Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Iranian Assassination Plot Thwarted in Singapore

A plot to assassinate [Israeli] Defense Minister Ehud Barak was foiled by Singaporean authorities in cooperation with the Mossad, during his visit to the island country earlier this week, according to a Kuwaiti newspaper report.

The report in Al Jarida, claimed that three members of a Hezbollah-Iranian terror cell were arrested by Singapore’s security agencies.
(H/t Instapundit).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Down and Out for Awhile

I've been hit hard by some sort of flu bug this weekend, so I probably won't be posting for a few days. My apologies to all of you, and I hope to back to blogging after that.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Storing Eggs Without Refrigeration

 Source: Wikimedia

One of my concerns with food storage is storing eggs because of the number of food items that use eggs in their preparation. However, this article at Family Survival Planning indicates that eggs can be stored for extended periods of time without refrigeration, as long as they are coated with mineral oil and stored in a cool location.
Egg producing companies are required by the USDA to wash the eggs, therefore washing off the bloom. So when you buy eggs from the store you will know the bloom has been washed off. Coating them lightly (but completely) with mineral oil is like replacing the bloom.

Here's how to prepare eggs for storage:
Put on some food handling gloves (because mineral oil is a petroleum product and you don't want to absorb it into your body). Slightly warm about 1/4 cup of mineral oil. Take all the eggs out of the carton (or you won't be able to get them out with oily hands). Rub each egg with mineral oil and put them back into the carton small pointed side down.

Store egg cartons in a cool place (68 degrees or less is fine) and they will last for months. If stored at room temperature, only store them for a couple of weeks.

Write yourself a note to remember to flip the cartons (gently) about once a month to maintain the integrity of the yolks.

You may get a bad egg now and then but don't worry about eating bad eggs. You will know when an egg is bad - it will have a sulfur smell that your nose will not miss.

Another way to tell if your eggs are bad is to float them in water. The older the egg, the more it will float - about half way out of the water.

Be sure to date the stored cartons of eggs and rotate them to use the oldest first.
The article notes that eggs, cheese and butter are commonly stored without refrigeration in other countries.

China's Domestic Spending

(A cross-post from the Docent's Memo)

An article from the China Daily discusses surveys on spending and consumption by Chinese women. The first thing that caught my attention was the large amount of money that went into investments and savings--nearly 40% of income, according to the article. The other point that caught my attention was this:
About seven out of 10 families invested in 2011, with Chengdu ranking first, followed by Guangzhou and Ningbo. The most popular investments were stocks, real estate, banking products, funds and commercial insurance.

But only 13.5 percent made a profit on their investment, 33.7 percent broke even and nearly 30 percent lost money. 
The article gave this example:
Lin Lang, who owns a wedding gown studio in Beijing, bought banking investment products and commercial insurance last year. But neither yielded returns in excess of the inflation rate.

To her disappointment, the market value of one of her properties in Beijing's Central Business District fell below what she paid for it in 2010.

"Stocks are risky. Gold might be an option," she said. "But I guess the best investment is to avoid spending and make more money from our real business."
The article further reported:
Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think tank of the Ministry of Commerce, said female spending had assumed a leading role in lifting domestic consumption.

Promoting domestic consumption is a government priority to spur economic growth as the export outlook dims amid slack demand from Europe and the US.
Another article, on China's oil exploration plans, stated:
China's crude oil demand rose 2.7 percent in 2011, while natural gas use rose 12 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which didn't give absolute volumes.
As has been noted in earlier posts and articles that I've linked to, China's official growth statistics are smoke and mirrors, and it often requires a peak at underlying statistics and information to get a feel for how China is really doing. For an economy that was white hot just a few years ago, anecdotes and statistics like that above don't paint a very rosy picture. The interesting thing to me is that, culturally, China is a nation of savers. But according to the information above, the savers are slowly losing their savings. Roughly a third lost money, and another third only broke even. "Broke even" doesn't sound like they beat inflation. Even for those that "made a profit," how profitable was it? If this continues, we can expect to see a significant shift in China's domestic investment/savings with people trying to pull their money out of investments such as stocks and real estate, and shift them to gold and silver (or move the money out of the country), which may trigger a sudden decline in stock and real estate prices.

With that in mind, you may want to read this article entitled "The End of the Chinese Century." The author writes:
Most people still assume that the 21st century will belong to China, which is projected to soon become the world’s largest economy. The International Monetary Fund, for instance, believes China will take over the top spot from the US by 2016.

Yet the country’s fate seems to be shifting rapidly. Since the IMF made that bold-sounding prediction in April last year, the Chinese economy has stalled. It began to stumble in September, and by December the signs of flat-lining growth were unmistakable: stagnant car sales, declining electricity consumption, plunging industrial orders and slowing exports. Container throughput has been flat, and air cargo has plunged.

The deterioration has been as rapid as it was unexpected. In short, after 35 years of virtually uninterrupted growth, the wheels are coming off the Chinese economy.

It is not hard to see why. To avoid the worst effects of the 2008 global downturn, Beijing applied too much stimulus.

In 2009 alone, Chinese technocrats and their state-owned banks pumped about US$1.1 trillion into a US$4.3 trillion economy. The maneuver added to GDP, but it also triggered stock and property market bubbles and runaway inflation.

The stock market boom of 2009 began to unwind in 2010. Beijing avoided the worst effects of that, but it has yet to deal with the other dislocations.

Inflation, in all probability, is still running at twice the official rate. And while inflation is cooling fast, that decline indicates an economy in distress.

Meanwhile, property prices are collapsing – developers are offering double-digit discounts in many coastal cities. That trend could create a negative wealth effect, ravage bank balance sheets and decimate revenues of local governments.
And China has expended about all of its tools for averting an economic meltdown:
If monetary tools prove ineffective, Beijing’s only real option will be direct spending – what some call “tidal wave investing.” The biggest risk for the economy this year is that this stimulus spending fails.

First, China has already built its “ghost cities” and other unviable projects. Second, prior spending has burdened banks and local governments. In 2010, for instance, about 85% of Liaoning province’s 184 financing companies (de facto government agencies) defaulted on debt service payments. The world has already seen the Japanese try spending their way out of a bubble and debt crisis – and we know how well that worked out.

Third, China’s once-in-a-decade political transition, which formally begins in the fall and continues for perhaps two years, looks like it is already undermining efforts to revive the economy. In 2008, the central government acted quickly and decisively to forestall economic crisis. This time, however, political paralysis in Beijing means that officials can adopt only modest steps that seem inadequate in light of the evident severity of the downturn.

Finally, there is growing pessimism among Chinese people that Beijing can turn the economy around. Perhaps the worst sign is that the rich are illegally transferring funds out of the country. As a result, Beijing’s foreign reserves are now decreasing every day, according to some reports. The Chinese obviously sense that the end of their economic miracle is near.
The author may be overly pessimistic, but, as I stated, I would expect that the Chinese people will soon be starting to pull their money out of investments and savings en masse.

Ol' Remus on Guns

Ol' Remus as The Woodpile Report has some thoughts on guns (link here). Since he does not maintain an archive, I am reproducing the portion on guns, but would encourage you to check out his other items and links.
Guns are like sex, every generation thinks it all began with them. Greybeards stroke their walnut stocks and glass-bedded barrels and quote W.D.M. Bell and Townsend Whelen. Newbies are dazzled by Star Wars props wrapped around cartridges older than their parents and believe, deeply and sincerely, that looks can kill or at least ought to. Picatinny-mounted "tactical" cup holders can't be far off. Enthusiasts speak of guns in terms of received truthettes, say, ballistic coefficients or pressure profiles and the like, as if it were a kozmik kalling to proselytize among their fellows with no apparent benefit to either. Gun haters ask us to be shocked that firearms are "allowed" to the citizenry and intimate they appeared during the Kennedy administration as some reversible misstep, like tail fins on cars.

Demographics is a reliable indicator of preference. Those who came of age after World War II when the place was awash in surplus Garands and Mausers stand distinct and different from the following wave which lusted after wildcats so zippy the bullets were in danger of disintegrating into a blue cloud immediately upon exiting the muzzle. Now we're seeing the adoration of sheer mass, the "bullets as speeding locomotives" school harking back to the 1861 Joslyn or World War I tank busters. The intent seems to crush as much as to penetrate. There's something in this for everybody. Enthusiasts heft those cigar-size rounds and caress those chunky muzzle brakes with moistened eyes and reverent hands. Gun haters are happily re-shocked and demand to know what legitimate use there is for, say, a .50 BMG, knowing full well the legitimate use for any gun is to put a bullet down range. After that it's all opinion and tediously so.

What gun, or guns, should the survivalist rely on? Surprisingly, an incontestable answer can be given for any conceivable circumstance. Problem is there are so many conceivable circumstances. A diseased and starving opponent staggering around with a dodgy .25 auto is a different proposition from a battle-hardened opponent laying down effective fire from 600 yards out. Or, a nice little .22 rimfire may be just the thing for discreetly putting bunnies and squirrels in the pot, but the near presence of bears or feral hogs would argue convincingly for a more comprehensive notion of prudence. Adding a .45 ACP on the hip is one answer, for close-in work anyway, although its reputation isn't uncontested. John George claims, in Shots Fired In Anger, the Thompson's wartime stopping power was inferior even to the M1 Carbine. Well, maybe. On the other hand, we can't pack an RPG as backup and attend to much else.

Choosing a gun adequate "up to" bears and hogs is different from choosing a gun with the certain knowledge one will attack you, that day for sure. Just killing a dangerous predator isn't the benchmark unless it's okay with you if they're dead a couple of minutes after you are. For such occasions Remus finds himself favoring tried-and-true cartridges with large frontal areas and substantial bullet weights, .35 Remington or .444 Marlin or .45 Colt say, all available in handy lever-action rifles. They come pre-expanded right out of the barrel. And what puts down a bear puts down a hog or a feral dog with equal abruptness and finality. Lever-action rifles because they're true woods-cruising guns, entirely usable with iron sights—as they were meant to be given the ballistics. No, you're not going to get a Dall sheep barely visible on yonder mountain. And no, they're not battle rifles although they'd make a credible stand-in. Nor are you likely to resupply from barter or pickups in a post-doomsday world. But used as intended a few hundred rounds would last a young man the rest of his life, and somebody else's too were he a reloader.

Choosing a battle rifle comes down to an AR-15, AR-10 or M1A, or the FAL, AK-47 et al. Ol' Remus invites his readers to talk among themselves on this one. Whatever the consensus, he agrees. Next.

Choosing a hunting gun is the critical problem for the survivalist. He may not see a large predator in his lifetime nor ever get into a shootout with the Unruly Horde, especially if he practices avoidance over confrontation. But he will get hungry. Every day. And unless he plans to employ gun bearers, versatility is a must. For instance, he may be drifting towards his squirrel hotspot and put up a rabbit, or catch a turkey or a deer in a compromising situation. One answer is the combination gun, a rifle-plus-shotgun in one. Not a terrible choice but they are single-shot and, because they're two guns in one, unavoidably heavy. Many use the anemic .410 shotgun, sacrificing effectiveness for weight reduction. Whichever barrel is used, the other is an anchor along for the ride. And, just an opinion, they're the embodiment of unlovable, in the same class as flying automobiles. Remus prefers the shotgun alone.

A near miss with a rifle is still a miss, but the same point of impact with a shotgun puts game in the bag. It takes a better than average shooter to hit running game with a rifle, and an extraordinary rifleman to pull off a wing shot, but a so-so shotgunner will get 'em both with satisfying regularity. There's typically less meat damage with a shotgun than from a small game rifle, especially the .17 and .22 magnums. The tradeoff is range. Luck has taken over at 60 yards or so with field loads. But range is also what differentiates the small game shooter from the small game hunter. The would-be survivalist is well advised to become the latter in any case.

Remus has come to prefer the 20 gage over the 12 gage. With today's powder and shot technology a 20 gage is a near equivalent to the 12 gage of not long ago. A loaded 20 gage is a lighter carry and quicker to point than a loaded 12 gage, and has considerably less recoil, not contemptible attributes, and also extend its utility to the younger or smaller members of a group. A pocketful of 20 gage ammo counts up to more rounds than a twelve, something to consider should a hunting foray become exceptionally productive or a particular load be advantageous. Should things turn ugly, a 20 gage deer slug at short-medium range is the functional equivalent to a very powerful rifle, and accurate enough even with a general purpose barrel. And alternate loading of heavy buckshot and slugs is as lethal as it gets. By way of endorsement, African guides reach for their shotgun should dangerous game be wounded and escape into the bush.

Other members of a hunting party may carry a .22 rimfire, effective for small game out to eighty yards or so even in the hands of merely average shooters, in part because a dialed-in .22 rifle is a joy to use and repays the confidence of its user. Remus prefers "globe front and peep rear" sights but he keeps a fixed four-power scope handy should sport hunting turn to survival hunting.

Variants have their place. The .17 and .22 magnum rimfires are generally too destructive for small game but may make sense where sight lanes are longer than in the wooded hills of Appalachia, the .22 WMR particularly if game commonly runs to larger body mass. The .22 WMR is a valid choice, if not the first choice, for coyotes or feral dogs, garden-raiding woodchucks and similar varmints. It's said to reliably take down deer with a well-placed shot. There are candidates other than the .22 rimfires. Remus knows an accomplished small game hunter who favors the reloadable .25-20 for instance. .22 caliber airguns have much to recommend them, especially where noise is a liability, but beware, they're far from silent.

These are questions to be taken seriously. There seems no good way forward from the current crisis, in fact, many indicators suggest a precipitous worsening is at hand. It's at least plausible we're close to a time of living many lives by turns: refugee, subsistence farmer, survivalist, combatant, hunter-gatherer, escapee and the like, for any one of the many present causes. We can buy or schmooze our way out of some fixes, but in the end the demands of such a life will sound the real depth of our capacity, material and otherwise.

Our choice of firearms going in may not be our choice coming out, 'experience' being what we have when the occasion for it has passed. In its stead we're wise to be informed by the experience of others. In the main they tell us short and sharp dramas get undue emphasis, more attention is needed for the day to day where we're likeliest to succeed or fail by our preperations, or their inadequacy.

Remus is no gun expert, nor has he any special insight into what's coming, but he believes it's better to observe and estimate than to discount and ignore, and better to act on those estimates than imagine a calamity will affect everybody but him. Finally, it gives him no pleasure to contemplate the epiphaney gun haters have coming, unarmed probably, unskilled and unpracticed certainly. Well, maybe a little pleasure, what with the unjust and unlawful obstacles they've put in the way of honorable folks, and their outrageous lies and insults. Self-deception cures itself when reality takes special notice of it and demands its due. Be sure to remember the gun haters in your prayers.

Iran Ramping Up Uranium Enrichment

Iran has rapidly ramped up production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the last four months, the U.N. nuclear agency said Friday, in a confidential report that feeds concerns about how quickly the Islamic republic could produce an atomic bomb.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also said Iran had failed to give a convincing explanation about a quantity of missing uranium metal. Diplomats say the amount unaccounted for is large enough to be used for experiments in arming a nuclear missile.
It's almost like Iranian leaders are anticipating that they will soon be deprived of their uranium enrichment facilities. If  they can get the West to dither for just a little longer, they may have enough of a stockpile to build several weapons.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Collapse of Maya Civilization May Have Been Result of "Modest" Decline in Rainfall

Archaeologists studying the ancient civilisation centred on present day Mexico and Guatemala claim rainfall reductions of just 25 per cent were enough to cause 'the disintegration of a well-established civilisation'.
* * *
'These reductions amount to only 25 to 40 per cent in annual rainfall. But they were large enough for evaporation to become dominant over rainfall, and open water availability was rapidly reduced.

The data suggest that the main cause was a decrease in summer storm activity.'

The study combined records of past climate changes from stalagmites and shallow lakes to model 40 per cent reductions in summer rainfall and reduced tropical storm activity over the region.

Professor Medina-Elizalde added: 'For more than a century, researchers have related the demise of the Classic Maya civilisation to climate change, and especially to drought.

No sound estimates had been made about the severity of this drought, but some have suggested extreme scenarios.

'New data made it possible to finally get detailed estimates. To do this, we developed a model that coherently explains changes in critical datasets of change in the region's balance between evaporation and rainfall.'

Professor Rohling explained such modest rainfall reductions would have caused the disintegration of a well-established civilisation.

'Summer was the main season for cultivation and replenishment of Mayan freshwater storage systems and there are no rivers in the Yucatan lowlands.

Societal disruptions and abandonment of cities are likely consequences of critical water shortages, especially because there seems to have been a rapid repetition of multi-year droughts,' he said.

The Yellowstone Supervolcano

An article at Before It's News website on the Yellowstone supervolcano and what would happen if it exploded. It notes:
That volcano has shown all the signs of becoming active: parts of the ground have heated to just under 1,000⁰ F while the earth is bulging from a building lava dome and a lake has completely boiled away.

Just two years ago many geophysicists assured everyone, including the federal government, that there really wasn't anything to worry about. Really.

Now those same scientists have shut up. If they talk at all to curious reporters they respond only in clipped monotones and then hurry away.

What are they worried about? Approaching Doomsday.

Will Germany Balk at a Greece Bailout?

“European solidarity is not an end in itself and should not be a one-way street. Germany’s engagement has reached it limits,” said the text, drafted by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and Free Democrat (FDP) allies.

“Germany itself faces strict austerity to comply with the national debt brake,” said the declaration, which will go to the Bundestag next week. Lawmakers said there is no scope to boost the EU’s “firewall” to €750bn, either by increasing the new European Stability Mechanism (ESM) or by running it together with the old bail-out fund (EFSF).

The tough stance reflects popular disgust in Germany at escalating demands. Bowing to pressure, Chancellor Merkel’s office said an increase in the ESM was “not necessary” since Italian and Spanish bond markets have recovered.

Germany is now on a collision course with world powers, the IMF and even key allies in Europe’s AAA-core. The Netherlands and Finland are willing to boost the EU firewall to €750bn.

The IMF has hinted it may cut its share of Greece’s €130bn (£110bn) package and warned that its members will not commit $500bn (£318bn) more in funds to ringfence Italy and Spain unless Europe beefs up its rescue scheme.
It's like a game of chicken.

"Anonymous" Hackers Could Attack U.S. Power Grid

The director of the National Security Agency warned that the hacking group Anonymous could have the ability within the next year or two to bring about a limited power outage in the US through a cyber attack.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the agency's director, provided his assessment in meetings at the White House and in other private sessions, according to people familiar with the gatherings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The PIGS Are Not Happy


The $172 billion Greek bailout package hammered out in Brussels Tuesday averts a looming Greek default and, its architects hope, will ward off dangerous financial consequences for neighbors.

The sheer size of the bailout and a promised debt write-off of roughly 100 billion euros ($132 billion) represents a more favorable outcome than Greek officials expected. But the bailout comes with rigorous budget cuts demanded by northern European states and other requirements that represent an unprecedented amount of European Union control over a sovereign member.
"We have been learning for years how to share sovereignty in Europe," says Loukas Tsoukalis of the University of Athens and head of the think tank Eliamep, which deals with European and foreign policy. "With the crisis, we are all being asked to take some difficult steps further. It is uncharted territory. If you are a country on the verge of default, such as Greece, sovereignty and economic survival may create awkward tradeoffs."
* * *

Yet with strikes planned in Athens today and public opinion on spending cuts ranging from resignation to fury it's unclear whether the Balkan state can deliver on its promises and restore the kind of economic growth needed to meet its budget targets.

"There's a serious contradiction among the people," says Charalambous Tsardanidis, director of International Economic Relations in Athens. "Greeks accept and insist on staying in the eurozone. They don't want a return to the drachma. All polls show this. But with the same majority, we don't see the austerity programs as an answer. After all the austerity, we still don't see an answer. We need to see development, jobs, building highways -- but that's not what the bailout deal is concerned with."Greek unemployment is 20 percent, citizens have lost a quarter of their income in the past four years, and removed an estimated 60 billion euros from local banks, fearing their collapse.
The Spanish aren't too happy about the imposed austerity measures either:
After four days of daily protests, some violently dispersed, Spain is bracing for a cycle of social unrest against the harshest austerity measures in decades. At stake is not only Spain’s economic recovery, but that of the European Union.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party, pled yesterday for calm and sacrifice after hundreds of thousands marched against his labor reform on Feb. 19. He insisted he has no intention of backtracking on steep budget cuts that have only begun to be introduced. Even on the campaign trail, Rajoy warned of pain to come – and his party was still elected.

But while Spanish and European authorities say budget cuts are necessary, experts warn the Spanish measures could be too much, too fast. A population already on edge could be galvanized to action. Social instability in a country the size of Spain, especially in rejection of European Union-imposed policies, could spread to other countries in the eurozone facing angry publics.

“The government’s legitimacy could soon be questioned on the street," says Jaime Pastor, professor of political science and an expert on mass mobilizations at UNED, a university. “The ghost of Spain turning into the next Greece is still there. If the trend is for Spain to follow that model, the European crisis is going to get worse."
They will soon be looking for a strong leader to ride in on his white horse and save the day.


(Note: cross-posted from my other blog).

Gasoline Thieves and an Oil Driven Recession


I came across this article about an attempted gasoline heist while reading a different article about increased gasoline prices (h/t Instapundit).
Hillsborough County [Florida] Sheriff’s officials say several suspects parked a van over the in-ground fuel tanks at a BP gas station near Tampa early Tuesday and began siphoning gasoline into the vehicle.

Deputies say the suspects abandoned the van — with several hundred gallons of gasoline inside — sometime after 1:10 a.m. Tuesday. They say about 25 gallons of gas spilled into the parking lot.
We are going to see a lot more of this as gas prices peak this summer.

The article on gas prices is also interesting. It relates that in some areas of Florida, consumers are already paying nearly $6 per gallon for gasoline, even though the state average is $3.67. Moreover:
“It doesn’t look like we will have relief at the pump anytime soon,” Brady told CBS Tampa. “I do think we will see prices surpass $4 a gallon. I think we will see that closer to spring time.”

One reason for the high prices is the conflict with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the waterway due to the European Union sanctions leveled against the country over its nuclear program, causing the price of crude to skyrocket. Trading on a barrel of crude today is a little over $106.

Another reason for the high gas prices: positive economic news. The drop in the unemployment rate and improved housing market numbers have caused gas and oil prices to rise.

“I know it frustrates quite a few consumers why positive news will lead to higher prices,” Brady told CBS Tampa. “It really just comes down to speculation.”

A third culprit behind the gas price boom is Greece. The EU’s bailout for the indebted country only adds to the global fuel demand.

And because of these reasons, Brady believes that Florida and the rest of the U.S. could see historic gas prices.

“I think this year we will see much higher highs.”

Believe it or not, those prices aren’t the highest in the nation. According to GasBuddy.com, motorists in Alaska are paying a whopping $6.34 for a gallon of regular at some gas stations. The cheapest gas can be found in Wyoming at $2.75 a gallon.
Obama wanted higher energy prices and is probably dancing a jig over this type of report. This may ultimately be bad news for Obama, though. The fact of the matter is that the current recession and financial woes began because of a prolonged shock to the economy due to high oil prices before the housing collapse. As this article notes:
The initial contention was that the primary reasons for the recession that hit the country in 2008 was the downfall of the financial services market and the housing market. More and more financial experts came forward with another, more accurate reason for the financial crash. The reason put forward and accepted widely was that the market financial crash was caused by the high oil price rise which shot to an all time high of $147 per barrel in the year 2008.
Although the economy has adapted, to a certain extent, to higher energy costs, a rapid run up in prices will further dampen demand for goods and services, which will ripple across the economy.
The problem here is that we seem to be caught in a vicious circle as far as market crashes and high oil prices are concerned with both of them aiding and abetting each other. A higher oil price increases the trade deficit of the US. This increased export bill leads to a weaker state of the dollar currency. A weak dollar in turn pulls up the international prices of dollar denominated commodities. This allows the oil prices to increase further leading to exorbitantly higher oil prices. A market crash for the US then becomes inevitable.

So, if gas prices jump as expected this summer, expect the economy to take a beating ... just before the elections.

The Combination Gun--A Modern Take

You are undoubtedly aware of combination guns--those firearms that offer a combination of rifle and shotgun in the same package. In the United States at least, these generally feature a .22 LR barrel over a .410 shotgun barrel. The U.S. Army is adopting its own combination weapon system--the M26 Shotgun. (H/t the Firearms Blog):


It weighs 3.5 pounds, has a barrel length of 7.75 inches, fires 12-gauge shells and can be mounted on the M4 carbine or act as a stand alone firearm; it is the M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is the first unit in the Army to be issued the combat enhancer.

“This is a new capability that is now in your hands for you to conduct your mission downrange,” said Col. Scott C. Armstrong, with Project Manager Soldier Weapons, during a presentation ceremony held at Fort Campbell’s Strike Academy, February 7th. “This is a big day, not just for the 2nd Brigade, but for the Army.”
* * *
“I can see this being very effective with the engineers for breaching and with the military police, especially since you can shoot ammunition that is non lethal,” said Sgt. Rhys McMahon, a combat engineer with Company A. “So far this is an amazing weapon; I’ve shot about 75 rounds and it works magnificently. This would have helped us out quite a few times when we were in Afghanistan.”
(Full story here).

As noted, it can also be used independent of the rail mount, as seen in this photo:


It would require an SBR license/stamp, but would be an interesting accessory for an AR.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recipe for Homemade Lip-Balm

At the Paratus Familia blog.

Greece is Still Doomed

Notwithstanding the almost deal arrived at today (it still needs approval from bondholders and, due to upcoming elections, the Greek electorate), Greece is doomed. From The Atlantic:
Greece has finally secured a new $170 billion loan from its European landlords, and the terms are just as unrealistic and doomed-to-fail as you expected. The fact that the country requires a second bailout that's practically the size of its economy -- now crashing through $270 billion and still falling* -- tells you what you need to know about the hopelessness of Greece.

* * *

This plan won't work for the same reason that no austerity and loan plan can work for Athens. Greece's private sector is in a free fall. Unemployment is cresting over 20 percent. Ideally, the government should act as the stabilizer of last resort, and the central bank should flood the country with money to avoid deflation and make exports more competitive. Instead, the opposite is happening. Government spending is down a whopping 34%, and Athens doesn't own the keys to the money-flood machine. The result is turning into one of the worst recessions for a developed country in modern history.

* * *

"Greece is totally gone," Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute once put it to me. "It's just a matter of time until they have a disorderly default." So why this foot-dragging, can-kicking exercise in futility?

Kicking the can down the road is normally considered idle procrastination. This is different. This is deliberate procrastination. If Greece falls today, nobody knows what kind of economic domino effect it will have on other debtors like Portugal, Italy, and Spain, or the rest of the Europe. Europe has selected the muddle-through and draw-random-recovery-lines option. The honest and inevitable choice -- a wild default or even Greece's departure from the EU -- is impossible for euro ministers to imagine suffering through, for today. Meanwhile, Greece suffers.
Check out the graph on unemployment for those under 25 (which is now approaching 50%) and how much the Greek economy must immediately turn around.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grocery Store Lettuce versus Dandelions

An article at Essential Bread blog discussing the nutritional advantage of dandelion greens over lettuce.

Interview with Bear Grylls...

...at Backpacker magazine.

Greece--A Country in Decay

Greece has stumbled off a cliff:
Athenians now live in a city where physical decay mirrors social malaise: traffic lights have broken down across the capital, either because demonstrators have smashed them or the state, which is sacking thousands of personnel, no longer troubles to fix them. City thoroughfares are stained with graffiti, shops are boarded-up and Stadiou street, scene of the last big protests, is lined with the blackened shells of burnt-out buildings.

Meanwhile, a pack of stray dogs roams the street beside the Parthenon, snarling at passers-by and running in demented pursuit of motorcyclists. Greece had endured five consecutive years of recession even before the looming onset of this new round of deflation. Unemployment for those aged under 25 already stands at 48 per cent, having risen by more than a third since November 2010. Perhaps most stark of all is a national suicide rate that has doubled from 2.8 per 100,000 people in 2008, to about 6 last year.
* * *
Half of all small businesses in Greece are unable to meet their payroll costs, while a quarter of companies have gone bankrupt since 2009. Greeks have shown how little they trust their banks by emptying their accounts and stashing savings under metaphorical mattresses: about a third of the money on deposit has been withdrawn.

Increasing Number of Antibiotic Resistant Diseases

Britain is facing a "massive" rise in antibiotic-resistant blood poisoning caused by the bacterium E.coli – bringing closer the spectre of diseases that are impossible to treat.

Experts say the growth of antibiotic resistance now poses as great a threat to global health as the emergence of new diseases such as Aids and pandemic flu.
Other diseases are increasingly becoming drug resistant as well, such as gonorrhea (see also here), and tuberculosis. This article notes:
Dr. Trevor Van Schooneveld, an assistant professor of infectious disease at UNMC, said American scientists began seeing highly resistant bacteria strains in large quantities in the 1990s. But Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, warned some 65 years ago that bacteria would become resistant to antibiotics, Van Schooneveld said.

Antibiotics still work well against some illnesses, such as strep throat. But bacteria that cause gonorrhea, skin infections such as MRSA and some urinary tract infections are growing tougher to defeat with antibiotics.

Creighton’s Wilson said drug-resistant bacteria are of even greater concern because there aren’t many new antibiotics being created now.
In addition to the article previously cited, this article also discusses the issues with drug-resistant TB:
On the heels of the news of totally drug-resistant (TDR) TB being identified in India — and disavowed, unfortunately, by the Indian government — the World Health Organization has released an update on the background situation of drug-resistant TB around the world.

The news is not good. Drug-resistant TB is at the highest rates ever recorded.
* * *
By agreed-up international definitions, MDR (multi-drug resistant) TB is unaffected by the first-line drugs, and XDR (extensively drug-resistant) TB is not susceptible to any of the first-line drugs and some of the second-line ones also. In addition, doctors who have seen TDR cases (which was originally dubbed XXDR for “extremely” drug-resistant) say those strains are resistant to every drug they have available locally — but the WHO has objected to that terminology, pointing out that “everything available locally” is not necessarily the same thing as “every drug available anywhere.”

This new WHO report is primarily concerned with MDR and XDR. It says that MDR-TB has now been identified in 80 countries; XDR TB has been found in 77. The meat of the report, though, is in these numbers; overall:
19.8 percent of MDR patients were previously treated for TB.
3.4 percent were never treated for TB before.
9.4 percent of all resistant cases are XDR.

Here’s what is going on there. MDR in a previously treated patient represents a failure of treatment: They did not take their drugs, were not able to get drugs, or got counterfeit drugs; their TB strain was not knocked out, but persisted and strengthened. But MDR in a first-time patient represents transmission of MDR-TB from someone who developed it. Those patients never get a chance to try the easier drugs. And XDR in any patient, whether newly acquired or bred via poor treatment, is an emergency.

Within the report, some of the numbers are staggering. The proportion of previously treated cases that become MDR is 51 percent in Belarus, 60 percent in Lithuania, 65 percent in Moldova. In China, 26 percent of previously treated TB cases are now MDR. In Estonia, 19 percent of all MDR cases are now XDR. Meanwhile, India and Russia, two of the biggest contributors to resistant TB because of their size and the state of their healthcare systems, report resistant cases only on a local level, not nationally. And most of Africa lacks the infrastructure to measure resistant TB at all.
There is some hope, however. As this article reports:
A Chilean avocado may contain the secret to fighting aggressive, antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals all over the world.

A natural substance found in the Chilean rainforest fruit blocks yellow staphylococci bacteria's ability to reject antibiotics.

These specific bacteria are the most common cause of infection in wounds from an operation.

They develop a resistance particularly quickly - strains that do not respond to treatment have already been found in the USA and Greece.

PhD student Jes Gitz Holler, from the University of Copenhagen, worked with the Mapuche people in Chile to make the discovery.

He said: 'I have discovered a natural substance in a Chilean avocado plant that is active in combination treatment with traditional antibiotics.

'Resistant bacteria have an efflux pump in their bacterial membrane that efficiently pumps out antibiotics as soon as they have gained access.

'I have identified a natural substance that inhibits the pumping action, so that the bacteria's defence mechanisms are broken down and the antibiotic treatment allowed to work,' explains Jes Gitz Holler.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Storing Water

The importance of storing water cannot be understated. Water systems and wells may be compromised in a disaster. An earthquake may break water mains. Floods and tsunamis may cause water systems or wells to become contaminated with sewage or other contaminants. Almost any natural disaster could result in the loss of power to pumping stations needed in municipal water systems. It may be days or weeks before safe water may be available. Even a financial crises or disaster may lead to rolling blackouts with the concomitant interruption of water service. Thus, a disaster preparation plan should include water storage for at least three days and, if possible, for a couple weeks or more; and the means for purifying and/or filtering additional water.

Information Sources

There are many sources of information on locating, purifying, and storing water, including the web-sites for FEMA and the Red Cross. There are also several survival and disaster preparation books that discuss the subject. However, hands-down, the best and most complete information on the subject is probably Cody Lundin's book, When All Hell Breaks Loose. Lundin devotes 70 pages of his book just to this subject. 

How Much Water Do You Need?

FEMA recommends:
You should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. A normally active person needs at least one gallon of water daily just for drinking however individual needs vary, depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate.
To determine your water needs, take the following into account:
  • One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water.
  • A medical emergency might require additional water.
  • If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary. In very hot temperatures, water needs can double.
  • Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.
Besides the fact that the recommendation is self-contradictory (it first says you need a gallon a day for drinking, but only recommends you store a gallon per day for drinking and sanitation), Cody Lundin notes that this amount is woefully inadequate. He writes:
A person at rest, doing nothing, loses from two to two and half quarts of water every day. If your home is located in a hot part of the country, be forewarned that you and your family will much more water than this.  ... In extreme hot temperatures, it's possible to lose a gallon of water an hour in sweat.
He notes that the average American uses 116 to 220 gallons of water per day (although, most of this is for watering lawns and flushing toilets), but that the average African family only uses five gallons per day (I presume that this is per person).

Lundin recommends storing a minimum of 1 gallon per person per day just for drinking, and at least three gallons per person per day in arid climates. I think the five gallons per person per day is probably a reasonable starting figure for drinking and sanitation needs.

The next question is for how many days you should plan for. I think 3-days is too little of time, but it represents the minimum you should probably consider--essentially a bare minimum time to allow rescue workers to arrive or power to be restored. However, in the event of a real disaster, two weeks is more realistic. For instance, this article indicates that following Hurricane Katrina, 10% of the survivors were without water for 6 days or more. Boston T. Party states in his book, Surviving Doomsday, that because of sewage contamination of filtration plants after floods in 1993, some residents of Des Moines, Iowa, were without water for 30 days.

Lundin recommends two weeks, and 3 or 4 weeks if possible. After this, if regular water service has not been restored, you will need to figure out how to get more water.

How to Store the Water

The best method of storing water is probably going to vary according to circumstances and your needs. Obviously, a multi-thousand gallon tank or cistern would be ideal if you could afford it and had room for it. However, this is probably not going to be realistic for most people.

Although Cody Lundin and other experts describe various types of containers for storing water, for most people there are only a few realistic options. These are forced by a few constraints: (i) the container must be sealed and able to safely store the water for an extended period of time, which will generally require a food-grade plastic container; (ii) the container(s) must be inexpensive enough that you can afford to get the requisite number of containers; and (iii) you must be able to store the containers in the available space.

The two most commonly used methods for accomplishing this are large (55 gallon) plastic drums and plastic 2-liter soda bottles. If you have a water cooler, you may also want to consider using the 5 gallon water bottles commonly used for the coolers as this gives an easy method for dispensing water. Do not use old plastic milk jugs or juice bottles.

Water drums are available as either opaque (blue) or non-opaque (white). Opaque drums are generally recommended because it inhibits the growth of algae. However, if you keep your water storage in dark place, such as a basement, or rotate your water every 6 months or so, this probably won't be an issue. Non-opaque (white) water drums are commonly used in the food industry, and you can sometimes pick up used ones from places such as soft-drink distributors. If you decide to use a 55-gallon drum, make sure that you also get a siphon pump so you can get the water out.

The biggest disadvantage of the 55 gallon water drum is the weight.  Filled up, they will weigh over 450 lbs. This means that (i) you won't be able to easily move it once its filled, so fill it where you intend to use it; and (ii) the flooring must be able to support the weight, which typically will require a concrete floor. If you store your container over a concrete floor, you must use a pallet or boards to get the container up off of the concrete. Contact with concrete can cause chemicals to leach into the container and water, as well as degrade the plastic.

I would note at this point that I've also seen smaller capacity water containers that are triangular so they can sit into a corner. If you are short on space, but have a floor that can carry the weight, this may be an option.

Two-liter bottles are ubiquitous, tough, "food-grade," and easily stored in cabinets, on shelves, under beds, etc. Just be sure that the cabinets or shelves can hold the weight, and periodically check for leaking.

Prepping the Containers

The I Will Prepare blog recommends a couple of methods for cleaning the drums:
Used water barrels often come pre-sanitized. To be on the safe side, you should clean your own.

Using dish soap can be a big mistake. You will be filling and refilling the barrel dozens of times trying to get rid of all the bubbles.

Try this method:

Fill the barrel 1/4 full of water. Add a box of baking soda and a 1/2 gallon of vinegar.

Close the bung caps. The resulting foaming action will clean the toughest mold or algae growth inside (If there is any). Turn the barrel on its side an let the kids roll it around the backyard for a while. Have a barrel that has been sitting empty for a long time or just needs extra cleaning? Let the Water/Baking Soda /Vinegar solution sit overnight. Rotate it a couple times so all sides get cleaned….including upside down to clean the underside of the lid. Empty the contents and rinse a couple times with water to remove the Water/Baking Soda /Vinegar solution. Fill as outlined below.

Another Method:

Fill the barrel 1/4 full of water. Add cup of bleach

Close the bung caps. The bleach water solution will kill anything growing inside the barrel (If there is any). Turn the barrel on its side an let the kids roll it around the backyard for a while. Have a barrel that has been sitting empty for a long time or just needs extra cleaning? Let the Water/Bleach solution sit overnight. Rotate it a couple times so all sides get cleaned….including upside down to clean the underside of the lid. Empty the contents and rinse a few times with water to remove the Water/Bleach solution until the inside of the barrel no longer has a strong bleach smell. Fill as outlined below.
Two-liter bottles are easier. Note: FEMA recommends that you only use two-liter bottles that have been used for soda-pop, and not those used for juices or other drinks. Simply rinse out the bottle and cap when you are done and fill immediately, or let air dry.

Filling the Water Containers

Only use tap (i.e., potable) water to fill your containers. The 2-liter bottles can be filled from your kitchen tap, but you will need to use a hose to fill the water drums. However, the I Will Prepare blog warns about using standard garden hoses:
Most garden hoses are now made with recycled materials and now carry a tag similar to the following:
WARNING: "This hose is NOT intended for drinking water use. This product contains chemicals, including Lead, known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after use".
In the sun, the chemicals in the hose can leach into the water still left in the hose . Smaller amounts could leach into the running water as it passes through the hose. You may want to consider an alternative hose when filling your water barrels for drinking purposes.
She recommends using a new PVC recoil hose, an RV/Marine drinking water safe hose, or a flat garden hose with new materials. Only use this hose for filling the water drums and store it carefully away.

As noted above, the drums will be over 450 lbs when full, and so you will need to fill them in their final location and position.

Disinfecting the Water

If you are filling your drums or water containers using water from a chlorinated municipal water supply, it should not need any additional treatment prior to storage. (See here). 

If you are using a clean water source, but it is not chlorinated, Lundin gives the following information from the water superintendent of Prescott, Arizona, for chlorinating safe water: 1/3 cup (2 and 1/2 oz, or 14-1/2 teaspoons) of chlorine bleach for 1000 gallons of water. The Church web-site indicates:
Non-chlorinated water should be treated with bleach. Add 8 drops of liquid household chlorine bleach (5 to 6% sodium hypochlorite) for every 4 liters (one gallon) of water. Only household bleach without thickeners, scents, or additives should be used.
Boston T. Party has suggested using one table-spoon (1/2 oz.) of hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water.
If you are not sure as to the safety of the water, you will need to use enough bleach for emergency disinfection of water. For instance,  Clorox provides the following instructions on their web-site (click on the Outdoors tab):
When boiling off water for 1 minute is not possible in an emergency situation, disinfect water by:
1. Remove suspended particles by filtering or letting particles settle to the bottom. Pour clear water into a clean container.
2. Add 8 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach to one gallon of water (2 drops to 1 quart). For cloudy water, use 16 drops per gallon of water (4 drops to 1 quart).
3. Let treated water to stand for 30 minutes. Water should have a slight bleach odor. If not, repeat and wait another 15 minutes. The treated water can then be made palatable by pouring it between clean containers several times. 
This web-site has lengthier instructions from Clorox:
Boiling Is Best
Short of using a very high-quality water filter, this is the most reliable method for killing microbes and parasites. Bring water to a rolling boil and keep it simmering for at least several minutes. Add one minute of boiling to the initial 10 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level. Cover the pot to shorten boiling time and conserve fuel.

Liquid Clorox Bleach
In an emergency, think of this (one gallon of Regular Clorox Bleach) as 3,800 gallons of drinking water.

When the tap water stops flowing, Regular Clorox Bleach isn't just a laundry-aid, it's a lifesaver. Use it to purify water, and you'll have something to drink.

It's the same in any natural disaster. As the shock wears off and the days wear on, the biggest demand is for drinking water. Time after time, relief crews hand out free Clorox Bleach with simple instructions: use it to kill bacteria in your water and you'll have purified water to drink. Here are the general guidelines.

First let water stand until particles settle. Filter the particles if necessary with layers of cloth, coffee filters, or fine paper towels. Pour the clear water into an uncontaminated container and add Regular Clorox Bleach per the below indicated ratio. Mix well. Wait 30 min. Water should have a slight bleach odor. If not, repeat dose. Wait 15 min. Sniff again. Keep an eyedropper taped to your emergency bottle of Clorox Bleach, since purifying small amounts of water requires only a few drops. Bleach must be fresh for best use and results. See below suggestions for storage bottle replacement.

Don't pour purified water into contaminated containers. Sanitize water jugs first.

Without water and electricity, even everyday tasks are tough. In lieu of steaming hot water, sanitize dishes, pots and utensils with a little Clorox Bleach. Just follow the directions below to keep dishes clean.

Whether you use Clorox Bleach in an emergency or for everyday chores, it's always an environmentally sound choice. After its work is done, Clorox Bleach breaks down to little more than salt and water, which is acceptable anytime.

Ratio of Clorox Bleach to Water for Purification

2 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per quart of water
8 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per gallon of water
1/2 teaspoon Regular Clorox Bleach per five gallons of water
If water is cloudy, double the recommended dosages of Clorox Bleach.

Only use Regular Clorox Bleach (not Fresh Scent or Lemon Fresh). To insure that Clorox Bleach is at its full strength, rotate or replace your storage bottle minimally every three months.

Clorox Bleach Sanitizing Solution

To sanitize containers and utensils, mix 1 tablespoon Regular Clorox Bleach with one gallon of water. Always wash and rinse items first, then let each item soak in Clorox Bleach Sanitizing Solution for 2 minutes. Drain and air dry.
The Federal government has published a fairly comprehensive table for disinfecting various quantities of water, available as a PDF here.

Rotating Water

I would recommend rotating your water supply (i.e., emptying and refilling your containers) every 6 to 12 months.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

100 Skills Every Man Should Know

From Popular Mechanics. I'm not sure about the "should" part for all of them, but definitely would be "nice to know."

Making Homemade Non-Toxic Glass Cleaner

Materials
•    one half cup of white vinegar
•    one half cup of water
•    one half cup of rubbing alcohol
•    one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (which will take about one lemon)
•    Spray bottle
•    Mixing bowl
•    Spoon for mixing
•    Funnel (optional)

Preparation
•    Be sure to use only measuring utensils and bowls that are not used for food preparation and eating.

Procedure
•    Pour all the liquid ingredients together in a bowl. What kind of pH levels do you think all of the ingredients have?
•    Stir this solution for two full minutes. What does it smell like?
•    Pour the solution into your spray bottle (use a funnel if you have one to cut down on spillage).
•    Clean some glass! Just be careful to not get any of the solution in your eyes.
More explanation and discussion of the science aspect at the link, plus a video. Might be a good project for those of you involved in homeschooling your kids.

Rifles for Preppers--Articles from the GSIEP Blog

Getting Started in Emergency Preparedness has posted a couple articles very briefly discussing rifles commonly available to, and purchased by, preppers. The first article discusses common bolt-action mil-surplus rifles. The second article discusses semi-automatic rifles.

When Debt is More Important Than People

The ethics of debt, at least in the officially sanctioned media, boils down to: nobody made them borrow all those euros, and so their suffering is just desserts.

What's lost in this subtext is the responsibility of the lender. Yes, nobody forced Greece to borrow 200 billion euros (or whatever the true total may be), but then nobody forced the lenders to extend the credit in the first place.

Consider an individual who is a visibly poor credit risk. He would like to borrow money to blow on consumption and then stiff the lender, but since he cannot create credit, he has to live within his means.

Now a lender comes along who can create credit out of thin air (via fractional reserve banking) and offers this poor credit risk $100,000 in collateral-free debt at low rates of interest. Who is responsible for the creation and extension of credit? The borrower or the lender? Answer: the lender.

In other words, if the lender is foolish enough to extend huge quantities of credit to a poor credit risk, then it's the lender who should suffer the losses when the borrower defaults.

This is the basis of bankruptcy laws--or used to be the basis. When an over-extended borrower defaults, the debt is cleared, the lender takes the loss/writedown, and the borrower loses whatever collateral was pledged. He is left with the basics to carry on: his auto, clothing, his job, and so on. His credit rating is impaired, and it is now his responsibility to earn back a credible credit rating.

The debt is discharged and the borrower must live within his means without relying on credit. But he is also free of the burdens of servicing the debt.

If the lender is forced into insolvency due to the losses, then so be it: lenders that cannot differentiate between good and bad credit risks should go under and disappear: that's what happens in a competitive, transparent capitalist economy. Fools who create credit and extend it to poor credit risks must be eliminated from the system as quickly as possible lest they destroy more capital in the future.
The author notes, however, that the inability to discharge debt is akin to serfdom (although slavery may be more accurate).
The global banking cartel has declared Greece's debts to be permanent and its people debt-serfs. More precisely, some privately held debt will be written down, but certainly not all of it, and the debt owed to the European Central Bank cannot be written down a single euro: Greece must pay the interest on the full debt, whatever the costs to its people.

We might ask why the fully-financialized Status Quo of financial and political Elites so carefully insures no shadow of ethics passes over the Greek debt crisis: If they did, it would become obvious that when debt becomes more important than people, the system is evil and should be dismantled.

Yes, evil, as in evil empire: the Empire of Debt that now dominates the global economy is intrinsically evil and cannot be salvaged; the only way to rid the planet of its parasitic, pervasive evil is to dismantle it, all of it, everywhere.

Europe is a good place to start. The only way to dismantle the evil Empire of Debt is to stop obeying its commands: Greece should not pay a single euro on any of its debts, starting with debt owed to the Evil Empire of Debt's favorite tool, the Troika of the EU (European Union), the ECB and the IMF.

We are constantly told default and exit from the debtors' prison of the euro would lead to chaos. Unfortunately for the Evil Empire of Debt and its Eurozone army of lackeys, toadies and apparatchiks, this claim is demonstrably false. Thanks to Pater Tenebrarum of the always excellent Acting Man financial blog, we have access to a 53-page report from Variant Perception that completely dismantles the fear-mongering claims of Apocalypse for the Greeks should their government default on its debts.

A Primer on the Euro Breakup: Default, Exit and Devaluation as the Optimal Solution. The only way forward is default and exit from the debtors' prison of the euro.
Time for a jubilee?

Possible Iranian Responses to an Attack

A rather lengthy article at the Small Wars Journal concerning possible Iranian responses to an attack. Bottom line, the author believes that Iran would retaliate with an aim to cause as heavy damages to U.S. forces as possible:
Iran believes through the use of fourth generational warfare, which invokes a heavy toll on the US, Iran could end the hostilities fairly quickly in their favor. “The fourth generation of war uses all available networks-political, economic, social and military to convince the enemy’s political decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly" (ONI, pg10) Fourth generational warfare also targets the population of its adversary not by bombs and missiles, but by psychological means. This is could be done by inflicting a heavy death toll on

US military personnel which would be shown via the 24/7 news coverage we have come to expect.

The question is how would Iran carry out this fourth generational warfare? Being that this war would be carried out by US forces solely through attacks by air and sea, Iran cannot depend on carrying out a low intensity conflict which causes a great amount of casualties over time. This usually occurs only when the adversary has placed ground troops on foreign soil and the occupied country uses the advantage of knowing the terrain and local support to launch attacks at times of their choosing. War with the US would not offer this opportunity, Iran would need to inflict as much damage on the US in a short period of time hoping the US and perhaps its allies would ask for a truce. As mentioned earlier, Iran does have the capability to carry this out and would have too if they wanted any chance to succeed as the war would surely escalate. Iran could of course prevent an escalation by not retaliating, or by doing so covertly at a later date. But based on Iran’s military buildup, rhetoric, and perceptions of the US strategic power in the Middle-East, it would be a stretch to conclude that one, Iran would not immediately retaliate leading to an escalation, and two, Iran would not retaliate with all its might against a far superior force.

It is for these reasons I believe the hypotheses which states: “Iran’s reaction to an attack by the US would be to use all means at its disposal including their large arsenal of missiles, asymmetric warfare, regular forces, and economic/political disruption methods that would cause large amounts of devastation, casualties, economic disruption, and fear; in the hopes that the enemy would lose the support of its citizens and allies, thus forcing them to end the confrontation; Iran would use all means at its disposal to accomplish this goal rather quickly as they would try to avoid an extended conflict” is credible and has a likely chance of occurring if the United States were to commence an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
The author also believes that Iran may target other Gulf states:
The question must be asked again, would Iran attack GCC states if the US attacked Iran? The common perception which is similar to Molavi’s response is this would all depend on what Iran perceives to be the GCC countries complicity to the US attack. The answer based on recent history should be obvious. The Iranians would likely believe, most if not all the GCC states directly or indirectly assisted the US. Why would this be the case? The State Department cables that were obtained and released by Wikileaks shows Saudi Arabia asking the US to “cut of the head of the snake” (Iran) before they are able to obtain nuclear weapons. If there was ever any doubt of Saudi Arabia tolerating an attack on Iran, this was put to rest after the cable leaks.

Secondly, we have seen over the past 18 months a major acquisition of US weapons by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and others throughout the Gulf, the most recent acquisition being bunker busting bombs by the UAE. These countries are purchasing these weapons with only one threat in mind, and that threat is Iran.

If Iran were to launch attacks against these installations, the one that needs to be mentioned according to Afshin Molavi is “Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq Plants” located in Saudi Arabia. With a capacity of producing 7 million barrels per day, the facility is the primary oil processing site for Arabian extra light and Arabian light crude oils. A successful attack on this facility would cause long term damage to Saudi Arabia and its oil production. If Iran were to retaliate according to the hypothesis of this paper, then it is a sure bet they would strike Abqaiq. Furthermore, if the US were preventing Iran from exporting oil, Abqaiq could become a priority target.

But could GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia offset any negative affects Iran has on the oil supply? According to Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia “Saudi Arabia has so much (spare) production capacity- nearly 4 million barrels per day- that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production.” (Tait, pg1) Saudi Arabia also has another option, one which they previously carried out during the first Persian Gulf War. As a precautionary measure before military action commenced in 1990-1991, “the Saudis had stored huge quantities of oil outside the warzone.” (Freedman and Karsh, pg343) There are two points that would need to be addressed before Saudi Arabia repeated history, first we are assuming that Saudi Arabia would be informed of any pending attack and done so in a time frame that allows them to remove a good amount of oil from the Persian Gulf. Secondly and more importantly, if the US were to attack Iran, they would want to do so achieving complete surprise. A major indicator for Iran of a pending US attack would be seeing the Saudis store oil outside the Gulf region. For these reasons, it is unlikely Saudi Arabia would repeat what they did during the lead up to the first Persian Gulf War.

The New Poor In Greece

Spiegel Online has an article about the impact of the financial crises on the middle-class, and the new poor.
Athens has always had a problem with homelessness, like any other major city. But the financial and debt crises have led poverty to slowly but surely grow out of control here. In 2011, there were 20 percent more registered homeless people than the year before. Depending on the season, that number can be as high as 25,000. The soup kitchens in Athens are complaining of record demand, with 15 percent more people in need of free meals.

It's no longer just the "regulars" who are brought blankets and hot meals at night, says Effie Stamatogiannopoulou. She sits in the main offices of Klimaka, brooding over budgets and duty rosters. It was a long day, and like most of those in the over-heated room, the 46-year-old is keeping herself awake with coffee and cigarettes. She shows the day's balance sheet: 102 homeless reported to Klimaka today.

Tales of the 'New Poor'

Many of those belong to what is called the "new poor" here. "It really started about two years ago," Stamatogiannopoulou says. Suddenly, it wasn't just people with psychological problems or drug addictions who were knocking on the organization's red wooden door. "The middle class is increasingly becoming our target group," she says.

The "new poor" includes Lambros Zacharatos, who navigates the streets of Athens with Leonidas Koutikas in the Klimaka van night after night. Until last year, Zacharatos worked as an interior designer, earning up to €4,000 ($5,300) in a good month. "All of the sudden, boom, the crisis was here and 90 percent of the commissions were gone," he says. Zacharatos and two others sleep in a room above the Klimaka offices. The bunkbeds and veneer cabinet are reminiscent of a youth hostel.

Zacharatos says things happened very quickly. He lost his job, had no money to pay for his apartment, and within a few months he was out on the street. "Never in my worst nightmares would I have imagined that I would one day become homeless," he says.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More Photos (and a Video) of the New AK-12


Photos and video at Russia Today (link here). (H/t The Firearm Blog).
Kalashnikov have unveiled the latest incarnation of their iconic assault rifle, the AK-47. The company says new generation firearm called the AK-12 combines reliability with precision, and can be used with one hand.

­The factory which developed the new rifle decided to stick with the classic layout of the AK-47, even though it is a completely new weapon.

The Kalashnikov makers claim its has better range, increased fire dispersion, better ergonomics, usability and a potential for configuration changes.

The new weapon is as reliable as the AK-74, the Izmash factory CEO Maksim Kuzyuk says, but the dynamic characteristics differ significantly. It considerably increases the accuracy of shooting. The rifle is capable of firing in three modes: single shot, three shots and automatic fire mode.

Also, AK-12 is capable of using magazines of various types and capacity.

The basic feature of the new rifle is its modularity. It will serve as a basic platform for designing of over 20 modifications of small-arms weapons of various purpose and calibre.

AK-12’s composition allows operating it single-handedly, and can be converted for left or right handed use.
The rifle can accommodate night vision and Holo-sights, target indicator, or a light grenade launcher.

The AK-12 is undergoing firing tests in extreme conditions which should be completed by the end of the year. The Russian Ministry of Interior has already agreed to test the AK-12 in its special police units after official certification of the weapon.

Some Discussion at TTAG about Self-Defense Handguns for Disabled Shooters

(Link here).

John Stossel - "We are on the road to bankruptcy."


President Obama said in his State of the Union speech last month, “We’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings.”

That was reassuring.

The new budget he released this week promises $4 trillion in “deficit reduction” -- about half in tax increases and half in spending cuts. But like most politicians, Obama misleads.

Cato Institute economist Dan Mitchell, a recent guest on my Fox Business show, cut through the fog to get at the truth of the $2 trillion “cut.”

“We have a budget of, what, almost $4 trillion? So if we’re doing $2 trillion of cuts,” Mitchell said, “we’re cutting government in half. That sounds wonderful.”

But what the president was talking about is not even a cut. The politicians just agreed that over the next 10 years, instead of increasing spending by $9.48 trillion, they’d increase it by “just” $7.3 trillion. Calling that a “cut” is nonsense.

Mitchell gave an analogy: “What if I came to you and said, ‘I’ve been on a diet for the last month, and I’ve gained 10 pounds. Isn't that great?’ You would say: ‘Wait, what are you talking about? That’s insane.’ And I said: ‘I was going to gain 15 pounds. I’ve only gained 10 pounds, therefore my diet is successful.’"

Democrats use this deceit when they want more social spending. Republicans use it for military spending.

And the press buys it. The Washington Post has been writing about “draconian cuts.”

“The politicians know this game,” Mitchell said. “The special interests know this game. Everyone gets a bigger budget every year. ... And we wind up, sooner or later, being Greece.”

We are definitely on the road to bankruptcy.
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