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Notes for Friday – February 12, 2016

The Panic of 2016 is continuing, just as I predicted, with further sharp declines in the equities markets around the world. The push for negative interest rates is continuing. I’m now asked: “Should I buy gold?” My answer: No, buy silver, and if portability is a concern buy some platinum. Presently the ratio between the price of gold and the price of silver is a whopping 78-to-1. That makes the long-term prospects for silver much better than for gold. Meanwhile, the price of platinum is $285 per ounce less than an ounce of gold! So that too is a better investment than gold, if you are willing to hold it long term. Let me state once again: Tangibles, tangibles, tangibles! – JWR

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Ted Nugent really stepped in it this week with his anti-Semitic facebook posts. The NRA wants to claim that Ted is not a spokesperson for them, yet he is a member of the board. The NRA is simultaneously trying to get me to upgrade my Life Membership to an Endowed Membership– a move I was seriously considering. However, unless and until the NRA either gets Nugent to publicly apologize or distances themselves from him by removing him from the board if no public apology is forthcoming, I will not be upgrading my membership and I encourage anyone else who was considering joining the NRA or upgrading their membership to do the same. This is one area I expect the NRA to stand on principle. – HJL

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A bit far afield for SurvivalBlog, but LIGO has detected gravitational waves, confirming Einstein’s theory. Yes, space and time are interwoven and dynamic. StarTrek here we come…

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Today, we present another entry for Round 63 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $12,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $1,700 value),
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package (enough for two families of four) plus seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate (a $325 retail value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304, and
  10. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  3. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  4. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  5. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  8. Safecastle is providing a package of 10 LifeStraws (a $200 value)

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A $245 gift certificate from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Precision Rest (a $249 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 63 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 3, by Hal2000

Shortwave Radio

The next most important radio for preppers is a shortwave radio. Shortwave radio is generally defined as the part of the radio spectrum between 3.0 megahertz (Mhz) and 30.0 megahertz (Mhz). This is referred to as High Frequency, or HF spectrum. There are all kinds of transmissions you will hear on shortwave– Ham radio operators, International shortwave broadcasters, military communications, clandestine stations, numbers stations, and a whole lot more. You will also hear many different modes of communications as well. The bulk of what you will hear will be either standard AM broadcasting and SSB or Single Sideband transmissions.

I cannot stress strongly enough that every prepper needs a good quality shortwave receiver. With the advent of satellite and digital communications, the use of shortwave has diminished somewhat over the years, but there are still two types of stations you will want to monitor. These are the international shortwave broadcasts transmitted by foreign countries and Ham radio operators. It is interesting to listen to the news from foreign broadcast stations. In the cold war days it was viewed as propaganda. In today’s world, who is to say what constitutes propaganda considering our own MSM.

There are hundreds of shortwave receivers out there, and I will not recommend any particular one. What I can do is tell you what types of features you need and let you find the radio that suits your taste.

For general use you need one that receives AM and SSB. We defined these modes above. AM is a standard mode and they all will perform that function. In order to receive SSB stations, the radio must have some additional circuitry known as a BFO or Beat Frequency Oscillator. Careful reading of the specifications will tell you whether or not it will receive SSB signals. Look for ones that use a Phase Lock Loop or PLL tuning circuit. This type of circuit prevents frequency drift.

The HF spectrum is divided up for specific uses. Groups of frequencies known as bands are assigned to International shortwave stations, Hams, marine, aircraft, and other users. You can find many charts on the Internet that will display where you can find the stations you are looking for.

The higher end receivers also provide for the use of something called a pan adapter. What a pan adapter does is display a range of frequencies on a screen that shows what signals your radio is currently receiving. For example, you tune your radio to a specific frequency to listen to a broadcast. With a pan adapter connected to your radio, you can see other signals above and below where you are listening on the display. These signals are displayed as pips on the display, and the height of the pip is directly proportional to the strength of the signal. This is a good way to find other stations to listen to. There are pan adapters that use your computer screen and pan adapters that are stand-alone units not requiring a computer. Search the Internet for pan adapter.

If you are looking for something to listen to, you have to constantly turn the knob to tune up and down the band. With a pan adapter, you can park the receiver on one frequency and sit back and watch for other signals to show up above and below the frequency you are tuned to. This makes it much easier to find stations that have very short transmissions, such as military and clandestine radio stations.

The main things you would want to listen to would be the International Shortwave Broadcast stations and Ham radio operators. Hams generally like to talk a lot and don’t practice much OPSEC. There are other neat things though. Have you ever wondered how commercial aircraft communicate when they are over the mid Atlantic Ocean? It is done via USB on HF frequencies. In the cold war days, there were a lot of numbers stations. These were stations that would transmit long lists of numbers and were thought to be how foreign operatives received their coded information while in the U.S. These stations are still on HF today. There is even a 2013 movie about a CIA numbers station called The Numbers Station. Search for shortwave numbers stations.

One very important point to make here is that virtually all Ham transceivers that cover the 3.0 to 30 Mhz spectrum have continuous coverage receivers in them. So, if you have a Ham transceiver, you probably already have a high end shortwave receiver built in.

Ham Radio

The last item for discussion is amateur or Ham radio.

Every prepper should have a Ham license. The Technician class license is not hard to obtain, and it will give you the license you need to transmit and receive on specified portions of the amateur bands.

Remember that a group of frequencies is known as a band. These bands are assigned names based on the frequencies they cover. For example, the 80 meter band covers the HF frequencies between 3.5 and 4.0 Mhz. The 40 meter band covers the HF frequencies between 7.0 and 7.30 Mhz, while the 2 meter band covers the VHF or Very High Frequencies between 144.0 and 148.0 Mhz. The bands above 2 meters are generally referred to by their frequency. The 222 band covers the VHF frequencies between 222.0 and 225 Mhz. The 440 band covers the UHF or Ultra High Frequencies between 420.0 and 450 Mhz, while the 900 band covers the UHF frequencies between 902 and 928 Mhz. A quick search of the Internet for amateur radio band plans will net you a lot of charts and graphs depicting all the bands and their sub uses.

One thing about Ham radio is that it covers an extremely wide range of frequencies. When using the HF bands, depending on who you want to talk to will determine what frequencies you will use. If you want to talk to someone in Europe, Africa, South America, or the Far East, you would most likely use the higher frequencies in the HF spectrum. These would be the 10, 12, 15, 17, and 20 meter Ham bands. If you want to talk to other Hams in the United States, you would most likely use the 40, 80, and 160 meter bands. Something referred to as propagation will determine your actual shortwave band usage. The sun affects propagation, and therefore you will use different bands at different times of the day depending on how far away you want to talk. Propagation is a science unto itself and way beyond discussion in this document. Search the Internet for propagation.

Over the last several years some manufacturers have begun marketing what are known as Software Defined Radios or SDR. These radios are just a box that you plug into your computer. They don’t have any knobs or a display; all control of the radio is done with software on your personal computer. Any prepper see a problem with this? In order to use your radio you have to have a very powerful personal computer hooked up to it all of the time. Not only must the software in the SDR be kept up to date, you must keep your computer software and drivers up to date as well. And if your computer breaks or locks up, there goes your Ham radio. Whenever someone asks me about SDR’s, I tell them that I don’t mind having a computer in my radio, but I don’t want my radio to be in a computer. I don’t want to have to rely on Bill Gates to use my Ham radio.

Hams are hooking radios to computers and the Internet and doing some really neat things. Using certain talk groups on a DMR repeater will allow you to talk to Hams in foreign countries on your VHF/UHF handheld. Using D-star you can dial up repeaters in foreign countries and talk to Hams there. Using IRLP you can dial up any other IRLP repeater anywhere. But all of this depends on computers and the Internet. My advice to preppers is to not base your emergency communications on anything that uses computers, cell phones, or the Internet. You need to be self sufficient and be able to operate in a stand alone environment.

Almost all current HF Ham radios contain computers for Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and other functions, but you don’t need a computer to operate them. Search for Elecraft, Yaesu, Kenwood, and Icom amateur radios. I won’t tell you what brand to buy, but they are listed in the order I recommend them to others when asked. Pay your money and take your choice.

For local coverage as a general rule, you will use 2 meters, 220, and 440 most likely over a repeater. Repeaters for Hams work the same way as they do for public service agencies in the scanning world. Repeaters are coordinated by frequency coordinators, and they usually have a website for their area. Search the Internet for coordinated Ham repeaters.

The basic mode of transmission used by Hams in VHF and UHF is FM. Probably 99 percent of communications are in FM mode, but digital communications are beginning to take hold. There are currently three types of digital modes, none of which are compatible with each other and are promoted by a specific manufacturer. Icom radio promotes a mode called D-star. Yaesu radio promotes a mode called System Fusion. Many Hams are using the Motorola Mototrbo mode known as Digital Mobile Radio or DMR. As I said before, none of these modes are compatible with each other, which has caused some consternation among Hams.

An interesting note about these digital modes. None of them currently can be understood on a scanner. Public service and trunked radio systems use a digital mode known as P25, and your digital scanner can decode that. But the digital scanners currently on the market can not decode D-star, System Fusion, or DMR. There is one fellow in a foreign country marketing a scanner that purportedly will decode P25 and DMR and System Fusion, but there’s nothing from any of the major scanner makers yet. This makes for interesting OPSEC considerations. Your group could purchase several of one type of digital mode and use simplex frequencies for your comms. This would eliminate anyone understanding you on a scanner and only another Ham with the same mode would be able to understand you.

The popularity of these modes varies around the country. Where I live, there is very little D-star activity, but there is some DMR activity. System Fusion, however, is catching on rapidly and has already overtaken the other two in popularity. Once again you need to do your homework for where you live to see which mode is the most popular before buying a radio. There are currently no manufacturers who make one radio that does all three of these modes, so you have to pick one. One thing is for sure, it will take a long time but digital modes will eventually replace FM on the VHF/UHF Ham bands.

One reason for this is that the majority of Ham repeaters consist of old obsolete commercial equipment that has been modified to operate on Ham frequencies. This is equipment from manufacturers, such as Motorola and GE, that will eventually break down and no parts will be available to repair it. It was old and obsolete when the Hams got it. Since Motorola no longer makes any commercial analog equipment, what will the Hams do? In a few years the commercial equipment currently in service will be obsolete and available on the Ham market, but it will be only digital. You see where I am going with this. It will be wise to convert to some form of digital or your repeater goes off the air.

Our radio club experienced this just last year. Our old Motorola analog repeater finally died, and we could find no parts to repair it. We purchased a new Motorola repeater that does analog and DMR and put it on the air. It was very expensive but should be good for many years. (Yes, it was the last model commercial repeater that Motorola makes that does both analog and digital.)

The reason Motorola even made a mixed mode repeater was to accommodate the commercial market during its change over from analog to digital. From now on all their equipment is strictly digital.

In the old days, AM was used on the HF Ham bands, but then a new fangled mode called SSB came out. It took a lot of years but SSB finally replaced AM. Technology marches on, and eventually you convert or you will have no one to talk to.

I recommend that you find a local Ham radio club and use local Hams as a resource. Just be careful. Don’t go to a Ham radio club and announce that you are a prepper. I know some Hams who are very anti-prepper. Use the club as a source of information. Some clubs provide classes to help you get your Technician license. Then working with club members you can determine who else might share your opinions and objectives. Clubs who promote the American Radio Relay League’s (ARRL) Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) program would be a good place to start, since they are geared toward emergency services. Search ARRL and ARES.

The most important thing to take away from all of this is to listen, listen, and then listen some more. The more you listen the more you will learn, and what you hear might save your life someday.

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Letter Re: Making a Last Run

Hugh,

I just wanted to add a tidbit to the article of making a last run when the SHTF by GMJ. Though this was a well written and well thought-out article and most obvious a great tool for the newbie to the art of survival, for me and my family we will not be in need of one last run. Because of all of us being a great student of this business we have benefited greatly from the steps outlined by our fellow survivalists. So for the new comer to this important scene of preparedness, you might want to pay attention. As building a deep larder (out ten years), deep medical supply (out indefinitely), deep chest of tools and defense ministry (shop tools for all types of repairs, firearms, ammo, knives, et cetera), precious metals/silver coins, and most importantly a stock pile of necessities for extended family members/bartering/charity/and just plain stock, there should be no need for anyone to make a last run. Even if my family made one last run to the store, we could only push two carts stocked to overflowing, and that would be just about 2–4 weeks of food/accessories/supplies. Add 2–4 weeks of supplies to an already ten-year larder, coupled with the danger of panicked and armed people, and it is just not feasible for our family. However, I believe this is a great article to demonstrate what a last run would entail and why you and your family wouldn’t want to be in that situation. God bless! – J.H.

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Economics and Investing:

Genius: FATCA has brought in just $13.5 billion in revenue on a cost of $1 trillion

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Items from Mr. Econocobas:

Investors ‘Go Bananas’ for Gold Bars as Global Stock Markets Tumble – Getting more serious by the day.

Yellen on Negative Rates: ‘We Wouldn’t Take Those Off the Table’ – You bet your biscuits, negative rates are not off the table. However, they have painted themselves in a corner, without an “event” that provides the cover to say, “Well things were going great until XYZ event, which was totally unforeseen and unpredictable.”

Items from Professor Preponomics:

US News

Yellen: Fed Not Likely to Reverse Course on Rates Despite Risks (Reuters) Excerpt: “The Federal Reserve is unlikely to reverse its plan to raise interest rates further this year, but tighter credit markets, volatile financial markets, and uncertainty over Chinese economic growth have raised risks to the U.S. economy, Fed Chair Janet Yellen told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday.”

CAGW Scorches Final Obama Budget (Citizens Against Government Waste) Excerpt: “This swan song budget follows the same well-worn path of enabling the government to pick winners and losers, intensifies failed initiatives by throwing more money at them, and introduces a regressive tax on oil that will hurt all Americans.”

Low Wage Recovery Highlighted by 7 Out of 10 Jobs Added in January Coming from Minimum Wage Waiters and Temporary Retail Workers (My Budget 360) Excerpt: “This is troubling because it highlights the economy being more efficient at adding low wage jobs without the prospect of better paying jobs. In other words, we have gutted the market for workers and have made it easier for companies to essentially pay people very little and to destroy the quality of life for many. All the while CEOs are doing pretty well….”

International News

European Central Bank Gets Ready for More Easy Money (Mises) Excerpt: “While mainstream thinkers would likely oppose ordinary money counterfeiting, they are totally supportive of monetary pumping by the central bank, which sets in place the same dynamic as a counterfeiter.”

Sweden Takes Negative Interest Rates Even Lower as Riksbank Fights to Keep Up with Global Stimulus (The Telegraph) Excerpt: “Swedish policymakers acknowledged that ‘several central banks [were] pursuing more expansionary monetary policy’, meaning that they would need to act with more stimulus to prevent the krona from rising.”

Shipping Industry Faces Worse Storm Than After Financial Crisis, Warns Maersk Boss (The Telegraph) Excerpt: “The shipping industry is in crisis with sector giant AP Moeller-Maersk reporting plunging profits and its boss saying conditions are now tougher than after the global financial crash.”

Norway Seeks to Diversify Its Economy as Oil Earnings Plunge (BBC) Excerpt: “We have the highest unemployment levels since 1995, and many of those out of work are young….”

Personal Economics and Household Finance

17 Things to Make Instead of Buy (Frugal Living) Excerpt: “Making things yourself can be both satisfying and cost effective. As you run out of things that you normally buy, challenge yourself to come up with a homemade replacement. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make many of the products that you’re used to buying.”

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

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Odds ‘n Sods:

Hooray! We’ve surpassed 80 million unique visits! Thanks for your loyal readership of SurvivalBlog. Please continue to spread the word via our Link to Us page, and we are now listed on Top Prepper Sites. Make sure you cast a vote there so that others will know where to get the most reliable and practical information. We appreciate your support!

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From the desk of Mike Williamson, SurvivalBlog’s Editor At Large: It is very important, if one must use Facebook or other social media, that one NOT put personal information such as phone number, address, or birthday on these. The information becomes findable with a Google search. Additionally, Google archives the posts. I have had a stalker complain about a post I made a year ago, and a comment I made to another post two years ago. Most of Facebook’s monitoring of “Standards” is contracted out to companies who hire in Morocco, Indonesia, and other nations with both high levels of poverty and lesser concerns for background checks. Assume anything at all that you put in social media is immediately available to any stalker, agency, or foreign threat.

Remember that for advertising purposes, you are not Facebook’s customer, you are the product.

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Written from an obviously anti-Bundy viewpoint, this article on the arrest of Cliven Bundy nevertheless provides some details about the charges against him, all apparently stemming from the 2014 standoff. Oregon standoff: Cliven Bundy faces six federal charges over 2014 confrontation – B.B.

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SurvivalBlog reader T.P. sent this articled in with the warning: “Take your kids shooting. This will be coming to America.” Shocking new ISIS video shows four-year-old British boy dubbed ‘Jihadi Junior’ blowing up four alleged spies in a car bomb What a perverted shame, using a 4-year-old child like this for propaganda.

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Reader C.D. noted that the coat-tent-sleeping bag suggested yesterday is nothing new. Wiggys.com has had a better version of it for many years.

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Notes for Thursday – February 11, 2016

February 11th is the birthday of the late Burt Blumert (born February 11, 1929 in New York City, died March 30, 2009). He once owned Camino Coin Company (as did Dr. Ron Paul). JWR was a Camino Coin Company customer, starting back in the late 1980s, and can remember Burt personally helping him dolly out his first purchase of 100-ounce Englehard bars. That was back when they cost just $580 each. Those were the days!

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Today, we present another entry for Round 63 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $12,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Tactical Self-Contained 2-Series Solar Power Generator system from Always Empowered. This compact starter power system is packaged in a wheeled O.D. green EMP-shielded Pelican hard case (a $1,700 value),
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate that is good for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul PMAG 30-rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt; (an equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package (enough for two families of four) plus seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate (a $325 retail value),
  8. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  9. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304, and
  10. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  3. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  4. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  5. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  8. Safecastle is providing a package of 10 LifeStraws (a $200 value)

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A $245 gift certificate from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Precision Rest (a $249 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 63 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

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Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 2, by Hal2000

It would take thousands of words and dozens of illustrations to explain trunked radio systems. So, we will look at the thirty thousand foot level.

What the communications industry did was to take lots of frequencies, lots of transmitters and receivers, and lots of computers to allow lots of users access to communications. They did what the cell phone industry did. For a large metropolitan area, they would build a dozen or so transmitter and receiver sites and connect them together with fiber optics and computers. This system would consist of anywhere from 5 to 35 frequencies, depending on the size of the area and the expected number of users.

By using a hierarchical structure, assigning priorities to users, and lots of software they could pack hundreds of users onto a trunked system using the minimum number of frequencies. It is truly mind boggling how it all works, and it is really cool. But we don’t need to know how it works to take advantage of it. The thing you need to know about and remember is something called a talk group.

In order to monitor a trunked system, you need a new scanner. Unfortunately, this scanner will cost you a lot of money– generally in the area of $400 to $600. To make it easy on yourself, you will need software to program it with. Gone are the days of punching in a few frequencies and hearing everything that is going on.

The reason this scanner is so expensive is that in the transition from repeaters to trunked systems digital came into being. Gone is the old analog mode. Analog is what you hear on the old AM radio band. Analog voice is now converted to digital bits that are transmitted via radio. Almost all trunked systems are digital now using a mode referred to as P25. There are still trunked systems across the country that are not digital, but they are few and far between. Do your research.

Gone are the old scrambled transmissions. Since analog speech is converted to digital bits these bits can be transmitted as is or rearranged before being transmitted. If they are transmitted as is, it is known as an unencrypted transmission. If they are rearranged before being transmitted, it is known as an encrypted transmission. The way the bits are rearranged before being transmitted is done by a software key. This key is kept very secret and without it there is absolutely no way of unencrypting the transmission. The new digital scanners don’t have a way to use the key even if you knew what it was. Search the Internet for digital scanners.

However, we still have the same problem we had in the old days. The powers that be can encrypt all their transmissions and if you bought that very expensive scanner all you will have will be a very expensive paper weight, right? Wrong!

Remember when I said that hundreds of users are packed onto a trunked system? Since a trunked system costs millions of dollars, most law enforcement agencies can’t afford them. So they partner with all the businesses and anyone else who needs communications to help defray the costs. All the old individual repeaters go away, and everyone ends up on one trunked system. The simplex and repeater frequencies are repurposed for trunked systems.

What this means for us is that all the unscrambled people we used to listen to are still there, unencrypted, but on the new trunked system. But something else has happened that makes scanning better.

Remember our new phrase we learned earlier: the talk group? A talk group is just what the name implies. It is a group of people who share the same characteristics grouped together and given a number. This number is referred to as a talk group.

Talk groups are neat things. Law enforcement has used talk groups to further define their departments. Now everybody has a talk group. The dog catcher, the narcs, the beat cop, EMS, fire, and sheriff all have their own talk groups. One talk group cannot hear or talk to another talk group, so each individual talk group thinks they have their own private radio system. It really is pretty cool how it all works.

Another neat thing about talk groups is that they can either be encrypted or unencrypted. Where I live, only the narcs and a few other specialized talk groups are encrypted. This leaves all the other talk groups unencrypted, providing lots of things to listen to. All the non public safety users are unencrypted so you can still hear all the people you used to hear.

There is one caveat at this point. Different areas of the country look at things differently. There are five trunked systems in my area. One encrypts almost everything, one encrypts sensitive talk groups (narcs, special ops, et cetera), and the other three encrypt almost nothing. So you need to do your research before buying a digital trunking scanner to make sure there is something to listen to.

Remember I said your old analog scanner was ready for the trash heap? That’s not necessarily so. Generally speaking, only major metropolitan areas can pony up the money for a trunked system. Usually what happens is that a private or government entity will fund and build the system and then sell users air time on it. It’s similar to what your cell phone provider does.

But what about the small towns around where you live? They probably can’t afford to buy time on the new trunked system or the necessary equipment, so what do they do? They keep their existing repeater system. So you end up with two scanners– your old analog scanner programmed to the repeaters in the region around where you live and your new digital scanner set up to monitor the trunked systems in your metropolitan area. Lots of good information can be obtained using this method.

Okay, we have our scanners and we have searched and found stuff to listen to. Generally you can determine the agency you are listening to by the content of the conversations. It may sound like law enforcement or fire but for what city? There is a fairly simple way to determine who you are listening to on an analog system.

The FCC requires all transmitters to identify themselves at regular intervals. This can be done by voice or morse code. A lot of dispatchers will include the callsign of the repeater as part of their normal dispatching. But the identification of analog systems is mostly done using morse code. All preppers should be familiar with morse code and how numbers and letters are formed. You don’t need to be able to copy morse code in your head, but you do need to be able to understand the dots and dashes used to make up numbers and letters. Write down the dots and dashes you hear, and then look them up in a morse code chart to see what characters you have.

All local law enforcement and commercial transmitters have a call sign assigned by the FCC. These usually consist of two or three letters followed by three or four numbers. So all you need to do is copy down the call sign and look it up on the FCC website. From there you can see the reference copy of the authorization issued by the FCC. This document shows the actual licensee, call sign, type of radio service, issuing and expiration dates, the coverage area, and the frequencies being used by that system. It is a wealth of information and will tell you all you need to know about who you are hearing. (Go to fcc.gov, then select Licensing & Databases, then select ULS, then select search licenses, then select advanced license search. For searching, it is not necessary to register or log in.)

I need to stress that all of this information is public. You are not breaking any laws or doing anything surreptitious by viewing this information. Everything in the FCC database is public information. But before getting too excited, you will not find any information on the FCC website about government or military stations.

Morse code identifiers apply to analog systems. Digital systems are identified in a different manor in a way that is much too difficult to describe here. Don’t worry, because trunked systems are much easier to identify. Simply visit the radio reference dot com website and look up your city and state to find all you need to know about local trunked systems. You can also find information about your regional analog systems on radio reference. However, please always verify for yourself the information you find there.

In addition to your public and non public service agencies, there are several other things you need programmed in your analog scanner. These are FRS, GMRS, MURS, Citizens Band (CB), aircraft, and Ham radio frequencies. The basic nature of FRS and CB frequencies are short range transmissions. That generally means that if you hear someone on them, you can expect them to be very close by. Act accordingly. You can get skip communications on CB frequencies but with the sunspot cycle heading toward minimum, skip will be less and less likely. Search FRS, GMRS, MURS, and CB frequencies.

There is one more thing you need to know for your scanners. Ever since 9/11 there has been a great effort expended towards something known as interoperability. Whenever there is a large emergency event, resources are pulled in from surrounding areas to help. This caused a major communication problem, because there were only a few frequencies set aside for mutual aid use. Everyone had their own systems back home, but when they all got together they couldn’t talk to each other.

There are now a lot of frequencies set aside for mutual aid or interoperability use. These are known as NPSPAC (pronounced nips pack), VTAC, UTAC, ITAC, and 8TAC frequencies and are designed for multiple agencies to talk with each other. Activity on these can be analog or P25 digital, but they will not be scrambled or encrypted. Please be sure you have these in your scanner. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t hear much on these frequencies. You can be assured there will be lots of activity in an emergency situation.

Search the Internet for NPSPAC, VTAC frequencies, UTAC frequencies, ITAC frequencies, and 8TAC frequencies. Also search for NIFOG. This is the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide produced by the Department of Homeland Security. This is a booklet you need to have on your bookshelf. It has a list of all these frequencies and how they are to be used. It also lists the incident command frequencies and how they are used.

One more warning about listening to a scanner. You have to do it on a regular basis. You can’t buy one, stick it in a Faraday cage, pull it out after SHTF, and expect it to be of any value. You need to find what is in your area, program it into your scanner, then turn it on, and listen to it. Listen daily! You will hear things you don’t understand at first, but the more you listen the more you will understand.

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Letter Re: Constitutional Carry

Hugh,

I noted the entry in SurvivalBlog.com today about Idaho seeking passage of a “Constitutional Carry” bill. Here in West Virginia, with great grassroots mail, email, and phone support, as well as attendance at the capitol in Charleston, a similar bill passed last year in both the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by the governor in the final week of the legislative session, leaving “no time” to override the veto. This year the measure got an earlier start, and hopefully we will get it passed and manage to override the promised veto in time for the end of the yearly session, which is only three months in this state.

I thought that maybe the blog readers, particularly those in states trying to get similar measures passed, might be interested in the WV experience. As noted, we’re still not there. (Note: the Charlestown WV Gazette is a left-leaning paper. Sometimes it manages to “overlook” reporting on such things.) – TD in WV

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Economics and Investing:

What does Wal-Mart owe the towns it leaves? 9 experts weigh in – There are a variety of opinions, but the bottom line really is that Walmart does not owe the community anything. Smaller businesses were driven under because the community chose to save a few bucks. It is the community itself that bears the responsibility. – RBS

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CEO of shipping giant Maersk says economy is “worse than 2008” TRUNEWS with Rick Wiles – RBS

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Items from Professor Preponomics:

US News

Fed’s Yellen Says Global Risks Could Pose US Growth Threats (Reuters) Excerpt: “But Yellen acknowledged that some of the weaknesses in the global economy have become self re-enforcing, with weak growth in major manufacturers like China and oversupply on commodity markets rattling the world’s oil and mineral exporters. A broad sense of a world slowdown, in turn, and uncertainty about the depth of China’s problems, has tightened financial conditions for U.S. businesses.”

Obama Proposes $4.1T Spending Plan in Final White House Budget(Reuters) Meanwhile, unbridled spending proposals flood forth from the government’s tax-and-spend conveyor belt. Excerpt: “The president’s final budget continues his focus on new spending proposals instead of confronting our country’s massive overspending and skyrocketing $19 trillion in debt,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi.” The Washington Free Beacon is also following this story: Obama Budget Would Add Another $9.3T to the Debt

Perdue Bill Aims to Aims to Control Fed’s “Financial Mess”(Washington Examiner) In order to begin resolving our debt, we must first examine, understand, and adjust our spending. Excerpt: “Without an honest and accurate assessment of the federal balance sheet, Americans don’t know what the government takes in and what it spends,” Perdue said. “There should be no hidden trust funds or unaccountable spending programs.”

International News

The Walking Dead: Something is Rotten in Europe’s Banking System (Contra Corner) Excerpt: “All signs are that things are in fact in danger of getting out of hand, even if it seems to us as though it is time for at least a brief pause in the mini panic in risk assets we have observed in recent weeks. This is just a reminder that oil prices and the yuan are not the only things on the minds of market participants at the moment. As is seemingly always the case, when it rains, it pours.”

Fresh Banking Crisis Fears Send FTSE to Lowest Level Since 2012 (The Telegraph) Excerpt: “Health of the financial system and danger of negative central bank interest rates cause bank stocks to fall to lowest level in nearly four years.”

Bonds Follow Bank of Japan into Negative Territory (New York Times) Excerpt: “The Bank of Japan’s new policy is intended to stimulate the economy, which narrowly avoided falling into recession last quarter. By making it unprofitable for banks to hold cash, Mr. Kuroda hopes to encourage them to lend more freely and get businesses and households to spend. He also wants to give a lift to consumer prices, which have been sagging after a welcome but short-lived bout of inflation.”

Personal Economics and Household Finance

IRS Announces Taxpayer Data Stolen in Cyberattack (Washington Examiner) Excerpt: “Using personal data stolen elsewhere outside the IRS, identity thieves used malware in an attempt to generate E-file PINs for stolen Social Security numbers….” In other tax related news: Anyone who might have made overpayments should be aware of the deadlines for recovery of those funds. From the Washington Free Beacon: IRS Kept $4.75B in Overpayments that Taxpayers Can No Longer Claim Back

A Deep Pantry – What It Is and Why You Need One (Just Plain Living) Excerpt: “One of the first things I hear when I suggest people start building up a deep pantry (or food storage – use whatever term works for you) is that they can’t afford to buy extra food for storage. My experience is that you probably can’t afford not to.”

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

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Odds ‘n Sods:

FBI surrounds last occupiers at Malheur Wildlife Refuge – RBS

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SurvivalBlog reader JFJ sent in this article for deposit into your own SHTF reservoir of knowledge: Finding a winch anchor where there is none.

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3-in-1 ‘wearable shelter’ for Syrian refugees – While “invented” with the Syrian refugees in mind, this garment shows some promise as an item in a BOB. – G.P.

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Patriots may be faced with being placed on a red, blue, or white list, but if you are a Muslim terrorist you can rest easy. Obama DHS scrubs records of hundreds of Muslim terrorists – S.M.

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MS-13 foot soldiers use ‘surge’ to cross border, ‘colonize new criminal territory’ – Not good news for those in the Southwest. – P.M.

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