News roundup for Fri, May 13, 2022

US Economy

States are proposing tax cuts and rebates to help people cope with high prices. Unfortunately, these strategies could make inflation even worse (i.e. people have more money? They will spend more, keeping the economy ‘hot’.) The Fed ultimately hopes for a ‘soft landing’ for the US economy, but history suggests it won’t be able to prevent a recession. As we mentioned in the last roundup, recession risks are supposed to be low now but elevated in 2023. Here’s an explainer of the three outcomes of the Fed hike rate: a cooling down of the economy (i.e. soft landing), recession, and stagflation.

Crypto crash. We hope you didn’t have most of your eggs in the crypto basket because it’s crashing hard. 40% of bitcoin investors are underwater; that’s almost 20 million Americans that couldn’t have lost their assets at the worst possible time.

Supply chain and EU energy

Abbott baby formula could hit the stores in July. The White House announced that they will cut red tapes, crack down on price gouging, and boost imports to help ease the baby formula shortage.

In the meantime, the FDA strongly recommends against making your own formula, diluting it, or sharing breast milk. Homemade infant formula can lead to life-threatening bacterial infections; diluting it could lead to malnutrition, and sharing breast milk could expose the baby to infectious diseases, chemical contaminants, and some prescription drugs if the donor has not been adequately screened.

Some things you can do if you’re running low on formula:

The price of US ammonia (used in fertilizers) is rising because of higher international gas prices. Ammonia is mostly produced from natural gas, and so it follows natural gas prices.

Covid shutdown in China is creating a global shortage of contrast fluids used in CT scans, X-rays, and MRIs. California, Texas, and Maryland might be affected soon. The shortage is supposed to last at least until July. Both Tesla’s and Toyota’s productions are also affected by the lockdowns.

Ukraine suspended the Sokhranovka gas transit route which carries one-third of gas supplies to Europe, citing gas theft by Russian-backed separatists. It’s unclear right now if the gas can be transported through a different route, but Ukraine is not going to reopen until it obtains full control of the pipeline system.

Food security

In 2020 about 11% (14 million) of US households were food insecure. Of those, more than 7 % (nine million) got enough food to avoid disrupting their eating habits by using coping strategies, such as eating less variety, getting food from food pantries, and participating in Federal food assistance programs. Households that were food insecure at some point in the year were food insecure for an average of seven months:

via USDA

The Community Eligibility Provision is a federal program that helps families with children save up to $468 per year on groceries. As community member Karl Winterling previously commented, there is no shame in checking benefits.gov to learn if you are entitled to any government financial aid. At the end of the day, that’s one of the reasons why you pay taxes so don’t feel bad if you need to claim any benefits.

Europe is working on expediting the shipping of some of Ukraine’s key exports via land routes. 25 million tons of goods need to be moved by this fall’s harvest season. Unfortunately, trains have a much-limited transportation capacity and can only transport about one million tons of grain and 250,000 tons of sunflower oil per month. You do the math.

Drought and high food and fuel prices are putting millions of lives at risk of famine in the Horn of Africa.

Sri Lankans are already rioting:

Climate

It’s getting hotter: there is a 50% chance that one of the next five years will temporarily reach the 1.5 C cap set by the Paris Agreement. The WMO report also found there is a 93% chance that at least one year between 2022-2026 will be the warmest on record and a 93% chance that the five-year average for 2022-2026 will be higher than the last five years:

“It’s way too early”: 20 homes were destroyed in a wildfire in Laguna Beach, California. Meteorologists were surprised by how fast the fire burned, and are expecting a very bad fire season in California this year. Southern California Edison reported “circuit activity” in the area where the fire started. The fire burned 200 acres and is 15% contained so far. Meanwhile, the New Mexico fire keeps pushing north fuelled by extreme winds and heavy fuel in its path. Here is why the 2022 Southwest fire season is so early and intense.

91% of the Great Barrier Reef suffered bleaching this summer. It is the fourth mass bleaching event in six years and the first to occur under La Niña conditions. The Australian Marine Conservation Society was hoping for La Niña’s rainy weather to cool down the water and allow the coral to recover, but now that recovery window is closing.

Sea levels rising: two houses in North Carolina collapsed into the ocean. The one caught on video was purchased only two years ago, and it had a flood rating of 2 out of 10:

The rest

A new study suggests that short-term use of ibuprofen may increase the chance of chronic pain. This is just one study and more research needs to be done, but it’s good to keep in mind.

Check the American Lung Association State of the Air Report to see which cities are the most polluted in America, and how yours compare to others.

A passenger with no flying experience landed a plane after the pilot had a medical emergency. Like in movies, he was given instructions by an air traffic controller on duty. The air traffic controller is a certified flying instructor but had never flown that type of plane before. So he whipped out pictures of the instrument panel’s layout and guided the passenger to safety.


  • 29 Comments

    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      • Review your finances. Karl has some great tips from last entry’s roundup.
      • Create a budget. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to start.
      • Track what you eat. If you keep a list for two or four weeks, you can see what types of food you usually buy, and analyze.
      • Stay calm. Don’t rush to sell all of your investments, especially at a loss.
      • Start a garden. Even starting one indoor container could help you practice growing some local food.
      • Stay safe. Use caution when driving, around ladders, and when using chemicals and power tools. You may avoid needing a hospital.
      • Keep building your pantry. If you have food that is about to expire, consider donating to a neighbour or food bank.
      • Think ahead to heat in the summer. Do you have ways you can stay cool, stay hydrated, and find shade?
      • Get some exercise
      • Read a book. Or study Microsoft Flight Simulator I suppose.

      Have a productive weekend.

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      • Carlotta SusannaStaff brownfox-ff

        Love the idea of donating your surplus pantry items to a food bank!

        …and to use the flight simulator lol

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      • Maybe study Wasteland 3 or Trials of Fire for something with an SHTF theme.

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      • Robert LarsonContributor Karl Winterling

        Karl, here’s a forum post with some more SHTF and prepping related board and video games https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/games-that-teach-survival-skills/

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      • Robert LarsonContributor brownfox-ff

        I’ve heard that the Microsoft Flight Simulator is amazing and very accurate. They have all the controls functioning and laid out exactly how they are in the various aircraft and use real satellite images to simulate the world you are flying in. You can fly and see anything you want.

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      • TraceContributor brownfox-ff

        When we have food that is no longer edible (i.e. cans that have gotten way too old, not just expiration date old) I pour them into a large bowl(s), mix together, add some liquid as needed, then freeze it in quart ziplock bags to give to the chickens or pig on hot days. We call them pigcycles

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      • Nick brownfox-ff

        Here’s another thing you can do:  Don’t buy a house on stilts right on the ocean.

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    • brownfox-ffContributor

      Great roundup of tips for baby formula and feeding, Carlotta.

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    • Cia

      I have an early edition of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. He gives several recipes for homemade formula for those who don’t breast feed. The three ingredients need to be adjusted as to the proportions depending on the baby’s weight and age. Using boiled water is the same for both homemade and powdered formula, to kill germs. The basic formula is one can of evaporated milk, two cups of water, and two tablespoons of sugar or Karo corn syrup. For long-term use, after a certain age in weeks, vitamin drops would need to be added.

      Millions of babies have thrived on this formula. Parents should be aware that it is one of their options. 

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      • Captain Peanut Cia

        I’ve been seeing similar homemade formula recipes circling the various prepping facebook prepping groups and to be honest, doing that would make me nervous. First off, there doesn’t seem to be much nutrition in that, and second what Carlotta mentioned in the news roundup, it could lead to life-threatening infections. I wouldn’t want to risk the safety of my child. The tips on how to obtain formula are safer and ones I would consider first. 

        Another tip I saw on Facebook is to go to Amazon.ca (Canada site) as they supposedly have formula available. I don’t know how that all works out, how the money exchange works, or if they can get it to someone living in the states, but it’s worth a shot to check it out if other options don’t work out.

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      • Cia Captain Peanut

        Canned evaporated milk is prepared at American factories under hygienic conditions. The formula is what close to all babies in the West consumed until weaning for many decades. Boiling and cooling the water used is the same for commercial and homemade formula.with both you fill bottles and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before use.

        Abbott had problems with contaminated commercial formula. I think a life-threatening infection would have a cause, but it wouldn’t be from an intact can of evaporated milk mixed with sterile water.

        This is what nearly everyone did until commercial formula was introduced around 1980, for convenience, not for safety reasons. If you need formula and stores don’t have it, there is no shortage of canned evaporated milk. I think mixing it with boiled water and Karo in the recommended portions is what prepared people do. 

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      • Cia Captain Peanut

        It contains as much nutritive value as commercial formula does. It should not make you nervous. Neither commercial nor homemade formula is ideal. Only breast milk is complete nutritionally and immunologically, giving the child the mother’s antibodies to everything she has been exposed to, and changing to meet the needs of the growing child. But we’re talking here about what to do when it’s too late to choose breastfeeding. 

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      • Hardened Cia

        Since that book was written a lot has changed in our understanding of nutrition and how the foods that babies eat shape their dietary choices later in life.  Now we know that sugar is poison, that giving it to a baby would be a tremendous disservice and set them up for metabolic disease (which 1/3 of Americans have) later in life.

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      • TraceContributor Hardened

        Agreed. There’s a big difference between “survived” and “thrived”. There’s a lot we’d do differently in a true collapse situation to keep our babies/children/selves alive — this is not that situation. 

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      • Cia Trace

        I think thriving is what breast fed babies do. All artificial substitutes fall short of the best nourishment, but permit most babies to grow to weaning.

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      • Cia Hardened

        Lactose is the main source of the most abundant sugar naturally present in women’s breast milk. Corn syrup or sugar were used in formula, for the energy the baby needs to grow and for bowel function. Both Similac and Enfamil include very similar sugars. 
        The sugar in the lactose also aids in the digestion of the protein in the milk.

        https://www.verywellfamily.com/the-carbohydrates-found-in-breast-milk-431997

        It turned out that evaporated milk turned out to be a miraculous development perfectly suited for formula. It was sterile. The process of heating and reducing the milk effected chemical changes resulting in a soft curd easily digested, and much less allergenic than untreated milk. Diluting it created a product remarkably close to breast milk. 

        I read today that some parents are diluting their babies’ formula to make ut go further. Now there’s a really bad, dangerous plan for you. Some are paying hundreds of dollars for a single can of formula. Some are giving young infants cooked vegetables blended in water because they can’t get formula. 

        I think it would be much better to buy cheap, readily available evaporated milk and Karo, sterilize the bottles and nipples, boil the water for ten minutes and cool, keep unused bottles of formula in the refrigerator for up to a few days, all basic hygiene for mixing commercial powdered formula as well, and give the babies some food. When I was a child, it’s what my mother, aunts, and everyone I knew did for their children. We were all healthy children and no one became ill from this evaporated milk formula. I breast fed mine until self-weaning, but under current circumstances this would be an eminently acceptable, inexpensive, and readily available alternative. 

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      • Karl Winterling Cia

        Yeah, the scientific understanding we have of infant nutrition has dramatically improved over 50 years. The early printings of Dr. Spock’s books from the 1950s and 1960s aren’t up to date. Just because something happened to work for my parents or your parents, it isn’t automatically the best option for people who can’t get baby formula.

        “Thrived” is a subjective and emotionally loaded word. You need actual studies showing that a recipe leads to as-good or better outcomes than breastmilk or commercially available baby formula.

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      • Cia Karl Winterling

        I think in this present situation, the consideration is whether to give your baby the evaporated milk formula or blended vegetables with water (as I read some parents are doing). Or have them put less and less of their last powdered formula in the bottle with more and more water. Anyone can go to any store and buy cans of evaporated milk and sugar or corn syrup. I remember feeding my cousins with this when they were babies, in glass bottles. They drank it avidly and then fell asleep. They grew well. They still all look well and happy in the pictures they put on Facebook. This is not a competition between Similac and the evaporated milk formula. In any competition, breast would win. What else gives antibodies and adapts to the baby’s changing needs over time? Every few months they find new previously unknown benefits of breast milk. In the Third World, death from diarrhea is ten times more common in commercial formula fed babies than in breast fed, death from pneumonia five times more common. But that’s not the point here. Here in Missouri I read today that half of the stores which usually sell formula have no formula on the shelf. None. So should a prepper hold out for Similac even if it takes a month to restock shelves, order from Canada or Australia with thousands he doesnt have, or buy the Pet and Karo and give the baby food which will satisfy him and which countless millions ate exclusively until weaning?

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    • Carlotta SusannaStaff

      The Washington Post was a finalist for a Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting for a series on how FEMA is struggling to help disaster survives (they won for a reporting on the Capitol Insurrection fwiw) https://www.washingtonpost.com/pr/2022/05/09/pulitzer-prize-public-service/

      (Mornings are hard. Edit to add that the page I linked to has the actual links for the FEMA reporting, and it’s not just a congratulatory page.)

      5 |
    • Robert LarsonContributor

      On Reddit I am seeing many people panicking and saying they lost their entire life savings due to the crypto market crash. Like is said here, don’t put all your eggs (investments) in one basket.

      I like to get a quick summary of various things going on in the world through the subreddit r/outoftheloop. Never 100% trust anything on the internet and go do your own research, but for minor things that seem to be “trending” and I don’t care to look too deeply in, then it’s a good enough resource for me to get a general sense and to see if I want to look into it further.

      Here’s one summary of what might be going on with baby formula

      Answer: Basically, this is a story about monopolies. The baby formula market in the US is highly concentrated, with the top 2 producers (Abbott and Mead Johnson) producing 80% of formula, and the top 3 (including Nestle) producing 98%. Abbott shut down its main production facility in Sturgis, Michigan and issued a recall due to a bacteria contamination back in February. The Abbott factory in Sturgis was a monopoly producer of several specialized formulas, leading to shortages in those particular brands.

      However, the problem is not that there isn’t enough formula being produced in the US. Specialty formulas aside, the FDA has confirmed that US manufacturers are producing enough supply overall to meet demand. In fact, the industry as a whole sold more total formula in April (the last month we have data for) than it did the month before the recall. Rather, the real problem has to do with how formula gets distributed in the US and how monopolies have created artificial scarcity in many states.

      There are two key facts here. First, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (or WIC) program is the single largest buyer of baby formula in the US, with roughly half of all women in the US who need baby formula getting it through WIC.

      Second, Abbott (the company that had to shut down its Sturgis facility) is the monopoly provider of baby formula for the WIC program in 34 states. Crucially, WIC works on a sole-source (i.e., monopoly provider) contract system. Basically, every US state accepts sole-source contract bids from companies to be the exclusive provider of baby formula for that state’s WIC program.

      The result of these two facts together is that half of all women buying formula in the US are locked in to a brittle system without choices, and if the WIC monopoly provider in their state stops production for any reason, even if other companies could provide formula, states can wind up without enough formula, a problem that is only aggravated by the fact that people on WIC aren’t allowed to buy other brands of formula through the WIC program.

      TL;DR: Half of women get formula through WIC, and more than 2/3 of all state WIC programs rely on a monopoly producer whose production was recently shut down, creating a perfect storm for starving babies.

      Here’s a possible explaination on what is happening with Crypto.

      Answer: briefly, as I am on mobile, Luna is part of an algorithmic ‚stablecoin‘ pair with another token called UST. This means that they were created at the same time and there is convertibility such that if UST trades below $1, it is rational to sell luna and buy UST, and if UST trades above $1, to sell UST and buy Luna.

      Initially, this was the only thing supporting the value of UST. Recently, some bitcoin was added to the reserve pool. Nothing supports the value of Luna. In recent weeks, as bitcoin dropped 50% and people got nervous about speculative assets, UST dropped a bit. So people sold Luna to buy it. This drove down the price of Luna (which, recall, has no inherent value). As the price fell, more Luna needed to be sold to support each unit of UST and it became a downwards spiral.

      Somebody providing strong support for UST will take the pressure off Luna. Otherwise the token could find itself in a death spiral.

      [Addendum: it was revealed today that the people behind the Luna/Terra pair were also behind an earlier ‘stable coin’ that cratered. https://www.coindesk.com/tech/2022/05/11/usts-do-kwon-was-behind-earlier-failed-stablecoin-ex-terra-colleagues-say/. This may be compounding the crisis of confidence.]
      6 |
      • I think the main logic behind the situation with formula is:

        • Baby formula is an absolutely essential product for everyone with a baby who doesn’t (or can’t) breastfeed. Therefore, demand for formula is relatively constant and doesn’t decrease with higher prices.
        • The FDA approves baby formula blends and has (allegedly) been dragging its feet on issues like whether to approve formula that’s already approved in the EU or similar developed countries. Deferring to regulatory agencies in other countries would allow more consumer choice. The FDA could also potentially change how it approves baby formula so that more companies could make it. I’m not a libertarian, but I tend to support regulations that discourage monopolies.
        • Limited production facilities (like if you remember the concerns about meat packing plants). If one goes down, the entire supply chain has to adjust and find a way to replace the lost production and the downstream consequences can become difficult to predict. A shortage of specialty formula means the people who normally use it have to switch, which squeezes overall supply.
        • Monopolies tend to prefer rules/policies that promote artificial scarcity (like the WIC rules, agreements with stores, etc.).
        9 |
      • Cia Karl Winterling

        The Abbott Michigan plant was shut down in February when several babies became sick and two died, it was thought from bacterial contamination of their formula. The plant was said to have bacterial contamination. But the type of bacteria found at the plant was different than the type which killed the two babies. The plant was left closed for three months. Now, because of the shortage, it’s been told to open, but Abbott said it will be ten weeks before it can stock shelves normally again. 

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    • Hardened

      Ha, love the still from Airplane!.

      6 |
      • Rubber Duckie Hardened

        Was just about to type the same thing! One of the funniest movies I watched as a kid. Pretty impressive they were able to land that plane. 

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      • Carlotta SusannaStaff Hardened

        I mean, after compiling each news roundup humor is the only thing I am left with… 😬

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      • I feel you!

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    • TraceContributor

      My wife strongly advocates for Human Milk 4 Human Babies. It works as a FB page where mothers can connect with local women for donated breast milk. 

      7 |
    • Carlotta SusannaStaff

      I just wanted to link to a forum post about Inflation preparedness. It has comments and suggestions shared by a Wall Street community member https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/inflation-preparedness/

      6 |