News roundup for Fri, May 20, 2022

In short:

  • This hurricane season could be as bad as in 2005 with Katrina.
  • Gas inventories are low and prices could reach $6 by end of summer.
  • Biden invoked the Defence Production Act to address the baby formula shortage.
  • The FDA authorized Pfizer’s booster shots for children 5-11. More free tests from the CDC.
  • Switzerland inching closer to NATO. Finland and Sweden submitted their applications.

Conditions in the Gulf of Mexico are remarkably similar to those in 2005 that caused Katrina. Gulf water is already warmer than average this time of year and a current of warm tropical water is looping unusually far into the Gulf. If the Loop Current reaches this far north this early in hurricane season, it can spell disaster for people along the Northern Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida. The article linked to has a thorough analysis of why this matters, how hurricanes are formed, and how La Nina and climate change are affecting this season.

The Loop Current was about as far north as Tampa, Florida, in mid-May 2022. The scale, in meters, shows the maximum depth at which temperatures were 78 F (26 C) or greater. Nick Shay/University of Miami, CC BY-ND
The Loop Current in May 2005 looked strikingly similar to May 2022. Nick Shay/University of Miami, CC BY-ND

Here is our guide on how to prepare for and survive hurricanes. If you want to break down the preparation process, you can also follow our tips from Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his Extreme Heat Action Plan to ensure California is prepared for the increasing heat and put $37.6 billion toward battling climate change.


The Fed strategy for lowering inflation seems to be working: Walmart and Target’s earnings slowed down, while people spend less on merchandise and more on experiences and travel. Target’s earnings, however, sparked the biggest sell-off on Wall Street and the Dow posted its biggest one-day drop since 2020.

Speaking of travel, JP Morgan thinks that revenge driving this summer could drive the cost of US gasoline up to $6 per gallon. But not everyone agrees. However, East Coast gasoline inventories are at their lowest level since 2011 and by the end of August, US gasoline inventories could fall below 160 million barrels, the lowest level since the 1950s. There’s one major wild card that could also raise gas prices: major hurricanes hitting refineries and oil platforms on the Gulf Coast. The government is supposed to release its hurricane outlook next week, so we’ll report on that later on.

Rents in the US just hit another record high and they are expected to keep rising. And a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that high house prices were fuelled by remote work. However, there are signs that the housing market is slowing down.

The UK is also facing record-high inflation (9%) and the possibility of a recession. Britain has the highest inflation among Europe’s big economies and likely of the G7, too (Canada and Japan still need to release their data). High energy bills are supposed to be the cause of such high inflation rates. One in four Britons skipped meals, and two in three didn’t use heating when they would normally do. Prices are expected to rise further in the next six months. The central bank is expected to raise its Bank Rate to 1%, the biggest increase since 2009.

via Reuters
Supply chain

Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of formula, and authorized commercial planes contracted by the DoD to bring back Nestlé formula from Switzerland. The Access to Baby Formula Act would also allow WIC recipients to use vouchers to purchase formula from any producer rather than be limited to one brand that may be unavailable during a public health emergency or supply chain disruption. It’s still unclear how quickly these plans can help alleviate the shortages.

Baby formula scams. The US government is warning consumers of baby formula scams where people pay high prices, and the product never arrives.

Here’s a collection of tips from the FTC and from us to avoid scams:

  • Use a search engine to check out the company or product. Use search terms like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Use a website or extension such as Fakespot.
  • Only scammers will demand payment by gift card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency. Paying with a credit card often provides the most protection; you can sometimes get your money back if you ordered something that never arrived. PayPal also offers a good buyers protection policy.
  • Know your rights. Sellers are supposed to ship an online order within the time stated in their advertisements (or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time). If a seller can’t ship by then, it must give you a revised shipping date, with the chance to cancel for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.
  • Search for local resources. For example, your pediatrician may have formula in stock and might be able to help. Participants in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program can contact their local office to find formula. More tips on what to do if you’ve run out of formula.

Here are more tips on how to shop online without getting scammed.

Biden asked American farmers to double crop this year (plant a second crop after the first one is harvested), to be able to add to the global food supply and temper global prices. But double cropping has its risks, like depleting the soil of valuable nutrients, which is tricky when there’s already a fertilizer shortage in the US. To increase fertilizer production, Biden announced $500 million in funding. The article also explains how outdated regulations makes shipping aid more expensive than the food itself.


FDA approved Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) use for the Pfizer booster shot for children 5-11. The booster should be taken five to nine months after the last shot. Some sobering stats: Unvaccinated kids in that age group were hospitalized twice as much as vaccinated kids during the omicron wave. And hospitalizations among kids increased by 8.4% during the second week of May.

US households can now order a third round of free tests from the CDC.

FDA is further limiting the EUA for the J&J vaccine, following a number of deaths due to a rare clotting syndrome. The vaccine is now only allowed for use in patients who can’t get other brands of Covid vaccine or who wouldn’t otherwise get the vaccine.

The US reached 1 million deaths, and cases keep raising. Here’s an excellent explanation of why deciding if we are still in a public health emergency is really important for funding and our capacity to fight the virus.

Opinion: A new covid wave? Be less alarmed, and more prepared.


You know Putin messed up badly when even Switzerland is inching closer to NATO. Finland and Sweden have finally applied for membership. Turkey’s president Erdogan has expressed his opposition to both of them joining, but it is hoped that it won’t have any impact on the final decision. The process, which usually takes eight to ten months, might be expedited to avoid leaving the two countries exposed to potential Russian threats.

The US embassy reopened in Kyiv, and the Senate appointed the first US ambassador to Ukraine in three years.

Here’s the latest map of the conflict and live updates.

The rest

Here is a disaster glossary that helps understand emergency management terms.

According to a new report from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the annual firearm production has tripled since 2000 and spiked even more in the last three years. Since 2009, personal protection handguns such as Glocks have outsold rifles. The police recovered 19,344 ghost guns in 2021, a ten-fold increase since 2016. There are currently over 400 million guns owned in the US.

China is going to build a 590 ft (180 m) high 3D-printed dam designed by AI and entirely built by machines. The dam will be located in Tibet and is supposed to generate five billion kWh of electricity per year. Although dams can create a whole lot of problems, it’s cool to see 3D printing technology being used on such a big scale.

A Māori community in New Zealand uses a board game called Marae-opoly to help decide how to manage flood risks.

For those interested in the whys: there’s a new documentary on Parmount+ called Black Gold, about industry efforts to cover up evidence of global warming. We haven’t watched it yet, but when we do, I’ll post a comment here. Here’s the link to the trailer.

Did you know that Mangalitza pigs can fight off bears? The pigs below are likely not Mangalitza but they surely show off their fierce side 💪


    • Karl Winterling

      The stock market hasn’t quite decided where it wants to be yet, but the volatility and hits to big box retailer profits are a positive sign that the economy isn’t going to relentlessly “run at 11 out of 10” while the Fed tries to slow it down to control inflation.

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    • Eric

      “A Māori community in New Zealand uses a board game called Marae-opoly to help decide how to manage flood risks.”

      I’m curious about the game and want to try playing it. The closest I found was this article with some pictures of it and discussion about the design.

      I really like educational games to help me wrap my mind around a new skill. Plague Inc, for example, helped me to process the new situation with COVID back in 2020. Here’s a forum post for “games that teach survival skills,” to which I’ll add Marae-opoly if I can find enough details to play it.

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    • MainPugh

      Homesteading idea: build a Mangalitza pen to surround your chickens and other small animals and they will protect them from big predators 🙂

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    • Robert LarsonContributor

      I received two of the rounds of free covid tests from USPS and finally took one of the tests this week because I have been sick and wondered if it was covid. You stick the included Q-tip up both nostrils and then place it in a solution, then drop a few drops of the solution onto the pregnancy test style test strip, wait 15 minutes and you get your result. Luckily I came back negative for covid, but whatever I have sure is kicking my butt still. 

      The reason I bring this up is that I looked at the free covid test strips I received and they all expire in July 2022. So even if you have plenty of the free test strips, you may want to get the third round in a month or two before your old ones expire. They sure are nice to have on hand for when you are sick and don’t want to drive out to a testing site or to a pharmacy and pay for them.

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    • M. E.Contributor

      This is the first time I have been disappointed in a news roundup. And I am disappointed because there is no explanation or caption about the pigs on the top. Who IS that adorable little stripy critter? How CAN he be so adorable? Where can I go see this cutie-pie?  Details, Carlotta. We want details. 

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    • Karl Winterling

      Some good recession advice on CNBC today (fairly general advice adapted a bit):

      • The sooner you cut back your spending, the better off you’ll be. Cancel anything you don’t need and look into lower-cost entertainment, like reading a book rather than going on vacation.
      • Avoid variable rate debt. If you think refinancing anything is a good idea, do it now before interest rates go up more.
      • Put cash in government-backed I-bonds rather than a savings account, CD, or private inflation protected securities. An I-bond is probably your best option if you’re not rich and purchase limits don’t matter as much to you.

      Disclaimer: Again, this isn’t financial advice or investing advice. You need a professional to tell you what’s in your best interest.

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      • Robert LarsonContributor Karl Winterling

        Your local library has more movies, tv shows, music, and books then you could ever consume. They probably also have an app or website where you can download or stream all of the above from home without having to drive to the building. All for free! 

        Karl, do you invest some of your money in an I-bond? I’ve never heard of them but am interested. I have some money saved up for a downpayment but it’ll probably be another 6 months – 1 1/2 years before I need to use it. Is an I-bond something I can put my money in for that short of time until I’m ready to use it? I’ll look into it more on my end, but curious on your thoughts as well. 

        EDIT: I found my answer: “I bonds cannot be cashed for one year after purchase. If a bond is cashed in year two through five after purchase, the prior three months of interest are forfeited.”

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      • Carlotta SusannaStaff Robert Larson

        Thanks for bringing up libraries! When I want to save money, one of my first steps is actually to start borrowing books from the library (i.e. I spend too much money on books).

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      • TraceContributor Carlotta Susanna

        One of the things that made me feel like a “real adult” was when I could buy books whenever I wanted and however many I wanted. We love books: real books, audio books, digital books. We firmly believe that being a good prepper you should have lots of books — because if/when things go sideways and there’s no power bored people do stupid things!

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      • I’m not investing in anything right now. You really should talk to a professional who knows what he or she is talking about if you have money you plan to use as a downpayment on a house or condo.

        In terms of free or low-cost (pick ONE subscription) entertainment:

        • Public libraries.
        • Certain educational YouTube channels and PBS YouTube channels.
        • PBS Documentaries on Amazon: Currently $4 per month.
        • PBS Passport: $5 per month or $60 per year, at least in Southern California.
        • Project Gutenberg: EBooks including Kindle and EPUB formats.
        • Pillars of Eternity 1 & 2 and the Enhanced Editions of Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2: Games that occasionally go on sale for pretty cheap. Other games also go on sale for cheap and your mileage may vary if you pick up something I recommended.
        • CuriosityStream: $20 per year for Discovery Channel-ish “educational” documentaries (some really are educational and others are iffy).
        • Xbox Game Pass: $15 per month.
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    • Bill Masen

      The heat plumes and increased water temperature in the US gulf is also being reflected on the other side of the Atlantic. Spain is forcasting 40 degree Celsius heat spike in Andaulcia  in the next week or two, Bringing the high summer temperatures to Spain far earlier than normal.  Wildfire contingency plans and drought plans are being advanced now.

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      • Carlotta SusannaStaff Bill Masen

        Good data point and glad to hear that they are taking steps to mitigate wildfires and drought.

        BTW thanks for emailing those links. I was laughing when you sent the Finnish bunker one because I had just recently published it in one of the roundups. Great minds think alike! 😉

        Re the ones you sent about China stockpiling wheat: it could also be that they started stockpiling because of Covid disruptions, or, as they say in the article because “production of wheat and other provisions as well as the amount of land used for agriculture plateaued in 2015, agricultural productivity is low due to the dispersion of farmland and soil contamination, and because of farmers migrating to urban areas.”

        Either way, food prices are rising everywhere and I agree with you that the rational way to prepare for this is to keep investing in your pantry/food stashes.

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    • Hardened

      “which usually takes eight to then months”

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    • Gary

      I think your news roundup was great, thank you for your informative work!

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