possible food shortage

mangotooNovember 19, 2008

This may not be "the" site to bring this topic up but since it is a kitchen forum I figure that many people here would offer some great advice. I could seek out a book at the library but I'd rather seek out the GW for now. We're a family of six. Four growing children and my wife and I. Given the economic crisis the U.S. is facing, and I have every reason to believe we're only at the tip of the iceberg, a food shortage is coming. I have a freezer and another refrigerator. We don't clip cupons, but maybe we should start, to begin stocking up.

I garden but I didn't can! I need to learn! What are some of you doing out there? Stopped at a major food store yesterday and a loaf of bread, Arnold brand was $4.50! Gas is way down but food is still expensive! Thank you.

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Check out the Cooking Forum! This one if more for kitchen remodels and designs.

I'm leery of long-term food storage except for emergency rations. I'd worry a lot more about losing power for a long time and losing everything in the freezer in that case.

As far as canning your own, there are folks over in Cooking who are experts, and you can learn from them.

Not sure about the brand of bread you mention, but I'd start shopping for bargains to save money! Also try a bread machine and bake your own.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooking forum

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:23PM
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Also, just because you didn't can your own doesn't mean you can't stock up on commercial canned in the short-term while you figure out a long-term plan. Aldi, Wal Mart and Costco have good deals on canned food.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:28PM
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Thank you

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:29PM
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baking your own bread is a lot cheaper! all you need is an oven, a bowl, flour, salt , and yeast! and a drop of sugar!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:49PM
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While I can't help you with canning or long term storage - mostly because I do like my food fresh - regarding bread, I would strongly suggest thinking about making your own bread. I have started to do so even without bread machines or even for that matter, the large mixers (forget what those popular Kitchen-Aid things are called - "food processors"? or just "mixers" perhaps?). I use the "no-knead recipe" that was popularized by the New York Times. Very inexpensive, very easy and, although it calls for some time management, is very low on the pain and effort scale. there are several variants now to be found - Williams Sonoma has an minor adaptation of that recipe called the rosemary-lemon No-knead bread which I've made often (sometimes without the rosemary if i didn't have any at home) and it is always good.

Worth a shot if the bread you like is reaching ~5.00 a pop. I like Vermont bread myself although I think Arnold is very good, too. I don't think Vermont has reached those heights in the stratosphere, but it isn't cheap and frankly, I haven't been the one to grocery shop in a few months now so I shouldn't comment.

Give the no-knead breads a shot if you are contemplating more self-sufficiency.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 1:56PM
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well, the no -knead bread, according to Cooks magazine, requires a dutch oven, and the right size will set you back about 75-100 bucks. the idea is that the steam circulates and does what the kneading would have done. and by the way, the bread comes out fantastic - just the right blend of chewy on the inside, crusty on the outside.
you don't need to get all complicated. and you do NOT need a kitchenaid mixer. Just your own two hands and the above ingredients. btw, pizza dough is even easier, and makes a great and inexpensive dinner. just slice up whatever you have lying around and bake it.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 2:16PM
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I have a friend who believes we are headed for famine or food shortages of biblical proportions. He has purchased a year or two worth of staples... I guess a pallet of food? I can't buy into the notion myself but won't judge others who do. To each his own....

I told him I wasn't worried 'cause if all else failed; I"d come eat at his house. He didn't think it was as funny as I did.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 2:29PM
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lacuisine, I agree that that bread comes out great.

That said, you absolutely don't use a mixer at all for this one. If you had one, I'm not sure where you'd use it in this recipe. (Actually my problem is that it has *so* few steps that I often forget to even give the flours a stir to distribute that tiny 1/4 tsp of yeast in the rest of the flour).

FYI, I usually make a whole-wheat version of this and frankly, I've found that I get the best results with this when I use not much more than 1cup of Whole Wheat to 2 cups of all purpose to make that 3cup limit. I tried 2:1 (WW:AP) and 1:1 ratios but had a much tougher time getting a rise, so I've settled on the 1:2 (WW:AP) ratio and am quite happy with the bread that results.

Do want to try different additives, though. I'd bought a bunch of figs to try but forgot and the poor figs just sort of dried out in the fridge (not sure if I can still use 2 month old fridge-dried figs ;-)

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 2:34PM
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Darn, forgot to add this. I don't have a dutch oven and use a ceramic casserole dish coz I had one. Personally, from the original video with Mark Bittman & Sullivan St. Bakery guy (NYTimes), it seemed to me that anything with a good heavy lid will work fine. The purveyor seemed to suggest any of cast iron, ceramic, clay or whatever ... to serve as the closed baking vehicle.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 2:39PM
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mindstorm, i also use whole wheat. and sometimes black olives.
do you really find that 1/4 tsp of yeast if enough? i tried that first,and it didnt rise at all, so now i use almost a whole packet.
but, i agreee that there is no use for the stand mixer for this bread.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 3:01PM
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btw Mindstorm, please comment on my 98 % finished!


thanks, LC

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 3:03PM
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LC, Don't know what happened to my post there from a day or two ago, but I just reposted. Stunning joint, that. Congratulations! I'm quite envious of that lovely bamboo.

'sfunny but I do find 1/4 tsp more than plenty. I do use a pretty full, almost heaping 1/4tsp but that is all I need. Bread seems very geographically sensitive so perhaps that is all there is to it. BTW, Mark Bittman updated his No-knead bread recipe on NYTimes not too long ago. He said that he experimented with different flours and different times etc. because he wanted to simplify it further (actually, wanted to reduce the rise times). He did find that by using a whole tsp (or perhaps the whole packet) he was able to cut the rise time down a lot. He conceded that the original purveyor from Sullivan str bakery (don't recall name) wouldn't be amused but c'est la vie, it was his (Bittman's) column so he'd publicize it ;-). Do you find that the rise time reduces for you if you use more yeast or do you still give it the 18 hours?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 4:47PM
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i let it rise over night. probably 12-15 hours. i follow the Cooks Illustrated version rather exactly. except for the yeast quantity.

now i want to bake some!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 4:52PM
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I keep two chickens, which give me about 1 dozen fresh eggs per week; food cost is about $15 every few months, so it's very cost effective. Plus the amusement value is endless.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 7:25PM
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I *so* wish we could keep chickens...but our city has an ordinance against it (even females) and although I do know some folks who keep them anyway, our lovely new idiot alcoholic neighbor would surely report us, because we complained when he reached over the fence with a chainsaw and cut down our mature filbert tree...we've also got a total of 5 dogs on both sides of us, and raccoons and opossums...but a question, bluekit: what feed do you give them? And how do you house them? Do you have a moving coop (so as to deposit manure in various areas of the property)?

Re the idea of a food shortage: I hvaen't yet made bread, but I plan to and we're also, fwiw, taking out the lawn in our front yard and installing veg. garden. Had some nice tomatoes and peppers from there this year, plan to do potatoes and onions as well as the former plus a few more next year. Dedicating some sunny area of your property to growing food would provide you with organic, safe produce, so that's one more way to plan (although unless you have a decent amount of land you can't really do enough to sustain a family; I saw one person's garden who did it pretty intensively and they ate *only* what they grew (in terms of vegs/fruits) and it took 25x25 to feed a family of 4. They also had no vegetables to eat but asparagus for a fairly long period in the spring. Sounds like the premise for a bad play...but they do it.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 7:54PM
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Flyleft, I buy feed at the local horse & other animal feed store. My neighborhood has one foot in the upscale suburbs and the other in rural horse country. (Some of my neighbors hate my chickens. Others love them. Guess who gets my eggs?) They also get veggie & fruit scraps, and they get into my veggie garden more often than I'd like. I have a regular coop on the (no neighbor) side of my yard, and I let them roam around between about noon and sunset. My dog originally wanted to eat them but he now protects them, except when he's bored -- then he charges them. Hawks are a problem, and coyotes can be.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 8:09PM
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I think we'd see big issues with the power grid looooong before we see food shortages, meaning your frozen stuff isn't going to stay frozen.

But as a food producer, I honestly don't think you have a thing to worry about. For the first time in human history, more people die of too much food than of too little [in the western democracies, at least]. Significant disruptions of the food supply could only be triggered by societal breakdown on such a scale that a few cans of green beans, though welcome, wouldn't matter much.

But it's wise to have an emergency supply of food and water on hand, in case of natural disaster, etc. Bear in mind that in such circumstances, you might not have a means of cooking, either.

So canned goods are OK, but to be honest I'd trust commercial further than home canned. Dry cereal in watertight packaging is another option.

But if you are fairly certain you'd have an energy source for cooking, rice, pasta, rolled oats and grains are inexpensive and store well.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 9:10PM
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To the OP - what makes you draw the conclusion that there will be food shortages? I think that's rather a big leap given the bounty that this country offers agriculturally. And as others have said, I think we'd have other infrastructure problems well before there'd be any food shortages. The OP is a little over-the-top IMHO.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 9:22PM
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I was wondering the same thing - what is the logic behind the idea of a food shortage? That thought never crossed my mind. I did have the idea that our obesity epidemic might change though - if our period of vast prosperity comes to an end as it seems to be doing.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:15PM
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we kept chickens when i was a little girl. mostly because my greek grandmother didn't understand that we just went to the market and purchased food... anyway, how difficult is it to keep chickens? are they nasty? i really don't like things with wings much but we go through a lot of eggs ...and we live in a farming/horse town. lots of exotics around too. i'm thinking a couple of chickens on three acres shouldn't be a big deal?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:48PM
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Everything you ever wanted to know about food storage and rotation, and a whole lot more is on this site. I am this organized in my dreams only.

Also, the LDS church encourages their members to store food. I don't know much about it, but if you google LDS and food storage, you'll find a lot of info.

Here is a link that might be useful: Simply Living Smart

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 11:01PM
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OK maybe this isn't really the point here, and I may regret asking, but with all the excess food in supermarkets in this country, and all food that is thrown out, how in heck does anyone see a food shortage coming? I can see people cutting back on what they are buying, throwing less out, but anyone really think it will all just disappear suddenly? Seriously? We are used to so much excess in this country that it could be cut in half and we would have enough to go around. I can see a shortage of money but not people with stuff to sell. What am I missing here? Is this a religious/profits/spiritual thing or something else? I just like to understand what others are talking about, and boy did this come out of left field for me.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 11:45PM
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the food shortage is going to be brought on by the giant comet that is going to smash into the earth and kill us all.. unless the plan to have Bruce Willis drill a big hole in it and plant a nuclear bomb in there is a success.. then everything will be fine..

that is of course until Mars Attacks!!!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 1:45AM
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This thread is going in several directions! Kateskouros, chickens are very easy to raise. The dominant hen occasionally pecks at me when she thinks I don't bring her enough food, and the hen lower on the pecking order is wary of people. My two girls are in a suburban backyard; they don't require a lot of space, although I would recommend keeping them not too close to the house. They need a safe place to sleep at sunset. You have to start them indoors. Instead of a fancy incubator I used an old guinea pig cage and two incandescent lightbulbs. It takes about 5-6 months from birth to the first egg. The eggs are (obviously) free range, fresh, and organic, and the taste is as far superior to a supermarket egg as a backyard tomato is to a store-bought tomato. Backyardchickens.com is a good website.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 2:22AM
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Let's not be too hard on the OP: there seems to be a certain apocolyptic vibe out there. Last summer's oil insanity and this falls financial meltdown have a lot of people looking for the next big crises.

What is really remarkable to me is that while these haven't been fun by any stretch, as a society we have remained so civilized: I'm kind of proud of that.

Still a great idea to have a few days worth of food and water on hand...

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 2:25AM
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I'm not too concerned about a food shortage.....there's enough cheerios, corn chips and cookie crumbs under the cushions of our family room couch to feed us at least a month.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 7:08AM
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A few years ago I was watching a cabinet officer (as in President Bush's cabinet but can't remember which department) on CNN or MSNBC recommending every household put in something like a 6-week supply of food and other necessities. Coming from him, whoever he was, that definitely grabbed my attention.

Like him, I'm not worried about giant comets, being left behind at the Rapture, and so on. The concern is the ability of our population, now interdependent to a degree never before seen, to sustain all the systems we depend on through even most of the possible problems we can foresee. (And, not least, the ability of our government to respond quickly and effectively.)

We probably have about a month of food set by--if we didn't share it with our kids and neighbors--hopefully enough, though, to keep us from having to stand in food lines each day to get whatever was being passed out until things normalized. At least we have a well and a lake nearby for water, unlike when we lived in Los Angeles. We always had a store of drinking water there and compared to that issue didn't worry about food at all.

Mangotoo, when bread goes to $4.50 we buy something else. When we see storable goods at a good price we grab extras, sometimes. It goes in my kitchen pantry til it's full, extras in the basement, including that yucky boxed mac and cheese I bought because our son's family likes it.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 8:07AM
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I think one reason that some worry is the decline in amount of agricultural land due to development, and the increase in corn production for ethanol production rather than for food. And the decreased diversity of seeds/varieties of fruits and veggies planted. And, the decline of back yard gardens.

That being said, I feel we have a great nation with brilliant minds and hard workers, and we can pull through whatever challenges we might be facing in the future.

I do stock up on food when it's on sale, more for economic reasons rather than fear of food shortages. And I freeze tons (well, not literally tons) of food from my garden for use during the winter. A chest freezer is a great investment if you have the room for it.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 9:01AM
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We don't hoard food, but I do make all of my own bread and most of my own pasta. We are a hungry family of 6 and this saves us over $150 per month (if you figure how much bread most families w/ kids go through for toast, sandwiches, etc). I buy King Arthur flour in bulk.. it costs 1/8 what it does in the store.

We also do not buy snacks (kids have carrots, celery, or apples if they are hungry), juice, or soda.. that saves a lot too.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 9:08AM
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Well, there was a rice shortage earlier in the year. Some big stores, like Sam's, rationed what people could buy. And considering millions of acres of Midwest farmland was destroyed by flooding earlier this year, I wouldn't be half surprised at a corn shortage (either the kind we eat or feed for the livestock we eat). Not to mention, the growing populations in countries we export to, increasing demand for food there. Of course, there is the mandate that a certain percentage of corn be used for ethanol production.

That doesn't even touch on rising food costs, or the ability to even get food if there are infrastructure issues, as one poster earlier suggested.

Did you all miss the Wall Street Journal article from April that suggested stocking up on food as an investment because of it's rising costs? It's up 6% from last year. That's a decent return.

And I assume those of you poking fun at the OP do carry insurance, correct? Are you expecting a comet to hit your house or something??

Here is a link that might be useful: WSJ article

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 9:10AM
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Too true. Stocking up in case prices rise more is sadly sensible.

But the danger of a shortage is not so much from the amount of food available but other issues related to it. Distribution's a BIG, BIG one. You can't eat it if it's 20 miles away, much less 1000. Or 5000--a significant portion of our food is imported. Empty grocery shelves are seriously lacking in nutrients, and every one of the over 300,000,000 million people in our country alone gets hungry within just a few hours of last eating.

I just did a search trying to find the recommendations I heard (because I really suspect I heard a recommended 3-month supply, not 6-week). I didn't find them, but around the time of his resignation Sec. of Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson was expressing concern about a breakdown of our food supply and other systems related to a severe flu pandemic and also a potential poisoning of our food supply by terrorists, saying he was surprised they hadn't done that already since it would be so easy. (!).

One of the results that last would be confusion--most of our food comes into our homes within a couple of weeks of being eaten. Initially, no one, civilian or government, would know what on our shelves would be safe to feed our families and what would kill them. Remember the difficulty tracking down the last food contamination when perfectly good tomatoes rotted by the trillions? A pandemic would be worse--truck drivers and factory workers would be sick and/or hiding in their homes and so on.

It's really not a frivolous issue and point on for the TKOs busy planning pretty cabinets to hold food here, who presumably also have responsibility for keeping our households fed.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 10:20AM
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I'm envious of all those people who still have basements and garages full of Y2K supplies. They'll be sitting pretty when the aliens and asteroids come for us. Really.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 8:11PM
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The Mormons hold with having AT LEAST 1 yrs supply, dh holds with having 1 weeks LOL. We compromise with about 6 weeks! Definitely not enough and storage is not the issue.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 11:17PM
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David and quietlife were at least reading the newspapers ;-); this is not an entirely fabricated concern. There *has* been a food shortage, boys and girls - Africa and Asia have borne witness to it this year. In Asia, India and China - remember the two countries with the two most massive populations? - went from being a net exporters of food to net importers. Both Asia and Africa - beyond the standard stock of drought-prone areas - were sorely short of food. Both continents saw a huge uptick in food prices, and, btw, so did we with bread and bananas grossly more expensive than even just last year and most vegetables substantially more. (Last week on either WSJ or NYTimes or WashingtonPost or The Economist there was a comparison made of the price of various food commodities betwen 1998, 2007 and 2008 - in general, small differences in price between 1998 and 2007 but LARGE differences between 2007 and 2008 for most of those items).

I never did get so panicked about food that I would horde it (I'd rather reduce my intake and eat less of the fresh stuff than continue to eat the same quantity of canned/tinned/stored food). But I certainly noticed it in the RAPID and substantial increase in our green-grocery bills this year - and in my house, it is just DH and me. I can't believe you folks didn't notice it! You all have to tell me where you live so I can move there because out here in Boston parts, we certainly felt the pinch. Oh yes, in addition to the increasing cost of food, I did notice that there were more empty shelves at times also - in particular, I think, over the summer time.

Causes for the shortage (yes, shortage) and the high costs in the US? Well, this was all being speculated on A LOT earlier this year. High oil costs and some climactic crises were thought to partly blame but those are 1-off things, right? True, but one concern the economists had was if the weather thing was going to be more habitual than aberrant if this is a by-product of climate change. For the veracity of that hypothesis, I imagine we'd have to see what next year and the years after bring - if more food shortages in India/China/Africa; well, that does put pressure on global food stocks. More pressingly, as quietlife said, the wide-scale subsidies on food crops and the huge market for ethanol - which is not subsidized - was considered much more worrisome as growing corn for ethanol is so much more lucrative for farmers over growing food.

I'm a bit surprised that so many of you missed all this debate about the food crisis - whether it was the shortage overseas or the price hikes globally. WSJ and The Economist were all over this subject for several months earlier this year.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2008 at 4:49PM
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To the OP,

I am not personally concerned (in the immediate future) about a food shortage. More personally, I am concerned about the quality and safety of the food available in the markets today. I have discussed this at length with my hubby and we are seriously trying to make arrangements to raise much more or our own food. We can get local beef and pork (organically grown) and we can raise a lot of our own veggies on our lot. We could then have a smaller "footprint" in the way of shipping our food across the country to us and we could have more control over the quality and safety of our food supply. Certainly something we are going to endeavor to change in our own lives.


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 2:23PM
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Good point, Mindstorm. I just belatedly dropped in and saw it. The prices of fresh veggies are very high in our area these days, too.

Good for you, Rene, for doing something about your concerns. I voted but that's about it. I'll be adding a few veggies to my herb garden this summer but mostly because I enjoy gardening and fresh veggies--right up until I till them back under if the bugs start winning.

Regarding stocking up, I believe a temporary disruption of delivery of food to regions during a particularly serious emergency is the sort of problem we in this country need to plan for, rather than a genuine famine-inducing food shortage per se. We grow a LOT of food here.

To avoid standing in long lines for a ration during a breakdown of food deliveries we have a large Sam's Club bag of rice and some powdered milk product, and otherwise just maintain a larger-than-usual supply of the sort of canned goods and other stuff we eat anyway, including pet food. Nothing fancy, no fuss over trying to lay in a balanced diet, no plans for how to keep baking cookies and putting potroast on the table, etc. We'd get sick of canned veggies with rice (or without--after all 1 million? people without power in the midwest yesterday) if it came to that, but not as sick as of standing in line for hours for a handout from some kid in a National Guard uniform--once it finally arrived.

Growing and stocking food for a complete breakdown of society, along with all the other life-committing planning that sort of survival goal would require, and keeping our pantries stocked for a few weeks of food-delivery disruption are really two different things.

BTW, if your power went down and stayed down in the middle of winter would you get to stay home or have to leave? If your friends' and family's were down also? If the high school gym was full when you got there? Supplies of water and heat in cold climates are also very very basic needs. We should all have at least a couple weeks of both.

BTW, regarding d!seaze inbreaks, a search on the subject seems reassuring. Most Web discussion has ceased, nothing like the little excitement in 2007, when journalists apparently wore out the subject and lost interest, so one could assume it's a dead issue.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 9:37AM
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I think this issue has raised its ugly head in regards to the new HR875 bill. It's something to ponder.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 4:14PM
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