Jewish Preppers?

Some people finding our website may be wondering what is a Prepper and why does it have a religious affiliation? Well the short answer is...A Prepper is the modern day survivalist. It's not (necessarily) a right-wing militiaman preparing for Armageddon in the boondocks of Montana. But better represented by a normal, educated, middle class individual perhaps living in the most urban of cities, preparing themselves physically and mentally for any upcoming disaster, natural or man-made. This could include anything from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, social unrest to an act of terrorism. Preparations include: food supply, medical supply, weapons supply etc. and the knowledge and skills to use them. Of course, a Jewish Prepper is just a designation for a small niche of the Prepper Community that is of the Jewish Faith. We are non-profit and nonpartisan. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ma Titzak Alai? - For what do you cry out to me?

When the Jews stood near the Red Sea with the Egyptians close behind them and they cried out to G-d, G-d said to Moses "Ma Titzak Alai, Daber el Bne yisrael Ve'yisa'u- For what do you cry out to me? Tell the Children of Israel to go forward!" Exodus 14:15

This seemingly could be a Biblical source for Prepping, since we see that Moses was commanded to take action instead of sitting by and praying. But as I delve more into this theme, I find a disturbing trend of Jews that have a very different interpretation of this verse.

The Emek Davar's (Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1816-1893), known as the Netziv) commentary on this verse, explains that Moses was being admonished by God for praying to him at a time of spiritual peril and since it was not a 'natural war' it was deemed inappropriate. While he notes that when the Jews fought Amalek (and the battle at Jericho) and Moses had his hands raised to the heavens in prayer, it was a physical war and was then appropriate to pray.

I've discussed this concept with others who confirm this viewpoint and note that Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman HY"D (1875-1941) made a speech shortly before being killed explaining that they should consider themselves as holy sacrifices and should spend their last moments in prayer and repentance.

Now although you do hear of isolated cases of religious Jews joining the resistance movement, the vast majority did not resist. Why? Hypothetically, and without passing any judgement (since who are we to judge people that were there?) why didn't the heads of the multitudes of Yeshivas instruct their deciples to grab kitchen knives (assuming they had nothing else to arm themselves with...) and at least kill or injure their attackers? Even if they were all slaughtered in the fight, some of the attackers would be killed and preventing from killing others in the future!

Now, I can possibly accept the point of view that in the beginning of the war (WWII) it was thought that if there was an organized uprising, the rest of the Jews would have to suffer greater and would perhaps put more lives at risk. But by the end of the war, wasn't the enemy's intent clear? Wasn't it obvious that they wanted to wipe out all the Jews? And if so, why don't we hear of more cases of resistance?

It seems to me, that this approach is incorrect and that Jews are obligated to defend themselves and their brothers whenever and however possible. It is, in my humble opinion, so mandated in the Torah and is unwise, and perhaps criminal to not act!

I'd love to hear your opinions on this. Please continue the discussion...

Friday, November 19, 2010

WARNING - Mental Illness and Catastrophes

Many people don't think about it, but considering this:

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans had mental illness in 2009
Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:17pm EST

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - More than 45 million Americans, or 20 percent of U.S. adults, had some form of mental illness last year, and 11 million had a serious illness, U.S. government researchers reported on Thursday.

Young adults aged 18 to 25 had the highest level of mental illness at 30 percent, while those aged 50 and older had the lowest, with 13.7 percent, said the report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA.

The rate, slightly higher than last year's 19.5 percent figure, reflected increasing depression, especially among the unemployed, SAMHSA, part of the National Institutes of Health, said.

"Too many Americans are not getting the help they need and opportunities to prevent and intervene early are being missed," Pamela Hyde, SAMHSA's administrator, said in a statement.

"The consequences for individuals, families and communities can be devastating. If left untreated mental illnesses can result in disability, substance abuse, suicides, lost productivity, and family discord."

The 2009 mental health survey hints at the impact of record unemployment rates, which last year hit a 25-year high as struggling employers slashed jobs to cope with a weak economy.

For many, lost employment meant loss of health insurance, leaving many of the nation's mentally ill unable to get treatment.

According to the survey, 6.1 million adults last year had a mental health need that went untreated, and 42.5 percent said it was because they could not afford it.

It found 14.8 million Americans had major depression last year, and 10 percent of the jobless did, compared with 7.5 of retired people or those not in the job force, 7.3 percent who worked part time and 5.4 percent who worked full time.

Only 64 percent of adults aged 18 or older with major depression were treated last year, compared with 71 percent a year ago.

Being jobless also increased the risk of suicide.

Adults who were unemployed last year were twice as likely to have serious thoughts of suicide as people who were fully employed, with 6.6 percent of the unemployed considering suicide, compared with 3.1 percent of those who were working.

The survey also found that 23.8 percent of women had some form of mental illness, compared with 15.6 percent of men.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Sandra Maler)

You need to keep in mind this:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The First Chabad House in Space?

Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press Mon Nov 15, 7:06 pm ET

PULLMAN, Wash. – It's usually cheaper to fly one way, even to Mars.

Two scientists are suggesting that colonization of the red planet could happen faster and more economically if astronauts behaved like the first settlers to come to North America — not expecting to go home.

"The main point is to get Mars exploration moving," said Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a Washington State University professor who co-authored an article that seriously proposes what sounds like a preposterous idea.

At least one moon-walking astronaut was not impressed.

"This is premature," Ed Mitchell of Apollo 14 wrote in an e-mail. "We aren't ready for this yet."

Also cool to the idea was NASA. President Barack Obama has already outlined a plan to go to Mars by the mid-2030s, but he never suggested these space travelers wouldn't come home.

"We want our people back," NASA spokesman Michael Braukus said.

The article titled "To Boldly Go" appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Cosmology, which featured more than 50 articles and essays on Mars exploration.

Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona State University, argue that humans must begin colonizing another planet as a hedge against a catastrophe on Earth. They believe the one-way trips could start in two decades.

"You would send a little bit older folks, around 60 or something like that," Schulze-Makuch said, bringing to mind the aging heroes who saved the day in the movie "Space Cowboys."

That's because the mission would undoubtedly reduce a person's lifespan, from a lack of medical care and exposure to radiation. Radiation could also damage reproductive organs, so sending people of childbearing age is not a good idea, Schulze-Makuch said.

Mars is a six-month flight away, and it has surface gravity, a thin atmosphere, frozen water, carbon dioxide and essential minerals. The two scientists propose the missions begin with two two-person teams, in separate ships that would serve as living quarters on the planet. More colonists and regular supply ships would follow.

The technology already exists, or is within easy reach, they wrote. By not taking the extra fuel and provisions necessary for a return trip to Earth, the mission could cut costs by 80 percent.

Davies and Schulze-Makuch say it's important to realize they're not proposing a "suicide mission."

"The astronauts would go to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers of a permanent human Mars colony," they wrote.

They acknowledge the proposal is a tough sell for NASA, with its focus on safety, and suggest the private sector might be more fertile ground.

"What we would need is an eccentric billionaire," Schulze-Makuch said. "There are people who have the money to put this into reality."

Indeed, British tycoon Richard Branson, PayPal founder Elon Musk and Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos are among the rich who are already involved in private space ventures.

Isolated humans in space have long been a staple of science fiction movies, from "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" to a flurry of recent movies such as "Solaris" and "Moon." In many of the plots, lonely astronauts fall victim to computers, madness or aliens.

Psychological profiling and training of the astronauts, plus constant communication with Earth, would reduce debilitating mental strains, the two scientists said.

"They would, in fact, feel more connected to home than the early Antarctic explorers," they write in their article.

The mental health of humans in space has been extensively studied. Depression can set in, people become irritated with each other, and sleep can be disrupted, studies have found. The knowledge that there is no quick return to Earth would likely make that worse.

Davies' research focuses on cosmology, quantum field theory and astrobiology. He was an early proponent of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars in rocks ejected by asteroid and comet impacts.

Schulze-Makuch is the author of two books about life on other planets. His focus is eco-hydrogeology, which includes the study of water on planets and moons of our solar system and how those could serve as a potential habitat for microbial life.

Both men contend that Mars has abundant resources to help the colonists become self-sufficient over time. They write that the colony should be next to a large ice cave, to provide shelter from radiation, plus water and oxygen.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm from NASA, Schulze-Makuch believes many people would be willing to make the sacrifice.

He and Davies believe a Mars base would offer humanity a "lifeboat" if Earth became uninhabitable.

"We are on a vulnerable planet," Schulze-Makuch said. "Asteroid impact can threaten us, or a supernova explosion. If we want to survive as a species, we have to expand into the solar system and likely beyond."



A Game Changer Indeed!

Computer virus Stuxnet a 'game changer,' DHS official tells Senate

By Pam Benson, CNN National Security Producer

Washington (CNN) -- A highly complex computer attack that may have been targeting Iran's nuclear power plants is posing a serious security threat to critical infrastructure worldwide, according to government and cyber-industry experts testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

The computer worm known as Stuxnet was discovered this past July and specifically targets computers that run critical infrastructure such as the electric power grid, water treatment and oil and gas pipelines.

The head of the Cybersecurity Center at the Department of Homeland Security said Stuxnet is an incredibly large, complex threat with capabilities never seen before.

"This code can automatically enter a system, steal the formula for the product you are manufacturing, alter the ingredients being mixed in your product, and indicate to the operator and your anti-virus software that everything is functioning as expected," Sean McGurk told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

McGurk called the development of Stuxnet a "game changer."

McGurk said there is not enough knowledge to identify what specifically was the target of the attack.

"To say it was specifically designed to target a particular facility is very difficult for anyone to say with assurance," said McGurk.

However, a study by the Symantec Corporation, a cybersecurity firm, indicated Iran's nuclear plants could be the intended target. "Stuxnet is a threat targeting a specific industrial control system likely in Iran, such as a gas pipeline or power plant," according to the report.

Symantec official Dean Turner told the lawmakers that "even if something like this is tied to one particular country or group of countries, the ability of it to have a global reach is enormous."

He said there were approximately 44,000 unique Stuxnet infections worldwide with 1,600 of them in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of the global infections were in Iran.

Who was behind the attack also remains a mystery. DHS's McGurk said the department's analysis of the code did not point to where it was developed. The Symantec study did not identify a source of the attack.

The sophistication of the malware makes it unlikely it could easily be duplicated by others.

"Stuxnet has such complexity requiring significant rescues to develop that few attackers will be capable of producing a similar threat," Turner said.

The discovery of Stuxnet was a wake up call to government and industry, agreed all those who testified. Michael Assante, the president of the National Board of Information Security Examiners said, "We're not only susceptible, but we're not very well prepared."

Enhanced cooperation between the federal government and private sector was cited as one key component to fending off cyber threats.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, lamented that critical cybersecurity legislation needed to combat cyber threats will have to wait until the new Congress convenes next year.

"I'm sorry to say it seems unlikely we can pass this bill in this lame-duck session, although we should. I've been disappointed that the administration and some other committees that have an interest in this issue have been slow to engage," said Lieberman.

Find this article at:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Classified Mililtary Program - SLEP



To assure preparedness for war or other contingencies, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains significant pre-positioned stocks of critical medical materiel. All drugs possess finite, labeled expiration dating. Routine replacement of them can be quite costly for the DoD and the taxpayer. To reduce overall costs, and taxpayer burden for these stocks, the DoD participates in cooperative product evaluation program with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA/DoD Shelf Life Extension Program is a key component of the Medical Readiness Strategic Plan (MRSP) as developed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Military Medical Departments in response to Congressional concern over the conservation of military medical resources. The program’s focus is to defer drug replacement costs for date sensitive pre-positioned stocks by extending their useful life. The following organizations participate in the program: the FDA, the Defense Medical Standardization Board (DMSB), Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Defense Supply Center-Philadelphia (DSCP) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and the Veterans Administration Emergency Preparedness Program. The DSCP manages the medical materiel for the DoD to include the depot system. The SNS manages our Nation’s medical materiel stocks for responding to Chemical, Biological, Nuclear/Radiological, or conventional weapon terrorist attacks on the American people and the Veterans Administration maintains its own pre-positioned stocks for a CBRN event.

The FDA evaluates candidate materiel for shelf life extension by testing samples submitted from the SLEP Participants. The DMSB coordinates the program and acts as the single interface between the SLEP Participant and the FDA. The SLEP Participant funds the program, manages their portions of the program, and receives the benefit of deferred materiel replacement costs. The Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) assures only safe and effective drugs are provided to personnel during war or other contingencies.


Prior to the introduction of the program, the Services were investing significant funds in replacement costs for pharmaceutical products of potency dated pre-positioned stocks, war reserves and depot stocked pharmaceuticals. Replacement costs for these drugs in 1986 totaled $2.5 million. One of the methods suggested to limit expenditures and defer drug replacement costs for this materiel was testing for potential extension of their useful life.

In July of 1985, representatives from the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office and the FDA met to determine the feasibility of testing drugs for extension. An agreement was reached at this meeting to establish a pilot project for testing. The Air Force identified a list of items representing stock costing $3,000 or more and within 12 to 18 months of its expiration. The FDA screened the list and established test protocols for 56 of the items. Samples of the items were sent to the FDA for testing. After 8 months of testing, the final results exceeded expectations. 80% of the items were tested, and 84% of all lots tested, were extended. Although the FDA was conservative in their estimates, some of the tested items were granted extensions of up to 3 years beyond their initial expiration date.

In January of 1986, an interagency agreement was signed forming the FDA/DoD Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP). The DMSB was tasked as the Quad-Service, DoD focal point for the program. Testing of items submitted by the Services and DSCP was not started until fiscal year (FY) 87. By FY 91, the program had grown enough for the FDA to increase dedicated program resources (facilities and personnel) to support requirements for new as well as retest projects.

The program has changed significantly over time, as pharmaceutical industry practices and knowledge about product safety and stability have evolved. Today the SLEP is geared towards the testing of “military significant” products, those that are either military-unique, possessing no commercial (non-DoD) market, or those drugs for which the DoD procures such large quantities for pre-positioned stocks that vendors are unwilling to accept them for credit upon expiration.

FDA Testing

The FDA is the independent evaluator and proponent for quality control of medical materiel, performing all required testing of items entered into the FDA/DoD SLEP. The FDA uses the U.S. Pharmacopoeia or the original manufacturer’s test data on each item to establish a protocol for testing. Accelerated testing (also called stress testing) is the method used most often to predict the extension period. The accelerated testing protocols are designed to increase the rate of chemical or physical degradation of the drug substance by using exaggerated storage conditions. Each item is "stressed" (placed in chamber which maintains a temperature of 50 degrees centigrade and 75% humidity) for 60 days. The potency of the stressed samples is compared with the standard for each item, and using the comparison, the FDA estimates the extendable life of the product. The FDA testing process, from the time the DMSB presents the project’s candidate list until the results are received by the DMSB, requires approximately six months.
The FDA will not test all items presented to them as program candidates. The FDA’s Center for Biologics Research (CBER) has never permitted the testing of any biological products (vaccines, toxoids, serums, blood products, etc.) in the SLEP. In addition, nutritional products and products with a history of poor performance in the SLEP testing process (i.e., water purification tablets and Mefloquine) are not accepted for testing nor are items where the testing is time and/or cost prohibitive.
The testing conducted by the FDA is comprehensive and scientifically sound. The FDA bases their expiration date extensions on conservative estimates of the useful life of the product as substantiated by the test results. Statistical methods are employed to predict when each product would be expected to breach the acceptable potency specification, and a date less than that expected breach is chosen. The FDA grants the extensions for all SLEP Participates having the materiel as specified by lot number, expiration date, and manufacturer that has been stored under appropriate conditions. Testing of SLEP products is an ongoing process. Annual or biannual the materiel is retested to confirm extended dating (or even permit further extensions). This is a mandatory requirement for all materiel remaining in the SLEP. Products that fail testing at any time will be destroyed. Products that are not tested or do not receive additional extensions are destroyed upon reaching their final expiration date.

The Current SLEP Process

All pre-positioned stocks should be rotated when possible; however, quantities often exceed peacetime requirements. In June 2005, the FDA/DoD Shelf Life Extension Program moved from an Access database that could only be accessed on Ft Detrick to a Web Based Oracle database that may be accessed by all users of the SLEP system through the internet. The system requires all Users to enter their on-hand inventory of CBRN medical materiel, pandemic influenza, and anti-malaria medicals as soon as they receive those items. They are then required to update their inventory once a quarter. Service POCs now use this data for budgeting, reporting and management of CBRN and anti-malaria materiel

Once a quarter, the DMSB SLEP Program Manager pulls the on-hand inventories of all materiel that is going to expire in the next 180 days. This list is scrubbed against the total on-hand quantities and the original expiration date of the item. No item will be extended beyond 10 years from its original manufacturer’s expiration date. Some items have a shorter period that the FDA will consider them for extension, e.g. silver sulfadiazine cream which turns brown after 5 years of testing. The FDA requires that there be at least $10,000.00 of a lot still on hand to test, otherwise it is not cost effective to test. Great importance is placed on SLEP Users to ensure all stock is identified in the SLEP website to ensure testing decisions are based on the most accurate data. There are exceptions, if an item is in short supply and required for possible/actual event/operation.

Once a lot has been identified as a possible test candidate, it is marked in the system with a Lot Status: Add to Test. At this time, the FDA gets the list of all possible test candidates for the next 180 days and request samples. Samples are requested through the automated system to the Customer (Service) POCs. Service POCs turn notify one of their Activities’ that they are to provide x amount of materiel, by lot and NSN, to the FDA and it is to be shipped to one of two FDA sites. Sometime the FDA will only request a copy of the label on the product. This is usually when the manufacturer produced several lots from one batch. This is usually a one-time request in the testing history of the lot. The FDA usually requests enough materiel for the first test, plus two more test, since most item are usually tested three times before they fail or their on-hand quantity falls below the testing threshold. . The FDA requires sample receipt within 45 days of the request. If an item’s samples are not received in 45 days, the item is dropped from the project and testing on the samples that were received begins. Timely submission of samples is critical to successful completion of a project.

When the FDA has received all the samples for new test, or it has been 45 days since the request for samples was sent, The FDA assigns a project number, sends the list of products by lot numbers that will be tested and, a list of lot numbers that will not be tested to DMSB. DMSB enters this information in to the System and then sends an email message out to all user of the SLEP system as well as a message through the Defense Messaging System to identified Commands.

Upon completion of testing, the FDA forwards the results to the DMSB who inputs them the SLEP System, and then sends an email message out to all user of the SLEP system as well as a message through the Defense Messaging System to identified Commands. Any SLEP participating activity having those declared items in the database by lot number may extend that materiel to the new expiration date, but only if that materiel has been properly stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. Once a product has been tested, it will be re-tested biannually or annually until the product fails testing or stocks are depleted.

The direction of the program has changed since its inception. The switch from a large, DoD depot supply system to one supported predominantly by prime vendor suppliers and just-in-time deliveries for day-to-day requirements has refocused the program on pre-positioned CBRN, pandemic influenza, and anti-malaria materiel. The prime vendor system has reduced the need for centrally controlled warehousing of drugs and therefore reduced the pool of products that are eligible for testing. Additionally, all Medical Treatment Facilities in DoD have the ability to return goods for credit or replacement of expiring stocks of medication in individual facility inventories. Return goods assure replacement of expired products with little or no cost to the facility.
The DoD enjoys a high rate of success with the SLEP because only products known to have a high probability of being extended are included in test projects. Due to the DoD’s history and knowledge gained with the program, items with low probability of being extended are not included unless there is a compelling reason for the testing.
Labeling Requirements and Guidance

The FDA requires that product be labeled and relabeled in accordance with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (or subsequent amendments) or the Food and Drug Modernization Act of 1997. Products not relabeled in accordance with these laws or FDA regulations are considered misbranded if they are sold, distributed, or dispensed and are in violation of these Acts.

The FDA Center for Drugs (CDER) compliance office recommends for the DoD, that the extended product be relabeled with the lot number, new expiration date and FDA project number. The new sticker does not have to be the same font and color as the old label. However, the new sticker must not obscure the writing on the original label and the new sticker must be legible. In addition, the sticker must adhere to the old label in such a way that if it was peeled off, what was underneath it would also peel off. It is not necessary nor is it advised to remove the original label on a product and put a new label. The FDA does not want the original product label removed. Putting on a new label on the product will require approval by the FDA compliance office. The intent of this is to instill confidence in the ultimate user, that the products they are given or administered are of high quality and safety, and will work effectively as expected.

The FDA has authorized a deferral of the requirement to have every individual unit of issue relabeled, but only while the materiel is maintained under centralized SLEP Participants control. This was requested in order to reduce the cost for multiple relabeling efforts, as SLEP products may be extended multiple times prior to being issued to individual service members. The FDA will permit SLEP Participants to label only the outer cartons of products with the updated information so long as they remain in centralized storage, control, and management. This materiel must be relabeled completely, down to the individual units of issue, before being distributed/issued to activities or individuals. Due to the requirements for immediate readiness of all SNS drugs, they have opted to relabel all SLEP items immediately after the FDA grants extensions.

Sampling of Data from Items Tested under SLEP

The table provided below represents a number of products tested over several years in the FDA/DoD SLEP.

Table 1. Sample of SLEP Testing History
Product Length of Original Dating Average Total Years Extended Total Shelf Life Obtained
Atropine Sulfate 2mg/ml, 25ml multidose vial 2 years 13 years 15 years
Atropine 2mg/0.7ml Autoinjector 5 years 5 years 10 years
Atropine Sulfate Inhalation Aerosol 4 years 4 years 8 years
Pralidoxime Chloride 600mg/2ml Autoinjector 5 years 13 years 18 years
Pyridostigmine Bromide 30mg tablets 5 years 5 years 10 years
Diazepam 10mg/2ml Autoinjector 4 years 5 years 9 years
Doxycycline 100mg tablets 2 years 5 years 7 years
Ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets 3 years 10 years 13 years
Sodium Nitrite 300mg/10ml vial or ampoule 2 years 8 years 10 years
Sodium Thiosulfate 12.5gm/50ml vial 2 years 14 years 16 years

It is important to note that products tested under this program are maintained under tightly managed, controlled conditions at a limited number of locations. Extrapolation of these data to drugs stored by others would be inappropriate. Storage conditions may vary widely across the population and SLEP data are not generalizable unless storage conditions are identical and verifiable. Even within the SLEP, products known to have been stored under adverse conditions (i.e., high temperature or low temperatures) by SLEP Participates are excluded from the program, unless they are marked and tested separately from “normal” stocks.

The SLEP Program never considers individual prescriptions issued to patients for extension. Items issued to individuals are considered dispensed prescriptions and are never permitted back into the supply chain, regardless of SLEP testing results, since the storage conditions of these items by individuals cannot be assured. Dispensed products that are turned in after completion of an operation are destroyed. Similar practices are executed in routine peacetime care in both DoD facilities and civilian medical practice.

The number of drugs being tested has reduced to an average of 13 every year, but the size of the lots, and number of lots of each drug has drastically increased.

This program is a large cost saver to the taxpayer but is only for large stockpiles of medical materiel, or for medical materiel, that has limited commercial use (i.e., antidotes for chemical agents). The FDA will not normally test any materiel that has less then $10,000 of a lot on hand by the SLEP Participants. This program is not for the small quantities stocked by most local pharmacies, hospitals or clinics.

POCs: CDR Michelle Hupp or Mrs. Mindy Scruggs

Updated: 1 Oct 2009

Friday, November 12, 2010

Load Up the Pantry - WSJ

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)

Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to And those yields are before tax.

Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

The reason? The prices of many underlying raw materials have risen much more quickly still. Wheat prices, for example, have roughly tripled in the past three years.

Sooner or later, the food companies are going to have to pass those costs on. Kraft saw its raw material costs soar by about $1.25 billion last year, squeezing profit margins. The company recently warned that higher prices are here to stay. Last month the chief executive of General Mills, Kendall Powell, made a similar point.

The main reason for rising prices, of course, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the middle class each year, and that means they want to eat more and better food.

A secondary reason has been the growing demand for ethanol as a fuel additive. That's soaking up some of the corn supply.

You can't easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.

If this seems a stretch, ponder this: The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it's the rosy memory of a bygone age.

The good news is that it's easier to store Cap'n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.

Write to Brett Arends at

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Long life Kosher Food

I just found this link. Let me know if you know of other kosher foods with long shelf lives.

Shocking: Glen Beck Warning