Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lessons from the History of Famines


During famines more people die from violence and disease than from actual starvation. This surprising fact has been noted by Economic Historian Cormac Ó Gráda and others who have studied the history of famines. 

Without getting into the causes and outcomes of famines (Ó Gráda and others have written many scholarly papers and books on the subject), I want to examine what this means for preppers and survivalists:

Disease prevention and medical readiness, along with security and self-defense, are equal to food and water as areas of concern.  

The need to address food and water is ubiquitous within the prepper and survivalist community. It is usually the first bit of advice offered to newbies, and it is probably the most discussed area of preparedness. Many articles and books have been written on the subject, covering everything from food storage, to raising and preserving food, to providing food through hunting, fishing, and gathering wild edibles. 

Taking care of this area to ensure you and your family won't die from lack of food isn't enough. During a famine, you will still be vulnerable to the violence and sickness of those in your area who aren't prepared food-wise. 

Threats from violence during a feminine are obvious.  Folks desperate from a lack of food will turn to stealing, looting, and rioting. But it is more than just the desperate masses you need to fear. Famines are often accompanied by wars and/or political collapse. Local warlords and strongmen often rise up attempting to take advantage of the situation.  These folks typically come from the ranks of the police, military, or criminal gangs, meaning they are surprising well-armed and well-trained, disciplined, with an already established chain-of-command and operating procedures. In other words, they will be much more dangerous than your average group of looters. 

Thus security and self-defense needs to be a major area of concern and preparation on your part. This includes not only hardening your home, as well as guns and ammo, but also training and developing standard operating procedures. Situational awareness is also a crucial skill to learn. First aid is a skill everyone in your family or group should have, including the ability to apply a tourniquet and dress a major wound (such as from a knife or gunshot).

I recommend the book Retreat Security and Small Unit Tactics by David Kobler (Southern Prepper 1) and Mark Goodwin for more information on security planning, training, and tactics.

Medical preparations for a famine include developing good health beforehand, practicing good hygiene and sanitation during the crisis (which includes stockpiling hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning supplies), learning and taking preventative measures, and learning how to deal with common medical conditions that may occur. This last suggestion includes stockpiling what medical supplies and medicine you may need, and knowing possible alternatives such as wild medicinals and foods, herbs, & spices with anti-bacterial or other curative properties. Having a medical professional or two in your group would be a tremendous blessing, of course, but even if you don't, someone needs to be made the group "doctor." This person should be given the primary responsibility to learn both advanced first aid and as much medical knowledge as they can before the crisis ensues.

A great medical resource all preppers and survivalists should have, in my opinion, is The Survival Medicine Handbook by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP.

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Religiously Motivated Acid Attack Killed Pakistani Christian


International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that Faraz Badar, a 26-year old Christian resident of Gujranwala, Pakistan, died in a Lahore hospital on September 15, 2018. He succumbed to burn injuries that he received when unidentified attackers sprayed acid on him during the early hours of September 5, 2018 in Gujranwala. Faraz was brought to Meo Hospital in Lahore when his condition deteriorated.

Badar Masih, Faraz’s father, informed ICC that, “Faraz was a young graduate and serving as Assistant Admin Officer in a local hospital for about two years. On September 5th at around 2 a.m, when he was going home from the hospital, some unknown assailants sprayed acid upon him.” This is not the first time Faraz has been attacked.

Masih continued, “A few months back, Faraz was beaten by some men who were covering their faces. However, we did not report it to the police, as Christians are often not heard in police stations.

Talking to ICC over the telephone, Faraz’s mother shared that “Faraz often complained that some of his Muslim staff members were unhappy with his excellent performance and they disliked Faraz for his honesty and Christian background.” While she admitted that they had no evidence of the allegations, it is not an uncommon occurrence.

While reflecting on her son’s life, Faraz’s mother added “My son was running my kitchen. He was very gentle to everyone in the vicinity. He had no enmity. He was an active member of the Church. However, he was usually not given a day off to go to Church for Sunday prayer service.”

Masih claimed, “My son was targeted for his Christian faith. I don’t think we, the Christians, are safe in Pakistan. However, it is our country and we love it with our soul and spirit. We won’t seek refuge.”

We [still] want justice from the government,” pleaded the mother. Masih’s family is unfortunately not alone in their experience.
In April a Christian girl named Asma Yaqoob was attacked by a Rizwan, a Muslim man, for refusing his marriage proposal. She later died during treatment on April 22, 2018.

Social activist Ayube Qaiser told ICC that, “It is sad to note that increasing religious hatred and intolerance manifesting in different incidents is making life unbearable for religious minorities in the country. Their trust in the state as a protected citizen is being damaged badly. Often Christians are not accepted by their Muslim colleagues. They face different false allegations until they are removed from their post…This particular case is simply target killing on account of religious motivation.”

----- This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern (ICC), You can visit their website at  https://www.persecution.org/ 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Spread Consitutional Literacy!

https://amzn.to/2OgaatY
Spread Constitutional Literacy by giving away pocket copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It's an idea that I've been promoting during the Fall for the past several years. 

Autumn is an especially good time of year for this project because of all the extra opportunities that it presents to give-away small tokens to people: Halloween, fall festivals, campaign events and political rallies, among many other opportunities.

Pocket Constitutions are available from Amazon (currently for $1 each with free shipping for both prime members or when ordering 25 or more).  You may also be able to order them from political and educational organizations that occasional offer them for sale.  I am an Amazon Affiliate, so ordering them through my links to Amazon help to support this site in a small way. 

Pocket Constitutions  make great giveaways for:
  • Back-to-School 
  • History and Social Studies Classes
  • Halloween
  • Fall Festivals
  • Campaign Events and Political Rallies
  • Scout Troops
  • Churches and Sunday School Classes
  • Bible Study and Prayer Groups
  • Clubs and Civic Organizations
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Monday, September 17, 2018

18 Easy Ways to Save Money

Money Mondays continues (see index at bottom)...

Looking to save money to pay off debt, build savings, or buy prepper supplies?  Here are 18 Easy Ways to Save Money:

1- Avoid impulse purchases by shopping with checklists, and sticking to the lists.

(Many folks don't pay attention to impulse purchases because they tend to be quite small - only a few bucks -  but those small individual purchase add up to big money fast. Averaging just three dollars a day will add up to over $1,000 in just a year.)

2- See something you want that isn't on your list? Don't buy it. Write it down and add it to your list for next time. Chances are good that after you have had a day or two to think about it, the impulse to buy it will go away.

3- Avoid impulse purchases by paying with cash, not credit or debit cards. This way you will immediately see & feel the pain of the purchase.

(I'm harping on impulse purchases because I'm convinced most people greatly underestimate how much they really spend on these typically small purchases. This is an easy category to save money on IF you are willing to take an honest look at your spending habits.)

4- Avoid shopping for fun or entertainment. Don't go to the mall or shopping center just to have something to do.

5- Avoid social shopping with friends. People tend to talk each other into things, not out of them.

6- Do not watch infomercials or home shopping channels.

7- Do not catalog shop unless you are looking for something specific.

8- Shop for quality not quantity. Something that costs more because it is of better quality and therefore will last longer, will be cheaper in the long run than something that initially costs less, but will wear out or break much quicker. 

(I've bought cheap clothes at Walmart that literally started to unravel and even get holes in them after the very first washing. They may cheaper than better clothes, but that are NOT less expensive in the long run.)

9- Stick with classic styles and colors, rather than styles that are "in" at the moment. Avoid fads.

10- Consider renting something instead of buying it if you will only use it once or very occasionally.

(Examples may include things like carpet cleaners and pressure washers.) 

11- Cancel newspapers and magazines that you don't read thoroughly or truly need professionally. Most will even refund the unused portion of your subscription.

12- Make use of your local library for newspapers, magazines, books, DVDs and CDs. Only buy those that you cannot get for free at the library or that you will use repeatedly.

13- Use coupons whenever possible, but only for items you would buy anyway.

(I've found that generic and store brands are often cheaper than the name brand even when using a coupon. Example: on a recent trip to Walmart, I had a coupon for 50¢ off two cans of Barbasol Saving cream. The regular price of the Equate brand of saving cream was still cheaper.)
 
14- Use sales fliers and the Internet to comparison shop. Prices can vary widely from store to store on the same item.

15- Warehouse stores (Sam's Club, Costco, etc.)  are good ways to save money, but don't assume they are always the cheapest option.  Often times a generic or store brand elsewhere will be just as good and less expensive than a name brand at the warehouse store.

16- Avoid the use of credit cards, charge accounts, rent-to-own, and other forms of debt. You will not only save on interest and other fees, you will most likely buy less in the first place.

17- If you have credit card debt, be extra diligent to make payments on time. The late fees and higher interest rates due to missed or late payments add up fast.

18- Hang out your clothes to dry. Dryers are among the most expensive appliances to run in terms of energy cost.
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:

*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper

*** Taming the Family Budget
*** Prepper's Guide to Junk Silver (article from 2014)


Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis, typically on Mondays.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Planning Your Escape: Considerations for Bugging Out



Most people's Plan A should be to "bug in" or "hunker down" during an emergency. But, things may become dangerous in your area (wild fires, power plant accidents, rioters & looters, government actions, etc.), so plan now for your possible escape, should it become necessary. When will you bug-out? Where you will go? How will you get there? What happens if your primary path is blocked? Do you know alternative routes? What should you take with you?  

Here are some considerations for planning your escape:

1- Know when to Bug-Out. This is probably the hardest part of your planning.  The best advice for most people in most situations is to stay put as long as possible. Hunker down where you are, unless and until it becomes too dangerous to do so. You don't want to face the open road during a highly chaotic and dangerous time unless you absolutely have to leave for your own safety.

To put it in simple terms:  Bug-out when doing so is less dangerous than staying where you are.  But, how to know when that is? How do you strike the balance between leaving too early and leaving too late? 

The key is applying situational awareness and the OODA loop (link to my January article) to the developing situation. Pay attention to what's happening, not just on the national level, but especially what's happening on the local level. Local news & talk radio will be more useful to monitor during a crisis than national broadcast and cable news channels. Having the ability to monitor local police and emergency dispatch will also be very useful. Check out Broadcastify for a way to monitor local dispatch via the Internet. Other apps and websites are available. You can also get a hand-held or desktop radio scanners for when the Internet is out.

Use commonsense and rational thinking (don't be overly emotional) to analyze what is going on in your area. The goal is to bug-out when things are obviously going south, but haven't yet spiraled completely out-of-control.

"But what if my Plan A is to bug-out?"  Okay. I get it. Many people feel they have to (or want to) live in a big city or other unsuitable location for riding out TEOTWAWKI.  If your Plan A is bugging-out, then do so as early as possible to avoid the traffic jams, limited fuel supplies, and chaos of the last minute escape.  In your case, it is etter to bug-out too early, then to bug-out too late. You can always return home after you realize it wasn't SHTF after all.

2- Plan a Bug-Out location. Obviously, the best bug-out location is one which you already own and have developed for your needs. But for most of us, that is difficult to do. The next best choice is probably a friend or relative's place. 

Maybe your Uncle George has a fishing cabin in the mountains. Or Great Aunt Ida lives alone in that huge old house on the outskirts of a  small town in the Ozarks. Or Cousin Eddie has a small farm in Kentucky. Talk to them about using their place as a bug-out location. You could even stockpile some food, clothes, and other supplies there ahead of time. You don't even have to move into the house with them. Perhaps you could park a camper or RV in their driveway or backyard.  

Other potential bug-out locations include national or state parks, church retreats, and for-profit campgrounds. 

3- Know how to get to your bug-out location. This means knowing how to get there using at least two different routes (in case one is blocked for some reason) without using GPS or google maps. Practice driving all routes before you need to bug-out for real. Keep directions, maps and a road atlas in your vehicle.

You should also learn the potential "hot spots" in your local area, and along the routes to your bug-out locations. By hot spots, I mean areas that are more likely than others to be dangerous. Examples include heavily urban areas and college campuses which will likely see looting and/or rioting early on. Bad neighborhoods, already dangerous high crime areas, will only be worse during SHTF. Areas with a heavy Muslim population, or near mosques, will be dangerous for non-Muslims (forgive my political incorrectness).  Busy intersections and areas where traffic already snarls during normal rush hours, will likely be impassable during SHTF. Road construction is another potential hot spot, as one or more lanes may be blocked by equipment and materials. 


4- Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, and fueled up.  You're bug-out plans will fail if your vehicle breaks down, or if you run out of gas. Keep your oil changed on a regular basis, and quickly make any necessary repair. Make sure your tires, including spares, are in good shape. Check out my article Preppers' Auto Maintenance Schedule for more on this topic.

5- Put together a small emergency kit for your vehicle. Include things to keep your vehicle running (extra oil, transmission fluid, jumper cables, fix-a-flat, etc.). Include a good flashlight with extra batteries. If you can do basic auto repairs (a great skill to learn), keep some useful tools and spare parts in vehicle. Also include things you might need in an emergency (a first aid kit, a warm blanket, bottles of water, power bars or other food, etc.)

6- Have a Bug Out or Evacuation Bag already packed for each member of your family. Include a change of clothes, some food, water, personal hygiene supplies, individual first aid kit, a compact New Testament or prayer book, flashlight and extra batteries, emergency poncho, and whistle in each bag. Adults and teens should have additional items such as a knife, multi-tool, matches or lighters, duct tape, outdoor survival gear, sewing kits, etc. In the bags of children, be sure to include written information such as name & age of the child, family contact info, and lists of any allergies, medications & health conditions, should the child become separated from the rest of the family. Also include a favorite toy, coloring books, crayons, and/or a few other distractions for the kids. In your bag, be sure to include copies of insurance policies, deeds, birth certificates, vaccination records, medical records, bank numbers, passports, and other personal records (ideally in a small notebook or envelope, and possibly on a USB stick or other digital storage). 

7- Decide what to pack. You may only have time to grab your bug-out bags and go. But, should you have more time to pack your vehicle, decide beforehand what you want to take with you. Possibilities include extra food, water, and clothes, cleaning and hygiene supplies, tools (hand and/or gardening), reference books, camping gear, and even sentimental items such as family photos and heirlooms. Thinking about where you will bug-out to will help you determine what extra items you should take if there is time.
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Largest House Church in Beijing Shut Down by the Government


International Christian Concern (ICC) is reporting that on September 9, more than 20 officials from the Chaoyang District Ethnic and Religious Affairs Office and Civil Affairs Bureau raided Zion Church in Beijing. The head pastor, Jin Mingri, was taken away for interrogation and released later on the same day.

Officials posted several notices at Zion Church’s headquarters, located at Longbaochen Commercial Building in Chaoyang District, accusing the church of “conducting unauthorized activities and disturbing social order under the name of civil organization.” As a result, the District’s Civil Affairs Bureau legally banned the church and the use of its “illegal religious venue,” while also confiscating its “illegal promotional material.”

According to Asia News, Zion Church had enjoyed a certain degree of freedom until recently. In April, when the 1,500-member church refused to install closed-circuit television cameras, the government briefly turned off the church’s water and power supplies. Last week, the rented hall the congregation was using became off limits.
“Unlawful dark forces vandalized Zion Church’s sign, but it will not destroy the church that everlasting God has built!”
After seeing the church’s sign destroyed yesterday, Pastor Jin sorrowfully said, “Unlawful dark forces vandalized Zion Church’s sign, but it will not destroy the church that everlasting God has built!”

In response to the crackdown against Zion Church and other Christian communities, hundreds of house church pastors and Christian leaders from around the country signed a joint statement on September 1, publicly expressing their faith and their stance against the government’s denial of religious freedom. The crackdown has included demolishing crosses on church buildings, violently removing religious symbols from Christians’ homes, forcing and threatening churches to join religious organizations sanctioned by the government, forcing churches to hang the national flag or sing secular songs praising the government, banning children from entering churches or receiving religious education, and depriving believers of the right to gather freely.

As of September 7, 305 Christians have signed on to this statement, prepared to bear the potential consequences—even the loss of their freedom and their lives.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The banning of Zion Church, along with the intensified crackdown against Christians in Henan and other provinces in China, demonstrates the government’s absolute disregard for religious freedom. The future awaiting China’s house church Christians should be everyone’s concern. We urge the international community to speak up for persecuted Chinese Christians and be their voice as Beijing tries to mute them and alter their faith to fit into communist ideology.”

----- This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern (ICC), You can visit their website at  https://www.persecution.org/ 

Egyptian Christians Report Rising Persecution

Egyptian Government Complicit in Increasing Anti-Christian Violence
 
International Christian Concern (ICC) documented a sharp escalation of attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt within the last two weeks. During these incidents, the violence grew as a result of an absence or delayed presence of security forces. All of the affected churches were seeking official recognition, which sparked the wave of violence. Furthermore, in an attempt by authorities to avoid equally enforcing the law, the affected communities reported an increase in pressure to participate in reconciliation sessions with their attackers.

In Sultan village, three Muslims were arrested on August 24 after trying to burn the church. This is the fifth attack against the village’s Christians since July. The escalation began after Christians began praying in an adjacent church building constructed more than two years ago. 

A Muslim who participated in the mob attack told ICC, “What makes us angry is that when they were building the building where they are praying now, we asked the priest, ‘Is this a church?’ The priest said, ‘No… the owner is building for his kids.’ Now it is as if we have been foolish… we are writing a complaint and we don’t want this priest here in the village.”

It is believed that the situation in Sultan has contributed to the rise of violence against Christians elsewhere in Egypt. A statement issued by the Minya and Abu Qurqas Diocese said, “The extremism in the neighboring village of Sultan has been experienced for weeks because of the lack of deterrence. The infection has spread to this village… [There is] the possibility of spreading your grief to other villages because there is no punishment to the instigators and deterrence to the aggressors.”

The village of Demshaw Hashem experienced an attack on August 31 that left four Copts injured and has continued to escalate. The attackers were protesting the church, which was subsequently closed. Congregants were forced to hold funeral rites in the street on September 6 for an elderly member because of the church closure. On September 9, Christians refused to attend a reconciliation session on the grounds that they want the law applied to the situation.

“We are worried and hope that the new governor will solve our problem,” Mina, who lives in Demshaw village, told ICC. “We are oppressed and cannot express our opinion. The government is controlling the village. The attack has affected the eastern side rather than the western side because of the existing Christian minority, and is currently puzzled by the continuation of these problems for years.” 

Isaac Ibrahim from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told Watani, “What happened in Damshaw Hashim is not the only one of its kind, but a recurrent pattern in a number of provinces during the recent period in order to shut down existing churches and to make them unsuitable.”  

Meanwhile, in the village of Esna, Christians are still struggling with the consequences of an August mob attack against the church. Five Christians were arrested despite being the victims of the attack. On September 6, the Christians’ jail sentences were extended for another 15 days.

Samuel, a graduate student living in Minya, shared with ICC, “We are living in a no-law state and survival of the fittest. The Christians have great naiveté, so the state treats them as slaves, that’s easy to make them waive their rights.”  

Mohammed, an engineer from Minya who supports violent efforts to close down churches, told ICC, “We do not consider the churches as God’s house… it is a place where polytheists are performing prayer. They are not praying to one God and we would not permit to have such a building among our villages.” 

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “As these attacks demonstrate, an absence of law and security only encourages Islamic hardliners to continue targeting Christians. Rather than working to protect the rights of Christians, the authorities are instead compounding the problem through neglect and a lack of diligence. This combination creates a false sense of legitimacy to the violence facing Christians. The authorities must take a firm stance that it values its citizens equally, regardless of religion.”  

----- This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern (ICC), You can visit their website at  https://www.persecution.org/ 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Taming the Family Budget

Having trouble making your budget fit your paycheck? Here are a few ideas that you may find helpful.

Small Purchase = Big Money

Money spent on little things - sodas, snacks, and impulse items of all sorts - can add up really quickly. A great example is a guy I used to work with who constantly complained about not having any money. Every afternoon he would head down to the break room and buy a Pepsi and a Snickers bar from the vending machine. It was only a $1.75, but he spent that money five days a week. Over the course of a year, that adds up to almost $450. 

We tend to dismiss small purchases as being insignificant - its only a couple of bucks - but when we make a lot of small purchases, those couple of bucks add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over time.

Entertainment and Eating Out

 
We all have busy schedules, and eating out is quicker and more convenient than making a meal at home. But it can be expensive, and it really adds up over time. Eating out is a huge piece of most people's budget. A piece that can be easily reduced.

Taking a bag lunch of leftovers to work with you instead of buying lunch at the local fast food eatery will save you big bucks over the course of a year. How much? If you spend five dollars a day for lunch, that is over $1,200 a year. If you are a two-income family with both of you eating out at lunch, this doubles to over $2,400 a year. And we haven't even talked about family dinners out, yet.

Entertainment is a purely optional budget expense. Eliminate it. You can be entertained without spending much, or even any, money. Learn (or re-learn) how to have a good time for free or nearly free. Take a walk with your spouse or with a friend. Start a family game night. Play with your kids in the backyard. Invite friends over for a weekend cook-out, or a movie night (with the DVD checked out from your local library for free). Next week they can invite you over.

Read a book (checked out from the library for free, of course) instead of going to a movie. Libraries are a wonderful source of free entertainment. In addition to books and magazines, many libraries today also offer audio books, movies on DVD, music CDs, and even board games that you can check out. Many have story times for young children and lecture series for adults you can attend for free.


Telecommunications is THE Modern Budget-Buster

When I was a child (the 1970s) the only telecommunications expense my family, most families, had was the telephone, and that was a land line, of course. TV programs were free over-the-air, and there was no Internet. Today, many families pay for a land line, multiple cell phones, texting privileges, special ringtones, cable or satellite TV subscriptions, extra movie channels, Internet connections, gaming and movie subscriptions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), special apps for their $500 (or more) smart phones, even satellite radio subscriptions. For most families major savings can be found in this budget category.

Do you really need a smart phone? Do you really need the absolute latest (and most expensive) version of your smart phone? I have a regular cell phone myself, but it is the basic model that only cost me $19.99 (and I didn't have to commit to a plan). I can text and make phone calls on my cheap phone as easily as you can on your smart phone. A cell phone may be a necessity for many today, but all the expensive bells and whistles are luxuries you probably can do without.

We have allowed them to make us addicted to our smart phones and other electronic devices. Maybe its time to overcome our addictions and spend our money on getting ready for the future instead of funding those million-dollar bonuses of telecom executives.  

The same thing goes for cable or satellite TV. Do you really need to have all the movie channels? Do you really need all the HD channels? Do you really need the expanded package with all the sports channels and all the music channels? Or can you get by just fine with the much less expensive basic package?

Or better yet, do away with TV altogether. Radical idea, but somehow humanity survived for thousands of years before TV, so technically it is possible.

Drop the Vacation

Vacations can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Staycations are a hot new trend. Instead of heading for the beach, or Disneyland, or wherever, stay home. Spend a week visiting local museums, zoos, botanical gardens, historical sites, parks, or wildlife refuges. Go on a picnic or nature hike. Go fishing at a local lake. Play frisbee with your kids in the backyard. Or just relax at home, thinking of all the money you are saving.
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:


*** Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings 
*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else)
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper

Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis.

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Please subscribe to this website using the Follow By Email field at the bottom of the right hand column.

Follow me on GAB at  https://gab.ai/TimGamble

Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TimGamble 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

How Not To Get Sick This Cold and Flu Season

Schools are back in session. The days are starting to get shorter and cooler.  Winter will be here before we know it. And we know what that means: Cold and Flu season is fast approaching.

Its actually not the cold weather that makes us sick, but the fact that we're all suddenly spending a lot more time indoors, in close contact with lots of other people, allowing diseases to spread like wildfire. Schools, in particular, are extremely efficient incubators of all sorts of diseases.

No one like to get sick, so the question is: What can we do to avoid getting sick? Quite a lot, actually!


The Common Sense Basics

>>> Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Hopefully, everyone realizes the importance of hand-washing, so I won't waste time trying to sell you on the idea. Instead, let's define "thoroughly" and "often." Thoroughly: wash your hands with soap and warm water, vigorously rubbing them together for at least twenty seconds. Then dry your hands completely. How often: *VERY* - when you wake up, before each meal and snack, after going to the restroom, after coughing or sneezing on your hands, after handling money, after being around sick people, after shaking hands with someone, after handling phones (extremely germy), keyboards, & door handles, and before going to bed. Hand sanitizers are okay in a pinch, but are less effective than soap & water; use them until you can get to the nearest wash-basin.

>>> Get plenty of sleep. Unfortunately, modern civilization is a 24/7 event these days, and many folks now brag about (as if it were a contest) how little sleep they need and still be able to get by. You might be able to "get by" with less, but research proves that adults, and their immune systems, actually need 8 - 9  hours of sleep to perform at optimal levels. For example, a 2009 Carnegie Mellon study found that adults who get less than seven hours of sleep are three times more likely to get sick, than adults who get at least 8 hours.

>>> Drink plenty of water. When you are dehydrated, it dries out and reduces the effectiveness of the watery, protective surfaces lining your mouth, throat, eyes, lungs, stomach, and intestines. Stay hydrated!

>>> Eat a healthy diet, including lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, and other nutritious foods. Avoid overdoing sugar and alcohol. Both are known to negatively impact the immune system in excessive amounts. Modern, processed foods are typically loaded with lots of sugar of various types, so you may likely be consuming too much sugar even if you avoid sweets - pay attention to labels. Many condiments, such as catsups and salad dressings, are often loaded with sugar AND people typically use more than one "official" serving, thus multiplying the amount of sugar they're getting without realizing it. If you drink alcohol, stick to one glass of red wine a day.

>>> Get plenty of exercise. Exercise pumps up the immune system by boosting the production of disease-fighting white blood cells. It also floods the body with stress-reducing hormones, and less stress means a more efficient immune system.


Additional Steps To Take

>>> Learn to relax. Stress, particularly long-term stress, leads to an overproduction of a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which suppress the immune system. Exercise, yoga, meditation, listening to calming music, prayer, participating in a hobby, or just quietly reading can all be wonderful ways to relax.

>>> Sanitize the surfaces in your life - keyboards, door handles, phones, etc. - at home and at work. I personally use Lysol Disinfecting Wipes almost daily to wipe down my desk, keyboard, mouse, and phone.

>>> Don't bite your nails. Think about it: the small gaps under your nails make great breeding grounds for germs, and are easy to not clean well when washing your hands.

>>> Make sure your getting enough vitamins and minerals. This is best done by eating a healthy diet with a wide range of fruits & veggies, but a daily vitamin & mineral supplement may add some additional insurance. An article by the Harvard Medical School recently mentioned that deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E can negatively impact the immune system. 

The Difficult-to-Do

>>> Avoid sick people. This one is a lot easier said than done, as we have little control over people who choose to go to work, school, or shopping while sick. But, to the extent you can, avoid being around with people who are sick. This means trying to avoid large crowds whenever possible. When you do have to be around someone who is sick, take proper precautions like washing your hands frequently.

https://amzn.to/2M5oCTZ>>> Wear a face mask in public. Taking the bus, train, or subway, or otherwise hanging around a large crowd of people in tight quarters? Take a clue from the Japanese and wear a surgical mask. This will help you not spread your own germs and help you avoid the germs of other people. (They are also great pollen blockers for those suffering from hay fever.)  This isn't common in the west as it is in Asia, so you'll likely get a lot of strange looks. But, is it really effective? Actually, yes. According to a study published in The International Journal of Infectious Diseases (December 2008 issue, page e328), masks have a protective efficacy of over 80% against respiratory illnesses like colds and influenza.


The Controversial

>>> Get a flu shot, or don't. I'm not going to tell you what to do on this one - its up to you. People on both sides of the debate have strong feelings when it comes to vaccines. Pro-vaccine people point to the success of vaccinations with wiping out diseases like polio and smallpox, and fervently believe that modern vaccines are safe. Anti-vaccine people point to a lot of anecdotal evidence that vaccines can cause various problems such as autism and infertility, and they don't trust corporations or the government to tell the truth about the safety of vaccinations. And a third set of folks believe that vaccines are generally safe, but that we are way over-medicating ourselves, which could create unintended consequences. Therefore, they are reluctant to take every recommended vaccine that comes on the market. Decide for yourself. Need more information to decide? Check out: 


Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives, discusses the pros and cons of vaccinations in a fairly even-handed way.

The blurb: "Midwife, herbalist, and mother of four, Aviva Jill Romm sifts through the spate of current research on vaccine safety and efficacy and offers a sensible, balanced discussion of the pros and cons of each routine childhood vaccination. She presents the full spectrum of options available to parents: full vaccination on a standardized or individualized schedule, selective vaccination, or no vaccinations at all. Negotiating daycare and school requirements, dealing with other parents, and traveling with an unvaccinated child are covered in detail. The book also suggests ways to strengthen children's immune systems and maintain optimal health and offers herbal and homeopathic remedies for childhood ailments. Emphasizing that no single approach is appropriate for every child, the author guides parents as they make the choices that are right for their child." Available on Amazon
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Type II Diabetes - Warning Signs & Risk Factors


I am a Type II diabetic, diagnosed with an a1c of 10.1 (extremely high) in July of 2015. I also developed diabetic retinopathy (a disease of the eyes) around the same time. Happily, I have been able to reduce my a1c to 5.9 (almost normal), and am maintaining it without any insulin or other medication (my doctor took me off Metformin several months ago). 

Early detection of diabetes is crucial in managing the disease and in avoiding the many complications that can result form diabetes. Had I been diagnosed earlier, I probably could have avoided developing retinopathy, and would not have needed the 20+ injections in each eye that I have received over the last three years. Please take a few minutes to look over the following list of warning signs and risk factors  for Type II Diabetes. Having any one, or even all, of these warning signs does not mean you have type II diabetes. But, please don't ignore them. Check with your doctor, especially if you have multiple warning signs.

Warning Signs & Risk Factors of Type II Diabetes*
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent headaches
  • Increased thirst
  • Feeling that your mouth is dry all the time
  • Increased hunger, even after eating
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Frequent urination
  • Frequent urine infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
  • Tingling/numbness in ands or feet
  • A family history of diabetes (a blood relative with diabetes)
  • Being overweight (not necessarily obese)
  • A sedentary lifestyle (little exercise or physical activity, a "couch potato")
  • An unhealthy diet (lots of fast food, junk food, sweets, etc.)
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http://amzn.to/20Ss5eE
Of all the books on diabetes I've read, the best and most useful is 60 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar by Dennis Pollock. Pollock's book is an aggressive plan to control your blood sugar by bringing together the best of traditional and alternative medicine. What I appreciate about Pollock's approach is that it is based on solid science, even the "alternative" aspects, and is not some hippy-dippy book that rejects science (avoid those). Also, I found his ideas easy to follow.


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Monday, September 3, 2018

Book Review: Who Wants to Be Free?

https://amzn.to/2oCtBT2
I recently bought an autographed copy of Amanda Hughes' book Who Wants to Be Free? in an online auction for Constituting America. For those not familiar with it, Constituting America is an excellent organization that strives to educate Americans about the Constitution and the rights it guarantees for all of us. The organization particularly strives to reach young people through popular culture. You can check out their website at constitutingamerica.org for more on their mission, programs, educational resources, and contests.  

Modern society is often hostile towards open expressions of traditional Christianity, especially within the political sphere. The Christian beliefs of our founders, and the role those beliefs played in the creation of our country, has been mostly expunged from our nation's textbooks.  The Biblical principles underlying America's founding documents - the true source of American Exceptionalism - are denied. The Freedom of Religion guaranteed to us in the First Amendment has been twisted into a kind of "freedom from religion" in an attempt to remove any religious discussions or considerations from the public square. 

Many Christians have been left wondering what, if any, role their religious beliefs should play in their political lives. Can a Christian participate in politics? Should we let our religious beliefs inform our political beliefs? Is it okay to vote based on our Christian ideals and values? Does Christianity have any legitimate place in political leadership or policy making? How do you, as a Christian, participate in the American political system? If you have any questions like these, Amanda Hughes has written an excellent book for you.

Who Wants to Be Free? is a short book (99 pages) that is absolutely packed with information presented in a way that is easy to understand.  Filled with quotes and examples from the Bible and historical figures, Hughes answers provides answers for those questions and more. In the introduction, she writes:

In Who Wants to Be Free, you will learn
  • What defines freedom and why understanding it matters to you
  • What is at stake by ignoring your heritage as a Christian in America.
  • Biblical principles about freedom that will help you cast a wise ballot.  
  • Questions to ask yourself and candidates before you vote.
  • How to keep up with the issues and stay involved in politics without getting overwhelmed.
If those are Hughes' goals for this book, she certainly achieves them. She provides important Biblical and historical context for understanding government and leadership, vividly illustrates the difference between leadership with God's direction and leadership without God's direction, explains the Founders' profound understanding of human nature and how it was incorporated into their design for our government, and how all of this should impact our responsibilities as Christian citizens and patriots. In the last couple of chapters, Hughes gives a lot of practical tips and information on the how to aspect of "Getting Freedom Done" (the title of chapter 10). 

An excellent resource, I highly recommend this book for any Christian wondering about the intersection between religion and politics, between being a Christian and a patriot. 

Who Wants to Be Free? is currently available on Amazon for only $11.95 (price subject to change).

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Folks interested in this topic may also be interested in my articles:

Freedom of Worship vs. Freedom of Religion  

The Patriot Citizen and Politics
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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Foundational Advice: Eliminate Debt and Build Savings


Here is a bit of foundational advice for preppers and everyone else: Eliminate debt and build savings.  

We've all heard it before, but how many of us actually follow that advice? My gut feeling on the matter is that most folks, preppers or not, don't. It is difficult, takes time, and requires a certain amount of sacrifice. In other words, it isn't fun.
 
Yet, bad economic times are a part of most collapse scenarios that worry most preppers. And even if a full collapse never happens, can be certain of economic downturns and recessions in the future. Bad economic times are especially difficult for folks who live paycheck to paycheck (which is most of the middle class in America today),  are in debt up to their eyeballs, and have little or no savings.  Debt – whether personal, business or government – is bad for many reasons (I'll talk about those reasons below). So, my personal advice to you (and to me) is to make paying of debt and building your savings a major part of your prepper activities.

In your personal life, work quickly towards eliminating consumer debt – credit cards, car loans, payday loans, personal loans, and installment plans. This will mean you have to put yourself on a budget and stick with it. It will mean putting off major purchases, avoiding impulse purchases, and **gasp** denying yourself luxury items. It may mean taking bag lunches to work. Or selling your car to get out of the loan, buying an older model with cash, or perhaps making do with only one. Consider having a major yard sale to raise some money, or try to find a second job. It will take time and sacrifice to eliminate debt in your life, but the benefits will be more than worth it.

Building some emergency savings will have to be done at the same time. Yard sales are a great way to bring in extra cash to do this. So is a second job in the evenings or on the weekends. Put the money somewhere safe, such as an insured CD or money market account in a stable bank or credit union (do your own homework, or check with one of several companies that offer ratings on the soundness and safety of various financial institutions). Don't worry about getting the best possible interest rate. Safety and liquidity are the goals for your emergency savings, not growth.
Pro Tip: Check out Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps and read his the book Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money for more on getting out of debt.
Once your debt is paid off and you have accumulated some emergency savings, you can then turn your attention to saving for long-range goals. Use common sense, avoid overly-risky investments, and, if needed, seek professional advice of someone you can trust.

No investment is perfectly safe. Cash savings are subject to losing value to inflation. Stocks and mutual funds are subject to the ups and downs of the market. Land is subject to property taxes and eminent domain. Converting all your money to gold & silver and burying it in the backyard is subject to thieves. There are no guarantees in life. The best you can do is use reason and common sense, to remain vigilant, and to take responsibility for ensuring your own future.

Why pay off debt if we are headed towards high inflation?  It may be true that by waiting to pay off debt, you will be paying it off with cheaper dollars. However, there are other considerations. For one, debt puts you, your family, and your assets at risk. Pay off your debts now while you are employed and you run less risk of losing your home or other assets if you become unemployed later.

Debt can be very stressful, especially in difficult times, which can be a real detriment to your health and your ability to make calm decisions at a time when you most need both.
Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." (NKJV)
Another reason is that debt can shackle you to your current job and circumstances, when what is really needed at a time like this is freedom and flexibility.

Additionally, people tend not to realize how fast interest, late fees, and other penalties can add up. You may be paying off your debt later with cheaper dollars, but still end up paying more in real terms because of all the added interest and penalties.

Finally, debtor's prisons are a thing of the past, but depending on what a future collapse looks like, they could return in the future. This is partially true if the future collapse includes a true police-state phase in which the Constitution and Bill of Rights are suspended or done away with completely. 
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This article is part of an ongoing Prepper Financial Series. Here are the other articles in that series:

*** Quick Financial Tips for Preppers (and Everyone Else) 
*** How To Raise Money For Your Prepping Activities
*** Precious Metals and the Prepper

Future articles in the Prepper Financial Series will come out on an almost weekly basis.
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Violent Incidents Embody Pakistan’s Growing Intolerance of Christians

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that in August, two Christian families became the victims of Pakistan’s ever-growing religious intolerance. In both incidents, the families were subjected to extreme violence due to the low social standing Christians are afforded in Pakistan’s Muslim-dominated society.
Anti-Christian discrimination is widespread in Pakistan. Christians are often viewed as the lowest of the low in Pakistani society. This view is exemplified by the extreme over-representation of Christians in Pakistan’s undesirable sanitation professions, including sewer workers and street sweepers. Some reports estimate that nearly 80% of sanitation positions in Pakistan are held by Christians, who make up only 1.5% of the country’s total population.
On August 2, this attitude of intolerance cost Vicky Masih, a Christian from Lahore, his life.
It was the wedding anniversary of Vicky and his wife,” advocate Tariq Zia told International Christian Concern (ICC). “Vicky was asked by his Muslim friends to meet them at Muhammad Abbas’ house and celebrate with them.
Muhammad Ilyas, another one of Vicky’s Muslim friends, had to pay back a handsome loan to Vicky,” Zia continued. “When Vicky asked for his money back, Muhammad Ilyas abused Vicky and said that he will teach a lesson to the choora.” “Choora” is a derogatory term used against Christians that denotes them as dirty and untouchable.
“Within no time, the party turned into an exchanging of harsh words, a physical clash, and ended with Vicky’s murder,” Zia reported.
According to reports, Vicky was shot in the stomach and abandoned while at Muhammad Abbas’ house. He later died at the hospital, leaving behind a wife and three young children.
"This is a sign of prevailing intolerance against Christians in this Islamic society. It is a result of the hate-based curriculum taught in the educational institutions, hate speeches, and other unmonitored publications against Christians.”

Separated by only 16 days and 750 miles, Alvin John and his family were attacked and beaten by a mob in the Mehmoodabad neighborhood of Karachi after he refused to allow a Muslim to forcibly marry his 19-year-old daughter.
I shifted my family to this rented house about 10 months ago,” John told ICC. “At first, we were asked to leave by some Muslim neighbors because of our Christian faith. But since Easter, we have been pressurized, threatened, and teased.
My 19-year-old daughter Aresha then became the target,” John explained. “They would follow my daughter in the streets and markets, offering her a bright and secure future if she converted, and often abused her for her Christian faith.
When this harassment became too much to bear, John reach out for help. “Two week back, we tried to negotiate with the elders of the area to settle the issue,” John said. “However, this bounced back as an attack on all of us.
A mob of Muslims, led by Muhammad Samad Zaheer, attacked me and my family around 11:00 p.m. on August 18,” John told ICC. “They damaged the left eye of my son, Vickram John. Initially, the doctors have no hope for his eyesight.
The attackers also broke most of the house stuff, furniture, doors, and windows,” John continued. “We cannot go back to the house as there is unrest in the neighborhood. We are now taking shelter with relatives.
Kashif Anthony, a coordinator for the National Commission for Justice and Peace in Karachi, condemned the “cruel attitude” shown toward Christians. “This is a sign of prevailing intolerance against Christians in this Islamic society,” Anthony explained. “It is a result of the hate-based curriculum taught in the educational institutions, hate speeches, and other unmonitored publications against Christians.
Until Pakistan takes concrete steps to stem this tide of intolerance, widespread discrimination against Christians will continue to grow. With that growth of intolerance, there will be likely more attacks on Christians in Pakistan.
----- This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern (ICC), You can visit their website at https://www.persecution.org/ 

Turkey Attempts to Mask Increasing Persecution of Christians

International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that Turkey’s national propaganda outlets are hard at work, bolstering President Erdogan’s persona and denying the presence of religious persecution. The two objectives couldn’t be more contradictory. The reality is Turkey’s Christians are facing an increasingly challenging environment that warns of a coming wave of persecution.
Two recent events in Turkish national headlines highlight the effort the state is dedicating to denying Christian persecution. The Daily Sabah, a media outlet controlled by the state, recently published an article, saying that the state has put “free back in religious freedom” by removing rental fees for churches. It called this decision a “sigh of relief” from past oppression. Shortly afterwards, state media outlets ran headlines about how all religious minorities in Turkey have issued an official declaration denying faith-based persecution.
These headlines mask the truth of the difficult circumstances facing Christians. Establishing a recognized church is nearly impossible in Turkey; removing rental fees does nothing to solve the challenges Christians face to legally form a church.
The declaration is also a state-sponsored diversion to reality. According to one Syriac community leader and lawmaker, the state requested that a statement be issued and requested a meeting. Al-Monitor quoted this believer as saying, “They (Christians) feared they would be held to account if they went to the meeting without having issued the statement. And releasing it after the meeting, they thought, would create the impression they were acting under pressure.”
A conversation with Turkish Christians shows that, contrary to the government’s narrative, believers are indeed quite concerned about the situation and believe that persecution is actually worsening. Ömer, who attends a Protestant church in Turkey’s southeast region, told ICC, “Leaders coming to power in our country attain their goals by watering down democracy, dominating with their ideologies to further their own interests.”
“The person in charge of the government that has been in power for the last 15 years, openly said in 2012, while addressing the youth of the party, we will clearly ‘raise a vindictive and religious generation!’” Ömer continued.
“For every national newspaper denying Christian persecution, several local newspapers incite it... The question is, just how much worse will it get?”
Turks are Muslim, and there is no room to be anything else. In fact, Turkey’s leaders often portray Christians as against the Turkish identity. “During the independent war, we fought against lots of countries and some bishops blessed the Turks’ enemies,”explained Mehmet, a recent convert from Islam who lives in Ankara. “And because of that, people started to see Christians as an enemy… I became a Christian and immediately I felt like I betrayed my country.”
In part, it is this cultural concept that Turkey’s leaders have exploited to advance their own trajectory of power. In doing so, it has created a difficult situation for Christians. “Let’s not say it (persecution) is here yet, but waiting with just a door in the way. There is great polarization in the country, polarization not only in religion, but also politically,” worried Pastor Emre.
The situation is especially challenging for Protestant Christians, who are widely perceived as having foreign, anti-Turkish connections. Pastor Emre added, “Recently, through Andrew (Brunson), Protestant Churches and Protestants have begun to be gradually targeted. We are being implicated, we are being talked about. Some newspapers are connecting us with that case. Signs are appearing slowly. But it will be very apparent in the next few years. We hope we are wrong about this, [but that is how it looks].”
Notably, nearly all Protestant groups did not sign the declaration denying faith-based persecution. State headlines said that “leaders of every non-Muslim community” signed the document, hinting at how little the authorities regard Protestants.
Pastor Emre knows this all too well. He said, “The newspapers are making us look criminal, presenting us like we are digging the state’s gold and forcing Muslims to be Christians. So they are attacking me personally and attacking the church. Recently, they broke down signs for the church.”
A woman who attends Pastor Emre’s church has also experienced this hatred, but in a more tangible way. She told ICC, “My husband was beaten by one of them. More precisely, three people wanted to lynch him. There’s also attacks on the church, both verbally and in writing. For example, those who visit the church are verbally aggressive.”
Ömer worries that a similar situation may be in the near future for his church. He said, “We were openly threatened when our church’s name appeared in a video uploaded to social media by the president of the radical Islamic foundation. These things give us a strong impression of future oppression and persecution.”
It is clear that religious freedom is deteriorating in Turkey. For every national newspaper denying Christian persecution, several local newspapers incite it. Statements by Turkish leadership incite it. The question is, just how much worse will it get?
------- This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern (ICC). You can find their website at https://www.persecution.org/