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The Debt To GDP Ratio For The Entire World: 286 Percent

Global Debt - Public DomainDid you know that there is more than $28,000 of debt for every man, woman and child on the entire planet?  And since close to 3 billion of those people survive on less than 2 dollars a day, your share of that debt is going to be much larger than that.  If we took everything that the global economy produced this year and everything that the global economy produced next year and used it to pay all of this debt, it still would not be enough.  According to a recent report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “Debt and (not much) deleveraging“, the total amount of debt on our planet has grown from 142 trillion dollars at the end of 2007 to 199 trillion dollars today.  This is the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and those numbers mean that we are in substantially worse condition than we were just prior to the last financial crisis.

When it comes to debt, a lot of fingers get pointed at the United States, and rightly so.  Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars.  Today, it has crossed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  But of course the U.S. is not the only one that is guilty.  In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute says that debt levels have grown in all major economies since 2007.  The following is an excerpt from the report

Seven years after the bursting of a global credit bubble resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, debt continues to grow. In fact, rather than reducing indebtedness, or deleveraging, all major economies today have higher levels of borrowing relative to GDP than they did in 2007. Global debt in these years has grown by $57 trillion, raising the ratio of debt to GDP by 17 percentage points (Exhibit 1). That poses new risks to financial stability and may undermine global economic growth.

What is surprising is that debt has actually grown the most in China.  If you can believe it, total Chinese debt has grown from 7 trillion dollars in 2007 to 28 trillion dollars today.  Needless to say, that is absolutely insane…

China’s debt has quadrupled since 2007. Fueled by real estate and shadow banking, China’s total debt has nearly quadrupled, rising to $28 trillion by mid-2014, from $7 trillion in 2007. At 282 percent of GDP, China’s debt as a share of GDP, while manageable, is larger than that of the United States or Germany. Three developments are potentially worrisome: half of all loans are linked, directly or indirectly, to China’s overheated real-estate market; unregulated shadow banking accounts for nearly half of new lending; and the debt of many local governments is probably unsustainable. However, MGI calculates that China’s government has the capacity to bail out the financial sector should a property-related debt crisis develop. The challenge will be to contain future debt increases and reduce the risks of such a crisis, without putting the brakes on economic growth.

What all of this means is that our long-term global economic problems have gotten much, much worse.  This short-lived period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fueled by unprecedented amounts of debt and voracious money printing.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that this is a giant financial bubble, and in the end it is going to unwind very, very painfully.  The following comes from a Canadian news source

At the beginning of 2008, government accounted for a smaller portion of the debt pie than corporate, household or financial debt. It now exceeds each of those other categories.

The current situation is much worse than in 2000 or 2007, and with interest rates near or at zero, the central banks have already used up their ammunition. Plus, the total indebtedness, especially the indebtedness of governments, is much higher than ever before,” said Claus Vogt, a Berlin-based analyst and co-author of a 2011 book titled The Global Debt Trap.

“Every speculative bubble rests on some kind of a fairy tale, a story the bubble participants believe in and use as rationalization to buy extremely overvalued stocks or bonds or real estate,” Mr. Vogt argued. “And now it is the faith in the central-planning capabilities of global central bankers. When the loss of confidence in the Fed, the ECB etc. begins, the stampede out of stocks and bonds will start. I think we are very close to this pivotal moment in financial history.”

But for the moment, the ridiculous stock market bubble continues.

Internet companies that didn’t even exist a decade ago are now supposedly worth billions upon billions of dollars even though some of them don’t make any money at all.  There is even a name for this phenomenon.  Internet companies that have gigantic valuations without gigantic revenue streams are being called “unicorns”

A dizzying mix of bold ideas and lavish investments has catapulted dozens of privately held start-ups to unicorn status, defined as having market valuations of at least $1 billion often without soaring revenues to match. Social-sharing site Pinterest has soared to $11 billion. Ride-hailing company Uber is now worth a staggering $50 billion.

How long can the party last?

And these days, Wall Street even rewards companies that lose huge amounts of money quarter after quarter.  For example, just check out what happened when JC Penney announced that it only lost 167 million dollars during the first quarter of 2015…

Yippee!!! JC Penney ONLY lost $167 million in the first quarter. The Wall Street shysters are ecstatic because they BEAT expectations. Buy Buy Buy.

This loss now brings JC Penney’s cumulative loss since 2011 to, drum roll please, $3.5 BILLION. They haven’t had a profitable quarter in over four years. But, they are always on the verge of that turnaround just over the horizon.

Wall Street has told you to buy this stock from $42 in 2012 to it’s current pitiful level of $9. They tout the wonderful 3.4% increase in comparable sales. They fail to mention that first quarter 2016 sales are only 30% below first quarter sales in 2011.

They fail to mention that JC Penney burned through another $274 million of cash in the first quarter. Their equity has dropped by $1 billion in the last year, while their long term debt has gone up by $500 million.

This is how irrational Wall Street has become.  JC Penney is ultimately going to zero, and yet there are still people out there that are pouring huge amounts of money into that financial black hole.

Sadly, the truth is that Wall Street is headed for a very painful awakening.

What we are experiencing right now is the greatest financial bubble of all time.

What comes after that is going to be the greatest financial crash of all time.

199,000,000,000,000 dollars of debt is about to come crashing down, and the pain of this disaster will be felt by every man, woman and child on the entire planet.

 

Flat Broke, Living In A Moldy Basement And Relying On Food Stamps And Medicaid

Lock In The Rain - Public DomainCould you imagine being a single parent and trying to survive in America today on $10.50 an hour?  For a moment, I want you to imagine that you are living in a moldy apartment that is so badly maintained that rain seeps in whenever it rains.  You are employed, but you are completely dependent on government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid in order to make ends meet.  Sometimes you would really like to take your small child somewhere fun, like a movie theater, but you can’t really afford the gas money.  You are working as hard as you can, but you never seem to get anywhere, and you feel trapped because nobody seems to want to hire you for a better job.  What I have just described for you is real life for a 22-year-old single mother from Chicago named Adriana Alvarez, but there are tens of millions of other Americans that have similar stories.  If every day seems like it is a soul-crushing struggle for you, I want you to know that you are not alone.  The long-term economic collapse that I chronicle on my website is not just about facts and figures.  It is about real people that are quietly leading lives of silent desperation, and by now it has becoming exceedingly apparent that our politicians, the mainstream media and the gigantic corporations that dominate our economy do not really care much about the rest of us at all.

Life fundamentally changes once you become a parent.  Instead of living just for yourself, all of a sudden you have a precious little child that is completely and totally dependent on you.  And it is absolutely heartbreaking for any parent to look into the eyes of a little child and try to explain why there is not enough food or why they can’t afford a better place to live.

With that in mind, I want you to read an excerpt from Adriana’s recent blog post entitled “What It’s Really Like To Support Yourself On McDonald’s Pay“…

I’m a single mom with a three-year-old son named Manny. To support him, I work full-time as a cashier at a McDonald’s in Chicago.

I’ve worked at McDonald’s for five years, but still make only $10.50 an hour. The only way my son and I can make it is with food stamps, Medicaid, and a child care subsidy. Most of my coworkers are in the same boat, no matter how long they’ve held their jobs.

With child care, transportation to work, food, rent, and our other basic expenses, there’s no money left over for living. Every time I think about taking Manny somewhere fun, like to a movie, I have to think about whether we can really afford the gas.

When you only make $10.50 an hour and you have a child to take care of, you are obviously very limited as far as where you can live, and where Adriana lives sounds extremely depressing

We live in a basement apartment, because it’s all I can afford. When it rains, water seeps into the apartment. This wetness brings mold, and I can’t get rid of the smell. We can’t even leave anything on the floor, which is tough with a three-year-old. Toys or anything else on the floor may get ruined when the water comes in.

So what is the solution for Adriana?

Well, she is taking part in nationwide strikes to try to force McDonald’s to pay workers like her a livable wage.

Unfortunately, that simply is not going to happen.  McDonald’s restaurants are already experiencing a sales downturn, and if they raise wages substantially they will get crushed by the competition.

And of course those jobs were never meant for people that are trying to raise families.  When I was growing up, it was teenagers and senior citizens that worked at McDonald’s.  I know, because I was one of those teenagers.

But now millions upon millions of Americans in their prime working years are doing these kinds of jobs.  As good jobs have disappeared from our economy, the competition for the jobs that remain has become extremely intense.  It is really easy to tell Adriana that she should “get a better job”, but that can be extremely difficult in this economy, especially if you don’t have much education.

I know a lot of sharp, talented, responsible people that have been unemployed for a very long time or that are working at places like McDonald’s because nobody else will hire them.  I am amazed that there is not a place for their talents and abilities in the “greatest economy on Earth”.  But you know what?  Things are about to get a whole lot worse out there.

A few months ago, I wrote that the crashing price of oil was going to cause massive job losses in the energy industry, and now it is happening.

According to Yahoo, more than 100,000 layoffs have already been announced, and this could be just the tip of the iceberg…

Since crude prices began tumbling last year, energy companies have announced plans to lay off more than 100,000 workers around the world. At least 91,000 layoffs have already materialized, with the majority coming in oil-field-services and drilling companies, according to research by Graves & Co., a Houston consulting firm.

And remember, these are not $10.50 an hour jobs.  Many of these jobs pay well into the six figures annually.  These are exactly the kinds of jobs that the U.S. economy simply cannot afford to lose.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is colluding with Congress to push through the next great job killing trade agreement.  The following was in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday…

Lawmakers introduced fast-track trade legislation into the House and Senate Thursday that could pave the way for President Barack Obama to conclude a major agreement with 11 nations around the Pacific.

This agreement is called “The Trans-Pacific Partnership”, and it would result in millions more good jobs being sent overseas.  For much more about this shocking betrayal of the American people, please see my previous article entitled “Obama’s Secret Treaty Would Be The Most Important Step Toward A One World Economic System“.

What our economy desperately needs is more jobs, not less jobs.

And traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth in this country.

Unfortunately, our politicians have been absolutely killing small businesses for decades.  Just look at the chart below.  It comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, and it is extremely alarming.  Back in 1980, nearly half of all firms in America were considered to be “young”, and those young firms accounted for almost half of all job creation.  Since that time, there has been a slow, steady, depressing decline…

 

Share Of Firms That Are Young

And as I discussed the other day, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened for each of the past six years.

Prior to 2008, that had never happened before in all of American history.

Thank you Barack Obama.

When I talk about our “long-term economic collapse”, I am not exaggerating.

Our economy is literally dying right in front of our eyes, and it is people like Adriana Alvarez that are paying the price.

We desperately need to go back and start doing the things that once made this country so great, but unfortunately we continue running in the other direction as fast as we can.

So in the end, things are going to get much, much worse.

Things did not have to turn out this way, but these are the choices that we have made, and now we get to live with them.

89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic Depression

89 Tips That Will Help You Prepare For The Coming Economic DepressionWhat do we need to do in order to prepare for the coming economic collapse?  Are there practical steps that we can take right now that will help us and our families survive the economic depression that is approaching?  As the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, I get asked these kinds of questions a lot.  Once people become convinced that an economic collapse is coming, they want to know what they should do.  And so in this article I am going to share some key pieces of advice from some of the top experts in the entire country.  If you are not convinced that economic disaster is on the way, this article might not be for you.  Instead, I would encourage you to go to my website where you will find more than 1,200 articles that set out the case for the coming economic collapse in excruciating detail.  For those of you that are interested in getting prepared, I apologize in advance for the outline format of this article.  To examine each of these points in detail would take an entire book.  In fact, I am the co-author of a book that will soon be published that discusses many of these things in great depth.  But you don’t have to wait for a book to get prepared.  Mostly, it comes down to common sense.  In this article, I share 89 common sense tips that will help you get prepared for the coming economic depression.  Hopefully a lot of people will find these to be very helpful.

This first set of tips are 11 things that I strongly encourage my readers to do…

#1 Have An Emergency Fund – This is so important that I wrote an entire article about this recently.

#2 Don’t Put All Of Your Eggs Into One Basket – In addition to having an emergency fund, you will also want to have gold, silver and other hard assets.  It is also a very good idea to keep a limited amount of cash at home in case you can’t access an ATM during a major emergency of some sort.

#3 Reduce Your Expenses And Get Out Of Debt – During a time of crisis you want to be as “lean and mean” as possible.  If you simplify your life and reduce your debt load now, you will be in much better shape when the next economic depression does arrive.

#4 Move Your Money Away From Unsafe Investments – When the financial world falls apart, you don’t want your finances to be exposed.  Markets tend to go down much faster than they go up, and during the next great financial crisis millions of Americans that have their life savings in stocks and bonds are going to get totally wiped out.

#5 Store Food And Supplies – Your dollars will never stretch farther than they do right now.  You probably will not need emergency food and supplies in the short-term, but the truth is that none of us ever knows when a major emergency will strike.  During 2014, my wife and I felt more of an urgency to stock up then ever before, and I hope that people are using this brief period of relative stability to do what they can to get prepared.

#6 Learn To Grow Your Own Food – Anything that you can do to become more independent of the system is a good thing.  This includes growing your own food.  And the truth is that some of the most expensive items in the grocery store these days are fresh fruits and vegetables.

#7 Defending Yourself And Your Family – As our world become increasingly unstable, people are going to become a lot more desperate.  And desperate people do desperate things.  You are going to need to have a plan for that.

#8 Move Away From The Big Cities If Possible – For a lot of people that are dependent on their current jobs, this is simply not possible right now.  But if it is possible for you, this is something that I strongly recommend that you think about.  Being stuck in the middle of a major city is not going to be a good place to be in the years ahead.

#9 Be Ready To Bug Out – There may come a time when you are forced to evacuate from your current location.  This may happen with very short notice.  If this ever does happen to you, the key will be to be prepared for it.

#10 Build A Community – Your neighbors and close friends can be an invaluable resource.  A cord of multiple threads is not easily broken, and if you have people that you can depend upon during a crisis that can make a world of difference.

#11 Have A Back-Up Plan And Be Flexible – Mike Tyson once aptly observed that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. The years ahead are going to require a great deal of flexibility, and you may find that the plans that you have made need to be altered.  So don’t get fixated on just one approach.

When there is a major emergency, some of the most simple items suddenly become some of the most important.

The following are 11 items that I recommend that every household have on hand…

– an axe

– a can opener

– flashlights

– battery-powered radio

– extra batteries

– lighters or matches

– fire extinguisher

– blankets

– sewing kit

– duct tape

– tools

And here are about a dozen more key items that should be on your list from Survival Mom

  • Lightsticks.  You can pick up one of these every time you wander into a Home Depot.  They don’t need batteries and can be hung around the neck with a string making it easier to spot everyone in your party when it gets dark. An alternative is the UVPaqlite, which never needs batteries.
  • Wool socks and sweaters.  People have literally frozen to death wearing their layers of cotton knit tees and hoodies.  For true survival conditions, nothing beats wool.
  • Upholstery needles and thread.  What if a sleeping bag or tent rips and you have no way of mending it?
  • Roll of quarters.  Handy for phone calls, although payphones aren’t as common as they used to be, and laundromats, but if you put it in a sock and wield it like a sling, you have a handy-dandy weapon! If the quarters are pre-1965 and 90% silver, you have a whole new type of currency.
  • Pencils.  Forget the pens.  They can run out of ink and freeze in cold weather.  With a pocket knife, you’ll always have a sharp pencil.
  • Super glue.  Professional hockey players always have this on hand to seal up small cuts, and the glue itself is harmless.  Unless you get it in your eye, like I did.  But that’s a story for a different type of post!
  • Rubber bands.  String just doesn’t cut it when what you really need is a rubber band
  • Tampons in a cardboard tube.  Did you know a tampon can be fit snugly into a bullet wound?  Guys on the battlefield carry these with them.  Just be aware that the blood in the wound will begin to clot.  Leave it to a medical professional to remove the tampon from the wound.  They’re also good for kindling.
  • Paracord belt.  It’s an accessory and survival tool in one!
  • Waterproof wrist watch.  Makes perfect sense.  I had just never thought of it.
  • Animal repellant trash bags.  Use these when you’re camping and animals will stay the heck away from your trash.
  • Safety pins.
  • Dental floss.  Besides helping to keep your teeth clean, it makes sturdy thread for mending.

But don’t just get focused on acquiring things.

Some of the most important elements of preparation involve things that we need to do for ourselves.

Acclaimed survival expert James Wesley Rawles has put together a “personal list” of things that everyone should think about before a crisis strikes.  A lot of these things are topics that “preppers” never seem to write about…

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Spare glasses.

Prescription and nonprescription medications.

Birth control.

Keep dentistry up to date.

Any elective surgery that you’ve been postponing

Work off that gut.

Stay in shape.

Back strength and health—particularly important, given the heavy manual tasks required for self-sufficiency.

Educate yourself on survival topics, and practice them. For example, even if you don’t presently live at your retreat, you should plant a vegetable garden every year. It is better to learn through experience and make mistakes now, when the loss of crop is an annoyance rather than a crucial event.

“Comfort” items to help get through high stress times. (Books, games, CDs, chocolates, etc.)

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If you have a serious illness or disease, that is going to need to be one of your top priorities when making preparations for the coming crisis.

This next tip comes from an excellent article that Dave Hodges published recently…

If you or your family has a chronic health condition, it is critical that you have 6 months to a year in medicine. Also, you should research natural alternatives to treatment for health conditions in case you are not able to meet this goal due to the inability to obtain prescriptions. Don’t forget to obtain some pain medication and antibiotics in case of unforeseen emergencies.

Probably one of the most popular topics for preppers to write about is food storage.

But those that are new to prepping are often very confused about how to get started.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If you start out by focusing on staples that you eat all the time, you should be in great shape.  The following are some recommendations about food storage that Pat Henry of the Prepper Journal has shared…

  • Rice – First off, buy a 50lb. bag of rice. These contain 504 servings and I don’t know too many people who won’t eat rice. It is simple to cook and stores for years if you keep it cool and dry. This bag at Sam’s costs about $19 now.
  • Beans – Next buy a bag of dry beans. This will check off the Beans part of your Beans, Bullets and Band-Aids list. A good size bag is about $5 and makes 126 servings. Buy two if you think your family would like them.
  • Canned meat – Cans are great for fruits and vegetables and anyone can find something they will eat. For canned meat, I recommend tuna or chicken because it tastes a heck of a lot better than Spam and you can easily mix that into your rice. For the meat you will need approximately 35 cans. Each can has about 3 servings and this will be the most costly, but they last over a year usually and your family probably eats chicken or tuna on a semi-regular basis anyway so restocking this should be simple.
  • Canned Vegetables – you will need about 40 cans of vegetables and again this can be whatever your family will eat. Expect to pay around a dollar each so $40 for veggies to last your family a month.
  • Canned Fruit – again, simple fruits that your family will eat. These can even be fruit cocktail if that is the safest thing. At Costco they have the #10 cans of fruit like pears or apple slices and each of these has 25 servings. 5 of these will cost about $25 and give your family their daily dose of fruit.
  • Oatmeal – Good old-fashioned oatmeal is simple to cook and store. A normal container has 30 servings each so purchase about 4 of these and your family won’t starve for breakfast. At $2 each that is about $8 for breakfast for a month for a family of four. Could you exchange Pop-tarts? Maybe, but I find oatmeal more filling and less likely to be snacked on.
  • Honey– Honey is a miracle food really as it will never go bad if you keep it dry and cool. Honey will last you forever and Sam’s has large containers that hold 108 servings. You can use this in place of sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth. Honey even has medicinal properties and you can use this to add some flavor to your oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Salt – Same as honey, salt will never go bad if you keep it dry and helps the flavor of anything. You can buy a big box of salt for around $1 and that will last your whole family a month easily.
  • Vitamins – I recommend getting some multivitamins to augment your nutrition in the case of a disaster or emergency. Granted, rice and beans aren’t the best and you won’t be getting as many nutrients from canned fruit and vegetables so the vitamins help to fill in the gaps and keep you healthy. One big bottle costs about $8. You will need to get a kids version too if you have children small enough that they can’t or won’t swallow a big multivitamin.

And as I mentioned above, another key to getting prepared is self-defense.  If you make all the preparations in the world, but somebody comes along and steals them from you, they won’t end up doing you any good.

The following are some basic tips about home security from prepping expert Todd Sepulveda

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Front Door – Your front door is a layer. But it shouldn’t be your only layer. Besides reinforcing the strike plate with 2 inch screws, you should have a solid deadbolt. Another layer could be a storm door with a lock or even burglar bars. A good latch is valuable too! If you want to add even more layers, utilizing a security door bar is a good idea. But you don’t only want to make sure that your front door is securely layered. Take some time to layer all the doors in your home.

Windows – Every window has a lock. But you can add a layer by including sliding window locks for about $5. Other options would include tint or blinds, which would make it harder for someone to look inside your house.

Burglar Alarm – A burglar alarm is a serious layer. Alarms can be monitored by an alarm company or they can be self-monitored. Self-monitored systems have greatly advanced and will even allow you to view your home on your smartphone.

Dogs – A dog or dogs can be a great layer, especially if they bark. My dogs alert me the minute someone is in the front of the yard. They run and bark at the door and don’t stop until I open it. Outside dogs are a layer to your perimeter. A big dog on the other side of the fence will make any criminal think twice.

Outside Lights – Lights that are mounted on the outside of your home, especially ones that are triggered by motion sensors are a must! Roaches run when you turn on the lights! Someone who is watching your house will not want to approach it if they know the lights are going to draw attention to them.

Outside Landscaping – Bushes can be a layer around windows. It is important that you don’t create an environment that will create a hiding place for someone to lay in waiting. Make sure that the bushes you choose to plant are thorny and cause a lot of discomfort if someone wants to go through them.

Personal Defense – A firearm is a layer that you would want to have if needed. If you want to use something that is not so deadly, you can always pick up a can of ColdSteel Inferno to spray in someone’s face. Having a few of these cans hidden in different parts of the house is a good idea.

Safe Room – A safe room would be a last ditch layer. Some people are putting them into their homes. If this is a scenario you want to take, you should research the necessary components for a “safe” safe room.

Neighborhood Watch – Although a Neighborhood Watch isn’t just focused on your home, it is a layer that could cause the bad guys to go looking in a different neighborhood altogether. Neighborhoods that have a Neighborhood Watch usually post signs in the entrances of their neighborhood.

Neighbors – Even if you don’t have a Neighborhood Watch, you should get to know your neighbors, especially those pesky ones that stay in everyone’s business…because they are going to keep a lookout! You gotta take some bad with the good!

Street Lights – Sticking with your neighborhood, it would be a good idea to immediately report any street lights that are out to the city or county that manages them. Again, light causes the roaches to run for cover!

Signs – Don’t underestimate the power of a cheap sign. A sign on a fence that reads “Beware of Dog” or a Security company sign on the front lawn somewhere will cause the bad guys to think twice before attempting to break into your house.

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If you do need to leave your home during a crisis, you should have a “bug out bag” ready for each member of your family.

The following are 7 key items that Survival Cache recommends including in each bug out bag…

1. Water

2. Food

3. Clothing

4. Shelter

5. First Aid Kit

6. Basic Gear

7. Weapons

Finally, it is important to remember that nobody is perfect and that everyone makes mistakes.

The following are 14 common mistakes that Backdoor Survival says a lot of preppers make…

1. Failure to inventory stored food supplies

2. Failure to perform a risk analysis and prepping for the most likely disruptive events first

3. Preparing mostly to bug out rather than bugging in

4. Failure to evacuate at just the right time

5. Having the gear but not knowing how to use it

6. Underestimating other humans as a threat

7. Spending your entire budget on gear instead of on food, water, and medical supplies

8. Lacking the knowledge to properly store your food supplies

9. Buying gear and supplies while ignoring the need to develop skills

10. Relying only on yourself and ignoring like-minded members of your community

11. Just because someone else does something does not mean that you should do it to

12. Falling victim to prepper procrastination

13. Obsessing about being behind the curve-ball

14. Forgetting that there is a life beyond prepping

Are there any additions that you would make to this list of tips?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

 

If This Keeps Up, They Will Have To Start Putting Armed Guards On Food Trucks

Food Truck - Public DomainThe basic necessities in life just keep getting more expensive.  On Tuesday, Hershey announced that the price of all of their chocolate bars is going to go up by about 8 percent.  That is particularly distressing to me, because I am known to love chocolate.  But if it was just chocolate that was becoming significantly more expensive perhaps that would be okay.  Last month, it was coffee.  J.M. Smucker, one of the largest coffee producers in the United States, announced that it planned to raise coffee prices by about 9 percent.  And Starbucks has announced a bunch of price increases across the board on their coffee products.  Of course we could all survive without chocolate and coffee, but as you will see below just about every food category is becoming more expensive.  If this keeps up, could we eventually see armed guards in grocery stores and on food trucks?

On Wednesday, Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal shared some new data that has just been released by the federal government about food inflation over the past year.  Without a doubt, these numbers are quite startling…

According to the latest data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, year-over-year gains in some food products at the producer level have been truly spectacular.

Eggs for fresh use are up 33.9%.

Pork is up 28%.

Processed turkeys are up 20.4%.

Dairy products are up 10.7%.

Fresh and dry vegetables are up 8.4%.

Fresh fruits and melons are up 7.5%.

Unfortunately, paychecks for most American families are not going up at similar rates.

What that means is more pain when we make our trips to the grocery store.  Things have gotten so bad that even the mainstream media is running stories about this.  For example, this excerpt comes from a recent CNBC article

“I try to do all my local errands in one day and go up to the mall,” said Helon Rapfogel of New Jersey. “I used to go maybe twice or three times a week, and now I just go one day a week, if that much. And I try to consolidate things.”

Rapfogel said that higher costs for food and gas are hitting her overall budget.

“You sacrifice things. Like not doing an ice cream run during the week with the kids. [That could] hurt the local retailers, and we don’t want to do that … but we may have to,” she said.

At the grocery store, meat, dairy and fruit prices are all up substantially. People are even paying more for lattes at their local coffee shops. And it’s not just food—gas prices have jumped sharply on geopolitical unrest, and at the moment there’s no relief in sight.

So why is all of this happening?

Well, the truth is that a lot of factors have combined to produce something of a perfect storm.

First of all, we should talk about Federal Reserve money printing.  Since the last financial crisis, the Fed has been on an unprecedented money printing spree.  This has dramatically pushed up the prices of stocks, commodities and just about everything else.  It was naive to think that we wouldn’t eventually see substantial food inflation as well.  Just look at what “quantitative easing” has done to M1 since the last recession…

M1 Money Supply 2014

When you have more dollars chasing roughly the same amount of goods and services of course prices are going to go up.

It is just basic economics.

But according to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, there is absolutely no reason to be concerned.  The following is a video of her telling the press her view on inflation that I shared in a previous article

But crazy Fed money printing is not the only reason why food prices are going up.

The endless drought in the western half of the country is severely hurting food production as well.  The size of the U.S. cattle herd has shrunk for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that it has been since 1951.  And the drought is hitting the state of California particularly hard, and considering the fact that it produces nearly half of all of our fresh produce that is more than a little bit alarming.  Yes, we are more technologically advanced that we used to be, but we are not advanced enough to overcome an epic multi-year drought in half the nation.

In addition, we are also dealing with the worst pork virus to ever hit the United States right now.  Porcine epidemic diarrhea has already wiped out about 10 percent of the pig population in the U.S., and approximately 100,000 more are dying each week.  As you saw above, pork prices are already up 28 percent over the past 12 months, and if a solution is not found to this virus the price increases are going to get much worse.

Down in Florida, citrus growers are facing a horrific outbreak of citrus greening disease.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that orange production in the U.S. will be down 18 percent compared to last year, and it is expected that this will be the worst crop in close to 30 years.

Another plague known as the TR4 fungus has hit banana production.  According to CNBC, this horrible fungus may eventually completely wipe out the variety of bananas that we eat today…

Banana lovers take note: The world’s supply of the fruit is under attack from a fungus strain that could wipe out the popular variety that Americans eat.

“It’s a very serious situation,” said Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida who in 1989 originally discovered a strain of Panama disease, called TR4, that may be growing into a serious threat to U.S. supplies of the fruit and Latin American producers.

“There’s nothing at this point that really keeps the fungus from spreading,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

While there are nearly 1,000 varieties of bananas, the most popular is the Cavendish, which accounts for 45 percent of the fruit’s global crop—and the one Americans mostly find in their supermarkets.

For decades, Americans have been able to go to the grocery stores and fill up their carts with massive amounts of very inexpensive food.

But just because it has been that way for so many years does not mean that it will be that way in the future.

Right now, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity, and that number will only get worse as food prices go even higher.

It is getting to the point where it is not too hard to imagine desperate people holding up food trucks and robbing grocery stores in order to feed themselves and their families.

Let us hope that we don’t see anything like that any time soon, but we are moving in that direction.

Just a few years ago, the notion that we could ever see armed guards on food trucks or in grocery stores in the United States was absolutely unthinkable.

But now, it is not so crazy.

So what do you think?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

Which America Do You Live In? – 21 Hard To Believe Facts About “Wealthy America” And “Poor America”

Luxury YachtsDid you know that 40 percent of all American workers make less than $20,000 a year before taxes?  And 65 percent of all American workers make less than $40,000 a year before taxes.  If you work on Wall Street, or have a cushy job with the federal government, or work for a big tech firm out on the west coast, life is probably pretty good for you right now.  But the truth is that most Americans are not living the high life.  In fact, most Americans are just trying to figure out how to survive from month to month.  For many Americans, making a choice between buying food for your family and paying the light bill is a common occurrence.  But if you don’t live in that America, hearing that people actually live like that may sound very strange to you.  After all, if everyone around you has expensive cars, the latest electronic gadgets and million dollar homes, the notion that America is in the midst of a very serious “economic decline” may seem very bizarre to you.

On Wednesday, the Dow hit a brand new record high, and Wall Street celebrated.  Since the financial crisis of 2008, stocks have been on an unprecedented run.  The top performers in the market have not just made millions of dollars – they have made billions of dollars.  Luxury apartments in Manhattan and beachfront homes in the Hamptons are selling for absolutely astronomical prices, and it seems like life in the good parts of New York City is one gigantic endless party these days.

Meanwhile, life is quite good down in Washington D.C. as well.  The wealth is spread more evenly, but on average the D.C. region actually has the highest standard of living of any major U.S. city.  The reason for this is the obscene growth of the federal government.  Over the past couple of decades, the U.S. government has ballooned in size and so have government salaries.  During one recent year, the average federal employee living in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000.

Out in the San Francisco area, Internet money is flowing like wine right now.  As I wrote about yesterday, top employees of companies such as Facebook and Twitter can make millions of dollars a year.  And if you were lucky to get a piece of the ownership of one of those companies at a very early stage, you are essentially set for life.

And with the Twitter IPO coming up, Internet euphoria is once again reaching a fever pitch.  For example, just check out what a 56-year-old administrative assistant said this week about why she is going to buy Twitter stock

“I’m just buying because everybody’s talking about Twitter,” she said. “I’m just gonna take a chance.”

Is that how we should make our investment decisions from now on?

Just buy a stock because everybody’s talking about it?

That is the kind of insanity that is going on in “wealthy America” right now.

Unfortunately, the gap between “wealthy America” and “poor America” is greater than ever before.

If you live in “wealthy America”, what you are about to hear next will probably sound very strange.

CNN recently profiled a 44-year-old overnight prison guard named Delores Gilmore.  She works really hard, but a lot of times she simply does not have enough money to pay all of her bills…

“The first of the month, I pay the rent,” she said. “The next check, I pay my light bills. Sometimes I won’t pay my rent and I pay the light bill from last month — if they cut if it off. Then I pay the rent the end of the month.”

Her life consists of going to work, taking care of her children, going to sleep, and then getting back up and repeating that same cycle once again…

“I’m not fooling anybody,” she told me. “I don’t have any friends. And that’s sad. … I go to work, come home, take them where they gotta go, if they gotta go somewhere, come back home, lay down, go to work.

“That’s what I do. All day, that’s what I do.”

Sadly, the truth is that tens of millions of Americans can identify with what she is going through on a daily basis.  In millions of families, both the husband and the wife work multiple jobs and it is still not enough.

If we truly did have a free market capitalist system, the entire country would be a land of opportunity and things would be getting better for everybody.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The following are 21 facts about “wealthy America” and “poor America” that are hard to believe…

#1 The lowest earning 23,303,064 Americans combined make 36 percent less than the highest earning 2,915 Americans do.

#2 40 percent of all American workers (39.6 percent to be precise) make less than $20,000 a year.

#3 According to the Pew Research Center, the top 7 percent of all U.S. households own 63 percent of all the wealth in the country.

#4 On average, households in the top 7 percent have 24 times as much wealth as households in the bottom 93 percent.

#5 According to numbers that were just released this week, 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty.  That is a brand new all-time record high.

#6 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#7 Household incomes have actually been declining for five years in a row and total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#8 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#9 The homeownership rate in the United States is at an 18 year low.

#10 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.

#11 18 percent of all food stamp dollars are spent at Wal-Mart.

#12 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#13 It is hard to believe, but right now 1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#14 One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes.

#15 In 1980, CEOs at S&P 500 companies made 42 times as much as their employees did on average.  Today, CEOs at S&P 500 companies make 354 times as much as their employees do on average.  In fact, there are many CEOs that make more than 1000 times what the average employees in their companies make.

#16 U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#17 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#18 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#19 Approximately one out of every five households in the United States is now on food stamps.

#20 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#21 At this point, the poorest 50 percent of all Americans collectively own just 2.5 percent of all the wealth in the United States.

So which America do you live in?  Please feel free to tell us what is going on in your neck of the woods by posting a comment below…

They Are Systematically Destroying Our Independence And Making Us All Serfs Of The State

Shackled prisoner - Photo by LuftluzerThe percentage of Americans that are economically independent has dropped to a stunningly low level.  In order to be economically independent, you have got to be able to take care of yourself without any assistance from anyone else.  Unless you are independently wealthy, that means that you either have your own business or you have a full-time job.  Unfortunately, as you will see below, the percentage of Americans that are self-employed is at an all-time record low and the percentage of Americans with a full-time job has declined to a level not seen in about 30 years.  As a result, more Americans than ever find themselves forced to turn to the government for assistance.  When you add it all up, about half of all Americans get money from the government each month these days.  And yes, there will always be poor people that cannot take care of themselves that need help, but when you have more than half of the population dependent on the government that is a major problem.  You see, the truth is that our independence is systematically being taken away from us and we are steadily being made serfs of the state.  And once you become a serf of the state, it is very hard to resist anything the government is doing in a meaningful way.  After all, the money that you are getting from the government is enabling you to survive.  In essence, your allegiance has been at least partially purchased and you may not even realize it.

Of course this is not how the United States was supposed to operate.  We were never intended to be a collectivist nation.  Rather, we were intended to be a country where liberty and freedom thrived and where most people would be able to independently take care of themselves.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be economically independent in America today.  One reason for this is that the environment for small businesses in this country is the most toxic that it has ever been before.  The federal government, our state governments and even our local governments are constantly coming up with new ways to oppress small business.

And just this week we learned that the IRS is specifically targeting small business owners and sending them threatening letters.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Despite all of the trouble that the IRS is currently in, they are still choosing to specifically go after small businesses with both barrels.  As a recent Forbes article explained, the IRS plans to send threatening letters to 20,000 small businesses all over the country…

The tax agency is doing some targeting of its own, fingering at least 20,000 small businesses. And that number will grow. The scrutiny on this group and in this way is a little frightening. Small business people across America are receiving IRS notices. More will be coming. The IRS gathers data from many third parties—including credit card companies—to see if you picked up every nickel of income.

This is absolutely disgusting, but it is just another example of how small business is being eradicated in the United States.  As I mentioned in a previous article, the percentage of Americans that are self-employed has dropped to a record low…

Self-Employed As A Share Of Non-Farm Employment

Well, at least we can achieve economic independence by getting a full-time job, right?

Sadly, that is becoming increasingly difficult to do as well.

The chart below was created by Chartist Friend from Pittsburgh, and it shows that the percentage of working age Americans with a full-time job dropped sharply to 47 percent during the last recession and it has stayed about that level ever since.  The yellow line is the line in the chart which demonstrates this…

FULLTIME-EMP-POP-RATIO

As you can see, we briefly touched that level in the 1970s and again briefly in the 1980s, but it is important to remember that the percentage of women that chose to seek employment was much lower back then.  When you take that into account, the current level of full-time employment in this country looks even worse.

The quality of jobs in this country has been steadily falling for quite some time, and we are rapidly transitioning to an economy where part-time employment will be much more prominent.

But you can’t support a family or be economically independent on a part-time income.  In fact, most of those that try to make it on a part-time income find that they must turn to the government for help.

And right now, a higher percentage of Americans are economically dependent on the government than ever before.  The following is from a recent article by Charles Hugh-Smith

Why? Because half of us are getting a direct check, benefit or payment from the state. Over 61 million people get a check from Social Security, over 50 million draw Medicare benefits, another 50 million get Medicaid benefits, 47 million receive SNAP food stamp benefits, 22 million people work directly for the state on all levels, millions more work for government contractors that are effectively proxies of the state, millions more receive Federally funded extended unemployment, retirement checks, Section 8 housing benefits, and so on.

Orwell underestimated the power of complicity. Once a citizen receives a direct payment from the state, the state has purchased their complicity, for no matter how much that citizen may complain privately about the state, he or she will never risk the payment/benefit by resisting the state in a politically meaningful way.

Once you get a check from the state, you begin loving your servitude. The collusion of the state and its central bank is truly a thing of authoritarian beauty: the central bank (the Federal Reserve) creates money out of thin air and buys government bonds with the new money. The state can thus borrow unlimited sums at low rates of interest, and continue to send tens of millions of individual payments out to buy the passivity and complicity of its citizens.

So what is the solution?

Of course the solution would be for our economy to produce more small businesses and more full-time jobs so that more people could achieve economic independence.

Sadly, right now our system is steadily killing full-time jobs and small businesses, and there does not appear to be any hope for a major turnaround any time soon.

At this point, the number of Americans that are financially dependent on the government is absolutely staggering, and it gets worse with each passing year.  Just consider the following statistics which come from one of my previous articles entitled “21 Facts About Rising Government Dependence In America That Will Blow Your Mind“…

1. Back in 1960, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 10 percent.  In the year 2000, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages was approximately 21 percent.  Today, the ratio of social welfare benefits to salaries and wages is approximately 35 percent.

2. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that gets direct monetary benefits from the federal government.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

3. Overall, more than 70 percent of all federal spending goes to “dependence-creating programs”.

4. According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the U.S. Census, well over 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.  Sadly, that figure does not even include Social Security or Medicare.

5. Today, the federal government runs about 80 different “means-tested welfare programs”, and almost all of those programs have experienced substantial growth in recent years.

6. The number of Americans on Social Security disability now exceeds the entire population of the state of Virginia.

7. If the number of Americans on Social Security disability were gathered into a separate state, it would be the 8th largest state in the country.

8. In 1968, there were 51 full-time workers for every American on disability.  Today, there are just 13 full-time workers for every American on disability.

9. Right now, there are approximately 56 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits.  By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.

10. Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

11. The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

12. Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

13. Today, the number of Americans on food stamps exceeds the entire population of the nation of Spain.

14. According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

15. According to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, 43 percent of all immigrants that have been in the United States for at least 20 years are still on welfare.

16. Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

17. As I wrote about recently, it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.

18. At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for every single household in the United States.

19. Back in 1990, the federal government accounted for just 32 percent of all health care spending in America.  It is being projected that the federal government will account for more than 50 percent of all health care spending in the United States very soon.

20. The amount of money that the federal government gives directly to the American people has increased by 32 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House.

21. When you total it all up, American households are now receiving more money directly from the federal government than they are paying to the government in taxes.

Once again, there is certainly nothing wrong with helping the poor, and there will always be people that need a helping hand.

But what we have in America today is far beyond that.  What we have in America today is a situation where economic independence is being systematically eradicated and the government is increasingly being expected to provide our daily bread and to take care of all of us from the cradle to the grave.

And once you are dependent on the system, at least part of you is going to become resistant to anyone or anything that threatens to bring meaningful change to the system because your survival depends on the system.

Or could I be wrong about this?

What do you think?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…

 

15 Signs That The Quality Of Jobs In America Is Going Downhill Really Fast

Wal-Mart - Photo by Arthur JacobTrying to find a job in America today can be an incredibly frustrating experience.  Most of the jobs that are available seem to pay very little, and there is intense competition for just about any job that is open.  But it wasn’t always like this.  When I was in high school, I was immediately hired when I applied for a job at McDonalds because they were so desperate for workers that they would hire just about anyone that could flip a burger.  But in this economic environment, a single nationwide hiring event conducted by McDonalds resulted in a million job applications, and only a small percentage of those applicants were actually hired.  Our economy simply does not produce enough jobs for everyone anymore, and the percentage of “good jobs” continues to decline.  That means that it is getting really hard to find a job that will enable you to support a family, and a lot of people end up doing jobs that they are massively overqualified for.  But when times are tough, people are going to do what they have to do in order to survive.

One thing that we have seen in recent years is an explosion in the number of “temp workers” in America.  Even some of the largest companies in America are using them.  They like the flexibility of being able to bring in workers when they need them and of being able to dump them the moment they don’t need them anymore.  Sadly, those that work in the “temp industry” often work in deplorable conditions for very little pay.  The following is a brief excerpt from an absolutely outstanding Pro Publica article

In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers’ feet on top of them.

This is not Mexico. It is not Guatemala or Honduras. This is Chicago, New Jersey, Boston.

The people here are not day laborers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America’s largest companies – Walmart, Macy’s, Nike, Frito-Lay. They make our frozen pizzas, sort the recycling from our trash, cut our vegetables and clean our imported fish. They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.

Many get by on minimum wage, renting rooms in rundown houses, eating dinners of beans and potatoes, and surviving on food banks and taxpayer-funded health care. They almost never get benefits and have little opportunity for advancement.

But these are the types of jobs the U.S. economy is “creating” these days.  Low paying part-time jobs are continually becoming a bigger part of the economy.  This is one of the primary reasons why the middle class in America is shrinking.

You can’t support a family on what most of these part-time jobs pay.  But our economy is not producing many high quality full-time jobs these days.  The average quality of American jobs just continues to sink.

The following are 15 signs that the quality of jobs in America is going downhill really fast…

#1 The number of part-time workers in the United States has just hit a brand new all-time high, but the number of full-time workers is still nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

#2 In America today, only 47 percent of adults have a full-time job.

#3 Even though the U.S. economy created nearly 200,000 jobs in June, the number of full-time jobs actually decreased.

#4 There are now 2.7 million temp workers in the United States – a new all-time high.

#5 One out of every ten jobs in the United States is now filled through a temp agency.

#6 The U.S. economy has actually lost manufacturing jobs for four consecutive months.

#7 The official unemployment rate has been at 7.5 percent or higher for 54 months in a row.  That is the longest stretch in U.S. history.

#8 According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

#9 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#10 High paying manufacturing jobs continue to be shipped overseas.  Sadly, there are fewer Americans employed in manufacturing now than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.

#11 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#14 At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

#15 According to a study that was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States qualify as “good jobs” at this point.  In a previous article, I detailed the three criteria that they used to define what a “good job” is….

#1 The job must pay at least $18.50 an hour.  According to the authors, that is the equivalent of the median hourly pay for American workers back in 1979 after you adjust for inflation.

#2 The job must provide access to employer-sponsored health insurance, and the employer must pay at least some portion of the cost of that insurance.

#3 The job must provide access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

All of this is absolutely heartbreaking.

Once upon a time, just about any adult that was willing to work hard in America could go out and find a good paying job that would support a middle class lifestyle.

Now those days are gone forever.

But different conditions exist in different parts of the country.

What are you seeing in your area?

Are good jobs difficult to find?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

 

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