Safecastle | One Shop For All Emergency Essentials: April 2008

Food Storage, Emergency Preparedness, MRE's, Freeze Dried Food, Water Storage, Dehydrated Food, Survival tips

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pandemic Flu Still Looms Large

Thank you to Dr. Carty for this advisory on surviving pandemic flu, which remains as big of a threat as ever. (Click the title below for the original posting.)

Pandemic Flu for Survivalists

By Brian Carty, MD, MSPH
April 25, 2008

Thanks to a strict naval quarantine, the island of American Samoa was virtually untouched by the devastating 1918 influenza pandemic which killed at least 50 million people worldwide. Would this strategy enable you to survive a flu pandemic? Probably not. You would have to live on an island and be able to enforce a quarantine, or you would have to completely avoid contact with the rest of society for the duration of the influenza pandemic, as long as a year or so.

Imagine that you, your family and friends have sequestered yourselves to escape a plague. Then suddenly you discover contagion in your midst. A chilling fictional account of a group of people in a similar predicament is found in Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death." In this tale, a prince and his friends seclude themselves in a castle during an epidemic of an illness known as the "Red Death." An elaborate masked ball is held. But a stranger is discovered who is not only costumed as a corpse, but as a victim of the Red Death. The stranger is unmasked; the Red Death has arrived:

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood- bedewed halls of their revel, and each died in the despairing posture of his fall. ... And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Make Preparations Now

Now that's a gruesome ending, but the history of plagues and epidemics teaches that isolation and quarantine alone often fail. Still, there are a number of steps you can take to prepare for the influenza pandemic which is certain to occur. When it will occur and what strain of influenza virus will be responsible are unknown, but influenza pandemics often cause an enormous number of serious illnesses and deaths.

Preparations include insuring basic food, water and shelter. Information from health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and other entities will be vital. Face masks and frequent hand washing may be beneficial. Avoiding crowds in theatres, workplaces, schools, and the like may help prevent or delay infection, but these measures, as noted, are likely to be only partially effective.


In addition to these general infection-control measures, vaccines for H5N1 (avian influenza) are in development. Still, there is no guarantee that such vaccines will provide protection or will be available in adequate quantities. You should get whatever yearly flu vaccine is available. This will give you significant protection against the yearly epidemic flu virus or viruses and possibly some partial protection against pandemic flu.

Anti-Influenza Drugs

To hopefully prevent infection, anti-influenza drugs can be taken daily during a pandemic, as long as a year if necessary. If infection occurs, the drugs would be used for treatment. Various governments are acquiring flu drugs, but the quantities are sufficient to treat only part of the population for a short period of time. So once a pandemic starts, these drugs will be in short supply. Stockpile them now before you need them.

There are several antiviral drugs active against influenza. Both H5N1 (bird flu) and the flu strains which cause yearly epidemics are now resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. However, because the pandemic flu strain which eventually emerges may be sensitive to these drugs, you should stockpile amantadine or rimantadine. Both are relatively inexpensive. People over age 65 or who have impaired kidney function should not take amantadine.

There are two other drugs active against influenza – Tamiflu (oseltamivir), an oral drug, and Relenza (zanamivir), an inhaled drug. I suggest obtaining a one year supply of Tamiflu for each person to be protected. The cost for Tamiflu, 75mg twice per day for a year, is about $2700, not cheap, but there is no substitute for this drug. If you can't afford a one year supply, spring for a three or six month supply.

You Will Need Prescriptions

Your physician will likely cooperate by giving you prescriptions for these medications. If not, find one who will. Law enforcement officials have intercepted counterfeit Tamiflu, so buy from a reputable pharmacy.

It's also probably a good idea to stockpile some antibiotics to treat bacterial pneumonia which often follows influenza. My recommendations are azithromycin, levaquin, and linezolid.

People May Be Desperate for Anti-flu Drugs

If you decide to stockpile these drugs, don't tell anyone. Furthermore, the need to protect your stash against robbery and theft is obvious.

Make Reasonable Preparations, Then Relax

Many aspects of pandemic flu planning are beyond the capacity of individuals. Even so, if you follow the above recommendations, you will have done everything reasonably possible to prepare for pandemic flu.

© Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Being Cool Always Trumps Freakin' Out

For those who have been quietly, systematically putting aside emergency food and supplies for a while, you're justified in momentarily embracing that twinge of vindication as more and more about food shortages, buyer panic, and even riots around the world become the stuff of headlines.

But clearly, no one enjoys seeing what is transpiring around the world. Malnutrition and starvation in various populations are again becoming reality. Worse--pain and suffering among millions of innocents is only beginning.

Public policy blunders, natural disasters, crop diseases, short harvests, skyrocketing energy costs, and public panic are now colliding in a harsh cacophony that will continue to resonate for years to come.

It's all beyond what the average individual can impact in a positive way. The only thing to do is to try to look out for you and yours. However, at this point, that becomes exceedingly more difficult and costly.

"Hoarding" has now become a no-no. Where once, very recently, a common-sense approach to putting some spare resources up for a rainy day was smart and admirable (though never trendy or widespread), circumstances have shifted radically.

The responsible approach to the situation before us as a civilization is to now economize and conserve limited resources--particularly in the realms of energy and food. Allowing for limited supplies to accommodate those who are most needy has to become a priority. To do otherwise is not only immoral, it is foolish, as there is nothing like famine to cause slashing societal upheavals.

How and when does that happen? I don't have those answers.

It's Very Late

In wealthier societies, such as in the U.S., folks who have done nothing to this point to mitigate their household risks vs. energy crises and runaway food inflation and/or shortages now have their backs against the wall.

It's a tough way to wake up and to have to just start the journey. If this is you, you likely will want to break into a sprint, though that may not be very realistic now. Regardless, if you're in that position--do what you can before you can do nothing at all.

For those somewhere else on the preparedness path--just keep on keepin' on. Try to keep your momentum going--nothing more, nothing less.

Whoever you are, whatever you still need to do to get to a satisfactory point of equilibrium for your situation--this rule always applies: Stay Cool.

Panic will increasingly become a chosen option. But it never is the smart choice.

Whatever the crisis that presents itself ...
  • Stop.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Weigh the options.
  • Pray.
  • Choose wisely.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Friday, April 25, 2008

WSJ: Time for Americans to Stockpile Food

Wait till this guy learns about long-term storage food ... he'll be giddy!

Load Up the Pantry
April 21, 2008 6:47 p.m.

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)

Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to And those yields are before tax.

Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

The reason? The prices of many underlying raw materials have risen much more quickly still. Wheat prices, for example, have roughly tripled in the past three years.

Sooner or later, the food companies are going to have to pass those costs on. Kraft saw its raw material costs soar by about $1.25 billion last year, squeezing profit margins. The company recently warned that higher prices are here to stay. Last month the chief executive of General Mills, Kendall Powell, made a similar point.

The main reason for rising prices, of course, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the middle class each year, and that means they want to eat more and better food.

A secondary reason has been the growing demand for ethanol as a fuel additive. That's soaking up some of the corn supply.

You can't easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.

If this seems a stretch, ponder this: The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it's the rosy memory of a bygone age.

The good news is that it's easier to store Cap'n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Thursday, April 24, 2008

LAST CALL on Mountain House Food

Last call on Mountain House freeze dried food before the company's spring/summer production changeover to pouches and government contract work ...

We thought we had placed our final group-buy bulk order several days ago, but with continuing strong demand, we're going to place one FINAL "final order" in the next few days to take care of our friends. And this time we mean it!

Anyway--whether you want in on the 3-case buy or you want any other canned MH product, order right now, please. Any further delay may very well leave you waiting till fall to take delivery.
Get Ready ... Seriously -

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A New Zealand Prophet of Imminent Collapse

I'll tell you what .... right now, enough people are thinking in these terms that I can barely come up for air (Safecastle's buyers club and shelter business are running me ragged).

The end is nigh

HELEN HARVEY talks to a prophet. - Taranaki Daily News Saturday, 19 April 2008

It's probably true that people don't want to hear things like "our current food system is totally unsustainable and on the point of collapse". But it's also true that Kevin Moore doesn't present his message in a way that is easy to understand. He interrupts himself, he changes the subject half-way through a sentence and goes off on tangents.

Ask him to explain his theory in two or three sentences. He doesn't. He doesn't even answer the question. "It's not a theory! Take out that word - it's not a theory. I'm presenting facts."

And news reports from around the world are telling a story similar to his. A shortage of food in Haiti has caused riots and deaths. Time magazine devoted six pages in its April 21 issue to biofuels and the resulting strain on grain supplies. Many of the subjects he talks about are regularly recurring themes in such respected journals as Nature and New Scientist. In New Zealand, the price of food and petrol has been steadily increasing.

Kevin Moore is famous for saying the end of the world is nigh.

He reckons he has never said that. What he says is the end of life as we know it is nigh.

New Zealand's current way of living will disappear sometime in the next three to five years, he says.
Peak oil and the world food shortage are the main problems, but there are other factors contributing to a future crisis - it's phosphorous, it's the money system, the water supply, the entire economic system.

The oil supply has peaked and is on the way down.

"Our society is totally dependent on oil, so without oil, it cannot function. Your food supply will be gone. You won't have anything to eat."

Take bread for an example. The tractor that ploughs the wheat field needs oil to function. A tractor is used to sow the field, harvest the crop and a truck transports it to the mill.

If the wheat needs to be dried, it is done using oil or natural gas.

Electricity is used to grind it and to work the ovens that make it into bread or biscuits.

"The whole system's dependent on using energy at about 100 times the rate we should be using it."

The age of oil will last about 150 years, he says, and it started in 1859.

"The crucial point isn't when oil runs out, it's when the supply starts to run down. That started in 2005. We're on the slippery slope."

Some of the predictions he's seen are pretty grim.

"It could be a matter of weeks. If there is an oil shock, the ships just stop coming to New Zealand."

About 15% of the oil used in New Zealand comes from here, so there will be some supplies, he says.

The run-on effects include the fact that trucks will stop delivering food to the supermarkets and that the tourism industry will be completely down the drain.

"It could be next year. I can't tell you exactly."

The very best case scenario is probably 2015. By then, the oil supply will be down to half what it is now, he says.

"You may recall, last year, I said the end of the world as we know it is coming very soon ... it happened August, September last year. That's when it happened. That was the end of the world as we know it."

In August and September, oil went up in price and the start of the meltdown of the American economy began.
"The meltdown started last August."'

Kevin Moore was born in England in 1950. He studied chemistry at the University of Surrey, graduating with an honours degree in 1972. "One of the things they dealt with on that course was resources depletion."

In 1974, he emigrated to New Zealand and arrived in New Plymouth in 1976. He left in 1991 for an attractive job offer in Napier - that didn't turn out that well, he says. He was then enticed to Auckland.

"That was a big mistake. I ended up trapped there."

He came back to New Plymouth in 2006. In 2007, he unsuccessfully stood for mayor.

He has two adult children. His daughter agrees with his philosophy, but she lives in the north of England, so isn't in a position to do much about it.

"My son was in denial for a long, long time, but about 18 months ago, the penny dropped. He said, Yeah, you're right, Dad."

In the future envisaged by Kevin Moore, people are going to be divided into two groups, those who perish and those who survive. "Survivors are people who know what is happening and they are preparing for the real future."

The perishers are the people who don't know what is happening, or don't care, or who believe that everything will carry on exactly the same. When oil runs out, work is going to dry up and people will lose their jobs.
"Finally, you'll starve to death."

People need to prepare for the loss of employment and then the shortage of food, he says.

They should stop spending their money on overseas holidays, jet skis, new cars, the latest DVDs anything that is not going to be of use to them, he says.

"The point is, you need decent-size land. You need to do anything you can to increase your ability to feed yourself."

He suggests people who live in an apartment buy pots and start growing lettuce, but then he backtracks.

"I'm not offering false hope to people, because if you're in an apartment block, you're f-----. There's no way you could possibly grow enough to feed yourself on the balcony of an apartment block. You have to relocate yourself somewhere that does have land."

Everyone needs to use money effectively now. Don't leave it in the bank or a finance company or the sharemarket, he says.

"Because if you do, it will be gone."

He brandishes a report showing graphs of a falling sharemarket.

The finance system isn't going to hold up, he says. How many finance companies have gone bust in New Zealand in the past year? At least a dozen. If Kevin Moore had been elected New Plymouth mayor at the last election, he says he would have stopped all spending on anything that is unsustainable, "particularly artworks and tourism and all that stuff".

"We are using up our last resources on artworks for the park, walkways, a centre to display artworks. Total insanity.

"I would have got community gardens, permaculture education centres set up now."

He would have demonstration plots and a centre to teach people the skills needed.

"This is stuff I proposed to the council and they took it off the agenda."

The window of opportunity to prepare for what he says is the inevitable is closing.

"It takes three or four years to grow fruit trees, so if the shit is going to hit the fan in 2010, which it is, maybe even 2009, and you haven't got your trees planted now, it's too late. That window of opportunity is gone."

Finance institutions are collapsing. Some people have already missed the opportunity to get their money out, he says.

"Anything you want to do will be harder next week than it is this week. It will be harder to do next month than it is the next month, much, much harder to do a year from now than it is now, because the price of oil and petrol is going up."

Kevin Moore is unemployed - has been for 18 months.

It's difficult to get a job: "The council won't employ me, because I'm telling the truth."

He has a degree in chemistry, but the chemical industry has vanished. And in the culture of youth, anyone over 40 isn't wanted, he says.

He is spending the last of his savings, cutting back, hardly buying any food. He has a scooter. He might use his car once a week and estimates he spends $5 a week on fuel.

Since buying his property 18 months ago, he has spent between six and 18 hours a day, seven days a week, working on his section and planting his future: macadamia, feijoa, loquat, orange, guava, lemon, grapefruit, tamarillo, pepinos, figs, apples, blueberry, cape gooseberry, strawberries, persimmon, corn, beans, chillis, carrots, peas ...

"I have no source of proteins other than eating snails and worms and I'm not into that at this stage."

People keep telling him to build a chicken house, but he says there's a flaw in that logic.

"The chicken system is dependent on imported grain. There is a shortage of grain. The prices are going up."

Many poor countries are struggling to get enough rice for their people, he says. "One of the reasons is biofuels. America is now using about a quarter of its grain crop to keep the cars running. The last thing we should be doing is keeping cars going or planes."

Kevin Moore plans to put barbed wire along the top of the fence that surrounds his property.

"I can do all this stuff and some marauding band comes along and kills me to get my food. Hence you have to think about the security thing."

It will come to that unless the community wakes up, he says, because people won't have anything to eat.
"All I'm telling you is facts, not my opinions."

By 2012, it will be pretty well over for everything. There's not much time.

New Zealand is in a far better position than many countries because of water, low population and its environment.

Life in the future will be similar to that in the 14th century, if we're lucky, he says - stone age if we are unlucky.

"I have changed the lives of at least 100 people. One person read my book, bought some land, planted fruit trees. My efforts have raised awareness, but most people are unreachable. It's easier to do nothing.

"I've been preparing for this mentally for the last five years. I've been preparing physically for the last 18 months."

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Essentially, They are Saying, "Prepare for a Nuclear Attack"

Once again, the basic message being communicated about widespread disaster remains cryptic, yet quite apparent--Prepare your household, as no cavalry will be there to answer your distress calls.

Read the whole Washington Times article by clicking on the article title below ...

Nuclear attack on D.C. a hypothetical disaster
by Gary Emerling
April 16, 2008


A nuclear device detonated near the White House would kill roughly 100,000 people and flatten downtown federal buildings, while the radioactive plume from the explosion would likely spread toward the Capitol and into Southeast D.C., contaminating thousands more.

The blast from the 10-kiloton bomb — similar to the bomb dropped over Hiroshima during World War II — would kill up to one in 10 tourists visiting the Washington Monument and send shards of glass flying the length of the National Mall, in a scenario that has become increasingly likely to occur in a major U.S. city in recent years, panel members told a Senate committee yesterday.

"It's inevitable," said Cham E. Dallas, director of the Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense at the University of Georgia, who has charted the potential explosion's effect in the District and testified before a hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. "I think it's wistful to think that it won't happen by 20 years."


However, the experts emphasized that the explosion would not impact most of a major city and that in many cases, residents could remain safe by not evacuating immediately and clogging area roadways.

"It is also expected that, due to lack of information getting to the public, many people will try to flee by car or on foot, often in the wrong direction, again exposing themselves to high levels of radiation, as vehicles provide virtually no protection," Mr. Carter said.

Mr. Dallas said a major problem facing most cities is a lack of available hospital beds for victims of burns that would result from a nuclear blast. He said up to 95 percent of such victims would not receive potentially life-saving care.

"We're completely underprepared," he said. "Most of them will die."


Area officials have spent millions of dollars in recent years to develop evacuation plans and stockpile emergency supplies after a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said local preparation for a disaster was "not sufficient."


"We are confident that the District is prepared to respond to a catastrophic incident affecting the District," Mr. Darnell said.

Still, Mr. Dallas said the majority of victims in a nuclear explosion will likely have to fend for themselves in the first hours after an attack.

"These people are going to be on their own," he said after the hearing. "There's no white horse to ride to the rescue."

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Headlines to Make the Imagination Wander

I know there are still a whole lot of people out there who are blissfully unaware of the spiraling state of our comfortable existence. But day by day, their numbers are shrinking.

Even those who are not in the habit of staying up on current events, through their weekly trips to the grocery store and their stops at the gas station, are finding cause for some well-warranted level of alarm.

Personal experience aside, today, a cursory review of the headlines adds to a rapidly heightened awareness ...

Today, April 15, 2008, I see these bold headlines at just a couple of mainstream news sites:

"Oil Sets New High Above $113 a Barrel"

"Wholesale Prices Soar in March"

"Foreclosures Jump 57% in Last 12 Months"

"House Prices Decline at Record Levels"

"Food Costs Rising Fastest in 17 Years"

"Wave of Bankruptcies in Retailing Causes Alarm"

We could go on, but what's the point? The reality is sinking in and being absorbed by even the most insulated of consumers. Things are changing--for people around the world, and yes--here too in America.

The time we have left to prepare wisely is short. As more folks jump in to play catch-up, the faster the supply-side situation becomes critical and unresponsive.

Scary? Yes. But reality increasingly sucks.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Businesses More Responsive than Government Providing Necessities After Disaster

Makes sense ...

Empowered to 'do the right thing,' employees gave away supplies and offered sleeping space after the 2005 hurricane. Local knowledge allowed big-box retailers to respond before FEMA could.

Hurricane season is just around the corner, so Americans should know where to turn to if disaster strikes. It's not the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A new study suggests Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's would be a lot more helpful.

The study, by Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., stresses that successful disaster relief depends upon responders having detailed knowledge of a local area and the right incentives to act on that knowledge.

Examining federal and private responses to Hurricane Katrina, the study says why FEMA was destined to fail and why for-profit companies succeeded at disaster recovery.

It also looks at the Coast Guard -- the only federal agency lauded for its Katrina performance -- which rescued more than 24,000 people in the two weeks after the storm.

Local knowledge critical The study says Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's made use of their local knowledge about supply chains, infrastructure, decision makers and other resources to provide emergency supplies and reopen stores well before FEMA began its response. Local knowledge enabled the big-box stores to make plans ahead of the storm and then put them into effect immediately.

"Profit-seeking firms beat most of the government to the scene and provided more effectively the supplies needed for the immediate survival of a population cut off from life's most basic necessities," Horwitz wrote in the study, which was published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "Though numerous private-sector firms played important roles in the relief operations, Wal-Mart stood out."


Get Ready ... Seriously -

Sandia Study on Pandemic Indicates Just 28% Worker Absenteeism to Shut Down Freight System

Statisticians, scientists, and eggheads of all persuasions will be pleased to find more than enough data in this study to pore over. Most folks though, just want to get to the bottom line.

In a nutshell, in a pandemic, if the freight industry (ports and railways in particular were looked at in this study) experiences a level of absenteeism of 28% or more, we can figure on the whole freight-carrying system to grind to a halt. You might want to think carefully about what that would mean.

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Friday, April 11, 2008

FREE CELOX with Qualifying Mountain House Purchase--Till April 15 Only

It's a very busy time at Safecastle these days. The frail global economy and the developing food crisis are two very strong motivations for people to be laying in supplies.

As always, we're here to take care of our friends and members first and foremost.

We recently pointed out the Mountain House freeze dried food situation. As a reminder:
  1. Oregon Freeze Dry is again raising their prices this summer.

  2. As scheduled, they will be switching over their production lines to other product lines starting May 1. But as a result of current excessive demand for #10 cans, they expect their backorders on those products to immediately reach 3 months. (In the meantime, this month, orders are delivering promptly, within three weeks.)

  3. Our three-case variety package buy is in swing. We have our initial bulk order of food in stock and will be starting to ship next week to our customers.

Bottom line, Mountain House cans are about to get harder to lay hands on ... and when you do find some available, they will be pricier. We continue to offer all MH products at the maximum allowed discount, plus we ship free to the lower 48. Those things will not change.

However, we do try to help you along sometimes with a little something extra. So, for the next few days only ...

Through April 15 (or until supplies run out), we are sending one FREE pouch of CELOX to folks for every 6 cases of MH cans (36 cans) purchased during this special offer period!

Any six MH cases will do. ... Two of our 3-case kits get you a FREE pouch of the life-saving wound hemostatic agent, CELOX; one of our 8-case packages gets you two free pouches of CELOX; a 25-case order gets you 4 pouches; etc. (To see our buyers club pricing, mouse-over the main listing image).

Log-in to your member account, make your Mountain House purchase, and the CELOX will automatically be sent.

Still need to become a Safecastle Royal Buyers Club member? Make the membership purchase first. It's a $19 lifetime membership that gets you 20% or more off all our listings all the time, plus FREE shipping to the lower 48 on everything we sell!

Get Ready ... Seriously -

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rice Prices Climbing, Hoarding Becomes a Punishable Offense

Once again ... this is just the leading edge of what is coming, to include continuous food price hikes and worsening supply problems in the USA. There are no near-term solutions on the horizon.

Rice jumps as Africa joins race for supplies
By Javier Blas in Nairobi and Roel Landingin in Manila
Published: April 4 2008 15:23 Last updated: April 4 2008 19:22

Rice prices rose more than 10 per cent on Friday to a fresh all-time high as African countries joined south-east Asian importers in the race to head off social unrest by securing supplies from the handful of exporters still selling the grain in the international market.

The rise in prices – 50 per cent in two weeks – threatens upheaval and has resulted in riots and soldiers overseeing supplies in some emerging countries, where the grain is a staple food for about 3bn people.

The increase also risks stoking further inflation in emerging countries, which have been suffering the impact of record oil prices and the rise in price of other agricultural commodities – including wheat, maize and vegetable oil – in the last year.

Kamal Nath, India’s trade minister, said the government would crack down on hoarding of essential commodities to keep a lid on food prices. “We will not hesitate to take the strongest possible measures, including using some of the legal provisions that we have against hoarding,’’ he said on Friday.


Get Ready ... Seriously -

Thursday, April 03, 2008

How Far Can We Fall?

Excellent article here:

"Will a Pandemic Bring Down Civilisation?"

05 April 2008
From New Scientist Print Edition
Debora MacKenzie

FOR years we have been warned that a pandemic is coming. It could be flu, it could be something else. We know that lots of people will die. As terrible as this will be, on an ever more crowded planet, you can't help wondering whether the survivors might be better off in some ways. Wouldn't it be easier to rebuild modern society into something more sustainable if, perish the thought, there were fewer of us.

Yet would life ever return to something resembling normal after a devastating pandemic? Virologists sometimes talk about their nightmare scenarios - a plague like ebola or smallpox - as "civilisation ending". Surely they are exaggerating. Aren't they?


Get Ready ... Seriously -

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

U.K. Media Making the Call--"U.S. Depression"

There are those outside U.S. borders who are of course anxious to cast stones in our direction. But obviously, worsening economic conditions here are reaching very difficult levels.

USA 2008: The Great Depression

Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world's richest country faces economic crisis.

By David Usborne in New York
Tuesday, 1 April 2008

We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000. "We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but we have also seen it climbing more in recent months," Maureen Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan's programme, said. "It's been increasing steadily. Without the programme, some families and kids would be going without."

But the trend is not restricted to the rust-belt regions. Forty states are reporting increases in applications for the stamps, actually electronic cards that are filled automatically once a month by the government and are swiped by shoppers at the till, in the 12 months from December 2006. At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, have had a 10 per cent increase in the past year.

In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps has risen by 18 per cent in two years. The food programme started 40 years ago when hunger was still a daily fact of life for many Americans. The recent switch from paper coupons to the plastic card system has helped remove some of the stigma associated with the food stamp programme. The card can be swiped as easily as a bank debit card. To qualify for the cards, Americans do not have to be exactly on the breadline. The programme is available to people whose earnings are just above the official poverty line. For Hubert Liepnieks, the card is a lifeline he could never afford to lose. Just out of prison, he sleeps in overnight shelters in Manhattan and uses the card at a Morgan Williams supermarket on East 23rd Street. Yesterday, he and his fiancée, Christine Schultz, who is in a wheelchair, shared one banana and a cup of coffee bought with the 82 cents left on it.

"They should be refilling it in the next three or four days," Liepnieks says. At times, he admits, he and friends bargain with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. "It can be done. I get $7 back on $10."

Richard Enright, the manager at this Morgan Williams, says the numbers of customers on food stamps has been steady but he expects that to rise soon. "In this location, it's still mostly old people and people who have retired from city jobs on stamps," he says. Food stamp money was designed to supplement what people could buy rather than covering all the costs of a family's groceries. But the problem now, Mr Enright says, is that soaring prices are squeezing the value of the benefits.

"Last St Patrick's Day, we were selling Irish soda bread for $1.99. This year it was $2.99. Prices are just spiralling up, because of the cost of gas trucking the food into the city and because of commodity prices. People complain, but I tell them it's not my fault everything is more expensive."

The US Department of Agriculture says the cost of feeding a low-income family of four has risen 6 per cent in 12 months. "The amount of food stamps per household hasn't gone up with the food costs," says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. "Our clients are finding they aren't able to purchase food like they used to."

And the next monthly job numbers, to be released this Friday, are likely to show 50,000 more jobs were lost nationwide in March, and the unemployment rate is up to perhaps 5 per cent.

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