Are You Being Followed


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are you being followedAre You Being Followed

In this modern world that we live in it is becoming easier than ever to follow and trace someone.  Any more it’s not just the government or police that can follow us but individual companies as well.

The different Governmental agencies that carry out these types of programs often justify them by saying that they are just for the use of monitoring and capturing criminals or terrorists.

The problem is that even though this type of monitoring might be well intentioned programs can easily be misused or the way they are used can be changed.

Agencies that use this type of program always justify them with the argument that if we give up a little of our privacy and freedom we’ll be safer.

The implication is also that if we aren’t doing anything wrong we shouldn’t be concerned because there won’t be any problems for us.

I’m not sure about you but the thought of giving up my privacy in increments as technology makes tracking us easier bothers me.

Some day we may wake up and find that our freedoms that we take for granted have been shrunk by more than we think.

Are They Tracking Your Car

Recently the Wall Street Journal broke a story about how the Justice Department through the DEA has created a massive data base that tracks the car movements of pretty much anyone.

Although a spokesman said that the database was originally set up to track people that were running drugs they admitted that they have since expanded the program to trace pretty much anyone in any larger metro area.

Established in 2008, the original program was a way to track down and seize cars, money, and other assets that were involved in drug trafficking in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada.

These states all have known areas where drugs are funneled across the U.S. border.

The secret license plate scanning program has since been expanded to create a real time national vehicle tracking database that monitors the movements of hundreds of millions of motorists, whether they are involved in illegal activity or not.

The WSJ pulled no punches when it described the program as nothing less than “a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program.”

Long Term Goal Of The Program

But according to documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU it seems that the goal of the program has always been a nationwide database, something that was never publicly disclosed.

One of the documents received from the DEA refers to the steps that are needed to make sure that the program meets its goals – “of which assest forfeiture is primary.”

Asset forfeiture has been widely criticized since its start as a tactic that doesn’t do anything for public safety but only helps police and federal agencies obtain money outside the normal budgeting process that can be overseen by the public.

The program also uses the data to mine the license reader data to identify travel patterns.   The extent of this data mining is currently unknown but it does bring up a lot of questions that don’t seem to have answers right now.

  • For instance, what type of program is the DEA using to analyze the data?
  • Does it try to use traffic patterns to predict our likelihood of committing a crime?
  • Could we become suspects for more enhanced surveillance if we drive down a certain road or stop at a certain house?
  • What else does the DEA think that they know about us just through reading our license plates?

Even more concerning is the fact that the DEA has also invited other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies from around the country to contribute location information to the database.

Once vetted these agencies are then authorized to conduct queries of the data base.  This means that we the public are unable to know who has our location and travel information or how it is being used.

One major partner with this program is the Customs and Border Patrol.  The Patrol claims to collect nearly 100% of the traffic coming across our borders.

All of this collected information can be shared with federal, state, and local agencies and prosecutors.  The documents collected by the ACLU also state that the Border Patrol and the DEA will share their information with  “intelligence, operations, and fusion centers.”

The Customs and Border Patrol says that it collected  over 793.5 million license plates between May 2009 and May 2013.

Our Opinion Of This Program

I have to say that this program seems to have started with a good goal, that of tracking people who were involved in the sale or distribution of drugs.

Obviously that didn’t work any better than all the other war on drugs type programs because it doesn’t seem to have left a dent in the amount of drugs sold in this country.

What it did do is allow for a massive program whose sole goal is to track everyone – just in case they do something illegal.

This is just too big brother for my taste.  It’s one thing to do surveillance on known criminals but something entirely different to do it on everyone just watching to see if there is wrongdoing.

All this is being done with no oversight or supervision – no warrants are being used to pry into our lives and anyone who wants to can join the snooping club.

The worst part in my mind though is that there is almost no way that we can avoid this snooping unless we take buses or walk instead of driving.

 

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Surviving A Mob


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surviving a mobIf some type of disaster or uprising comes to the area where you live the chances are that you may be surviving a mob if you have to go outside.

That is the first tip:

Stay Inside If You Can

If there is rioting or a disaster going on outside, if possible you want to stay indoors, safe behind locked doors.

This is why you want to make sure that you should have water and food stored.  You should make sure that you have a means of cooking the food if the power is out or have foods that won’t need heating.

Although Homeland Security recommend that you have a three day supply I think that you should have as much in storage as you have room for in your home.

Surviving A Mob

But circumstances may force you from your home.  Whether you have run out of supplies or need to bug out of your home you need to be prepared for surviving a mob.

You may even have been caught in a situation where you are away from your home base and there are rioters/looters in your path home.

Depending upon the circumstances you may be able to use your car to get away or you may need to hoof it.

So First – Assess the Situation

Before you act you need to take a moment to sit back and assess the situation.

It’s important to ask yourself whether the situation is likely to improve or get worse as time passes.  How important is it that you get home or go out to get supplies?

Take a quick inventory and see what you have on hand.  If possible, check the news to get a better idea of what is happening.

If You Must Go Out – Be Prepared

If circumstances absolutely force you to go out make sure that you are prepared.  Take your grab and go bag that should have at least three days worth of supplies.  It should be as light as possible so you can move quickly if you need to.

You should also take some form of protection with you.  I’d think several times before I took a gun that could make you a target or be used against you.

If you go out armed with a gun and are stopped by police you are going to be in a lot of trouble.

I always recommend a steel baton,  Taser or some other non-lethal weapon.  Heck, even a bat can be safer than a gun but if you have something that you can hide on your person it would be better.

Next – Avoid The Night

If possible you should avoid going out at night.  Even though you may feel safer in the dark, so do a lot of other people, some of whom would want to harm you.

When it’s dark out, people or rioters that are amped up tend to become more out of control because they think they can get away with this more violent behavior.

So, unless it’s an emergency, do not leave your home after the sun goes down if your city is in the midst of chaos.

The exception to this is if you are trying to get from point A to point B and can use the cover of darkness to move quickly and quietly.

I wouldn’t ever think about driving after dark when there is some situation going on but a quick trek on foot might be safe.

Surviving a Mob

But lets say that you must go out and you run into a bunch of looters or rioters.

Looters

Looters are safer than rioters.  Looters just want to grab what they can and get away.  If you avoid looking at them and don’t engage them, for instance don’t tell them they shouldn’t be taking the stuff they are looting, or try to take pictures of them you should be okay.

Rioters

Rioters are a whole different matter.  Their goal is to destroy everything that they can around them.  This includes both people and property.

If you can give rioters a wide berth.  If you come around a corner and see a bunch of people rioting back away. Often they are going to be so focused on destruction that they won’t see you if you are low key.

But lets say that you walk around a corner right into the middle of a riot.

Go With The Flow and Blend In

Most of the time rioters are heading in some direction.  Make sure that you aren’t trying to go across a pack of rioters.  Blend in if you can.  Yell and shout whatever they are and slowly try to extricate yourself.

Stay Away From the Leader

Every mob usually has a leader who others follow.  He can be  found at the front of the pack inciting others by being the most vocal and drawing attention to himself.

If this leader begins fighting with the police, others will follow… if this leader starts beating people up and hurling rocks, others will follow.

Just know that the area around this leader is very dangerous.  You won’t want to be anywhere near this violent person so once you identify him keep your distance.

You want to be out on the edge where there are less violent people and where you can slip away when you have a chance.

Be Prepared to Ruthlessly Fight Back

By following the tips above, you have a good chance of slipping away unharmed.

But surviving a mob may not be that easy.  Because a mob is so unpredictable things can happen at a moments notice and you could have them turn against you and attack you.

If this happens you need to be prepared to strike back quickly and ruthlessly.  You need to hit back and run.

If you hesitate at all it may cost you your life.  Just remember that you aren’t trying to engage and stand your ground, you are trying to disable your attacker(s) and run for it!

Surviving A Mob

To survive a mob whether they are a group or even single people looking to cause you harm or take what you have you need to be quick and smart.

Make sure that you are always aware of your surroundings. but make sure that you don’t look like a victim.

Make sure that you keep your head up and swiveling, looking at everything and everyone in your area.

Most of all, listen to your senses.  If you feel that you might be entering a dangerous area, exit at once.

 

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Cell Phone Security


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cell phone security

Cell Phone Security

More people than ever are loving their cell phones and leaving the wires behind. But that makes cell phone security even more important.

If you are one of the estimated 75% of Americans that use smart phones whether they are an iphone, android, or other type of cell phone you could be letting people that you don’t know and don’t want to share your personal information with whether you want to or not.

You probably entrust your phone with all sorts of private information too. Whether it is your circle of friends, your daily whereabouts, personal photos, financial information, or the passwords to your private accounts you use your cell phone to keep you in touch with your world.

But by taking your phone into your confidence, it also means that you are also taking a lot of other people into your confidence. This includes but is not limited to everyone that makes your cell phone work including your wireless carrier, the maker of your phone, advertisers, and the people who designed your phones operating system.

Then there are all the people who write the apps that you use. This can be a major problem in your cell phone security. Many of these apps are written by advertisers that want to use the app to track your purchase patterns, interests, and/or find out about your friends.

Most apps have a privacy statement that tells you what they are going to collect and use but reading a long privacy statement on a small screen can be a problem so most people, myself included, just accept the loss of some of our privacy as a cost of using the app.

Cell Phone Security and Privacy

Having the convenience of all the tools and apps that you load on your phone can also be risky. In some ways you need to understand that you are going to make some sacrifices for the convenience of a smart phone and realize that you don’t have the luxury of privacy any more.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that you can do for your cell phone security.

Dangers of Losing a Phone

But the danger of all these intruders multiplies if we lose a phone. More than 69% of users never bother to back up the information that they have on their cell phones. This means that its loss can mean we lose everything including videos, photos, and all sorts of important, personal information that is on the phone.

But worse than losing all this information is if a dishonest person steals or finds our phones. More than 64% of people don’t use a screen lock of any type. Of the people that do use some type of security 23% used a 4 pin access code and only 13% used a longer pin, a password or some type of unlock pattern.

This means that if you are one of the 64% that use no security measure at all for you phone, as soon as a crook picks it up, your phone they can immediately access your most intimate and private information.

If you don’t think that will happen remember that in the past year alone more than 7.1 Million phones were damaged, lost or stolen.

There are apps than can help you protect your phone but few people use them. There are anti-virus apps available for your phone but only 18% of smart phone users take advantage of them. There is also software that can help locate your lost or stolen phone but only 22% use them. There is even remote wipe apps that will erase all your sensitive information if you phone is lost but only 8% of people use them.

More than 39% of smart phone users use no security measures of any type to protect their data from loss or theft at all! Cell phone security is important if you want to be safe when you are using a smart phone.

Steps for Cell Phone Security

So what can you do to protect your private and sensitive information?

Back Up Your Phone
Set up an app to back up your phone so you can protect and keep your information. You can do this manually by backing up to your computer periodically or automatically by backing up to a cloud account.
Locator Software
Tracking your phone whether it is lost or stolen can help you get it back. This can save you both the cost of replacing your phone and the potential cost of lost information.
Use a Anti-Virus App
These apps are often free. They want you to start using their app then will offer you a paid upgraded version. Just make sure to search for any problems with this or any other app before you use it.
Lock Your Phone
Although this can be a little annoying you’ll quickly get used to it. Use either a pin or some other type of app that will secure your data.

Conclusion of Cell Phone Security

Take the steps outlined above to keep your information private and secure. Taking a little time on your cell phone security can prevent huge problems and headaches from happening to you!

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Passwords Not to Use


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passwordsPasswords

This Tuesday the password management company SplashData released its annual list of the worst passwords that people have used in the last year.

They looked at 3.3 million passwords that were leaked last year and came up with a list of passwords that were most commonly hacked passwords.

The Most Hacked Passwords

So here is the list of the top 25 most hacked passwords of last year:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 1234567890
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football
  11. 1234567
  12. monkey
  13. letmein
  14. abc123
  15. 111111
  16. mustang
  17. access
  18. shadow
  19. master
  20. michael
  21. superman
  22. 696969
  23. 123123
  24. batman
  25. trustno1

Although they may seem logical many of these would be pretty easy to guess.  Many web sites also take the extra precaution where you are only allowed so many guesses before it locks you out for a while.

My bank for instance will lock you out for three hours after 3 mistaken tries but doesn’t tell you this unless you talk to them on the phone.

More Tips On Passwords

Here are some tips for creating – and just as importantly remembering the password that you create.

Has 12 Characters, Minimum: Security experts are now recommending that you choose a password that’s at least this long or even longer.

Include Numbers, Symbols, Capital Letters, and Lower-Case Letters:  Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.

Use Different Username and Password Combinations for Different Websites:  One thing that I have found useful is to use varying degrees of difficulty depending upon the account I am trying to protect.

For instance, the password to my frequent shopper card at the local grocery is pretty simple.  That account has no information that I am concerned about anyone seeing.

But the password that I use for my bank is long and complicated.  I don’t want anyone to get into that account.

Use a Password Manager:  to both protect your passwords and generate new ones that are random which makes them harder to guess.

I’m not sure that I agree with this suggestion though.  A password manager needs to be stored somewhere on some device.  If you loose that device it can be a problem.

You are also going to need a rock solid password that you are going to need to remember to use the manager.

Not Exclusively a Dictionary Word or Combination of Dictionary Words:  You should avoid obvious dictionary words or combinations of dictionary words.   Using a combination of a few words, especially if they’re obvious, is also bad.

Any word on its own is especially bad.  You’ll notice that almost half of the passwords in the list above are single words.

Doesn’t Rely on Obvious Substitutions:  Don’t use common substitutions, either.  One example, “H0use” isn’t strong just because you’ve replaced an o with a zero. That’s just obvious.

How To Create A Strong Password

One way to create a strong password is by creating a phrase.  The spaces between each word is also a symbol which will make it harder to crack.

The important thing is to avoid using phrases that are common or grammatically correct.  Also try to avoid phrases like street names that someone might guess especially if they are somehow connected to you.

So a phrase like ” big red apples” wouldn’t be a good one.  But a phrase like “garlic sugar cars” would be stronger.  You could also capitalize the a’s and add a number that would mean something to you but nothing to someone who was trying to break your password.

You might end up with something like “gaRlic 15 sugAr Cars”  While complicated your can see that it should be pretty easy to remember.

Especially if you look at the password and see that the capital letters is “CAR” spelled backwards  and the number 15 might be a number that means something to you.

The above password is not grammatically correct, nor does it make any sense other than in your mind.  It also uses capital and lower case letters, spaces, and numbers.

Conclusion

Remember though that it’s not all about password strength.  Using the same password across multiple sites would make all the sites vulnerable in case one of them was hacked into and passwords stolen.

 

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New Invasive Police Radars


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invasive police radarThe use of Invasive police radars is with us and they are showing up more and more every day in ways that are surprising and in some cases in what seems like a clear violation of the 4th Amendment.

After the mass riots because of the police shooting of black persons there has been a lot of criticism of the police and specifically their military style gear.

Many criticized this use of military gear that many police forces had bought after 9/11.

I’m sort of on the fence about this because the police are tasked with dealing with potential terrorists both domestic and from abroad that can be pretty aggressive.

But this morning I read about a new radar device that are being deployed to and used by over 50  police agencies right now.

These invasive radar devices can see into our homes.  This technology raises  a lot of legal and privacy issues because  no less that the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors such as these to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The way that these devices work is like finely tuned motion sensors.They use radio waves that can detect even the most minute movements like a person breathing from as far away as 50 feet.

A lot of officials have said that the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages.

But on the flip side there are a lot of privacy advocates and judges that have expressed concerns about the situations where law enforcement agencies are using these high tech radars — and even more concerning the fact that they have used these devices without any public scrutiny.

This is one of those areas where the device is supposed to be used for catching bad guys and protecting the police by helping them scope out the location of everyone before they attempt to storm it.

But the use also can push a little past what it is intended for.  I mean, how bad does the situation have to be before this device is used and who is it that decides when it can be used.

Invasive police radars like this are a good example of how technology can some times move faster than the correct oversight can be established.

More concerning is that the police have been buying these invasive police radars since at least 2012 – and using them with no oversight – what a judge in Denver said was  “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”

One of the reasons that we have walls and drapes on our windows is to maintain our privacy.  The use of these invasive police radars is something the will help protect police officers but needs better oversight on its use!

 




 

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Solar Power Advances


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Solar Power Advances

One thing that every Urban Disaster Survivalist should be thinking about is how to generate power in case there is some issue with the power grid that causes it to go off line for a time.

How would you keep perishables safe and heat or cool your home if there were no power?

A couple of articles in the news recently caught my eye and show some of the advances that we may be seeing in the future. Whether you are trying to go “off the grid” or looking for ways to create a back up for the pwer that you get off the grid this news should be interesting to you.

Improved Solar Panels

I seems that every time that I look at the news there are articles about how quickly solar panels are improving in their efficiency at turning sunlight into power. Meanwhile the cost keep dropping.

In an article today I was reading about a breakthrough in ‘nematic liquid crystals’ that makes them easier to make and more efficient. These crystals can be printed into solar panels that are dramatically more effective at creating power than todays’ panels.

They are also much cheaper to make because they can be printed faster and easier than the silicon-based models that are used today.

http://phys.org/news/2015-01-solar-panels-electronics-horizon-discovery.html

Lawn Power

In another article the ability to get electrical energy from growing plants was discussed. This solar power advance is not yet on the scale of solar or wind power yet, there is a company that has products that can harness power from the photosynthesis process where plants convert sunlight into energy.

One of the problems is that it doesn’t work when it is cold and plants normally don’t grow but think about the amazing potential that this discovery has for off grid homes or places in third world areas.

http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/15/lawn-power-house/

Both of these emerging solar power advances are great news for those of us that are concerned about off-grid living or just want a back-up for the vulnerable grids that we get power from today.

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Artificial Intelligence Concerns


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Artificial Intelligence Concerns

In the latest news, Elon Musk, billionaire car maker and space pioneer has donated $10 million dollars to help fund research that will keep “AI beneficial”.

A long time critic of AI, Musk believes that artificial intelligence could be a problem in the near future.

While AI may not be of much concern to Urban Disaster Survivalists right now it is one of those issues that could become more problematic as time passes. Like many scientific advances, AI could be with us much quicker than we believe it could be and for that reason is something that we should at least be aware of and keep up with its progress.

Even though it has been mostly confined to the realm of the science fiction writer in the past the progress of this science has been seen more and more in the news.

In the past week I’ve read about cars that will be driven without drivers and weapon systems that will be controlled by AI systems. While still not truly sentient I am more than a little concerned about a weapons system that decides whether or not it should shoot on its own.

It often seems that science tries to do things without thinking about whether they should be doing those things.

A weapons system that can react faster than a human in response to a human may on its face seem like a good idea that could help to save people in case of war. But shouldn’t there be a human in there somewhere deciding whether the response is needed?

Artificial Intelligence

If someone as smart as Elon Musk thinks that it is a concern then I certainly think that it is something that we need to be concerned about studying a little more before we rush headlong into putting a smart self controlling robot ind in everything.

Even though $10 million is a drop in the bucket for someone as rich as Musk, he certainly didn’t get to be as rich as he is by throwing money away. And if someone who is as forward a thinker as Musk is says maybe we should tap the brakes a bit and think about this them maybe we should.

Artificial Intelligence certainly has the possibility of making our lives better and easier bit just because we can do something doesn’t always mean that we should do it.

I think that part of Urban Disaster Survival includes making our voices heard about the things that concern us and this is something I think that we should all think about!

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Paris: Home Grown Terrorist Attacks?


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Home Grown Terrorist Attacks

US and French Intelligence officials seem to be leaning towards the viewpoint that while the Recent attack in Paris may have been influenced by or even financed by terrorist organization al-Qaida, the attack wasn’t directly controlled by them.

This means that the attacks would fall under the “home grown” type of terrorism that is a growing concern among experts.

Although the attack against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper was certainly horrific the thing that should be of the biggest concern to Urban Survivalists is that it may have been a home grown terrorist attack that could happen anywhere at anytime.

The newspaper was certainly not a high value target that would have security and training for such an attack but a soft target that more intelligence and security experts are being concerned about.

These soft target attacks are against businesses or people that used to be safe from such attacks and are easy prey for terrorists with a personal grudge or those looking for press for their cause.

Home Grown Terrorist Attacks and the Urban Survivalist

So you might be asking yourself about how this type of attack affect someone interested in Urban Survival anyway?

My viewpoint is that this type of home grown terrorist attacks is one of the larger concerns that we should be aware of and can prepare ourselves for dealing with. This type of attack is going to happen in urban areas where the largest amount of people can be targeted.

Although guns and bombs make the biggest impact there are other ways that home grown terrorist attacks could happen. Think about the problems that are being caused with current cyber attacks in the news.

What would happen to your world if someone attacked the computer controls of your local utility company, many of which according to current reports are not prepared for a sustained or sophisticated attack.

You and your family could be without power for days or weeks before it could be restored.

Bottom line is that attacks like the one on Charlie Hebdo should be a wake up call for anyone who is concerned about preparing for a Urban Disaster planning.

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Urban Disaster Survival – Are We On Our Own?


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Urban Disaster Survival – Are We On Our Own?

A recent Federal Oversight Report states that Homeland Security is failing to meet any of it’s five main missions and may not be making any safer than we were before it was created.

The missions are:

  • Preventing Terrorism and Improving Security
  • Securing and Managing Our Borders
  • Enforcing and Administering Our Immigration Laws
  • Safeguarding and Securing Cyberspace
  • Strengthening National Preparedness and Resilience

After spending more than $50 Billion dollars in the last 11 years it can’t even show that the Homeland is more secure.

Not only is there huge waste but also failure to address even obvious needs like planning for a potential Ebola outbreak.

Urban Disaster Survival

This study shows that now more than ever, it is important for each of us to take steps to protect and prepare ourselves for potential urban disaster survival needs.

Although it is probably hard to determine whether terror attacks have been stopped because of the cloak of secrecy that often covers this information, one would have to assume that a Federal report would have access to more information than we would.

So, if your plan for Urban Disaster Survival rests on the Federal Government riding in and saving you in case there is a terrorist or natural disaster you might want to rethink that strategy.

Steps For Urban Disaster Survival

All of us should have a plan that includes how we would shelter in place or if needed, bug out to a safer location.

Although I am not a big believer in bugging out as an effective strategy, there could be situations where this is the safest choice.

I am just not sure how smart it is to bug out, leaving your main cache of supplies and equipment behind.  Almost worse would be trying to take it with you, making yourself a target out in the open.

Still there could be situations where bugging out could make you and your family safer than hunkering down and trying to ride out a situation. I think that the most important step that you can take is to have your own plan for your families safety and not rely on the Government to bail you out.

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