Back in January, we made the outrageous claim that the Department of Homeland Security essentially admitted they were monitoring our website when it was revealed they were monitoring and recording social media for the topics we cover.
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act, we now have internal Department of Homeland Security documents that detail the keywords and types of activity that warrant surveillance and scrutiny by government public safety officials.
To be clear, it’s not the DHS themselves but rather a well-compensated government contractor plumbing the public data to give real-time insight into whatever we’re supposed to be scared of today. We’re guilty of using about half the words on the list in the last few months alone. We here at News for End Times take the documents as definitive proof that our coverage of Eco Terrorism Suspicious Package/Device Viral Hemorrhagic (come on, who is going to spell that out?) Fever Drug Cartel Maritime Domain Awareness Brush Fire (brush fire? really?) is being tracked.
Any student of journalism knows about the chilling effect, which essentially is a discouragement to talk about something by threatening legal action, even though talking about it would be protected under First Amendment rights. We see this happening today, for example, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) trying to chill speech of a whistleblower who proved one billion dollars worth of scanners are worthless and easily defeated. It’s happening now around the blogosphere as we scratch our heads wondering how the hell this is supposed to help our security.
It begs the question: “What’s worse, corporations tracking your online behavior for their own profit, or government contractors invading your privacy to protect against some largely imagined terrorist threat.” Data mining on social networks is much like the other billions spent in vein by wasteful government efforts to project a false sense of security. They ought to just take their multimillion-dollar budget and buy us some emergency food and water supplies.
We are disappointed, but not surprised, that members of our federal government believe that surveilling the public data of the Internet will surface credible threats to the integrity of our nation. If such were true, they would have caught Kim Kardashian a long time ago.
After watching the first five episodes of the new ‘reality’ series Doomsday Preppers, I still can’t quite determine what the National Geographic Channel thinks the entertainment value is. The casting choices focus on survivalist stereotypes. But there’s also that extra reality TV ingredient: selecting the most ‘out there’ and socially awkward people to provide for some good ol’ fashioned humiliation-tainment. I’m pretty sure that NatGeo isn’t producing this show — at least this first season — with a straight face.
If you’re tuned in to the apocalypse, there’s plenty to learn from and empathize with on Doomsday Preppers. But if you’re an average viewer/denialist/sheep then chances are you’re watching the show in the same vain as A&E’s Hoarders or TLC’s My Strange Addiction. Dropping in on GetGlue discussions, for instance, demonstrates the majority opinion on the prepper community: these people are fucking nuts.
No doubt, the average prepper provokes the audience with bouts of exaggerated paranoia and obsessive compulsive behavior like the hoarding of guns, ammo and supplies, so it is hard to fault the average viewer for seeing psychosis instead of practical preparation. On the other hand, it does seem unfortunate that the show format and characters presented produce more chuckles and “Are you kidding me?” lamentation than attentive regard. In this day and age, we could really use some mainstream programming that educates through the promotion of practical preparation and sustainable living. NatGeo is definitely going down the right street with Doomsday Preppers. They’re just driving on the wrong side in the wrong direction.
End Times Experts? Please.
I always thought that reality TV producers cling too tightly to the notion that every series should revolve around competition. There must always be winners and losers, doesn’t matter if you’re cooking, losing weight, designing clothes, baking cakes or crab fishing, theres an assumption that viewers will only endear themselves to the characters if they’re competing to win. Doomsday Preppers clumsily inserts this element through rating each person via ‘preparedness review’ by ‘practical prepper experts’ at the end of each segment. It’s not so much the hilariously cheesy 0-100 scale meter graphics as it is the seemingly arbitrary criteria and the fact that by episode 5, we still haven’t been introduced to the ‘experts’ at all.
Who are these experts, and more importantly, what makes them experts? The show utilizes a disembodied narrator but strikes me as the type of show that could really benefit from a host or hosting panel, personalities that could help endear the viewers to the subjects. Imagine an A-Team of survivalist professors leading this show: Bear Gryllis ex-military survivalist types, Mythbusters-style DIY engineering mechanics, homesteaders, community agriculturists, peace corps doctors and anthropologists. Giving me the faces, names, degrees and resumes of these true ‘experts’ would instantly provide validity and real-world relevance for the ratings and criticisms. Right now the pass/fail ratings are an afterthought and the advice is shallow, addressing superficial concerns while ignoring elephant-in-the-room scale problems.
Take Tim Ralston in Episode 3, who fears an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Aside from accidentally blowing his thumb off, gets reprimanded for not having his bugout uber-shelter built yet, but is left off the hook for evacuating in his Jeep, which would be rendered useless in an EMP attack. How about Jason Charles, NYFD, who fears a Yellowstone Supervolcano eruption and gets a poor rating for not having more supply caches, but doesn’t get called out for the cognitive dissonance of insisting on living in New York City, let alone any metropolitan area?
This routine suppression of ‘big picture questions’ confounds me — this is the really interesting stuff behind collapse and post-collapse strategies, and the producers consistently decide not to rain on the preppers’ parades, preferring to play nice and look the other way. This sophomoric approach cheapens the quality of the information presented. Compound this with the lack of debate and attention to real problems and you’ve no choice to conclude that the real star of this show isn’t the learning experience, its the eccentric behavior of its paranoid misanthropes.
Only the Crazy Survive
Lets talk about those paranoid misanthropes for a second. The crew here at News for End Times stands well outside the typical demographic presented so far. Most of the preppers featured are older and seem to have financial independence. As corporate retirees living on fat pensions or disability, they seem to have enough disposable income to commit tens of thousands of dollars to supplies, and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in remote real estate. Most of them seem to be free of the trappings of a 9 to 5; Megan Hurwitt claims to work out 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, Kathy Harrison cans food for 6-8 hours a day. Theres a level of commitment and scale here that the average American just can’t afford in time or money. The majority of them hail from midwest states and are religious, social conservatives (I’m positive there’s hours of birther-esque drivel cut from Pat Brabbles’ segment in Episode 3).
But maybe the most glaring difference between the majority of these people and myself is an inherent fear of everyone else on the planet. Step one for most of them is to get in a vehicle and travel far far away from the rest of the population, who they insist is bent on raping and pillaging from the first day of post collapse. Interestingly, its not the disaster event, but this mistrustful mindset that drives most of the aforementioned paranoia – and the behavioral result is epitomized in the title of Episode 1: “Bullets, Lots and Lots of Bullets.”
The arsenals held by preppers like Paul Range, Tim Ralston, Pat Brabble and Martin Colvill are borderline comical. They stock enough guns and ammo to kit up a decently sized militia. It’s not practical weaponry either — tricked-out semi-auto handguns and assault rifles with rail systems. Or consider the case of Jason Charles, who in lieu of being able to own firearms in NYC, opts for a dizzying array of knives and swords that look like they were all bought at DragonCon. This trade of practicality for spectacle and “wow” factor leaves you with the impression that they’d be more comfortable LARPing than they would ever be in a post-collapse scenario. I’m not going to deny that I’ve fantasized about donning black leather and a sawed off double barrel whilst cruising the wasteland in a V8, but I feel like I would do a pretty good job separating reality from fantasy when budgeting for what weaponry I need vs. what looks awesome on my hip. To me, It comes off as ‘playtime’, you can see their eyes light up at the prospect of maybe getting to play cowboys and Indians.
Reality vs. Reality TV
The show features an endless list of bad craziness that makes me hope I never run across these people post-collapse. Only two preppers have really impressed me so far: Kathy Harrison and Jules Dervaes (his own review of the Doomsday Preppers visit is worth reading). Why am I impressed? Well because instead of preparing for the end of the world to flip a switch and go into bugout mode, they’ve opted to make simple changes to their lifestyles in anticipation, and also live well while they do it. Theres a recognition with them that civilization needs to change, end of the world or not. They put some distance between themselves and the least sustainable aspects of modern life, they’ve embraced DIY and localism and community, they’ve simply worked hard to keep things in perspective and approach day to day life with some measure of modesty in terms of where we as humans stand in our environment. They seem to draw great satisfaction in the present from living this way, where many of the other preppers seem anxious and afraid, sitting around waiting for the day they have to start shooting. No doubt, the experts dropped the hammer on them for naively not stockpiling guns and ammo or trusting their neighbors – but Kathy’s response to the criticism is enlightening:
Granted, Kathy lives in a small pastoral New England town. Survival certainly wouldn’t be as easy for Jason Charles living in NYC due to the inevitable stresses that come with unsustainably dense population zones. However, her view on strong communities is the key to the kingdom. Because what Doomsday Preppers does not address — ever — is what these people plan on doing after the shit hits the fan. What does Tim Ralston and his family plan on doing once they descend into their buried cargo container bunker? Will Martin Colvill drive his tractor trailer indefinitely across the wasteland? Will Donna Nash sit in a plastic bubble forever, waiting for the bird flu to dissipate? Consider the existential conflict of living in Cold War-era nuke shelters, where a family would entomb themselves for weeks or possibly months or years on end waiting for the radiation to clear, eating freeze-dried food and shitting into chemical toilets three feet from where they sleep. Yet you can still travel around the southeast and find countless bomb shelters from the 50′s and 60′s — thousands upon thousands bought into the notion that life in a steel coffin was better than no life at all. Is that a life? No. It’s a half-life.
So what to do? What makes the most sense to me is right in line with Kathy Harrison’s philosophy. Humans are communal by nature — we’ve never advanced our species on this planet as solitary individuals. Every wonder and joy we’ve experienced has come from humans working and sharing experiences together, and the end times are no different. It really comes down to creating, or failing that, joining communities that you want to be part of — fostering relationships and becoming neighbors and families that share a mutual respect and love. If the fallout from an end times scenario is a paradigm shift to localized, neo-agrarian communities that exist on a smaller, sustainable scale but retain all the wonderful technology, communications and medicine of the 21st century, I’d actually just rather skip ahead now and leave all this terrible bullshit behind, wouldn’t you?
If you can read between the lines though, and try to ignore that the show is psycho-voyeurism masquerading as edu-tainment, there are redeeming qualities. It is a good thing that a shows like Dommsday Preppers are on television bringing an awareness to the subject and getting people thinking. As the producers run out of the more, um, vibrant individuals, they may turn to the more practical, average people — and it might wind up being more interesting as a result. Like most reality TV, If it enjoys even moderate success it will no doubt spawn copies on Discovery and TLC and who knows where else. Each network will put its own spin on it, and there’s plenty of room for that. One of them may actually get it right… just don’t hold your breath.
Check back each week for my episodic review/analysis of Doomsday Preppers. Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, I promise next time I’ll be more concise.
Today WikiLeaks began releasing over 5 million emails in what they’re calling the Global Intelligence Files. Though only a few dozen of these emails have been officially released, the information is incredibly damning for the company they came from, private intelligence group Stratfor. The formerly well-respected analysts are no doubt having a very bad day, as evidence of money laundering and questionably legal investment schemes are coming to light with these recent leaks.
Though there is much to discuss in these documents, we’ll stick to what we do best — end times analysis. Chief among the revelations was a remark made by one insider analyst whose very credible sources suggest the Iran nuclear issue is simply a distraction from the real resource being fought over — oil. In this incredible exchange, Stratfor staff candidly debate the brewing war in Iran:
To which one of his cronies replies:
What kind of credibility this intelligence has outside of Stratfor is still being considered, which is part of the reason the major implications of the WikiLeaks report are being ignored by many media outlets. This difficulty of corroborating the intelligence hearsay (despite it being from all accounts sourced reputably) — combined with the chilling effect of government and corporate persecution for anyone reporting on the subject — makes this a severely underreported story.
Other apocalyptic insights gleaned from the leak include news of a new Iskander missile from Russia which has offensive capabilities eclipsing any weapon in the arsenal of the U.S. and the world at large. The country is reportedly now converting these sophisticated, interception-defying projectiles into multiple-warhead nuclear devices.
You really have to dig in there and read the emails themselves to come up with golden nuggets like this one, where the analysts discuss Brazil’s decision to purchase arms from France because the U.S. is not good enough at bribing Brazil:
As you can imagine we here at News for End Times are eating these leaks up, fork and spoon, and will have more info for you as it surfaces.
As we celebrate President’s Day, we’d like to bring you news of Dwight Eisenhower’s three meetings with aliens, related to the press recently by a former US government consultant.
Yes, dear reader, you parsed that correctly. The 34th President of the United States reportedly set out “telepathic messages” to extraterrestrial intelligent life forms to arrange a series of meetings between intergalactic beings and the free world.
This is all according to UFO lecturer Timothy Good, who also happens to be a prominent and respected academic, having consulted with the U.S. Congress. In his own words:
Alien invasion remains an unconfirmed but potential threat to all humans. Such an invasion need not be flying saucers with laser. It could be as simple as an Andromeda Strain scenario in which an alien microorganism terrorizes our species. Whatever the case, we wish you a happy rest of President’s Day!
Today’s reports that Russia narrowly averted a nuclear disaster that rivaled Chernobyl in December 2011 rocked the disaster-watching world.
The country was moments away from releasing untold radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere as a nuclear submarine carrying 16 R-29 ICBMs — each with a 1 megaton nuclear warhead — caught fire. The craft had to be partially submerged to douse the flames that threatened not only the nukes, but also the nuclear reactor of the craft itself, not to mention the thousands of pounds of torpedoes and mines onboard.
The well-respected Russian magazine Vlast reported on the incident, saying:
Had even one of those torpedoes exploded, we’d be looking at a serious nuclear accident affecting the globe. Nuclear energy, though much more threatening and accident-prone in weaponry than in civilian uses, is one of the most dangerous threats to humanity. The closely avoided devastation faced in this scenario should serve as our umpteenth strong warning: one day these nuclear chickens will come home to roost.
A leak of radioactive gas at the San Onofre nuclear power plant outside of San Diego, CA is the latest in a string of what are becoming routine mishaps. Yesterday, China reported a radiation leak as the rapidly expanding country began slowing approvals on new nuclear plants. And Fukishima continued its legacy as one of the worst ever nuclear disasters, announcing today that 8 tons of radioactive water leaked from the crippled plant. This all happened over the course of 48 hours!
The reality is that nuclear power plants leak all the time. Sometimes they release radioactive gas or water on purpose to avert a more catastrophic disaster, sometimes the leak is inadvertent and occasionally undetected. In fact, background levels of radiation are noticeably higher within 30 miles of a plant. These sustained background levels make small leaks even harder to detect.
Right now the fight is strong against the much maligned Indian Point power plant which could severely pollute New York City’s water with a bad enough leak. The plan to remove the threat of a nuclear accident in one of the country’s most densely populated areas is now in place, with Energy Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill saying, “We have the framework and the resources for a future without Indian Point. It all comes down to the state developing a plan and putting it in motion.” Should a meltdown occur in the reactors that sits on a fault line and cannot withstand a high-magnitude earthquake, Indian Point would cause mass devastation and panic in the NY metro area.
This revolt against nuclear energy is happening across the planet, most noticeably with Germany pledging to close all its nuclear power plants by 2022. Unfortunately, our overpopulated planet’s energy needs make the total eradication of nuclear energy impossible for the foreseeable future. Until then, we’ll have our geiger counters handy.
It has always puzzled me why there are so many conservative, religious “climate change skeptics”. Wouldn’t they be the first to welcome a rapture brought on by the extinction of our species as it suffocates on its own waste? These idiots often say stuff like, “It was cold today, so much for your global warming theory.” A recent inaccuracy-laden report debunking global warming nonetheless has gone viral among the world’s less bright observers.
That’s not to say those of us who “believe” in climate change are any more informed. Forbes contributor Steve Zwick points out that both groups primarily operate on abundant faith and little science. They are just as likely to “prove” global warming is real by telling you it’s been a warm winter. The facts don’t care what you believe, only what you can measure, observe and analyze.
Try and tell all of that to the weather, which was undeniably extreme in 2011. Extreme weather can scientifically be tied to extreme weather happening right now, like NASA’s analysis of the 2011 Texas heat wave and drought which was proven to be caused by global warming. The projection from the National Weather Service for 2012 has the drought persisting and intensifying throughout the south.
2005 and 2010 were the warmest years on record, while last year was the 11th hottest on record despite several global weather trends that cooled the planet. Without La Niña’s strong cooling effect, we might have broken the 2010 record. In any case, scientists know we’ll break it in the next few years.
We agree with the folks fighting for weather casters to begin reporting on climate change so we can be a bit more informed as a people about what’s destroying our planet and species.
When mustard gas begins to infiltrate the body, eyes water and the throat burns while disorientation, panic anxiety set in as you choke on a pungent garlic-tinged cloud. That’s a picnic compared to the effects of nerve agents, which cause uncontrollable salivation and urination, convulsions and eventual death by asphyxiation.
Weaponized agents like these and many more sit collecting dust in the world’s bunkers and military installations. Though a treaty involving 188 of 194 of the world’s countries seeks to destroy these stockpiles, many of the delay chemical weapons remain. It’s a vulnerability that ranges from the threat of terrorists acquiring these weapons, to contamination of environments due to caustic degeneration of the agents and containers.
Even though 90% of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile has been eliminated, hundreds of tons of deadly chemical depots continue to threaten our species. Most recently, worries have grown over the possibility that Syria could put its chemical arsenal in the wrong hands given the instability in that country.
Even if these weapons are never deployed, the risk of them leaking and contaminating environments remains high. To get a sense of how volatile these chemicals are, consider the experience of the Desert Chemical Depot in Utah:
The rusting weapons had seals that often leaked, sounding alarms. It began almost routine for workers in gowns and breathing masks to have to enter bunkers to package the “leakers.” In 2002, a pipefitter was exposed to nerve agent but recovered and was back on the job the next day. Two years earlier, the incinerator was forced to shut down for a summer after a drop of GB nerve agent escaped the emissions stack, which got a new safety valve.
Though the 1997 treaty to eliminate chemical weapons was and continues to be a noble, brave effort, it by no means spells the end of the threat. Thankfully, we will probably never see numbers like 90,000, which was the number of troops killed by chemical weapons on the battlefields of World War I. But until each and every one of these stockpiles is destroyed, we will continue to be at risk to an incredibly nasty and tortuous way to die.
America seems to be to blame for a lot these days, and yesterday’s mysterious crash of the failed Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt is no exception. The head of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos publicly suggested that the cause of the failure might have been sabotage by foreign interests, though he declined to specify the who, what and why of the agitators supposedly responsible for the $145M space disaster.
Further concern has grown over the fact that no one knows exactly where this 440-pound craft has landed. After the last pre-crash report by Roscosmos put the debris landing in the Gobi Desert of China, Russia’s news agency Ria Novosti reported that military sources said it went down in the Pacific ocean, west of Chile. However there soon emerged conflicting reports that Brazil was where the craft should have landed.
Who cares where it landed? Well, its payload includes between seven and eleven tons of toxic nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine fuel. Just as with the 10 micrograms of radioactive Cobalt-57 on board, the Russian space agency says these materials are no threat to us.
Had the probe not plummeted to earth and rather failed in orbit as a number of satellites do, it would have joined the 15,000 pieces of space debris which are blanketing low Earth orbit. As such crafts become less expensive to manufacture and launch (though by no means inexpensive), they obviously multiply. The debris field has already reached the state where a massive satellite disruption is not an if but when.
The scenario gets really scary when you start considering the implications of even a single orbiting satellite being destroyed. Even if we luck out and avoid a major disaster in the near future, there is always the possibility of, as Russia would appreciate, “foreign sabotage”. David Wright, PhD a senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), paints the dour outlook of a satellite attack:
Any major disruption of the world’s satellite systems could quickly result in the end of the world as we know it, as global communications systems break down and military intelligence blacks out. The destabilizing effect of losing satellite support would rock our civilization to its knees. With all the junk in space right now, we’re already rolling the dice. This is certainly more of a concern than the errant satellite falling to Earth. Watch the skies!
We’re not right-wing, left-wing or hot wings, we’re independent thinkers and unaffiliated political agents. But discussion of topics like nuclear weapons development and secret black ops programs have landed us on their watch list. How do we know? They admitted it!
The right-wing and Big Brother-wary breaking news giant Drudge Report is going out of its way to let the world know what social networks are being monitored and archived by Homeland Security. All public information posted to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter is being combed through and archived for future searches by the Federal government. This is something we’ve kind of known all along, but bringing this news to light in front of a huge audience is raising public awareness.
Drudge Report and Huffington Post were among those sites cited as being closely watched. Also on the list are various video and photo-sharing sites, including Hulu, Youtube and Flickr. Controversial sites like WikiLeaks and Cryptome were not surprising to see as well. Though News for End Times was not specifically listed in the report, (1) we’re small and we’re new and (2) there’s no way we’re not popping up on Homeland Security’s radar given the constant public sharing of this site’s content. In fact, one of our primary sources — Wired’s Danger Room blog — are right there on the list, so while we might be a small fry in the Fed’s eye compared to Wired, our topical coverage guarantees us a more prominent place in Homeland Security’s database.
My fear is not that the government will think News for End Times itself is some sort of threat. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear we’re trying to help people understand the threats they face so they can be better prepared to deal with them. My fear is that this will become another Red Scare scenario where anyone even talking about terrorism or huminatural threats (like hydrofracking) has pressure put on them to stop, which will chill free speech like it did back in the day. With draconian Internet censorship measures like SOPA and PIPA trying to steamroll the First Amendment, it certainly looks like the Fed is going in that direction.