30 December, 2009

Public hospitals now unsecure

Image: Oleg Volk
In the past few days, patients have been attacked at two public hospitals, with doctors, patients and nurses having to scamper for their lives. Hospital security was no help.

In one incident at the Sangre Grande Hospital, a man was stabbed by a gang who entered the hospital unchallenged by security. Eleven security officers were on duty at the time.

In another incident, three young women (including two teens) stabbed a woman while she was awaiting medical care at the Port of Spain General Hospital. The three assailants were arrested and charged with attempted murder and placed on $5,000 bail each.

It seems we now have to defend ourselves and family members at the nations public health institutions, since the assigned security officers are unwilling, or unable. Expect a knee-jerk response from the health ministry (or the RHAs) disarming law-abiding visitors and patients, while leaving the armed criminals untouched.

28 December, 2009

SurvivalBlog reader recommends airgun practice

He got the idea from his brother who shoots airguns at home, indoors.

Firearms shooters are now waking up to truths airgunners were aware of decades ago. The cost factor aside, airguns are much quieter, and therefore can be shot indoors without disturbing the neighbours (unless you lived in a thin-walled apartment building). Also, it's just good fun, while building an important skill, that is easily transferable to firearms.

Try practicing with your favourite 9mm pistol at home, and see how quickly the Organised Crime Narcotics and Firearms Bureau (ONFCB) arrive at through your door. Our laws prohibit us from shooting a firearm "within forty metres of any public road" (16:01Firearms Act 11-1). Fortunately, no such prohibition extends to airguns.

Another plus is we aren’t forced to take our guns down to the T&T Forensics Science Centre and have its ballistic fingerprint taken, logged and placed in a database for other sovereign governments to access, over the internet, at will.

So, to all T&T firearms owners who are just waking up to the benefits of airguns, we say welcome aboard. It’s a fun journey.

25 December, 2009

Volcanic eruption

Pyroclastic flows at Mayon volcano.

The Mayon volcano near Legazpi City, about 500km south-east of Manila, Philippines, erupted at dawn on Thursday. Thousands of evacuees are expected to spend Christmas in different evacuation centres after the country's most active volcano began spewing ash last week.

Mayon Volcano, also known as Mount Mayon, is an active stratovolcano in the province of Albay, in the Bicol Region, on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. Known as the "perfect cone" because of its almost perfect conical shape, Mayon is situated 15 kilometres northwest of Legazpi City.

Over 9,000 families (44,394 people) have been evacuated by the Philippine government from the base of the volcano. No one is allowed to enter the 10 km danger zone, which is cordoned off by the Philippine military.

This led me to think of the active volcanoes in the Caribbean archipelago. Below is a list compiled after a brief search. There may be more. I’ve not listed any on the South or Central American mainland.

Volcano name/height/coordinate/last eruption year

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Soufriere         1220m         4003ft         13.33°N 61.18°W            1979

St Lucia
Qualibou         777m/2549ft         13.83°N 61.05°W          1766

Mount Liamuiga         1156m/3793ft         17.37°N 62.80°W         160
Nevis Peak            985m/3232ft         17.15°N 62.58°W         Holocene

Soufriere Hills         915m/3001ft         16.72°N 62.18°W         2009

La Grande Soufrière  1467m/4813ft           16.05°N 61.67°W              1977

Kick 'em Jenny         -168         -607         12.300°N 61.640°W         2001
Mount Saint Catherine         840m         /2,756ft         12.15°N 61.67°W         unknown

Morne aux Diables          861m         /2825ft          15.612°N 61.43°W         Holocene
Morne Diablotins         1430/4692ft         15.502°N 61.397°W         Holocene
Morne Plat Pays         940m/3084ft         15.255°N 61.341°W         1270
Morne Trois Pitons     1387m/4550ft         15.37°N 61.33°W              920
Morne Watt           1224m/4016ft         15.307°N 61.305°W         1997

Mount Pelée 1,397m  4,583ft   14°490N 61°100W   1929–1932

Regarded as the deadliest volcanic disaster of the 20th century, Pelée killed over 30,000 Martiniquans in 1902. The cloud of gas and solid matter extruded by the eruption incinerated the entire town of St. Pierre and all but two of its 28,000 inhabitants. The volcano spewed a smoke column continuously for 11 months after the event.

If (more likely when) any of these active volcanoes erupts, we will have to deal with an immediate influx of our Caribbean neighbours looking for real help. Do we have a plan?

21 December, 2009

The coming food scarcity

Would you want your mother, sister or daughter lining up for emergency food supplies?

It is estimated by some that food will become scarce in 2010-2011. US Dept of Agriculture trend forecasts support this view. If this is true, then the laws of supply and demand will kick in and food prices will rise dramatically.

Eric deCarbonnel, editor of MarketSceptics.com reports on soaring food prices in India, the world’s largest democracy, with 1 billion people.

“Slogan-shouting lawmakers demanding that the government control rising food prices have disrupted parliament on several occasions in recent days. 

Food prices have been soaring at an unprecedented pace. Government data shows they have risen to a nearly 20 percent high over last year - the fastest rate of increase in over a decade.

In his 17 Dec 2009 post, titled “2010 Food Crisis for Dummies” deCarbonnel predicts a 2010 food crisis that he says will lead to a “financial Armageddon”.
Using official records and statistics, and a mix of historic figures and forecasts, deCarbonnel makes some stunning observations and predictions.

During 2007-2009 Trinidad and Tobago experienced constant, monthly rising food prices. The government used a series of strategies to try to alleviate the effect on consumers. This included lifting Value Added Tax on several food items, including milk, curry, saltfish and a number of other imported food items.

Many times, these strategies failed as supermarket owners and other merchants refused to pass on these savings to consumers. Food inflation ran up to 40% YoY in some cases. I remember seeing rice at double the ‘normal’ price. Rice is a daily staple in our country.

With more expected food inflation in 2010 and beyond, it is wise to prepare now. Take advantage in the temporary lull in food price increases and stock up now. Rice, flour, powdered milk, tinned foods (especially the Cuisine brand, sold at HiLo supermarkets). Stockpiling these items will allow your family a little breathing space should something unexpected happen. Just use a permanent marker and mark the expiry date on top each tin. Rotate out several months before expiry.

Growing your own food is best, and for those without large tracts of land, then a kitchen garden is homegrown food security. The Agriculture Ministry has a program that gives you a start in this area.

Just remember, no matter how much food you grow or stockpile, it will be of no use should someone else come and take it from you by force. Develop a strategy to protect your loved ones and supplies. For those without guns, a plan that involves your neighbours is better than nothing. Being able to depend on immediate neighbours will go a long way in your survival.

Those in the protective services should especially be community oriented, as the moment a national emergency is even suspected, your superiors will have you confined to base/barracks. This leaves your family partially unprotected. If you develop goodwill within your respective communities, along with real, workable, tested emergency plans, then your family may survive, even in your absence.

It is well known that during the 1990 attempted coup, looters had their groceries and other goods taken from them by police, and soldiers. A lot of the goods found their way into the homes of these same soldiers and police. There is no reason to believe things will be different during another national emergency that involves looting, human beings being what we are.

I am not casting any judgement here, nor advocating breaking any laws. But if protective services personnel relieve looters of their loot, and intend to take it to their families, spare a thought for the senior citizen living alone on your street who cannot leave his/her home due to infirmity or fear. They may have no food at home. Spare a thought for the family with two working parents who weren’t able to stockpile any food.

For that matter, spare a thought for the airgunner in your neighbourhood who may be the only one to drive away home intruders from your family’s home while you are away. Since the majority of the law-abiding population is unarmed, the neighbourhood airgunners may be the last line of defence against rampaging gangs. A well-placed 16 grain pellet, traveling near the speed of sound, to a gangster’s head from 60+ meters away may very well convince the gang to move on to softer targets.

In summary, stockpile food and water, grow what you can, have a proven method to protect your loved ones and your stockpile, have enough for charity and barter, but don’t let down your guard.

Got preps?

20 December, 2009

British (in)justice

Munir (left) and Toker Hussain were jailed for 39 and 30 months. Intruders tied up Munir’s family and threatened to kill them. Photo: Handout/PA

Two brothers, who were described as pillars of their community were jailed for 30 and 39 months respectively for defending themselves and family against a gang who broke into their home, lay in wait, tied them up and threatened to kill them.

What’s even more unusual, is the bandit was given no jail time. Instead, the judge cited the usual nonsense about “…the public must not take law into their own hands…” and proceeded to jail two businessmen with no criminal records. The impact on the community will be negative and immediate, as 10 employees will lose their jobs, due to the jailing.

The brothers, Munir and Toker Hussain live in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England. The bandit, Walid Salem is a criminal with more than 50 previous convictions. The other gang members escaped.

Since our final court of appeal is the British Privy Council, then Trinidadians and Tobagonians could look forward to such a perversion of justice should we do our duty in defending our loved ones during a violent home invasion.

In a similar situation, in Trinidad this time, a well-known and respected doctor shot and killed a bandit who invaded his Ft George home and tied him up. Ironically, the bandit was shot with his own gun. Dr Ralph Hoyte, 89, a founding member of the T&T Family Planning Association, was surprisingly calm during an interview with a reporter merely hours after the home invasion.

"If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed." (Exodus 22:2)

"The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction." - Henry St. George Tucker, in Blackstone's 1768 Commentaries on the Laws of England

18 December, 2009

Tamiflu concerns

Has TnT wasted $millions on an ineffective drug?

Tamiflu, once hailed as the best antiviral drug to combat the A/H1N1 virus is now being called ineffective. The drug is presently used by the ministry of health to both prevent swine flu and to treat those who fall ill.

The Atlantic magazine carries the story here, with a follow-up here.

Health Minister Jerry Narace has repeatedly extolled the virtues of Tamiflu, downplaying its well-documented—sometimes deadly—side effects.
There are 14 reported deaths in Japan linked to Tamiflu. Recently I was informed that the Health Ministry has established a new protocol and routinely vaccinates children with the drug. This, from a visit to a public health facility. I flat out refused the ‘offer’ for my child, and was told I would have to sign a document stating that I was offered but refused. This is more to exonerate officials in the event that something bad happens to the child.

It seems I was right to refuse. My child is in perfect health. Now I’m hearing of children who were vaccinated but experienced health complications after. One child reportedly lost the ability to walk. This has not been corroborated.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The BMJ is an international peer reviewed medical journal, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association.

14 December, 2009

Airgun browsing & pellet buying

Took the clan to the beach today. A leisurely drive to the Western Peninsula. Of course, we made a few stops, checking the latest versions of the Diana 350 Magnum and the Model 34. Generic, plain looking rifles minus the beautiful checkering as in past models.

Sports & Games staff seem to be confused as to the correct prices of pellets. This confusion lost them a sizeable sale today, as I had planned to stock up due to a reported 20% sale. When the staff member insisted there was no sale on pellets, I walked.

I still bought pellets, but from one of their competitors.

The beach was uncrowded; the water warm and soothing. The children had fun, with The Goddess enjoying every minute.

Today was a good day.

08 December, 2009

Emergency preparedness: Fairgrove, Cupertino

Cupertino Walk for Action Volunteers, inspected supplies in their emergency container, made sure residents in their area had received important emergency information, and that resident knew about the their emergency ARC location based at Hyde Middle School in Cupertino Sunday October 18, 2009. (Photo: Maria J. Avila/Mercury News)

Daily scouring the net can be a rewarding experience. One occasionally comes across some nuggets that makes you grab the family emergency plan off the fridge door, with a view to editing.

The city of Cupertino, in California recently activated and tested their emergency preparedness plans. Cupertino publishes its agenda, minutes and even videos of council meetings on its website.

The Silicon Valley Mercury News has a story on the exercise here. One particular neighbourhood was more prepared than others: the 15-block Fairgrove area. Fairgrove has 225 homeowners, while Cupertino has 52,000 residents.

It would be nice if the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management looked closely at Fairgrove’s preparation. The citizens were involved, and not treated as victims/consumers.

07 December, 2009

The 10-shot Hatsan AT44S-10

A beautiful rifle and a dream to shoot.  Because Pre-Charged Pneumatics are built on an entirely different platform to spring-loaded air rifles, there is no recoil. Since I’ve been shooting ‘springers’ for a number of years, a PCP takes getting used to. Bracing for the recoil, it’s almost anticlimactic when there is none.

I’ll do a proper review on the gun soon, but in the meanwhile I have a question:
Is the Hatsan At44S-10 the same gun as the Air Venturi Halestorm? The photos of the Halestorm on Tom Gaylord’s blog bears an uncanny resemblance to the AT44S-10. If anyone has the answer to that question, please email this blog, airgunstt AT gmail.com.

If any local readers are thinking of getting this gun, then move quickly, as it appears as though they may be sold out by year’s end or even before. 
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