Note from JWR:

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Tomorrow we will announce the winner of Round 3 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest, and award a four day “gray” transferable Front Sight course certificate. Thanks to the generosity of Front Sight’s Director, Naish Piazza, we will be running Round 4 of the contest, with the same valuable prize. (Worth as much as $2,000 if you were paying cash for a course.) The deadline for entries for Round 4 is May 31, 2006. Speaking of Front Sight, the 26 episode weekly reality TV series entitled, Front Sight Challenge will be aired soon on The Outdoor Channel. Check your satellite television guide for dates and times. I anticipate that the wide exposure generated by the TV series will likely result in full bookings for Front Sight classes al through the rest of the year, so book your classes early!

If you haven’t done so already, please add a link to your web site to SurvivalBlog. Pretty please?  The more links we have, the greater our visibility to the search engines. By
showing up at the top of the list in Google  when somebody searches on “storage food”, or “Bug out bag”, or “AR-15″ means that we’ll gain another reader, and each  increase in readership makes us more attractive to sponsors. On and on it goes, in the chain of “Linky Love.”  Needless to say, if you add a link to us, we will be happy to reciprocate with link to your site, unless you are a smut peddler.  Links are more important to us than those 10 Cent Challenge contributions, and they cost you nothing. OBTW, if you want to be extra nice and put up a graphic (banner) link, we have lots of different sizes available: http://www.SurvivalBlog.com/linktous.html. Thanks!

Letter from “Mr. Coffee” in Costa Rica Re: Finding a Stable Country for an Offshore Retreat

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Hi Jim,
I haven’t e-mailed you in a long while because I know you are really busy with your blog. I read your site every day and have implemented many of the ideas you and others have shared. Thanks. If any of your readers have specific questions about moving to Costa Rica I would be glad to answer them.  You can share my e-mail address: costaricakelly@yahoo.com. The info you shared in your March 30th blog post about Central America is accurate. I would stay away from the rest of Central America. Panama still has some nice areas up in the mountains. Belize is English speaking but it is also mostly black (I can’t use the term African American in this instance.) There are two other web sites that SurvivalBlog readers might find interesting: www.amcostarica.com is a daily newsletter, www.ticotimes.net is a weekly newspaper here in Costa Rica and has news online. Congrats on giving up your “day job” and concentrating solely on your blog. – Mr. Coffee

Odds ‘n Sods:

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This story is amazing:  http://www.phishhook.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=550448  Of course this was criminal enterprise, but some of the same techniques could be used to conceal entrances for secret rooms and/or an underground retreat.

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Eric Fry of The Rude Awakening e-newsletter notes: “22-year highs in silver; 24-year highs in sugar; 25-year  highs in gold; 26-year highs in platinum; all-time highs in copper, crude oil
and natural gas…Welcome to the commodity markets of 2005-06.”

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Fred the Valmet-meister says: “If you liked Frontier House on PBS a few years ago, you’ll like the new “Ranch House” miniseries (eight parts) about life in the Old West. They are going to do the same thing they did in Frontier House, but do cattle drives and live in the high desert and Texas. It will be aired in May.”

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One last reminder that the big sale on Mountain House canned freeze dried foods at SafeCastle ends at noon TODAY (March 31, 2006). The sale pricing includes free shipping anywhere in the U.S.–even Alaska and Hawaii.

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A couple of stories on the recent run-up in precious metals prices, at Marketwatch and Reuters.

Finding a Stable Country for an Offshore Retreat

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I’m often asked by SurvivalBlog readers and consulting clients about where to look for an offshore retreat. Today, I’ll discuss general selection criteria, and briefly discuss Central America.

With a few exceptions, most of my consulting clients seem to agree on the following criteria:

Political stability

Economic stability

Relatively self-sufficient agriculture

Livable climate

Allows expatriates to own land outright, or at least provided long term (60+ year) renewable leases

Free enterprise and private banking

Favorable tax situation

Minimal gun laws

Low crime rate

Free of Malaria and at minimal risk for other insect-borne diseases

Well established infrastructure (power, phone, water, sanitation, Internet,…)

High percentage of English speaking residents

Looking dispassionately at this list, we can eliminate most countries in Central America in short order: Mexico has both a high crime rate and horribly restrictive gun laws. Guatemala and El Salvador have too much poverty and insubstantial infrastructures. Nicaragua and Honduras have enough crime that I reduced them to “maybe” status, aside for a few hoi polloi gated communities. Panama, although recently quite stable, has its problems. Most notably it has recently caved in and forced its banks to open its books to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. In my estimation, this leaves just Costa Rica and Belize as the most likely prospects in Central America. Belize is particularly captivating, since it is a former British colony and therefore has a largely English-speaking populace. Both of these countries are quite stable and quite receptive to expats. I will write some details on both countries in future SurvivalBlog posts. If any readers have first-hand knowledge about offshore retreat locales, I’d appreciate you input, via e-mail. In the interim, here are a couple of resources for you to investigate:

For some first-hand information on Costa Rica, see the Retreat Owner Profile on “Mr. Coffee” at the bottom of our Profiles page.

General information about Belize:
http://www.belize.com/

For information on how to buy land in Belize and some Belize facts, see:
http://www.belizerealestate.com/belize/index.html

General information on Ambergris Caye (Off the northern coast of Belize), see:
http://www.ambergriscaye.com: (The cayes are the healthiest places to live in Belize.)

This real estate agency has a good reputation:
Belize Real Estate (The oldest real estate company in Belize)
U.S. Phone (via VOIP): (813) 322-3899 — Ask for David Doering
Belize Office 011-501-226-2090 / Fax 011-501-226-2245
P.O. Box 15
San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize
website: http://www.BelizeRealEstate.com
e-mail: bzreal@btl.net (Tell David that Jim Rawles of SurvivalBlog sent you.)

General information about Costa Rica:
http://www.infocostarica.com/

Letter Re: Investing in Tangibles Through an IRA

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Dear Jim:
Per your suggestions, I have been doing a lot of research into the American Church Trust Precious-Metals IRA [offered through Swiss America]. However, I have several questions that I would like to ask.
[JWR's replies are in-line, in bold.]

1.) I noticed in a recent post of yours on this subject that you have your IRA backed by Gold American Eagles. Could you explain why you chose gold instead of silver?

Because of the much higher “per ounce/per dollar” purchase premium on U.S. Mint Silver Eagles, I prefer U.S. Mint Gold Eagles, in this case.  (At the time those were my only two options. I’m not certain what they currently offer.)

2.) Are you concerned about the USG ability to confiscate gold as they did in 1933 since the law to do so is still on the books?

IMO, the chance of another gold confiscation is fairly slim. (And almost nil for silver.)  I can’t predict how any confiscation executive order might be worded.  However, there is the chance that it would exempt both numismatics and U.S. Mint American Eagles.

3.) And if this did happen, what would be the effect, if any, on a gold-backed IRA?

Anything that is held in a well-documented IRA or kept in a bank safe deposit box could conceivably be subject to confiscation. It is a gamble, but in my estimation the odds are a lot better than leaving you IRA or 401(k) in dollar-denominated investments, which are almost certain losers in the event of mass inflation.

4.) What precious metals do you recommend for the Church Trust IRA today?

Since the spot price of silver has recently greatly out-paced gold–leaving gold temporarily relatively under-valued–I think that gold American Eagles would currently be your best bet.

5.) Are you continuing to make contributions to your IRA presently or are you moving in a different direction?

I am no longer adding to that account.  I only created it originally because at the time I had a 401(k) from a corporate job that I needed to roll over.  All of the gold and silver that I’ve bought in the past five years ave been physical metals (primarily silver), which are held in a private vault. BTW, I recommend Swiss America for those purchases, too. Be sure to shop around. You might get a slightly better rate at your local coin shop, coin show, or gun show.

I appreciate your informed opinions. B’shem Yahshua HaMoshiach, – Dr. Sidney Zweibel

Letter Re: Defending Your Home: An Outline of Security for Troubled Times, by K.A.D.

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Jim,
For those folks out there who are incorporating a door/window alarm system for their home as part of layered protection, it pays to personally check each window, door every six months to see if the connections still work. After having our home windows/doors/motion sensor-monitored alarm system for about six years built in new into our country home, we found recently that some of the window sensors didn’t work when the windows were opened. The monitoring company visited and said that as our home settled, some wires got pinched, some separated and it was not uncommon to have that happen. So it pays to check your battery-powered remote door sensors and window/door connections periodically to ensure that they are still functioning. Regards, – Redclay

Odds ‘n Sods:

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The wizened Dow Theory sage Richard Russell comments on the U.S. Dollar and the Housing Bubble:

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U.S. Marines in Iraq say: “Too Much Body Armor“:

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Here is an interesting blog that I just found today: Airborne Combat Engineer

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The Associated Press reports on Enormous Pro-Illegal Immigration Rallies in the U.S. Unfortunately, I think that congress is likely to cave in to the pressure and institute some form of amnesty. To the left wing of the Democrat party, the conservatively estimated 16 million illegal aliens in the country represent a potentially huge voting bloc. To corporate power brokers, they are a pool of cheap labor. This has created an informal alliance that favors continued illegal immigration. What a sad state of affairs. I am not a racist, but I certainly don’t like seeing mass illegal immigration. If illegal farm and factory workers can sneak in with ease, then so can terrorists. We need less porous borders, and some collective backbone. Please pray that congress does the right thing, and then make a few phone calls to your congresscritters.

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Our friend Noah at the Defense Tech Blog discusses “Chameleon Weapons” that Defy Metal Detectors

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Spot silver passed the $11 per ounce mark yesterday. I won’t say anything more than “I told you so!”

Note From JWR:

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Today we welcome our newest advertiser: The Alert System.com. This is an automated system that sends out e-mails to subscriber mobile devices (such as cell phones and pagers) for less than a dime a day. It was started as a project to keep the inventor’s like minded friends informed of the latest important news, and to coordinate any bug out/in. Since then, at considerable expense this project has been scaled up to handle thousands of subscribers. Check it out.

Starting in April, I will be quitting my day job, and blogging full time. To put bread on the table, I will need about twice as many advertisers.  I’d greatly appreciate your help:  If you know of a potential advertiser, please call or e-mail them, and ask them to get a banner ad at SurvivalBlog.  They cost as little as $55 per month. Many Thanks!

Letter Re: The Spanish Flu of 1918, by Tim P.

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Regarding the very enjoyable letter about the Spanish Flu in1918, I can’t resist one comment. It is with incredible relentlessness that Big Pharma in their zest to sell vaccines keeps stating that we have 30,000 or 36,000 deaths per year from the flu. If you take the time to examine the actual CDC published data it is a bit different. I did a while back, and I seem to recall the 2003 and 2004 numbers being closer to 600 to 900 deaths per year from the flu. The deaths from pneumonia are close to 35,000 per year, so it appears they are adding them together to get to commonly trumpeted 36,000 deaths. Unfortunately they are not actually the same thing and you cannot combine them and call it one or the other. So, the relative difference between the percentage of the population that died from the Spanish Flu and current flu death rates is actually even more impressive than Tim described. I also am hesitant to accept the current death rates of this newest avian flu simply because it is rare enough that I suspect many of the cases that folk have had and recovered from are not being correctly documented or reported. However, perhaps doctors are universally more observant than I presume. Who knows? – B.F.

Letter Re: Argentina’s Lessons for the U.S. Debt

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I read the first-hand accounts of Argentina’s decline from wealth and prosperity to near lawlessness that were linked to here a while back and they stuck with me. How could a prosperous nation with generally well-regarded policies sink so far so fast? Far more importantly, what caused it, could it happen in other places (i.e. here), and what indicators were missed? Luck would have it that I stumbled across the answers to two of those entirely serendipitously. The answer is actually rather simple: debt. The Argentinean economy was in good shape in the 1990s, it had good growth, good employment, and highly regarded economic policies. What it didn’t have was a good understanding of how much debt it was
getting itself into. For various reasons, Argentina failed to turn the money it borrowed from foreigners into solid, growing tax revenues.
This failure caused it to seek out more and more credit and this worried lenders into raising interest rates. Just like the in-debt-up-to-his-eyeballs suburbanite, Argentina was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and financing its debt with more debt. The figures on this page ( http://www.frbsf.org/publications/economics/letter/2002/el2002-31.html ) illustrate the failure of the Argentine government to curtail its borrowing. What the world witnessed (none more so than its citizens) was bankruptcy on a global scale. Given (and to some extent assuming) the reasons outlined above, I started to think about what parallels this might have to the current US economy. There are several major differences between Argentina and
the US that make even simple comparisons difficult. The first is size. The US economy is quite simply the 800 pound gorilla in the world market, towering over Argentina’s meerkat. The second major distinction is the difference in the balance of incomes in the two countries. The US derives a far greater percentage of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
from exports making foreign lending less one-sided. The similarities, however, are not to be ignored. The US has hugely expanded the amount of debt it has taken on ever since World War II (Please ignore the tone of this article, I do not necessarily endorse it, it merely has a good graph: http://www.cedarcomm.com/~stevelm1/usdebt.htm ). Fortunately, these
massive increases in debt have happened alongside equally tremendous growths in GDP. The number to watch for, then, is the percentage of
debt-to-GDP.
Clearly, the US can withstand a higher debt-to-GDP ratio merely due to its huge size and world influence, but determining it for sure would likely lead to a rather severe recession. One of the difficulties here is that there are very few examples in history for what happens when national debts of large, industrialized nations gets out of control. Argentina was a learning experience for the world economy (and hugely more so for the Argentineans), and hopefully the Japanese economy will handle their 90% ratio with less drastic results. I suggest that among the other economic indicators that are bandied about on the talking-head cable news networks, you pay attention to the debt-to-GDP ratio as an indicator of the health and sanity of the U.S. Federal budget. One hopes that talk of an overvalued dollar and a hissing housing bubble will not devolve into a panic, but always remember that a panic is merely a mass of individuals making the obvious choice. – P.H.

Letter from The Army Aviator Re: A Source for Night Vision Scopes

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I’ve been running night vision since I learned to fly with them back in 1978. Not to disparage the writer’s comments about how good the “Mini-14″ monocular is, because it is a good unit. However, it’s been my experience that the PRC-14Delta (Government) model is even better. Yes, a papered version costs more than a civilian Mini-14 but it’s worth the money. And, as an additional note, the manual gain adjustment of the PRC-14D is invaluable. It’s there for a reason. You strap it on and adjust the gain until you have maximal effectiveness of both eyes (One aided eye and one un-aided eye). Auto gain doesn’t allow for that and limits you to only using one eye to effectively see. It’s normally too bright to utilize both eyes, especially in dark arenas.
I use automatic gain adjusting Night Vision weapon scopes, but for the head unit, automatic gain adjustment doesn’t work well.
Further, don’t confuse ABC (Automatic Brightness Control) with gain adjustment. ABC is a protective function to turn the scope off before it’s tolerance to bright light is exceeded.
Also, even though NVDs are really neat, you don’t actually need an NVD unless it’s so dark you can’t see you hand in front of your face. This was one of the original design parameters. BTW, they can be effectively and comfortably utilized with the PASGT original Kevlar helmet, as well as the new Army ACU or the Marine helmet. However, the Navy SEAL Boat Helmet (which was the original MICH (Modular Integrated Communication Helmet) is the best I’ve found. It’s available, custom built, from privatesnuffy@yahoo.com. Regards, – The Army Aviator

Odds ‘n Sods:

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I just stumbled across Rogue Turtle, an interesting site with a wide range of survival and preparedness information.

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Wiggy’s (one of our first advertisers) is offering a special 15% discount on all of their sleeping bags until the end of April. These are the best sleeping bags I’ve ever used. They are extremely durable. Their two-bag FTRSS is my personal favorite. Every well-prepared family should have a full set of Wiggy’s bags. Even if you plan to “bug in” rather than “bug out”, a warm sleeping bag could be an absolute life safer in the event of a long term power failure and/or fuel shortage.

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Plan on being better armed and providing a higher volume of fire than this gent in Denver who had his home invaded.

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A brief reminder that the big sale on Mountain House canned freeze dried foods at SafeCastle ends on March 31st. The sale pricing includes free shipping anywhere in the U.S.–even Alaska and Hawaii. The sale ends on Friday, so don’t hesitate.

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Nifty laser sights and rail mount flashlights:
http://www.advancedefence.com/DacsaPortal/?pageid=34

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SurvivalBlog reader Keith mentioned that The Discovery Channel has a new series of shows called “Perfect Disaster” on Sunday evenings at 9PM EST. The first two were entitled “Super Tornado” and “Solar Storm”. Tonight “Typhoon”.

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Our recent letter on Tannerite binary reactive rifle targets prompted Doc at www.bigsecrets.cc to mention this interesting alternative for rock blasting: http://www.archerusa.com/Product_Dexpan_En1.html