Notes for Monday – May 30, 2016

Today, Memorial Day, is a day of solemn remembrance in the U.S. of the many who have given their all for our freedoms. We thank those who are serving in our military and their families who have made sacrifices also, but most of all we want to honor those who gave their lives. These fine tributes were sent in by our readers:

Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Tactical Walls

If you’re like me, you hate it when someone starts out with “this is a true story” and you know it’s not. Well, I’m going to relate a true story. People who know me, know that I just don’t lie. If you tell your lie, you have to remember that lie and cover it up with another lie. I don’t have time to make up stories or tell lies, and those who know me know that. If they don’t want to hear the truth from me, then don’t ask me. Life is too short to live it based on lies.

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Many years ago, when we lived outside of Ontario, Oregon, we lived in a house that was, at one time, an underground house. Only about a foot or two of it stuck up above ground level. As we understood, it was in the mid 1970s that whoever owned the house added a complete upper floor to it. The downstairs– the original underground house– remained pretty much the same, except a bedroom and a storage room was added. In the main room, I had my office and held martial arts classes twice a week as well as martial arts classes at three other locations.

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I used to hide my guns all over the house (or maybe I “staged” them for ready access). I didn’t own enough firearms to justify buying a gun safe, so the guns were hidden. I looked for the better part of two years for a S&W Model 645 that I hid from myself. I thought maybe I lost it or perhaps traded it and didn’t remember doing so. It was driving me crazy, and in my case it was a short drive.

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I was writing for American Survival Guide magazine at the time, along with some firearm and knife magazines. I was expecting a check from ASG shortly before Christmas to help me do my Christmas shopping. Well, the check didn’t arrive and I contacted my editor. He was of no help. He was more than a little miffed that he didn’t get his annual $6,000 bonus before Christmas, so my meager $400 check didn’t much matter to him, and he told me so. The woman who cut the checks worked out of NYC and was gone for the holidays. There was no way to get me my check. It all came down to the fact that ASG was sold to another publishing company. That’s why my editor didn’t get his bonus. There was none.

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Fortunately, I was rearranging my office and when I moved a filing cabinet, there was that S&W Model 645, hidden under it. My luck was short lived. I ended up selling that gun to raise funds to pay for Christmas for the family. I did eventually get that long overdue paycheck, though long after the holidays.

This little story leads me to today. I still hide guns all over my house, but I know where they are all at. I’m within a couple steps of reaching for a loaded handgun or rifle any place in my home. The guns are “staged” ready to use at a moments notice. Between my German Shepherds, acting as my early alarm, I can reach for a gun in a second or two, in order to fend off any attacks. The important thing, as least to me, is that I remember where all these guns are, as does my family.

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Okay. This is a long way of introducing Tactical Walls, who produces everyday looking furniture that actually are designed to store (stage) firearms for ready use. Take the time to look over their website. You will be blown away at all the everyday looking products they produce that look like ordinary furniture and which a bad guy wouldn’t give a second glance at if they broke into your home while you were away at work. That’s nice!

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Tactical Walls sent me their small floating shelf and their rather large wall clock. Both products can conceal handguns, ready for use, inside of them. The wall clock can hold several handguns as well as a knife or two with some spare magazines, too. When I first received these two products, I intentionally did not read the directions on how to open them. I will admit that I was dumbfounded with the floating shelf. The wall clock, I figured out in a few minutes how to open, but the floating shelf stumped me, my wife, and our oldest daughter. So, we had to read the directions on how simple it was to secure a handgun inside and readily access it.

I requested both of these pieces of furniture in all black, to match some of our furniture in our living room. They are available in a variety of colors to match your home’s décor. In the past, in another season of life, I worked as a professional photographer. I forgot how difficult it is to photograph items that are all black. My oldest daughter and I spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon attempting to get some great pictures. We only managed to get a few usable pics, though, so some of the pics you see with this article are from Tactical Walls.

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First up is the 1410M Tactical Wall Clock, and it can be had in different colors and with different clock faces on it, too. As mentioned, it is a rather large clock. The hidden compartment inside is 14” wide by 10” high. It can easily hide a couple of handguns with spare magazines and a knife or two. The clock is non-locking, but it has a simple Velcro method of attaching the clock face to the hidden compartment, and you simply press on the clock face at the right area, and it opens so you can retrieve your weapons. This one sells for $175 retail, and the clock is actually a working clock, too.

The floating wall shelf is the model 812PLS, which retails for $179. It has an 8” deep by 12” wide hidden compartment, in which you can store one handgun. It is foam lined, and you need to cut the foam to fit the handgun you want to hide in it. It is a locking storage device, and I don’t want to give away any secrets, but it is a magnetic lock, and you can hide the key behind a picture that you put on the shelf. Then, inside of a second or two, you can open the hidden compartment to have access to your weapon.

Now, keep in mind that these are not gun safes of any sort. They are designed to stage your firearms for rapid access. So, take care in selecting any of the Tactical Walls products. If you have small children at home who aren’t familiar with firearms and aren’t aware of firearms safety, you might want to give serious consideration to which Tactical Walls products you purchase. Even if you have a gun safe, it is still a good idea, to my way of thinking, to have a firearm or two that you can readily access. I know, I know; some locales have passed stupid laws that require you keep your firearms unloaded and/or locked up at all times. This does the gun owner no good if someone is kicking in your door or is already in the house.

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I know many other gun writers who are like me in that they have loaded firearms “staged” at various locations throughout their homes and ready for use. Yes, they do have gun safes, too, to secure all the collectible and valuable firearms. I own no collectible firearms, and many would be surprised at how few firearms I actually own. Many guns pass through my hands for testing for articles, and as much as I’d like to keep them all I simply can’t afford to do so. So they are either returned to the gun company or I allow my local FFL dealer to purchase them and send a check to the gun company. This is a fairly common practice with many gun writers. The FFLs we use to receive our gun samples are doing us a service, and they charge us very little for doing the paperwork so we can get the guns for testing.

In my home, I still have firearms that are “hidden” almost in plain view and ready for use. However, the Tactical Walls products have just added another layer of “secrecy” to hiding some guns in plain sight.

The Tactical Walls products I received for testing were very well made and worth the selling price, if you ask me. A lot of thought went into designing these products, and they are executed flawlessly, too. Once again, take a close look at the Tactical Walls website. I’m betting you’ll find more than a couple of their products you’ll want for your home. My wife and oldest daughter have their sights set on getting them, too.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

Letter Re: Venezuela

Hey, SurvivalBlog,

With the recent post Letter Re: Venezuela eating worse by J.D., I thought I would chime in, as I have been researching the situation in Venezuela recently. While I am not going to attempt to draw a conclusion for the situation in Venezuela, I would like to present everyone with some of the information I have found interesting with how the narratives have changed over the years and attempt to answer one of J.D.’s questions.

2005

In March of 2005, an article was written discussing that Venezuela’s environment was under stress.

2007

Former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, began projecting the narrative that Venezuela was going to lead the way to save the environment by investing in energy conservation efforts.

2009

Electricity shortages began with power cuts lasting up to six hours at a time. Venezuela hosts the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam, which produces 60% of Venezuela’s power, with 74% of their power being generated by hydroelectric technology. The narrative during 2009 was comprised of two causes for energy shortages– low water levels due to drought and under-investment of infrastructure by the government.

2011

More campaigns of energy conservation with the narrative stating the cause of the shortages was a result of “rapidly growing demand for electricity that has resulted from economic growth and poverty reduction.” In short, this narrative states that because Venezuela is experiencing prosperity at such a rapid rate, the government cannot keep up with infrastructure investment.

2013

Venezuela experiences its second major power outage. The narrative from the successor of Chavez and the man who is the current president, Nicolas Maduro, stated the blackout was caused by political sabotage of his political opposition.

The narrative shifted slightly and resulted with Maduro expelling three U.S. diplomats by publicly stating, “They were involved in a widespread power outage earlier in the month. ‘Get out of Venezuela,’” he says, listing several names. “‘Yankee go home. Enough abuses already.’”

Also in 2013, the attorney general of Venezuela called on people to “remain calm, not to fall for provocations, and not to be afraid of the ‘alleged’ food shortage”, during which “hoarders” were to be arrested and imprisoned.

As events unfolded with time, there was no “alleged” food shortage but rather an actual food shortage.

2015

These two articles cover the same story. However, the narratives are very different. If you have not picked up on the concept by now, the narratives that surround Venezuela have changed very rapidly. While these two articles address Obama’s sanction on Venezuela, they serve as a good example of how narratives shape understanding.

Aljazeera

MSNBC

For those of you who are interested in individual accounts of what life has been like for people in Venezuela, consider reading these first-hand accounts.

Reddit comments

Venezuela from an outsider

Together, all of these stories attempt to detail a larger picture. Notice how the narrative changed over a ten year period? The narrative change could be a result of a number of reasons. It could be conspiracy and/or a government attempt to control a long-term issue by shaping ideology with short-term narratives. Or, perhaps, the narratives are a natural response to shortsightedness on the government’s behalf? Regardless, the end result is what many of us are interested in. But, it is important to understand that there is rarely a single cause that creates situations like the one in Venezuela. More likely than not, such a situation is caused by many issues. It could prove useful to explore these narratives with an attempt to understand if any relationship or correlation exists to other parts of the world. The world is full of examples within the past decade, from Syria, Ukraine, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and many more. Of course, every example I just mentioned are going to be different for different reasons. There also may be many similarities. One similarity that seems to be clear is that governments will say anything in an attempt to maintain order, which allows them to retain their power in an orderly fashion.

Here is one such example

To address J.D.’s question that served as inspiration for my reply, let us critically reflect on the question. “There’s lots of foods there that can be reproduced. Seeds in the veggies can be planted, beans can be planted, coax seeds from the onions and carrots, plant a potato, etc. Are they doing that?”

Most of the stories that I have read on Venezuela are pretty much detailing life of people from urban centers. This suggests that many of these urban dwellers may not have the knowledge and skill to grow food. They most likely may not have access to any safe land that allows them to grow food. Typically, water is required to grow food, and it is clear that Venezuela is experiencing a water shortage, for whatever reason. Also, from the first story linked in this post, it details that many of the waterways in Venezuela are polluted. This suggests that there is a probability that if a person had access to water, the water is not clean water. Such an example details that the crops could then become contaminated, which could lead to stunted growth of the crop, illness, and potential death later in life for both the crop and the person consuming the crop. What is more, planting food today does not really address hunger until it is time to harvest, which is usually months away. Agriculture on a large and even a small scale requires organization and foresight, and let us not forget to include the criminal element and the food riots that have been reported just this month alone. These people are hungry, and they will more than likely be ready to kick your face in for that potato that is not even fully ripe yet. Add in the inflation rate that Venezuela is experiencing and any surplus of food that could be harvested will most likely be worth more tomorrow than it is today. This scenario ultimately suggests that their system of organizing is pretty much over. This explains why it is difficult to grow crops. What is more, if you are lucky enough to overcome all these obstacles and create a surplus that you decide to keep, you could be classified as a hoarder, arrested, and placed in jail as one of the articles above states.

A more recent article accounts that urban dwellers are hunting dogs, cats, and pigeons as the food shortages continue.

From my perspective, what is taking place in Venezuela is nothing short of a real-time societal collapse. In this example, shortages and unrest have been taking place for many years and the government is still acting as a source of power through violence. But, again, the narratives and the early issues that have exacerbated the Venezuela unrest have been taking place for over a decade. What is more, I am consistently reminded, when I read these stories and others that are similar, how important applying our preparedness skills actually are. Just simply buying a product to store is not enough. As J.D. stated, “The time may come when we too would need to be very resourceful to increase our food supply.” Depending on our understanding, that time could very well be right now. As it is important to fully acquire the skills we value before they are needed.

I have simplified many talking points in this post. My goal is only to spur critical thought and discussion using the Venezuela example.

– N.E.

Recipe of the Week: Crock Pot Noodles, by J.G.

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1-1½ lb. ground beef or turkey
  • 2 pints pizza sauce
  • l can mushroom soup, slightly thinned
  • l lb noodles
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

Directions:

  1. Brown meat in skillet.
  2. Cook noodles until about half done.
  3. Layer in crock pot (in this order): a portion of meat, noddles, sauce, cheese, soup, onions
  4. Repeat layers until ingredients are used. Do not stir.
  5. Cook on low for 4 hours.

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Useful Recipe and Cooking Links:

Do you have a favorite recipe that would be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers? Please send it via e-mail. Thanks!

Economics and Investing:

Millennials and living at home: For the first time on record the most common living arrangement for young adults is living with a parent.

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This Is Not The America My Parents Immigrated To In 1957

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Euro 2016 chaos looms as French union calls for strikes in all 10 host towns and cities

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Volatile Bottoming Pattern in Metals – “Because most analysts still refuse to recognize the artificial nature of gold’s bear market, they aren’t going to navigate the bottoming pattern correctly. The pendulum is going to swing wildly back and forth for a while during the bottoming process until price calms down and resumes the natural bull market trend in earnest.” – T.C.

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SurvivalBlog and its editors are not paid investment counselors or advisers. Please see our Provisos page for details.

Odds ‘n Sods:

I just noticed that our spin-off website, SurvivalRealty.com, now has 242 listings– an all-time high! Congrats to my #1 Son and his wife for making the site such a great success. By providing very inexpensive advertising, they have brought together many dozens of retreat property sellers and buyers– all without charging a dime in commissions. – JWR

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13, right now – Generation Z (or why I hate smart phones) – P.S.

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From lifeHacker: The Benefits of Writing by Hand Versus Typing – A stark contrast to the Generation Z link. – P.S.

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The Oddest, Most Ridiculous and Unsettling Anti-Campus Carry Editorial In the History Of the World Ever – T.P.

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The progressive assault on American icons continues: New Campaign Aims to Make Captain America ‘Gay’?

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The Senate Just Took “A Hatchet To American Liberty”

Notes for Sunday – May 29, 2016

As we approach Memorial Day this year, it is fitting that on May 29th, 2003, 35 states declared it to be Bob Hope Day, as he turned 100 years old. Bob Hope had a longtime role as an entertainer of U.S. armed forces all over the word. He was too ill to attend the ceremonies so three of his children attended the naming ceremony along with some of his younger show-business colleagues, including Mickey Rooney.

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I noticed one of our advertisers, Infidel Body Armor, is having a sale on Smoke Grenades – only $14.99 each. You do have them in your preps, right?

Tea for Two Hundred, This Year and Next- Part 2, by Sarah Latimer

While “tea” is technically reserved for the plant camellia sinensis, in common language we often call many herbs by the name “tea”, especially when they are capable of being brewed into a flavorful beverage all by themselves. Additionally, there a many plants whose fruits, leaves, and flowers can be grown to add a variety of enjoyable flavors to traditional tea. Here are some we grow and use at our homestead:

Chamomile

Chamomile is probably one of my top three flavors for tea, and it has health benefits as a bonus! It has so many wonderful benefits besides being a flavor for tea. It is a relaxant and is often used in baby’s baths and for ointments, lotions, and soaps because it of its soothing properties. It has a sweet, delicate aroma, which means that it doesn’t require much, or any, sweetener. We use the flowers by themselves in tea for a straight herbal tea, or it can be used with black or green tea as a flavoring. Either way, it is extremely pleasant. You just might want to skip the green or black tea if you are drinking it right before bed. Chamomile flowers (fresh or dried) alone, seeped for ten minutes in hot water, make a tea that relaxes the body and mind for a restful night’s sleep or can sooth anxieties before a job interview, speech, or other stressful event. The small white flowers with full pin-cushioned yellow centers on delicate, lacy-leafed stems are attractive in the yard or flower bed. too. They’re not only attractive to humans but bees are attracted to chamomile and will use them to produce excellent honey, so it’s a win-win for bee keepers. Chamomile comes in two types– Roman and German; they are so similar that I can’t really tell the difference. The annual variety self seeds prolifically, so if you don’t till up your soil too much but let the dried flowers fall, it should come back the next year just fine. I have volunteer plants come up even where we lightyly till and some that grow from blown seed outside the garden boundaries, which are left to produce. They are a gift that I appreciate and not considered a weed at all! Just cut or break the flower tops off the stems, lightly rinse in a fine mesh collander and allow to dry thoroughly before storing or use fresh right away. Like most things, the fresh is best.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a perennial bush. It is in the mint family, but they do not share the aggressive root system of other mints. If allowed to seed, it will likely spread and those seeds germinate into a carpet of lemon balm plants in the spring. Cut the flowering stems before they turn into seed seed, unless you want a field full of lemon balm. The lemon balm bush grows in a mounded shape with a thick covering of medium-sized, spring green-colored leaves that have a distinct lemon scent. We generally use this in dry form from new leaf cuttings. We are able to trim each bush several times each growing season, and we’ve been successful in growing it in large pots also. I prefer to freeze dry lemon balm, but I have also successfully used the dehydrator as well as used it fresh.

Lemon Grass

This is an oriental grass with distinct lemon flavor, though a bit different than lemon balm. Lemon grass seems to have a bit of a tart flavor, where the lemon balm is sweeter to me. Properly given the name “grass”, it does grow in long grass spears but from bulb-like roots rather than runners. The grass spears are the part used for tea, not the bulb or root. We have been successful in growing this in pots as well, and have used this fresh and dried. It is also used to calm upset stomachs, and we have combined it with ginger root for nausea but had good success with the ginger root alone, too.

Peppermint and Spearmint

These two plants–peppermint and spearmint– look almost identical but have a distinct aroma and flavor. I like both but have found that we prefer the peppermint over the spearmint. Both are aggressive growers, dropping seed and spreading a strong root system beyond their beds, once established. Consider putting them in an area where they are bounded and won’t interfere with other plants. These mints are very useful, fresh or dried, in tea and also in ointments, soaps, and in pest repellant. Bugs and rodents find the odor disgusting, while we like it. It is believed to induce improved memory and alertness and aid in the relief of irritable bowel syndrome, as an antispasmodic. It’s also an antibacterial, so I use a drop of peppermint oil in my cleaning spray. Rubbing mint on you can help deter ticks, fleas, and bugs. We’ll discuss how we like to combine it with other flavors for tea in another section of this article.

Lavendar

Lavenderflowers are nice flavorings for tea. Lavender can be infused in oils that are then used in bug repellant, soaps, deodorants, shampoos, household cleaners, and so may other useful products. Lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and its aromatherapy produces a calming effect, so its flowers can be used in bath water to sooth irritated skin after injury or abrasion. There are other medicinal purposes for lavender also. In addition to consuming it in the form of tea, it has long been used in the kitchen herbal blend known as Herbs de Provence, and I even saw that some Sonic Drive-in restaurants are now using lavender flower petals in a wildberry-lavender milkshake. It is really catching on!

Calendula

This beautiful yellow flower has been nicknamed “pot marigold” because of its use in German soups and stews, but Calendula has also been used in teas for a long time. It adds a delicious flavor and pretty color to tea. It is also very useful in alternative medicine, as it has been used topically and fight inflammation, viruses, and bacteria on the skin surface. It appears that the presence of these dried flower petals increases blood flow and oxygen to speed healing of the area where they are placed. We grow a sizeable bed of these beautiful flowers and dry their petals for future use. They’ve not only been tasty but have helped with sprained digits and healing various wounds as part of salves and in infused oil also.

Strawberries

Well, this is obvious. The dried strawberries provide a nice flavor to the tea, as do strawberry leaves. Dried strawberry leaves, which might include some stems and flower petals, are primarily used to relieve gastrointestinal distress and joint pain. They also contain essential minerals and vitamins. We sometimes have tiny strawberries mature that just seem too small to remove the crowns and stems, so those can be rinsed and dried for delicious tea flavoring.

Blackberries

Again, the dried blackberry fruit can be used in tea like strawberries, but most often we use the dried leaves. Steeping the leaves for just a few minutes produces a mild sweet flavor for our tea, but leaving it longer actually produces a fruity black tea flavor without any black tea or its natural caffeine! While, I don’t want to harm my blackberry bushes, at the end of the growing season as the leaves are just starting to turn, we strip the leaves and let them dry. Additionally, through the growing, we randomly pick some leaves to dry. This is a very popular tea and tea flavor ingredient in our household as well as among our friends.

Blueberries

The dried blueberry fruit can be used in tea and the red fall leaves can also be used for tea.

Peaches

Again, the dried fruit and the leaves can be used for tea flavoring. Peach is a popular flavor in our household also.

Apples

Dried apple pieces are used in tea blends.

Roses/rose hips

Rose petals and the fruit of the rose bush– rose hips– are used in tea blends. Rose hips are great sources of Vitamin C and a means that the early western settlers found for preventing scurvy during the brutal winter months when fruits and vegetables were unavailable. (This is always a good thing to remember as a survivalist, in the event you are lost, have a cold, and come upon an abandoned home with rose bushes that have rose hips on them. If you can boil some rose hip tea by opening the rose hips and simmering them in the water for a few minutes, you’ll have a source of Vitamin C to help your body recovery better.

Borage flowers

The beautiful blue borage flowers are filled with Omega vitamins and have a mildly sweet and nutty flavor. We prefer to use them as a garnish on our salad, but a few can also be used in tea for flavor as well. Additionally, borage stimulates production and flavor of some garden vegetables, especially tomatoes, and deters some pests.

Nasturtium flowers

These edible flowers can be used in tea. Like borage, nasturtium are edible flowers that deter pests in our gardens while offering us wholesome goodness and a pretty garden feature.

Letter Re: Long Distance Vision and Night Vision

Dear Sirs,

I really enjoy reading your blog, but I have a question to ask you. I am blind in my right eye and I am having trouble trying to find a long distant vision and night vision for a one-eyed person. Do you have any suggestions? – R.H.

HJL’s Comment: The PVS-14, carried by several of our advertisers, is an excellent choice for night vision. It is a monocle and is used on only one eye. It is commonly worn on the dominate eye, allowing the non-dominate eye to be used for peripheral vision. Without the use of your second eye, you will not have this peripheral vision, so you will need to plan accordingly. Ready Made Resources and JRH Enterprises currently have great prices on them.

You can still use regular binoculars for long vision, but you may want to look into a regular monocular type for that as well, or you can go full nautical with a hand-held telescope. My personal favorite is an antique brass telescope that belonged to my grandfather. It is not very resistant to abuse though.

Economics and Investing:

Class of Underemployed: Nearly 50 percent of recent college graduates are working in jobs where no college degree is required.

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A Critical Juncture In Gold And Silver Prices

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Fed’s ticking financial time bomb – Sent in by P.S.

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Rauner Vetoes Bill Reducing Pension Contributions Despite Massive Underfunding, Chicago Mayor Whines – Expect more of this to come in the years ahead. – P.S.

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SurvivalBlog and its editors are not paid investment counselors or advisers. Please see our Provisos page for details.

Odds ‘n Sods:

New sophisticated ransomware attack targets 100 million people – Sent in by DSV.

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The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S. – “The antibiotic-resistant strain was found last month in the urine of a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman.”

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Another privately owned drone is shot down – “Caught by surprise” is the term the pilot used, but he also states that he moved closer to people on the ground specifically to identify them. – T.P.

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Arizona hiker dies after being stung by 1,000 bees – W.C.

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Another reason to avoid social media? Salvadoran gangs use Facebook to track down victims – B.B.