Saturday, January 31, 2015

Remembering Kenji Goto

          

This picture shows Kenji on the left and Haruna on the right.  

 


  Today, persons claiming to be ISIS, uploaded a video of the purported decapitation/execution of Kenji Goto.

                 Kenji Goto is known to me only as a freelance journalist whose work was shown on NHK News.  He worked to show the impact that war and conflict had on children.  He has reported on blood diamonds, HIV, child soldiers in Sierra Leone, the education or lack thereof for girls in Afghanistan, and poverty. He also has written an award winning children's book, and had penned four other books. He did not fear the helpless and hopeless places on Earth.   This is probably a part of why he was able to risk his own life in October of last year to try to aid his friend, 42 year old Haruna Yukawa, who had already been captured by ISIS in Syria.    Today it has been reported that both of them have been have executed by Muslim extremists.

                  Kenji Goto is one of those rare individuals who knew that our time on Earth is limited and that one man's actions can do great good. He proceeded in his work and in his life with this rare courage and pure focus. If you have a chance, please read or watch videos containing his important reports.

                 Kenji, 47,  had been an owner of his own media company for many years.  He is a Japanese citizen and is a father of three children. He converted to Christianity in 1997.

                   My family and I also send prayers to Kenji's mother, his wife, his three children and his many friends and co-workers. May they feel God with them in these difficult days.  Kenji Goto's light by virtue of all of his contributions to Earth will not be forgotten.

                    We have the power to focus and remember all the achievements, the humanity, and exceptional courage of this man which should dwarf the horrendous action of simple terrorists. Japan and the rest of the world lost a true hero yesterday.








This song, "Flowers Will Bloom" was written to remember all of those who were lost following the Great  Earthquake and Tsunami of East Japan (2011), however the songs clarity and innocence seems appropriate in remembrance of Kenji Goto as well.    Kenji was born in Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture which was hit so badly during the earthquake.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Remembering the Murder of Alexander Litvinenko

               

Alexander Litvinenko, prior to polonium poisoning.

 

              I have happy memories of my times in both Vladivostok and Moscow in Russia.  I was there for about a month after 9-11 during Winter.  I have nothing but admiration and positive things to say about the Russian people themselves.  As a general rule, they are a creative, kind, and generous people who reminded me of the way most Americans were while I was growing up.  Russia has enormous natural resources, even oil and gas aside. If they ever begin to consistently use these, they are likely to become even more of an economic power house.   We should be very careful though, not to attribute the actions of the leaders of a country to reflect the wishes of its citizens.  Just as Barack Obama does very very little with which I am in agreement, I am sure that Mr. Putin does not please all of his Russian constituency.


                    This week I was on my Linkedin when a young woman was prattling about Mr. Putin and claiming his praises along with saying that he is misunderstood.    She had never heard of Alexander Litvinenko or the sixteen others who have died under suspicious circumstances after voicing clear opposition to Mr. Putin, a former head of the former KGB.

                      In the interest of others who fancy themselves as journalists yet who don't research prior to offering an insular opinion, I thought I might tell the story as we know it, of the tragic death of Alexander Litvinenko.

                      Alexander Litvinenko was born in August of 1962 and as an adult, became a KGB officer who specialized in limiting or taking down organized crime.   The KGB in Russia, no longer exists and is now known as the Federal Security Bureau or FSB.   Litvinenko and Putin worked for the organization in both of its incarnations. From all accounts, Litvinenko is reputed to have been an honest officer.   In 1998, Litvinenko and others accused his superior of ordering the execution death of Russian tycoon Boris Bereszovky.   Litvinenko was subsequently charged with exceeding the authority of his position, and he found it necessary to flee Russia with his wife Marina and children, to London.   The British granted him asylum, and then the Russians dismissed the charges against him.  He made his living in London as a journalist and also as an intelligence consultant for British Intelligence.

                       Litvinenko wrote two books which are said to be fairly factual accounts of  some of the internal workings of Russia. One of them is:

Blowing Up Russia                     
Can be bought at this link                                 Of course, this book has been banned in Russia


There are many other books in the marketplace concerning this and related topics.

                    Litvinenko also accused Putin of being involved in the execution death of journalist Anna Politskovkaya.

                    On November 1, 2006 Litvinenko became very ill, after having tea with two Russians at a tea room in London.  He deteriorated rapidly and British doctors detected that he had been poisoned using radioactive polonium 210, a formulation used only in Russia.   Countless British citizens on the street, working in the hospital, and ultimately performing the autopsy were exposed to this isotope.  A British investigation suggested that the two men with whom Litvinenko had lunch were implicated.   Andrey Lugovoy is one of those men.  His extradition to stand trial in Britain was refused by Russia.   Lugovoy has gone on to become a member of the Russian duma and to have his own television series.   There is signifcant radioactive evidence implicating this man.   This week, some foreign news sources have announced the trial of Lugovoy and another with both of them in absentia.    This is information on Lugovoy.


Litvinenko at University College Hospital prior to his death


                      

    This is information concerning the Litvinenko investigation from the British perspective

   This is the link to the Litvinenko Justice Foundation run by his wife Marina



                I realize that all nations spy, and that all nations have chosen to vanquish what they consider to be a clear threat, sometimes by execution.   However, the execution of Litvinenko was the murder of a naturalized British subject which subjected countless British subjects, nurses and physicians, as well as Litvinenko's wife and children to high levels of radiation.   A Russian regime that would do this, would do anything in Ukraine, and almost anything anywhere else.

               Vladimir Putin is a brilliant, focused, leader who uses public relations and media very skillfully.
He is the funding arm of Russia Today, which although it is fascinating journalism, often carries a Putinesque bias.

                 We can care about our Russian friends and not embrace their current leader, just as I am grateful that they do not hold Barack Hussein Obama's actions in the world, against me.



This is an article which was printed in London and was penned by Litvinenko himself before his death as to why exactly he believes that Putin wanted him dead.




Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Fatal Shooting at Home Depot





  About forty-five minutes ago, an employee of a Manhattan Home Depot entered the store on his day off, asked to see his supervisor and then shot him to death. A moment later, he turned the gun, killing himself.

    New York City is one of the most difficult places in the US to obtain a handgun legally.  Obtaining a concealed weapons permit there is almost impossible and is getting more difficult all  the time.  The fact is that making weapons illegal does not deter those who would kill or commit crimes, murders or suicides with one.  It does however, make it more difficult for people who might wish to defend themselves, their coworkers or their families from an active shooter.  There is significant evidence that when an active shooter encounters someone with a weapon, that they usually surrender or shoot themselves. The overwhelming evidence is that they stop killing others.






      It doesn't take any great mind to predict that terrorists are incoming.   Public places in the US may see active shooters in public places as ISIS and other militant Islamists, and non-Islamists decide that violence and anarchy might get their cause on the news. We need more people trained and vetted who carry concealed handguns in public places in order to defend themselves and others.

       My prayers and condolences go out to the families and the employees of Home Depot who have been impacted by today's sad events.


         Spencer Coursen is a connection of mine from Linkedin who runs a security company and has an impressive background in protection.    He makes some excellent points regarding threat assessment.

Spencer Coursen on Threat Assessment






Friday, January 23, 2015

Revisiting Why Many Foreign Citizens Do Not Understand US Gun Culture

 I first penned the following post in December of 2012.   Although it did not draw a lot of commentary of attention when it was first written, it has recently.  I have chosen to reprise it in order to disseminate a number of the points I made then, which are even more valid now.



       
My family and I have spent a great deal of time acquiring excellent skills including firearm safety.
 

   It must be really difficult for people who live in other nations to understand the United States and why we have a Constitutional Amendment which allows us to own and use guns.  When I have traveled to other nations, I was struck by how little most Americans understand about different cultures in other lands, but also how little even educated people in other lands, understand about the culture of the United States.    First of all, the United States is quite vast, and many states have vastly different populations, educational levels, climates, problems and issues.   People in Hawaii have different problems and different challenges, than people in Massachusetts. People in Florida can't fathom some of the challenges in Alaska !  California is almost it's own little country with coastal citizens living very differently than those in the agricultural areas and differently still from those in Northern California.  Puerto Rico might be joining us soon, and their inhabitants would find culture shock in Virginia, North Dakota or Wyoming.      In some ways, we share some similarities with Russia. We are home to many different cultures and in different parts of our country, things are done very differently.  For example, in Moscow, which is European Russia, motorists drive on one side of the street, and in Vladivostok, Asian Russia, motorists drive on the other.   Our Northern neighbor Canada also has such diversity.  Alberta has different challenges than Nova Scotia, for example.

                   Last time I was in London, I remember some Londoners questioning why anyone would ever have a weapon of any kind anywhere.  They forget that the Swiss and the Israelis all train in the military mandatorily, and they do retain their weapons afterward.

                   I can't hope to be anything as approaching as knowledgeable or as interesting  on the subject as Larry Correia, but I can tell you why I am a gun owner.   First, although areas like mine don't get much television airtime, there are lots of areas in the US just like my own.   Our farm is intensely rural, and then heavily forested beyond the pastured areas.  Although all of our personally owned mammals are immunized in accordance with law for rabies, wild animals are not,and in such a vast nation,  rabies is endemic here. For those of you who aren't familiar, rabies is a viral infection that is generally considered to be fatal to animals and humans 100% of the time.  In the past couple of years, a  rabid ground hog attacked a county official within a short distance to our courthouse.  My eldest son has been challenged by a rabid fox as we walked out our front door.  We do have coyotes here, and occasionally packs of wild dogs.  We presently have the largest bobcat we've ever seen (larger than many fairly large dogs) who stays pretty much on our property, that we have ever seen anywhere.  One of our vets saw a mountain lion near here, and the official word from Game and Inland Fisheries of Virginia is that "we don't have those here".  They had to rethink that stance when the local taxidermist got one from a farmer who shot one about three miles from here.  In the summer, we have aggressive large black snakes, poisonous and numerous copperheads, and the occasional rattlesnakes.   We also have no less than 17 known black bears very close to us, some of which we see with fair frequency. We coexist with these beautiful large animals, who move much more quickly and smoothly than their size would suggest.  Most of the time, we live in our home, and we care for our livestock which include dogs, rabbits, ducks, chickens and alpacas, and soon a horse.  Sometimes a dangerous animal threatens us close to our farmhouse.  Animal control personnel here handle only big issues, and cover a huge area. Many times, they are simply unavailable. Citizens are encouraged to learn to use firearms correctly and to have them properly maintained on farms.  To get an idea of the scale of things here, our own farm is larger than the entire village/town in England, outside London, where I attended school as a teen.

                 Each year, several of us make it an expedition to walk out a section of the farm and forest which we own.  We make sure that no one has come here to plant marijuana trees. (Yes, they can grow to tree size) and that no one has been altering property boundary markers, or setting up illegal hunting tree stands here.   One year we found an illegal timberer stealing valuable trees from our neighbor.  Had my son and I each not been armed, we could likely have been killed at that location, and probably never found again. The illegal timberer has been imprisoned by local authorities.  Several people from this area, have in fact, disappeared never to be seen again. It may be wild animals or it may be the two legged kind of predator.

                We have a sheriff and deputies in this county, but they handle many things including rural car accidents. There have been times over the years, like the time some citiots thought our farm road might be a nice place for a high level, high volume, drug deal, that we could not have gotten a law enforcement officer out to even take a report before next Thursday.   We have since developed working arrangements with the DEA, the State Police and we stay in touch with our sheriff and his deputies.   We were encouraged to train and receive Concealed Weapons Permits by our sheriff.  He knows that we, like most rural landowners, are good stewards to our land, the animals, our farm, and that we are trained and safe with our firearms. Many localities won't come out anymore for anything but what they call a "blood crime".    

               Several years ago, a realtor was murdered in our county. She was not armed.  In rural areas particularly, robberies, home invasions, abductions, child snatchings by known sex offenders, stalkings by the insane, all occur.  When we lived in another part of Virginia, and our youngest son Daniel was an infant, people with an out of state license plate tried to abduct him.  Like it or not, having a gun and being competent in its use, as all of our adult family members are, may be all that prevents anyone from becoming a murder or robbery statistic.  The law here allows me to shoot to stop anyone who breaks into my house.  This makes sense because anyone who walks fifty acres in to us, locates a wooded glen where a house exists, defeats a security system, in an area of farms where home invaders have been shot, is not here to have tea or get an autographed copy of my book.  They are here to rob, rape, torture, kill or maim, and I am not going to allow an invader to do that to me in front of my children.  Keep in mind, that most of the psychiatric hospitals in the US have been closed years ago due to budget cuts and a philosophy that "everyone deserves to be free" even if they have schizophrenia and a documented history of violence as well.   Although no gun proponents are fond of quoting the number of people injured or killed with guns in our huge nation, they fail to indicate that annually, many many shootings, abductions and killings are prevented by law abiding citizens holding guns, both with and without concealed weapons permits. The news does not report all of these, and so Europe doesn't hear them, and therefore lacks this perspective in a major way.

                 Lastly, here in the United States we are, and have always been mindful that the reason that our nation was freed from the English king, and the reason that the United States was a part of rescuing the world from the likes of Hitler is that all over our nation, we have perfected the ability to use firearms competently.  The second amendment which allows us to bear arms, exists so that we can prevent tyranny when it once again raises its ugly head.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, and others all knew that to live in this land, we would have to have access to personal protection of our land, our animals and our families.

                So, in future, just as I would not tell the Russian orphanages what to do with their children with regard to forest walks as they seek to avoid being eaten by the remaining Siberian tigers, and I would not tell the British what to do with their immigration, I would appreciate the consideration of your knowing as a European that I live a very different life than you.  I have carved out a life in an intensely rural region where there is no mail delivery, because spending gas money to deliver mail daily to so few people, would be unreasonably cost ineffective.  I can't walk to a store or a police precinct.  I am fifty miles from most things.  When someone is badly hurt here, a medical helicopter is called, generally at the expense of the person who will use it.  If you can't fathom what it's like to make your own bread or to freeze store bought loaves from fifty miles away to keep through winter, how can you possibly have any understanding of the challenges with regard to independent farm living ?   If you have never been without power for three weeks after a storm then you have no conception of the challenges here.  In addition, there are many places in the US which are far more difficult and more complex in which to live than this one.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Important Thoughts Concerning Your Feet and Preparedness

              
( Rendering from: cookfootandankle.com )




            Many of us don't think much about our feet. Men buy the shoes they like or that are dictated by work, and the socks they like and then, beyond that, they don't think much about them.  Many women own shoes that actually produce challenges for their feet and legs, and they also don't give consideration to socks, tights or panty hose which actually should protect their feet from the friction of many of today's shoes. Many of the most popular shoes for men and for women, don't protect feet at all.  Man-made "plether" shoes may also exacerbate the problem.   Either sex should never wear shoes which would make running impossible.

                   If an emergency were to occur, then all of us could be faced with a situation in which we needed to walk a number of miles in which to gain safety. Remember that many of the bystanders who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center were people who were able to put distance between the building and themselves, quickly.  This leads me to my next question.  How are your feet ? Keep in mind that if you found yourself in an emergency that lasted several weeks (like a weather emergency in which your living arrangement changed drastically for a time) that your feet would endure some challenges more quickly than it could compensate for them.
            

                   Most people mistakenly think that foot callus formation is a positive thing.  They mistakenly believe that a callus will protect their foot from friction and additional discomfort.  The first group of people for whom this is absolutely not true are diabetics.  Both Type I (autoimmune/juvenile) Diabetes Mellitus patients, and Type II Diabetes Mellitus (usually acquired in adulthood) should take great care not to develop calluses on their feet.  (These as two different disorders with differing pathophysiologies and causes)  In diabetics, the callus can prevent the patients noting ulcerations and injuries below the callus. Since many diabetics don't have the foot sensitivity they should due to gradual nerve damage due to higher blood sugars, they may not realize that they have a foot ulceration which threatens their foot. This may occur during an emergency when they are least able to obtain a hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. A blister near a callus on a diabetic individual this morning, can be an infected ulcer with red lines on it, this afternoon.   Prevention is key, especially for this particular group of people. 

                 The second group of people who may have difficulties with runaway callus formation are those with hypothyroidism.  Women in middle age who may be experiencing a decrease in thyroid function may find they have foot callus formation to a degree to which they never have previously. This is an important sign.  If you have unexplained foot callus formation and you never had this before, then you should ask your primary care physician to run a TSH on you to rule out a failing thyroid gland.   Secondly, new and severe foot callus formation is not a normal part of aging.  Please look for what has changed which is contributing to such formation.



Dr. Scholl's Product Line for Calluses
                If your need to use your feet in a manner in which you had not prior, occurred during an actual emergency, you could develop calluses rather quickly.   Calluses are hard material and as you walk or hike, they can cause pain, irritation, actual bruising, and actual injury to the fragile skin below the callus.  Cracked heels are also an important and potentially painful problem which can lead to infection.   If you and your family had to walk forty miles to get out of an area in an impending disaster, could you ?   Do each of you own the correct socks, the correct boots ?     Do you have adequate padding, gauze, moleskin etc. to treat the minor irritations which clearly would occur even with healthy feet on an impromptu but protracted hike ?

               Diabetics should have their feet inspected by a podiatrist who will give them guidelines as to how best to maintain their own feet and prevent calluses.  Some endocrinologists will do this also.     The rest of us should make sure that our feet are as smooth and as callus free as is possible.   If you do develop a foot callus, Flexitol cream might be an important investment in your emergency kit.  It should be used as a preventive measure in keeping your feet mission ready at a moment's notice.   Flexitol    ( is marketed as Flexitol heel balm ) an over the counter urea preparation which softens calluses and allows you to soak them or scrape them off over time. It is available at almost any US and Canadian pharmacy and is available at Wal-Mart and online.    Diabetics or those with resistant calluses can buy a prescription strength urea based callus cream if ordered by your general or your podiatric physician.




I receive absolutely no personal benefit from mentioning or in essence, advertising Flexitol.  It simply works when used exactly as directed.


               When using Flexitol, it is important to keep it away from faces and eyes.  I apply it using vinyl gloves to avoid irritation to my hands.  You should wash your hands after application, particularly if you could not use vinyl gloves for application.  Children should have this applied for them.  It may sting deep cracks in heels.

   Important points for your entire family:

1.  Make sure that each member of your family has ankle boots or longer types which are well fitting and comfortable enough to endure a five mile "emergency hike".  These should be in close proximity to your evacuation kit.
2. Make sure that if a tornado is imminent that each of you put on clean socks and the boots mentioned above.  Walking through broken glass with the correct footwear is very important.
3. Consider white cotton socks for everyone in your evacuation kit.  These are more likely to wick moisture away, and less likely to result in athlete's foot (a fungal infection of the feet and toes) if you had to wear your boots for a protracted period in an emergency.
4. Attend to any difficulties, calluses, corns, etc. well in advance of an emergency.  Learn to care for your feet before you have a problem.
5. Consider creating a "Foot Kit" in your emergency evacuation kit.
    It should contain:
                   A.) One or two tubes of Flexitol.
                   B.) Package of Molefoam Padding*
                   C.) Package of Molefoam Cushion*                     *All sold by Dr. Scholl's and online
                    D.) Package of Moleskin Plus Padding Roll *
 6. The formation of new calluses can be a sign of a new health problem.  Mention this to your doctor.
7. Make properly fitting comfortable shoes and socks a priority.
8. Don't surgically or semi-surgically remove calluses.  Gradual removal using Flexitol or prescription urea creams will do the job without giving you a nasty infection where you, or the scissors slipped !
9. Manage diabetes well.  The better your blood glucose levels are managed, the less of a problem this is likely to be.
10. Investigate orthotic inserts for your shoes that will help distribute weight better over your entire foot rather than selected areas which eventually form calluses.  Traditional orthotic shoe inserts are provided by podiatrists or sports medicine physicians or orthopedists.  Increasingly, partially customized orthotic inserts are available over-the-counter and these will help and awful lot of patients, not only with walking and longer term comfort in their shoes, but with reducing foor callus formation as well.


                    Your survival from certain disasters may well hinge on the health of your feet.




Saturday, January 17, 2015

How Will the Swiss Francs Change Impact You ?

               




       The Swiss have long had a sensible yet alternative view of life and their place in the world.  They take mandatory military service seriously, and in a continent in which almost no one else values guns, they train all their able bodied citizens who keep those weapons for national defense after their service is over.  Swiss disaster preparedness is legendary.

                    Financial security is also a part of preparedness.  In September, 2011, the Swiss who have retained the use of their own franc, pegged its value to the euro.  This means that they fixed its value at 1.2 francs per one euro.  This was supposed to result in some measure of stability for both currencies, which of course is important because it stabilizes trade, markets, and eventually jobs.
                     In the past few years, without going off on a verbose tangent, as is so often my inclination, the euro has had some difficulties.  A number of European nations have suffered financial instability and have required assistance and buy outs of their problems. This has caused fluctuations and concerns for euro stability.  
                    The Swiss are great bankers, and yesterday they announced that they were going to "unhook" the Swiss franc from the euro because longer term linkage to it would be unsustainable. This was quite a surprise. The first result is that the franc surged to being worth 30% more than it had been.   This is going to have some negative effects in the marketplace even worldwide.   For the Swiss, their goods are going to become more expensive for other nations. This will decrease exports and it may cost them jobs, even though they may be more secure in the long term.  For everyone else, Swiss watches, chocolates, technology and anything else are going to become more expensive. Any Swiss francs you are holding are likely to become worth more. The euro may fall as a result of this change.

                     Some of the results of this change cannot be foreseen. There will be unexpected market volatility.   Already, a brokerage house in New Zealand announced this morning that it was going out of business, the result of losing "all of its assets" as a result of this currency change.   With the price of oil descending, jobs being lost, Russian financial losses, and other signs of world economic instability, there is no way to fully assess the unintended consequences of the Swiss move.  We can expect market volatility across the board for some time.

                     If you read this and think you will remain untouched, let me remind you that there are a number of drug companies in Switzerland.  Some of the drugs they make are not made by any other companies in the world. Some of the research they do is not being duplicated anywhere else.  For some, an increase in the price of Swiss goods will be a problem and it may not be felt for some time.

                      My conclusion is that you should continue to save a cash cushion in your own currency.  We are all connected to one another financially in both ways which benefit us, and ways which make us all vulnerable.  You should consider amassing some gold or silver if this is possible for you.  You should stockpile long term food for interruptions in supply or for periods of inflation. You should assemble an excellent first aid kit and you should address any known medical or dental issues in advance of an emergency.  You should take reasonable measured steps to prepare for reasonable emergencies and disasters in your region.  The financially uncertain ride for most of us will continue for some time.





Friday, January 16, 2015

Building LED Soda Bottle Lights

               
Illac Diaz with a bottle bulb  (Picture: yp.scmp.com )





   The lights in the post below are excellent for the type of construction I have mentioned, and work very well during daylight.   However, most of us need light when the sun goes down.  In addition, LED soda bottle lights may be able to be modified and used for different types of construction.  In addition, these lights may be used for barns, animal housing, and emergency shelters following disasters.
                    I generally prefer step-by-step directions with photographs which I can post here, but Illac Diaz, the founder of Liters of Light made a video himself which explains the construction and implementation of LED bottle lights quite well.

           Illac Diaz and Liters of Light's Directions for LED Bottle Light Construction and Use