minutes.

And of course, there are plenty of events where no warning is given ... such as major earthquakes, industrial accidents, terror attacks, and on and on. In those events, survival can be affected by instantaneous reactions ... but of course in some cases, nothing can prevent the worst from happening.

The bottom line is, when we are given fair warning of impending disaster, we must be physically and mentally prepared to make the right moves.

Basic Choices

I'm going to condense and simplify our choices to try to apply them to most situations, though of course you will be best served by keeping a clear head and calm demeanor in order to think through what must be done when you are faced with a potentially life-threatening situation. In most cases, your options would fall into one of these categories:

1. Dig-in. If you are at home or work or on other familiar ground and you know your available resources and shelter will provide you with what you need, this is often the wisest choice to make (and the one we often spend the most time building up in our preparedness activities). If you have a hardened, storm-proof shelter with supplies in stock, and you do not face a flooding or fire risk, or there is not an air quality situation that makes staying put a losing proposition, then you may very well opt to "stay home." After all, if most others are having to evacuate the area, you could find yourself in a dangerous gridlock or panic situation out there secondary to the major risk, but just as dangerous. So, if you are well postioned to stay right where you are and the risk is appropriate to your preparations, then stay put.

2. Bug-out. If you have no decent shelter and supplies available where you are, or the threatening situation will overcome your position (as in fire, flood, toxic gas), then you must pick up and go. If you are adequately prepared for this kind of event, you will have some needed resources packed and ready to go--in your closet, under your desk, and/or in your vehicle. Commonly called a bug-out bag, you'll want to have at a minimum, some drinking water, food, a change of clothing, cash, credit card, ID, a contact list, flashlight, first aid kit, needed medications, a surgical mask to filter airborne particles, a multitool, and cell phone. This list can be greatly expanded depending on your situation. (In the north, smart folks have blizzard bags in their vehicles that include blankets, food, matches, hand warmers, etc. in case we are ever stranded in our cars in the cold.) Figure that everyone should have at least a 24-hour emergency bag with them wherever they are. Many have a few bags ready to go that provide care and sustenance for a week or more. The Katrina aftermath was a good example of the wisdom in that approach.

3. React. No-warning disasters or threats require some mental acuity more than anything else. If there are adequate physical preparations on hand, that can often be of great use as well. I am thinking here in terms of a violent assault, a home intrusion, or a sudden geophysical act of God. Other potential scenarios could include a major transportation or industrial accident that releases toxicity or radiation into your area ... or an act of war that would include a chemical, biological, or nuclear event. If you have previously trained or prepared or thought through your options, you will be ahead of the game. If you are surprised with a situation that you have no ability to deal with, good luck. Don't obsess, but give some thought to your potential risks and figure out now what you might be able to do.

Above all, try to stay calm and within your capabilities as you try to deal with a situation. A human's heart rate reaches a certain level usually seen in "panic situations" when normal brain activity is impossible. (Think mass crowd panic.) Do not assume that you will always think or react rationally. Preparation, mental and physical, can help and will often mean the difference between life and death.