Technology

National Geographic Channel’s ‘Selling Survival’ Web Series

I’m about two weeks away from reintroducing the “In Print” series of posts on Survival And Prosperity. In the meantime, other material will be substituted in its place.

Today, I’ll be blogging about a National Geographic Channel web series that’s related to their highly-rated Doomsday Preppers TV show and which a number of readers may be interested in watching- particularly if they’re curious about prepper/survivalist expos like me and/or the latest innovations.

Enter Selling Survival.

From its web page on the Nat Geo Channel website:

Join Doomsday Preppers casting director Brooklyn Bagwell as she travels to some of the biggest prepper events in the country. Meet preppers, inventors, survivalists, and specialists as they showcase their must-have doomsday products and gear. From martial arts training to firing her first gun (an AR-15!), driving a bonafide bug-out-vehicle, and everything in between, she’s experiencing it all. And each week, she’ll be sharing her journey first-hand for anyone curious enough to wonder what goes on inside the world of prepper expos.


“Meet Brooklyn Bagwell”
YouTube Video

There are 15 short episodes of a couple minutes each uploaded on the National Geographic Channel website. I saw the first 11 episodes shortly after the series debuted- and finished up watching the remaining 4 installments this afternoon.

The content of Selling Survival was interesting, particularly as I’ve never gone to one of these conventions. The innovative gear and products that were introduced blew my mind at times- so much so I’ve jotted down some of them for further research. And Ms. Bagwell was a stellar pick by Nat Geo to host the series. Why? She’s pretty much a “newbie” to all this preparedness stuff, leading to concepts and function being explained more carefully and clearly (to the benefit of series viewers).

Still, there’s only so much you can fit into a couple of a minutes. I really wish episodes were quite a bit longer.

Overall, the web series was interesting (several times I thought to myself “now that is cool”), somewhat brainless viewing (don’t expect to be imparted with any “meaningful” knowledge watching this- although a couple of ideas did pop into my head). Yet fun, which Brooklyn Bagwell brought to the table.

For more information on Selling Survival- and to watch the 15 episodes- go to its area on the National Geographic Channel website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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North Korean EMP Weapon That Can Strike U.S. For Real?

There’s been increased chatter about the North Koreans having the capability of attacking the United States using an electromagnetic pulse weapon that could fry electronics and power grids. From F. Michael Maloof on the independent news website WorldNetDaily (WND.com) yesterday:

A long-suppressed report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for the Defense Department concludes that North Korea could deliver on its threats to destroy the United States with a nuclear electromagnetic pulse attack.

The report remains blocked from release to the American public.

However, a copy obtained by Peter Vincent Pry from sources within DHS finds North Korea could use its Unha-3 space launch vehicle to deliver a nuclear warhead as a satellite over the South Pole to attack the U.S. from the south…

Pry said that an EMP attack on the U.S. would not have to originate from North Korea but could be a missile, such as the SA-2, launched from a freighter off the U.S. East or Gulf Coasts. At that point, there would be no missile defense capable of halting such an event.

With a missile launched from a freighter, it could be difficult to identify who is responsible for an attack.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“EMP Bomb Threat Video”
YouTube Video

Peter Vincent Pry. Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity might remember his name, as I blogged back on March 8, 2013:

Enter Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both congressional advisory boards. Dr. Pry, a former intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote on the Family Security Matters website on February 26:

The West consistently and unwittingly cooperates with North Korea and Iran by underestimating the advancement, sophistication, and strategic implications of their nuclear weapon and missile programs.

Despite North Korea’s successful long-range missile test in December 2012, and now its third successful nuclear test on February 12, 2013, the Obama administration and the press keep reassuring the American people that North Korea is not yet a fully fledged nuclear weapons state – that a North Korean nuclear missile threat to the United States is still years in the future.

The facts do not support this judgment. North Korea is already a major nuclear threat to the United States–an existential threat.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Dr. Pry went on to say:

North Korea now appears to be armed with a FOBS capability to make a surprise nuclear attack against the United States–or against any and all nations on Earth–with Super-EMP.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

FOBS? Super-EMP? The author of Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle To Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe explained:

A Super-EMP warhead is a nuclear weapon specially designed to produce an enormous burst of gamma rays that generates an extraordinarily powerful electromagnetic pulse, capable of destroying even the best protected electronics, thereby paralyzing military forces and blacking out power grids and collapsing critical infrastructures everywhere–across an entire nation the size of the United States…

During the Cold War, the USSR experimented with a secret weapon, the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS), that used an ICBM like a Space Launch Vehicle to put a nuclear warhead into orbit, like a satellite. Instead of using the ICBM to lob the warhead on a more accurate arcing ballistic trajectory, flying along the shortest range to target, like an artillery shell, the FOBS lofted the warhead into a “fractional” or partial orbit, sacrificing accuracy for limitless range.

FOBS could reach any nation or threaten any target anywhere on Earth.

A Super-EMP warhead does not weigh much, and could probably be delivered by North Korea’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, successfully tested in December 2012, against any nation on Earth. Thus, North Korea already possesses an ICBM and poses a mortal nuclear threat to the United States, and to all nations on Earth–right now.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Scary stuff.

By the way, I noticed Maloof, like Pry, also has a book out on the subject, entitled A Nation Forsaken: EMP: The Escalating Threat of an American Catastrophe.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Malood, F. Michael. “DHS study: North Korea capable of EMP attack on U.S.” WorldNetDaily. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://www.wnd.com/2014/04/dhs-study-north-korea-capable-of-emp-attack-on-u-s/?cat_orig=world). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Resource Of The Week: StartPage Private Search Engine

I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly concerned about privacy going extinct in America.

Not that I engage in any criminal activity. I just tend to be a private person by nature.

And I think anything that can be done to reinforce and strengthen whatever privacy citizens still have left in the United States is a terrific thing.

Now let me take a selflie.

Enter StartPage, billed as “the world’s most private search engine.”

From their “About” page:

StartPage protects your privacy!

StartPage does not collect or share any personal information!

StartPage offers you Web results from Google- the world’s most popular search engine.

When you search with StartPage the Web results are generated by Google. This offers you the search results and search features you may have grown accustomed to.

A Unique Combination

On StartPage the privacy of Ixquick is combined with the Web search results from Google. The combination of these two features is what makes StartPage so special.

You can continue using the Web results from the world’s most popular search engine but now under the privacy protection of Ixquick, the world’s most private search engine…

At the bottom of the search engine’s home page there’s a box proclaiming:

Take a deep breath. You’re safe here.

Click here to learn the top 10 ways StartPage protects your privacy.

The “top 10 ways” include:

1. StartPage doesn’t store your IP address, use tracking cookies, or make a record of your searches…

2. StartPage protects you from NSA surveillance and spying…

3. StartPage gives you 100% real Google results in complete privacy…

4. StartPage is a Dutch company, so it is not under US jurisdiction…

5. StartPage offers a free proxy with every search…

6. StartPage is third-party certified for privacy…

7. StartPage has been doing privacy longer than anyone else – since way before privacy was “cool”…

8. When it comes to security, StartPage runs the tightest ship on the Internet…

9. StartPage breaks you free of the search engine “Filter Bubble”…

10. By using StartPage, you send a powerful pro-privacy message in the marketplace…

I’ve been using StartPage for a while now ever since my girlfriend introduced it to me some time back. It’s very good.

The only issue I have with the search engine is that it doesn’t seem to bring up as many results as Google does.

Still, it’s a lot more private.

Give StartPage a try here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: Link added to “Resources” page)

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July 2012, 2013 Solar Superstorms Could Have Resulted In Technological Disasters On Earth

Back on December 11, 2013, I blogged about a solar “superstorm” that almost pummeled the Earth in July 2012. A December 9 press release from University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said:

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Well, there’s been more analysis of that July 2012 CME event recently. From the FOX News website yesterday:

Earth dodged one of the most massive magnetic solar bursts ever on July 23, 2012, scientists with the University of California, Berkeley revealed on Wednesday — saving the planet from widespread havoc.

“Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous,” UC Berkeley research physicist Janet G. Luhmann said in a press release.

The 2012 massive magnetic cloud sped through space at over 1,200 miles per second, four times faster than a typical burst of solar power.

According to researchers, had the quick succession of coronal mass ejections (CMEs)– the most intense kind of solar eruptions — come nine days earlier, they would have hit Earth, potentially disabled satellites and GPS, and even affected the electrical grid.

A study from last year revealed that a solar storm like the one Earth narrowly avoided could have cost up to $2.6 trillion in damages. A similar event in March 1989 caused Canada’s Hydro-Quebec power grid to collapse and left six million people with no electricity for nine hours.

“The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years,” professor at China’s State Key Laboratory of Space Weather Ying D. Liu warned in a press release. “Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Another potential technological disaster was narrowly avoided just a year later in July 2013. I wrote on August 1:

Here’s something you probably won’t hear in the mainstream media:

The Earth just missed being hit by a coronal mass ejection two weeks ago

Paul Bedard reported in the “Washington Secrets” section of the Washington Examiner website last night:

The earth barely missed taking a massive solar punch in the teeth two weeks ago, an “electromagnetic pulse” so big that it could have knocked out power, cars and iPhones throughout the United States.

Two EMP experts told Secrets that the EMP flashed through earth’s typical orbit around the sun about two weeks before the planet got there.

“The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,” said Henry Cooper, who led strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union under President Reagan, and who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense.

“There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,” said Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission from 2001-2008. He was referring to the 1859 EMP named after astronomer Richard Carrington that melted telegraph lines in Europe and North America.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’m guessing solar superstorms don’t really register that much on the radar of most Americans. However, seeing how technologically dependent our society is these days, the potential effects of coronal mass ejections worry me considerably, and have so for some time.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“The massive solar blast that almost wreaked havoc on Earth.” FOX News. 19 Mar. 2014. (http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/19/massive-solar-blast-that-almost-wreaked-havoc-on-earth/?intcmp=features). 20 Mar. 2014.

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Missing ABC7 I-Team Info About Illinois Concealed Carry Security Breach

Earlier tonight, my girlfriend and I were eating dinner in front of the TV when investigative reporter Chuck Goudie appeared with his latest ABC7 I-Team segment about a security breach with the Illinois Concealed Carry License application process. From the website of Chicago ABC affiliate Channel 7 late this evening:

The ABC7 I-Team has learned some people who applied for Illinois concealed carry gun permits are being notified of a computer glitch that may have allowed other applicants to see their personal information.

State police tell the I-Team the problem happened on the first day that people were able to apply using the Illinois concealed carry website. The problem was discovered January 5 and the letters sent out by state police are dated March 4…

A state police spokesperson says the problem lasted only during a short period of time and there’s no evidence any personal information was stolen.

The “investigative report” that my girlfriend and I watched on TV around dinnertime went into more detail about the extent of the “computer glitch,” including:

1. Credit card, debit card, and Social Security numbers could have been viewed

2. At least 2 unauthorized views were detected

Not cool.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Some Illinois concealed carry applicants notified of security breach.” ABC7. 10 Mar. 2014. (http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=9461309). 10 Mar. 2014.

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DayZ Standalone: A Survival Video Game For Preppers?

Back in the 1980s, I used to play computer games. A lot. I’m not much of a “gamer” anymore. First, I don’t really have the time these days. Second, if I’m going to play a video game, particularly a simulation-type game, I want it to be related to something I’m interested in and to be as realistic as possible. Even though game development has advanced by leaps and bounds since the days I toiled trying to break the glass backboard on One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird, realism is still a tall order.

Enter DayZ.

From Wikipedia:

DayZ is a multiplayer open world survival horror video game in development by Bohemia Interactive and the stand-alone version of the award-winning mod of the same name. The game was test-released on December 16, 2013 on PC for Microsoft Windows via digital distribution platform Steam, and is currently in early alpha testing.

The game places the player in the fictional post-Soviet state of Chernarus, where an unknown virus has turned most of the population into violent zombies. As a survivor, the player must scavenge the world for food, water, weapons, and medicine, while killing or avoiding zombies, and killing, avoiding or co-opting other players in an effort to survive the zombie apocalypse…


“DayZ Early Access Launch Trailer”
(Warning! Graphic Violence)
YouTube Video

I know what some of you might be thinking.

“Oh great. Another violent, shoot-the-zombies-up time waster.”

Now, I’ve been following the development of DayZ into its current stand-alone version for several months now, and I don’t think those who’ve played the game would classify it simply as a zombie-killing production. It’s the somewhat realistic survival aspect of it that keeps gamers coming back for more. Again from Wikipedia:

The goal of DayZ is to stay alive during the conditions of the zombie apocalypse that has befallen the in-game world. The player begins on the coast of the map equipped with only simple clothes and a flashlight, and must begin exploring the large 225 km landscape to investigate locations such as houses, barns, and apartments to scavenge supplies. These supplies include food and water, which are basic keys to prolonging the players life. Beyond the bare bones of survival, players can find various forms of clothing, which not only allows the player to customise their character, but can bring the benefit of extra storage space for supplies. Also scattered around the map are a variety of weapons, allowing players to protect themselves from zombies or other players if necessary. Currently these are largely focused on a range of melee weapons, but a small number of firearms (more are to be implemented with future updates) are present, as well as various attachments such as bipods and telescopic sights.

Whilst travelling around the game players can also find various medical supplies, as the environment poses a range of threats to their character. This includes diseases such as cholera, dysentery and hepatitis, which can be caught by ingesting dirty water or rotten food and must be cured with the appropriate medicine. If a player is shot or otherwise hurt, items on their person may be damaged. The player may also start bleeding and must be bandaged quickly to minimise blood loss; excessive damage or blood loss will result in serious deterioration of vision for the player and can render them unconscious…

Planned features include being able to build bases in the world in which players can keep their items safe, with the possibility of security systems and programmable computers having been considered. The standalone game will build on the text and close range voice chat of the mod version by including a new whisper channel, which will allow players to communicate over a very short distance without players nearby hearing, as well as radios (based off the “ACRE” mod for ARMA 2), which will allow longer range communication, including the possibility of encrypted two-way radios and player run radio stations. A number of features which are not currently available but will be added in a patch some time during the alpha have been confirmed including vehicles, more zombies, animals and hunting, and cooking.

I’ve been watching a variety of YouTube videos made of people playing DayZ Stand-Alone, and I have to say I’m real impressed with what I’ve seen:


“DayZ Standalone – I Saved Someone’s Life!”
(Warning! Graphic Violence, Language)
YouTube Video

I can envision myself trying out DayZ. As to it’s worth as a survival simulator? Let’s be honest, folks. No computer game at this point in time could possibly hope to replicate the real thing. But consider what “Selco” over at the SHTF School blog wrote about an earlier version of the project:

So overall I can say it is nice try to give people feeling of how survival like this feels. You often feel desperate and have to be careful all the time. It is far from perfect but creates clearer picture of what survival is about than any movie I saw in the past…

Selco would know, being a survivor of the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s.

For more information on DayZ and how to buy it, head over to the game’s website here. As I type this, it’s €23.99- or $32.66 in U.S. dollars- to join in on the fun.

Just remember DayZ is still in “alpha testing”- where the bugs are in the process of being worked out.

Even though that’s the case, over 1 million copies have already been sold since its December release.

Not bad. And as word gets out about this latest version, I wonder if preppers won’t be tempted to get their gaming on?

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Selco. “Dayz – the first real survival game?” SHTF School. 4 Aug. 2012. (http://shtfschool.com/general/dayz-the-first-real-survival-game/). 16 Jan. 2014.

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Can 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol Be Filtered From Contaminated West Virginia Water?

After seeing some post-ban photos of tap water that had been contaminated by 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) in that big West Virginia chemical spill last week, I started wondering- is this a scenario where a water filtration system- like the ones used by backpackers, campers, and preppers/survivalists- can be employed to make the water safe to drink again?

The performance of such water filter systems these days is supposed to be outstanding, so it’s a legitimate question. Anyone remember the following YouTube video for the PocketPure water filter that was used in an August 9, 2013, post?


“Man Drinks Horse Crap To Test Pocketpure Water Filtration System”
YouTube Video

Why, how could I forget, Chris?

And I keep coming across rave reviews for the Berkey water filter systems, which are used by relief organizations such as UNICEF, the Peace Corps, the Red Cross, and even the British royal family.

So will these types of filters work on 4-methylcyclohexane methanol-tainted water?

The quick answer is- no one’s really sure. At least right now. A search of the Internet this afternoon didn’t turn up any manufacturer or vendor who would confirm their product can effectively filter MCHM from contaminated water. One Berkey vendor did discuss the situation, however. From the blog of BigBerkeyWaterFilters.com on January 10:

The chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol that was leaked in West Virginia is an organic chemical. This is a relatively unknown chemical that is not on the EPA’s organic chemical list to test for and for this reason we have not specifically tested this organic chemical compound. Therefore, we are unable to positively state that the Berkey system will remove 4-methylcyclohexane methanol.

What we do know is that the EPA organic compounds that Berkey has tested for show the lowest removal rate was 86% removal, and that the majority tested greater than 99% removal. However, we reiterate that without specific testing we cannot make any claim of removal of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. We can only state that the data suggests that the black berkey filters would likely be very efficient at removing the chemical, given that it is an organic chemical/compound…

If I hear of anyone attempting to use a water filtration system like a Berkey to remove MCHM, I’ll update this post with that information.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“West Virginia Chemical Spill And Chemical Removal.” BigBerkeyWaterFilters.com. 10 Jan. 2014. (http://www.bigberkeywaterfilters.com/blog/chemical-spill/west-virginia-chemical-spill-and-berkey-removal). 15 Jan. 2014.

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Attack On California Power Substation Just A ‘Dress Rehearsal’?

Speaking of the fragile U.S. power grid this morning, I’ve been itching to discuss the following incident that took place in April and which I’ve been hearing more about as time goes on. Shane Harris reported on the Foreign Policy website back on December 27:

Around 1:00 AM on April 16, at least one individual (possibly two) entered two different manholes at the PG&E Metcalf power substation, southeast of San Jose, and cut fiber cables in the area around the substation. That knocked out some local 911 services, landline service to the substation, and cell phone service in the area, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Foreign Policy. The intruder(s) then fired more than 100 rounds from what two officials described as a high-powered rifle at several transformers in the facility. Ten transformers were damaged in one area of the facility, and three transformer banks — or groups of transformers — were hit in another, according to a PG&E spokesman.

Cooling oil then leaked from a transformer bank, causing the transformers to overheat and shut down. State regulators urged customers in the area to conserve energy over the following days, but there was no long-term damage reported at the facility and there were no major power outages. There were no injuries reported. That was the good news. The bad news is that officials don’t know who the shooter(s) were, and most importantly, whether further attacks are planned.

“Initially, the attack was being treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” the senior intelligence official said. “However, investigators have been quoted in the press expressing opinions that there are indications that the timing of the attacks and target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication.”


Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office
“PG&E Substation Surveillance Video”
(Sparks from bullets @ 1:54, 2:07, 2:10, 2:57, and 3:01)
YouTube Video

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now in charge of the case. Even though the shooting took place one day after the Boston Marathon bombing, Harris wrote the FBI “has no evidence that the attack is related to terrorism, and it appears to be an isolated incident.”

However, there’s this later on in the piece:

“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former vice president for transmission operations at PG&E, said last month at a conference on grid security held in Philadelphia. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal” for future attacks.

Wackjob(s)? Terrorist(s)? The authorities may never find out just who was behind the attack. But I can only imagine if this had taken place in the Chicago area during a brutal cold spell like the one we’re in now.

Should a similar attack be successful here in Chiberia-like conditions and the region plunged into an extensive and extended power outage, chaos and carnage could easily ensue.

Extreme weather (space weather included). Cyber attacks. Physical attack. I wished Washington would take steps to significantly harden the national power grid. But they won’t any time soon (other spending priorities, no immediate/substantial political “return” from doing so).

Regrettably, the bad guys have almost certainly figured this out as well.

Yep. Alternative/backup electricity and heating is starting to sound real good right now.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Harris, Shane. “‘Military-Style’ Raid on California Power Station Spooks U.S.” Foreign Policy. 27 Dec. 2013. (http://complex.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/24/power-station-military-assault), 8 Jan 2014.

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Solar Scientist: July 2012 Coronal Mass Ejection And 1859 Carrington Event Show Need To Prepare

Here’s a press release that should concern every adult American. From University of Colorado-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, on Monday:

CU-Boulder scientist: 2012 solar storm points up need for society to prepare

A massive ejection of material from the sun initially traveling at over 7 million miles per hour that narrowly missed Earth last year is an event solar scientists hope will open the eyes of policymakers regarding the impacts and mitigation of severe space weather, says a University of Colorado Boulder professor.

The coronal mass ejection, or CME, event was likely more powerful than the famous Carrington storm of 1859, when the sun blasted Earth’s atmosphere hard enough twice to light up the sky from the North Pole to Central America and allowed New Englanders to read their newspapers at night by aurora light, said CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker. Had it hit Earth, the July 2012 event likely would have created a technological disaster by short-circuiting satellites, power grids, ground communication equipment and even threatening the health of astronauts and aircraft crews, he said.

CMEs are part of solar storms and can send billions of tons of solar particles in the form of gas bubbles and magnetic fields off the sun’s surface and into space. The storm events essentially peel Earth’s magnetic field like an onion, allowing energetic solar wind particles to stream down the field lines to hit the atmosphere over the poles.

Fortunately, the 2012 solar explosion occurred on the far side of the rotating sun just a week after that area was pointed toward Earth, said Baker, a solar scientist and the director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. But NASA’s STEREO-A, satellite that was flying ahead of the Earth as the planet orbited the sun, captured the event, including the intensity of the solar wind, the interplanetary magnetic field and a rain of solar energetic particles into space.

“My space weather colleagues believe that until we have an event that slams Earth and causes complete mayhem, policymakers are not going to pay attention,” he said. “The message we are trying to convey is that we made direct measurements of the 2012 event and saw the full consequences without going through a direct hit on our planet.”

Baker will give a presentation on the subject at the 46th Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco Dec. 9 to Dec. 13.

While typical coronal mass ejections from the sun take two or three days to reach Earth, the 2012 event traveled from the sun’s surface to Earth in just 18 hours. “The speed of this event was as fast or faster than anything that has been seen in the modern space age,” said Baker. The event not only had the most powerful CME ever recorded, but it would have triggered one of the strongest geomagnetic storms and the highest density of particle fluctuation ever seen in a typical solar cycle, which last roughly 11 years.

“We have proposed that the 2012 event be adopted as the best estimate of the worst case space weather scenario,” said Baker, who chaired a 2008 National Research Council committee that produced a report titled Severe Space Weather Events – Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts. “We argue that this extreme event should be immediately employed by the space weather community to model severe space weather effects on technological systems such as the electrical power grid.

“I liken it to war games — since we have the information about the event, let’s play it through our various models and see what happens,” Baker said. “If we do this, we would be a significant step closer to providing policymakers with real-world, concrete kinds of information that can be used to explore what would happen to various technologies on Earth and in orbit rather than waiting to be clobbered by a direct hit.”

Even though it occurred about 150 years ago, the Carrington storm was memorable from a natural beauty standpoint as well as its technological impacts, he said. The event disrupted telegraph communications — the Internet of the Victorian Age — around the world, sparking fires at telegraph offices that caused several deaths, he said.

A 1989 geomagnetic storm caused by a CME from a solar storm in March 1989 resulted in the collapse of Hydro-Quebec’s electricity transmission system, causing 6 million people to lose power for at least nine hours, said Baker. The auroras from the event could be seen as far south as Texas and Florida.

“The Carrington storm and the 2012 event show that extreme space weather events can happen even during a modest solar cycle like the one presently underway,” said Baker. “Rather than wait and pick up the pieces, we ought to take lessons from these events to prepare ourselves for inevitable future solar storms.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Sobering stuff. You can read the entire press release on the CU-Boulder website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Pandemic Tops Global Insurance Executive Rankings Of ‘Extreme’ Risks To Their Industry

Here’s an interesting piece I stumbled upon this morning while searching for some pandemic-related material out in cyberspace. Caitlin Bronson reported on the website of Insurance Business (America) this morning:

A global pandemic, a widespread natural disaster and a food/water/energy crisis are the top three extreme risks threatening the insurance industry in the near future, a Towers Watson survey of global insurance industry executives reveals.

The survey—part of Towers Watson’s biennial analysis Extreme Risks—asked more than 30,000 top executives to rate very rare events that would have a large impact on global economic growth and the insurance sector.

In addition to health, weather and technological risks, the insurance executives also saw financial disasters as having a large role to play in the future of the insurance industry. An economic depression, a banking crisis and a default by a major sovereign borrower were all listed in the executives’ top 10 concerns…

It’s a short, insightful read (I wonder if the insurance industry is any good at forecasting major crises/disasters?), and the article can be viewed in its entirety on the Insurance Business (America) website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Robert Shiller: ‘I Am Most Worried About The Boom In The U.S. Stock Market’

I’ve been following Yale economics professor, co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, and 2013 Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller for a number of years now.

While his academic and professional achievements are impressive, I like the fact that this “crash prophet” correctly called the late 90s dot-com bubble and housing bubble of a few years ago.

These days, Dr. Shiller is worried about U.S. stocks once more. Madeline Chambers reported on Reuters.com this morning:

An American who won this year’s Nobel Prize for economics believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

Robert Shiller, who won the esteemed award with two other Americans for research into market prices and asset bubbles, pinpointed the U.S. stock market and Brazilian property market as areas of concern.

“I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets,” Shiller told Sunday’s Der Spiegel magazine. “That could end badly,” he said.

“I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable,” he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Our economy is still weak and vulnerable.”

My thoughts exactly- though I wish it weren’t so.

While Dr. Shiller doesn’t say U.S. stocks are in a bubble, I wonder if he wouldn’t consider them relatively “frothy”?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

Source:

Chambers, Madeline. “Nobel Prize economist warns of U.S. stock market bubble.” Reuters. 1 Dec. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/01/us-economy-shiller-idUSBRE9B009620131201). 1 Dec. 2013.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel And Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy Call For More Gun ‘Control’

The first anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings is right around the corner, and supporters of gun “control” are becoming increasingly vocal about their desire for more restrictions. Not surprisingly, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy chimed in yesterday with their calls for more gun “control” while celebrating the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or “Brady Bill,” which was signed into law on November 30, 1993, and required background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm can be purchased from a federally-licensed dealer. C. Hayes wrote on Chicago’s WGN TV website Thursday:

Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence mark the upcoming, 20th anniversary of an historic gun law while also pushing for even tougher gun rules in Chicago

At Thursday’s gathering, the leaders said the explosion of the internet has undermined the law. They point out up to 40 percent of firearms sales are through the internet between private parties

“While gun shows were around, they weren’t really conceived of in the way that they are today for purchases and moving of guns,” said Emanuel.

(Editor’s noted: Italics added for emphasis)

CPD Superintendent McCarthy had this to say about the group’s desire for universal background checks:

I think some people wrongly believe that requiring background checks will have no impact on criminals and will only create a system that impacts the good citizens who comply with the law. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Speaking of “the truth,” back on March 21, 2013, FactCheck.org looked into the line that “40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check.” Here’s what they found:

That figure is based on an analysis of a nearly two-decade-old survey of less than 300 people that essentially asked participants whether they thought the guns they had acquired- and not necessarily purchased- came from a federally licensed dealer. And one of the authors of the report often cited as a source for the claim — Philip Cook of Duke University — told our friends at Politifact.com that he has “no idea” whether the “very old number” applies today or not.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Ironically, a number of FactCheck.org’s critics claim the fact-checking project is actually liberal-leaning, not unbiased as many might think.

Too funny.

Sources:

Hayes, C. “City officials mark 20th anniversary of ‘Brady Bill’” WGN TV. 21 Nov. 2013. (http://wgntv.com/2013/11/21/brady-bill-anniversary-marked/). 22 Nov. 2013.

“Guns Acquired Without Background Checks.” FactCheck.org. 21 Mar. 2013. (http://www.factcheck.org/2013/03/guns-acquired-without-background-checks/). 22 Nov. 2013.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Marc Faber: Crude Oil Probably ‘The Most Attractive Commodity’ Among Industrial Commodities

“Doctor Doom” Marc Faber was recently interviewed by The Economic Times (India). In a November 8, 2013, video segment on the Times website, the Swiss-born investment advisor and fund manager shared his thoughts on gold and crude oil:

The price of gold at this level is not terribly high compared to the wealth creation in the world compared to the expansion of the central banks’ balance sheets compared to the tech explosion and so forth and so on. So ja, I continue to recommend people that they allocate some of their money to gold. I prefer physical gold, but I have to say that numerous gold mining shares are now very inexpensive. Crude oil is probably, among the industrial commodities, the most attractive commodity because the supply of oil could be interrupted at some point.

Source:

“Prefer buying physical gold: Marc Faber.” The Economic Times. 8 Nov. 2013. (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/et-now/commodities/prefer-buying-physical-gold-marc-faber/videoshow/25453685.cms) 10 Nov. 2013.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Sun Fires Off More ‘X-Class’ Solar Flares

The Sun keeps churning out big solar flares these days. Karen C. Fox from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported on the NASA website earlier today:

The sun emitted a significant solar flare that peaked at 1:14 a.m. EST on Nov. 10, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1.1 class flare. “X-class” denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum conditions…

This is the seventh significant flare since Oct. 23, 2013, with the largest being an X3.3 on Nov. 5, 2013.

I’m not too concerned about solar flares as I am coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. Ms. Fox pointed out back in a May 13 piece on the NASA website:

Solar flares can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere creating disruptions with signal transmission from, say, a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by many yards. Another phenomenon produced by the sun could be even more disruptive. Known as a coronal mass ejection or CME these solar explosions propel bursts of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into Earth’s atmosphere. Those fluctuations could induce electric fluctuations at ground level that could blow out transformers in power grids. A CME’s particles can also collide with crucial electronics onboard a satellite and disrupt its systems.

Fried electrical grids. Not good.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Fox, Karen C. “Veteran’s Day Solar Flare.” NASA. 10 Nov. 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/2013-Veterans-day-solar-flare/#.UoBMpeL4LS0). 10 Nov. 2013.

Fox, Karen C. “Impacts of Strong Solar Flares.” NASA. 13 May 2013. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/flare-impacts.html). 10 Nov. 2013.

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Iran Can Now Produce Enough Weapons-Grade Uranium To Build A Nuclear Weapon Within 2 Weeks?

“Despite what this White House or its predecessors have repeatedly told the American people, it’s my belief that Iran will soon have nuclear weapons (barring military intervention by us or our allies).”

-Christopher E. Hill, Survival And Prosperity, January 20, 2011

There’s been plenty of talk lately that Iran may be able to produce enough weapons-grade uranium soon to build themselves a nuclear weapon.

To be fair, the prospect of the Iranians carrying out this achievement is something that keeps popping up in the news on a regular basis.

Still, I stand by that initial statement.

And here’s the latest chatter about the Islamic Republic of Iran getting their weapons-grade uranium and nuke. On October 5, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace interviewed U.S. President Barack Obama on a wide range of topics. One of those was Iran. From their exchange:

Q: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Iran is about six months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. You said in March, before your trip to Israel, that you thought Iran was a year or more away. What’s the U.S. intelligence assessment at this point on that timetable?

THE PRESIDENT: Our assessment continues to be a year or more away.

U.S. intelligence on an Iranian nuclear weapon? One year.

On October 25, Oren Dorell reported on the USA TODAY website:

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.

The top nuclear expert Dorell was referring to was David Albright, president of Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security and a former inspector for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency. From the non-profit, non-partisan ISIS in an October 24, 2013, summary for their report entitled “Iranian Breakout Estimates, Updated September 2013″:

We evaluated a range of breakout scenarios based on the current enriching IR-1 centrifuges and LEU stockpiles, total installed IR-1 centrifuges, and a possible covert facility containing IR-2m centrifuges. This analysis utilizes a modified form of the well-known four-step enrichment process that was developed under A.Q. Khan for Pakistan’s centrifuge program and transferred to other countries, such as Iran. Using all four steps, Iran would enrich natural uranium to 3.5 percent in step one, then to 20 percent in step two, then to 60 percent in step three, and finally to WGU in step four. This analysis considers the four-step, three-step, and two-step process also with the use of existing LEU stockpiles.

The table lists the major estimated breakout times of the four scenarios considered in this report. Today, Iran could break out most quickly using a three-step process with its installed centrifuges and its LEU stockpiles as of August 2013. In this case, Iran could produce one SQ in as little as approximately 1.0-1.6 months, if it uses all its near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride stockpile. Using only 3.5 percent LEU, Iran would need at least 1.9 to 2.2 months and could make approximately 4 SQs of WGU using all its existing 3.5 percent LEU stockpile.

(Editor’s notes: Italics added for emphasis)

ISIS on Iran being able to produce one significant quantity (SQ) of weapon-grade uranium (WGU)? One month.

It was also noted in that summary:

The estimates in this report do not include the additional time that Iran would need to convert WGU into weapons components and manufacture a nuclear weapon. This extra time could be substantial, particularly if Iran wanted to build a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile. However, these preparations would most likely be conducted at secret sites and would be difficult to detect.

Which doesn’t rule out the possibility then that some manufacturing hasn’t already been going on.

And finally, Raphael Ahren reported yesterday on The Times Of Israel website:

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build an atomic weapon within two weeks and has, “in a certain way,” already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program, a former senior International Atomic Energy Association official said Monday.

“I believe that if certain arrangements are done, it could even go down to two weeks. So there are a lot of concerns out there that Iran can hopefully now address, in this new phase, both at the P5+1 [talks between Tehran and six world powers] and with the IAEA,” former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said, confirming a report released last week by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which stated Iran could muster enough uranium for a bomb by converting all of its 20-percent enriched stockpile within 1 to 1.6 months.

Former IAEA deputy director on Iran producing enough uranium for a nuke? Two weeks.

Two weeks.

Something tells me that while the Obama administration would have liked to kick the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon down the road as far as possible, they might actually welcome these latest estimates as a convenient distraction for the American public away from other problems the White House is currently trying to deal with.

Stay tuned.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Full text of Obama’s interview with AP.” Associated Press. 5 Oct. 2013. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-obamas-interview-with-ap/). 29 Oct. 2013.

Dorell, Oren. “Report: Iran may be month from a bomb.” USA TODAY. 25 Oct. 2013. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/24/iran-bomb-one-month-away/3181373/). 29 Oct. 2013.

“Iranian Breakout Estimates- Summary.” Institute for Science and International Security. 24 Oct. 2013. (http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Breakout_Study_Summary_24October2013.pdf). 29 Oct. 2013.

Ahren, Raphael. “‘Iran two weeks away from weapons-grade uranium’” The Times of Israel. 28 Oct. 2013. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-two-weeks-away-from-weapons-grade-uranium/). 29 Oct. 2013.

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